Feel the Cold
It was just supposed to be a quick fly over to another country to make sure nothing was amiss. Just a random check. (That, by the way, is code for 'he was bored and figured a high-speed flight plus birds might be fun.')
Anyway, since there was nothing happening (see: Weirdly no birds in the sky) Tony figured he might as well stop for a coffee, so he touched down in a small town in buckshit no-where.
Honestly. The whole place seemed empty. And… strange.
The Iron Man suit is very good at regulating temperature, so when Tony started to feel a bit chilly he was a little suspicious.
Especially since it was, you know, June.
But hey, even the most brilliant and amazing technology can malfunction, so he just took off his helmet. He would have to do so in order to drink his coffee anyway, so no biggie.
Unfortunately, it seemed that the suit hadn't been making him cold; it had simply not been regulating the inside temperature, because the air outside was chilly too. In fact, it wasn't just chilly - it was bloody freezing.
Was that ice forming on that lamppost?
Tony very quickly put his helmet back on. A quick question to JARVIS confirmed that he was in South East England, not too far from Dover.
Okay, so everyone knows that the weather in England isn't exactly the best, but for summer this part of the country should be a hell of a lot warmer.
This was bad.
Because if past experiences were anything to go by, when nature starts acting out of whack things tend to go 'boom' soon after.
Unless, of course, Thor had just been playing x-box against Clint. That was a recipe for lightning storms and disasters.
Massive disasters, disasters on the scale of… of… of when he tripped over in the workshop when he was five…
-Tony! What have you done? I've been working on that for MONTHS! Why do you continue to destroy everything?-
What the hell was that?
Tony gasped, trying to bring his mind back into the present and ripping his helmet back off his head once more. Why was he thinking of such things? That had been such a long time ago, he hadn't thought about it in years…
Another chill ran through his body, and Tony found himself shaking so violently his limbs began to ache.
-Sir, shall I try Miss Potts?-
-Might as well.-
But she's not answering, not answering, oh my god I'm about to die, I really am and I can't even say goodbye to the woman that I
Tony groaned, placing his hands over his ears and shaking his head. This was ridiculous! How could anything affect him this badly? He had been to hell and back and he was completely fine! (Really?) What the hell was going on?
I'm falling, falling, everything is black but it doesn't matter because the portal has closed of course it has the portal must have closed and I'm out of power, no oxygen oh god I am going to die
"No!" Tony snarled. "I survived that! Banner damn well shocked me back alive!"
Tony had always been tough, but he was getting weaker and the cold was getting stronger. He could hear a strange noise, a horrible rattling, sucking noise like there was something trying to draw the moisture from the air. Not that there was any moisture left - the air was so cold now it was dry, it was frozen and every breath felt like ice crystals were forcing their way into his lungs.
They're like my suit, just like my suit, those droids they're going to destroy the city, there's nothing I can do
What have I done?
"No, I fixed it!"
-You're such a disappointment, son-
-get away from me!-
-the Iron Man weapon is dangerous and destructive… it is a threat to the wellbeing of everyone on the planet-
-you're going to kill us all-
It's dark, so dark, I can't see anything the last thing I remember is that bomb what happened maybe I died no I'm captured oh sweet Jesus I'm captured I'm never going to get out
-sending you away - boarding school-
There is a piece of metal heading towards my heart
-the walking dead-
-it's not going to work-
I can't get out
the water's at my throat in my mouth I can't breathe just stop stop STOP the battery is sparking what if it goes out no no no no no I need it don't put the battery in water just stop let me out I can't BREATHE
-My family is dead, Stark… And I am going to see them now. It's okay, I want… I want this.-
-Don't waste it. Don't waste your life, Stark.-
-I'll do it I swear just no more water PLEASE-
-How ironic, Tony! Trying to rid the world of weapons, you gave it its best one ever!-
I did… I'm sorry… all I've done is bad…
-So you're a man who has everything… and nothing.-
I CAN'T GET OUT
The noise was closer now, so close, the sucking and rasping and rattling coming from right in front of him, but Tony could barely hear it over the screaming inside his head.
