Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Avengers (MCU)
Era: Post-Avengers movie
Genre: Action, drama
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Bruce Banner (Hulk), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), Jane Foster, Nick Fury, Happy Hogan, J.A.R.V.I.S., Loki, Pepper Potts, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine), Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Lady Sif and the Warriors Three (Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg), Tony Stark (Iron Man), Thor
(Brief/smaller appearances: Odin, Maria Hill, Darcy Lewis, The Other, Benjamin “Benny” Pollack, Erik Selvig, Jasper Sitwell, Claire Wise.)
Pairings: Happy/Pepper, Jane/Thor. Mentions of: Benny/Claire, Pepper/Tony
Summary: Iron Man never fell back through the portal. The Avengers must deal with the loss of their comrade and move on – until Earth once again comes under an attack from the Chitauri and their new-found weapons that decimate everything in their path with unmatched power and intellect. As cities and nations collapse around their decreasing resistance, the heroes of Earth must find a way to defeat their enemy before there is nothing left to avenge.
Work in progress.
Written for: Apocalypse Big Bang, Round One (apocalypsebang at LiveJournal)
Art: Imaan (insteadofdeath at dA/DW/LJ)
Warnings: Graphic description of torture, major character death, apocalypse & invasion themes (including but not limited to: mass destruction, terrorism, holocaust, death, violence and gore), brain-washing & mind-control, language (including some remarks that could be seen as racist). Serious spoilers for the ending of The Avengers (and other random spoilers for the rest of the movies in the Avengers cinematic universe).
Pepper almost screamed but someone pressed their hand firmly across her mouth, stifling the sound. Through the sweat and dirt that covered all of them, she smelled Happy’s familiar scent.
On the other side of the room, Tony lifted his head, stopping for a moment, towel still in his hand. His eyes searched the space then glanced upwards as if expecting any possible noise to come from overheard. He resumed drying his hair, which stuck out in every direction the way it always did.
“Bring the schematics over to the main display,” he spoke up. Pepper wasn’t sure what she had expected but he sounded the same, the very same. The arc reactor still shone in his chest. His body might have been thinner and paler, new scars here and there, his face shaven and hair shorter, but it was unmistakably him, truly him…
Tony stepped over to a bigger display which showed something that may have been an Iron Man upgrade. She didn’t care. The man she had loved and known for so many years – the man she had lost so suddenly – was right there and she could almost reach out and touch him!
The others seemed as shocked as she was, staring, wide-eyed and disbelieving.
“Integration is still problematic,” Tony mused, cocking his head, holding his chin for a moment in a familiar, thoughtful look, fingers tapping restlessly. Soon enough he moved on, hanging the towel to dry on a robotic arm he used to have help him with the suit. He walked over to the wall, opening a cupboard and pulling out a pair of pants, sliding them on and then took a shirt from another shelf. For a moment he just held it in his hands then brought it to his face and inhaled, eyes closing briefly.
“The new interface could help solve the integration instabilities,” J.A.R.V.I.S. spoke up.
“Mm,” Tony huffed and pulled the shirt on. He turned then stopped as the whole room seemed to vibrate, dust falling from the ceiling. He glanced up, a frown on his face.
“There seems to be a disturbance.”
“Apparently,” Tony mused then walked over to the display, studying the image once again. “Take back ups to Edwin, just in case,” he said then.
He nodded then lifted his head as a sound came from the corridor behind the hiding group. Pepper and everyone else looked behind them sharply, half-expecting some kind of enemy to appear but it was only Clint, moving towards them quickly. Natasha motioned furiously, to make him stop, but he crept all the way up to them.
“Something’s going on topside,” Clint whispered. “Chitauri arrived, with one of those small aircrafts, and the big mecha is twitching.” His eyes then flew towards the lit area and widened significantly. He opened his mouth then shut it.
Pepper looked out towards the workshop and noticed Tony had taken several steps towards them, listening intently. The music had been turned off and the main display shut down, leaving only the smaller ones working.
A shuffling sound came from the direction of the stairs and Pepper craned her neck. Two Chitauri appeared, coming down from the main floor, entering through the doorway where there was no transparent wall anymore. Tony whirled to meet them and Pepper noticed something strange on his neck, disappearing under the shirt he was wearing. The Chitauri were making noises, gesturing, and Tony’s body tensed. There were no human words involved but some kind of communication seemed to be passing between them.
Tony then gestured towards the stairs and one of the Chitauri stepped forward, reaching for him.
Something dropped from the ceiling and slammed the Chitauri down to the floor, hard, pinning it there. The attacker looked almost like a mecha, only much smaller. Its sleek black body was still as the Chitauri wriggled and eventually crawled away towards the stairs and the two of them left hurriedly.
“That is it,” Thor whispered. “The miniature mecha I battled.”
Hope shone in his blue eyes and Pepper wondered if he thought to find his brother here.
Another earthquake seemed to shake the building and Tony’s shoulders heaved, then he turned towards them. “Shut down for now, J.A.R.V.I.S.”
“Of course, sir.” The displays all flickered off and the room went quiet.
The small mecha straightened up and moved towards Tony, standing behind him like a silent guardian. Where it had left the ceiling was a hole, possibly leading to the upper floor. Pepper hadn’t even noticed but she didn’t blame herself, for she could hardly take her eyes off Tony, wanting to stop hiding, to greet him, to ask how he was here, alive.
Tony closed his eyes and inhaled deep and slow, a slight smile appearing on his lips. “You should stop wearing perfume when the world’s ending, Pepper,” he suddenly spoke up, lifted his head and looked towards the pile of rubble they had chosen as their hiding place.
