Behind the Mirror

By Elizabeth Bathory

As the rain pounded down relentlessly on a cold October night, the limo cautiously made its way from the annual costume ball fundraiser for the Maria Stark Foundation through the quickly flooding streets of Los Angeles to Beverly Hills. Tony Stark had wanted to go back to his Malibu mansion but a text message sent to his phone by Jarvis had deemed that impossible. The work on the ceiling had finally been finished since having decided to finally get it repaired but a mudslide had washed out one of the roads leading to the mansion so Tony and Pepper were forced to head back to his parents' old mansion in Beverly Hills.

The old heavy iron gate was pulled open as Happy approached with the limo and closed behind him as he made his way up the long meandering driveway to the house. Happy got out first and held the open umbrella so they could get in the house without getting soaked. Now, if anyone had been watching, especially with a camera, they would have thought that a redhead with a high ponytail in a black poodle skirt, red blouse, black and white checkered scarf and saddle shoes accompanied by a guy in a black leather jacket, black jeans, slicked back hair and motorcycle boots did not belong in a multi-million dollar mansion until they looked more closely and realized that it was Tony and Pepper Stark.

Tony fished through his pocket for the keys, really wishing that this house had the capabilities to withstand Jarvis without blowing a fuse. He finally found the key and shoved it into the lock, turned in and pushed the door open. He absently reached for the light switch on the right side of the door as if he still lived there and hadn't moved out when he was twenty-three.

The lights illuminated a rather grand entrance way with doors on each side, opening to the living room on one side and dining room on the other, and one of several staircases in the house that led up to the second floor.

"This is nothing like the one in Malibu," Pepper commented as she took her hair down out of the ponytail and kicked off her saddle shoes.

"I know. This one screams my mother's interior decorator. The one in Malibu screams all me." Tony replied as he shrugged off his jacket and threw it over the arm of the chair as he turned on the lights in the living room.

"Well, your mother's interior decorator had good taste," Pepper said with a smile as she watched Tony flop down on the couch and flip on the TV. "Is there something left here that I can change into? I don't want to stay in this all night," she said as she gestured to her costume.

"I think I left some things of my mother's up in their room. Upstairs, third door on the left, first dresser, second drawer from the top…should be something in the framework of pajamas." Tony said as he closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the back of the couch. "But you know I wouldn't object to you going with absolutely nothing."

"I know you wouldn't and that is one of the reasons why I am expecting twins at the moment," Pepper said with a laugh as she headed upstairs.

By the time Pepper came back downstairs, Tony was stretched out on the couch in a pair of old sweatpants that seemed too short for him and had a blanket around his shoulders.

"Those don't seem to fit you," Pepper said as she pulled his mother's silk robe around her and lay down on the couch next to him.

"They used to…when I was eighteen." Tony admitted with a slight blush as he wrapped the blanket around both of them and flipped the channels until he found a horror movie on.

"Did you have to put on this? Are you trying to scare me?" Pepper pointed out as she saw what move he put on.

"I like when you get scared. It means you curl up into me tighter." Tony commented. "And what is wrong with The Omen? It's a classic and even this remake is pretty damn good."

"You are going to make me think one of our babies is going to be the spawn of the devil. I am going to have nightmares on this now." Pepper protested as se hit Tony's chest playfully.

"What about the Sixth Sense then? I know you have seen it so the ending isn't a shocker now." Tony asked as he flipped the channel.

"That's better. I would prefer that." Pepper said as she settled down and rested her head against Tony's chest as he reclined and stretched out on the couch and wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

Not more than an hour into the movie, the storm picked up more and began to produce some serious thunder and lightening. One loud crack later, the entire mansion went black.

"Well, so much for the movie." Pepper said dryly. "I am surprised there are no generators here. Think if we call Happy back, he could bring us to a hotel."

"There is a generator her but it only runs the absolute necessities. I reduced it after I moved out." Tony said as he sat up and laid Pepper down on the couch. "And as for going to a hotel…that is kind of out of the question now." He added as he got up and started to walk into the kitchen to find a few candles and a flashlight. For once, the light of the arc reactor was useful.

