Hi there, Marvel fans! This idea came to me when I was looking through the Ghost Ruder archives, and then I was looking at the Crossovers and was disappointed to see none with Iron Man. It hit me that perhaps I should make one.
OK, this might be a one-shot, it might not. I'm just testing the waters with this. Reviews and criticisms are both welcome, as I want to know people's opinions on this and whether it could work or not.
Oh yeah, and this is set around just before he get's his arc reactor, and just before the Apogee awards.
So, without further ado, let's ride! :D
Tony Stark sighed wearily, and ran a hand over his face that was taut and ashen. He'd been trying to shrug off the stress and doubt and fear, putting on a brave face around his friends and colleagues and acting in his usual laid-back, charming manner. But when he was alone, the weight of the world collapsed on top of him, that one pressing matter like an anvil on his chest.
His skin looked pale and sickly under the almost eerie glow the computer screen cast. He had a mountain of work to be getting though, but every time he faced the screen, the black letters blurred against the white background, and he lost concentration. He flinched as a white-hot light flickered through the room, followed by a loud, menacing rumble shook the tense atmosphere. The rolling storm clouds that had been boiling all day had finally unleashed their rage.
He scowled and shut the computer down, now faced with the black wall of the dead screen and plunged into gloom, as his basement was low-lit by dull lamps that seemed to flash in time with the irregular clashes of lightning that pressed burning light against the high slit-like windows. His computer chair squeaked as he sat back in it and he closed his blood-shot eyes that tickled in the corners. That name pushed to the forefront of his mind, resurfacing for what seemed the millionth time that day: Pepper.
When his lips unconsciously mouthed the name, the knot in his chest tightened. He'd received the heavy, unbelievable news that other day. Pepper had been in a car accident, driving down-town with Hogan on some errand for him. Another car had lost control and had smashed into them, crushing the vehicle against a building. The ambulance service had got there as quick as possible and had found her in a critical state, barely alive. Hogan was unhurt fortunately, but that did little to ease the pain of what had happened. When he'd been told of the news, it was like being plunged into icy water, and the cell phone had slipped from his grasp.
Pepper had always been close to him, and they'd shared some sort of friendship and a tight bond between boss and assistant. She knew him inside out, as she often hinted when he forgot his social security number, or reminded him of his busy schedule, or rolling her eyes when she had to deal with yet another one of the girls from his one-night-stands. It was a complex companionship to describe: formal when it came to business, more casual when it wasn't, and then there were those precious, rare moments when something connected between them.
He'd never expected to feel such an aching loss as he sat at her bedside at the hospital, never feared that that last bleep from the heart monitor would be her last. He wanted to do something for her, but there was nothing. Her fate was in God's hands. Or was it?
After another peal of thunder had faded into the clouds, a tap smashed the near silence. Tony wrenched his eyes open and looked for the source of the noise. He looked left, right, all around the basement, straining against the dimness. Nothing.
"Must be imagining things" he murmured as he let out a sigh of relief.
"Oh, I wouldn't be certain of that."
Tony leapt out of the chair and span around with a gasping yelp. Lightning burst through the windows again and illuminated a strange haggard face.
"Who are you?" Tony demanded. "And how did you get in here?"
"Your security system wouldn't have picked up my presence, Tony" answered the man in a gravely voice.
Tony frowned in suspicion as he took in this odd intruder: an old man in a black coat as dark as the shadows of the basement, with a cane in his gloved hands and swept back, grey-tinged hair that was pulled off his grim, withered yet ageless face. Dark eyes glinted in the gloom as the intruder strode forwards with a wicked half-smile on his lips.
"You know my name?" said Tony as he stroked his dark, neatly clipped beard.
"Everyone knows your name, Tony," chuckled the man. "You're one of the most famous men in the world: Tony Stark, billionaire playboy genius." He sniggered again, the sound throaty and hoarse.
"You didn't answer my question: who are you?" Tony swallowed drily and took a step back. Why wasn't JARVIS raising the alarm? Was there something wrong with his AI, or had this man really eluded his security? Tony did not like the looks of this man at all. He seemed very, very out of place here, and he certainly didn't like that curiously hungry look in the man's eyes.
"Who I am isn't important at the moment," said the man, taking another step forwards so he was looking straight into Tony's ebony eyes that quickly darted away to avoid the man's gaze. "What is important, is your assistant Pepper."
