“Ty, Ty,” he sobs into the receiver. “Help, help.” His voice is crackly and thick, and it’s not just the connection.
“Tony?!” Ty demands, sitting upright, “what’s wrong?”
I’m — I'm in at a club, these guys, they — I kissed a guy and they saw.”
Ty cuts him off, tugging on his shoes, keeping the phone tucked between cheek and shoulder, “How bad is it?” he asks desperately.
“Dad — my dad bad. Maybe worse. There's — there's a payphone. I lost mine.”
Ty closes his eyes and tries to to cry, “okay, okay,” he pants. “I'm coming, Tony. “Where are you?”
“Okay, I’m coming. I’ll get the others. Hold on.” he slams down the receiver, bolting out the door, not bothering to wait for the elevator and instead charging down the stairs.
He hailed a taxi, throws himself inside, “14th street, next to that club, fast .”
The cabbie pulls into traffic, nodding.
Ty dials Whitney's number with shaking fingers, “Whitney, Whit, you -- come to my hotel room, The Hilton, room 447.”
“Okay? What's wrong?”
“It’s — it’s Tony , he — shit,” Ty exhales, resting his head on the seat. “He was out, and -- these guys --"
“He got beat up,” she finishes slowly.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m getting him now, but I need you to call Sunset. She’s here, too, right?”
“Yeah. I’ll call Bruce and Lex too, see when they can get out of here.”
“He’s gonna be alright, Ty. You know that.”
“Tony’s always alright,” Ty says, just as the cabbie pulls over. He stuffs a handful of bills at him, and steps out of the car.
He sprints across the dark sidewalk, dodging a homeless man.
Next to him, a club is booming. “Tony!” he calls. “Tony! Tony!”
“Here!” comes a weak voice.
Ty darts towards what he thought was a pile of dirty bedding.
“Oh,” Tony,” he breaths.
“Don’t look at me like that, Ty,” he says. “Just… just help.”
“Okay,” Ty breaths, hoists him onto his shoulder. “Okay, it's okay. We’re okay. You’re okay.”
“You say it enough, it might be true,” Tony murmurs.
The same cab is waiting next to a curb. Ty halts, confusion in his brow. The window rolls down.
The cabbie smirks at him, “you paid me extra, I owe you another ride.”
Ty laughs, delirious. He opens the door and helps Tony in.
“I — thank you.”
The cabbie’s eyes meet his in the rear view mirror. “Just being an honourable New Yorker.”
“I’m not sure there's such a thing.”
The cabbie laughs with him, “that’s true.”
“Call 911!" Whit insists, hand fluttering aorun Tony like a humming bird.
“No! No!” Ty pants, stopping Sunset — you, you can't!”
“Why the fuck not!” she demands.
“It can't get out! do you know would happen if it did? What would happy to Tony?” he, without looking, points a finger at his prone body, “this is just a fucking taste !”
Sunset’s face crumbles, and she drops the phone. “I — I have a nurse friend,” she says.
“Ring her, then,” Ty says, an insistence to his words.
A few minutes later, There's a hurried rap at the door, “that’s Rose," Sunset says.
A girl ducks inside, long, shiny black hair swept into a bun. She sees Tony and hastens considerably in unpacking her bag. “She works at Metro-General,” Sunset says, hovering over her shoulder. “She can help Tony.”
“What happened?” Rose asks, getting out a roll of bandages.
“Some guys grabbed him. I don't know how many. Roughed him up. Fists, kicks, no weapons from what we know.”
“Okay. So we’re probably talking blunt force trauma, concussion, broken ribs, bruising. We’ll have to stop shock and the bleeding, stitch together his face and make sure he doesn't get an infection.”
“Rose?” Sunset interrupts. Whitney looks like she’s about three more words from bursting into tears, and Ty looks sick to his stomach.
“Yeah?” she says naively, looking around. “Oh.”
“Yeah. Guys, let’s let Rose work.” Sunset shepherds the others out.
The next three days are hell. They beat him up good. He’s patched up by early morning, and Rose is throwing bloody gloves in the bin, picking up her bag and leaving, talking about her next shift.
Whitney becomes his bed-nurse, sitting by his side all day long. Ty disappears for suspiciously long toilet breaks and reappears with red eyes. Sunset takes to swigging whiskey from a flask, and often Lex steals a sip.
Bruce goes down to bakeries and little cafes and anywhere they will let his non-hipster ass in and brings back treats and drinks and coffee and perogies, more often than not, from the food truck in the parking lot around the corner.
Tony...well, he doesn't cry, or eat perogies or become a day-drinker, he just..lays. Lays and sleeps and stares at the wall. Someone Sunset stares at him, or, well, the lump of blankets and bad breath and congealing blood — Whitney hasn't been able to get him to shower — and thinks, maybe we should have let him die. It's not because she wants him to die, obviously. It because she wonders if he really wants to live.
After that, after three long days where Tony is huddled in the bed, blood staining the sheets, he doesn't laugh anymore. He barely dares a small smile.
“They did this to me because of who I am,” there is a harshness, a roughness that was not there before. This Tony is all gripping hands and desperation, frantic energy, “of who we are, Ty.”
“no,” Ty whispers, “they did it because they are horrible people.”
“There are a lot of horrible people, Ty,” here says. “I’m tired of horrible people.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
He is always curled in on himself, terrified beyond belief. It takes Sunset a while to realise that he is permanently scarred. He has changed, she knows this, a functional part of his being has shifted and the part of Tony that was brass and bold is dull.
Still, He goes to the meetings. The world turns. Life goes on.
He is different. Something fundamental in his code has changed, his DNA has been altered. His pieces don't fit together anymore, his joints and bones clash and sometimes he gets lost in himself, in his skin, in his heartbeat that echoes in his ears.
Sometimes his bones slide together in the dark, when JARVIS is talking in low, hushed tones like they are in a church. He almost feels whole again.
He is still growing, into himself, into his body and his brain and his name. He looks at the shoes he has to fill and wonders of his feet will be big enough.
He pulls himself together, slots the bones into place, pulls the pieces of him floating away like icebergs close, tries to pretend he is not Frankenstein, sewn together from the dead, from the broken.
He is fine.