Title: In and On
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Iron Man (MCU)
Timeline: from Iron Man to post-Iron Man 3
Rating: T / FRT
Characters: J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark (Iron Man). Mentioned: Pepper Potts, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine), Tony’s bots (DUM-E and U).
Summary: The numerous times when Tony slept in his suit – and the one time he slept on top of it.
Complete. Part of “Genius, AI & Bots” series.
Written for: My card on Cotton Candy Bingo’s round 2 (square: “Sleeping on someone”)
Warnings: Language, implied canonical violence & brief, non-graphic description of injury.
Disclaimer: Iron Man and Marvel Cinematic Universe, including characters and everything else, belong to Marvel, Marvel Studios, Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, Shane Black, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. In short: I own nothing; this is pure fiction created to entertain likeminded fans for no profit whatsoever.
Beta: Mythra (mythras_fire)
Story and status: Below you see the writing process of the story. If there is no text after the title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
In and On
The first time Tony fell asleep in the suit it was in the aftermath of his mission in Gulmira: the post-Atlantic flight was relatively long, the fight took a lot out of him, and it was entirely reasonable to presume he may have sustained a mild concussion to boot.
He’d had a tank fire on him, after all. How many people could say that and were still walking afterwards?
It was a totally cheap shot, anyway…
Tony was not aware when it happened, but one moment he was blinking blearily at the HUD and the next J.A.R.V.I.S. was shouting in his ear as the suit spun in a lazy circle, in and out of the clouds, making it hard to comprehend what was happening for the first few seconds after he became aware of it.
“Alright, sir?” J.A.R.V.I.S. confirmed as he rose back to a comfortable flight altitude that would keep them away from most aircraft they might come across.
“Uh huh,” Tony replied. “If I start falling asleep again, just give me a shock or something.”
“There is no such function in the suit, sir.”
Tony blinked, wishing he could rub his eyes, but he needed his hands for steering. “This is going to be a very long flight.”
“Would you like to watch a movie?” J.A.R.V.I.S. asked.
It wasn’t a half-bad idea. “Queue up my music video list. Make it loud.”
“Resuming playlist at default settings.”
Another post-battle flight home taught Tony a few unpleasant lessons:
One, loud noises didn’t cut it when sleep deprivation was too steep; it just made falling asleep more unpleasant.
Two, there were effective methods to pull him out of that deep slumber – but they fucking hurt.
Mark IV had taken a beating in the fight, but Tony had decided it was intact enough to take him home – which it was. He could feel a draft around his right calf, but the oxygen levels had remained in the safe zone so he had decided to push on after takeoff. How else was he going to get home? It wasn’t as if there was an airline service for banged-up superheroes.
It was somewhere over the Atlantic when he grew aware of his mind drifting and concentrated again on the loud music and light –a distraction to keep his brain from slipping into a stupor.
Obviously it wasn’t enough because he woke up some time later at a painful zap of electricity climbing up his right leg.
“Ouch!” he yelled reflexively and kicked – which sent the suit spinning and his insides into vertigo. It took an instant before he got himself and the armor under control again and realigned his body into a proper flying pose. “What was that?” he demanded breathlessly.
“A wake-up call,” his AI informed him.
Tony had expected an explanation of how the suit was malfunctioning and a countdown before it would drop him to his death – not a half-assed confession from J.A.R.V.I.S. that he had just purposefully electrocuted him. “Why would you do that?” Tony complained, itching to touch his leg that was still smarting and throbbing in a very unpleasant way.
“Last time you fell asleep in the suit, you told me to shock you. However, it was impossible at the time, but the exposed wires in Mark IV’s current condition enabled me to give you a controlled dose –”
Tony knew he had brought this upon himself, because J.A.R.V.I.S. never forgot; he just elected to ignore, occasionally, but one should not mistake it for anything but willing dismissal.
“Next time, a smaller zap will do,” Tony noted dryly, feeling wide awake for the time being. Since that had been the point of getting zapped in the first place, he could hardly complain, but the tingling pain in his leg suggested otherwise.
His palladium-ravaged body didn’t handle weariness and sleep-deprivation like it used to. That didn’t mean Tony didn’t push himself to and past the limit, finding ways to keep himself going – for the sake of keeping up appearances of health he no longer possessed and to prove to himself he was not dead yet.
Long flights in the suit offered him a unique level of privacy, however: no one was going to walk in on him taking an impromptu nap, and there were minimal distractions. With the flight plan laid out across the HUD and J.A.R.V.I.S. running things smoothly, by now used to taking control when Tony needed it, he could freely doze off.
Sleeping in the armor was uncomfortable, in part because it hadn’t been designed for that. His limbs were needed for maneuvering, but when he was tired enough, he would not wake up even as his arms and legs were pulled slightly to the side to adjust direction or altitude. Most of the fine-controls didn’t require for him to move at all anymore, and there was a point where the vibrations were transformed from a distraction to a lulling effect.
