Title: False Alarm
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Iron Man (MCU)
Timeline: pre-Iron Man (pre-J.A.R.V.I.S.)
Genre: Fluff, family
Rating: K+ / FRC
Characters: James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Tony Stark, Tony’s bots (DUM-E and U)
Summary: Tony turns his back for a minute and something catches fire. Fire means smoke, which makes for a need to vacate the premises until said smoke has cleared. Presented with a perfect opportunity to go grab a burger or two – and apparently turn some heads while he’s at it – Tony earns himself another ‘I told you not to do that’ speech from Rhodey.
Complete. Part of “Genius, AI & Bots” series.
Warnings: Language, unsafe workshop practices, mild danger (fire hazard).
Disclaimer: Iron Man and Marvel Cinematic Universe, including characters and everything else, belong to Marvel, Marvel Studios, Jon Favreau, and Paramount 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.
Tony had known that taking a bathroom break during that particular phase of the experiment was ill-advised, but his bladder had been full and he hadn’t thought stepping out for two minutes would actually cause any problems.
He was in the bathroom, just zipping up, when one of the bots screeched and banged against something – sounds which were promptly followed by an explosion. Smoke was slithering in under the doorjamb even before Tony turned and rushed back into the workshop.
“Crap!” he shouted, smelling something burning. Not that he had expected anything less with all the smoke.
The stress test had been going well until he took his eyes off it, and now he waded through the thick concoction in the air, trying to find his way back to the correct work table.
He ran into one of the bots while he was still headed there, stumbling and almost falling over. The bot whirred and turned, trying to get out of the way, inadvertently making it harder for Tony to get past the obstacle.
“You, turn off the power!” he ordered, knowing the bots knew where the closest switch was. “Dummy, don’t –”
He tasted the foam almost before it hit him, and the bot he had ran into moved away, leaving him sputtering under a fresh coating of fire retardant from an industrial-grade fire extinguisher.
Tony sighed and pushed most of it off his face, to clear his eyes at least. You must have located the emergency power-off switch, and Dummy had directed the spray at the actual point of origin of the fire.
“You, open a few windows,” Tony ordered, then moved to take the fire extinguisher from Dummy. “I’ve got this.” The bot held onto it for a bit longer, then relinquished his hold with a soft whirr. “Go help You with the windows,” Tony told the bot as he headed out to make sure nothing was on fire anymore. The messy floor threatened to pull his feet right out from underneath him, and he gave the engine a few more spurts of foam for good measure before accepting it wasn’t going to spontaneously combust once he turned his back to it.
Airing out the workshop was going to take some time, and he could already feel the smoke burning in his lungs. Helping the bots to open a few more windows and adjusting the AC, Tony wiped most of the foam on a towel and headed upstairs. He could smell smoke even there, though, and the food he had ordered and set down on the counter a few hours ago would no doubt have a very smoky flavor at this point.
Deciding that he might as well get out of the house while the smoke was clearing, he grabbed his car keys and stepped outside, breathing in the fresh air even as it threatened to send him into a coughing fit. One of his cars was parked in front of the house from last night – blissfully smoke-free – and he jumped in and slipped on his sunglasses, then started the engine and sped down the driveway and onto the PCH.
He drove to a nearby In-N-Out he had liked to frequent every now and then while still working on building the house. It was going to offer a quick fix to his hunger, and he might even go as far as getting his food to go so he could enjoy it along with the view of the Pacific Ocean from the balcony of his house.
As he walked into the restaurant, he was aware of the looks he was garnering. He guessed it was the car, which was flashier than any other vehicle parked in the lot. People liked to stare, even when they thought they were being covert about it; Tony had lived in the limelight all his life, so he was used to it.
He slid his sunglasses up to his forehead to look at the menu, then spotted the staff starting at him as well. Tony offered them a quick, casual smile. In Malibu, spotting the odd celebrity or two was nothing out of the ordinary, but he supposed he was filling this joint’s daily quota all on his own. Deciding to let them stare, he went on picking items for his order.
“Sir?” one of the burger flippers asked cautiously. He was about Tony’s age, so there was no reason to say ‘sir’, but Tony looked at him indulgently anyway. “Are you okay?” the guy went on, still looking at him as if he had never seen anyone like Tony Stark.
“I’m fine, thanks,” Tony said, then stepped forward and started to rattle off his order.
The guy blinked rapidly a couple times, then mumbled something and asked for Tony to start from the beginning, all the while acting distracted and asking him to repeat his order way too many times for it to be appropriate. He was really making an ass of himself if he was that star-struck or something, but Tony supposed the least he could do was to tip the poor guy once he got his food.
While he sat down to wait, he noticed people were still staring at him. It was also oddly quiet, like everyone was holding their breath, and it was really giving Tony a strange vibe. What was going on? Had he walked into the middle of a robbery or something? He could almost cut the uneasy tension with a knife.
A moment later a cop car pulled up in front of the restaurant, then another – then an ambulance. Tony watched with interest, wondering if someone had suffered a heart attack or something just prior to his arrival, but there was no indication of that. Maybe they were just here for a burger, even though leaving their vehicles parked in the driveway like that was just plain rude, blocking the entrance and most of the parking lot.
