8 hours. 42 minutes.
Pepper felt numb.
It had been 8 hours and 42 minutes since she had been called during a meeting with Si's stockholders and rushed to the hospital. She was forced to watch on the sidelines as the best doctors money could buy in New York had been called in.
An influx of voices, of beeping noises, of people rushing to save Tony's life for 8 hours, bordering on 9... All for nothing.
Now, Tony's bloody and beaten body was lying on the table and the doctors were scattered around him, defeated, as they declared his time of death.
She approached the table silently, Vision hovering uncertainly a few steps behind her. She caressed his face, not caring if his blood stained her hands.
"Tony..." She breathed out, her eyes filling with tears. "Tony, wake up!"
It had been less than a day since Rhodey had woken up in the hospital and he had barely had any time to breathe, with doctors and nurses monitoring him constantly and running all kinds of tests on him. He had no contact with the outside world and hadn't been allowed to have visitors.
Still, he wasn't surprised when Pepper was allowed to see him - that woman was scary and powerful, not even the hospital staff would want to cross her unless it was absolutely necessary. Which, in his opinion, it wasn't.
"Hey, Pep. What's up?" He asked, somewhat cheerfully. Sure, he was paralyzed, most likely permanently, but that didn't mean he wasn't glad to see her.
She finally stepped close enough so he could see her and his smile disappeared. Her eyes were red and sad, her make-up smudged and her hands, stained with blood, trembled.
"What's wrong?" He asked, afraid of the answer.
"Tony..." She choked out. His breath caught.
"What happened to him?" He demanded.
"He - he's dead."
At those words, Rhodey was sure his heart stopped beating for a second. He exhaled, but it quickly turned into a sob.
"No... not Tony..."
Chapter 2: The Day After
A day after Tony's death, Pepper struggles not to break down.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Pepper looked at Rhodey, his expression sad even during his sleep. She caressed his face fondly while her eyes filled with tears.
Composing herself, she withdrew her hand and picked up her belongings. Pulling out her phone, she checked her notifications.
Twelve messages and two missed calls from her PA, three missed calls from General Ross and -
One missed call from Tony Stark.
No voicemail, just a notification.
She drew in a shaky breath and called Tony back.
“Hello, you’ve reached the life-model decoy of Tony Stark. Please leave a message - I’ll decide if I want to call you back.”
Pepper ended the call with a sigh.
“Hey, Pep.” She turned around and saw Rhodey awake. “You’re going?”
She smiled softly. “Yeah. I’ll drop by later, okay?”
He sighed, “Yeah, bye. See you later.”
She called Happy to pick her up. As she left, she met Vision, who was walking towards the room with his eyes downcast. Clearly, he was still drowning in guilt over Rhodey’s condition and… Tony.
She gave Vision a nod as she left, which he returned, but didn’t speak to him.
She had so many things to do - give a press conference for the victims of Captain America and his merry band, have a board meeting and a stockholders’ meeting and … organize Tony’s affairs and his funeral.
“Pepper Potts speaking.”
“Ms. Potts, are you aware that the media has so-called confirmation on Iron Man’s death?” Thaddeus Ross was a man one could easily hate, she decided.
“It doesn’t surprise me. Hospital staff are never the most discreet.” She replied calmly.
“So it’s true? Stark’s dead?” She couldn’t place his tone. It was neither satisfaction nor worry.
“I’m afraid so.” She said, gritting her teeth. Diplomacy was a necessity and something she practiced daily, but that didn’t mean it was always easy. “Now, if you could please excuse me, I have a meeting to attend.”
“Of course, Ms. Potts.” She could hear how her dismissal offended the Secretary of State, but honestly she was so past caring at this point. He couldn’t do anything to her - she was neither an Avenger nor a superhero and with Tony … gone, she had sole control of the company and the funding the government and the Avengers received.
As Pepper looked at the Avengers Compound, she felt fury rising deep within her. It was only the presence of the CIA agents behind her that prevented her from losing her composure.
It was empty - Pepper had relocated the staff to the Tower this morning, Vision was in the hospital with Rhodey, Captain America was hiding, like a coward, with his brainwashed killer buddy and the others were in the Raft, in prison.
Tony wouldn’t ever set foot here anymore.
A lump formed in her throat, but she steeled herself and strode inside purposefully, her heels clicking on the marble floor, with the agents following her silently. FRIDAY opened the doors for her without a fuss, as her access codes unlocked every part of the compound. It was painful to know that, even with their break-up and their time apart - during which she refused to attend several conferences with him and refused to have any contact with him whatsoever, among other things - he hadn’t… retaliated against her.
Which he would have been more than right to do.
Their breakup was messy and painful, and Pepper regretted how they left things. Now, she wouldn’t ever be able to fix things with him.
Tony had died thinking Pepper didn’t care about him anymore, which had never been the case. Sure, she hadn’t been able to handle Iron Man and Tony’s need for the suit, but that didn’t mean she didn’t love Tony and respect him.
If she had only picked up…
If only she had talked to him and told him she cared for him…
She shook her head. She had rooms to clean out, belongings to turn over to the CIA and the government…
As she entered the living room, she could see a hole in the floor, from when Maximoff shoved Vision through at least 17 floors of ground and cement. Barton had been meticulous and had taken all of his weapons with him. Thankfully, even though FRIDAY had been disabled, there was still a recording of the event. She would need those later for a lawsuit... or two.
She ignored it, despite the uneasy shifting of the agents behind her, and let the agents do their work. As they walked in and out of the rooms of the “Rogue Avengers”, as the media was calling them, she wandered off to Tony’s room.
Spacious, clean and with barely any stuff. Not that it was a big surprise - everyone who knew Tony knew he kept all of his “important stuff” in the lab.
