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30 March 2011 @ 11:45 pm
FIC: When Logic and Proportion  

TItle: When Logic and Proportion
Prompt:  "Figuring out you and me is like doing a love autopsy; they could operate all day long and never figure out what went wrong".
Rating:  PG13 for some mildly disturbing imagery and spoiler (highlight to read):  character death
Warning:  Mild spoilers for Invincible Iron Man #502.  My spin on events to come.  This is pretty firmly set in comicsverse -- with what I have read and what I have cobbled together through the magic of the internet -- still should be fairly friendly to all fans.
Summary: 

 

Yinsen asked me, back in the cave, if I had anyone waiting for me back home. I told him I didn’t, but I knew it was a lie the moment I said it. There was you, there was always you. I had nightmares after that, that they had kidnapped you – that you had somehow, some way found me in the middle of the desert and tried to rescue me only to wind up captured instead. It wasn’t like you hadn’t accomplished greater feats when I gave you some impossible task so I could slip the leash of your BlackBerry for a few hours.

When I got back home I should have told you how I felt about you – that your face was one of the few comforts I had in that hell hole – knowing I couldn’t let those bastards win because they wanted to destroy a world that you lived in.

I knew you loved me, even if I did seem oblivious… Only there was the chest plate, the whole secret superhero thing, and… realizing that it wasn’t just those terrorists that were a threat to you – that I was a threat to you… a threat to the chance of you ever getting to live a normal life. Even if I had given up the Iron Man, which would be as impossible as choosing not to breathe, being Tony Stark wasn’t much safer.

I should have let you go, back then, but I was selfish… I wanted to protect you, but I couldn’t bear to be apart from you. I couldn’t live without you. I’d never been more relieved and distraught when you and Happy finally made a go of it. Happy was… a great man, a better man than I could ever be and if I had to lose you to someone, I knew, I could find no one more deserving of you.  

You still tried to reach me though – no matter how many other not-quite-as-beautiful women I tried to hide myself behind.   I saw you watching through your cool, professional, married mask and god knows I was tempted… because I’m that sort of terrible person – the bastard who sleeps with his friend’s wife, the loser who imagines that his secretary  is hot for him, the son of a bitch who willfully endangers someone for a moment of pleasure.

Between fighting the temptation of you and the seduction of a good single malt scotch, there were days I thought I would never make it, that I would be pulled into one – or worse bothof those forbidden territories and then everything would go to hell. The exhaustion is nearly overwhelming. It was only the knowledge that you were still safer as you were then you would be if anyone were to know that the man of Iron had a heart, and who he had given that heart to.

Only it wasn’t true, was it? I am so so sorry… for everything that my existence has done to your life… I used to wish, sometimes, that I had died in that godforsaken cave – god knows your life would have been better for it. Just you, Happy and your three children… the all-American family. If only…

There were good times too, though, weren’t they? How else can I explain why you came back to me after the kidnapping, after the miscarriage, after…Happy, after having a building dropped on you, after watching me erase my brain… Why else would you have come back after all of that?

Maybe you’re as crazy as I feel most days.

Why would you be here if you didn’t love me?

“Octavius told me it would be someone that I would never suspect,” A watery laugh burbles from his lips as he tosses his smashed helmet aside carelessly, stumbling as he makes his way across the remains of the building. “And he was right – well almost, he did get one thing wrong – but thinking creatively was always his weakness,” He lets out another bark of mad laughter as he collapses to his knees at his opponent’s side. 

He’d checked the sensors in the helmet before he discarded it, knows that there isn’t much time left, but he has so much he needs to say that it seems impossible. He’s fighting his own exhaustion and internal bleeding just to get this far – the adrenaline has already petered out and his body is screaming at him to sleep –

“Otto kept referring to the spy as a ‘he’… and that was his fatal – our fatal – error, wasn’t it?” His muscles protest, even with the armor actually doing all the heavy lifting as he pulls the metal-plated torso into his lap. “Never thought it would be you, not in a million years…,” Tears burn in his eyes and he stamps them down mercilessly as the ghost of his father, even after all of these years, hisses how weak and stupid he is, getting taken out by a ‘simple woman’…

Pepper Potts had never been simple.

