Author: Atlantis Sinatra PM
After a life of war and adventure, all she wanted to do was live a fairly quiet existence running her little café and avoid inquiries on future children from Mrs. Weasley. She didn't expect Tony Stark to wander his way into her life and decide to never leave. FEM!Harry/Tony StarkRated: Fiction T - English - Harry P. & Iron Man/Tony S. - Chapters: 3 - Words: 10,237 - Reviews: 414 - Favs: 1,383 - Follows: 2,136 - Updated: 08-01-12 - Published: 07-11-12 - id: 8311220
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: First off I want to say thank you to everyone that has been so graciously review this story! I promise to keep most of my comments to the AN at the end of the chapter, but I just want to mention a few things quickly.
**I am still searching for a Beta Reader if anyone is interested! (I would like it however, if you are experienced in writing in either the Harry Potter or Avengers universes. Experience in both is preferred, but I'll take what I can get at this point. I need an extra set of eyes to go over my work and help me become a better writer.)
**As I've been fleshing out the plot more and more, I've realized that there are OC's all over this story, so as I start to introduce more, I'll probably keep a tally at the end of each chapter with names and whatnot to keep track. Right now I've mentioned three, but only really introduced Alex (AKA "Kitty"). We'll be meeting more in the next chapter.
Thank you for your time! :)
SUMMARY: After a life of war and adventure, all she wanted to do was live a fairly quiet life running her little café and avoid inquiries on future children from Mrs. Weasley. She didn't expect Tony Stark to wander his way into her life and decide to never leave. FEM!Harry/Tony Stark
He woke with a startled, garbled scream of terror, jerking upright and tumbling off the bed in a tangled heap on the floor of his bedroom. Trembling uncontrollably, he slowly pulled himself to his hands and knees. He remained in that position with his head hanging limply as he fought the urge to retch everywhere. He tried to regain his awareness and remind himself that he was not in that thrice cursed cave, he was not being tortured, and he did not just die.
It was just a nightmare.
When he felt safe enough to try and stand up without puking, he slowly clawed his way to his feet, using the bed as a brace. He eyed the red numbers of the clock and saw that it was 9:23 in the evening and he fought the sudden urge to break down and cry.
The past few days had been complete hell for him.
They'd all thought that after the Chitauri, mindless bug monsters would be a piece of cake. And, while they were quite stupid, they operated in a hive mentality, attacking enforce with groups of a dozen or more at a time. They also had a Queen that somehow managed to birth out dozens more of those damned things every hour. As the only one that could truly fly, he'd been relegated to containment to keep them within the designated area while the others picked them off and searched for the elusive Queen.
It took them three days to find her deep in the sewers of the city.
Tony didn't think the others fully realized the burden they had placed solely on his already fragile shoulders. By then severely sleep deprived from his own messed up issues, he had little rest during the confrontation, constantly on the move to herd the swarm back to the other Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, picking off any strays they managed to miss. The few precious moments of rest he was granted when they did remember to give him a reprieve was consistently interrupted by the nightmares, kept secret only by JARVIS muting the communications in his suit when he woke with startled cries and half screams of terror. He survived solely on adrenaline and concentrated caffeine till he was able to return to the safety of his tower and pass out face first onto his bed, but the nightmares struck again, relentless in their assault of his psyche and their mission to wear him down to the point of no return.
This time he'd only managed a little over forty-five minutes of sleep.
And people wondered why he drank so much…
Tony made a desperate escape to the bar of his penthouse suite in search of something strong enough to chase the nightmares away for a few hours at least. Normally if he drank himself into a stupor just short of alcohol poisoning, he could catch a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Unfortunately, he usually ended up doing stupid shit that he'd get yelled at for later in the time between getting royally fucked and passing out.
Tonight he just didn't give a shit as he blindly grabbed the nearest bottle of scotch and a glass from the shelves and sat down on the floor in front of the bar wedged in-between two of the stools. He poured himself a glass and downed it in one go, immediately pouring himself another and downing that one too. He pressed the glass to his forehead, trying to draw some comfort from the cool glass against his skin to no avail.
