Really, he should've known to insulate his suit more from the cold way before as it was a very basic and yet incredibly handy attribute. Why he had never really thought to do more than he already had during the construction of his suit, remained a mystery. While he sat there alongside the other Avengers in the freezing cold, he couldn't help but berate himself for not having done something sooner.
All the others had some kind of defense from the bitter cold. Thor was a demigod so it unlikely at best that he not be immune to such temperatures. The Captain had a super body that was always warm to the touch; Tony doubted he was feeling anything. The same kind of went for Bruce, with having rage monster in him, it seemed to have lifted his standard body temperature. It was kind of a mystery, even to the good doctor himself. Even Clint and Natasha had bulky winter coats plus plenty of experience in cold climates, so they were well off as well.
And then there was him in his suit of 'iron' which only helped to amplify the cold effect he was feeling, with only a bodysuit beneath to retain any of his body heat. He honestly didn't know how long he'd be able to last. The under suit didn't come with gloves and his fingers were already numb. His shoes and socks provided only the minimal protection from the biting cold that lay just outside of the suit. It was official, this mission sucked.
Mentally he scoffed, what mission, they had been waiting for Fury's go-ahead for an hour or so. No word from anyone and so they waited. And waited, and waited, in the bitter cold. Winter sucked. The mission sucked. It all sucked.
"How's everyone doing," Steve finally asked, breaking the moderate silence that had developed between the group.
"Fine here," both Clint and Natasha answered shortly.
"This cold does not affect my body as it does your mortal ones," Thor more or less boasted in his thundering voice.
"Rage monster blood is doing a good job of keeping me warm," Bruce answered a bit playfully.
Steve nodded to himself and then turned to Tony, "Do I even need to ask, Mr. Super Suit?"
Tony didn't answer, knowing that if he did they'd surely hear the tremble in his voice from all his shivering. He couldn't have that, now could he?
Receiving no reply only brought worry to the good Captain, "Tony, you okay?"
All eyes wandered to him in a concerned fashion which only seemed to amplify the bite of the cold. They wanted to help him if he needed them; they wanted him to be alright. He knew it to be so but he still hadn't grown used to the fact.
"JARVIS…. Lift faceplate," he murmured under his breath. The mask lifted up and revealed his face, "Hey guys," he called with a heavy shiver.
Steve shot over to him in seconds, "You're shivering like crazy, Tony! Is the suit not insulated like I thought?"
He shuddered, teeth beginning to chatter a bit, "It's insulated Capsicle but only to a certain point, this temperature is way below anything I had preset."
The blonde's face turned worried, "Tony you should've said something! You can get frostbite easy in this kind of weather. Tell me you have gloves under there."
Tony looked way, "Sorry Cap, not in the mood to lie to ya."
"Can you get the gauntlet parts to retract from your hands? I have to check them," Steve said urgently. "Can you feel them at all? Do they hurt?"
The others had come closer as well, they too feeling concerned for their comrade.
Tony shivered fiercely and pressed a hidden button that made the hands of his suit retract up his arm to reveal his hands. The tips of his fingers were beginning to turn a bluish white, a sure sign of developing frostbite. He sighed at the sight.
"Shit Tony," Clint exclaimed, "why the hell did you stay quiet so long?" He quickly yanked out a pair of gloves he had and ever so gently worked them onto Tony's hands.
It was only when Clint was doing that that he felt pain and ended up yelping. He sucked in a few breaths and grit his teeth, willing himself not to let out such a humiliating noise again no matter his level of pain from the motions. He pressed the buttons once more and the hands of his suit returned, engulfing his now glove covered hands.
"That's one thing taken care of," Steve commented, "how are the toes feeling?" Fingers and toes were usually the first things affected aside from the nose and ears when it came to frostbite, that much he had remembered from the basic med training they had had in boot camp. Looking at the billionaire's nose, he decided it looked fine. Perhaps the helmet was better insulated than the rest of the suit.
"Considering I can actually feel them still I would say they're doing just fine at this point in time," he said in a strained tone, pain written all over his face.
The Captain gave him a sympathetic look, "Feeling it now, huh?"
The playboy gave a miserable laugh, "That's putting it lightly Capsicle." He shuddered again as a wave of cold hit him.
The blonde smirked, "No offense Tony, but I'm not the one freezing at the moment."
There was a moment of silence.
Tony then practically beamed at the other, "Of that was good Cappy! You're getting better with that modern day sarcasm, I knew you'd catch up!"
Clint clapped some with a grin plastered on his face. Natasha gave a small smirk. Bruce shook his head with a slight smile. Thor looked on in confusion, not quite sure what joke had been told.
"J, close faceplate," Tony said after a moment, giving the group a weary smile as it shut. "Sorry guys, nose was getting cold, didn't want to risk it," he stated.