“Why,” He asks, locking gazes with the green-eyed woman glaring up at him hatefully, her gaze cold enough to freeze the marrow of his bones.

She turns her head to the side and spits a dark clot of blood, leaving it dripping on his thigh before she looks up at him again with that fierce gaze that drew him to her all those years ago as she proved that he had made a mistake in the books – that for the first time in his life, his math was wrong.

“You… destroy everything, … Tony,” She gasps, her words labored as bloody foam creeps out the corner of her lips, a ghastly contrast between her pale skin and copper hair. “Everything you touch… the armor, your friends… your lovers… the world – you turn to ashes… I couldn’t let you do it anymore.”

Despair swallows him whole, easily conceding to her logic – How many had died because – for – this armor? Then there was Steve, and Happy – only Happy wouldn’t be getting a convenient resurrection this time around – and what about that machine?  Then there were Janice and Rumiko…

“…I know,” he croaks out in a small voice, tears overwhelming him, dripping onto her face.

“Gotcha,” She says with a flare of pride as her arms lock behind his back, chaining herself to him. Her RT flashes menacingly and he doesn’t need his doctorate in engineering to tell him that it’s in the final stages of overload.

“I know,” He can’t help smirking at her shock, “Futurist, remember?”

He manages to break the hold she has, even as she fights him every inch with the last of her strength. Her RT whines alarmingly, reaching critical mass as he places her arms around his neck. She looks surprised and so he kisses her, lowering his own RT as far as he can so he can get in close enough to taste the blood on her lips.

“Love you, Pepper,” He finally gets to say out loud.

“I know,” She replies, her green eyes – as calm as jade – focused on him as she leans towards him –

There is blinding white, then darkness, and he knows he can finally sleep.

***///***///***


When logic and proportion ,
Have fallen sloppy dead,
-- White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane

 

 
 
 
v_pepperpotts: Always herv_pepperpotts on May 1st, 2011 07:53 am (UTC)
First of all - well done! Excellent story from the undervisited comic-verse.

Second, I know the topic is dead & beaten, but:

It's true - Fraction is a huge Pepper fan, & when his wife was pregnant with their daughter, thought about the legacy he would leave as a writer in an industry that hasn't done much justice to women. He first started writing these characters in The Order a team created as part of the 50 States Initiative after the Civil War, & Pepper lead the group as Hera. Then Fraction became lead writer for Invincible Iron Man, but he said that had he not, he would have dropped a building on her & made her Rescue then.

I don't believe she'll be the spy. I could be wrong - it would certainly be unexpected, but I think she's too important to the dynamic of the story for that to be the case. His intention in creating Rescue was to retell the Iron Man story through Pepper with Rescue, the way it was done through Rhodey with War Machine.

As for Pepper not being in love with Tony? I may be heavily biased here, but I say bullshit. They've been in love for 50 years, & all of a sudden you're going to tell me she's not anymore? I call shenanigans. The only thing more anti-climactic than that was the sex we didn't even know for sure actually happened until months later when Pepper told us!

So why, & what does it mean? I'm not sure. If Tony's going to have yet another devastating year, one would only hope that Pepper will be right beside him again, because that's what she does. Maybe it will get them to work through some issues & at the very least, bring them closer together again.

I think Pepper is upset because Tony doesn't remember what happened. Which was the point of the mind wipe, but I think it makes her feel just as insignificant as the other women he's slept with - like she means nothing, & she's worked to avoid that. I think she's resentful too, because he keeps finding ways to survive, but others, like Happy, don't.

Also - what she asked of Tony isn't that odd. Happy did tell her that he didn't want to live as a vegetable, or dependent on someone to feed him, change his diapers, etc. Even if Happy had woken from his coma, that's what his life would have been like, & Pepper knew that wasn't what he wanted. She could have gone herself & asked that he not be resuscitated, but she couldn't live with making that decision. Which is why she asked Tony to do it, & not tell her. It was an unfair request, because now he has to live with that burden, if he did it.

