Author's Note: This is a story I've posted at my lj a while ago, but I figured I'd post it here, too, just in case someone's feeling adventurous enough to read it. It's not your usual Tony/Pepper stuff, it's definitely not fluffy, it's pretty serious, has possibly disturbing plot twists and also some Tony/Jarvis in it. And I'm also really proud of it.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
He woke up with no memory.
Sure, he remembered some things: he knew that this color that surrounded him, the color of the ceiling, the walls and the bedcovers, was called white. He knew that he was a man, and that the flesh-colored, five-fingered things half-hidden in white sleeves that rested on the bedcovers were his hands, although he couldn't feel them at all.
He knew none of the important stuff. He couldn't remember who he was, not even his name. He couldn't remember where he was, or how he had gotten here. He didn't know if he still remembered how to speak. When he tried to turn his head to get a better look at the surroundings, he learned that he could do it, but it felt strangely disjointed, as if it wasn't his neck at all that was moving.
Next to the wall to his right, on a plush white armchair, sat a man, the only thing in the room beside himself that wasn't completely white. The man's skin was pale enough to be almost white, but his close-cut hair was a golden blonde and his eyes the electric blue of a tropical sea. He was wearing black and white, an old-fashioned tailcoat suit, like some vintage British butler.
He opened his mouth to ask who the man was, or who he was himself, for that matter, but all that came out was an indistinct croak.
"Don't worry, sir, it might take a while before you can speak again. You have been through a lot," the man told him, speaking with a distinctly British accent. "My name is Jarvis. Can you remember yours?"
He tried his best, but his mind was blank. He shook his head.
"You're Tony Stark, although you like being called Iron Man," Jarvis said.
That was when it started coming back to him.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Iron Man was flying high in the sky, in a deceptively calm expanse of blue streaked with fluffy white clouds. The truth was, there was nothing calm about the situation, let alone fluffy. Tony was being pursued and shot at by an enemy with vastly greater firepower than his.
He should've been more careful. He had known all along that this was a trap, but he had decided to go anyway, because that was what he did. He put his life on the line for the small chance of saving those of others. Because he was Iron Man, and he knew what he had to do.
"Incoming missiles, sir," Jarvis reported, his artificial voice as cool as always. "Type unknown. Three of them, at six o'clock."
"Aren't we jamming them?"
"It isn't working, they must be shielded."
"Damn! That shouldn't be possible."
"I agree, sir, but it would appear that they don't."
"Evasive action!" Tony shouted, and veered tightly up and to the right, using everything his bootjets would give.
"Still closing in. Estimated time of impact: 30 seconds."
"Isn't there anything useful you can say? Flares!" he ordered, and the bright missile-distracting bolts shot out from his suit.
"No effect. They're obviously not heat-seeking," Jarvis reported. "Impact in fifteen!"
Tony thought he could hear the rumble of the missiles behind him despite the air rushing past him at a dizzying speed. "Aim my bootjets at them," he yelled, and felt the legs of the suit move automatically. There was a loud explosion behind him, and the pressure wave sent him tumbling aimlessly through the air.
"Sir, there's still one left!" Jarvis said, and it almost sounded to Tony as if he was distressed. "Impact in five - four - three..."
Tony couldn't think of anything to do, he was spinning wildly, on the verge of blacking out, the g-forces hitting his body so great that without his suit, he'd probably be dead already.
Then, it struck.
"Tony!" someone shouted, and it sounded a lot like Jarvis, but the depth of emotion in that word was very human
The missile hit him right in the middle of his back. The pain was... There were no words. It was indescribable. His entire world collapsed into a dim red haze, he couldn't feel his limbs anymore, there was nothing but the event horizon of agony where his upper body used to be, and he was falling, falling...
Mercifully, he lost consciousness before he hit the ground.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Tony came to, trembling, sitting up on his bed in the white room.
Jarvis's arms were wrapped around him, strong hands rubbing his back. "Shh, shh, it's all right, it's just a memory, it can't hurt you anymore," Jarvis whispered.
To his embarrassment, Tony realized that there were tears in his eyes. It had been so bad, the pain so overwhelming... Luckily, it was fading already, the exact details slipping from his mind. Or perhaps it was not lucky - in the dream, he had remembered everything. Now, it was escaping him again. He was Iron Man, he remembered as much, and he remembered the anguish, and falling, but little more than that.
