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Del Rion [userpic]

Nuking the Stars; Chapter 3: Relocation

Title: Nuking the Stars
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Avengers & Iron Man (MCU)
Era: Post-Avengers movie, between “Sleeping It Off” and “Smashed Heart” fics.
Genre: Drama
Rating: T / FRT
Characters: Bruce Banner (Hulk), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), J.A.R.V.I.S., Pepper Potts, Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Tony Stark (Iron Man), Thor (, Nick Fury, Happy Hogan)
Pairings: Pepper/Tony
Summary: With all the Avengers have been through in their short time together, flying through a portal and then falling back doesn’t seem like much – nor does it feel like much to Tony either before he realizes he might as well carve a line into the wall next to Afghanistan and the palladium poisoning. While he tries to manage yet another potential breakdown, the Avengers begin their journey to actually become a ‘team’.
Complete. Part of the “Turquoise” –series.
Warnings: Vague (or very strong) symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), intended but disrupted attempts of self-harm, references to possible alcoholism, language, spoilers for The Avengers movie (and other random spoilers for the rest of the movies in the Avengers cinematic movie universe).



~ ~ ~




Chapter 3: Relocation




Stark Tower
Manhattan, New York, NY, USA


The sky and the first layer of clouds are replaced by darkness. He sees more of the Chitauri and the dark hull of their mothership looming ahead – the only sources of light next to the distant stars. J.A.R.V.I.S. and the call to Pepper vanish. HUD shows him that the suit is all but powerless before shutting down.

Could he swim back if he started now?

His body aches from the battle he just left behind. The exosystems haven’t kicked in yet – nor are they going to. His eyes follow the bright path of the nuke he’s guided all the way here, helpless to do anything else, unwilling to let his fear take over.

The explosion propels him backwards.

Air’s running thin, making his lungs burn.

The suit starts to go dark around him.

Perhaps if he can fall asleep very quickly, it won’t hurt as much…

He jerked and opened his eyes, already pushing back the covers to welcome the glow of the arc reactor. It was familiar already, waking up like this, but he was still glad Pepper was gone on a business trip so that she didn’t have to force that expression to her face that barely covered the worry she had been trying to articulate to him for the past few weeks.

Tony breathed deeply, closing his eyes briefly but that threw him right back to the dream. He felt cold and decided on a hot shower no matter what the hour. At least in his dream he wasn’t drowning, only suffocating and feeling the incredible pressure of certain death.

The sensation of drowning belonged to another set of nightmares…

Showering didn’t actually help him process the dream, his various issues with its persistent reoccurrence or how he had been unable to banish it. Abandoning the normally fruitless attempt to resume sleeping he put on some clothes and left the bedroom, moving up to the lounge and through it to the kitchen area to get some coffee.

J.A.R.V.I.S., probably noting his movements, had already put the coffee maker on so he didn’t have to wait for very long before he had a steaming cup in his hand. He stood gazing at the dozing city, the skies clear of the news choppers and tourist flights. He was just thinking of stepping outside to take a better look at the streets – and the street in particular where he almost had ended up flat as a pancake a few nights ago – when the AI interrupted his plan:

“Sir, Agents Barton and Romanoff have just entered the building.”

“Is something going on?” There hadn’t been a call to assemble, he was sure of that, and they wouldn’t come here. He had given all the Avengers their own keys and floors should any of them ever want to visit – or stay like he hoped Banner would – but J.A.R.V.I.S. was still instructed to tell him when any of them arrived or left. He was their host, after all, so it was only fair to spy on them a little. It was the least Tony could do to live up to their expectations.

“Nothing alarming has come to my attention,” J.A.R.V.I.S. informed him after a pause that lasted a few seconds – no doubt using the time to check all frequencies and recent messages again.

“Okay then,” Tony frowned and sipped his coffee.

Soon the elevator came up and the two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents stepped in. Well, Tony wasn’t completely certain whether they still worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. while being active with the Avengers but he doubted Fury wanted to let go of his two favorite dogs. Both Barton and Romanoff carried large bags with them – the contents of which were a mystery to Tony but he could make many guesses. Maybe he would have J.A.R.V.I.S. scan them and see how correct his assumptions were.

“What’s up?” he asked instead.

Barton frowned, dropping his bag on the floor. “I didn’t think you would be up this early in the morning.”

“Who says I have gone to sleep yet?” Tony shot back.

Barton shrugged like he didn’t care either way.