What Tony did in having a back door strategy wasn't completely manipulative, either - say he had told Pepper & then been killed by Norman. Knowing that he could have been saved, but was now lost again, would only have made the loss harder. Knowing from the beginning that he was going to end up a vegetable prepared her for the worse & steeled her to deal with his brain death, & to find a way to correct it.

That Tony had it all worked out was only manipulative on two points - 1) That he asked them to decide whether or not they wanted him back. It was a valid question; he'd done a lot of messed up things. But they all immediately voted yes, except for Pepper, which brings me to - 2) That he used Pepper's suit & RT unit (arc reactor) for himself. She didn't need the RT to survive, & she didn't want it in the first place, but I can imagine she might feel a little bit raped, or cannibalized. However, she was able, as soon as Tony was recovered, to get him to give her another RT, & build her another suit.

My hope & belief is that we haven't seen the last of Tony and Pepper in the romantic sense. They have too much of a history, too much chemistry, & too much of a supporter in Matt Fraction for this to just be it. However, I am a terrible optimist, so I could also be full of it. We'll just have to wait & see, & write hopeful letters to Matt Fraction, care of Marvel Comics.

One last note: I'm sure you noticed in IIM #500 that in the future, Tony's son is Howard Anthony Stark, & his grandaughter is a redhead named Ginny Stark. At the end of that story, you see three tombstones side by side, & the one on the far left is very, very, faint & difficult to read. However, I am 99.8% certain that the inscription says" Virginia Joan Stark".
MostePotentePotionsmostepotente on May 1st, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)
We actually agree on a lot points, forgive me as I have a tendancy of playing devil's advocate more than is probably healthy :D...

I do believe Pepper and Tony are both nuts about the other, they just can never quite seem to get there. It is what provides the romantic tension after all, although if they watched Grey's Anatomy (the first 3-4 seasons, when it wasn't completely insane) they'd realize that you can get the couple together and still have tension when you work together.

What frustrates me about Pepper's reaction to Tony not remembering their night together is that instead of saying "Hey, we had this really awesome moment but you fogot to back it up" she just sulks. Of course its easier to say that instead of actually doing it, I'll admit.

Tony's trick with the RT actually reminds me a lot of Glinda and the ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz -- Pepper had no idea of the true intentions in giving it to her, or its true use.

Oh issue 500... not really a fan of it honestly. Really? In the future Tony Stark becomes the manservant/pig of Mandarin, manipulates his own children into it? The Mandarin, one of his primary foes, was finally able to torture Tony into submission for decades? I don't know if I believe it (or how about I refuse to believe it). I mean, one of Tony's plays IS "Play along with the bad guy until I can figure out how to get out of here" (it is, afterall, the genesis of the Iron Man), but that is true, he's playing a really really long end game here, to the point that it may not be worth it.

Also, if Tony figures out wtf he built before he erased his brain and manages to destroy it before the Mandarin gets ahold of it that future may never happen (... and even though Ginny is cool I loathe 'remember the spider' blahblahblah...).

According to another fan's analysis Howard Stark (Ginny's dad) is born/conceived a year from now, so there is that. Alternately Ginny is wearing Madame Masque's face so there's that.
v_pepperpotts: Kissv_pepperpotts on May 1st, 2011 11:00 pm (UTC)
No worries, I do it too! XD

No series wants to jump the shark by getting it's lead couple together, only to find it's lost that dramatic tension. I honestly feel that wouldn't be the case here, but again - biased. It's worked for Superman and Lois Lane, it's worked for Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, to some extent, it's even worked for the Pym's and the Barton's. In DC, all the Flash families have great relationships, and before their deaths, the Dibney's were the poster children for amazing comic couples, not to mention the repeated existences of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, or the many incarnations of Scott Summers and Jean Grey (yeah, I'll count them), and more surprisingly - Scott Summers and Emma Frost.

This stuff can work, but I thin a big problem is that a large part of Tony's mythos is that he's always alone. Even with Pepper's support, in the end, it's him by himself, going up against the bad guys. It's a physical and a psychological thing that again, I think is bullshit, but give him a girlfriend or, dare I say, a wife, and it changes that dynamic. I think it can still work the way they want it too, and even better. But that's just me.

