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12 June 2008 @ 11:37 pm
'Real Friends Buy You In-N-Out' (01/01)  
I did it again. More Iron Man ficagge. This is a prequel to 'Practical Applications' and is all angsty and broody. I've discovered there's a tired to angst ratio when I write. And I was really tired. The wine probably didn't help either. I'll probably regret posting it in the morning. But for now...

Characters: Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, Charlotte Sparrow
Notes: PG15, implied Tony/Pepper, prequel to 'Practical Applications'.
Summary: It's been a week since Tony's been back home and a concerned Pepper calls in reinforcements.

'Echoes the Sea' series summary can be found here.

'Real Friends Buy You In-N-Out'

“I’m really glad you’re here.” Strain and worry were evident in Pepper’s eyes.

Charlotte Sparrow hugged the young woman. “I would have come sooner, but I figured he had enough on his plate as it was and didn’t need anyone else hovering over him.”

“He’s my boss, so I can only hover so much, you know? He’s just been…. I’m worried about him,” she finally admitted. The other woman nodded sympathetically. “But you’re his friend, and so far, the only one who hasn’t ticked him off.”

“Just give me time, Virginia,” she said with a smile. “Is he in the workshop?” Charlotte glanced at the stairs.

“Yeah, I’ll take you down.”

“No need, I have a code. You go home and get an early night for once, okay?”

Pepper looked worried. “Are you sure?”

“Perfectly. It’s all right. I can handle Tony, trust me.” She took Pepper by the shoulders, turning her around. “Go home, get some rest. Tomorrow is another day.”


Charlotte paused at the bottom of the stairs, looking through the glass doors. Tony hadn’t even noticed her, so involved in whatever it was he was working on – some sort of robot leg, it looked like. He was far too pale, and had an air of fragility that frightened her. This wasn’t the Tony, self-confident and cocky, that she’d known the last six years. Never had he seemed so…mortal. From the first night they’d met, he’d always been larger than life, instantly seizing a place in her heart that would be his till the day he died. Now all she wanted to do was protect him from the world.

Taking a deep breath, she tapped her security code into the touch panel imbedded in the glass, the door whooshing open. Even that didn’t attract his attention. Stepping farther into the workshop, the heels of her boots tapping against the concrete floor, Charlotte approached his workstation.

His attention still totally on whatever it was he was working on, he said, “Took you long enough to show up, Birdie. I was beginning to think you didn’t care.” Tony shot her a look before once again concentrating on the task at hand.

Jarvis; of course he would have informed his creator of her arrival. That, or Tony had developed psychic powers. She preferred the former. “Don’t be stupid, Tony. You don’t like it when I fuss, so I didn’t. Otherwise I would have been at your side when you landed in Germany. I figured after a week had passed, you would forgive me for a little concern.” It took a Herculean effort for her to keep her tone light and nonchalant when what she wanted to do was throw her arms around him.

He turned, and when he looked at her this time, he didn’t look away. His eyes were dark wells of suppressed emotion. “I haven’t lost it, Charlotte! I’m not crazy, and I’m not suffering from PTSD!”

“Did I say that?” she asked softly, laying a hand on his forearm, doing her best to mask shock at the sight of the glowing Arc Reactor imbedded in his chest. Pepper had briefed her, but still, it was hard to take in.

“You didn’t have to.” He pulled his arm away. “Everyone else seems to think so.”

She fought back tears at the hurt in his voice. “Since when am I ‘everyone’, Tony? And it isn’t true anyways. Pepper doesn’t think that. Her only sin is to care about you more than she should, more than is good for her.”

Tony slammed a fist into a pile of electrical components, sending them scattering in all directions. “They don’t understand,” he told her, his voice little more than a cracked whisper.

They might not, but I’d like to. Talk to me, Tony. Please?” Some of her frantic worry for him leaked into her voice despite her best efforts. This time, when she grasped his arm, he didn’t pull away.

“There are things I need to do, that I have to do. I can’t stop till it’s done. There is nothing that matters more to me now than seeing through what I know I have to do.” As he spoke, he took her hand in his in an almost painful grip. “I owe it to those Airmen who died protecting me, to all of the men and women who have died protecting us.”

This time, Charlotte didn’t try and fight the tears. Drawing Tony into her arms, she whispered, “Why did you think I wouldn’t understand that?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have doubted you.” He returned her embrace, laying his head on her shoulder. “There’s so much I want to say, but can’t. It’s like the words are trapped, trying to get out.”

She smoothed back his hair like he was a child, trying to comfort him with her touch. “You just need time, Tony love. Just time. Those of us who love you will be here when you need us; when you’re ready.”

He nodded, drawing away. “I have a new appreciation for those people, Birdie. I had three months to contemplate my life, and there was a lot of it that I was ashamed of.”

“We learn, we grow stronger. No regrets, Tony; life is far too short.”

“No more regrets,” he agreed, placing a hand against the side of her head, his fingers twining into her hair.

“You have no idea how delightful it is that you finally agree with me,” she told him with a wide grin, kissing him on the cheek.

“Gotta throw you the occasional bone,” he replied with a matching smile.

“Uh huh. So, how about I make you some dinner, which I have on good authority you’ve missed yet again, and then you get some sleep. In the morning, you can show me what exactly it is you’re working on.”

“Are you sure you want to know?” He searched her eyes.

“Absolutely positive. I will always want to know what’s important to you, Tony. What you care about. I will always be here for you, whenever you need me.”

His hands clenched a little. “Even at 3 AM when I wake up screaming from a nightmare?” His eyes darted away then back again.

“Especially then,” she said firmly.

He nodded, squeezing her hand. Then he took a sharp breath. His next words were more like the old Tony. “I was thinking hamburgers would be good.”