Tony paused in shock for a heartbeat before answering defiantly "How do you know about Pepper? Don't talk to me about her right now; I've got enough to worry about before you begin to press me for details on what happened to her."
"Don't pretend not to care, Tony. The accident hurt you deep, didn't it?" He patted the place where his heart was.
"How do you know me?" Tony gulped and shook his head. "How can you know this? Are you physic or something?" He shook his head again, and then frowned. "Wait, why am I even talking to you? Unless you've come here to make me feel bad or to do some business, if I were you I'd get the hell out of here!"
"I am here on business, Tony," the man smirked as another flash of lightning dispelled the shadows momentarily. "I want to make a deal with you."
"What kind of a deal?" asked Tony cautiously, biting his lip. The tension in the air was tangible, and he could sense something wicked about to happen.
"What if I could make Pepper better? What if I could make her recover, and if the accident never happened? Would you be willing to make a deal?"
The offer was incredibly tempting. But Tony could see that some pieces didn't quite fit, didn't make a complete picture.
"How?" he asked, his mouth twitching. "How can you, a guy who's just snuck into my private mansion with this whole creepy façade, make her better when a team of some of the finest doctors in the state are doing everything they can for her?" he snorted and turned away, striding to his desk. "Besides, they've reassured me that she'll make a full recovery if she just get's some rest-"
"Pepper will be dead by tomorrow morning."
Tony felt the world collapse on him, the breath squashed out of his lungs. He stopped mid-stride, mouth gaping in disbelief.
"No…" he murmured, facing the man again, softly shaking his head. "That's not true, I don't believe you!"
The man said nothing, but dipped his head, his lips twisted. "Are you more inclined to listen to my deal?"
Tony was at a loss for what to do. He couldn't accept it. It had been bad enough thinking she was dead when he had rushed into the private ward to see her on life support. But now with the knowledge that she would certainly die… He couldn't believe he was listening to this complete stranger, believing this prediction of doom so lightly. But sense had abandoned him.
"Name your price." The words were almost robotic on his tongue, stiff with guilt and grief.
The man smiled, the action sending a shiver down Tony's spine.
"Oh, I think I'll take…your soul."
Tony blinked in surprise, but then chuckled and said "OK, whatever you say. My soul…"
"By sunrise tomorrow, your assistant will be as fit as a fiddle. And you'll have your whole life ahead of you. It's your choice, Tony."
The man reached into an inner pocket of his coat and withdrew a scroll tarnished with age, so fragile it looked like it would turn to dust. He handed it to Tony, who after a long glance at the man looked down and unravelled it. As he held it out in front of him, a sudden pinprick of pain bit his finger. He stiffened and saw a droplet of blood squeeze from his finger and splatter against the yellowing parchment of the signature line. It glistened wet and ruby in the darkness.
"That'll will do just fine" murmured the man, reaching forward to take the scroll.
But Tony held it back. "Hey, I'm not making any deals without looking at what I'm getting into first. That's just bad business."
The smile the mysterious man wore slipped and turned to a grimace. "I'll just take this back now" he said, snatching the scroll from Tony's grasp and tucking it back into his pocket.
"Hey, now see here!" protested Tony, but the man raised a gloved hand to silence him. Tony scowled, but it turned to incredulousness edged with a little fear when he saw a fiery light dance in the depths of the man's eyes, as fierce as hellfire.
Tony took a few steps back, feeling numb. He was engulfed into darkness as deep as the ocean as thunder shook the foundations of the floor, and he was tumbling into nothingness…
He gasped as his eyes snapped open. He lay as still as stone, chest heaving rapidly as warm, morning sunlight played across his face. He heard a familiar mechanical voice address him.
"Good morning Sir," greeted JARVIS. "You have one message on your cell phone, and I think you ought to take a look at it."
Tony groggily sat up and cast the crisp linen covers off him, swinging his legs off the side of his bed and running a hand through his dishevelled dark hair. He scrabbled sleepily for the cell phone at his bedside table and found the answer phone message.
"Mr Stark, we are happy to inform you that your assistant Virginia Potts has made a full recovery. Our doctors can't quite understand it, but she's as fit as a fiddle and will be allowed to go home within a few hours."
Tony couldn't believe what he was hearing. Pepper was alright- as if nothing had happened.
Was last night a dream, or reality?
OK, I might leave this as a one-shot, because I can't see Tony as a Ghost Rider and/or Iron Man. But this was still as hell of a lot of fun to write. Hell, fun, geddit? OK, that was a bad pun. Thanks for reading!