A/N: Hey, everyone. It's been a couple months, I know, but I'm back and I promise more is coming soon. How many times have you seen the Avengers. I've seen it 4 times already. ...I think I have a problem, haha.
Anyways, this story is a little on the sensitive side. It's been in my head for literally years, and I think bringing Steve Rogers into the picture helped me get it out. As I went through articles and pictures, a lot of memories from this day came back to me, and...I don't know...I sort of felt like I was reliving that day. I was only 11 at the time, but I remember every detail of it.
Well, without further ado, here it is. I hope you enjoy it as best as one can, and please feel free to leave a review! (Don't be shy!)
Disclaimer: I don't own Iron Man, Pepper Potts, Captain America, or any other recognizable characters. I do, however, "own" the little boy Sam, and all the unnamed characters. While based on true events, none of these characters are based on actual people. Even now, more than ten years later, my thoughts and prayers go out to all of those whose lives have been affected by this nation's tragedy.
Steve woke up to the sun shining brightly in through the window of his bedroom. Standing and stretching, he heading out of his room, down the hall and to the kitchen. As he passed through the living room, he was slightly surprised to see Tony sitting on the couch, gazing out the large glass wall to the Manhattan skyline.
"Don't tell me you stayed up all night, again," Steve said quietly with concern as he went to the cupboard for his coffee mug. Tony glance over at him, giving him a small smile.
"G'morning, Cap. No, I…I got a few hours of sleep, thanks." Steve nodded, filling his mug with the freshly made coffee. He glanced at the small monitor built into the wall, revealing the day's current and future forecast, along with the time and date. 7:58 am, Tuesday, September 11, 2012. He remembered Fury mentioning the date once when they had one of their talks about the modern world, but he couldn't recall the importance at the moment.
"So, can I ask what you're up to," Steve said, taking a sip from the steaming mug, turning back to his comrade.
"Just…admiring the skyline, I guess."
"It's beautiful this morning. There's not even a cloud." Tony nodded. Coming around the counter, Steve walked over and sat in the large recliner next to the couch.
"You know about today, right Steve," Tony asked, looking over at the super soldier, his voice just a whisper. The young man paused a moment before shaking his head. Tony nodded once, looking back to the skyline and sat forward in his seat.
"There use to be two towers over there," he said, pointing to the blue sky above the buildings. "Eleven years ago today, terrorists high jacked four jet liners, crashing two of them into the towers." Steve stared out the window, absorbing Tony's words. Fury never said anything about that. Surely, he'd remember. "They crashed another into the Pentagon…and one ended up in a field in Pennsylvania, after passengers rebelled against the high jackers."
Questions immediately popped up in Steve's mind. What happened to the towers? How many people were hurt? Did they catch the men who plotted this? How many survived the plane crashes? He looked at Tony, who seemed to have a distant look in his eyes, like that of a veteran reliving flashbacks of a war long ago.
"Tony?" Blinking, he looked back at Steve.
"That was one hell of a day," he stated with a dry laugh, shaking his head.
"Where were you when it happened?"
"About a block away, in a limo. I was heading to a board meeting, and I remember looking out the window, and," he paused, his eyes becoming glossy and distant again, as his bottom lip trembled slightly. When he spoke again, it was clear he was holding back the urge to cry. "And there was this…jet, and I remember thinking, 'God…that's flying low.' I mean, really fucking low, and then it just…hit the building. If I had blinked, I would've missed it…"
"Oh fuck," Tony shouted, his hand against the cold glass. The limousine came to a halt; Tony, Pepper and the driver jumping out as they gazed up at the fireball with complete shock and disbelief. Every vehicle came to a stop, every passerby on the sidewalk pausing and staring up at the now burning North Tower, smoke billowing out.
"A plane just hit," he said to her, unable to pull his eyes from the accident. "A God damn plane!" Pepper pulled out her cell phone and immediately began calling the office down the street. Tony pulled out his own phone, dialing a familiar number. Stepping up onto the curb for a better looked, he stared at the gapping hole near the top of the tower as the phone rang.
"C'mon, Rhodey," he muttered, taking off his sunglasses. As the voice mail kicked on, he hung up and dialed again. It had to be almost 6 am on the West Coast, but it didn't matter at this point. Finally, a groggy voice answered the phone.
