Disclaimer: I don't own, just borrowing from Marvel.
Story: Badly wounded in Afghanistan Lieutenant Tony Stark had been deemed unfit for combat. His life now stretching before him a bleakly; a company he wants nothing to do with, a legacy he can barely tolerate, and a life he never wanted. Until he's given the chance to be something he never imagined; a superhero.
Author's Note: PLEASE READ FIRST! This is an AU fic where there is no Iron Man. I have also completely altered Tony physically. This is pretty much bara, and will be Stony (of course). It's about two men similar but different separated by generations who find comfort in one another. I apologize in advance I am not super familiar with American Military structure and procedures, so have to use a little suspension of disbelief. For now enjoy!
Dulce et Decorum est
Chapter 1 – What Now?
So this is where he died.
Gasping and wheezing he tore fruitlessly at his chest, already feeling that hot crimson wetness seep through his fingers. He tried to focus, every movement agony as he laboured to breath. His every inhale and exhale a battle; one he was fast loosing.
Wide eyed he stared upwards, wondering if he should be scared, frightened of the unknown. Instead he found his cloudy mind wondering ideally if the sky had always been so clear and blue.
The metal felt like it was working deeper into his flesh, biting sharply.
It wasn't so bad really… the pain was even beginning to fade now. His lips curled in a wry smile as unseeing dark eyes began to drift closed.
Perhaps it wasn't so bad to die.
Director Fury paused as Agent Maria Hill caught up with him; "Yes?" he asked with a tone of a man whose time was precious.
"Sir we received an important a report from the Northern base." Nick Fury said nothing arching an irritated eyebrow, pinning Hill with a thinly veiled look of annoyance.
Hill looked fit to burst, but managed to maintain her decorum, "They found him sir."
"Found him?" he echoed face puzzled for a brief moment before his brow cleared, and morphed into something resembling shocked surprise. "They found him," he reiterated.
The Agent nodded; "Yes sir they did…" eagerly she turned to show him a video feed from the tablet in her hands.
It displayed a block of ice on a table surrounded by men and women in lab coats working feverishly, running machines and scanners as they all but ran one another over in excitement. As Fury watched a doctor moved out of the way allowing the viewer a good look at a very distinctive shield discernable through the ice. A star ringed in red and blue.
"Sir?" Hill drew his attention back to her. He had to all but pry his eyes from the live feed. He managed lock eyes with her, she was grinning now. A genuine giddily smile spreading her normally solemn features, "He's alive Sir."
"You wanted to see me Sir," a man in desert combats looked up from his work at the voice.
"Tony, you don't have to call me sir, " he trailed off exasperated as the big man grinned roguishly falling into parade rest before him.
"I know Rhodey but it bugs the hell out of you," Colonial James Rhodes glared at his long time friend Lieutenant Anthony Stark with irritated affection.
"I should really be calling you sir by now…if you weren't such an insubordinate ass," he grumbled tossing his pen onto the small table. Eyes fixing on the other man as he sat back on the folding chair crossing his arms.
The Lieutenant snorted tugging his helmet off; reveling dark sweat matted hair plastered to his head, "And spend the rest of my life behind a desk? No thank you."
Rhodes cocked his head amused, eyes taking in the too large figure of his friend. He had known Tony a long, long, time. Too long it felt like sometimes. They had started together in basic, before their paths had diverged, he had taken to the sky…and Tony had ended up in the Special Forces. At least he had up until a year ago.
"It's not so bad you know…being a pencil pusher," he hedged looking away from the deeply tanned face.
Tony was no dummy, as a matter of fact all those boring IQ tests he'd written in his life would claim he was a genius. However it didn't take a genius to figure out was going on here,"You where always terrible at being diplomatic, tell me what's on your mind Rhodey."
Sighing his life long friend ran a hand through close-cropped hair, "Your physical evaluations came back."
Tony stiffed spine snapping ramrod straight. A very pregnant pause filling the small canvassed space, "And?" he probed softly eyes dropping to the sand beneath his feet.