When I'm writing the title someday (real goal) there will be some changes, let me tell you. And the fanboys and girls world-wide will rejoice, and there shall be a mighty squee throughout the land.

I think Pepper probably had, though she'd be loathe to admit it, some expectations of how things would go if ever she and Tony finally slept together, and things very much did not go that way. Put that with everything else, and I honestly think she's just feeling bitter right now. She loves him - she knows she loves him - but she's using her anger as a way to tell herself she's over him in a romantic sense. This is my hope, anyway. It's going to take something big to make her realize she's being an idiot.

Or, maybe she'll actually fall in love with him all over again from a stronger stand-point and they can start building a relationship on healthier ground. Either would be great. I have to keep from tweeting Matt Fraction every day and scolding him. XD Or his wife, for that matter!

The slipper thing is a good analogy. And it was better for Dorothy that way, wasn't it? She went on the journey - the Hero's Quest - and made new friends, learned new things about herself and the world, helped others fulfill their own destinies, and came out on the other side reborn a stronger, better person. Which is what every hero needs to go through to truly become a hero. They need to struggle against adversity.

I hate the idea oF Tony as Mandarin's slave. But the future isn't written in stone - we've seen that millions of times in comics. There are parts of it I'm more than willing to accept, or at least entertain. Such as Tony and Pepper having a kid. XD I also gotta say, I love the idea of Tony's son Howard marrying Peter's daughter May. That's just... perfection in my world of comic juxtapositions.

The rest of it - I have a hard time believing that all the other heroes are dead and have failed to save the world. They defeated the Skrulls (Norman did, for Odin's sake!) they defeated Galactus. They've even defeated each other. But they can't take down the Mandarin? Please. I thought it was an interesting, if convoluted story, over all, but I'm not going to take much of it as canon. The future is too changeable.

Oh, and I think if Ginny's wearing Madame Masque's mask, it's because she killed Madame Masque, not because they're related. Can you imagine Tony having children by Whitney Frost and then one of them being named after Pepper? That would be the ultimate slap in the face to MM!

Besides, I'm almost positive that third grave at the end was Pep's, and that the last name was definitely Stark.
MostePotentePotionsmostepotente on May 2nd, 2011 05:26 am (UTC)
Good luck with the future career as a comics scribe, god knows there needs to be more women in comics (at least I think you're a woman, forgive my assumption if not).

Well, part of the drama of having Tony in a serious committed relationship is all the natural drama that comes from one highly independent person making decisions without taking into account their partner necessarily -- add in that she's also a superhero? Get me the popcorn this is going to be fun. Hell, for once Tony gets captured and Pepper winds up getting suited up to kick ass for people daring to touch her man.

Tony really is Glinda -- sure she SEEMS like she's on your side, and then she sends you on a suicide mission so you can go home, and the whole time you had the keys with you! ;D. Glinda is the secret villain of Oz. ...and I might have to sketch that just for giggles -- Tony as Glinda and Pepper as Dorothy that is. The benefit to Tony leaving Pepper without telling her "oh hey, that arc reactor? Totally going to need it to reboot myself, maybe..." is that she gets to be her own kind of hero. If she had thought that Tony would need her arc reactor would she have become Rescue and risked capture/damage to the RT?

I think what will be interesting to see is that while Pepper and Tony both know and have been through a lot together they both have their fantasies of what the other is like -- Tony definitely has Pepper placed on a pedastal, and Pepper may have a little bit better idea of who Tony is, but she's still got her own conceptions of him that might not line up. Its a learning process. Marvel should just fess up to the fact that they KNOW that there are lot of female fans for Tony Stark and start catering to the audience a little bit more, just an eensy bit. I read that Stan Lee said that Iron Man always got more fan letters from women than any other hero.

That future is... whacked. I just got the impression that "crazy shit happened and now Mandarin is here".

Alas, Whitney/Tony is a guilty pleasure of mine... He cares for her, and she for him, but they're even more star-crossed than Tony and Pepper. They're a couple with a lot of chemistry who just cannot work in real life...