He realized that he could actually feel Jarvis's hands on his back, and it didn't hurt. If that had been a real memory, how was it possible? His back should be in shreds. He shouldn't even be alive anymore.
Tony cleared his throat and did his best to ask the question. "Hhh..." was all he got out. He coughed and tried again. This time, it worked. "How?"
Jarvis moved his hands to Tony's shoulders and pushed him back, holding him so that they were face to face. "I'm not sure I know what you mean, sir," he said, tilting his head curiously. "How, what?"
"All," Tony started, knowing instantly that it didn't come out the way he meant it to. It wasn't just that his voice was hoarse, there was more to it than that. He thought he knew the words, but couldn't say them out loud correctly. "A-live?"
"Ah, you're asking how you survived the fall?"
"It's a long story, and it'll have to wait. The important thing is, you are indeed alive and you will be fine, although I'm afraid you have a long and difficult road ahead. I'll be here to help you, every step of the way."
Jarvis eased him to lie down on the bed again, and Tony didn't resist. He didn't know if he could move at all on his own. He was afraid to try, because he feared he'd find out he couldn't. He still couldn't feel his limbs, and after a fall like that, it was more than likely that he was paralyzed.
"You need to rest, sir. Try to sleep, if you can," Jarvis told him, brushed a few stray locks off his forehead and went on stroking his hair. As gentle as the gesture was, there was something awkward about it. Although Tony's brain could not remember, his skin did. He knew he was used to touching and being touched - and he knew that Jarvis wasn't. Tony had been touched so often and in so many different ways that he could tell the way Jarvis caressed his hair was inexperienced, as if he had never done anything like this before. If only Tony could remember who Jarvis was, how they knew each other, and what their relationship was.
Despite of the countless questions churning in his head, he found himself drifting to sleep, soothed by the tender, yet strangely innocent touch.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Tony was sitting behind his desk, facing three screens full of code, which were connected to his suit by numerous wires and cables. He sighed. There were so many details to consider, so much to think about... He wondered if he wasn't attempting the impossible here. Not that it mattered. It was more of an exercise anyway, not something he really hoped he'd ever need to use.
There were sharp-heeled footsteps behind him, and a pair of hands landed on his shoulders, massaging them gently.
"It's way past your bedtime, Mr. Stark. Mine, too," she said.
He rolled the chair around and swept her up in his arms in one fluid move, and chuckled at the surprised squeak it evoked from her.
It wasn't as if Tony had been getting anywhere with his work during the last few hours anyway. "I guess there's no helping it, then, Miss Potts. Bed it is," he said, and stood up, still holding her in his arms. On a whim, he carried her over to the cars instead.
"The bedroom is upstairs," she noted.
"And we sleep there every night! I thought we could be a bit more adventurous today."
"Mr. Stark, I do believe you're confusing 'sleeping' and 'sleeping with someone'. I'm definitely not going to sleep in a car. As for that other thing, what about those times in the kitchen, the beach, the pool, your office, the elevator..."
"Nitpicker," he said, and set her down on the hood of the Tesla Roadster. "Just go ahead, leave me, go to the bedroom and go to sleep if that's what you really, truly want," he told her with an air of martyrdom.
"And you would let me go, just like that?" she said, settling sideways on the hood, leaning her cheek on her fist so that it looked like she was doing a pinup pose.
"I might have, a moment ago, but definitely not anymore. Blame yourself," he told her, leaned closer and grabbed her into a kiss.
"Oh, how awful! I think I'll have to charge you with sexual harassment," she quipped, her fingers already working on unbuttoning his shirt and jeans.
He unzipped her flimsy summer dress. She wasn't even wearing a bra. He pushed her flat against the hood, cupped her beautiful, pale breasts with his hands...
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
This time, he woke up gradually, the sweet memory of the nighttime encounter still lingering in his mind. In his body as well, making it reassuringly clear that even though he couldn't feel his legs, at least the all-important part between them was in working order.