They all nodded in understanding.
"Sir, I'm picking up various sized heat signatures approaching your location," JARVIS suddenly interjected.
Tony relayed this info to the team, "Guys, JARVIS is picking up some approaching heat sigs."
They had been hiding out in a cave like natural structure for the past hour, waiting for Fury to give them the go ahead to initiate the mission to infiltrate a nearby military base of suspicious nature. They had thought he would've said something by then.
The others began watching the entrance carefully, ready for anything while Tony got to his feet slowly.
"Sir, incoming communications request from Director Fury," JARVIS informed him.
"Accept request, J," he said with mild confusion in his tone. Fury requesting a direct com link to him? Something had to be up for that to happen.
"Stark you there," came the man's voice.
"Am now, wasn't before," he answered. "What was so urgent that you had to open a direct line to me," he questioned suspiciously.
Fury hesitated, "We have a problem that came up. The mission cannot commence."
That stopped everything, "What do you mean Fury, what changed?"
"Our lead was a bogey, our informant never held allegiance to us," he replied curtly, clearly expressing his displease. "I've been trying to get in contact with you for the past hour."
Tony scoffed, "You really need to work on your plumbing, seems like leaks are springing up everywhere."
"Yeah yeah," the man sighed.
The sound of a commotion originated from the entrance to the cave, immediately piquing his interest. "J, give me something here," he pleaded quietly.
"The approaching heat signatures have arrived and appear to be involved in combat. My scans show that Doctor Banner is unconscious, he did not have time to transform," JARVIS reported.
Whatever these things were, they had knocked out Banner, knowing he'd hulk up. A wave of anger coursed through him. He straightened and stalked to the entrance, arriving just in time to see Steve get knocked away, sporting a bloody nose. He glared harshly at the creatures. Natasha and Clint were double teaming one of them while Thor was whacking on the other. They didn't seem to be getting anywhere. Tony switched from his normal to heavy attack mode, a new feature he had recently installed. "J, let's kill these pests," he said in a deadly tone.
When Thor was knocked away, he began his assault. He fired a constant beam of plasma energy with his left hand while shooting various other weapons with the other. With one final blow from the chest plate, the first was done.
This had gained him the attention of all in the area. The second creature looked in anger to its fallen comrade, hissing at Tony.
The playboy took a ready stance, "Your move pal, kill or be killed."
The creature quickly knocked away the distracted Clint and Natasha and stalked forward to Tony, attacking with a well aimed punch.
"Buddy, you gotta do better than that," Tony murmured darkly. He did a double handed plasma blast and then fired a few compact missiles at it. While it still stood, he fired one final blast from his chest plate and shot a final missile that ended things. "Goodnight Butterscotch," he said mockingly as the creature fell defeated to the ground.
"Well damn Tony, remind me not to piss you off anytime soon," Clint commented.
Steve was pinching his nose but looking at Tony with a quirked brow, "What, did you get some kind of adrenaline rush as seeing us in the fight? You took down those two like nothing."
Tony contemplated that for a moment and then gave a small grin under his helmet, "I guess you could say that, Cap; how's the nose?"
"Healing," the blonde answered, "I just want to make sure it does so correctly. Plus it's still bloody and I have nothing to wipe it with." He gave a light scowl at his last statement but then looked over to where Bruce was. "How is Doctor Banner?"
Someone threw him a handkerchief which he caught readily.
"He's fine, already coming to," Hawkeye answered.
The Captain nodded and went about cleaning his face.
Tony, meanwhile, was feeling odd. Something had to be wrong. "Hey JARVIS, run a general diagnostic real quick, tell me of any peculiarities."
There was a moment of silence before JARVIS answered, "It would seem your core body temperature is around 96 degrees Fahrenheit and your lungs are showing a bit of strain. You are developing hypothermic conditions and quickly, sir."
The billionaire was silent, "Keep a close watch on my CBT and let me know if I develop anymore symptoms of hypothermia, yeah J?"
"As you request, sir," the AI responded.
He decided that he wouldn't mention his condition to the team unless something else came up; because if he didn't, then he'd probably die.
He reconnected his line with Fury, "What happens now? We took down two of those freaks of nature and if I'm honest, I'd like to get this wrapped up and get home because I'm cold." He considered mentioning his condition but decided against it.
"Tough luck, Stark; that was only the beginning. We have scans indicating that there are a good thirty more of those 'freaks of nature' as you call them. You have a long fight ahead of you."
Instantly, he began calculating about how long he could last given adrenaline and his developing hypothermia. His result came out to about 45 minutes, if he pushed it then maybe an hour. He scowled angrily, it wasn't nearly enough time.
He relayed the info he had gotten from Fury to the others, immediately regretting having done so at how disheartened it seemed to make them. They were all already worn from the weather and the long wait, hearing such news helped nothing.