Pepper looked at the others then waited no longer. Several hands grabbed for her but she pushed forward, climbing over the broken concrete and metal, finally able to see him properly, standing there. Tears filled her eyes, joy bursting painfully in her chest and Tony just looked at her, face closed off.
“Tony,” she whispered, rushing to him, touching him. His skin was warm, so warm, and she reached up to kiss him.
His lips responded briefly before he pushed her away, hard. She stood there, dismayed, hearing the others come closer, revealing themselves.
“How are you here, my friend?” Thor asked.
“We saw you…” Steve started uncertainly.
Tony’s face hardened visibly. Behind him the mecha shifted and Thor lifted his hammer, growling.
“I have others things to deal with, so let this be a warning,” Tony started. “The next time we meet, I will destroy all of you.”
“What?” Bruce stammered. “Tony, what’s wrong?”
Something very unlike Tony passed over his face; it was an emotion Pepper had only seen on his worst days: absolute rage, disappointment and betrayal. “The Tony you knew is no more. I will let you leave here alive but it is my last sign of mercy. Next time, I will kill all of you.”
His hand twitched and the mecha behind him came to life. It seemed to open from the chest, arms and legs, small mechanical parts unlinking from each other to reveal a hollow inside.
Pepper realized, belatedly, that it wasn’t a robot; it was a suit.
Tony leaned back against it and it seemed to swallow him, locking around his body in a hard embrace. Tony’s face remained visible the longest and something seemed to flicker in front of his eyes, like a screen, although it could have been a trick of the light before the mecha’s face closed around his features and only glowing eyes stared back at them. It then braced its body and jumped, crawling across the ceiling and out through the hole in it, disappearing.
Everyone stood in shocked silence, staring after it. Pepper felt faint and had never been so glad for Happy’s presence when he wrapped a firm arm around her.
“Was that really him?” Steve mused.
“It had to be,” Bruce replied but sounded uncertain. “Something’s very wrong.”
“He tried to kill me,” Thor uttered, looking down at himself, where Pepper had seen a gaping wound after his last battle with the two mecha.
“Guess he wasn’t joking about destroying us,” Clint said, sounding choked. He hadn’t even reached for an arrow, which was very unlike him.
“I refuse to accept this,” Steve finally snapped out of it.
Pepper nodded jerkily and looked to the side. “J.A.R.V.I.S., are you there? If you are, please answer.”
“I am here, Miss Potts. It is good to see you alive and well.”
“I guess not everyone wants to kill us, then,” Natasha muttered.
“What is wrong with Tony? It is Tony, right?” She dreaded the answer, but she believed J.A.R.V.I.S. would know the difference.
“It is Mr. Stark, indeed. I have verified this, although…”
“Although what?” Rhodey pressed.
“He has been compromised.”
“What do you mean, ‘compromised’?” Pepper asked, feeling sick. “You mean he’s working with the enemy?”
“Wait,” Bruce interrupted and stepped forward, a look of intense focus on his face. “Has Tony been with the Chitauri from the beginning? When they arrived on Earth with their ships?”
“Yes. Mr. Stark did not actually land on Earth with the first mecha, as you call them, and his first contact with me came only when the Asgardians arrived on Earth.”
“So it was you at the Stark Tower?” Happy asked.
“I was downloading and transferring data from that location, yes, after Mr. Stark visited the city and provided that section of the building with the necessary amount of power to withdraw all necessary information.”
“What information?” Bruce questioned.
“That I cannot tell you, Dr. Banner.”
“What is –”
Steve’s question was cut off as a loud, metallic growl pierced the air and the building trembled. This time it didn’t stop but went on. Clearly something was happening above them.
“What is that?” Pepper asked. “What is going on?”
“It would seem the ship is under an attack. It must be defended,” J.A.R.V.I.S. noted.
“And Tony is helping to do that?” Bruce asked. “To defend it.”
“Yes,” the AI replied.
“How, exactly?” the scientist pressed, clearly onto something.
“By controlling his creations – the mecha.” J.A.R.V.I.S. paused for a moment. “You must leave now. I’m sorry that we will not meet again, Miss Potts. It has been a pleasure knowing you, and I know you meant much to Mr. Stark once. All of you did.”
Pepper couldn’t believe it, didn’t understand – and refused to acknowledge the possibility that Tony had somehow turned against them. “No, you will tell me what is wrong with Tony so that we can help him! He would never hurt us willingly,” she shouted.
Above, an explosion filled the air and Steve reflexively lifted his shield. “We have to go.”
The sound of planes, perhaps fighters, cut through the air with a sharp boom that made her ears hurt.
“Pepper, come on,” Happy urged. “We’ll get answers –”
“The answers are all here!” she exclaimed. “We can’t just leave him behind.”
“We won’t,” Steve told her, voice taut as a string ready to snap, “but we can’t help him if we stay down here. We have to get out of the building and see what is going on.”
“Also,” Rhodey interrupted loudly, pointing: on the walls, Iron Man armors were still lined up – and inside each of them shone an operational arc reactor. “Help me get them out, then we can go.”
Thor and Natasha went to aid him while Pepper stepped over to a computer.
“J.A.R.V.I.S.?” she called out but the AI wouldn’t answer. They were also locked out from using the computers and the room began to power down around them. The sounds of battle increased overheard and dust fell from the ceiling, along with a few panels.
“We need to leave!” Happy called out then grasped for Pepper’s wrist. “Pepper, come on… We’ll do him no good if we get buried alive in here.” She had to agree, although with much resentment, and once the arc reactors were secure they rushed back the way they had come. Pepper knew she couldn’t be the only one who dreaded what would happen next – and who wanted answers to explain Tony’s behavior.
to be continued…