A/N: This bunny bit hard and fast and would not leave me be until it was written. I thank Mia for the unintended, but very persistent plot bunny.
Thanks to Jilly for beta’ing.
So yeah, my very first foray into Avengers fandom. Obviously, I don’t own it, or Marvel. If I did, there’d definitely be more female heroes out there being made into movies, and there’d be a whole lot more slash involved in general 😉
14,327 days, 8 hours, 10 minutes and 17 seconds.
She smiles as she trails a finger over the markings that mean her son will have a soulmate, too. It’s a gift not many receive, but knowing it’ll be his fills her heart with joy. Her only regret is that he will have to wait thirty-nine long years to find his mate. Still, as she holds her newborn son in her arms, she vows to do all she can to prepare him. “You will know love, Anthony,” she whispers in his hair.
9777 days, 19 hours, 2 minutes and 55 seconds.
Tony leans into his dad’s side, clutching his jacket, his eyes fixed on the casket as it’s lowered into the ground. His father puts his arm around Tony’s shoulder. Tony tries to be strong, to not cry at the first sounds of dirt being tossed onto his mother’s last resting place. Hiccuping, he turns his face away, unable to stand the sight of the finality of it. It isn’t long before everything is done and people begin to wander off, leaving father and son alone at the gravesite.
Kneeling, Howard wraps his arms around Tony briefly before grabbing his shoulders and looking at his son. The smile he manages is tremulous at best. Even so, Tony can’t respond in kind. “We will be all right, son. We have each other,” Howard says, trailing one hand down to wrap around Tony’s markings. “And you still have your soulmate,” he adds, his voice catching.
Tony glances down and nods. He knows that his father just buried his soulmate, and just for a moment he wonders through his own grief how his father can even begin to cope with that loss.
7367 days, 5 hours, 5 minutes and 31 seconds.
Howard whoops and hollers as Tony walks the stage to get his diplomas. Tony grins, waving at his dad who wolf whistles in response. As Tony shakes hands with the dean, he catches a glimpse of his mark and feels a twinge of regret, wishing his mate could have been here.
6443 days, 16 hours, 28 minutes and 37 seconds.
Tony answers the door, the quip to his father for forgetting his keys again dying on his lips at the sight of two police officers on the doorstep. His insides go cold at the news.
“I’m sorry, son. It was quick, if that helps.”
Tony can’t even process. All he knows is that his father is gone and he’s left all alone. Closing the door on the officers, he slumps against it, clutching his wrist. “Where are you?” he whispers, desperate and feeling utterly lost.
6048 days, 6 hours, 4 minutes and 24 seconds.
Tony’s groan is muffled by his pillow.
“Come on, Tony, you have to get up. This isn’t-“
He turns to his side to glare at Pepper. “What, Pepper? This isn’t, what?”
She sighs, rolling her eyes, but keeps her silence on the matter. “It’s time to get up, Tony. You have a meeting in less than an hour.”
“You handle it,” he mutters, turning back and burrowing into his pillow.
“I can’t and you know it. Now come on. I deal with just about everything else already, the least you can do is get up and be there for the actual board meeting.” Pepper huffs, tapping her foot impatiently.
“All right, all right, keep your shirt on,” Tony grouses. Lifting his head, he wiggles his eyebrows. “Then again,” he starts.
“Tony!” Pepper says, her warning clear in her tone.
3660 days, 3 hours, 11 minutes and 46 seconds.
“Tony?” Pepper whispers, placing a careful hand on his shoulder.
He blinks slowly, trying to focus on her voice. She smiles at him, though it’s clear she’s been crying.
“There you are,” she says with feigned confidence. “We were worried for a while.”
Tony tries to speak, but the tube down his throat prohibits him from doing so. Just at that moment, the doctor comes into his line of sight and within seconds, the tube is removed and Tony feels like he’s coughing up a lung. A quick examination, and he’s left alone with Pepper again. “What happened?” he rasps.
Pepper takes his hand, her thumb brushing against his mark. “Someone tried to kill you,” she says shakily. Then, taking a deep breath, she tips her head toward the window and adds, “I hired you a bodyguard. He goes by Happy.”
Tony’s looks to see a burly guy waving at him. “Nice to meet you, boss,” he says with a grin.