"You'd better not be needing another ride from the hospital again, Stark, because-"
"Shut up and turn on the TV," Tony shouted over the wailing sound of incoming emergency vehicles.
"Wha…Tony, it's 5:51 in the morning. I am not-"
"James, just do it." There was silence for a minute, Tony looking over at Pepper, who was looking away from the tower, on her phone. She looked like she was on the verge of tears. A fire engine drove by, maneuvering around the stopped traffic and stunned onlookers.
"Okay, TV's on. What am I suppose to be watching?"
"Turn it to CNN or something. Any of the news stations."
"What the Hell is going on, Tony," Rhodey asked as he flipped through the channels to CNN. Currently it was in the middle of a commercial.
"A plane just crashed into one of the Trade Towers." Rhodey's blood ran cold as his chest tightened.
"Are you fucking serious?"
"Completely. What are they showing?"
"It's on a commer- wait, they just came in with breaking news. Hang on," There was silence for another minute, Tony listening to Rhodey's even breaths. "Christ, Tony! They're showing it!"
"They're evacuating us, Tony," Pepper said, coming over and taking his arm. "The police say we're too close."
"Rhodey, what are they showing," he asked, following Pepper, craning his neck to stare at the burning tower.
"Just…just smoke coming from…what is that, the 100th floor? Something like that. Jesus, Tony, what's it like down there?"
"Chaos, man. It's sheer fucking chaos. They're moving all of us off the street. Pepper, you go inside and wait for me. I wanna…no, don't argue…Potts-" Rhodey heard Tony sigh into the phone.
"She's going to let me have it later," he mumbled.
"Hey, Tony, I got another call. It's the General. I'll call you back in a minute, okay?"
"Sure." There was a click, and Tony closed his phone, watching people and emergency personal nearby. Some people were arguing with police, others were shooting video or taking pictures. A woman was sobbing to a firefighter, saying something about her son working there.
"Tony, come inside," Pepper said, leaning out the door of a pizza parlor.
"I'm fine right here, Potts," he reassured, glancing at her before looking back at the World Trade Towers. A sudden loud, high speed sound over powered the noise of the chaos on the street below. Tony looked up, seeing another plane pass overhead.
Tony couldn't contain the scream of horror as he watched the plane bank into the South Tower. A massive fireball exploded from the sudden impact. Gripping his hair tightly, he struggled to breathe as onlookers cried and shouted. He felt someone grab him by the arm and drag him inside the pizza place.
"Tony, what the Hell is happening," Pepper choked out, holding back the sobs threatening to escape. He was going into shock, he could feel it; the cold numbness spreading through out his body. He gapped at her, shaking his head.
"I-I don't know…" His phone began to ring and, with trembling hands, he pulled it out of his pocket, answering it as he went to the window to watch.
"Anthony," Stane's deep voice crackled over the line. "Where are you."
"At a pizza place," he muttered, watching more fire trucks go by.
"Are you okay?" There was a brief pause. "Tony, answer me. Are you okay? Is Pepper?"
"We're out of harm's way, Obie."
"Good. What's happening there?"
"There were these planes and…we're under attack! They hit the Towers and…I don't know what's going on! People are going by…it's just crazy and…Jesus Christ!"
"You're okay, kid. Take a deep breath. Everything's going to be okay. I'm at Head Quarters. Every channel, and I mean every one, is showing live footage."
"You're at Head Quarters?"
"Yeah, in the main lobby. We've done an evacuation and closed down for the day as a precaution. It's just me and a few others."
"What's it like there?"
"It's…quiet. Really quiet. There's-" There was sudden silence and Tony looked at his phone. Call was lost.
"Who was it," Pepper asked as she stood along side of him, holding a couple crumpled napkins in her hand, her bright blue eyes red from her tears.
"Obadiah," he replied quietly. "He wanted to make sure we weren't…we weren't hurt or anything." Tony sighed heavily, turning to Pepper. "Look, stay here. I'm going to go up the street and see if there's anything I can do."
"What? Tony, no! You-"
"It'll just be a minute, okay? Stay here. I'll be right back." Gently guiding her aside, he exited the place and hurried up the street.
"Hey," an officer shouted as Tony passed by, "Get outta here! This street's closed."
"I just want to help."
"We don't need help. We need you out of the way. Debris is falling. We gotta keep this area clear." A voice came over the officer's scanner and Tony took the sudden distraction as an opportunity, sprinting up the street towards injured civilians.