He had collapsed onto his knees now; the suit doing nothing to support him, his hands clutching at his hair as he tried in vain to block it all out, yet at the same time fighting for consciousness. He so wanted to just slip away into oblivion but he knew that would be bad. He wasn't sure why. Just that some part of his brain continued to grasp at this fact despite everything else.
Because he knew what was happening now - his memories, his absolute worst memories were being forced to the front of his mind, reminding him of how much of a failure he was, every person who'd died because of him, every single moment he'd felt like crap and quite a few when he didn't but absolutely should have–
-a lot of people would call that war profiteering-
He was such a horrible person, how had he ever been happy before in his life? How had he ever smiled, or laughed, or even let a small spark come into his eye? He knew now though and there was no way he could ever be happy again, he couldn't, not ever.
my parents are dead
What did he have to live for?
I have no family
No one wanted him.
I treated my friends like shit
Pepper can barely stand me
I can't sleep, no matter how hard I try I'll never sleep again never never never again the only things that can stand to be around me are machines
and I even treat them like shit
Tony didn't so much as flinch when something slimy and clammy grasped hold of his chin. His eyes flickered, but they didn't see anything other than the frozen, misty street and the memories swirling through his mind.
He could even feel the sucking now, the air moving around his face as if there were a frozen, rattling vacuum mere inches from his nose. It felt like something inside of him shifted out of position and began to move, slip-sliding through his body like a piece of unsecured cargo.
He wished that it would just happen. That what ever it was that was moving would just go so that this pain would stop, so that he didn't have to deal with it. So someone else, maybe Pepper or Rhodey or Banner or even god damned Steve could take up his mantle because they could all do it better than him anyway.
Not that any of them would want the mantle of such a failure. Why would they?
They all hated him.
They didn't hate him, because he was such a bad person no one would even waste that tiny bit of energy on him.
It was so close now. Tony could feel the Whatever It Was inside of him stirring, unlatching, moving upward. There was something horrible and clammy and stinking of rotten flesh against his lips, but he couldn't bring himself to care against the shard of ice that slid through him and the feeling of utter hopelessness.
There was nothing he could do.
He very nearly missed the three loud cracks like gunfire, but he didn't miss the obviously female scream that came from somewhere to his right. It seemed to shoot through him as he tried to latch on to anything he could, and maybe some small part of his subconscious that still wanted to save one more person to make up for all those failures woke up at that moment.
There were two more voices, both male. One did nothing but say 'bloody hell' but the other yelled out some nonsense that sounded vaguely Latin.
Then all of a sudden the clammy thing and the rotten stench was gone, but it still didn't make anything better.
There was a bright white light and Tony wondered if maybe he was dead. Maybe it would finally all end, and maybe he would get some peace.
But of course, nothing was ever going to go his way, and he could feel that thing inside of him still moving, still painful. If this was death, then perhaps living wasn't so bad after all. But then he realised that it was going down, down inside him until eventually everything felt like it was back in its proper place and he couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief.
Because he didn't really want to die. If he did, who would be left to make sure Fury got his daily migraine? Barton was probably his best bet but one glare from Coulson seemed to shut him up these days.
Vaguely, Tony was aware of people talking. He forced himself to come back into focus, knowing from experience that if he didn't things would no doubt only get worse again. Because things could always get worse.
"….still conscious? How is that even possible, he's a Muggle!"
"Honestly, Ronald, don't you even know who that is?"
"Oh, of course not. Who cares if the world is being saved if it's a Muggle doing it, right?"
"Hey guys, stop bickering. He really is awake."
It was then that Tony realised they were talking about him. It annoyed him to be so slow, but to be fair he had no idea what a 'Muggle' was. Was it some weird British insult?
"Oh, hey, I'm sorry!" exclaimed the girl. Tony blinked and finally his vision properly cleared, allowing him to see her bushy brown hair. "Here, eat this!"