“Ms. Potts?” Someone cleared their throat. She turned and saw a young agent, barely over the age of 20, standing uncertainly by the door. “We’ve collected everything that might be of importance, what should we do with the rest?”
She mulled it over. She was tempted to destroy everything, but there was no guarantee that something in those rooms might not be needed in the future.
“Leave it as it is for now. I’ll have someone take care of them later.” She decided.
“Right.” He nodded and backed away. She sighed as she took one look around the room.
“FRIDAY, after the agents from the CIA are gone, I want you to lock down the compound until I say otherwise.”
“Of course, Ms. Potts.”
She thought it would make her feel at little better to take away Rogers and his team’s home - but all she felt was sorrow.
Thank you so much for reading my story!
Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think. Hope's being introduced next chapter, don't worry.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter :)
Chapter 3: Rhodey's Phone Call
Rhodey receives a phone call from someone unexpected.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Rhodey was largely left to his own devices, despite his mother and Vision’s constant presence and fussing. Vision was still feeling guilty over the whole “My Beam Left You Paralyzed For Good” thing and refused to leave him alone, although he could barely meet his eyes.
After his tests had been completed, he had finally been given some peace of mind and access to the Internet - granted, his phone took a while to charge but it wasn’t like he had anywhere else to go.
It was a bad idea to go online, though - a memo Rhodey got a little too late. Every article spoke of Tony’s death and speculations of what caused his injuries, every YouTube video was a debate on the “Avengers Civil War” business, consolation flowers were left at SI’s doorstep…
The world was a mess and now Rhodey didn’t even have Tony, let alone his legs.
After Pepper had left, before sunrise, he had spent the whole day thinking about his college days, with Tony - how the young genius was always trying to figure out philosophical questions such as the reason for his existence, how he answered every question in his class and made his peers hate his brilliance, how devoted he was to his robots, how stressed he was when exam week came around even though he aced each of his exams with flying colors…
Needless to say, he spent his day bawling his eyes out, much to the concern of his mother and the discomfort of Vision, although they understood (on a different level).
In another situation, he would have insisted he cried in a very manly way.
But his best friend was gone - he wouldn’t have a genius to force to eat three times a day whenever he could, he wouldn’t be able to force Tony to go to bed after spending too many hours in the workshop, he wouldn’t have someone to get drunk with, someone to tell his secrets, someone to be his wingman, someone to pat his back and laugh as he threw up in the toilet after getting drunk the night before, someone to fight next to him (Iron Man and Iron Patriot, fighting against the bad guys)…
Screw that name, War Machine sounded MUCH better.
He wasn’t coping, but he wasn’t in denial. That was something, right?
He was a soldier - he wasn’t a stranger to death or to injuries. That meant he could accept the fact that Tony was dead, that didn’t mean he wasn’t grieving and hurting.
Tony was in a better place, he said to comfort himself.
The next day wasn’t much better - he repeated the same pattern until the CEO of Pym Technologies, Hope Van Dyne, called him.
He had been browsing YouTube for something interesting to watch that wouldn’t remind him of Tony (few things didn’t, since the man practically had his fingers in almost every pie), when he received the call.
Caller ID: Private Number
He was tempted to let it go to voicemail, but he cleared his throat and answered after the fourth ring. He saw Vision leave the room silently from the corner of his eyes.
“Hello, Colonel Rhodes. My name is Hope Van Dyne and I was hoping we could talk for a few minutes, if that’s okay with you?” Something in her voice reminded him of Pepper - strong, confident yet polite.
“Of course… I must say, it’s a surprise to hear from you. Being Tony Stark’s best friend meant contact with Pym Technologies was very limited at best.” He frowned.
“Yes, well, that’s the feud between my father and Mr. Stark. I hope I didn’t call at a bad time - I just wanted to offer my sincere apologies for Ant-Man’s involvement in the Leipzig/Halle Airport battle and my condolences for your… grave injuries and for Mr. Stark.” Hope said all of this calmly yet with emotion. Loss and regret were the main ones, as far as Rhodey could tell.
“You’re not to blame. And… thank you, I suppose.” He cleared his throat. He hated not knowing what to say and how to respond to the woman’s words. “I mean no offense but … what is it that you need?”
“Excuse me?” Ms. Van Dyne was either confused or offended - Rhodey could only hope it was the former.
“What is the real motive of your call? The War Machine suit? The Iron Man suit?” He asked. “No offense.” He added as an afterthought. Diplomacy was never really his thing - he was a soldier, not a politician.
“None of those. I’m afraid that if I wanted those things, I would talk to Ms. Potts, who is, if you recall, the CEO of Stark Industries. Those suits are, after all, property of Stark Industries.” She had a nice laugh, Rhodey had to admit.
“Oh…” He didn’t know what else to say. “Well, thank you for calling…”
“Of course.” She was amused. “Goodbye, Colonel,”
“Goodbye, Ms. Van Dyne.” He quickly hung up.
Well, that was weird. Vision slowly drifted back into the room and Rhodey couldn’t stifle his laugh.
“You know that just gave away the fact that you were listening to my phone call, right?” He chortled.
Vision looked affronted, although he still didn't meet his eyes. “I did my best to not listen to your conversation.”
Rhodey laughed again. It was nice, he supposed. He hadn’t thought he could laugh again, after Tony, but here he was….
He knew he wouldn’t ever move past Tony’s death, but he could certainly move forward in his life.
Something Tony would’ve wanted him to do.
As promised, Hope has been introduced to the story! In a small role, anyway, but that'll change when she talks to Pepper.
I'm sorry if I don't get the characters right or don't portray things accurately - I'm working on it, I promise!
All comments are welcome :) let me know what you think!