“Yeah? I was planning on steak.”

“Steak? Do you think I’m made of money?”

“Actually, yes.”

“Oh, right.”

“I know it’s hard for you to keep track of these things,” Charlotte said, laughing.

“Okay, a compromise. We take the Audi and get In-N-Out. How’s that for a plan?”

“As long as I can get mine Animal Style!”

“Sweetheart, I am all about Animal Style,” he half growled, leering down at her.

Giggling, Charlotte took both Tony’s hands in hers. “Then what are we waiting for?”

“You’re paying, right? Oww!!”


* Note: In-N-Out has a 'secret menu', which is passed down verbally from one generation to the next [g]

'Animal Style' is the most popular one: pickles, extra spread, extra grilled onions, & mustard fried onto each meat patty.

The sequel: Tequila Lullaby
(Deleted comment)
Ith: Iron Man -  Forgeithildyn on June 13th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Ninjababe: Iron Man: Red Attackninjababe on June 13th, 2008 10:06 am (UTC)
I think I love you... :)

Not only do you feed me, you write awesome Tony for me to read...

Mmmmm... In-N-Out.

[pout] Want a burger now.
Ith: Iron Man -  Partyithildyn on June 13th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
You're so easy. Glad you enjoyed it!
Chris: Aiden Quinnsharpiesgal on June 13th, 2008 11:46 am (UTC)
That was cool.
Ith: Iron Man -  Tuxithildyn on June 13th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Nessa/Kellinessa5 on June 13th, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
I just snickered out loud

and now I want in&out too...
Ith: Iron Man -  Walkithildyn on June 13th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC)
I do too! We don't have one nearby and we were going to have it this weekend, but never did.
dejladejla on June 13th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
Aww. This is so sweet!
Ith: Iron Man - Tony at Workithildyn on June 13th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
I will call her George: Ironmanstrangevisitor7 on June 13th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
Perfect balance of angst bleeding into the light heartedness at the end. I adore how he calls her Birdie - it feels like such a Stark thing to do! Really loving Charlotte too great OFC.
Ith: Iron Man - Tony Blueithildyn on June 13th, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you and thank you :) Once I'd read the book, and realized he'd given Pepper her nickname, and he calls Rhodes 'Rhodey', it seemed he had a penchant for nicknaming people [g]
Tammy - never give up, never surrender: IM - Tony tHarmless - besydbesyd on June 13th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC)
Too short! But wonderful, wonderful prequel scene. Love Charlotte and Pepper's scene together. Yes, Tony needs her, but Pepper needs someone like Charlotte, too. Seriously.

“We learn, we grow stronger. No regrets, Tony; life is far too short.”

I really love this line, coming from Charlotte. Because she knows.

Excellent job, as always. Can't wait for what's next!
Ith: Iron Man - Tony/Pepper Lookithildyn on June 13th, 2008 05:35 pm (UTC)
I think Pepper does as well. I have more scenes planned between the two of them.

I'm glad you enjoyed it :)
Becky: Iron Man Tony awesomebeeej on June 13th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)

Okay, since we don't have In-N-Out around here, what's Animal Style? ;)
Ith: Iron Man -  Walkithildyn on June 13th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
More hearts! Cool!

In-N-Out has a 'secret menu', which is passed down verbally from one generation to the next [g]

Animal Style is the most popular one: pickles, extra spread, extra grilled onions, & mustard fried onto each meat patty.

I always have grilled onions, no sauce, ketchup and mustard instead :) YUM!

Edited at 2008-06-13 05:20 pm (UTC)
Emmagoose: iroh taking one for the teamniteflite on June 13th, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
Huh. That's a pretty good line-up of all the special things we INO associates do for the customer. A couple of them were confusing, and the largest burger that we offer is a 4x4, not a 4x6, but this is the best "secret" menu I've seen.

And, for the record, I did enjoy your story. I honestly wouldn't have clicked on it but for the title. So glad I did!
Ith: Iron Man -  Walkithildyn on June 13th, 2008 07:26 pm (UTC)
I'm glad! I'm rather pleased with the title considering it literally popped into my head after I'd set up the story and only had to hit post :)

Thanks for reading.
Rhi: karavipersweb on June 13th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
oh lovely. Very nicely done.
Ith: Iron Man -  Forgeithildyn on June 13th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much :)
anya2112anya2112 on June 13th, 2008 07:49 pm (UTC)
This is weird.....we were just talking about IN-N-OUT burgers at lunch the other day! I've never had one and was wondering if they were any good. I was assured that they are wonderful!!

Another great story! I'm totally hooked on Tony now!!
Ith: Iron Man -  Partyithildyn on June 13th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
They are most awesome!

I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I wasn't so sure about it last night :)
Ith: Iron Man - Danceithildyn on June 14th, 2008 06:23 am (UTC)
Oh, BTW, we can get you In-N-Out in Vegas. They have them there :)
rodloxrodlox on June 17th, 2008 06:20 am (UTC)
love it all...particularly the paraphrasing of Methos. :)
Ithithildyn on June 17th, 2008 07:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks :)
ronneemronneem on October 17th, 2008 03:16 pm (UTC)
another nice one
I seriously like this OFC. She's really well done and fits in with the others.
Ith: Iron Man - Burn Outithildyn on October 17th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC)
Re: another nice one
Thank you again :) You're making my head swell [g]
lyonza: Iron Man: I am awesomelyonza on October 22nd, 2008 07:30 am (UTC)
*bouncy* The Audi and some In-N-Out (not that we have that over here, but I have driven that Audi... awesome car)
Ith: Iron Man -  Partyithildyn on October 22nd, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
It's very much especially a Southern California thing, so Ii felt the need to fix that whole Burger King thing from the movie!