She tried to shove something at him and thank god the suit finally started to respond because if it hadn't he probably would have bent over backwards in his scramble to get away from her.
"Don't touch me," he rasped. "I don't know what the hell you've done to me, but if you don't stand back-"
"Whoa, whoa," said a red head, coming into view. "We're not trying to hurt you. I don't even know what you're doing here; the Ministry said all the Muggles had left because of the Dementors. Of course, you never can believe anything the Ministry says-"
"Ron!" exclaimed the girl. "You know Kingsley's doing his best!"
"Yeah, but we still have a Muggle in the middle of our supposedly abandoned, Dementor infested town!"
"That's not just any Muggle-"
"Why does that matter? Just because he'd dressed like Sir Cadogan at a Christmas party does not make him special-"
"Guys!" exclaimed the second boy. "This is serious. We need to give him chocolate and obliviate him-"
"We can't do that!"
"Hermione, he's a Muggle!"
"And a genius. I don't want to risk messing anything up!"
"But you wiped your parents-"
"Whoa, low blow, Harry."
"That was an emergency. This is Tony Stark. No way am I going to-"
By now, Tony had grabbed his helmet off the ground and was slowly backing away. He normally wasn't one to run away but he still felt like shit and it sounded like those kids were talking about wiping his memory. He didn't know what that entailed but if it was anything like what Natasha's file (which he definitely hadn't read) said she had gone through, there was no way he was going to stick around. Sure, he could hold his own against three teenagers, but he had no idea what was going on here. And while he wasn't one to run away, he was all for taking a tactical retreat when he was the only one at risk. He could always send SHEILD over to check this out later.
And as much a he hated that thought, it actually sounded better than sticking around. There was clearly something strange going on here and - man, this sucks - he definitely needed back up. Maybe… Maybe he could just collect Rhodey…
Decision made, Tony shoved the helmet back on his head and rebooted his systems.
Well, tried to. Despite his measures to keep the suit ice-proof the cold still made everything a little bit slow. But now that the Whatever-They-Were-s were gone (hopefully) it was warming up quite quickly.
Unfortunately the sound the systems made as they came back online caused the bushy-haired girl to look over.
"Wait!" she exclaimed. "You can't go yet! You need to eat some chocolate, it will make you feel much better I swear-"
"He can't go at all, we haven't obliviated him yet!"
"Then do it, Harry!"
"Not without the time for preparation, I don't want to do anything wrong especially not if this is really who Hermione says he is-"
"Don't tell me you think he's special too."
"You know as well as I do Harry that if we do anything to him we'll have to full might of the Avengers on us and I really don't think we need to be dealing with that right now-"
The teenager's bickering had given Tony enough time to get fully back online, and without even waiting for the OK from JARVIS he threw himself back up into the sky, eager to be as far away from this place as he possibly could be.
"Stop!" he heard the girl scream. The redhead yelled something that sounded like
and a bright red light flew up at him. He quickly dodged it (because previous experience indicated that red laser beams were not a good thing) and then in a blink of an eye he was gone.
At least, that was the plan. The cold was still affecting the systems somewhat, and one of the flight stabilizers sputtered out. That of course completely destroyed the flight path Tony was aiming for and caused him to fall into a forced loop, but he pulled out of it easily enough before he was finally able to shoot off on an assured - if slightly unstable - route back to America.
He probably should have stopped for repairs before crossing the Atlantic, but no way was he staying in that country for another second.
The flight was easy, and it didn't require much thought. In fact, JARVIS could handle it. The unstimulating environment caused Tony's dead eyes to begin to droop closed, the ordeal of the day overcoming his attempts to stay conscious. But before he lost hold completely, a single, worrisome thought drifted through his mind.
Nightmares while sleeping were bad enough but easily avoided through the tried and true method of simply staying awake. But if they were going to force their way into his mind regardless…
Tony was teetering on the edge of insane anyway. He really didn't need that extra push, because if he could do all those things while he was in his right mind, if he could cause all that horror while in control…
What, exactly, would happen if he lost it?