Title: Smashed Heart
Author: Del Rion
Fandom: The Avengers (MCU)
Era: Some time after the movie "Avengers" (2012)
Rating: T / FRT
Characters: Bruce Banner (Hulk), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), Nick Fury, J.A.R.V.I.S., Pepper Potts, Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Tony Stark (Iron Man), Thor (, Jane Foster, Happy Hogan)
Pairings: Happy/Pepper, Pepper/Tony
Summary: Heartbreak isn't really Tony's thing – unless it's meant literally.
Complete. Part of the "Turquoise" –series.
Warnings: Language, violence, deadly injuries.
Disclaimer: Iron Man and Avengers, their characters and everything else belong to Marvel. The movie versions belong to Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon… in short: everyone but me. This is pure fiction, created to entertain likeminded fans, no profit made.
Feedback: Much appreciated.
About Smashed Heart: Takes place some time after "Sleeping It Off".
Clearly the fic's name (and chapter names) are a take on "Hulk smashes" phrase – and an auction event.
Chapters and status: Below you see the writing process of the story's chapters. If there is no text after the chapter's title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
I – Smashing Once…
II – Smashing Twice…
III – Smashed!
I – Smashing Once…
Manhattan, New York, NY, USA
Another victory won, another disaster averted. He felt like a goddamn hero, regardless of what Steve Rogers said. Well, not so much after the Chitauri attack and his stunt with the nuclear missile…
It was amazing how often the world seemed to be ending these days – or maybe it was what Fury had said; the world was getting bigger, the "world" in this instance being considerably more vast than just Earth.
Perhaps the presence of the Avengers was luring out those who thought they could challenge them, which was kind of fucked up since these villains would have gone mostly unchallenged before the assembly of the Avengers. Well, he had been out there as Iron Man, yet it took the whole team these days to kick each new threat's ass as they continued to emerge from their hideouts. Perhaps it was just as well that their enemies were not smart enough to realize they had waited too long to launch their fiendish plots.
Tony landed carefully, his suit having sustained some injuries in battle. J.A.R.V.I.S. was running commentary in the background, telling him things he already knew, but he was too focused on flying straight to put the AI on mute. Once he had successfully hit the platform of the Stark Tower, he walked with some difficulty, the machine fighting to remove some bent pieces of the suit, and almost stumbled inside when one of the boots got stuck momentarily.
"Truly graceful," he muttered.
Underneath, Tony was mostly unscathed. Some bruises were forming, he could feel it, but no broken ribs this time, or a concussion, or a heart attack waiting behind the corner – none more than usual, anyway.
"J.A.R.V.I.S.," Tony called out, "run the diagnostics from the battle, see what went wrong – again – and make adjustments."
"Yes, sir," the voice replied with its usual calm willingness to do his bidding.
"Pepper?" Tony called out next, looking around. Pepper Potts was nowhere to be seen, which was odd, since he had let her know he was coming in soon. She usually made it her business to be here when he came back from his most recent heroic activities and the closer to death's doors he crawled, the higher her tone would be.
"Locate Ms. Potts for me," Tony said, knowing that J.A.R.V.I.S., always listening, would know he meant him, and not some other disembodied voice in the room.
"She has just arrived. Garage floor, on her way to the elevator."
"Thanks," Tony said, and decided on a shower. He felt dusty and beaten up, more and more each second. It may have all gone well, but in the heat of the battle Thor had accidentally hit him with Mjolnir, sending him through a building that had already been teetering on the verge of collapse, and it took his team-mates – rather, Hulk – an hour to dig him out. Tony had been tempted to just blow his way out of there, or dig through the ground, but their tight-ass Captain seemed to think they had already done enough damage.
He sounded more and more like Fury each day. If Tony cared enough, he might have suggested that Cap not spend so much time within S.H.I.E.L.D. property.
Pepper had arrived by the time he had gone through the routine post-mission shower, which was much more awkward than an ordinary bathroom routine. Sometimes he managed to talk Pepper into joining him, to tend to her hero, but she made no move to approach the bathroom this time, and Tony found her seated in the living room, sipping a drink, looking out over the city through the windows that had been replaced after the brief Chitauri invasion – and after the unfortunate plunge Tony took through one of them thanks to Thor's brother Loki.
Tony stopped to get himself a drink because it usually wasn't a good sign if Pepper had already gotten herself one. "We won," he said cheerily, approaching the couch once he had the drink in hand.
"I saw it in the news," Pepper noted, taking a sip, slowly, all calm, cool, and collected. No screaming, no shouting, no telling Tony that he had no regard for his own safety whatsoever.
Tony went to sit down beside her, looking concernedly at the stoic face. "Okay, what's wrong? I'm here, I'm alive, we didn't destroy too much public or private property…"
There was silence. Was she giving him the silent treatment? Really? She should know Tony would just talk her out of it – literally talk her out of it.
