"Cast in Iron"
Time Frame: Movie-verse/Avenger-speculation
Characters: Tony Stark/Pepper Potts, Lots of other familiars
Summary: "The man of steel has nothing on me."
Notes: This year I am playing around with the 50 sentence challenge over at another site - which prompts one to write four stories a month based on a set of fifty prompts. The fifty prompts result in one sentence each, and then a whole story is formed from the snapshots provided in those sentences. Obviously, this challenge will slaughter grammar, and bring out the seldom seen fandom from the muse - but is a fun and curious thing that has already been incredibly interesting. If you wish to, you can track my progress in my profile.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but for the words.
"The man of steel has nothing on me," Tony bragged, wagging his eyebrows at Pepper as he snapped the helmet into place, taking off before he could see the bemused shake of her head.
She all but moved into the mansion in the days after Tony went missing in order to handle her duties, and she told herself she wasn't missing him – wasn't mourning him; because mourning meant that he wasn't coming home, and she refused to give up on him.
"Your father," Nick Fury said, and for a moment Tony fell silent, desperate for any memory of a man he had only known as cold and foreboding.
He didn't need an enchanted rock to be a danger to him, she was more than enough to disarm him completely; and over the years, that was a fact that was exploited time and time again.
He never remembered the names – the nothing-like shapes and faces who passed into his arms and out; Pepper he knew, remembered each and every one – for legal purposes, she mumbled under her breath when asked, and he let her keep her reasoning with hardly a smirk on his face.
Howard Stark looked down at his son doodling at the opposite end of his desk as he completed his work - sketched plans for both SHIELD and a new era to come, a future that he would someday trust Anthony to carry completely.
"You do not pay me enough, Mr. Stark," Pepper said, not even looking up from her blackberry as she walked behind him, heels clicking out a smart cadence in a counterpoint to his lazy stride.
"Well, I could bring someone else with me, Potts, but then who would be there on my arm to keep me from saying something horribly non-PC to that idiot from Beijing? – and so if you want to skip the legal paperwork, I say you just come as my date tonight."
Some days, Pepper was convinced that she would quit and move somewhere quiet – Kansas, maybe – where she would be away from her truly insane boss and her blackberry that just wouldn't stop ringing, but she never got around to the paperwork, and really – she had never been a fan of country living, anyway.
"I'm thinking a small wedding – in the summer maybe, and you can invite your crazy mother and I can let the team tag along, and then . . . what, did I say something funny?" Tony broke off at the rather stupid grin on Pepper's face, inspired by something so simply domestic from the man who never wanted to settle down.
"Oh yes, General Fury, because New York was a perfect idea for a base," Tony mumbled from the backseat as his beautiful, beautifulAudi was forced to sit through the Manhattan gridlock in the deep of winter.
"Not that I am concerned – or care or anything like that," her face flushed adorably when she stammered, the freckles on her nose dark against her skin, "but may I point out the obvious in seeing a woman who likes to call herself the Black Widow?"
It hit him then, when the plane ramp lowered and he could see how hard she was trying not to cry – that he had missed one person more than he could reason while in Afghanistan, and God, but didn't that make something uncomfortable lodge behind his heart – right where his arc reactor now was.
He tapped a single finger at the metal at his chest, now keeping him alive; his mind felt clearer somehow, his path straighter, and something about that was more terrifying than anything he had yet to face.
"I think that God spares his own for a reason," Yinsen said to the broken man on the cot, seeing the genius welling there in an abused body; knowing that more than one man had been spared to save another – and if this was to be his final task on Earth, then serve that task well he would.
"Yeah, I think that a man can stick to one woman, and be better off for it," Rhodes answered when asked, his eyes kind as his friend ordered yet another drink – but didn't once bother to flirt with the rather pretty waitress who served them.
"It all needs to go, all of it," Tony declared in a sullen fit as he swiped his hand over his crowded work bench, "because there is no way that my lab is going to be second best to Reed Richards, and damnPepper, but did you see the kind of tech that Xavier was supplying his geeks with?"
For a moment, Tony didn't understand why Batman never worked alone in his comics – for as much as he found himself coming to like his ragtag team, there were times when having an IQ greater than anyone in the room was harrowing, and he needed nothing more than a stiff drink and a quiet workshop to calm his mind.
There was a reason that most of his kind – and God, but was he certifiable for the whole superhero getup? - kept secret identities as he shot across the sky with more fervency than flamboyancy, Pepper's screams still echoing in the earpiece of his suit.
Live like you are dying, the old phrase rang ironically in his head; and with a bitter smirk, Tony decided that this last birthday bash was going to be one to remember – no matter what kind of poison was rotting his veins.
He did not give her his company as a distraction, so much as he left his most precious possession in the hands of the one person he trusted in case he couldn't find a way to smirk and swagger his way out of one more fatal confrontation.
"Really, strawberries?" Tony said incredulously, amused that the one thing that could bring Virginia Potts down was a harmless little piece of fruit.
That first morning, she actually awakened first, and she spent those moments tracing her forefinger over the dips and lines of the new arc reactor he wore, feeling it pulse and warm under her like a heartbeat, reassuring and steady.
"Totally not a weapon," Tony insisted as he looked up from the pool of broken glass he was in, innocent smile at odds with the soot smudged over his nose and the hair that stood up every which way – as if he had been playing with the electrical sockets, again.
