In The Dark

In The Dark

Rating: R/K+ for disturbing images, swearing – it's a horror story!

Setting: 2008 Movieverse

Pairing: Tony/Pepper

Synopsis: Tony has a visitor on Halloween.

Disclaimer: SO not mine.

Author's Note: I usually don't *do* horror stories, so please bear with my shallow attempt at this one. To be honest, this time of year scares the heck out of me, so blame the Muse for this.

In The Dark

The house was dark; the minimum amount of lighting necessary to maneuver through the rooms and up the stairs casting eerie shadows everywhere. "That… was a blast!" Tony Stark flopped down on the sofa, tearing his bowtie loose with one hand. "Been a while since I had so much fun." Kicking off his shoes he wriggled his toes under the black socks. "Although I hate not doing the masquerade. Figured I'd finally get you into something a little less… formal."

"Not this year. And the charity was extremely grateful for the amount of money we raised this year; more so when you tossed in that check at the end." Pepper Potts smiled as she hovered nearby; tapping on her Blackberry. "Let me go make one last check on my laptop and I'll be out of your hair."

"You could always stay for a nightcap." The dark-haired man grinned, patting the cushion beside him. "Keep me safe from the midnight horrors?"

"The only horrors around here are the ones in the back of the refrigerator that you forget to clean out." She paused as he began to pout, rolling his lower lip out and staring at her with sad puppy-dog eyes. "Okay, give me a few minutes."

Tony smirked as she disappeared around the corner, rolling his head back onto the leather cushions as he closed his eyes. "All Hallow's Night indeed…"

"That it is, Tony my boy." The voice was unfamiliar…

"Jarvis?" Stark barked. "Jarvis?"

"Your electronic butler's a bit… indisposed at the moment. I figured we'd want a little private time."

Obadiah stepped out of the shadows, a smile on his scarred face; dragging one leg behind him as he moved.

"You're looking good, Tony. Cleaning up does seem to work for you."

His right leg had changed; deformed, mutated into a horrific mixture of the Iron-Monger's metal and his own flesh. The jagged edges of the metal poked out from the burnt red skin like a thousand broken bones, oozing a dark liquid that could have been blood or oil.

"At least you buried me in the good suit." He gestured to the fabric hanging off his frame. "Although that story about the plane? Weak, Tony. I could have come up with something better." A rumbling chortle came from his chest. "Oh, that's right, I did – for your death!"

The smell of burnt flesh filled the room, mixed with oil and sweat and decaying meat.

"As you can see, I've had a bit of a makeover." The deep throaty snarl continued. His right hand came up; displaying the Gatling gun that the metal suit had originally carried. "And I'm feeling a mite more spritely." The mottled metal had imbedded itself in the flesh; now a horrific parody of a human hand.

Tony leapt to his feet, his mouth opening and closing in silence.

"Oh, now you've got nothing to say." Obi chortled. "Finally found a way to shut Tony Stark up." His misshapen fist came up; the fingers warped and battered to bend around the metal. "This felt great the first time I wanted to use it. But I never got the chance."

Suddenly his left hand shot back into the darkness. "But sometimes you get a second shot at things…"

Pepper came flying out of the shadows, falling to the ground at Obi's feet. She stared up at him with wide, unfocused eyes. Turning her head she looked at Tony. "What…"

"As I said at our last meeting - your services are no longer required, Ms Potts." Stane chortled as he pointed the mutated weapon at her; the metal cylinder already beginning to spin.

"No!" Tony roared as he lunged forward…

… and found himself trapped in a metal suit. The cold steel appeared out of nowhere; wrapping itself around him, propped up in a makeshift harness and frame that he couldn't move from until…

… the laptop computer sat on the table; he could see the small loading bar in the center of the black screen. It sat at twenty percent and began to crawl ever so slowly towards the other end, creeping at a snail's pace.

"Pepper!" Tony screamed as he struggled inside the armor.

"Tony!" The redhead looked up at Obi, then back at Stark.

"Oh, no." Obi sneered, the metal fragments in his face grinding against each other as he smiled. "We won't be interrupted this time, my dear."

The first bullets shattered her feet; splintering the expensive stilettos and driving the shards into the ground as flesh disintegrated into an unrecognizable bloody shredded mess. Pepper screamed, reaching down to grab feet that were no longer there.

Obi smiled as the Gatling gun moved upward slowly, painfully slowly, scattering bloody hunks of flesh around the room as the woman's legs disappeared in a scarlet explosion. "What do you think of your invention now, Tony?"

Stark glanced at the loading bar, seeing little if any change. He closed his eyes tight, tossing himself back and forth in the harness. His teeth ached as he willed himself to break free and step down and save…

"Tony!" The anguished scream ripped at his heart as he panted, wrestling with the heavy metal.