"Dunno about you guys, but I'm gonna aim to finish this within the hour," he commented dryly.
Natasha eyed him with a scrutinizing gaze, "How're the fingers, Stark?"
"They're cozy now, though aching just a bit. I'm cold and I want to go home, let's just finish this quick," he responded, just a bit too quickly.
Captain America crossed his arms expectantly, "Alright, what're you hiding Stark?"
Tony was about to answer when JARVIS cut in unexpectedly.
"Sir, it would appear you are developing a third symptom of hypothermia, medical attention is highly recommended at this point in time," the AI reported.
Tony hesitated momentarily before giving in and speaking to the team, "I'm developing hypothermia. At this point it isn't bad but I do need to get out of this weather and soon."
"Tony, getting hypothermia isn't like getting a cold, you have to take care of that shit and quick," Clint said sharply.
He rolled his eyes, "Don't think I know that, feather head? I have JARVIS keeping close tabs on everything; I'll pull out if I have to." He secretly crossed his fingers. He had no intention of leaving until things were finished and he could be sure that the others would be safe. No way in hell was he leaving them to fend for themselves.
The next few freaks of nature, or FONs as Tony had begun calling them, chose that moment to begin their attack. It was just in time that Banner fully regained consciousness and had Hulked up.
Tony did his best to help as much as possible while he was fighting his already suffering energy and suit power levels. "J," he called in-between hits on the creatures, "add another close watch on the power levels, let me know if there are any sudden drops or whatever."
"Of course, sir," JARVIS replied, "perhaps now would be an opportune time to inform you that there are some strange readings originating from the arc reactor but my scanners cannot identify the source of the abnormalities."
The genius felt a strike of fear go through him, "What does that mean JARVIS – specifics!"
"It would appear the arc reactor is being affected by both your developing hypothermia and the subzero climate."
The rather simple statement was enough to make him falter, "W-What?" The reactor was hardly ever affected by any outside source; by changes in his body? Definitely. But unless it was some kind of blunt force trauma, hardly anything affected it.
"Sir it is becoming dire that you remove yourself from the situation at hand and seek medical attention," JARVIS said with a hint of worry.
Tony glanced at his health readings for himself and frowned, as much as he hated to admit it, JARVIS was absolutely right. He didn't have an hour, or even 45 minutes; he had to go now.
He took down two more of the freaks of nature and attempted to keep going. But as he did so, a sharp pain wracked through his body, freezing his motions. He fell to his knees in both shock and pain, completely taken by surprise.
The next thing he knew, the Captain was crouching in front of him with blue eyes full of concern, "What's wrong Tony?"
He grit his teeth, "Lift faceplate, J." Tony gave the other a pained grin, "Looks like my clock has struck twelve, Cap."
Steve frowned, "Are you in pain? Did your hypothermia get worse?"
"All of the above," he muttered tiredly, not caring particularly for his looks at that point in time. He was in pain and he was freezing, enough said.
The fight still went on around the two, snow billowing about in giant puffs.
Tony continued after a moment, "I have to pull out, the arc reactor is being affected by the weather and my worsening condition. I...I have to go, Cap."
"Yes you do," the blonde replied with furrowed brows, "we should've made you as soon as you told us about the hypothermia."
Not being in the mood to argue, Tony readily accepted what the other said as true. He focused instead on keeping himself calm and not emitting any sounds of pain. "Fury," he called, "I need to be extracted, I don't think I can get out of here on my own." He really hated admitting that out loud.
"What the hell happened to you, Stark?" There was anger present in the Director's tone but his undertone was one of concern.
He just managed to bite back a groan of pain as he answered, "I am developing hypothermia and it's starting to cause the arc reactor to malfunction."
There was a brief silence, "ETA of extraction team is five minutes… Be ready."
Mentally Tony thanked the man. He relayed the news to the team and noted they all seemed quite relieved by the news.
It wasn't too long after and they heard the distinct sound of an approaching helicopter. Bruce worked on calming himself as they made their way towards the sound, Hawkeye and the Captain standing near the weakened Iron Man as he walked. As soon as they were boarded and the carrier sealed its door, a small team or medics swarmed their resident billionaire.
They made him exit the suit, which he did so stiffly. He fell over seconds after having done so, too weak to stand on his own.
The team sat off to the side anxiously watching as the medics began frantically working around their teammate, the words hypothermia, serious and idiot resounding in the air.
Mercifully, the man passed out not long after allowing the medics a proper chance to aid him. The ride lasted all of fifteen minutes. Tony was rushed to the medic wing of the Helicarrier as soon as they landed.
Fury looked a bit stressed and just a tad concerned. It was hardened by his usual stoic look however. "Why the hell doesn't he ever say anything until he's practically on his death bed?"
"Because he's Tony Stark," Natasha answered shortly, "and Starks are known for their ability to put up fronts, right Director?"
