Author's Note: yeah, well, here it is because I'm completely obsessed with the amazingness that was and is Iron Man. I haven't fangirled this hard since the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out.

I'm trying my hand at the LJ "Pepperony" community's 100 prompt challenge. So this isn't going to be any kind of cohesive at all. All will be one-shots. We'll see how far I get. Right now it's my goal to get through all 100 before the movie is released to DVD, but I make no promises.

Disclaimer: if I owned Iron Man or anyone associated with it, I'd probably still write fanfic, but then it wouldn't be fanfic. It'd be canon. Lucky for the Iron Man 'verse I'm on the outside looking in. Credit Stan Lee, Universal, Marvel, and whoever else for intellectual property. Credit Jon Favreau, Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, et al for bringing them to life.

100 Prompt Challenge

#3 - Red

The Afghani sand is red through the lenses of Tony Stark's sunglasses. The air is red, his Scotch is red, the snow on those ridiculously close mountains looks as if its been hit by sunset, and even the soldiers sharing the humvee with him have taken on a distinctly rose tone. And then, despite the fact that he's taken off his sunglasses, the flames from the vehicle exploding at the front of their convoy are a shocking deep crimson red…and black.

His ears are ringing and his face stings. Amazing that a slight sting is all that troubles him even though one of his own bombs just exploded in his face. Then that first torturous breath works its way down his throat and pain leaps into full flower throughout his entire body. The sound of his heart takes precedence over the ringing in his ears. He coughs, hoping it'll ease the pain in his chest, but it only increases it.

His head weighs at least a thousand pounds and he struggles to lift it. His arms are similarly weighted, groping feebly at his chest as he tries to locate the damage.

Wet heat…and red – soaking, damning red – spreads across his shirt. Adrenaline surges, making the wetness spread. Panic gives him the strength to tear open his shirt, and disbelieving eyes prove what his mind already knows is true.


Not even his body armor – superior in almost every way to what the soldiers had been wearing – can protect against shrapnel at point blank range.

His head falls back into the dust. His eyes close.

The sun is red against his eyelids.

Red is the color of panic. Simultaneously burning hot and icy cold, his vision is a red tunnel as his mind races to play catch-up. Data – blurry images, corrupted code – streams in, and while his memory is faulty his intelligence is not. It gives a label to the hose he pulls out of his nostril – breathing tube – as his body gags and he fights not to throw up. It identifies his rough surroundings – cave. It analyzes the crushing, dull-red sensation in his chest – pain – and backs it up with the dizzy memories of blood leaking through his body armor, the distant sound of his screams, bright light, hands holding him down, and unrelenting agony.

He's alive, but that knowledge is almost more devastating that realizing he's not dead. He doesn't know why he's alive, and he can't help but fear the reason he is.

Red is panic. Red is fear. And red is the color of a cable connecting a car battery – even in the midst of a full-blown panic attack Tony Stark can recognize a car battery – to his chest. Red – dull, rusty red – is the color staining the bandages running around his torso. Red is angry, inflamed skin, swollen around stitches and the hunk of metal taking pride of place in his sternum. Red is the color of copper wiring gleaming in sparse light.

Once again red is the blanket that smothers him and his mind mercifully shuts down, rebooting…

He'd never known red was so varied, or so omnipresent. In his dark, cold, dun and tan and blue world, there was red everywhere.

It was in the soil he packed to form a crude mold.

It was in the fire that melted the metal that was so essential to his life now.

It was the copper wide needed to create an electromagnet.

In uglier moments it was the color staining his eyes, remnants of days without sleep, of fumes from an unventilated workshop.

Red was a threat in the form of coal dying on an anvil.

Red was the sullen glow of metal as it was heated, worked, and shaped.

Red… Finally red was Yinsen laying on bags of grain stamped in that particularly patriotic American hue.

Tony Stark never wanted to see red again.

The plane touched down, its bay doors opened. It was a sunny day in Malibu, California. And in that moment Tony Stark realized that not all shades of red were created equal. The blazing red hair waiting for him on the woman standing on the tarmac – had it ever appeared so vibrant? – put steel into his spine, made his chin fall into a more confident angle when what he should have been doing was watching his feet.

Oh well, that was what Rhodey was there for.

Even so – even though he felt like he never wanted to look away from the sleek mass of hair adoring Pepper Potts' head – it was no match for the smile on her face. Insuppressible joy. Even though it was her hair he never wanted to forget – wanted to stamp over every red he'd seen in the last three months – it wasn't the red he eventually commented on. Couldn't comment on, not when it held so much power over him.

So another red then. A safer red. And yet…what other red – even the glory of her hair – could merit his attention when he saw her so completely?

"Your eyes are red. Tears for your long lost boss?"

He saw the struggle for composure, saw it lose to the twinkle in her eye, the spark of mischief that only comes from beating overwhelming odds.

"Tears of joy, maybe." Yes, he knows they are. Can hear the truth of it in the tone that tries for composure but only reaches a intimate teasing. "I hate job hunting."

And because he's still too struck by the beauty of red, he follows her lead. If he doesn't he can't guess what will come out of his mouth.

"Yeah, well, vacation's over."

Note 2: Yes, I realized after I started writing that the sunglasses Mr. Stark has on in Afghanistan aren't like any kind of shade of red, but I'd already started writing and it was good stuff. :P And I justify my creative license by the presence of a pair of rosy hued glasses on his nose while in Vegas, so he obviously owns some. Good enough for me.