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Title: The Long Road Home  (1/?)
Rating: R –language, sexual content, violence
Genre: Gen, Rom, Drama, Action, Angst
Characters/Pairings: Tony/Pepper, Rhodes

Summary: Their relationship hasn’t been without ‘problems’ to say the least. After all of the close calls while playing ‘Super Hero’ – everything finally catches up with him. Now, after an accident that has left him physically inept. He begins to lose faith in himself. Finally, a strong willed Pepper steps up and she begins to believe for him.

Warnings: AU- Contains some spoilers for those not up to date.
Word Count: 1513- give or take
Disclaimer: I do not own Ironman or any of the characters.

  Story can be found here:




'I can't do this anymore Tony.'

Her voice was still clear as bell, ringing through his mind. Over and over.

'I can't watch you hurt anymore.'

He planted his aching feet inside the boots of his suit as the machine began to fit him with his gold and red armor. Time to play hero again. Save people he didn't know. People he actually cared nothing about. Those people were his responsibility though. He took a deep breath as her words rotated in his head over and over again like a bad song.

'I can't do this anymore Tony.'

That's what she told him early this morning around 6am. It was now 8am and he was off to fight crime, save the day. She was well on her way out of Malibu by now, bags packed, and all ties severed. To him at least. She wasn't coming back.

And he was letting her go…

He bit his lip to prevent tears from forming in his eyes. He needed to focus. He had a mission to do now. One that was on the top ten lists according to Rhodes. He needed to concentrate. He took in a deep shaky breath. He wasn't sure how it would feel coming home to an empty house after a tiring battle. After he did his 'superhero' duties, as Pepper called them.

'I can't do this anymore Tony.'

"She left," he whispered to himself as the machine finished with the assembly. His face was blank, eyes empty. He didn't need to go on this mission, not like this. He shook his head. It had to be done. He needed to go. He swallowed dryly and silently took a breath. His heart ached so bad, he grimaced as the pain rippled through his chest. He couldn't make it without her. He was very well aware of that. He could always hire someone else to take care of his personal and business affairs, but Pepper…

She took care of…him.

"Sir, I'm concerned," Jarvis stated.

And he was letting her go…

Tony looked down at his hands as he flexed his fingers in the red iron gloves, "I programmed you to be sophisticated and smart, not caring and nosey Jarvis."

Jarvis ignored his comment, "I'm reading a dramatic difference in brain waves Sir." He was known for bypassing instructions from time to time. A flaw that Tony was sure he would never fix. He secretly enjoyed the fact that Jarvis was, well, sort of…his friend.

Tony sniffed as he looked back up at the tunnel ahead of him. Freedom. Or so he used to think. "That's called my heart breaking Jarvis. You're lucky you can't feel."

And he was letting her go…

His helmet closed, revealing a hardened metal face with light glowing eyes. He could hide behind the mask. He just couldn't hide from her. Never. A part of him wanted to go after her. A part of him wanted to be the superhero that he had become. He let out a long sigh. He knew he couldn't do both and that's what was killing him the most. He had to choose. Before his mind had the chance to think, to choose…he found himself swooshing through the tunnel without hesitation. 'Off to save the day', he could hear her saying unhappily.

As he passed through the clouds, his mind trailed back to the beginning. It had been one of the best times in his life. No, most certainly, the overall best. After everything that had happened with Obadiah, he realized what was important to him. What was 'most' important to him in his life. The feisty red headed love of his life. It had been at least three weeks before they began 'dating'. He had asked her out for lunch one day and then dinner that night, and then bought her breakfast the next morning. It had been completely unexpected.

He remembered waking up the next morning smelling her on his skin. The soft body pressed against him creating such amazing warmth in him. The feeling was like none other than he had ever known. Of course, every other woman he had ever had in his bed, he wasn't in love with. His love was leaving. He could probably pass over her car, make her stop. But he continued in the opposite direction. Maybe in some screwed up way he was doing this for her. Doing some sort of favor, for her. So that she didn't have to worry, so she wouldn't have to care so much.

'I can't do this anymore Tony.'

He still couldn't believe she left. She. Left. Him. There was a beep and Rhodey's picture popped up in his side vision. "Yea."

Rhodes never missed a beat, "My men and I are trapped. We are gettin' pounded here!"

Tony could hear yelling, bombs, gun fire…fear. He knew he had chosen correctly. Are you sure? He thought suddenly.

"Two minutes out," Tony said flatly as he kicked it into a higher gear. He could hear her voice, her delicate voice tinged with anger. 'Gotta' hurry Tony, time to play superhero..'

She wouldn't leave his head. Tony had a feeling she never would.

Faster, he thought. They are in trouble Tony. He was always pushing himself further and further. Was it worth it? He sighed.

'That's it Tony…just runaway. Runaway, like you always do.'

No, he didn't think she'd ever leave his head…or his heart.


He was thanked by a few soldiers, some gave him a silent nod of appreciation, and others couldn't give a rat's ass that he flew in and saved the day. He was used to it by now. His head was killing him. He needed a drink. He glanced over at Rhodes. He was checking on his men, as usual. Rhodes was a good man. A good friend. Pepper deserved someone like Rhodes. His visor on his helmet rolled back. Just a little bit of hot, fresh desert air. He shut his eyes and inhaled. Pepper…please come back to me.

He opened his eyes just in time to see Rhodey turn, wide eyed and shocked. He shouted something just as an explosion sent Tony flying. He hit the ground hard and rolled a few times. There was a sudden heat that crept up his back to his neck.

What the hell?

He tried to lift himself off the ground, but suddenly another explosion sent him twenty more feet. He was on his back starring at the sky, sweat and blood burning his eyes. There was pain in his back and God, it was unbelievable. But at the moment, all he could think about was how she had just left him. He sucked in a breath as tears rolled down his face into his blood matted hair. His breath was coming out in short bursts. It hurts. He couldn't tell if it was from the gaping hole in his heart or if this was physical pain from an injury somewhere. Either way, they both were hurting incredibly bad.

"Tony!" Rhodes shouted. He seemed far away. Where was he? All he could see dust, blinking several times as he turned his head. There was a ceiling now, wait, wasn't he just looking the sky?

"Tony!" Rhodes yelled again. Can he not find me?

"Here," he replied roughly. The pain was beginning to worsen. It was definitely physical. At least Pepper wouldn't have to seem like this. Rhodes was there, out of no where along with three other specials.

"Where are you injured?" Rhodes said quickly as one of the other men stared at something with wide eyes. He mumbled something that Tony couldn't quite understand.

"This sucks huh? Help me up?" Tony grunted. Rhodes looked unsure. Even the men surrounding him glanced at each other. "Damnit, just fucking help me."

Tony was positive if he could just stand- the pain would subside. Please… The men surrounded him and helped pull him up. He grunted and moaned. His expectations, his hope subsided…the pain didn't stop. It shot through his body like a million knifes stabbing at his muscles. "Oh God."

Rhodes starting shouting orders to his men to get the chopper ready. People were yelling-running everywhere. They were taking him to Milton. Tony shook his head, "No…I'll meet you at the house. I need to get this armor off. Something…something, fuck…something's there."

"It's twisted…I'm not sure you can fly…" Rhodes and two other men held onto him as he knees buckled slightly. If he didn't get in the air now, he wouldn't be able to make it back.

"It's fine." He pushed out of the men's grip as his helmet shut suddenly and he stepped over debris from the building he had landed in. He tried not to stumble, his legs were weak, the pain was throbbing, and his body was felt suddenly hot. "Get me home Jarvis."