Warnings/Notes: WIP, spoilers for Iron Man II as this is set during the events of the movie, gen friendship with background het.
Character(s): Tony Stark, Methos, Ezra Standish, Pepper Potts, Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, Natasha Romanoff/Natalie Rushman, James 'Rhodey' Rhodes, Justin Hammer, Original Characters.
Summary: Their whole world changed when Tony revealed he was Iron Man, but that wasn't nearly the end of it.
The adrenaline pumping through her body made her feel almost ill. She was the one used to fighting for her life; having to watch her mortal best friend battle an enemy in the middle of a Monte Carlo street was not part of the deal.
"Tony—" she ran to him, ruthlessly shoving aside anyone who thought they might stop her, Methos close behind "—oh my God, Tony, are you okay? Are you hurt?" She took his face in her hands, needing to reassure herself that he was all right. He was battered, bruised, the Iron Man armour nearly in tatters on his body. "I'm sorry you had to fight alone, that I couldn't get here fast enough." She was still breathing hard from her run to where the battle had taken place. "Dear God, Tony, please tell me you're okay."
"I'm fine." Then he gripped her arms so hard it hurt, pulling her hands away from him. "Pepper, go, take care of Pepper. Take Happy, get Rushman to deal with the press."
"Tony," she objected. "I can't leave you here by yourself. Please don't ask me to."
"I'm asking, Birdie, the only one I can count on. Do it!" he said fiercely.
She found herself nodding despite herself. She'd do anything for him, he knew that, was counting on it, even if it meant she did it against her better judgment.
"I'll stay with him." Methos said quietly next to her. "Go on, love, it'll be fine."
She looked up at him, gratitude in her eyes. Not so long ago, she would have never dreamed that Methos would be there, supporting her, when it came to Tony. She would never have the words for what it meant to her in this moment. "Thank you," she whispered. "Take care of him."
"I will, now go. Do as he asks."
Nodding, she spared one last look for the chaos behind them, the man who had attacked Tony, the mass of security, police, and paparazzi. She turned away, to where Pepper was still sitting in the nearly destroyed Rolls, Happy standing guard.
Reaching the car, she pushed aside the emotions that came with scared and worried best friend, letting the woman she had been come to the fore, steadying her, keeping her focused on the threat that might still exist. "We need to get you out of here, Virginia. There's no way to know if this was an isolated incident or part of some larger attack."
She started to object, just like Charlotte had, but Happy stopped her. "She's right Ms. Potts; we need to do as she says, what the boss wants."
"Matthew'll stay with him, but Tony wants you away from the scene."
Pepper just hung her head, her freckles standing out sharply against the paleness of her face.
"Come on, Ms. Potts," Happy said gently, holding out a hand.
Charlotte thought she'd refuse, but Pepper took Happy's hand, letting him help her from the car. Surrounded by a phalanx of security, the small group made their way under the stands, running into Natalie headed to the track.
"Ms. Rushman." Charlotte halted the young woman's progress with an upraised hand. "Get Pepper back to the hotel, no press, do you understand?"
Natalie nodded, not really paying attention, looking past Charlotte towards the scene.
"Ms. Rushman!" Charlotte snapped. "Did you understand me?"
Natalie looked at her sharply, and for a moment, Charlotte saw a flash of something, then it was gone. "Ma'am, yes, I'll get Miss Potts back to the hotel."
"Thank you," she said. "Let's get going then."
As they walked, Charlotte fell a bit behind, keeping a rearguard, eyes searching the area as they passed. She pulled her cell from her purse, knowing she had to make a call; she'd promised Nicholas, even if that promise set her teeth on edge now. The phone ringing in her hand at the same time startled her, a sign of how edgy she was.
"Talk to me," she heard Agent Coulson's voice in her ear.
"What makes you think I have anything to say?" she asked with a bite. She may have promised, but she didn't have to like it, or make it easy.
"You're at ground zero, the closest asset we have on the ground. I know you have plenty to say." Coulson sounded more amused than anything at her mood.
Relenting, after all, it wasn't Coulson she had issues with, she said, "I think this was personal, isolated, not part of a larger attack. The guy looked like he lived on the streets, covered in prison tattoos, Russian, I think. That's just my gut though, I have no concrete intel."
"I think I'd take your gut over a dozen analysts any day, ma'am."
Despite everything, Charlotte laughed. "Such a flatterer."
"I hear that a lot." She could hear the smirk. "Stark?"
"He's ambulatory, still at the scene. This is going to be a PR nightmare, especially after the Senate hearing." She couldn't keep the trepidation out of her voice.
"It'll be managed; one way or the other."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"Thank you for taking my call, ma'am."
"Just so we're clear, if it had been your boss, I would have probably hung up."
"He knew that." The phone went dead.
