sequel to In Extremis
SERIES: Imperfection Deviation/Iron Man (movie)
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters belong to me, sadly. They are owned by people with a lot more money
Author’s Voice of Warning (aka Author’s Note):
English is not my first language; it’s German. This is the best I can do. Any mistakes you find in here, collect them and you might win a prize
Tony felt like his brain had liquefied and taken the rest of his body with him. He hadn’t known a person could ever feel this way. This was beyond miserable. This was beyond pained and pathetic. This bordered right onto agony. Maybe it even was beyond agony. Whatever it was, he had it and he wasn’t getting rid of it so easily.
He had been through vicious hangovers, the full nine yards, including the throwing up, the churning stomach, the pounding head, the period of depression and the vow never to drink so much again – which of course had been rendered useless the next time. He had been through the pain of an exploding mine, shards in his chest, a crude battery-device attached to his chest, the replacement of the attachment with an arc reactor, said arc reactor being stolen… And he had crashed, been shot at, hit, blasted, hurled around and got the stuffing beat out of him.
Liquid brains were worse.
A lot worse.
Every single thought hurt. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t say whether he was really breathing or just imagining it in the throes of death, and since he had his eyes screwed shut he also didn’t see a thing. His ears were working, but he wished they weren’t. Sound was suddenly amplified. It only aggravated the headache.
Extremis had taken a beating. A really bad beating. It was down for the count, probably curling up in a corner of Tony’s still mostly organic brain, whimpering to itself and calling its host all kinds of names.
Tony would have laughed at the image if he had had the strength for it.
There was a cool, soothing touch. It took him a moment to realize that the touch wasn’t actually physical. It was like something reaching for Extremis and coaxing it out of its stupor, poking around until the nanotubes reluctantly rebooted.
The Extremis came back online. Tony felt his new senses stretch, felt the data streams connect, then inside his head images formed and he grabbed one of them, even if he was sore and aching and it sent pins and needles through his mind.
He was looking at himself, lying on the floor. Sam was sitting next to him, though not touching. The camera was high tech Cybertronian, of very good quality, and Tony could see each wrinkle in Sam’s clothes, each lines in the young face. And not far away stood the dark, imposing figure of Barricade. Red optics watched the two humans dispassionately. Suddenly the former Decepticon turned his head and looked right into the camera lens.
Geez! This close Barricade was even more imposing and terrifying that looking up at him from human level.
So okay, he was at the Autobot base, he was down for the count at the moment and… what the hell had happened?!
His brain was laboring with the memories. Anything? Anything at all?
Pepper. Right. Uhm, Pepper what?
More brain searching and it was accompanied by more of the beyond-agony experience.
Pepper telling him in no uncertain terms he needed time off. Keller sending him on enforced vacation. Tony deciding on coming to
He frowned. Ow, that hurt, too.
He didn’t do vacations. At least he didn’t do them voluntarily. But it had been either leave or face his personal assistant in a mood that rivaled PMS squared, and Pepper rarely PMSed.
So he was on vacation. Here? With Sam and Barricade? Why?
More memories trickled.
Tony had come to the Autobot base and he had gotten roped into… testing the Extremis. Damn, he was a sucker.
Recollections were slow to come and they weren’t pleasant. His own ego had collided with his arrogance and his perfectionism, and he had fallen for Barricade’s ‘offer’ to train using Extremis, in turn giving Sam some training opportunity as well. Tony had once before been blasted to mental smithereens by the younger man, so he had been reluctant. According to Barricade this shouldn’t be about fighting Sam. It was supposed to be about Tony learning how to move inside a Cybertronian computer system, as well as its hybrid off-spring.
Sam was to watch him, try to dislodge him, cause his concentration to waver, and so on. He wasn’t supposed to engage him in an all-out battle. Tony knew how that felt, had been there before, and he didn’t really look forward to something like that again. Apparently, neither did Barricade. For all his bad guy routine, Barricade was protective of Sam, which had and still did puzzle Tony to no end. He was also a rather bad ass teacher and while Sam had been a technopath for years now, he still trained with Barricade it seemed.
Tony hadn’t thought much about the offer. Hell, he hadn’t thought at all. He had simply acted. Pepper would have his ass for that. And Rhodey. Well, they would have to stand in line because Hot Rod had been furious.