He didn't know how much longer he could continue like this…
He was running on empty now, not even fumes to keep him going.
He forwent the glass this time and took a long draw straight from the bottle, staring blankly out through the large panoramic windows of his penthouse to the Manhattan skyline as the buzz of alcohol slowly hit him. As he set the bottle back on the floor, his eye caught a glimpse of something across the room draped on the back of the couch.
It was that blanket he snitched from that pretty barista in Chelsea.
It was lying innocently on the back of the couch exactly where he left it before the madness started. Even in the darkness illuminated only by the lights of Manhattan and the blue glow from his reactor he could see the colors of the woven yarn, like a rainbow puked all over it.
He used the stools and the ledge of the counter to haul himself to his feet and he walked over on wobbly legs unstable more from exhaustion than the alcohol he just consumed.
If one thing could be said about Tony Stark, it was that the man could hold his liquor.
Tony grabbed the corner of the blanked and lifted it to his face, burying his nose in the woven yarn. The damned thing was garishly tacky, but it smelled of vanilla and jasmine tinted with just a hint of coffee. He inhaled the unique perfume that lingered on it and kind green eyes and coffee-black curls instantly came to mind.
He was suddenly filled with the urge to see the only person that had shown him any concern as a human being in weeks.
He quickly gathered the blanket up in his arms and made for the door.
He didn't care that it was almost ten at night or that he just downed half a bottle of scotch. He didn't care that he had no idea what her name was or where she even lived. He had to do something before he went completely insane. He had to return the damned blanket.
He had to see her again.
Tony gave a start and nearly tripped over the end of the blanket when JARVIS's computerized voice sounded through the penthouse.
"JARVIS," he croaked, "issue Gag Order 34-D."
"Sir, I must protest," the ever present AI said with concern.
"So noted, so ignored," he said.
"May I at least suggest a shirt, Sir?" JARVIS said with a sigh. "And perhaps a coat? It is still February after all."
Tony stopped and glanced down, suddenly realizing that he was indeed topless. Apparently he'd writhed himself out of his shirt sometime during the brief forty-five minutes he'd been asleep. "Oh, right," he muttered, making a detour to his closet to grab a random shirt and pull it over his head.
Helen sighed and turned off the last television on the wall, cutting off the news anchor mid-word before walking back over to the counter to start wiping down.
The tabloids were proclaiming it the latest incident the "Infestation of Chicago" and now that the battle against the mutant wasps itself was seemingly over, every godforsaken news channel was replaying highlights and doing commentaries over the event.
After three days of watching news reports, live footage, and worrying senselessly over that bloody jerk, Helen was just tired of it.
She honestly didn't know why she cared all that much as their meeting had been brief, not really long enough to form any meaningful relationship between them of any kind outside acquaintances, but she truly and deeply worried for the man while he battled away in Chicago, constantly on the move it seemed.
Maybe it had been that look in his eyes that instinctively drew her in – the look of hopelessness hidden behind a tight wall of defenses that was slowly starting to crumble away. She saw it only briefly after he had made his call before he seemed to collect himself up again, but that look was one that she herself wore towards the end of the War when she had broken to the point that she couldn't seem to put herself back together again by herself.
Helen had been blessed enough to have an extended family that loved her enough to help put herself back together and give her a chance to heal away from England. She wondered if Tony Stark had anyone like that to help him without taking advantage of him.
She doubted it.
"You know. I've had coffee all over the world, but I don't know what you put in yours that makes it so damned good."
She jerked out of her autopilot daze and let out a shriek of surprise, dropping the towel in her hands as she jumped and spun around in shock only to knock over the collection of bottles she'd just rearranged on the counter as she moved. She cursed fluently in Ancient Egyptian as she scrambled to collect the scattered squeeze bottles and return them to their original position.
"Bloody hell! I'm too tired for a heart attack," she said accusingly to the intruder only to freeze when she saw who it was that decided to show up ten minutes before closing time.