“Does the offer still stand that we have our own accommodations here?” Romanoff spoke up next. She was still holding her bag as if it weighted no more than she could comfortably carry around.

Tony tried not to frown too much in confusion. “Sure. I still have plenty of room that I haven’t thought of a better use for and I gave you keys, right? I assume I would have taken them back or set them to self-destruct if the offer was off the table.”

Which was an awesome idea: self-destructing keys; it would blow the lid off the market with no more unnecessary changing of locks!

“Cool,” was all Barton said while picking up his bag again.

“J.A.R.V.I.S. will guide us there,” Romanoff decided and they both disappeared back into the elevator.

“Huh,” Tony blinked.

- - -

That was how Natasha and Clint moved into the tower. Without fanfare or explosions they just settled in and when not spending time in their rooms and private gyms they would commandeer Tony’s couch and enjoy the entertainment set. A few times he tried to ask them if there was a particular reason for their newfound desire to move into the Stark Tower – he even asked if Banner had found out – but neither agent gave them a valid reason. A few times a comment was made that perhaps the Avengers gig or Barton being under Loki’s command had caused some ill commentary within S.H.I.E.L.D. but mostly Tony liked to think that his digs were way better than anything S.H.I.E.L.D. could offer.

It was strange having them around. Then again, it should have been strange when Banner came home with him but that was different; at least they had something more in common than occasionally saving the world together.

Pepper didn’t question any of it when she came back but their time together was somehow more crowded as much as Barton and Romanoff stayed out of their way. Pepper even enjoyed spending time with Romanoff and refused to admit she was hurt by her previous duplicity and betrayal. “It’s nice having her around,” Pepper said simply. “You just don’t understand how women work.”

Tony admitted nothing but in this particular case he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to; they might fight alongside each other but as far as he was concerned, Romanoff was still a double-agent and he would keep an eye on her – plus some mechanical optics tracing her movements, just in case. He kept that part secret from Pepper since she might get the wrong impression.

No part of the arrangement really bothered Tony – other than his curiosity for its origin which had so far left him unsatisfied. The agents kept to themselves and had no access to Tony’s actual living space so there was no fear of some infiltration mission from Fury. While waiting for more clues to surface, he just had to bide his time and guess.

Of course there were times when he would have loved to have had the entire building to Pepper and himself; Banner was extremely good at making himself scarce and spending almost more time in the labs than Tony himself. It left Tony just as free to make out with Pepper in the main living room as before, knowing that a little closeness went a long way in driving her worries under the carpet. One day he might even figure out how to sweep them there permanently but he knew he needed to stop having nightmares first.

As it was, he was trying to get Pepper into a mood for something other than kissing – which was perfectly nice too. They had planned on watching a movie Pepper had wanted to see – and the movie was actually rolling on the screen but there were suddenly far more interesting things happening between their mouths and they could always restart the film later.

“What are you watching? How come there’s no popcorn?”

Tony drew back from Pepper reluctantly, glaring up at Barton who had appeared out of nowhere, standing there, looking at the screen. “We’re a little busy,” he started to say.

“We’re watching The Artist. There are popcorn bags in the kitchen, I think. Would you and Natasha like to join us?” Pepper asked, licking her lips quickly.

Tony groaned and tried to get her attention to tell her ‘no, they’re not going to join us!’, but she wasn’t getting it. If Tony didn’t know any better, he would have thought Pepper didn’t want to be alone with him.

Barton disappeared into the kitchen but not long after Romanoff replaced him, smiling at Pepper and making herself comfortable in another section of the couch. Tony tried not to pout as Barton returned and they started the movie all over again.

“You’re too old to sulk, Stark,” Barton told him, not even looking as he threw a handful of popcorn into his mouth – with impeccable aim, as usual. Tony hoped he choked on it.

Pepper elbowed Tony softly then curled up next to him, getting into the movie which was a sign that there was no more making out tonight – not before bed, and by that time it was likely that Iron Man would be needed somewhere. He might have gone out for a flight right that moment if it didn’t make him feel like he was running away from his own home and the people in it. How backwards was that?

“Maybe I should dust off the mansion and move the Avengers there,” he mused out loud.

He saw Pepper look at him from the corner of his eye. “That’s not a bad idea.”

“You have a mansion?” Barton perked up at once.

“The Stark mansion in Manhattan. You didn’t know about that?” Romanoff glanced at the archer.

“No, I didn’t. Stark, if you have a mansion we should seriously move in there – because, hello, a mansion. And we’re not talking about some teeny tiny summer cottage, right?”