Had that been a real memory, or nothing more than an alluring dream? He could still remember the feel of it, the contrast between her warm, soft skin and the cool metal of the car, but he couldn't remember her name. He remembered every freckle on her face, he was certain she meant the world to him, but for the life of him, he couldn't remember her name.
"More pleasant dreams this time, sir?" Jarvis asked. Startled, Tony turned his head, and saw that Jarvis was sitting in the chair to his right again. Unlike last time, he was now wearing a white coat, like a doctor, blending to the white surroundings even better than before.
"Yeah," Tony answered him, managing to get it right on the first try.
"Can you remember your name?"
"Tony. Tony Stark," he said, savoring the words. They felt correct. As far as he could tell, it really was his name.
"How about your birthday? Can you tell me when that is?"
Somewhat to his surprise, he realized that he did remember, and told it to Jarvis. The numbers came out easily, more fluently than any words so far. Naturally. He liked numbers and was good at them.
"Good," Jarvis said, smiling. "Do you remember what happened?"
"That's all you remember? Nothing about what came after it?"
Tony frowned. He remembered getting hit by a missile and plummeting towards the ground. After that, nothing but darkness. He shook his head.
Oddly enough, Jarvis seemed almost relieved to hear that. "All right," he said. "Now, I'd like you to try something more difficult for me. Can you move your hands?"
Tony swallowed nervously. Could he? He had no idea. He'd have to try it out, sooner or later. Might as well be now. It wouldn't get any less scary if he waited longer.
Staring at the unfeeling fingers of his right hand that rested on the white bedcovers, he willed them to move. Nothing. He tried lifting his entire arm instead, and to his surprise, it did move, although it was just an uncoordinated flop, and he still didn't feel anything.
"Very good, sir!" Jarvis exclaimed, sounding far more pleased than Tony felt.
"Nah." Tony shook his head, and tried again, concentrating very hard on clenching his fingers in a fist, and then bending his arm at the elbow, flexing his muscles. As he did, he actually began to feel something: pins and needles spreading through his arm. It was a familiar enough feeling, although this was a dozen times worse than the regular version. It didn't feel good. "Gah," he uttered. Nevertheless, he kept fisting and opening his hand and moving his arm around, all the way from the shoulder. Goddamn it, he wasn't going to let a little tingling slow him down, when he'd already survived something far worse.
Without Tony's notice, Jarvis had moved over to sit on the side of his bed. "Let me help," Jarvis said, and began massaging the arm that was slowly coming back to life. It did help, the tingling was fading, and his hand was actually beginning to feel almost normal.
So, then, the other hand, Tony decided, gritted his teeth and strained to lift his left arm. It was exactly the same as his right, and slowly, he regained the feel of it as well. It was amazingly hard work considering how little he was actually doing. Once he had the feel and use of both his hands again, he felt like he had run a mile or two. And he hadn't even tried his feet yet.
"I think that's enough for now, sir," Jarvis told him.
Tony shook his head. He wouldn't just quit in the middle of this once he'd already gotten started. He hated feeling helpless, and regaining his mobility would be a huge improvement to the situation. He sat up on the bed and used his hands to bend both his knees up. Then, slowly, carefully, he stretched out each foot without the use of his hands. It worked! He wasn't paralyzed. He couldn't even begin to guess what had happened to him, but he still had the use of all of his limbs.
His joy was short-lived, as the pins and needles began stabbing at his legs, all the way from his toes to his hip. "Knives and daggers" might've been a more accurate description. It was seriously painful. "Ow," he groaned, rubbing his thighs. Without asking, Jarvis began kneading his calves.
"Ah," Tony breathed, and let himself fall back on the mattress as Jarvis worked his way up his legs. Again, Tony got the distinct feeling that Jarvis wasn't used to doing anything like this. There was a slight clumsiness to his touch. In addition to that, Tony also felt that, on some level, there was something badly wrong about this situation. It wasn't the fact that there was this unknown man massaging his legs. Nothing of the sort. He was sure he actually knew Jarvis, although he couldn't remember him. Somehow, this shouldn't be happening, not because it was indecent, but because it was impossible. Then again, it was happening, and he definitely wasn't going to complain.
With the pain in his feet slowly receding, Tony began to realize how utterly exhausted he was. It didn't take long before he was asleep again.