Speak of the devil…
"Good God!" she exclaimed in shock as she finally comprehended the sight of Tony Stark standing there wearily with her blanket in hand looking as if he was literally going to keel over and pass out at any given second. "Are you alright?" she squeaked clutching the last squeeze bottle to her chest in horror when her brain regained the capability to form words.
"I've been worse," he said with an exhausted smile that did little to alleviate her concern for the man's health. This was the walk-of-shame times a thousand.
How could she be pissed off at a guy that looked so pathetic?
"How are you even standing?"
"Stubborn pride, concentrated caffeine, and maybe a healthy dose of scotch," he said weakly. "I wouldn't worry. I've gone longer than three days with no sleep. I'll be fine," he said before swaying dangerously.
Helen panicked and ducked under the counter, coming up beside him to stabilize him before he face planted with an arm around his waist. "This is not fine!" she said sharply as he found his balance again. She wrinkled her sensitive nose, smelling the alcohol on him. "And what the bloody hell do you mean you haven't slept in three days?"
"It's not like I've had much chance to," he mumbled with just a bit of bitterness.
"Come on," she said with a sigh, guiding him slowly to the door. "You need a bloody hospital."
He stiffened and locked his knees, nearly making them both fall over. "No. No hospitals!" he cried.
"Mr. Stark, you need a–" she protested.
"No," he said firmly, cutting her off. "Shove me in cab and send me home if you have to, but I'm not going to a hospital."
Helen gritted her teeth in irritation. Why did he have to be so difficult? She was too tired to deal with an annoying, unstable, alcohol induced billionaire right now.
"Fine," she grumbled, guiding him over to the couch instead. "Sit here and don't move," she said, helping him sit down, "I need to finish closing up."
"Thanks," he muttered tiredly.
She just shook her head in exasperation and made her way back over to the counter to make something up for him. She could be a bitch sometimes, but she wasn't a heartless one.
"What's he doing here?" Kitty asked spying the billionaire over on the couch as she exited the kitchen. She'd also gotten the closing shift that day.
"He showed up a few minutes ago," Helen said, grabbing a fire-red coffee mug from under the counter, fixing the drink she was making. She finished it with a bit of cream and handed it to Kitty. "Go give this to him before he falls asleep."
Tony stared at the ceiling blankly as he sat there on the couch in the exact same spot he was in last time. His mind was a mess. He was too tired to think clearly, but too afraid to willingly pass out there on the couch.
He was beginning to realize that coming here was an incredibly stupid idea.
"Dude, are you even alive?"
Tony turned his head to stare blearily at the college aged blonde standing there with mild concern on her face and a fire-red coffee mug in her hands. He vaguely recognized her from the other time he was here by the shocking pink streaks framing her face.
"Here," she said, holding out the coffee mug to him, "Compliments of the Boss Lady."
"Thanks," he muttered, taking the coffee mug from her.
"Careful. It's called a '*Sucker Punch' for a reason," she said.
He took a sip of the coffee drink and sputtered as the intense espresso about hit him in the face. Sucker Punch indeed. He coughed a bit as his eyes watered. "What the hell is in this?"
"Uh… like a shit-ton of caffeine?" the blonde said with a roll of her eyes. "It's got enough in it to jumpstart a 747. I'm expressly forbidden from having them though," she pouted. "I apparently tried to destroy a Wal-Mart the one time I managed to snitch one. I guess people really don't like it when you cause stampedes of giant bouncy balls through the aisles or snipe people with the **Nerf guns from inside the clothes racks."
"People also don't like it when you try and start a fire in the camping section to 'make the display scene more believable'," the brunette behind the counter called out with a roll of her eyes. "Just ignore her, Mr. Stark. That's what the rest of us do."
"Screw you!" the blonde cried to the British woman with a huff.
Tony stared at the blonde hazily as she continued to blather on about random crap. He could tell that she was talking, but all that came out of her mouth was white noise.