"X-ray vision is seriously a mutation?" Tony chirped up from the debriefing, "Now really – where can I sign up for that one?"
Pepper was a vision in the evening dress, outshining the women around her who tried too hard to dress to the night; and for a moment, Tony simply stared, and wondered why he didn't let himself notice – really notice- her before.
"I'm just shamelessly imagining how you would look in tights – really, if Fury wants all of his badguys gone, he'd be smart to just set you on them with a clip board and your six inch heels."
"I want a cape, Pepper," Tony turned to her like a child after meeting the God of Thunder – his newest teammate, and Pepper turned a long suffering gaze to the sky, as if to pray for patience.
The arc at the core of him was a totem, a reminder of what he had gained for through loss – the memory an anchor to keep his course straight whenever he found himself straying.
She told herself that she was stronger than this as she slipped into her shoes and grabbed her keys at three o' clock in the morning, simply because Tony was unable to find a tie to go with the suit for that day, and sleeping was out of the question until he could.
"Anthony Stark," and God, but how she did her best to make her voice a low growl over the sob it was threatening to be, "you are notgoing to let a little piece of machinery to be the end of you, so just keep breathing until I can get you help."
"Does she have a cousin?" Tony hung over the Thunder God's shoulder to get a better look at the warrior woman who was chatting with Natalie, Jane, and Pepper – the latter of whom looked up (really, catching him playing the flirt was her sixth sense) and gave him a pointed look.
"Remind me again why Fury decided to send us – well, me, rather – against a villain who can control metal with his mind," Tony muttered under his breath as he tossed the small square of metal that used to be his helmet – before Magneto was done with it, that was.
He had forgotten how much he had missed certain things while being held in those dusty caves – coffee and scotch chief amongst them – but the simple luxuries of a shower and a razor were glorious things to him as he washed up in the American base, his fingers still shaking from the adrenaline he had yet to completely fade.
She was looking closely at him, looking for lies and reading truths, and in that moment he hoped that she read everythingthere – determination and understanding, and a purpose . . . not a fast and easy fling to be dropped as easily as saying hello and goodbye.
"Work," Tony said solemnly as he flopped down on the couch, still holding his smoking helmet, "was hell today – seriously, with so many freaks out there coming in so fast; they're making it hard for me to file leave for a vacation."
"No matter how many times you manage to save the world, it always manages to put itself back in jeopardy again," Tony tried to joke as she pressed a careful finger against the bruises that were blossoming angry and violet over his back, an uncertain smile upon her lips at his words.
She started keeping clips from the newspapers that JARVIS downloaded for her, and while she would never think herself the scrapbooker sort, she did enjoy keeping a journal of Tony's victories and losses, a chronicle of the man whom she was learning to adore so very dearly.
A year ago she would have stepped carefully away from Tony as the cameras went off, making him a silhouette to her vision; now, she stepped closer, taking his hand in her own and raising her head high in a claim for all to see.
"Like I'd only need one PA to replace you," Tony snorted, "how about a whole fleet of them – and I'd like to see them pull your job off in those heels too."
"And the string bean can help, how?" Tony asked Steve while he shook Bruce Banner's hand, the slip of a scientist smiling bitterly at the words, his eyes shadowed an unnatural green.
"Because the red blends in so very well," Pepper raised a brow at the flashy paint job that the suit had, knowing that it fit Tony, no matter what tactical advantages the color may have lost.
"Iron Man," Tony mused thoughtfully as they watched the news feeds, "kinda simple, kinda cliché, but . . . I kinda like it – how about you, Pepper?"
"You never get used to it," Betty Ross said with a sad smile as she placed a mug of coffee down before Pepper, who was watching the displays deep within the Avenger's base, her heart in her throat once more.
It was perfectly natural for her to let her eyes rest on her boss or longer than was strictly professional – as she was a woman with a pulse - but she kept her infatuation to herself, and over the years of threatening to quit more times than she could count, her infatuation turned to fascination.
In the dark he would whisper to her about his time in Afghanistan, his tone a whisper one would reserve for church ewes or funeral songs; and she took his whispers – and fears – and kept them close to her, returning his secrets with those of her own – that she had feared so very deeply in that time as well, and she thanked the stars every day for returning him to her.
And this was a side of him she had never seen; had always wanted to see, but feared at the same time, for it was easy to keep Tony away from her mind and heart when he lived like a firecracker – all bright lights and fuses – but now, this centered and playful man was as dangerous as dynamite to her.
The day that Thor's warrior woman – Sif - beat him in arm wrestling, was also the day when Natasha and said warrior woman decided that Pepper needed to know at least the basics of defensive combat, and Tony knew with a heavy feeling that the 'doghouse' was now going to have a brand new meaning for him.
With trembling fingers, Pepper traced the charred edges of the helmet in her hands, sick with the thought of whatever weapon was out there to cause such a blow to something so strong; the knowledge of days saved and lives loss a heavy one upon her shoulders, pressing her down like gravity.
"C'mon, Potts; first class has nothing on me," Tony held out a hand to her, and hesitantly she took it; hooking her arms around his neck as he wrapped an iron arm about her waist, and then they were flying, and she refused to look down in order to laugh as they approached the sky.