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Iron Man fic: Five Times Tony Was Rejected (1/1)

December 18th, 2016 (05:43 pm)
cynical

feeling: cynical

Title: Five Times Tony Was Rejected

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

A/N: For moogsthewriter, who let me indulge in Tony feels after seeing Civil War. I hope your Christmas is merry! The fic is unbeta’ed and has spoilers through Cap 3. Fills my rejection square for hc_bingo.

Summary: People are going to disappoint you sometimes. You have to remember: that says more about them than it does you.



-o-

One.

“He’s just busy, dear,” his mother tells him, stroking Tony’s cheek. “You know how he is.”

Tony does, really. He’s six, and it’s impossible not to know. Because his father is a genius who makes amazing things. His father has saved the world more times than Tony knows how to count. That sort of thing is important, he rationalizes. That sort of thing comes first, over everything.

Family dinners, teacher conferences, school plays, vacations.

Tony knows his dad has to put his work first, above those things.

He’s just never quite realized, not until this very second, that his work comes before everything and everyone.

Even him.

“But I made it all by myself,” Tony says, offering up his model. It’s a replica of a plane from World War II. Tony scrounged together all the parts from his father’s bucket of cast-offs, and he’d come up with the design himself by studying the old books in his father’s library. “The scale’s not perfect, but it’s not bad.”

His mother takes it, turning it over in her hands with a smile. “It’s beautiful,” she comments, then casts a curious eye at Tony. “You did this all by yourself?”

“Jarvis helped me with the power tools, but the design’s all mine,” he notes. “I thought he’d like it because he always talks about the war, about the things they did. The lives they saved. It’s supposed to be like the one Captain America went down in, the one that’s still buried up in the snow somewhere.”

His mother smiles in a way that looks like it hurts. “I’m sure he’d love it,” she says, handing it back to him.

As he accepts it, his shoulders fall. “He didn’t even look at it,” he admits.

His mother draws him forward, mindful of his plane, and wraps him in a hug. “Just because we pick one thing first in life doesn’t mean it’s the thing that matters most to us,” she says, pulling away and settling her hands on his shoulders to look him squarely in the eyes. “It just means that we’re limited people, even your father.”

“But dad’s the smartest man on the planet!” Tony insists, suddenly wide eyed.

She smiles sympathetically. “And even he can’t create enough time for all the things he cares about,” she says, giving Tony a small squeeze. “People are going to disappoint you sometimes, Tony. You have to remember, my dear, you have to remember: that says more about them than it does you.”

Tony believes her that day, and he goes away to play, putting the plane on a shelf for his dad to see later.

When years pass, the plane is still there.

So is his mother’s advice and all the trust he’d given to his old man.

Forgotten and covered with dust.

Two.

When Tony gives up, he takes great pains to not give a crap about anything. Really, it’s not all that hard. If something hurts, all he has to do is not think about it and create something utterly brilliant. That way, everyone is so transfixed with what he’s accomplished, they conveniently overlook the fact that he’s an overgrown teenager with daddy issues.

His dad is dead, after all, and Tony has everything he’s ever wanted except the approval of his father. The death being unexpected as it was, Tony ascension to the head of the company is not what any of them had planned for. Tony had always envisioned it somewhat grander, not necessarily with ceremonies and press conferences and magazine interviews -- because he did have those -- but with his father looking him in the eyes and telling him he’s ready.

It’s probably for the best, because it probably would have been a lie. Tony’s not ready. He’s not ready to be an adult; he’s not ready to be a reasonable human being. He’s not ready for corporate responsibility or public relations management or anything like that. There’s a difference, after all, between being a genius and being successful, and Tony’s too young to understand that distinction the way he’s supposed to.

That’s why Obadiah matters so much. True, Tony’s not big on trusting people, but Obadiah has been around as long as his old man, and where his father used to tell him, “Maybe later, son,” Obadiah took the time to look, listen and teach.

And Obadiah, he’s better than a real dad. He’s the cool dad, the one who listens to your stuff and gives you boundaries but just smiles when you break them all. Obadiah fixes Tony’s mistakes; he cleans up Tony’s messes. And he never makes Tony feel bad about any of it.

He’d thought this was because Obadiah was a good person.

He’d thought this was because Obadiah cared about him.

Tony’s wrong.

That realization washes over him like ice cold, leaving him paralyzed. Sure, Obadiah blames a gadget from Stark Industries, but Tony knows this is deeper than that. As much as it hurts to feel Obadiah rip his heart out, looking into the eyes of the man he trusted most while he betrays him hurts a hell of a lot more.

Tony takes no pleasure in killing Obadiah. Tony takes no pleasure in cleaning up his own mess this time around. The world is a dark, scary place, and Tony’s responsible for some of that. In a world of villains you know, there’s more than enough room for a hero.

Maybe that’s why he announces it; maybe that’s why he owns it. Because when the people around him reject him, Tony will embrace the next best thing.