His vision started going blurry and he started to panic. He didn't have time to react as the world went black and he went limp, succumbing to the darkness that seemed to always linger on the fringes of his consciousness these days.
"Shit!" Alex screeched in shock as Stark suddenly went limp against the couch, coffee mug falling out of his hand to shatter in a wet mess on the concrete floor. "Uh… Helen?" she cried with a tinge of panic. "I think the dude just died!" Alex cried, poking the man's shoulder.
Helen carelessly dropped the rag she was using to wipe down the tables and hurried over to find that sure enough, he'd passed out cold. She let out a string of expletives, cursing her rotten luck as she did a standard check for his vitals. His temperature was higher than she would have liked and he was breathing a bit erratically.
She should have just shoved him in a cab and been done with it.
"Did you drug him?" Alex hissed.
"What? No!" Helen cried indignantly.
Not that it hadn't crossed her mind when she made him that coffee drink.
She rubbed her hand over her face tiredly. "Go flip the wards," she said with a sigh. "It's past closing time anyway."
Alex did as asked and made her way to the outer door to slide the open sign over to 'closed', activating the outer layer of wards around the building. There was a faint shudder of magic as a muggle repelling charm activated and an illusion settled over the large windows to show a darkened interior.
"What should we do?" Alex muttered worriedly as she made her way back over. "Should we call an ambulance?"
"No," Helen said with a frown, remembering his outright refusal to go to the hospital. "He's unconscious, not dying. Let's get him upstairs. I'd rather have him passed out on the couch in my living room rather than down here."
Helen called her wand from the holster disguised as her watch and vanished the mess on the floor before casting a simple levitation spell on the man. With Alex's help, she managed to guide him up the stairs and into the apartment, resting him gently on the couch in her living room. Bayer watched the event curiously from his dog bed having been brought up some hours ago.
"I feel like we just kidnapped someone," Alex muttered, tossing the blanket on the back of the couch. "I hope you know that if anyone asks, I'm totally blaming you. Seriously, we should have dropped him off at the closest muggle hospital and called it good."
"Go home, Kitty," Helen said. "I've got it from here."
"Okay, but I hope you know that this is by far one of the stupidest things you've done," Alex said as she made her way to the door. "Don't come crying to me if he has you arrested!"
"I'll see you later," Helen said absently as she started to remove the man's coat so he wouldn't end up roasting. She was glad to see that this time he was at least dressed for the February weather.
Alex rolled her eyes and left, closing the door behind her, leaving her alone with the unconscious billionaire now passed out on her couch.
"Damn my saving people thing," Helen muttered with a small sigh as she opened his coat. She paused when she noted a faint blue glow filtering through his t-shirt with the AC/DC logo on it. Curious, she briefly traced a finger over the faint glow, noting how the edges of the device were raised against his chest. She was tempted to lift his shirt and investigate, but decided against it and continued removing the coat from his person carefully. She draped it across the back of the couch and removed his shoes before grabbing the blanket off of the couch.
"You better not steal it this time," she muttered as she opened the cover and draped it over him.
She paused and ghosted her fingers across his tired face. She leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead before retreating to her bedroom.
She went about her nightly routine on auto-pilot, changing into a pair of fuzzy green pajama bottoms with cartoon pandas all over them and a black spaghetti-strap tank top with the Chevy logo on it.
She climbed into bed and gave one last glance towards the hallway before settling down to sleep. It felt like she scarcely touched her head to the pillow before a startled cry jerked her awake again.
He was trapped.
The voices taunted him as he struggled to free himself from the suffocating bonds.
He couldn't breathe.
"Mr. Stark?" A familiar voice cut through the darkness. "Mr. Stark, wake up!"
He felt hands on his shoulders and he struggled harder to get away. The hands tugged at him pulling and jostling until suddenly…
…he was free.
He lunged and a sharp pain suddenly bloomed over his face as reality crashed around him, waking him from his nightmare. He tumbled off of whatever it was he was laying on to hit the floor with loud thud. He scrambled to his feet and barreled through the unfamiliar place, knocking things over until he found the nearest bathroom. He lunged at the toilet and promptly emptied what little was in his stomach.