"Don't worry, Tony… she's almost done." Stane's voice purred over the crying. "You couldn't save Yinsen and now you can't save Pepper. So how's your life now, Iron Man?"

He couldn't help himself.

He opened his eyes.

The loading bar was stuck on ninety-nine percent.

And Obi stood in front of him, grinning.

And Pepper was…

Pepper was…

Tony closed his eyes again and screamed, tossing his head back hard against the hard confinements of the helmet.

"Tony? Tony?" The soft voice hovered over him as he lay trapped in his own metal skin. "Tony, are you okay?"

Stark's eyes shot open; focusing in slowly on the blurred and worried face of his personal assistant.

"Tony, are you okay?" She repeated, sitting down beside him on the couch. "I heard you yelling and…" The rest of her words were lost as Stark crushed her to him in a tight hug; arms wrapping around her so tightly that the air was literally crushed out of her lungs.

"God, Pepper…" Tony buried his face in her neck, hands roaming up and down her body with a sense of familiarity that he had never expressed before. The thick calloused fingers grabbed her thigh; clutching at the bare skin and dove south to the petite feet still enclosed in black stilettos.

She didn't move, suddenly frozen under his inspection as he caressed her ankles; squeezed her shins and moved ever so slowly up to the hem of her black dress; just above her knee. There her hand landed on his, stopping his motion.

"You're fine." He sobbed openly, pressing his lips to her cheek. "You're fine."

"Yes, I am." Taking hold of his shoulders the redhead gently pried him loose; pushing him back just enough so that she could stare into his eyes. "What happened?"

"I… you…" Tony sniffled. Suddenly he stiffened. "Jarvis, light up the house! Everything, everywhere! Full security alert!"

The house reacted; doors closed and locked as security shutters slammed down on the windows and the interior shot into vivid colors from the previous hazy grays and blacks of the evening routine.

"Acknowledged, sir." Jarvis paused. "I'm not detecting any threat at the moment, sir."

"I don't care. Maintain full alert status and scan the entire house." Tony coughed as he lay back against the cushions; his arms still around Pepper. "And check the police frequency for anything odd in the area."

"Yes, sir." A low hum signaled the AI's movement to complete the assigned tasks.

Pepper ran a finger down the side of his face. "God, Tony… what happened? I haven't seen you spooked like this… ever."

He gulped in a lungful of air, wheezing slightly as he forced himself to speak slowly. "I thought… I saw…" Closing his eyes he pulled her in again for another hug. "I saw Obi. He was here."

"Obadiah?" She whispered in his ear. Her grip intensified on him, just a fraction but enough for him to notice.

He hummed into her hair, rocking back and forth. "He was… it was just a dream, I guess." Closing his eyes Tony shuddered. "Just a dream."

"Yes." Pepper murmured; steel in her voice. "Obi's dead and buried. We were at the funeral."

"Yes." The rocking continued, his arms still tight around her. "Yes, he is."

Pulling back the redhead placed her hand on his cheek. "It was just a dream, Tony. It's okay now."

"Yeah." He exhaled deeply. "But… but can you just stay here for a few minutes?" A sheepish grin came over his face, replacing some of the fear. "I promise to behave myself."

She smiled back. "I think I can do that. Jarvis, turn on that all-jazz radio station. Give us something to listen to."

As the low melodic tunes filled the room the two began to relax against the cushions; Tony putting his head back and closing his eyes.

"Dat's nice…" He mumbled. A light snore escaped from his open mouth as she watched.

With a sigh she settled down beside him, burrowing into the cool leather. "Everything still okay Jarvis?"

"Affirmative." The AI answered in a whisper. "All's well." A pause. "Although I am detecting a rather strange odor in your general vicinity."

"What?" Pepper frowned, glancing at Tony's face. He didn't move.

"My analysis shows it to be…" A lengthy pause, unusual for the house AI. "It seems to be burnt oil. I can only assume that Mr. Stark somehow dragged it up from his workshop."

The breath caught in her throat. "Yes, yes. That's it. Must be." A shiver ran up her spine. "Anything else?"

"And it is after midnight and thus technically November 1st, Ms Potts." Jarvis sounded almost relieved.

"Good." She glanced around the room, an apprehensive look on her face.

"Would you like to leave a wake-up time?" Jarvis asked.

Pepper shook her head. "Actually, send Dummy over with my laptop and a cup of coffee. I don't think I'll be getting any sleep until the sun comes up." Her hands remained in Tony's despite putting her in an awkward position on the couch.

"Affirmative." The AI replied. "I remain, as ever, at your service. And on full alert until further notice."

"Good night, Jarvis." Pepper put one hand over her mouth, stifling a yawn. She looked over at the sleeping man next to her, reaching out to move a lock of dark hair out of his eyes. "You just rest. I'll keep the nightmares away tonight."