Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Iron Man (MCU)
Timeline: post-Iron Man 3
Genre: Angst, hurt/comfort
Rating: K+ / FRC
Characters: J.A.R.V.I.S., Pepper Potts, Tony Stark (Iron Man), Tony’s bots (DUM-E and U)
Summary: Tony may have been in a state of shock when A.I.M. attacked his home and swept the pieces to the bottom of the ocean. That is why certain memories of the attack became buried underneath layers of stress – only to raise their ugly heads later, when things had sufficiently calmed down.
Complete. Part of “Genius, AI & Bots” series.
Inspired by: This set of panels from a book called Marvel’s Iron Man 3: The Art of the Movie (pages 92 and 93).
Warnings: Repressed memories appearing in a nightmare, canonical violence, fear of death & loss, language.
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)
About Repression: As stated above, this story is based on a storyboard that wasn’t fully brought to the big screen (and the parts that were included are painful, to say the least). Part of me is glad to have these few lines cut from the final product because I was already heartbroken in this scene and would have no doubt been bawling like a baby in the theater had they actually included that exchange between Tony and Dummy.
But, as my brain would have it, I cannot let go of the idea that it did happen – and Tony’s just blocking it out (seeing as ‘Iron Man 3’ is pretty much his narration of the events).
So, here, take this story, along with all the feels and angst and the mild horror of losing a part of one’s family – even though most wouldn’t consider them that.
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.
The explosion flashes behind him, the chopper smashing into the side of the building as it spins out of control, rotors damaged. The suit is thrust forward by the force of it, crashing to the broken floor and slipping down into a crack forming between two halves of the building torn apart by gravity.
His grip is too weak to hold on and he crashes into the workshop that is already tilting dangerously towards the awaiting waves.
Everything is starting to shift, the angle deepening.
He grips a beam to stabilize himself, eyes moving towards the end of the room where his first seven suits stand in their display windows.
An indicator flashes on the HUD, signaling that the suit has almost reached the requirements for sustained flight.
“Wait,” he croaks. “The suits. J.A.R.V.I.S., how’s deep storage?”
He has to prioritize, to think ahead – to make sure…
“Unaffected and unexposed, sir,” the AI replies.
The relief he feels is minimal and in his grip the beam he’s holding onto shivers. Everything’s shivering.
“Okay. Blow ’em,” he orders and looks up at the suits, knowing it will hurt more but he needs to see this to the end.
One by one the suits explode in brilliant flashes of flames, too quick to reminisce – too slow to be painless. He winces at the loss that could never be measured in dollar bills – then hears a bleep from behind him that tears his burning eyes away a second after Mark I ignites from the inside.
Keeping one hand on the beam he struggles to look around, body freezing for long seconds as he takes in the scene: Dummy bending over, resisting the pull of gravity as the building keeps tilting further. On the floor, beneath a shattered column, lies You’s body, mangled and unmoving.
“Is he okay?” he asks, hoping he just has a poor viewing angle and that it looks worse than it is. He fears the answer all the same because there’s not a single beep from You, and then Dummy looks at him and shakes his arm –
Another missile hits its mark and the foundations let go.
The house breaks apart, finalizing the destruction, Dummy’s shrill cry dying in the noise of the final collision with water –
Tony stirred with a choked cry stuck in his throat, his body so tense he could barely draw breath. For a second he felt like he was still falling, his brain teetering back and forth between sleep and wakefulness.
The sensation dissipated soon enough.
What did not disappear was the sense of loss and helplessness, his mind’s eye replaying the details frantically, over and over: You’s broken body, Dummy’s negative response, all of them tumbling into the watery abyss.
He wished to forget those images, but his mind clung to them, forcing him to digest the information.
Part of him accepted it as nothing but a new nightmare – one that hopefully wouldn’t be making any future appearances; once was quite enough.
“Sir?” J.A.R.V.I.S. asked softly – meaning that Tony’s reaction to the dream was visible to others besides himself.
Needing to get away from the looming shadow of his dream, Tony levered himself upright on the bed and climbed out, limbs shaking. He hadn’t felt this shaky since the operation in Hong Kong; Extremis had stabilized his physiological shortcomings, lifting him a step above normal human ailments.
“Tony?” Pepper murmured, lifting her head from the pillow. “What’s wrong?” She looked and sounded like she was half asleep still, ready to lie back down if Tony told her to.
He couldn’t speak, fleeing from the bedroom like it was on fire, leaving Pepper to sit up in confusion.
The elevator was a few hallways away – a distance he crossed running. He hit the call button as soon as it was within reach, his heart beating fast as he waited for the elevator to reach his floor.
“Mr. Stark?” a voice called out, hesitant.
Tony’s head whipped around, his body stiffening, expecting an attack. What he saw instead was a man from the Stark Industries cleaning crew, standing in the deserted hallway with a cleaning cart beside him, staring at Tony in obvious confusion.
The elevator arrived and Tony stepped inside without bothering to reply, repeatedly jabbing at the number of the floor where his workshop was situated. Anxiety sat tight in his chest on the ride downstairs; on the R&D floor, his bare feet carried him hurriedly to the set of locked doors leading to his private area.
“J.A.R.V.I.S., let me in,” Tony said, pushing at the doors until they unlocked, admitting him inside.