Ignoring orders to turn around and go back to safety, Tony entered the South Tower, standing in the lobby and helping bring out injured people. Some were crying uncontrollably, others were eerily silent and distant. Talking with another civilian who was helping an injured woman, Tony turned to see a young blonde boy, no more than 6 or 7, crying as he stood near the stairwell.
"Hey, kid, you shouldn't be here," Tony said, jogging over to the small child.
"What floor does she work on?"
"I don't know…" Tony glanced up the stairwell, not seeing any movement. Fire fighters had headed up a little bit ago, yet no more employees had come out.
"Why don't you come with me, and we'll wait for your mom outside, okay? We need to stay out of these people's way. They're trying to save others. Okay?" The small boy began crying again, although he didn't protest as Tony took his suit jacket off, wrapping it over the child and picked him up, carrying him outside.
More debris was beginning to fall as they stepped outside. Tony glanced up at the destruction, gently stroking the boy's hair to calm him as they began walking away from the scene.
"We need to get to a safe place, then we'll stay put until we find your mom. What about your dad? Where is he?"
"Do you know his work number, so we can call him?" The boy shook his head. "Okay. What's your name, kiddo?"
"Nice to meet you, Sam. I'm Tony." They were about two blocks now, moving behind a group of injured people helping each other to waiting ambulances.
"So, what were you doing there anyways?"
"Me and my sister were waiting for Mommy in the lobby. She had to drop something off before taking us to Grandma's."
"Where's your sister?" The little boy buried his head between the crook of Tony's neck and shoulder.
"She went to get Mommy." Tony's heart skipped a beat, and he was sure tears were beginning to roll down his cheeks. There was a sudden roar as the ground shook. Panicked, Tony turned to look at the Towers a few blocks away, expecting to see another plane crash. Instead, much to his horror, the Second Tower began to collapse, debris falling all around. Frantically surveying the area, he rushed over to an abandoned SUV. He helped the boy underneath before scooting halfway under the vehicle himself. The air was suddenly full of dust as a microburst blasted by. The boy closed his eyes and covered his face with his arms as Tony pulled him close, closing his own eyes and choking on the dust.
He wasn't sure how much time had passed. It felt like hours as they huddled under the SUV, Tony coughing with every breath he took. There was silence. No sirens, no emergency personal shouting orders, no people panicking. Pure silence. It was terrifying.
"C'mon, Sammy," Tony coughed, sliding out from the vehicle and looking around. Grey dust covered everything, the air thick with fog from the collapse. Nothing moved. No people were around. It felt like the world had just ended, and they were the only survivors. Pushing the utter fear aside for the time being, Tony looked back under the SUV.
"Time to go." He helped the small boy crawl out, picking the kid up as he choked on the thick dust clouds in the air.
"What happened to the tower," Sam asked with a cough, holding onto Tony tightly. The older man was quiet for a moment, before he whispered.
"…it fell." The boy began to cry. Tony began to cry too.
Sun. It was the first time Tony could actually see sun in what felt like hours. The silent walking through the abandoned, dust cover streets was heart stopping. He couldn't imagine all the men and women who he had just talked to were now, most likely, buried under the rubble. The fire fighters, the police men…Sammy's sister and mother.
Two police offers and a paramedic rushed to Tony's aid as his legs buckled. He held on to Sam, although he made sure that if he were to fall completely, the boy wouldn't be harmed. One of the police men took the crying child while the others helped Tony to the curb, giving him a bottle of water and telling him to take sips. They let him take a few deep breaths from an oxygen mask, a cough erupting deep from within his chest. He splashed some water on his face, feeling a burning sensation along his scalp. Holding his hand there momentarily, it came away with blood.
"Are you okay?" Tony nodded, completely winded. "Where did you come from?"
"South…Tower…" He then motioned to the police officer holding Sam to come over. "This boy…lost…"
"We'll keep him safe," the officer assured. Sam looked at Tony, tears leaving thin trails down his dust covered cheeks. With a weak smile, Tony took the boy's small hand in his own.
"You're okay, Sam. These officers will help you…get in touch with your dad. Thank you…for keeping me safe." The boy nodded, waving goodbye as the officer brought him to a waiting squad car.