Colonial Rhodes wished he were anywhere but here, doing anything but this. He didn't want to be the one to tell his friend. Yet the words still slipped from his lips, "Unfit for combat."
The words were a knife to his already ruined chest. Tony knew it had been coming, had been expecting it sooner rather then later. Still he had hoped to doge this particular bullet a little longer. God only knew how many had grazed him in his life.
He knew it wasn't Rhodey's fault; he was just the middleman. Still the big marine really wanted to just crack him one in the face. Even if it wouldn't help a damn thing. "It was coming," he mumbled unable to help the sag of broad shoulders, tromping down the rage.
"Tony this is a good thing, you retire with full honours, a war hero," the airman tried to reason.
Tony gritted his teeth, barely restraining from yelling in rage, "And do what James? I've been in this military more years then a care to remember."
The Colonial was standing now coming around the poor excuse for a desk, "You could finally take over the company, Pepper -"
Tony cut him off with a bitter chuckle. "I can't think of a worse fate then taking over my fathers legacy," he spat the words, face turning into something bitter and hateful.
"Tony-" he tried but the man was already shutting down back straight he brought himself to attention.
"If that is all sir," he said formally eyes somewhere to the left of his friend's head. Rhodes knew this battle was one he couldn't win.
Sighing heavily the officer nodded, "Dismissed Lieutenant."
With a salute Tony spun on his heels heading out of the tent and into the cool desert evening. Anger simmering as he crammed his helmet back on, hunching forward out of habit making himself a smaller target.
Unseeingly he stalked across the compound waving absently when several men called out as he passed. In no mood for company he didn't stop until he reached the small tent that served as his own. The helpless rage still simmering under his skin as he angrily stripped out of his helmet and Kevlar, all but ripping off his sweat soaked under shirt.
Chest heaving with a torrent of emotions, a worn callused hand came up to press against the raised scar tissue trying to calm himself. Jaw clenching he resolutely refused to look down at the mess. That mass of webbed shiny scar tissue that had ended his military career with an abruptness that left him reeling.
Sinking to the cot he buried his head in his hands closing tired dark eyes, the anger beginning to bleed from him. As much as he hated to admit it a tiny part of him wondered if Rhodey was right. Maybe it was time to go home and face his demons, the ones he'd been running from his whole life.
Or at least since his illustrious father had stuck him in military school. An effort to heel his wayward boy, learn some discipline…become a man. Only it had backfired on the old man. Howard Stark had been madder then hell when Tony had told him he wanted to be career military. Howard had been disappointed with him his entire life, at least in the military he didn't have to see him.
Then the bastard had up and died.
Tony hadn't wanted anything to do with Stark Industries and Howard's blood legacy of producing weapons. He'd refused to touch a dime of the company's money, making good his threat; he'd gone career.
Pepper had once said it was some kind of misguided attempt at balancing his books. Tony had told Pep she thought too much.
With Tony out of the picture his fathers so called 'friend' Obadiah had been looking after the company, and Tony thought doing rather well…right up until he'd tried to have Tony killed a year ago. He felt a humorless grin stretch his lips if Obie should have done one thing…he should have damn well made sure Tony was dead.
It had been the last fucking mistake Obadiah Stain had ever made.
In the end when all the dust had settled, Miss Virginia Pepper Potts had been made CEO and Tony had returned to combat trying to outrun medical for as long as he could. Apparently he hadn't gone fast enough; and they had sent Rhodie. That was fucking dirty pool.
Sullenly he dropped his hands, running them through too long hair, and across the thick, black beard. Slowly he lay on the hard cot, staring up at the canvas ceiling. What did you do with a soldier when they weren't useful anymore?
"Coulson this is a nightmare," Fury kept his voice low, trying to remain calm.
"I know it is Sir," the Agent agreed as he studiously flipped through the files before him trying to find some sort of loophole anything to get them out of their current predicament.
"I've had the best and brightest in legal through that a hundred times, the bastards have us to rights."
Sighing Agent Phil Coulson sat back, face impassive as he watched the Director of SHIELD across the table. "What are you going to do?"
