First time writing for Iron Man. This came to me after watching IM2, so it's set after that. I own nothing.
That is the predominant thought in my brain right now. Ouch.
Okay, there are others as well, but Ouch is really the one making noise. Second in line is Dammit, now I'm gonna have to hear JARVIS bitch about running diagnostics and other stuff we didn't have time for.
But who cares at the moment? I don't.
I get to my feet, feeling the stiffness where the suit's crumpled and melted together at points. I gotta look like shit. Rhodey doesn't look too awesome himself.
Again, I find myself not giving a damn. Because Vanko's down, and he's not getting up. Ever.
Finally this bastard's stopped moving. Took a combined repulsor hit from me and Rhodey to take him down. Makes sense - if one Iron Man just ain't enough, double the trouble. So what if the Mark II got some Hammer-flavored upgrades; when it comes down to design, it's all Stark.
I look down at the man who'd made the last few weeks of my life hell, watching as he opened his eyes. Watching his he fought to speak with his dying breath. Betcha he'll curse me and the old man out something fierce.
Something starts beeping in a high-pitched whine. Ivan's arc reactor is glowing - no, it's pulsing red. There are more, and when Rhodey and I look around, we see the other drones' power sources going red beepy-beepy too.
"All these drones are rigged to blow," Rhodey realizes. "We gotta get out of here, man!"
My mind's already flying to where the other drones landed. All over the Expo, strewn across the park like fallen toys...and smack in the middle of it all was -
Oh my god. "Pepper?" I call out, but her phone's off.
We blast off. While Rhodey goes up, I streak across the park to where I know she'll be. While I'm flying, pushing the half-ruined suit as fast as it can possibly go, my mind's racing even faster, projecting every scenario it can to rationalize that she's not where I'm praying she's not.
Maybe Natasha's got her safe at Hammer's facility...
Yeah right, like Pepper would follow her anywhere, unlike you.
Maybe she got out when they evacuated the place...
Yeah right, CEO goes down with her ship, unlike you.
Maybe she got smart and ran when shit started hitting the fan...
Yeah right, she's got a spine of steel, unlike you.
Maybe she...Maybe she...
Yeah right, jackass. Boy, I was really not giving me a break. She's waiting for you. She's always waiting for you.
Well, I'm not about to disappoint this time. I can't. Not when it's this important.
I push the suit even further, ignoring JARVIS as he talks about reaching maximum thrust. I know what this suit can do. I designed it. And it has what it takes to get me to Pepper.
There! I see her!
She's standing on the steps, staring at a flashing red light of a nearby downed drone. If the situation wasn't so dire, I'd roll my eyes and berate her about being such a damsel in distress. Who stares at blinking red lights? ...Okay, I do sometimes, but I digress!
Wait. Something's wrong.
The suit's cutting out. JARVIS is saying something about less than two percent capacity.
No. No! I should have more power.
All I can hear is the beep-beep-beep of the drones' self-destruct sequence. All I can see is Pepper tearing her gaze away from the light to see me as I fall to earth, like a marionette with cut strings.
She's too close and too far. Too close to the drone for her to survive. Too far for me to save her.
She's there. She's there, staring at me in horror and panic, for one brief moment.
Then the drone explodes, and she's gone. A flash of fire and metal and destruction surrounds her body, and then she's gone.
I hear him from the kitchen downstairs.
I only left to get a glass of water. Bone-tired from doing what I do best - cleaning up his messes - I didn't think to put one by my bedside earlier. So when I woke up with a dry throat and no water in reach, I left the comfort of my bed and ventured in search of a glass.
When I hear him scream my name, I drop the glass and bolt back for the stairs. The crash of broken glass is irrelevent at the moment. All I can think is Dammit, I left him alone up there.
I should know better by now.
He's Tony Stark, for god's sake. Serious matters never did like his company, and he had no time for it. Not even when he was dying (I'm still pissed he kept that from me, the rat bastard) was he anyone but Tony Stark, loveable genius screwball who kept throwing the press more tidbits of gossip.
But when the cameras disappear, nobody's around to judge, and he's alone in the dark, Tony Stark has his moments of true panic and fear. Rare as they are, just like his maturity, they have a touch of child about them. And they present themselves just as you'd expect.
Only when he's caught in the throes of a nightmare does he scream like that. Terrorized, agonized, and with abject belief that what he's dreaming is actually happening.
Throwing the bedroom doors open, I bolt to the bed and freaking throw myself onto the matress, pinning my boss down as he thrashes and screams. "Tony, wake up!" I shout frantically. When he doesn't seem to hear me, I squirm to completely face him and yell, "TONY!"
He jolts to sit straight up like a pop-up doll, eyes wide open in terror. I manage to duck before his head broke my nose or some other part of my face area. "Tony, it's all right," I say softly, releasing his body from the koala-like grip I had on it. "I'm okay now, okay?"
He nods, jerky and terse. Straightening up, I move to kneel on the matress next to him. He's drenched in a cold sweat. This had to be a bad one. I wanted to know, but Tony never tells me what he dreams of.
"I was too late," he murmured. "I was too late, too slow. And then you were gone."
I stiffen. We don't talk much about the Expo's explosive ending. It was a close call that neither of us wanted to ever repeat. Even after three months, we couldn't talk about how close we both came to buying the farm.
But now that I know what made his monsters come alive, I could help put them down. I reach over and cup his cheeks, gently turning his face to look at me. "Hey, I'm right here," I say with a reassuring smile. "Okay? You saved me. I'm all right."
"Are you?" he says with a hint of bitterness. "Pepper, you almost - you almost died that night."
Ten years of working with this insufferable joker, I have to make the crack. "Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades."
"Stop." There's a hitch in his voice, something only the closest friend would notice. "Just stop."
I was about to reassure him when I realized what was wrong. He thinks I'm just sticking around out of gratitude. I can barely keep the anger at bay. He thought me that shallow? The insufferable bastard! Why would I leave him?
I've always known that working for Tony Stark would age me faster than the years. I've accepted that. That week merely aged me faster than usual. But I don't think Tony truly understood what he put me through during that week until right now.
"Tony." Those breathtaking chocolate eyes lock with mine. I hold my gaze steady. He's hurting bad, and I want him to know I won't leave him to hurt alone. He's all I have, and as he's said only a few times before, he doesn't have anyone but me. "It's okay. I'm not going anywhere."
"I wouldn't blame you." The last time he looked so lost, it was after his capture. When he learned exactly where his weapons ended up. I know this conversation isn't over, but for now, it has to be. We have things to do in the morning.
"Go to sleep," I say to him, placing my hand over the arc reactor that glowed beneath the fabric of his shirt. It's warm and whirrs almost silently, a constant reminder that he's changed so much from what had happened to him over a year ago. "Sleep, Tony."
But no, he has to have the last word. "Pepper, I - " The words choke up, but I can see them in his eyes. I love you he tries to say, but he's Tony Stark, and he can't be that direct.
I smile again, pushing him down on the mattress. "I know," I whisper. "I do too."
He's unconscious once his head hits the pillow. I don't think he's gotten a decent amount of sleep since the Expo. Not that I blame him. Suddenly I'm exhausted as well. Rather than bother trying to get comfortable, I curl up next to Tony, lay my head on his chest and tangle my fingers with his. The arc reactor is more soothing than any heartbeat. I'm asleep in moments.
When we wake up the next morning, I'll finish this argument with him.
I've been with him for over ten years. I'm not leaving him now. He'd never survive without me.
And funny enough, I don't think I'd do so well without him either.
Sooooooo angst and fluff and a little bit of insomnia birthed this.
What do you think? Like? Hate? Review nonetheless!