WARNING: Graphic description of injuries.
The explosion was blinding, even with the enhancements of the suit. I had to force full power to all of my thrusters just to stay still hovering after the shockwave hit.
Once my body was stable, my mind was at war. The rarely used ‘common sense’ part of my brain was saying to move away from the explosion! Move away NOW! while the ‘parental’ part of my brain was saying Taylor! Taylor was in there, go get her you idiot!
They did this quite often.
I shoved away the common sense and angled the thrusters for maximum speed. My daughter was in there and I was going to get her, and nobody, nor nothing, could stop me from doing so.
The flight to the burnt-out shell of a warehouse took mere seconds, and my ears were filled with worried voices the moment I touched down.
“Iron Man, do you see anything?” I could hear the plea in Steve’s voice as his leader mask cracked, Taylor mattered to everyone on this team so much.
“Negative, Captain, not yet. I suggest you mobilize the team, I could use all hands on deck.”
“Roger that, Iron Man. We’ll be there in five.”
The comms fell silent as the team was rounded up and I began to sift ever so carefully through the rubble.
“Jarvis, turn on the heat sensors. And scan for Beta I.”
“Heat sensors engaged, sir. Reading from the suit are coming from about five miles south of your position.”
I swore softly. The whole Big Ben fiasco. She had shed her suit to prevent overheating and then used it as a battering ram on the way out after it had gotten stuck. Normally I’d be congratulating her quick thinking, but now I knew she had destroyed all easy ways of finding her along with all protection she might have had.
Well, I sigh, her last name is Stark. And we don’t do easy.
My heat sensor shrieks as it registers five new signatures. I look up and momentarily disengage the sensors to clear my vision and watch as my team jogs towards me, Natasha and Clint sprinting a few feet ahead.
“Stark! Got anything yet?” Clint shouts as soon as he is in hearing range, the hawk’s voice so hopeful for his sparrow.
I shake my head, and watch as his face falls momentarily and Natasha growls what sounds like a curse in Russian before both of their masks are rebuilt and they set themselves to joining Cap, Thor, and Hulk in digging furiously.
“Spread out. Iron Man, take the northeast corner. Widow, go northwest. Hawkeye, you’re center on the right side, I’m center left. Thor, southwest corner, Hulk, can you take the corner behind you?” Cap’s voice is soft yet commanding and no one argues, we all want to achieve the same goal and quickly.
We dig in silence. I’m glad because I’m trying to shove back all the ‘what if’s’ and memories and emotions alike, essentially doing what I do best: building a robot.
Of myself. (Theoretically impossible as of right now, but principle.)
My thought are interrupted by a shrill scream – in Russian.
There are only two people I know that can scream a) that high and b) in that language.
Natasha and Taylor. Given the circumstances…
“We found her! I repeat we have found Taylor! Stark, get over here now!”
I scramble towards the gathering group of superheroes and wriggle my way through the crowd.
I reach the center and all breath leaves my lungs with a whoosh and I gag.
My daughter lies before me, against what might have once been a wall. Her face is pale, bruised, and bloody. Her limbs are akimbo, looking uncomfortable but hopefully not broken. Most of the blood not on her face is spilling from her shoulder, which has been impaled almost all the way through with a razor sharp piece of now red-stained steel. The steel is angled dangerously close to her heart, and my hand subconsciously floats towards my arc reactor. The entire right sleeve of her spandex under suit is burnt away, her right arm littered with angry red, puckered, blistered burns.
I’m barely aware of Bruce – somehow transformed and wearing sweatpants - by my side, eyes flashing green as he calls over his shoulder for someone to radio for an ambulance.
Someone’s hand is steady on my shoulder, and I whirl around to stare into the shaken face of Captain America.
He nods out of the ruined warehouse to where sirens wail and lights flash to signal the arrival of the cavalry.
I rush out just behind the stretcher and identify myself as family before vaulting into the back of the ambulance, suit and all, before settling out of the way while clinging to my daughter’s uninjured hand.
I’m not big on religion – save for Thor – but I pray for the ambulance to just go faster.
One, two, three, four, turn.
Four, three, two, one, turn.
I jump and pause my pacing as I look up into Bruce’s concerned face and raise an eyebrow in question.
“Come and sit down, you wearing a hole in the carpet will help no one.”
“You know that if I sit down I’ll be back up in a minute, right?”
“Quite aware, Tony. Try and focus on other things.”
“You mean other than the fact that my daughter got blown up?”
“Yes. Please?” He nods towards the almost empty row of waiting chairs.
I sigh in defeat and allow myself to be nudged towards an empty chair, next to Natasha.
I run a hand through my hair, sweat and grime standing it up straight.
I rest my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands and have full intent to stay that way.
That is, until I hear the doctor walk in.
I snap my head up to stare at the doctor – his name tag reads Doctor Cornish – and brace myself for the news.
“Don’t sugar coat anything, doc, I’m a big boy.”
The doctor nods, sighs, and adjusts his glasses before beginning.
“Ms. Stark –“
“Right. Taylor has severe bruising across her entire body but, thankfully, no internal bruising or bleeding. She has lost over a quarter of her body’s blood supply and another quarter was toxic from the carbon dioxide in the smoke. Her right arm has been severely burnt and bruised, and the shoulder injury might be unsalvageable, we will work to save her arm but keep in mind amputation seems like a likely prospect right now. She seems like a fighter, so don’t give up just yet.”
“Oh we won’t, doctor. Nobody knows Taylor better than this team.” Steve says with a small sad yet proud smile on his face.
The doctor nods and tells us we can see her now. Normally it would be one at a time, but, hello, Tony Stark and the Avengers here,
We are led to a hospital room I don’t believe I will be leaving anytime soon. The doctor lets us in and steps aside so we can see the patient.
Taylor is unconscious and white as the sheets she rests on, wires and tubes spilling from beneath her flimsy hospital gown. The bruises peppering her face stand out like sore thumbs against her ashen cheeks, and the cuts look like roses against snow. Her right arm is bandaged from fingertip to shoulder in stiff, chalky, plaster, and she couldn’t be more still. Or quiet.
I take a deep breath and sink into the chair to the right of her bed, Clint doing the same on the left. Bruce has found his way over to the monitors, and I’m glad her vitals are being assessed by a doctor I trust fully. Thor is off in the center of the room, looking concerned but uncomfortable at the same time. Natasha is standing at the foot of the bed just in front of Steve, her hands white-knuckled as she grips the bed rail like someone is going to steal it from her. Steve is gripping his shield in the same manner, his face stony but concern leaking through the cracks in his eyes.
They all have one thing in common: eyes shining with concern and cold with fury at the same time.
None of us will sleep until Taylor is safe and whoever did this is dead by one, if not all, of our hands.
“What do we do now?” Clint’s voice is not that of a hardened assassin, but instead that of a lost and desperate child; soft and pleading.
“We wait. And do what we do best: avenge.”