The set-up had been simple. At least it had sounded simple. Tony was supposed to invade the Autobots’ computer system and Sam had to shadow him until he reached a certain point, then push him out. Cowboys and Indians technopathic style. It had sounded easy and simple. Each of them had a handicap. Extremis was easy to use around human tech, but pure Cybertronian machinery gave Tony a run for his money. Where Sam was a natural at connecting to the systems and to the Autobots, as well as the one Decepticon, Tony couldn’t. Apparently Extremis didn’t have the translation software necessary.
But he loved a challenge.
Now he lay on the ground, aching, wishing he could just sleep this off, turn a knob and be done with it, or numb it somehow.
Sam’s handicap was the fact that using his technopathy too much gave him a killer headache and he easily lost himself in the machines if he didn’t pay attention. He worked a lot better when he had an anchor, which was Bumblebee, but Sam had decided to wing it.
It took Tony a while to open his physical eyes and his vision was slightly blurry and blocked by a jean clad leg.
“Sam?” he rasped.
“Well, hey. Welcome back to the world of migraines. How’s the head?” the younger man asked.
“Hopefully still attached.” Tony struggled up, feeling no vertigo, but the headache increased.
Sam regarded him neutrally, the brown eyes giving nothing away. Neither was his face. Tony glared a little.
“Go on. Gloat. You beat me again.”
Sam grimaced. “You beat yourself, Stark. You got over-confident and were distracted.”
Tony rubbed at his temples, remembering his fascination with the alien data, how he had been side-tracked and then… well, pole-axed.
He looked up and met the glowing red optics of their watcher. Tony’s brows drew down in a scowl. Barricade remained silent, but he looked… amused, for lack of a better word.
“I know you’re gloating,” Stark snarled.
Sam smiled. “You’ll get used to it.”
“Well, gee, thanks.”
“After Barricade kicks your ass for the umpteenth time, you’ll learn.”
“He did this?!” Tony exclaimed.
Sam nodded. Red optics flashed, appearing even more smug.
“You went about this like a child,” Barricade said, voice a low, dark rumble. “You played. You were careless.”
“I beat you. You were careless,” was the cold answer.
“You got more experience,” Tony snapped. “As does Sam!”
Barricade leaned closer, an imposing, terrifying sight. “His abilities are organic. Yours are enhanced by nanotubes that rewired your organic brain to handle the Extremis abilities perfectly. It is your advantage over the organic version. You just refuse to use it properly.”
And how much fun was it to get his own words about perfection shoved back at him? Tony knew that the Extremis was perfection. He was perfect. His whole body was without flaw – aside from the arc reactor still embedded in his chest because the Extremis thought it was needed. He could use his abilities without a problem. He hadn’t need to be taught. It was like breathing to him; automatic.
“Don’t think about offering to teach me!” Tony hissed, annoyed.
“Hardly.” Barricade sounded like that was the worst he could be forced to do.
Sam still sat on the ground between the two so very different persons, apparently amused. Tony got to his feet, swaying. He shot Sam furious looks, but the younger man wasn’t fazed by them.
“Get some rest,” he advised as he got up as well. “We’ll try this again tomorrow.”
Tony muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath and stalked off. It was interrupted by a stagger, but at least he didn’t fall flat on his face.
“You’re enjoying this,” Sam stated and looked up at Barricade.
He had shoved his hands into his jean pockets and while he felt the need for something sweet, it wasn’t the usual craving yet. Shadowing Tony and then briefly engaging him had been like stretching his legs. Sure, some moves had been painful, but he had been taught by the best. All the years of relentless training and Sam’s own need to handle this had prepared him for such interludes.
And it hadn’t been more than an interlude. For all his technological advantage, Tony Stark was still human, with all his flaws. He might be able to use his version of technopathy with a lot more ease, but it didn’t mean he knew how to fight with it.
Clawed fingers curled slightly and the red optics focus on Sam. “I merely observe, human.”
“You observe and you enjoy it,” Sam chuckled.
And Barricade took pride in Sam’s achievements, in how fast he recovered, how easily he had handled this task. Sam could feel it through the connection that still existed between them. The technopath never closed himself off completely from his abilities, but usually it was Bumblebee who was his anchoring presence. Barricade would do in a jam, like right now, when his mind was recovering from the strain. He would have been able to handle it without the former Decepticon, but it was easier, faster and much better with a mech he knew present.