"I just bet he did," Charlotte muttered to herself as she hurried to catch up with the rest.
They got Pepper to the suite without further incident, Ezra meeting them there. "Tony?" he asked Charlotte, the worry plain in his face.
"He's okay, doesn't seem to have any serious injuries. Matthew stayed with him."
"Shaking like a leaf," she replied with an uneasy laugh. "Where's Amanda?"
"Mingling, keeping her ear to the ground," Ezra said, handing her a drink.
Nodding, she took a swallow of the whisky, striving for calm.
"How could you let him?" Pepper demanded angrily from behind her. Turning to her, Charlotte winced at the anger on her friend's face. "Why didn't you tell me what he was planning? I could have stopped him. He could have been killed! Did that even occur to you?"
It would have been easy to respond to Pepper's attack with anger of her own, but she knew Pepper was scared and that she was the most convenient target. "Virginia, I couldn't tell you because I had no idea what Tony was planning when we left. He said we were going down to check out the car before the race—something we do every year," she said emphasizing the normality of the situation. "It wasn't till we were down in the pit, I was talking to a reporter, and Tony used that distraction to slip away. Next thing I knew he was getting into the damn car!" She swallowed down a lump in her throat. "You know I'd do anything to protect Tony, but I can't protect him from himself—neither of us can!"
Pepper took a shaky breath, nodding. Charlotte held out the glass in her hand, offering her drink, which Pepper took, downing the remaining contents in one swallow. "I'm sorry; I had no right to be angry with you. It's just…."
Charlotte drew Pepper into her arms, holding her tight. "I know, Virginia, believe me, I know." She felt her tremble, and then Pepper was crying. "It's going to be okay."
Pepper pulled away, wiping at her eyes, Ezra taking the empty glass and handing her a handkerchief. "I'm sorry for falling apart like this."
"Don't be stupid. You had a harrowing experience."
"Anyone would have been terrified at what happened," Ezra said, placing a comforting hand on Pepper's back.
"We'll get through this," Charlotte told her.
Pepper sank into a nearby chair. "I'm not so sure we will."
Tony and Methos had finally arrived back at the hotel, surrounded by security. Tony hadn't said a word, heading straight for the bar, pouring and drinking two bourbons in quick succession. Finally, he turned towards them, his eyes seeking out Pepper. But she just shook her head, turning away, a hand pressed against
In the strained silence, Charlotte walked up to Tony, noting the many injuries he'd sustained in the battle. Her fingers reached out to lie gently next to a cut along his collar bone. "You're hurt, Tony, we should get you cleaned up."
He pushed her hand away. "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather have the guy who's the actual doctor take care of it." He looked over at Methos, dismissing Charlotte. "You got this?"
Methos looked at Charlotte sympathetically, who drew back sharply, as if she'd been slapped. "Sure."
"That's really nice, Tony," Pepper snapped, jumping from her seat, glaring daggers at him. She walked over to Charlotte, taking her arm, "Come on, let's get some air."
Charlotte still hadn't said a word, but the hurt at Tony's callous words was evident all over her face. She looked at Tony one last time before nodding and letting Pepper draw her away.
Shaking his head at his friend's behaviour, Ezra said, "That was uncalled for, Tony."
Tony grimaced. "I've never been a gentleman, Ez. That's your department."
Ezra threw his hands up in exasperation, following Pepper and Charlotte out to the balcony.
"Shall we?" Methos indicated the bedroom with a wave of his arm. "See if you can get me a decent first aid kit," he instructed Natalie, who had just reentered the suite.
Walking into the bedroom, he pulled out a chair from the desk. "Sit," he said to Tony. Looking at him speculatively, he chuckled. "You know, it's amazing you have any friends at all, the way you treat them."
"And she'll forgive you, just like she always does." Methos pulled the edges of Tony's shirt from his chest; his fingers tracing the pattern of the Palladium poisoning that marked the skin. "You didn't want her to see this."
"You know I didn't," Tony replied harshly.
"It's getting worse, Stark. You need to tell Charlotte, tell Pepper. Charlotte's already suspicious, your latest abominable behaviour notwithstanding."
"You promised you wouldn't tell her," Tony reminded him.
"And I won't, but that doesn't mean I don’t think they both deserve to know the truth."
"No, not yet."
"Then when? When you're in hospital? Or maybe you'd rather wait till they get the autopsy results," he said brutally.
"You don't get it!" He chopped his hand in the air. "I want them to focus on living, on the future, not on me dying!"
"You're wrong, Stark, I do get it. But believe me when I tell you they won't. They will never understand—" Methos squeezed his arm "—let alone forgive you. Don't make them stand at your grave in bitterness, Tony. Don't do that to them, or to yourself."
This entry was originally posted at http://ithildin.dreamwidth.org/4005094.html. Please comment here or there.