What the hell, he decides. The notes are still in his hands for the speech he’s supposed to read, but Tony knows the only person he’ll never convince is himself. He can’t delude himself into thinking Obadiah’s the only one. He was the first, maybe; he won’t be the last.

Tony’s got a target painted on his ass, and most of that is his own fault. There are a lot of things in Tony’s life he can’t fix, but this? He sure as hell can fix this.

All it takes is four little words.

And a lifetime commitment.

He grips the podium, and feels his resolve harden. He looks at the press, at Rhodey, at Pepper. Obadiah Stone will be rolling in his grave with this, annoyed as hell that he’s not here to capitalize on the truth.

That’s the last push Tony needs. If his past rejects him, then Tony rejects it. It’s time for something new, something stronger, something better. Something forged in metal and built to last.

“I am Iron Man.”

Three.

So it’s not all that easy, it turns out, being a superhero. It’s hard and it’s painful and it’s personal and it’s scary. Sometimes you lose.

Sometimes you lose a lot.

Tony takes a nuclear bomb through a rip in space. He saves the president of the United States. He accidentally creates a sentient robot intent on destroying humanity.

Then he purposefully annihilates said robot while the world burns.

It’s one thing to be a hero; it’s another to create your own enemies.

Pepper sticks with him through all of this. She lives through his panic attacks; she puts up with his meetings and the people who traipse through their life in Stark Tower.

So he’s a little surprised when he wakes up one morning, and all her bags are packed.

“Are we taking a trip?” he asks, padding across the floor in bare feet and pajamas.

She’s already in her business suit. “No,” she says. “I’m moving out.”

Tony looks at her, perplexed. “Back to California?” he asks, plopping down on the couch. “Or one of the other properties. I mean, hey, I could go for a little change of scenery--”

She’s already shaking her head. “Tony,” she says, crossing over to him and sitting down on the couch next to him. “I’m moving out.”

He furrows his brow, not sure what to make of that. “Is this about the snoring?” he asks, making an incredulous noise in his throat. “Because I told you, I can fix that--”

She is not amused. “You know this has nothing to do with snoring.”

“Then, what?” he asks. “My work hours? Because I can cut back. I spend so much time in the lab because I like it there, but it’s nothing I have to do. And the Avengers -- I mean, they’ll understand, and--”

Pepper takes a patient, measured breath. “Tony, it’s not any one thing--”

“But it has to be something--”

“It’s everything!” she explodes. For a second, her composure shatters. She works hard to recover it. Wetting her lips, she spreads her hands on her pressed pencil skirt. “It’s everything, Tony. It’s the lab; it’s the Avengers; it’s all of it.”

He blinks at her, feeling at a loss. “You know why I do it, though,” he says. “I have to use my inventions, my talents -- for the greater good.”

“I know,” she says with a shrug.

“So you, what?” he asks. “You want me to stop? To let the world burn?’

She sighs with a roll of her eyes. “No, that’s not--”

“Then what?” he asks, a little more sharp this time. “Because I’m not totally getting this right now.”

She looks away, studying her bags by the door. When she looks back at him, her eyes are sad. “All of those things, the things you do, they’re important. I know that, and trust me, I don’t want to be responsible for taking that from you, for taking you from them,” she explains as her shoulders fall. “But I can’t keep living my life being second in your life, Tony. I can’t.”

“But--”

“I’m a distraction,” she says.

“A welcomed one,” Tony counters.

“A liability,” she clarifies. “And you’re smart and you’re strong and you’ve got a suit of iron, but you’re not invincible. I can’t be the thing that holds you back. I can’t be the thing that gets you killed.”

“Pepper,” he says, heart thudding in his hollow chest. He wants to say it’s not true; he wants to explain to her that’s not how it is. He wants to tell her that just because we pick one thing first in life doesn’t mean it’s the thing that matters most to us. He wants to tell her that it means they’re limited people, even him.

Especially him.

“I love you too much,” she admits, and there are tears that she doesn’t quite shed in her eyes. “I’m not going to ask you to choose.”

His mouth opens, but no words come out.

She swallows, visibly pained. “When you’re done saving the world,” she says, reaching out to touch his hand. “Call me.”

He’s quiet as she leaves; still as stone when she kisses his cheek. He sits, paralyzed on the couch as she pulls away, lingering only for a moment before she collects her bags and opens the front door. She looks back, but she walks through the door anyway, locking it behind her as she goes.

Tony’s still sitting there, drained of everything he has in her wake. He wants to be surprised, but he really isn’t. He’s seen this coming, and not just for the last few months when he’s been distant and argumentative. He’s seen this coming for years, before Obadiah Stone took his heart.

He seen this coming since he was six years old holding a model airplane from World War II.

Four.

It’s not that Tony hasn’t read the papers or the blog posts. It’s not that he hasn’t seen the Tweet or the memes that trend on Facebook and Tumblr. He knows there’s criticism against the Avengers, against him, and he takes that because he knows there’s truth to it.