"Why is it out of the question?" Pepper called back.

"Because, the gate at the bottom needs power to open. When the power goes out, this place is locked down like Fort Knox." Tony called back as he started rummaging through the drawers. "The gate is extremely heavy and nearly impossible to open by hand alone."

"What do you mean nearly impossible?" Pepper asked.

"Well, Rhodey and I once tried to open it." Tony called back. "After pulling, pushing, jammed shoulders, pulled muscles, bruising and a lot of swearing at it…it budged about an inch and we had to hop over it." He stated as he managed to pull out a few candles. Now he had to find the matches.

"Why did you need to hop over it anyway?"

"Because we had gone out partying and the power had gone out when we came home," Tony called from the kitchen. "We didn't feel like waiting to go to bed any longer than needed." He added with an 'aha!' at the end when he found the matches.

"No one was inside to help?" Pepper asked as she saw a soft yellow glow being added to the blue in the kitchen.

"I didn't want to have to wake up my butler," Tony said as he gathered up all the candles he found. "I was hard enough on the poor man after my parents died. The last thing he needed was for me to be waking him up at two in the morning to let me in my own house." He said as he started to walk back to the living room, leaving the one lit candle in the kitchen.

As he passed the large wall mirror in the hallway, Tony thought he saw a face looking at him that was not his own out of the corner of his eye. He paused, turned slightly more and swore he saw his father's face looking back at him. He gasped and slammed against the wall, dropping the few candles he had in his hand. As he bent down to pick up what he had dropped and tried to catch his breath, he looked at the mirror again and saw nothing except the wall paper lit up by the light of his arc reactor.

"Tony? Are you alright? I heard a loud bang." Pepper called to him.

"Yeah…" Tony said a little breathlessly as he looked at the mirror again to make sure. "It's nothing." He said, still trying to convince himself that it was nothing, as he lit a few of the candles and set them on the living room table.

Pepper watched Tony light the candles and he almost seemed shaken up. "Tony, are you sure you're alright? You look a bit off..." Pepper said as she pulled him back to the couch.

"It's nothing." Tony said again as he lay down. "I must be tired and the light from my reactor was playing tricks on me…nothing more." He stated, beginning more and more to believe it himself.

"So now what do we do since the TV is out of the question?" Pepper asked.

"I have an idea," Tony purred as he rolled over and pulled Pepper into a deep kiss. "This is actually better by candlelight." He added as he pulled her leg over his hip and snaked his arm around her waist.

The levels of passion and lust were only starting to build from a small spark when a loud crash was heard from upstairs, making Pepper jump and pull the robe and blanket back around her.

Tony jumped as well but it was more off the couch to investigate what had happened. "Wait here. I'll go check it out." He told Pepper as he ran for the stairs and climbed them two at a time to see what, if anything had broken.

Using his arc reactor as his only light source, he scoured each room up stairs to make sure everything was in order. Everything has seemed fine until he got to his parents' bedroom. He opened the door to find the window had been blown open by the force of the winds and had knocked over the frame which held his parents' wedding photo. Tony crossed the room and relatched the window and righted the frame and then turned to leave. He had only gotten to the edge of the bed when he saw a long white figure cross from one edge of the mirror to the other. Tony had thought it was just the light from his reactor reflecting again until he saw the light go the opposite direction and then stop and look at him. He backed up against the closet door as the light turned and revealed his mother's face looking at him. Tony felt his heart start to pound and he stopped breathing as he looked into his mother's ghostly eyes. As soon as their gaze locked, the image vanished and Tony's flight mechanism kicked in and he ran out of that room and started back downstairs.

As he was approaching the main stair case, he caught his own reflection in another mirror and right behind him was his father's face once more. Tony panicked, missed the first few steps on the stairs case and luckily caught himself before he crashed to the floor.

Pepper heard the commotion and came running to see Tony stagger off the staircase.