"I can't keep doing this," Pepper said then, suddenly. She looked at him, drink forgotten. Yeah, Tony had a drink, too, and he kind of wanted to swallow it down right now, but he knew that would be an ill-timed action.
But when had that ever stopped him? He was the king of ill-timed actions.
"I can't keep sitting here, attending meetings, watching my phone, waiting for you to call when you're about to guide another nuclear missile into an alien mother ship on the other side of the universe!"
"Well, technically, you never picked up the call that time," Tony noted.
"Exactly!" Pepper said, a bit more shrilly now. "You almost died, and I would have been sitting there realizing that I had just missed the last chance to talk to you ever again. And every day, it's the same. People call me and I expect them to tell me that you're dead, or in the hospital, or missing in action. I didn't sign up for this."
"Of course you didn't," Tony said, calmly, softly, and moved towards her, to touch her, because it always calmed her down a bit.
"Don't do that," Pepper snapped. "This isn't like all those other times, Tony. I love you, and I… understand that someone needs to protect us all, but I can't spend the rest of my life dreading each moment. It's not healthy, and it's not fair. I deserve… something better."
And somehow, he knew it wasn't like those other times when they had talked about this. She wasn't going to end up kissing him heatedly, wanting to drown the fear with passion and closeness – which Tony was very good at.
Tony knew she had a point; even in his self-obsessed mind, he had known she would reach that conclusion, because honestly? Part of him felt a bit bad for putting her through all this. Every time he almost died, or one of them did, he was reminded that she had not chosen to be part of this. She might love Tony, but… she had never loved Iron Man, and as long as Tony and the suit were one, something had to give.
"I deserve to be happy, and not constantly reminded that life isn't forever," Pepper said, as if to convince them both.
"I realize that," Tony agreed.
It seemed to surprise her, that he didn't fight. But then, Tony wasn't stupid – no one could call him stupid. He might not be very good with people, nor did he possess the same moral standpoints as everyone else, but he knew that in Pepper's place… Well, he couldn't imagine it, but it made sense.
She squared her shoulders and downed the rest of her drink. "I'm going to take a small… leave of absence. I will continue to work for Stark Industries, but you and me… I don't know where this is going."
Tony nodded, feeling a bit numb, and followed Pepper's example and drained his glass.
"Ms. Potts, Mr. Hogan is waiting for you," J.A.R.V.I.S. informed them.
Tony raised an eyebrow. "Are you going somewhere?"
"I did mention a leave of absence," Pepper reminded him, getting up, smoothing her dress. A rather nice dress, really, and nice shoes, too. In fact, it was all too nice if she was just going to go on a vacation.
"Is there someone else?" Tony blurted out. He wasn't sure how his brain jumped to that conclusion. Sometimes it just happened.
Pepper looked at him and didn't deny it, which meant that his brain's sudden surge wasn't completely based on fiction. Then she started to look increasingly uncomfortable.
"There's someone else," Tony said, a bit needlessly.
Someone who was replacing him, Tony Stark.
He had to meet this guy.
"Who is it?" he asked, bombarding Pepper with questions.
She looked away, at Manhattan spreading out beyond the windows, then back at him. "It's not… like that."
"Who is it?" Tony asked again, standing up to face her.
"Happy," Pepper said, almost in a whisper.
For a moment, Tony thought she was just repeating the adjective from before, but then it all clicked.
"Happy," Tony parroted. "Happy Hogan?"
"He's there when you're flying off to save the world," Pepper pointed out defensively. "He's there, holding my hand, comforting me, when I wait for news of your safe return. He's always there, he's always been there, and… I can trust him."
That hurt, perhaps more than everything else.
She couldn't trust him – or at least she felt that way.
Tony knew it wasn't a matter of 'I'm-not-going-to-come-and-save-you-if-the-world-is-about-to-end'. She knew Iron Man would always protect her, like he protected everyone else, but at some point, she had stopped trusting Tony. Well, maybe a long time ago, but it hadn't been an issue until now, really.
"Okay," Tony said, stepping to the side, as if he was standing in her way somehow.
She looked at him and touched his arm. "Tony, I'm sorry… I didn't mean for it to happen like this."
Tony just nodded, looking away into the distance, the lights blurring together. Everything was getting mixed up.
He heard her leave, her footsteps echoing on the floor.
"Dim the lights," Tony commanded, and a second later the room plunged into semi-darkness. He walked up to refill his glass, then chose to take the entire bottle with him, and sat back on the couch, looking out the windows, imagining he could still smell Pepper's perfume in the air.
Not the perfume he had given her.
He leaned his head back against the couch, closed his eyes, and wondered if this was what happened to those who played the part of a superhero. Weren't they supposed to get the girl in the end?
to be continued…