“Sir,” the AI spoke up once he was on the other side of the doors, “is something the matter?”
Tony’s eyes frantically searched the space, dimly lit for the time being. “Where are the bots?” he asked, padding into the middle of the room. He shivered, the briefs and tank top doing very little to keep him warm.
A bleep greeted him and Dummy rolled around a corner, You following soon after.
“Were you sleeping?” Tony asked, trying to sound like he disapproved.
Dummy clearly explained something to him, in a series of sounds, but Tony’s eyes began to blur just then, his hands reaching out to touch the bots as they came close enough, fingers clutching desperately at sturdy metal. He felt marginally better, having established contact, warmth returning to his being.
“Sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S. prompted again. “What is wrong?”
“Nothing,” Tony managed, but he knew the AI didn’t mean his question like that. “A dream,” he elaborated, then shook his head and squeezed his fingers a little tighter against You’s body. “Not a dream,” he murmured.
“What else could it have been?” the AI mused.
“A memory,” Tony decided. He knew, deep down, that those images were not just some souped-up version of what had happened. “My brain blocked it out since it wasn’t necessary for survival, but I think Extremis picked it up again, now that things have calmed down…” He didn’t feel calm, at all.
His eyes fell on You, his gaze meeting that of the lenses that served as the bot’s eyes. Reconstructed and rebuilt from the wreck he pulled from the bottom of the ocean…
His lips trembled, just a little, and if he hadn’t known better Tony would have assumed he was having a severe allergic reaction to something because it was extremely hard to swallow all of a sudden.
You beeped, rolling an inch closer, and Dummy did the same, claws lightly nipping at Tony’s bare shoulder.
“Never again,” Tony whispered and leaned his temple on Dummy’s arm.
“Sir, Miss Potts is headed downstairs.”
Tony nodded distractedly. He knew he had to explain this to Pepper, somehow, but he knew better than to bring up Extremis so soon after he had gotten hers under control. He also knew they would both rather forget that day when his home was blown to bits and Pepper went around for several hours thinking he was dead.
The doors opened softly and Tony heard Pepper walk in. She wasn’t wearing her usual high heels but something softer. Tony turned his head and watched her walk closer, dressed in a silk robe and those soft, furry slippers Tony hadn’t been sure were a good gift and which she almost never wore.
“You’re still here,” Pepper mused.
“Where else?” Tony asked.
“I thought maybe you got called away on a mission,” she stated, then hesitated. Her eyes checked the sections of the workshop where Tony’s current suits were locked away. All of them remained firmly closed. “Did you have a bad dream?” she asked then.
“Something like that,” Tony admitted.
Pepper nodded and moved closer, taking in the scene. Tony wasn’t sure how he looked – probably like a mess, because that’s how he felt.
The bots moved, just a little, but Tony didn’t let go of them and so they hovered, You’s arm dropping to rest the clawed end of its arm against his hip while Dummy remained at his arm, touching his neck gently.
Something must have dawned on Pepper: her expression became fond and sad all at once, yet she didn’t dare pity him.
Instead of standing there awkwardly or leaving him to sort it out, Pepper walked the rest of the way over to them and leaned against Tony’s back, carefully sliding her arms around his waist and chest, not disturbing his connection with the bots.
“We’re all okay,” she whispered against the back of his neck, kissing a spot just below the hairline. “We’re all safe and here with you.”
Tony wasn’t sure if that was what he needed in order to purge his mind of the horrible images, but for the time being it did the trick. His heart calmed down, body clock indicating there was still time to get some sleep, yet he did not want to go back upstairs to those sweaty sheets.
“I think I’m going to sleep here for the rest of tonight,” he told Pepper, giving her a cautious look.
There were a dozen bad ways she could take that statement – rejection and stubbornness being very high on the list. She pursed her lips, considering his words, then nodded. “Alright – but only if you let me stay with you.”
Tony blinked in shock. Pepper never wanted to sleep in his workshop, or even take a nap there. The couch was not a bed, after all, and Pepper didn’t believe in mixing rest with work areas. That she wanted to be here tonight was something unexpected and Tony wasn’t sure what she thought he was going through if she considered hanging around.
“Okay,” he agreed, knowing he couldn’t exactly refuse her either.
The bots jumped into action, finding blankets and rearranging pillows. Tony eventually shooed them away from the couch, properly arranging the blankets, then nervously looked at Pepper, not at all seeking approval but glad to find it on her face anyway.
Pepper very neatly folded her robe and placed her fluffy slippers next to the couch, then slid onto the couch and waited for Tony to join her. He did just that, instantly realizing that the space was too confined for either of them to be truly comfortable, but Pepper shifted and found a good position, flush against his body, and Tony supposed comfort hadn’t been the goal in the first place; he listened to Pepper breathe while the bots moved around, the lights dimming around them, and for a moment Tony felt impervious to any memories his mind might attempt to conjure up to torment him.
“Sleep,” Pepper murmured – and Tony did, not even waking up once before Pepper got up in the morning to go to the bathroom, all the while complaining about the cool floors because the bots had taken her slippers somewhere and she refused to come out of the bathroom until Tony had found them again.
Tony opted to do that later and instead picked her up, carrying her back to their room before she could complain she was late for work because of him.