Barricade didn’t fight the anchoring technique Sam used. He felt it, Sam was very sure of that, but he didn’t kick the human mind out of his systems. Sam knew him almost as well as Bumblebee. They had trained together for the past years and Sam had stumbled around inside the mech’s mind often enough to know his way through the maze, to understand what was off limits, and to be finally able to ignore the tantalizing spark bond Barricade had with Jazz. That had taken the longest to master.
“He’s too confident,” Barricade now stated, sounding displeased. “He treats the implant like a game. He is vulnerable and easy to take down should someone want to do that.”
Sam raised his brows. “Looking for a new student?” he teased.
It got him a look of disdain. “Hardly.”
Not that Tony would even consider the possibility. The man had to find his own way, like Sam had. But Sam had accepted Barricade as a teacher.
“How about giving him some pointers?” he now offered.
There was a flash of deeper red. Sam grinned and shrugged.
“Just an idea.”
Barricade rumbled. “A very bad one, Sam Witwicky.” He walked past the human. “Should he seek me out to have his… ass handed to him,” Barricade quoted a human saying, “I’d be glad to destroy his mind. Otherwise he should keep away.”
Sam chuckled and pushed away from the wall he had been leaning against. His headache was lessening. Nothing a pint of hot chocolate wouldn’t cure. He knew how to take Barricade’s words: half-seriously. Barricade wouldn’t kill the billionaire just out of spite and because he had a bad day. Tony wouldn’t dream of asking for that kind of help anyway, so no danger there.
::Are you sure?:: Bumblebee asked.
::Very. Tony might be a bit self-destructive sometimes, but even he wouldn’t try and get the Extremis annihilated by Barricade::
Bumblebee sent his agreement, though it was laced with doubt. Tony really did have an unhealthy tendency to provoke the wrong people.
::And Barricade isn’t trying to kill him. Tony is no threat::
::He is:: Bumblebee disagreed.
::As I am. As Will is. We all are:: Sam replied, agreeing. ::But we’re not the enemy. You guys aren’t invincible. The military could take you out with sabot rounds or new tech, but they won’t. We’re allies, all of us. Tony is one, too. A very important one::
::I know. Your connections to us is different than Tony’s. Will and you and the others… we fought together, Sam. You are combat allies::
::As is Tony. I trust him. I know he doesn’t readily trust me because of my abilities and his weak spots, but he trusts me enough so we can work together:: Sam said .
As he walked into his house Bumblebee was already waiting and he smiled at his partner. He grabbed a few Mars bars and flopped onto the couch. Bumblebee sat next to the piece of furniture, watching from alert blue optics.
Sam wondered if Stark would want another chance at this. Knowing Tony, he would after he had licked his wounds. He wouldn’t give up, but neither would Sam just let him win. He hadn’t even broken into a sweat over this attack-defense training. He had a lot more potential, but so had Tony.
Sam felt Bumblebee’s mind-touch intensify and he opened up, gave Bumblebee the reassurance the mech needed that his human partner was okay. Tony would contact them when he was ready. Until then he would enjoy his own way of recuperation.
The coffee machine was his friend. He lived in symbiosis with it. Coffee was good and holy and all the life he needed.
Tony Stark slouched in the couch chair of the base’s common room, an oversized coffee mug in his hands, blissed out on caffeine. Thankfully no one was around to bother him because Epps had taken his team out for a practice run or something. Lieutenant DeMarco had wandered in briefly, refilled his own mug, then left again with no word and only a nod into Tony’s direction.
One coffee-holic to another.
Tony didn’t care who did what around him as long the line of sight to the coffee machine wasn’t broken and the black liquid was hot and strong and at his disposal.
Damn, his head still hurt. It wasn’t the organic part, it was the Extremis. While he could feel the data streams and had accessed one briefly, it had been bad for his general well-being.
Pain was definitely not his friend.
Sam was good. Damn, the kid was really good. And he himself sucked big time. He had been too confident in his own abilities, too convinced that the nanotubes would give him the edge in a fight. The Extremis was nothing compared to a semi-natural technopath with years of experience.
Hot Rod had been here earlier, hovering, worried, trying not to smother Tony with his worry but doing so anyway. He had finally managed to kick him out. Tony knew Hot Rod meant well, but right now he couldn’t tolerate it. He would make it up to him later.
have dozed off because when he next looked at the coffee machine, there was
“Got demoted to secretary?” Tony said, voice a bit rougher than usual.
Will looked up and grinned a little. “Taking care of a few things,” he said without saying what it was he was taking care of.
