Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Iron Man (MCU)
Timeline: somewhere between “Iron Man 2” and “The Avengers”
Genre: General, drama
Rating: T / FRT
Characters: J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark (Iron Man). Also: James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine).
Summary: Tony gets injured in battle and J.A.R.V.I.S. forgets to inform him about it – for his own good, apparently.
Complete. Part of “Genius, AI & Bots” series.
Warnings: Brief canonical violence, injury, language.
Disclaimer: Iron Man and Marvel Cinematic Universe, including characters and everything else, belong to Marvel, Marvel Studios, Jon Favreau and Paramount Pictures. In short: I own nothing; this is pure fiction created to entertain likeminded fans for no profit whatsoever.
Beta: Mythra (mythras-fire)
Story and status: Below you see the writing process of the story. If there is no text after the title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
The battle ends with a distinct absence of fanfare: one moment Tony is dodging fire from an anti-aircraft defense system, and the next the whole terrorist camp is swallowed up by a massive blast. Belatedly Tony wonders whether one of his missiles landed on a munitions pile, and then he’s busy being flung up and to the side as the air ripples and he can almost feel the heat through the suit.
He doesn’t quite recover from the blow of the pressure wave, losing altitude. Debris clinks against his suit as it drops fractionally faster than his spinning armored form. Up is down and gravity is debatable as the thrusters fight to steady his body, and the HUD blinks furiously in front of his face.
It all goes dark when he finally gets his bearings, feeling as if he’s been caught in a whirlpool instead of simply being knocked around in the air. The Heads-Up Display flickers and comes back to life, and Tony braces his body, muscles taut, holding himself still in order to find his center.
“We good?” he finally asks.
“You have sustained some damage from the flying debris,” J.A.R.V.I.S. responds. “Is it time to go home?”
Tony looks down at the battlefield-turned-smoking-crater. The HUD isn’t functioning perfectly, but since he felt the explosion through the suit, it’s highly unlikely anyone down there could have survived. “Yeah,” he agrees. “Time to go home.”
A light shifting sensation moves across the armor, mildly squeezing around his midsection, and Tony reflexively glances at the HUD, not instantly spotting a reason for the abnormal adjustments.
“Adjusting for flight,” J.A.R.V.I.S. informs him before he can ask. Tony assumes it has to do with the damage sustained in battle and lets out a sound of acknowledgment, leaving the AI to it. Soon enough Tony can feel a slight change in the repulsor output, and moves his limbs accordingly, trusting the flight path J.A.R.V.I.S. has planned since the HUD is still mostly out of commission.
“Estimated flight time two hours and thirty-six minutes.”
The armor feels a bit stiff around him, like being wrapped in a corset – not that Tony knows what that feels like, exactly, from personal experience... After a while the tightness has morphed into a secure kind of feeling which lulls Tony into a half-daze. J.A.R.V.I.S. is more than capable of flying him home safely, so he is confident that catching forty winks won’t end in a sudden crash in the middle of the ocean.
- - -
Tony slowly awakens to a buzz of voices around him and starts painfully as he discovers he is not at home; instead of being surrounded by the familiarity of his lab, the armor is standing on the vast deck of an aircraft carrier in a crowd of seamen, airmen - and one James Rhodes.
“Tony?” he hears Rhodey call out to him.
“Where the hell are we?” Tony blinks at the HUD, which is suspiciously blank in front of him.
“The CVN-69, sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S. replies, then clarifies for Tony’s bleary brain: “USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.”
“Why?” Tony asks.
“Tony?” Rhodey calls out again, looking like he’s debating whether or not to knock against the helmet to get his attention.
“You require medical assistance,” J.A.R.V.I.S. answers rather elusively.
“Couldn’t it wait until home?” Tony frowns.
“But there was nothing wrong with me when we took off.”
There’s definitely a silence there, and J.A.R.V.I.S. needs no such silences. “That is not entirely correct,” the AI finally states.
“You were injured in the fight, but considering the nature of the injury, I chose not to inform you.”
“But you think I need medical assistance now rather than at home?”
“Tony!” Rhodey yells – and raps his knuckles on his helmet. It hurts him more than it would ever hurt Tony, but it ticks Tony off enough for him to motion for the faceplate to open.