Ultron is his fault, and he carries that with him every day he’s alive. That’s why he puts on the armor, that’s why he keeps fighting to make the world a better place. He’s not so naive as to believe in penance or karma, but he’s the kind of man who likes to fix problems.

He likes to think that counts for something. He can’t deny that he likes to see Iron Man action figures for sale at Christmas, and he always stops to give autographs for kids. Because he’s not doing this for accolades, but he won’t deny that it helps.

When he’s lost so much, he can’t deny that it helps a lot.

But then he’s holding the picture of a boy, not just a boy he failed to save but one who died for his mistakes. He’s always know how high the stakes were, even back when he was an unabashed arms manufacturer. Holding that picture, though, reminds him how small it is.

How mothers lost sons. Fathers lost daughters. Children lost parents. People lost the ones they cared about.

Tony’s given up everything, it seems, to try to be a hero.

It’s a bit of a blow, then, to realize he’s not the hero the world wants.

He’s probably not even the one it needs.

He tries to tell himself that says more about them than him.

But hell, this wouldn’t be the first time that Tony’s been wrong.

Five.

Tony’s tried, he really has, to make things right with everyone. He agreed to the Accords, spearheading a massive operation that balanced the needs of international governments and the rights of superheroes. He’s taken in Wanda, given her sanctuary even though he has absolutely no legal right to do so. He keeps the meddling doctors and scientists away from the Vision, brushing off calls to study him and understand what makes him better. He eschews calls to bring Thor and Bruce Banner back into the atmosphere.

He even gives Pepper her space, and he doesn’t call her. He doesn’t send her lavish gifts or jet across the globe to see her with impassioned speeches of true love.

In all of this, it’s not that he thinks he’s perfect or right.

It’s just that, for the love of all that is good, he’s trying.

He likes to think, after all they’ve been through together, Steve could appreciate that.

That’s why he’s made special concessions for Steve. That’s why he’s taken the Winter Soldier into consideration, and that’s why he’s willing to work with Steve, of all people, the man who taught him what it means to be a soldier in a war you never meant to actually fight.

In the end, it’s not so much that Steve chooses Bucky, because of course he does.

It’s that Steve chose Bucky all along, and Tony was nothing but an afterthought. The man, who has been one of his best friends and most respected allies, had been rejecting him for years.

Tony just hasn’t seen it until now.

For one of the smartest men on the planet, Tony feels pretty stupid right now.

The shield didn’t break through Tony’s armor, but it did cut him clean through the heart. Calling for backup to pick him up isn’t hard because he lost a fight.

It’s hard because he lost a friend.

He knows that he’s not supposed to take that personally, but at this point, he’s starting to wonder.

And One Time He Was Accepted

Pepper does amazing, because she’s Pepper, that’s just what she does. She can conquer a complicated schedule; she can streamline a massive company. She’s talented, smart, capable and amazing. Tony’s thought that all along.

After seeing her give birth, though…

That’s sort of a whole other thing.

Tony knows how things work; he’s taken machines apart and built them from scratch. While basic human anatomy was covered when he was about 10 years old, it’s something else to see it happening.

Blood, tears, sweat.

And the sweetest sound he’s ever heard.

Tony’s made advanced machines. He’s mastered complicated computer processes. But the sound of his daughter’s cry?

Reduces him to tears.

It’s not just that Pepper finally said yes, and let him put a ring on her finger. It’s not that the Avengers are a thing again, living and working together better than before. It’s not that he has roots, friends, family, purpose.

It’s that she fits, tucked against his chest, body still naked and trembling. She looks up, eyes wide as she blinks. He knows that babies her age, they can’t see much yet, but that doesn’t matter. She looks at him like no one else in the world ever has. She looks at him like she knows him in a way that no one else could.

It’s that she doesn’t care what he’s done. She doesn’t care who he’s hurt. She doesn’t care what he’s fixed and what he’s failed.

She loves him.

“Hey,” Tony says, pulling her swaddling tighter as he tucks it away from her chin. “I’m totally thinking we need to redo the nursery. Less whimsical. More rock and roll.”

Pepper rolls her eyes from the bed. In his arms, the baby starts to squirm, her little features contorting as she lets out a mewl.

“No, no, no,” Tony says quickly. “We don’t have to go rock and roll. We could do astronomy. Chemistry -- a big periodic table on the wall, atoms for your mobile--”

She kicks, little feet at the end of the blanket, tiny fists pushing free.

He bounces her, just a little, shushing her gently. “Or something else, anything else, it doesn’t matter to me,” he soothes, relaxing as her face eases out peacefully. “You’re the thing that matters most, and I’m not going anywhere, okay?”

She smacks her lips, blinking her eyes lazily before she settles back into sleep.

Tony grins, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “I’m not going anywhere.”