“Uh-huh.” Tony straightened himself up in the couch chair. Damn, it was comfortable. “Secretary.”
He could snoop. He knew he could. Tappin into the pad’s data streams, read what
“How’s the head?”
“I can see that. Too bad.”
Tony mock-frowned. “You got anything against my head?”
“Only what’s going on inside it. Mostly the way you try to get yourself kicked in the ass,”
“I’ll have you know that people consider it a pretty handsome head,” Tony muttered, running his hands through his hair, messing it up more than it already had been. “Not to mention my ass.”
He snorts. “Not like I’d be chasing you either,
“I’d do more than just kick your ass if you tried, Stark.”
“You and your heavy metal boyfriend?” Tony teased.
“He’s not my boy-friend.”
“Partner? Fuck buddy?”
This time the threat of flying object came in shape of an empty mug. Tony grinned more.
“So it’s not men, but mechs you’re interested in?”
Yes, Tony liked to live dangerously.
“I don’t have preferences,”
“Huh. ‘kay. Anything goes, huh?”
If looks could kill… Not that
He had thought about the two humans who were in a strange kind of relationship with two of the mechs. Sam and Bumblebee were an item, at least as much of an item as one could be with a close to eighteen feet tall robot. Tony had given up on visualizing the sex. If there was sex at all. At least nothing physical. Did robots even have the parts for that? And why was his brain going down that road again?
No, he had stopped thinking about it. While there were enough online sites dealing with graphic-heavy and very much censored art of the human-robot-sex kind, Tony didn’t think any of that was happening between Sam and his partner/friend/whatever.
Tony himself couldn’t see the attraction, but then he was missing the special abilities of the two humans in question. Sam was a technopath, completely unlike the abilities the Extremis gave Tony, and his mind was somehow attracted to the sparks of the mechs, most prominently to Bumblebee’s.
So Will could connect to Ironhide while he was in this shape and while Tony suspected it was sexual, he couldn’t be sure. And those two behaved like best friends. There were no touches, no love-sick puppy looks. Okay, it was alien. Just as alien as the mechs were.
“Must be nice,” he remarked quietly, changing the mood a little. “Having someone care about you, despite who and what you are.”
“How’s sex with a gigantic alien robot?” Tony asked instead, diverting from the dangerous waters of his self.
Will rolled his eyes. A rune flitted over his cheek. “It’s not sex.”
“Strange how you guys keep insisting on it.”
“Who else is talking with you about alien robots and sex?”
Tony watched in unbroken fascination as the runes reappeared at Will’s left temple, forming an intricate tattoo. Some kids would sell their grandmother for the cool design, the color and looks.
“At least he doesn’t evade me when it comes to Bumblebee. He told me they’re an item. As for you and Ironhide…”
“It’s a private matter.”
Tony grinned. “It usually is. And I’m not looking to get in on a threesome, Will. I’m just… curious.”
Another raised eyebrow. “You’re never ‘just curious’.”
“Well, hey, it’s my voyeuristic nature, too, but mostly it’s the engineer that keeps wondering about the... logistics involved.”
“You want to talk logistics, ask
“Why? Is he having an affair with Arcee?”
“What else is there to entertain me?”
“Oh, let’s see… everything? You have the Extremis in your head, Tony. You can do whatever you want.”
“Unless it’s infiltrate the Cybertronian main computer. Then I get bumped out and land flat on my face,” Stark muttered, sounding slightly pissed.
“General ache, but not bad. I had worse.”
Will studied him, face unreadable. The rune was still there and another wandering string was currently crawling over the man’s lower left arm.
“It wasn’t even my idea!” Tony defended himself, almost sounding like a pouty child. “Sam and Barricade made me.”
Tony grimaced, but he knew he looked guilty as hell.
“Small point of advice, Stark: anything Barricade offers to do voluntarily… don’t.”
“Well, Ironhide didn’t stop me from doing it,” Tony muttered defensively. “And he’s the most paranoid guy I ever met when it comes to security.”
“Prime sanctioned it.”
“And Sam kicked your ass anyway,” Will added with a smirk.
“Oh, rub it in.”
The smirk widened.
Tony got up reluctantly and refilled the mug, inhaling the strong coffee. It was damn good for military issue coffee machines and the general feel of military mess hall to it. Then again, you couldn’t be picky when it came to caffeine boosts. He had drunk worse sludge and not died from it. As long as there was a lot of caffeine in it, he was fine.
He emptied his mug and placed it into the dishwasher.