Fury rubbed his temples tiredly, "Hope they don't assign some hard assed, arrogant, by the book asshole that's going to fuck up everything we've put together." He chuckled mirthlessly, "There's not much else we can do. Technically he was never discharged, only listed as MIA. He's still under contract with the military."
Phil nodded slowly, "And the military never lets go of an asset." He commented tone dry as dust.
Fury shot him a crooked grin his good eye flinty and cold, "Can you blame them? We are talking about the Captain America."
The chopper dipped suddenly, startling the dark headed man awake. Blinking sleepily Tony Stark glanced out across the familiar New York skyline growing larger by the moment.
"Sorry Sir," the pilot apologized through the radio set. Tony waved it away trying to stretch his oversized frame as best he could in the cramped helicopter. Managing to twist wrong he winced at the painful pull in his chest.
Giving up then before he started to wheeze he turned back to the view. Wondering dazedly at the drastic turn his life had taken.
Not more then twenty-four hours ago he had been in Afghanistan dreading his ride home.
Tony packed slowly, trying not to think about what it meant when his entire life fit easily into a duffle. Packed he took his time taking apart his tent and cot, turning it back into supply. Task completed he said goodbye to the men, joking and laughing as he pretended to be excited about getting out of this madness.
After that, all that was left was to collect his walking papers. Heavy footed he'd trudged towards the makeshift office of Colonial James Rhodes. Jaw firm, face betraying nothing as he stepped into the empty place. Not sure if he was irritated with the man's absence or not.
Sighing tiredly he'd dropped his duffle, pulling of his hot helmet as he waited for the man return. Wondering and worrying the entire time what he was going to do with himself now. The rest of his life stretched before him a vast emptiness.
It was the most terrifying thing he'd ever faced.
"Tony?" Rhodes called stepping inside.
"Yeah here," he muttered still staring off into space preparing himself for the consolatory spiel his friend was about to give him. The one where he'd tell him it was all for the best, he was better off, and all that clichéd meaningless bullshit.
"Good, because Lieutenant Stark you are one lucky son of a bitch." That hadn't been what he was expecting.
Curious he finally looked at his friend eyebrows raised in question. "I am?"
Excited the airman was moving to sit behind his rickety desk again leaning forward eagerly, an almost manic gleam in his eyes. "I just got off the phone with General Carson," Tony didn't know that name, but then again he and big brass never did get on.
"Have you ever heard of the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division?"
Tony blinked stupidly, "Nope."
Shrugging unconcerned Rhodes continued on without pause, "Hell of a handle I know, and they play things close to the vest there. Anyway, supposedly SHIELD as they go by, has acquired some property that belongs to the military. The they want someone in SHIELD to protect US Military interests."
The once Marine was trying to process, as his friend hurried excitedly on. Still he was bright guy, and as he managed to sort through the ramblings the truth began to dawn on him. "Wait let me get this straight, the higher ups are looking from someone to liaison between SHIELD and the military?"
The airman snapped his fingers grinning, "Bingo."
Tony hadn't yet connected all the dots. He crossed his arms frowning, "So what does that have to do with me?"
His friends grin got wider, "You just got a promotion."
Just like that he was on the next transport state side with a bird on his shoulder. Well not quite it would take a day or two for his promotion to go through, In the meantime he was to report to SHIELD headquarters in New York ASAP for a debriefing with an Agent Coulson.
The former Navy Seal and Marine couldn't help the small smile that crossed his face. He had no fucking clue what he was walking into, but the alternative was far worse.
The helicopter touched down just as dawn was breaking over the horizon; the city that never slept shifting gears. Thanking the pilot he hopped out swinging his duffle as he bent out of the blades heading towards a man in a suit looking unperturbed by the turbulence around him.
"Agent Coulson?" he yelled over the sound of the still running machine, the man nodding briskly.
"Yes, are you the man we are waiting for? "
Grinning Tony held out a worn hand, " I hope so, Colonial Anthony Stark at your service."