2467 days, 3 hours, 11 minutes and 46 seconds.
“C’mon, boss, I really wish you’d let me drive,” Happy intones, holding on to both the dashboard and the handle for dear life as Tony takes the corner way too fast.
“What’d be the fun in that, Happy?” Tony shoots back, grinning. He’s flying high, though even Tony isn’t exactly sure why. By all rights, he should be contemplative at the very least. After all, the police have just caught the person responsible for not only all the attempts on his own life, but who apparently had caused the deaths of both his parents. His heart twinges at the thought of his parents, but the realization that he can now live his life without the constant looking over his shoulder is exhilarating.
Happy eyes him warily. “Ya know, at this rate it won’t matter if there’s no one after your hide anymore. You’ll do their job for them and then where will your soulmate be?”
That shocks Tony enough to ease his foot off the gas some.
811 days, 20 hours, 50 minutes and 17 seconds.
A chorus of, “To Tony!” and, “Happy birthday, Tony!” sounds.
Tony forces a smile, lifting his glass. He resolutely ignores the mark on his wrist as it peeks out from under his sleeve. While he very much appreciates Pepper for throwing him a birthday party and being surrounded by his friends, he isn’t really in the mood to celebrate. He feels alone and lonely despite the people milling around him.
Pepper kisses his cheek as she squeezes his shoulder. Leaning in, she whispers, “Two years, Tony. They’ll be over before you know it.”
He shrugs, sipping his champagne.
39 days, 11 hours, 21 minutes and 55 seconds.
Tony stares sullenly at his alarm clock. It’s not even four in the morning, but he can’t sleep. His eyes keep finding his mark, and every time he sees it these days, his heart trips and his throat tightens. So close now. For years, Tony’s tried to imagine who his soulmate might be, what they’d look like. Whether it’s a he or a she, not that he cares either way.
With a frustrated growl, Tony punches his pillow and gets up. “No point staying in bed,” he grouses.
“As you say, sir,” comes the voice of Jarvis over the comms.
Tony’s lips twitch into a grin. Jarvis is his pet project, something he’s been whiling away his time on as he waits for the countdown to end. Something to focus on instead of the endless waiting. He’s proud of the way he’s managed to interface Jarvis into the house. The sheer amount of programming he’s put into Jarvis is staggering, but he’s fairly certain he can go further and actually market Jarvis. Well, not his Jarvis, but perhaps on a smaller scale.
“Coffee has started, sir. Shall I boot up the bots in your ‘shop, sir?”
“Why not, Jarvis. Just be sure to keep the black gold flowing,” Tony replies as he makes his way downstairs, eager for the promised distraction of tinkering with the robotic parts of Jarvis.
7 days, 0 hours, 54 minutes and 39 seconds.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Tony?” Pepper asks hesitantly.
Rapping his fingers on the desk in a nervous rhythm, he looks up from his screen. “Do what, Pep?”
She rolls his eyes. “I get that you want to block some time for when you meet them, but… Maybe it’d be better to keep busy until then?”
Tony’s mind is only half-there as he answers, “I am keeping busy, can’t you tell?”
“That’s not what I mean and you know it,” she shoots back, her voice carrying an all too familiar edge that means she’s worried for him.
Sighing, he runs his fingers through his hair and turns his full attention to her. “Pepper, I can’t, okay. I can’t deal with the everyday stuff. I can’t focus on the minutiae of business right now, so what would be the point of going into the office?”
She sighs, nodding reluctantly. “Okay. Okay. Just… promise me you won’t hide away?”
He scowls slightly. He’s not hiding. He really isn’t. And maybe if he tells himself that enough times, he might start to believe it, too.
“Promise me, Tony,” she prods again, narrowing her eyes.
“Fine. I promise. Happy now?”
She watches him closely for a moment. “For the moment,” she concedes.
3 days, 13 hours, 7 minutes and 27 seconds.
“Sir, Miss Potts asked me to ensure you got some sleep,” Jarvis chimes.
Tony absently waves his hand. “Later, Jarvis, I’m busy.”
The robotic arm he’s working on twitches, then smoothly grabs a cannister. Tony eyes it intently as it moves from one end of the platform to the other, when suddenly all the lights go out and everything is powered down. The robotic arm makes a sad whirring noise that is nearly lost at Tony’s, “Jarvis! What the hell!”