The man huffed in response.
Doctor Banner shifted nearby, wringing his hands together nervously, "Plus he hates troubling other people with his problems, thinks he doesn't have a right too or whatever..."
The Team all silently agreed as they sat themselves around the table on the bridge, awaiting news on their comrade.
A doctor walked in eventually, looking troubled, "We've come to a problem with Mr. Stark and we're unsure of how to proceed."
"What else is new," Director Fury responded. "What is it this time?"
The doctor hesitated momentarily, "For some reason, the arc reactor seems to be shutting down. We obviously don't have anything we can use to help him due to the fact that he is sensitive about blueprints and such for the device being in the hands of others."
Steve was confused, "So then what happens now?"
"It's simple, either we obtain the blueprints from Mr. Stark or he will be forced to deal with the situation himself."
"Like hell I'd just hand over those blueprints," sounded a weary voice.
They all whipped around to find Tony holding himself up in the doorway, a blanket wrapped about his shoulders. Underneath, however is suit was clearly visible.
The doctor seemed disappointed but unsurprised, "Mr. Stark.."
Tony gave a light smirk, "Yeah, that's my name, don't wear it out. I'm flying home, I have to get a new reactor in me, pronto. JARVIS is fabricating one as we speak. He began as soon as mine began showing signs of malfunction."
They couldn't help but feel impressed by the fact that he was even standing.
Mentally, the billionaire knew he was running on sheer willpower. He would have to have JARVIS autopilot the suit home. He ached, he knew his frostbite was bad but having seen it made it real. He had rewrapped his hands in order to get them in the fingers of the suit. Even he had to admit it was a rather unpleasant sight.
Clint was the one to speak first, "You sure you can get there in your state, tin head? I can fly you, all you need to do is ask."
"I too can quickly transport you, Man of Iron," Thor boasted loudly.
Natasha met Tony's mildly surprised gaze and shrugged lightly, "It's your choice, Stark."
The faceplate of the suit slid down, hiding the humbled look on the man's face, "Nah, I'll be alright guys. Though I appreciate the offer, really." With that, he unsteadily made his way out to the exterior deck. He dropped the blanket and shot off, the others wishing him luck as he did.
He made it two minutes before he asked JARVIS to take over, taking him to his tower in New York. He fell unconscious at some point, only awakening to JARVIS calling to him, alerting him to the fact that the suit had landed.
Tony stumbled forward, the machines making quick work of getting off the pieces of the suit. His walk to his lab bench, without the support of the suit, was haphazard at best. He managed, however, and was speaking as soon as he felt able, "J, what's the status of the new reactor?"
"I've displayed your current health statistics, the reactor is currently at a 95% completion," the AI replied.
"Estimated time of completion?"
There was a brief moment of silence before the supercomputer responded, "It is ready now, sir."
Dummy came to his side, cradling the arc reactor in his grip. He whirred happily to Tony and placed it on the desk delicately, giving his creator a small nudge.
Tony patted him absently as he twisted the old reactor, gasping as he did so. He swiftly replaced it with the new one, hooking in the main wire and then clicking it into place. It was a familiar process, but Tony couldn't ever get used to the pain that accompanied the motions.
He gave a deep breath at the feeling of new energy flowing through him. In fact it seemed to be more than usual. "Hey JARVIS, did you put more juice in this one, buddy," he asked with a light laugh.
"Negative, sir, however my scanners are detecting a higher energy reading emanating from this particular reactor compared to past models," JARVIS replied.
Well, he certainly wasn't complaining. The pain from his frostbitten limbs withdrew just enough to allow him to relax. "J, call Fury on the main line for me."
"Calling now," the AI informed him.
The line connected quickly, "Stark?"
The silence of the background intrigued him and he whispered for JARVIS to get him visuals of the room. A video popped up, showing the main bridge with Fury and the rest of the Avengers watching anxiously. Some of the staff looked on from the background.
"Well, honestly, who else were you expecting," he responded sarcastically, smirking. It made him smile genuinely for a moment at how relieved they all appeared at hearing his voice.
"This makes the second time I've been glad to receive a call from you," Fury commented with his own sarcasm.
Tony grinned, "JARVIS, make this a chat line, open video, if you would."
A buffering sign appeared and then it was showing video, he smirked once more, "Did you miss me, ladies?"
They all gave an eye roll but were obviously relieved.
"So everything is alright now," Bruce questioned quietly.
"If you take the frostbite and the fact that I still have light hypothermia out of the equation, then yeah... everything's all good."
Clint snorted, "I knew you didn't get permission to leave from the medics before you left."
The billionaire quirked an elegant brow, "When do I ever get clearance, really? I mean.. I'm Tony Stark. I give my own clearance."
Yes, the team decided, Tony was absolutely fine.