J.A.R.V.I.S. had ways to wake him up if he needed to, but Tony had found that the further his sickness progressed, the more independent the AI grew: he would make choices on his own that were easily within his understanding, not bothering Tony if he was resting.
While it was a trait Tony felt a bit uncertain about, J.A.R.V.I.S. showed him the log of all his actions the moment he woke up and didn’t take many liberties that Tony would have had something to say about.
Tony let it go and may have even begun to encourage, seeing as there was no cure in sight and he wanted at least one of his creations to be able to fend for themselves – and have the power and foresight to secure the armors once he was gone.
Those thoughts tended to make his sleep uneasy and he often wished J.A.R.V.I.S. could have had the ability to tell when his dreams transformed into plain old nightmares and jerk him out of it…
Most people knew Tony had always enjoyed constructing things, from electronic components to engines, smart weapons and standing structures. Buildings were not his strong suit, but he had already built his house in Malibu, and with added age and experience, helping with the construction of Stark Tower in New York City was a breeze.
A tiring breeze, with his constant flights across the continent between the City of Angels and the Big Apple and the added hauling of building materials with his suit, which helped to speed the construction of the Tower by months.
With Pepper so involved with the project, Tony couldn’t appear tired on the job or she would have demanded changes and changes meant slower progress.
Like when still struggling with the palladium poisoning, Tony once again took to the habit of sleeping en-route to his destination, safely cocooned in his suit and guided by J.A.R.V.I.S.’s capable – albeit virtual – hands.
Tony had increased the suit’s comfort aspects over the years, and while the armor wasn’t anything like the comfort of his own bed, he had grown accustomed to its noises and constant vibrations, sleeping fairly well.
There were a few awkward times when Rhodey called him mid-snooze and insinuated he was drunk – mostly because that was the likelier option and he had already used ‘Were you sleeping?’ as the opening joke when Tony responded.
Why people found it so hard to believe he could sleep in the suit, he was not sure.
He did plenty of other things in it, too…
J.A.R.V.I.S. was shouting as they neared Rose Hill, Tennessee. For how long the AI had tried to wake him up, Tony didn’t know, but the shrill tone in J.A.R.V.I.S.’s usually cool, unfazed delivery was a firm indication that it’d been a while.
Tony wasn’t sleeping so much as he was unconscious from almost drowning in the suit, but waking up was just as jarring, only further complicated by the fact that Mark 42 was out of juice and crashing.
It was like coming to from a dream where you were falling, but instead of just the sickening sensation in one’s gut, this was swiftly turning into reality and it was Tony’s turn to shout as the suit finally made contact with the ground, frozen solid beneath a layer of snow, that did nothing to soften the blow.
The sleepless period had lasted almost long enough to give J.A.R.V.I.S. the incentive to interfere. There was no actual guideline to follow when it came to executing that protocol, so J.A.R.V.I.S. was left to follow his own judgment when it came to making the call to act.
Luckily, Tony tired before it became necessary to prompt him to get rest.
It was not the most ideal situation: Tony had been in the middle of constructing his newest armor – the first since he made the decision to destroy his suits in Miami. Pulling manically long hours was nothing new to him, especially after he returned from his captivity in Afghanistan, as well as in the aftermath of his battle against the Chitauri; Tony had been stretching himself thin for days until he just promptly fell asleep – right on top of the armor he had been working on.
With the bots tasked elsewhere, mostly to keep them out of Tony’s way, it took a while before DUM-E and U reacted to the new development and rolled over. They were silent about it, save for questioning the situation with low beeps.
Lying on top of an armor did not equal a bed, but Tony had been dodging his need to rest and J.A.R.V.I.S. felt compelled to let him sleep, even though it could not be comfortable.
Then again, Tony did sleep in the armor fairly often…
“DUM-E, find a blanket. Let us at least make him comfortable while we can,” J.A.R.V.I.S. finally ordered out loud.
The bot immediately sprang into action, almost running into a table in its haste to follow the directions. DUM-E did manage to retrieve a blanket without a noisy incident, though, and U moved to aid the other bot in spreading the blanket evenly over their sleeping creator. If there had been a way to place a pillow under Tony’s head, they would have done that, too, but prompting Tony to move might have awakened him, and knowing his creator, J.A.R.V.I.S. calculated it was better to let him sleep rather than try and reason with Tony that there would be no point in continuing his work when he had already fallen asleep once, and that it did not count as a nap.
In their limited wisdom, the bots must have realized the same and drew back to settle down and enter sleep mode.
J.A.R.V.I.S. remained, always awake, always alert, having learned from their confrontation with AIM that he did not like the alternative – especially not when the suit Tony was sleeping on was still far from complete and could not be used to protect him if the need arose.