“Miss Potts insisted, sir. She has left instructions to not power anything back up until oh-eight hundred,” Jarvis intones smoothly. Tony is almost certain he can hear a hint of smugness in it.
Frustrated, Tony kicks his chair back. “Fine, I’ll go to bed,” he grumbles.
“As you will, sir,” Jarvis replies, and the lights turn on just enough to lead him from his workshop to his bedroom.
0 days, 7 hours, 51 minutes and 40 seconds.
Tony stares out of the window across the bay, his mind blank. He’s tired, having barely slept a wink all night. Today’s the day. Today, he’ll finally get to meet his soulmate and he’s a nervous wreck. All week, he’s been going back and forth on whether to stay inside or head out. Neither are a guarantee of anything, of course. Someone could drop by the house, or he could run into them on the road somewhere. There is no certainty in anything, other than the fact the numbers are slowly ticking down to zero and it frightens him beyond anything he’s ever known before.
“Here,” Pepper says gently as she puts a plate of pancakes in front of him. “Eat.”
“Not hungry,” Tony mutters, not even sparing her a glance.
“You need to eat, Tony. You’re no good to anyone if you get sick,” she wheedles.
Rolling his eyes, he mechanically begins to devour the food put in front of him, not really tasting any of it. Neither of them speaks until he’s finished. Pepper gives him a small smile. “Much better. So, what are you going to do?” she asks gently.
He shrugs. “Not sure yet.”
Pepper nods. “Okay. Just… take care, Tony. All right? And… let me know what happens?”
He gives her a small, grateful smile and pats her hand. “I will. I’ll be fine, Pep.”
0 days, 3 hours, 5 minutes and 28 seconds.
“Boss?” Happy pokes his head around the door. “There’s a delivery that needs your signature.”
Frowning, Tony automatically glances at his wrist. Can’t be them yet, it’s too early. Getting to his feet, he walks to the door. He huffs at the sight of the truck being unloaded. He’d forgotten he’d ordered parts for Jarvis. Signing, he tilts his head to the door to his workshop. “Just take it down for me, if you’d be so kind.”
“Sure thing,” the delivery guy responds, smiling.
0 days, 0 hours, 35 minutes and 28 seconds.
Tony paces around his living room, shaking his hands to release some of his nervous energy. “Argh! I’m going out of my mind here. Happy!” he calls. “We’re leaving. If I stay here another minute, I can’t be held responsible for what happens.”
“No problem, boss. I’ll bring the car around front.”
Tony nods to himself, then checks his phone to see if he still has the invitation to the gallery opening of one of his friends. Relieved, he gives her a quick call. “Hey Ang, sweetheart. Is the invite still open? Yeah? Great. I’m on my way.”
0 days, 0 hours, 4 minutes and 11 seconds.
Everything happens so fast. One minute, Happy is driving him downtown and Tony is staring out the window watching the scenery. The next, a car runs a red light and hits Happy’s side of the car and pushes the vehicle until it’s wedged between the car and a building.
Happy’s side of the car is completely smashed in. Tony is sure his long-time friend and bodyguard is beyond help, and he’s not so sure about himself. The inside’s basically collapsed and feels more like a pretzel, and Tony hurts. He can’t move and is stuck in an awkward position. His legs are pinned by the seats in front of him, and his right arm is somewhat cushioning his head. He can just make out the mark on his wrist and all he can do is stare in abject horror as the minutes turn to seconds.
Tony is aware of voices, of movement around the crumpled car, but he can’t focus on anything but the time that’s running out. He vaguely realizes people are trying to get into the wreckage to help him, but he can’t offer more than the occasional whimper as things get shifted and pressure changes. His pain increases even as his level of consciousness begins to ebb away, following the last moments he’ll have before time runs out.
Just when Tony’s certain he’s lost his chance, that he’ll die before meeting his soulmate, a man appears. Tony’s eyes zero in on blond hair and blue eyes and lips that try to give him a reassuring smile. Out of the corner of his eye, Tony sees the countdown reach zero right as the man touches his neck and murmurs, “Don’t worry, I’ve got you.”
Tony’s world turns black.