Tony raised an eyebrow at him. “Have you ever seen me own anything small – unless its greatness was underlined by its lack of size? It’s a family place, hasn’t been used since…” He stopped. Not since his parents died. “In a while,” he finally concluded. Pepper slid a hand over to hold one of his.

Barton grinned through the entire movie and eagerly pointed out afterwards that whenever Tony felt like relocating them, he was on it.



Stark Manor
Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York, NY, USA

The mansion and its grounds took up an entire city block.

Barton was sufficiently awed looking at the old building. “Much as I like the heights of the Stark Tower, I refer to my earlier comment: a fucking mansion,” he nodded with approval.

“It’s a big place for just a few people.” Trust Captain Modesty to ruin everyone’s fun; Steve Rogers had contacted them the very morning they happened to plan on visiting the Stark family manor and decided to accompany them there. After all, if the team was about to take up residence in a new location he should at least be there, right? Rogers looked up along the tall wall and the windows reflecting the sun’s rays, everything looking clean and taken care of although no one had been living in the place for decades; the place was being looked after although no one was actively staying on the grounds.

“There will be enough space that we won’t step on each other’s toes,” Tony stated, stepping forward. The others followed him, Barton still looking excited, Romanoff and Banner taking in the surroundings and Rogers looking like he imagined living in the broom closet of this building – which was probably bigger than his place in Brooklyn, Tony thought. Not that he had ever seen Rogers’ place but he could imagine what it was like.

His keys opened the main door, letting them into a long corridor that smelled of old; while the building was being taken care of, at least on the outside, no one had set foot inside in months, if not years. Furniture sat still with sheets over them, like ghosts of his past.

“Spooky,” Banner commented. His hands were in front of him, making their restless twist-turn-caress thing as he looked around.

Barton wasn’t turned off so easily. He looked around, took off his sunglasses and stated: “I call dibs on one of the top-floor rooms.”

Tony rolled his eyes and moved further inside, finding a light switch. That, among many other things, was something he would update as soon as he could. Installing J.A.R.V.I.S. was near the very top.

While the others moved around, checking out the surroundings, Tony found himself once again in the midst of memories. While the ones associated with this building didn’t give him nightmares, it didn’t mean they were any less unpleasant.

“Who’s that in the picture?” Barton asked from the small lounge.

“I think that is Howard Stark,” Rogers replied and Tony stepped into the doorway to see them peering at a dust-covered photo. “He looks older than when I last saw him,” the super-soldier went on. His words twisted an invisible knife in Tony’s guts, and as if sensing that, Rogers looked up, blue eyes piercing. He lifted the frame as if Tony could see that far, then asked: “Is that you and your parents?”

He could make out the familiar family portrait; his father in a suit, a drink momentarily not in his hand; his mother, beautiful and unblemished as always; Tony, no more than twelve years old, also in a suit, eyes wide, hair combed neatly and with his back so straight it would have broken from an attempt to look even more his best. “Yeah,” he finally replied.

Rogers looked at the picture again, almost fondly, then lowered it slightly and fisted his shirt, trying to brush away the rest of the dust.

“You must have a lot of memories from this place,” Banner joined them from an adjoining room, peering at the picture curiously.

“Not as many as you would think,” Tony shrugged, indifference in his posture which he had rehearsed so often through the years that it was like a second skin. “I didn’t stay here all that often; between boarding school and MIT I didn’t spend too many vacations at home.”

Perhaps that was why he suddenly remembered why no one had stepped inside this house for such a long time. It had never felt like home to him, and after his parents passed it was filled with all the dirt and nastiness he wanted to leave behind and bury for good. His mother’s trust-fund had kept the place standing and in good condition until now but it didn’t feel like anyone’s home – least of all his.

“You know, we can just look at some other place,” he started.

Rogers put the picture back on the table. It looked strange now, free of the dust while everything else was still coated with a steady sheet of gray. “If you don’t want us in your family home, we understand.”

“It wasn’t my home,” Tony snapped, a bit harder than he intended.

“Good,” Barton said cheerfully, completely dismissing any emotional struggle that may have gone on – although Tony was certain the agent had noticed it. “Then there’s no reason why you can’t show me to my new room.”

He set off towards the grand double staircase at the end of the hall and Tony supposed he might as well replace all the ugly memories with ones of his own creation – in other words, transforming the manor into an Avengers Mansion.

Tony couldn’t wait to see Fury roll his eye at that one.





to be continued…


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