“Stop yelling,” he tells his friend, then continues addressing J.A.R.V.I.S.: “I don’t feel unwell.”
“That’s because the armor is compressing the wound,” Rhodey informs him.
Well, that sort of answers the abnormal corset-like sensation…
“You were not aware of the injury, and I did not want you to panic, so I thought it best to tell you we were going home and proceed with preparations without your knowledge,” J.A.R.V.I.S. explains further through the armor’s internal sound system.
“Can you walk?” Rhodey asks. “The infirmary is waiting for you.”
“I’m fine,” Tony retorts. “Get these people out of my face,” he adds, self-conscious suddenly about the supposed injury that prompted his AI to work behind his back. J.A.R.V.I.S. is not the scheming type, and Tony needs to set down some ground-rules with him later on.
“Come on,” Rhodey simply mutters and starts leading the way.
Tony takes a step and feels like every joint of his armor has suddenly become stiff. He grimaces, hesitates, takes another step – and notices it wasn’t just a random occurrence. The suit is clunkier than Mark I, and that’s saying something. “Maybe I should get out of the armor first,” he suggests.
“Are you sure?” J.A.R.V.I.S. asks, and Rhodey’s face looks like he’s wanting to say the same.
“Yeah,” Tony snaps. “I can barely move in this thing.”
As the suit begins to open, the lack of pressure on his midsection is instantly noticeable. Tony hadn’t even noticed how hard it was pressing around him, and his lungs are thankful for the freedom.
The armor suddenly halts in its opening process and Tony wriggles to get it moving again, suspecting the combination of damage and dust from the battle is getting into the joints.
“Please do not move,” J.A.R.V.I.S. pleads through his earpiece.
Rhodey just grimaces, returning to stand in front of him. The crowd that had barely begun to disperse returns around them.
“Just open the armor,” Tony orders.
“I think we need some tools,” Rhodey begins.
“Just force it along,” Tony starts and looks down, and for the first few seconds he doesn’t really understand what is wrong with the picture – other than that there is something wrong with it.
“We should probably carry him down,” someone dares to suggest.
“Do you know how much that thing weighs?” Rhodey shoots back, blessedly allowing Tony to go without answering because his mind is still perplexed by one section of the armor that is not following the rest. Instead, it is twisted towards his body, clearly having suffered a blow or two, but if it’s twisted so far, it means it’s stuck at least two inches into his side and he can’t feel a thing.
“We need something to cut that thing apart from the armor,” Rhodey decides.
“Uh huh,” Tony hums just because it sounds like the words were perhaps meant for him. He’s feeling a bit light-headed, and the angle of his head isn’t helping as he keeps looking down, but he’s afraid to move, to see if it’s a trick of the eye or not… “Rhodey?” he finally calls out.
“I think that I would like to revise my earlier statement about being okay.”
- - -
He doesn’t feel any actual pain until the piece of metal is out of him and Rhodey’s helping him to go to the bathroom although the doctor seemed to think he shouldn’t be standing upright for the next few days at the very least.
“What a disgrace,” Tony huffs as he uses one hand to urinate while the other is slung over Rhodey’s shoulder. “Speared by my own armor.”
“J.A.R.V.I.S. showed me footage of the battle. Next time, how about you just call for backup?”
“You’re busy,” Tony mutters.
“And you’re going to get yourself killed doing everything yourself,” Rhodey retorts.
“I’m not alone,” Tony defends himself. “Had I been alone, I would have just flown home and possibly passed out from internal bleeding before realizing something was up – or seen the warnings on the screen and done something about it.”
“J.A.R.V.I.S. saved your life,” Rhodey tells him, then turns them around and starts to help Tony back towards the bed. Apparently Tony is stuck on Ike until he can either fix the armor or Rhodey gets them a transport home. He has been informed by his best friend that it will be the latter.
“J.A.R.V.I.S. operated behind my back,” Tony grunts through the pain of moving.
“He knew that as long as the injury was contained and you weren’t aware of it, your chances of survival were better than having you freak out and bleed to death,” Rhodey deadpans.
“I wouldn’t have freaked out.”
“Whatever, man,” Rhodey says and dares to roll his eyes.
- - -
When he gets home, three and a half days later, Tony’s still in pain. He swears he’ll have ‘that talk’ with J.A.R.V.I.S., but it never happens.