"Tony? What happened? You look like you've seen a ghost." Pepper exclaimed as she helped Tony up and back to the couch.

"I am beginning to think I might have," Tony rambled out as he sat down, trying to stop his hands from shaking.

"Are you serious?" Pepper asked to make sure. "Are you sure you just didn't drink too much at the ball?"

"I didn't have anything to drink at the ball but I am beginning to want one now," Tony exclaimed as he scrubbed his hands over his face. "I swear to you I am not bullshitting this. I thought I saw my parents…in the mirrors."

Pepper looked into Tony's eyes and saw he was telling the truth or what he believed to be the truth. "I think you're just over tired and your mind is playing tricks on you given where we are." Pepper told him calmly as she held him. "Why don't we go to bed and reexamine this when you're not exhausted." She said as she gently pulled him to his feet, blew out the candles and took him upstairs without much argument.

As they got to the top of the stairs, Pepper started to head down to Tony's parents' bedroom but Tony stopped her by the door that belonged to his old room.

"Tony, I thought we were going to bed." Pepper commented when he stopped her.

"We are…just not in there." Tony said as he opened his old bedroom door and pulled her inside.

"Why not?" Pepper asked as she looked around the room that they were in by the light of Tony's reactor. She saw only a twin bed but it could have been a full with a red and black plaid bedspread on it. There was various rock posters on the wall with the occasional sports car mixed in. On the desk was a pile of comic books and video games. "Is this your old room?"

Tony nodded. "I can't sleep in my parents' room." He said softly as he pulled her to sit on the bed. "My butler used to try to convince me to take it since it was my house now and that was the master bedroom but it wasn't mine. I know this sounds stupid but I can't go in there."

Pepper actually understood his explanation. "Don't worry. I can grasp that. Your room will be fine. It will almost be like you're sneaking a girl home." Pepper said with a warm smile as she pulled back the bedspread and got under the blankets. "This will be very cozy for the two of us."

Tony nodded as he jumped in beside her and spooned up behind her. "Trust me, you will realize how much I will enjoy this." He said as he kissed her gently before they started to drift off to sleep.

"It's about time he found someone that loves him." Maria Stark whispered as her hand ghosted over her sleeping son's hair. "He's needed someone to care for him and about him for so long now."

"Maria, you are invading his privacy again. I doubt he would be comfortable to know that his mother was looking over him while he was in bed with his wife." Howard Stark chimed in from the doorway.

"Well, this is the only time I can be close to him now. He never sleeps, Howard. Just like you used to be when you got your head wrapped around something." Maria insisted as she watched Tony. "She is so perfect for him. This girl has been the best thing in his life for years. Thank god he finally wised up and married her."

"His head was clouded first and it needed to be knocked on straight." Howard commented as he noticed the glow in Tony's chest, recognizing the genius in the design. "I just wish it had been us to straighten him out instead of a kidnapping by terrorists."

"There's nothing we can do about that now, Howard. He came out a better man for it instead of being broken and we should be grateful for that." Maria chimed in. "And he's finally making us grandparents."

"Maria, I think he first made us grandparents of sorts when he invented that A.I. of his." Howard said as he stepped in to try to pull Maria away from the bed. "Let him sleep, Maria. You yourself said he needs it."

Maria brushed a ghostly kiss by Tony's temple and reluctantly pulled away from her baby boy. "Good night Anthony. Let love take care of you." She whispered as she joined Howard by the door.

Howard wrapped his arm around Maria's waist as he led her back down to their bedroom. "That wife of his…Pepper…takes very good care of him. Take comfort in that." He reminded her.

"I do," Maria sighed. "But you nearly gave him a heart attack tonight. Popping up in that mirror like that…twice." She scolded her husband.

"Me? You're the one who went full apparition on him and made him run out of this room." Howard chided her as they crossed into the bedroom.

"How was I supposed to know that he was going to be in there then?" Maria asked as she started to fade out.

"Did you not expect him to investigate a large bang?" Howard came back as he faced out. "You just had to open the window." He said as Maria and Howard crossed back into the mirror.