How Many More Chances

How Many More Chances

By Elizabeth Bathory

Somewhere over the night sky near LAX, a private jet starts its descent into what can only be called a thunderstorm that came right out of Hell itself. In most cases, a pilot would circle for a while or find another clearer and safer airport to land at but not when the plane is owned by Anthony Stark. When the boss says land at LAX, you land.

It had all started in Boston after Tony had finally given in and given the commencement speech at MIT. It had taken a careful bit of persuasion by his loyal assistant and confidante, Pepper Potts, that this would give a lot of good press to counter some of the chaos of Iron Man. Tony had spoken rather eloquently, especially considering he wrote the speech himself on the flight to Massachusetts on half a bottle of scotch, about forging a new path of your own design rather than the ones that had been set before you. He had spoke from the heart and drew very much on his experiences in captivity and what Yinsen had told him…having his life was a gift not to be wasted.

After the ceremony, Tony 'graciously' agreed to stay for the reception at Pepper's quiet insistence, posed for some pictures and shared a few stories of his own MIT days as a teenager. As the celebration wore down, Tony gave Pepper a quick look which left no room for argument that he wanted to leave. It was a six hour flight back to Los Angeles across three time zones and he hated jet lag.

The hits just kept coming once the driver dropped Tony and Pepper off at Logan airport. Not one for being told what to do, Tony was clearly pissed off when he was told the earliest his plane was going to leave the tarmac was at eight o'clock…four hours later.

Tony was trying not to explode as he waited on the plane. One time he was on time for something and he still ends up being late.

"How much do you have to pay someone to cut the line here?" he grumbled under his breath as he stared out the window at the commercial jets leaving. "Because I'll write the damned check now if that is what it takes."

Pepper sighed as she listened to Tony's tenth expression of his frustration. "I highly doubt the FAA will let you buy your way into the sky. They usually get a little picky on that one."

"Money talks even to them."

"Not this time, Mr. Stark." Pepper said firmly as she gently nudged Tony back into his seat as a hint.

Tony's plane finally took to the skies after nine but he still could not relax. He spent nearly the entire six hour flight absently tapping his arc reactor and watching the lightening bounce off the clouds in the distance while fidgeting. He was exhausted and getting irritable from it but his body just would not let him fall asleep until the anger-induced adrenaline wore off.

Tony had a splitting headache hen the plane finally made a safe landing at LAX well after midnight California time and that just made his temper shorter. He and Pepper walked out of the terminal to see his most trusted bodyguard, Harold "Happy" Hogan, waiting with the one of the cars and his luggage already in the trunk.

"Pleasant flight sir?" Happy asked cautiously as he read his employer's dark mood and held open the door.

"I just want to go home." Tony said quietly. "I do not care how you have to do it but I want to go home as fast as possible. Hundred on the freeway, get the rockets off the armor and strap them to the back of the car…I don't care." He added before ducking in the car and getting comfortable in the back seat.

Happy silently looked to Pepper for an explanation and she just shook her head as a signal for him to avoid that line of questioning.

By the time Pepper had gotten in the car, Tony had taken off his tie and unbuttoned a few of the buttons on his shirt and fallen asleep against the door. The soft blue glow from his arc reactor gave Pepper just enough light to make a few quick notes on her Blackberry and let her relish in the peaceful sounds of Tony's soft snoring.

It was a short drive from LAX to Tony's Malibu home in normal weather, usually taking just about forty minutes along the 405 and Pacific Coast highway, but the blinding rain and wind it was taking twice as long. Happy was driving far more cautiously that he normally would but even with that, the situation went from worse to disastrous.

Happy turned off the exit from the Pacific Coast Highway and started down the darker and windier roads that lead to the mansion. He was pretty sure that they were alone on the road until he heard the sound of another very large engine. There were no headlights until the last second when they were turned on bright just as the SUV hit the car fast along the front fender and shoved it off the road and down the hills…right into a tree.

The accident had happened so quickly that there was no time to react. When the realization hit what had happened, it was when everyone was taking stock of their injuries and damage to the car.

Happy was fortunate enough to have his seat belt on and just had a few bruises. He looked into the back to check on his two passengers.

Pepper was lucky in that she was thrown right into Tony so she received very little. Tony was not as blessed. He had been thrown against the door with a sickening thud and Pepper flying into him did not help matters much. The crash of the car hid the crack that his ribs made when he hit the door and the darkness hid the black bruises that were forming on his chest and shoulder and the blood rolling down from his hairline where his head hit the window.

"Tony? Are you alright?" Pepper asked as her voice cracked with concern. The low groan and the almost imperceptible shake of his head 'no' was all it took for her to go into over drive.

She tossed her cell phone to Happy and told him to call 911 as quick as possible as Pepper gently tried to move Tony out from the side of the door with as little pain as possible.