He felt a presence kneel beside him as he took a shuddering breath, valiantly trying to keep a hold of himself.
He couldn't take this anymore.
He didn't want to suffer like this, no matter how much he thought he probably deserved it.
His hand reached for the arc reactor in the center of his bare chest, his shirt long missing. All he had to do was twist it out and he'd be gone in less than half an hour. It was that easy.
Besides, who would honestly miss him if he was gone?
A choked sob escaped his mouth when a hand much smaller than his own rest itself over his to gently pry his fingers off of the glowing, metal device powering his empty heart. He felt the last tendrils of control he had over himself slowly crumble away as he was enveloped in the smell of vanilla and jasmine tinted with coffee.
"It's okay. I've got you now."
The voice was soft like a melody on a breeze, kind and understanding with vague familiarity. His mind was a mess, too jumbled to put voice to face and at this point he didn't quite care who it was. All that mattered was someone was there.
He turned in the stranger's embrace and buried his face into the warmth of bare skin, letting himself fall apart completely, too god-damned tired to hold it all in anymore.
Helen was at a loss as to what to do.
She'd woken up to find him tangled in the blanket, writhing in the clutches of what she could only assume was a terrible nightmare. She tried to wake him, untangling him from the blanket, but he lunged at her. She ended up slapping him across the face to wake him up only for him to barrel for the bathroom, nearly running her over.
Now she was sitting there on her bathroom floor, leaning back against the bathtub with a grown man she'd met only twice curled in her lap there in the darkness as he quietly shattered to pieces in her arms.
He clung to her weakly, trembling like a frightened child with his face buried in the juncture of her neck and shoulder. She could feel his hot breath on her skin mingling with the tears that fell steadily down his face one after another. One of her hands buried itself into his hair and she tangled her fingers in the sweat-soaked strands at the nape of his neck as he pressed his face deeper into her shoulder as if trying to hide from the world. She brought her other arm to wrap around his back and hold him against her. She rested her head atop his and held him tight, trying vainly to keep her own tears from joining his as her very magic wept for his broken spirit.
Four days ago this man was nothing more to her than an illustrious figure on the television and in the papers.
And then Fate intervened…
Over the years, her 'saving people thing' evolved into a habit of collecting broken people, fixing them up and polishing them out to make them shine again. That was how she had ended up forming most of her team.
She loosened her hold on her magic and let it reach out to touch the very essence of him, and for a split second she felt his pain. The drowning waves of hopelessness, anger, and fear were overwhelming, making her gasp and clutch him tighter as her magic recoiled quickly as if burned. From that one brief touch she saw and felt his soul, once a proud flame burning hot and wild, was now just a dying ember so beaten down it was as if the slightest breeze would extinguish it forever.
She buried her face in his dark hair and held him there on the bathroom floor, singing to him softly until the trembling ceased and his breathing calmed deep and even. His grip on his slackened as his body relaxed against her completely.
"No more nightmares tonight," she murmured softly into his hair. "I promise."
AN: Finished! So just in case you couldn't tell, this chapter was incredibly hard for me to write on so many levels, trying to accurately portray Tony in such a state of exhausted hopelessness. I don't know if I did it justice, but after the third time of rewriting this chapter, I finally called it good. Helen is a bit bewildered at having this all dropped into her lap, seeing such a vulnerable side of a virtual stranger, much less one that she's been fretting over for the past few days. This was a turning point for the story and we'll see what happens when Tony wakes up in the next chapter!
Again, if anything seems confusing or if you have questions, feel free to leave a review or PM me!
* – So this is an actual coffee drink that's made at a local coffee shop in the town where I live. It's basically pure, super-strong espresso topped with a little sugar and a splash of cream. My best friend dared me to try it once and I swear it nearly killed me.
** - My best friend and I actually did this once. We got kicked out of Wal-Mart for six months, but it was worth it! :)