Disclaimer: Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Marvel Comics, Fairview Entertainment, Dark Blades Films, and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. All others belong to me, and if you want to borrow them, you have to ask me first. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

This is just a quickie because there is absolutely no reason given in the film for why removing the arc reactor from Tony's chest should start to kill him immediately. Now if only I could correct that Forbes cover...

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The doctor lifted his stethoscope and stepped back from the examining table, shaking his head slowly. "That is the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen."

Stark lifted an unimpressed eyebrow from his supine position. "I know. I'd say it's the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen, but honestly, I've gone way past unbelievable and into downright impossible these days, and let me tell you the view is really surreal." He tapped his arc implant. "Can I sit up now?"

"What? Yes, sure." The cardiologist turned away, absently tucking his stethoscope into a labcoat pocket, and went back to the lightbox hanging on the wall. Behind him, Stark sat up and swung his legs off the table, reaching for his shirt. "Well, Claude?"

The doctor shook his head again. "Give me a minute, I'm still thinking." He was a fit man in late middle age, barely taller than Stark but broader across the shoulders--a wrestler's build. "You know," he said as Stark came up beside him, shirt hanging open, "this is entirely new biology. If I were a younger man--"

Stark gave him a tolerant look. "I know, I know, if you were younger and less preoccupied with setting up clinics back home you'd want to dissect me and find out what the hell makes the thing tick, but then I wouldn't have promised to fund three new hospitals outside of La Mosquitia and a dozen of those clinics, and you wouldn't have agreed to give me those films and forget this ever happened." He gestured at the X-ray films.

Dr. Claude snorted genially. "Mr. Stark, you could have settled for one hospital alone and I would have done it." He peered at the lightbox, tracing a line visible only to himself with one fingertip.

Stark's mouth twitched up on one side. "I hate half-measures. Well?"

The doctor didn't look at him, still absorbed in the films. "Are you sure you won't allow an MRI?"

It was Stark's turn to snort. "Doc, X-rays won't bother my implant at all, but put me in a magnetic resonance imager and something very unpleasant will happen to either the machine or me, and I wouldn't take bets on which. This is all you get." He started to button up his shirt.

Dr. Claude blew out a breath. "All right. My best guess--and without a more in-depth examination it is a guess--is that your body is adapting--has adapted--to the...reactor. It has taken over some of the function of your heart, though I can't begin to say why or how, and while you could presumably have the remaining shrapnel removed surgically, the reactor is now a permanent part of your system." He finally looked away from the X-rays, his face sober under his balding pate. "I suspect you have a much better idea than I about how long you can survive without it."

Stark nodded slowly, his face closed. "Yeah."

He said nothing more, and the doctor did not press. "I looked up arc reactor technology when you made your appointment, but it's out of my field. Are you sure it doesn't induce mutation?"

"Pretty sure, yeah." Stark fastened the last button and went to work on his cuffs. "So do you think it will do this for anybody? Assuming anyone were crazy enough to agree to it."

Dr. Claude frowned. "I--honestly, I cannot say. Without experimentation it's impossible to tell if your adaptation is a function of the arc itself or a peculiarity of your biology, or even some combination of both." He began pulling down the films. "More importantly, I can't tell you if your body has reached an equilibrium with the device, or if it will continue to change. If your lungs or circulatory system become involved--" He handed the sheaf of films to Stark. "It's completely unknown territory."

Stark grimaced, dropping the films into a small briefcase that sat open on the examining room's chair and snapping it shut. "I figured." He reached for his suitcoat and shrugged it on. "Guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens."

The doctor opened his hands. "I'm sorry I can't be of more help."

His patient's sudden grin was cocky. "Trust me, Doc, that was a lot of help. Just remember to forget, huh? And send my office the hospital plans." Stark laughed once, soft and ironic. "Baby hospitals. Obie would be proud."

Doctor Claude blinked once, but didn't ask. "Trust me, Mr. Stark. If I spoke of this to anyone, they would not believe me." His smile was small and genuine. "A doctor sees many things that must remain confidential. If anyone asks, we were merely discussing your very generous donation to my perpetual cause."

Stark picked up the briefcase and stuck out a hand. "Glad to hear it. Good luck with the babies."

They shook hands briefly, and Stark opened the door, glancing back over his shoulder. "Thanks, by the way, you got my assistant off my back."

The tall slender woman rising from a seat in the waiting room huffed in amused indignation. "Keep dreaming, Anthony."

Stark looked not at all abashed as she slid her hand through the crook of his extended elbow. "See you around, Doc."

The doctor watched them leave, noting the way Stark snugged his assistant's arm in close to his side, and smiled.

End.