Title: In Memoriam
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Iron Man (MCU)
Timeline: Between ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Iron Man 2’.
Genre: Drama, general
Rating: K+ / FRC
Characters: J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark (Iron Man). Mentioned: Ho Yinsen.
Summary: Tony hasn’t been avoiding it, exactly, but when he revisits the place in Afghanistan where he was held captive, he cannot help but be reminded of the man who got left behind – and to whom Tony owes so much of who he is now.
Complete. Part of “Genius, AI & Bots” series.
Warnings: Implied character deaths (canon), implied canonical violence.
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.
In the midst of dealing with Obie’s betrayal, turning his company around, and outing himself as an armored, high-tech-toting superhero – plus making it his business to rid the Middle-East of every terrorist pest he could find – Tony didn’t have time to return to the scene of his abduction.
He wasn’t consciously avoiding it, as far as he was concerned. There just didn’t come the right place and time for it.
Besides, he had blown it all up, and the U.S. military – as well as the mysterious organization S.H.I.E.L.D. – had probably been all over the place by now.
Nothing but piles of rock, dust, and sand…
When Tony landed the armor between the uneven mountain peaks, he wasn’t sure how exactly he felt. The area looked different, the sheltered valley no longer stacked with his company’s weapons. The winds had blown in heaps of sand and the signs of battle were long lost beneath it all. Here and there tiny tufts of brownish vegetation were fighting to survive, rising from the ashes of their scorched predecessors.
An anxious weight filled his chest and Tony’s resolve wavered. However, within the suit of armor, he was as safe as he could be; far away and long ago were the claustrophobic minutes of his desperate escape in a heap of heavy metal and harnesses pressing into his skin…
His eyes swept the mountain side where he thought the maze of tunnels had resided. From where he stood, he could see no opening, and a quick scan of the terrain made him deduce that most of the tunnels had probably collapsed in on themselves, burying his former prison along with them.
He didn’t know what had happened to the man’s body – hadn’t wanted to think about it when he got back home. It didn’t make a difference, especially when the Ten Rings proved they were still very much active despite Tony’s explosive escape.
Yinsen had been dead either way, and Tony had paid his respects by making his first appearance as Iron Man in Gulmira, where Yinsen’s family had once lived. He wasn’t naïve enough to think he had arrived in the nick of time; the situation in the Middle-East had been escalating for generations, and his was a much belated response, albeit a thorough one.
He sighed and turned off the second scan before it could finish. It had been months, and he wasn’t going to go digging around in the rubble, looking for the bones of the man who had saved his life and steered him onto a new path.
“Are we looking for something specific, sir?” J.A.R.V.I.S. asked, making himself known for the first time since they crossed the border into Afghanistan.
“No,” Tony replied. He knew he could just as well leave, but he remained standing there, staring at the rocky terrain.
J.A.R.V.I.S. was silent for so long it felt like the conversation had come to an end, but the AI eventually spoke up again: “Clearly you are looking for something.”
Tony blinked. It dawned on him that J.A.R.V.I.S. didn’t know where they were –or why. Not that Tony really had a good idea, either. It might have been best to leave and never come back…
“This is where they held me, for three months,” he said, despite thinking that it was probably doing him a disservice to reveal that fact.
“Oh,” said J.A.R.V.I.S., far less eloquent than usual. “Would you like me to… give you a moment?” he asked then, tentatively.
Tony laughed spontaneously, humored by the notion. “I think I’ve had all the time here that I could ever want, and then some,” he replied.
“Then why come back?”
“I guess I wanted to see if I could… find something,” Tony tried to explain. His eyes searched the side of the mountain again, trying to see the entrance to the tunnels. “To find someone,” he then specified a bit distractedly. “It’s stupid, really,” he admitted. “It’s been so long, and people have cleaned this place up; the Ten Rings, S.H.I.E.L.D., some secret military team cleaning up the last pieces of evidence…”
“I’m sure the place has significance to you, though, regardless of that,” J.A.R.V.I.S. mused.
“Sure,” Tony admitted. “Did I ever tell you about Yinsen?”
“The man who saved your life,” J.A.R.V.I.S. replied. Tony must have mentioned him in passing, probably when explaining the origin of the arc reactor. It didn’t take more than a single drop of a name: J.A.R.V.I.S. never forgot a thing.
“He died here, somewhere,” Tony told the AI. “He never made it out of those caves.”
Not once had he thought of it that way: the last time Yinsen saw the open sky was the day the terrorists walked their prisoners to the weapons stockpile and Tony reluctantly made the false promise to build the Jericho missile.
It made him feel sad, and more than a little guilty for not doing more – for not trying harder.
“He deserved better,” he murmured.
“Most people who die before their time do,” J.A.R.V.I.S. said, sounding very wise. “You survived, and will carry on the legacy he laid on your shoulders.” It was one of the rare times when J.A.R.V.I.S. sounded like he approved of Tony’s newfound drive to save the world. The AI actively and repeatedly reminded him of the hazards of his recent choices, attempting to protect him, but J.A.R.V.I.S. was advanced enough to comprehend why Tony was doing it – and why he couldn’t stop.
Tony Stark owed much to Ho Yinsen, and he was going to honor the man’s memory every time he suited up in defense of the world.
That had to be enough.
“Let’s go home,” Tony decided, and J.A.R.V.I.S. fired up the pre-flight sequence without a word, creating a moment of silence before Tony shot up to the sky, leaving the valley behind for the second time in his life. This time he knew he was going to make it home, and he had a pretty good idea of what tomorrow would bring.
After all, he was Iron Man – which was in large part thanks to the selflessness and drive of a man whom Tony hadn’t been able to save, but whose actions would guide his own for a long time to come.