The cops walked in first, followed by two EMTs. The latter were carrying their bags, so maybe there was a patient in need of help somewhere in the restaurant. Tony turned his head to look for one, but could see nothing – other than the people still staring at him.
“Sir,” the first cop approached him tentatively. They were all headed towards him.
“Is there a problem?” Tony asked.
“Are you alright?” the cop asked.
“Yeah,” Tony replied. “Just waiting for my order.”
“Care to tell us where you’ve been lately, son?” another one of the cops asked. He was older, hence calling Tony ‘son’ was apparently appropriate in his eyes. Tony didn’t care for it.
“What’s it to you?” Tony asked.
“Are you hurt?” one of the EMTs asked, looking him up and down.
“No, I’m fine,” Tony replied, and took a look to see what was so damn weird that everyone kept staring at him even now – and noticed that his clothes were covered in smoke stains and remnants of the fire extinguisher foam. “Huh,” he noted, then looked for a reflective surface. He located a narrow mirror on a wall by the registers and walked over, coming face to face with a reflection covered in dirt, his hair sticking up wildly with a mix of sweat, foam and soot, and eyes red with irritation.
It was suddenly very clear why everyone had been staring at him.
Another car pulled into the parking lot, tires screeching. Tony, the cops, EMTs and most of the staff and restaurant customers looked up just in time to see James Rhodes bursting out of the car bearing an Edwards Air Base logo on one of its doors and then rushing inside, his eyes bulging a bit as he took in Tony’s appearance.
“I thought they were joking when they called,” Rhodey said as he moved over. “What the hell, Tony?!”
“An accident at the shop. No big deal. Apparently I should have washed and changed before leaving the house,” he admitted, giving his reflection another glance.
“You think?” Rhodey snapped rather loudly.
“Are you sure you’re not hurt?” the EMT asked again.
“Yeah,” Tony waved him off.
“You smell,” Rhodey stated, nose scrunching up.
“Can’t tell,” Tony shrugged.
“We should probably check you for smoke inhalation, just in case,” the EMT pressed.
“Was there a fire?” Rhodey asked.
“More like a lot of smoke from a teensy little flame. Clearly the engine didn’t pass the stress test, which I probably should have predicted, but I was kind of hopeful after the last few tweaks –”
Rhodey was getting that pinched look on his face that Tony had been familiar with since MIT. “Let’s have these nice people take a look at you. Outside,” he added, taking a look at the other customers.
“I’m waiting for my food,” Tony protested.
“We’ll get it once we’re done,” Rhodey said and reached out, probably to bodily drag Tony out the door, but then he hesitated, looking at his smoky clothes and considering his finely pressed uniform. In the end, Rhodey decided to simply gesture at Tony to get his point across.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Tony told the cops and EMTs, but they didn’t look impressed by his explanation. “Happens all the time,” Tony added – which didn’t win him any favors either.
“Haven’t I told you a dozen times to clean up after making a mess?” Rhodey complained as they walked out.
“I was hungry, my food was not the kind that takes well to extra smokiness, and I honestly didn’t look in the mirror before leaving,” Tony explained.
“Go with these people and let them examine you,” Rhodey ordered. “I’ll talk to the cops and get them to… not want a statement.”
“Why would they want a statement?” Tony asked, puzzled.
“Because you look like you just burned down a house or something,” Rhodey pointed out.
“That’s not even logical!” Tony called after him. “I have fire retardant foam all over me! How is that beneficial to acts of pyromania?”
Rhodey just glared at him, so Tony declared himself the sole winner of the argument.
“This way, sir,” one of the EMTs said, and Tony supposed he might as well go with the flow because Rhodey didn’t look like he was going to let Tony go home with his dinner until he had been checked, and his lungs were a bit itchy.
The quick tests didn’t show any immediate danger, and he was instructed to seek his doctor’s counsel should he start experiencing any complications. By then Rhodey had convinced the cops to leave this alone and was standing by the doors of the ambulance, looking grim.
“All’s well that ends well,” Tony told him as he stepped down.
Rhodey just grunted.
The door of the restaurant opened, the clerk poking his head out, carrying a large bag of food. “Do you still want your order, sir?” he called out.
“Yes, please,” Tony smiled. “Just set them down on the ground,” he instructed and slipped the guy a fifty, then picked up his food and headed for his car.
Rhodey was still glaring at him.
“Burgers at my place?” Tony offered.
“Your place that was just on fire?” Rhodey raised an eyebrow.
“Just the shop, and it’s been airing out all this time. Besides, I was thinking of an ocean view from the balcony.”
“Fine,” Rhodey sighed like martyr, but he probably wanted to come by and see that Tony wasn’t leaving anything out of his story. “I was going to eat lunch in town anyway, while running errands. You’re buying the food, though.”
Tony lifted the bag, which had plenty for both of them, and then got into his car to lead the way. He chose to drive home with the top down because the car had a bit of a smoky odor, to be honest, and it would be less of a fuss to clean up later if he mitigated the damage now.
The way Rhodey looked at him when he drove out of the parking lot told Tony the other man knew exactly what he was doing.
After all, it wasn’t like it was the first time, although no one had gone as far as calling the cops on him before.
It was going to be a hell of a story to tell one day.