Completely exhausted, Tony fell back against the sidewalk, ignoring the instant pain from his head hitting concrete. He closed his eyes, praying to God that the day was over, and thanking Him for letting Sam and him survive. As much as he regretted listening to his impulse to get in the center of the chaos, he was grateful he had been able to actually rescue someone.
Tony thought about Pepper, and hoped she had the smarts to leave the pizza parlor before the tower collapsed. She would have been safe, but the place was still too close to the Towers to be untouched. He prayed she hadn't tried looking for him before or after the South Tower had fallen.
Sudden screaming made him jump. He sat up, looking around. His eyes widened as he saw the North Tower beginning to collapse. It was like rubbing salt in a very, very deep wound. His mouth hung open as the center blew out, the top of the building with the antenna skewing to one side. In less than one agonizingly long minute, the last tower had had finally disappeared from the skyline. Tony stared numbed, shocked. Two pinnacle American icons, gone forever.
He knew he should have expected what was next, but the sudden rolling cloud of dust and debris hit him hard, knocking him over. He couldn't breathe from the soot caking the inside of his nostrils and throat. His eyes burned, and any sounds he could hear sounded far away. He laid curled up on his side, trying desperately to take a full breath without coughing or gagging. Feeling someone grab his arm, Tony slowly rose to unsteady feet, essentially blind as he stumbled, following an unseen stranger to what he prayed was safety. With every couple steps, he succumbed to a coughing fit, doubling over.
"C'mon, this way. You're almost there," a man's voice was saying, dragging Tony along. Stark shook his head, willing to give up. To let death, with it's icy grip, bring him under. The horror was never going to end. The pain never going to stop. Why go on?
"Ten more steps, man. Come on!" Tony looked up from the ground, and through blurry vision, he recognized a familiar sight. The hotel. A frantic scene had broken out around him; paramedics trying to attend to the injured; people trying to seek help or help others; groups huddled together and praying; but the hotel was still there, unscathed. He could do it. Just ten more steps…
Tony collapsed onto the floor after making it through the revolving doors of the hotel. People were by his side immediately, helping him into a near by chair. He was handed a Styrofoam cup of water which he managed to choke half of it down before splashing the rest on his aching eyes. Breathing was still difficult, but no longer impossible. With a weak sigh, he leaned back in the chair, staring up at the ceiling.
"Anthony Edward Stark…" He couldn't help the hint of a grin that tugged at one corner of his mouth, the sound of heels clicking along the tile floor. It was a welcoming moment to a day he wished had never begun.
"Hey, Pep," he coughed. She hugged him tightly, holding him and stroking his soot covered hair.
"Don't you ever leave me again. Do you hear me," she whispered in his ear. He could feel fresh tears on his skin as he felt her shaking in his arms.
"I know, Virginia. I'm sorry."
"Promise me." He leaned his head so he was looking her in the eyes. Her hair was pulled into a sloppy ponytail, and her blouse covered with a little dust. To him, at that moment, she looked beautiful.
"I promise. I'll never leave you like that again."
Steve studied Tony as the man looked out the window, a single tear rolling down his cheek as he looked out over the city. Eleven years, and he was still dealing with the pain. Guilt was tugging at the Steve's heart as his own words, said only months ago, echoed in his head.
"Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?"
"Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist."
"I know guys with none of that worth ten of you." The Captain could never forget that moment. He knew his words had stung Stark, he had meant them to. Yet, he never expected Stark to actually sacrifice himself for the world, and if he had known what Tony had done before he ever became a man with a suit of armor…
Steve could see the small scar along Tony's hair line that he had never paid much attention to before. It was so small, practically unnoticeable, but the story behind it was incredible. Why hadn't the older man ever said anything before? He always liked to share stories of his daring rescues, especially after he had had a few drinks, but he had never shared this with anyone. Steve was certain about that.
"Just promise me," Tony began, wiping the tears away with slight embarrassment. "You won't tell Pepper I told you about any of this. It's…kind of a sensitive subject between us."
"Sure, Tony, I promise." Silence passed between them for a moment before Steve stood up, carrying his empty mug to the kitchen sink. Rinsing it out, he took a glance over at his friend. The man was sitting in the same position the captain had found him in only an hour earlier, gazing out as the sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky.
"It's days like this," Tony began quietly, feeling his friend's eyes on him. "That you never forget."