“Well, I’m off for a flight.”
“Oh, I will.”
Because flying was freedom. Because flying was just him in the air and the suit like a second skin around him. Exhilaration raced through him and he already reached out with the Extremis to open the links to the armor.
Later he would attempt the infiltration again. He had a few more days to get this right – or to get his ass handed to him over and over again.
Tony wouldn’t have thought it possible, but he liked being away from the workshop and Stark Industries. Sam claimed it was because Tony was still connected to everything due to the fact that he was a walking cell phone, computer network and satellite in one. Stark himself thought it might also be because among the Autobots he wasn’t a genius billionaire industrialist or a CEO or
It was a new experience.
It was cool.
It also gave Hot Rod some time among his kind.
It also had Ratchet breathing down Tony’s neck to run exams on the Extremis. Stark had no other choice but to agree on at least two scans and demonstrate the interface with the suit. Ratchet was intrigued by the now incorporated arc reactor, how it was part of the human body and Extremis saw it as such.
“I feel like a lab rat,” he muttered as he found Hot Rod in the back area of the hangar.
“You were the one who wanted to come here,” the mech pointed out.
“Yeah. What was I thinking?” Tony hoisted himself up on some undefined mechanical piece.
Part of him wanted to know what it did, another – the Extremis – was already going through shipping manifests to see if it had once come from Nellis, while the largest part was busy being pissed off. Or at least pretending to be pissed off. Ratchet’s examinations provided him with a good insight into his own upgrade. Since the Extremis had still been a prototype and far from ready, no one could really say what might be still to come.
“At least you’re relaxing,” Hot Rod pointed out.
“I’m always relaxed.”
It got him a narrowed-optic look. “Sure.”
“Why don’t you all gang up on me at once?” Tony muttered, leaning back and gazing at the ceiling.
“We are. It’s the only way to get you to do anything at all.”
“Great. I should have put my foot down on the whole baby-sitter shtick.”
“Guardian,” Hot Rod corrected him, as he always did, with a smile.
“So now that I got mentally beaten to a pulp by Sam, Barricade’s having fun at my expenses, Lennox keeps picking on me, and Pepper won’t return any of my calls…” – and he had tried to reach her at all hours because the Extremis came in handy there, too – “…what’s next?”
“According to you, you’ll do it all again,” Hot Rod said pleasantly.
Tony grimaced. He wanted to go up against Sam once more. Not just against Sam, but also against Cybertronian technology. That meant the main computer and all its security features.
“I don’t see you trying to stop me,” he pointed out acidly.
“I know when I’m defeated,” Hot Rod shrugged.
“Call yourself a warrior.”
“That’s a battle I can never win. Humans are… persistent and complicated. And you’re a special pain, Tony.”
“Are too. Confess it,” the Autobot said, leaning in closer. “You want to do this. And if Barricade offers to go up against your Extremis-scrambled brain again, you’d jump at the opportunity, even if the Con kicks your ass hard enough to bleed.”
Tony looked into the bright blue optics and just gave a one-shoulder shrug. “I can take him,” he said airily.
Hot Rod laughed. “Suuuure. I’ll be scraping your pieces together.”
“Well, you could offer to help me out and train with me,” was the sly reply.
“In your dreams. Who knows what that messed-up brain of yours can do.”
Another shrug. “One way to find out.”
“Not the way I’m driving, Tony. If you really want to challenge Barricade, do it on your own time and with your own preparations. I’ll mock you afterwards.”
Tony was so very close to sticking out his tongue. Instead he just narrowed his eyes and glowered.
“So what do you guys do around here for fun?” he asked all of a sudden.
“Watching you and Sam duking it out?” Hot Rod grinned.
“Tony, you definition of fun is poking around the innards of an engine, developing new machines or weaponry, and yelling at your engineers,” Hot Rod pointed out.
“So true. And also very relaxing.”
“What would you say to a relaxing ride?” Hot Rod offered, optics brightening a little.
“You, me and the open road?” Tony wanted to know, the glint in the brown eyes mirroring the flash in the optics.
“No limit,” Hot Rod confirmed.
Adrenaline raced through Tony, filling his blood. Speed was something he enjoyed. He had always loved racing, but his appreciation for the wide open space of the sky was no limitless. Still, driving Hot Rod was different than driving a normal car. When the Autobot was his co-pilot, the Audi handled differently, reacted to every twitch, made him one with the machine. The Extremis helped. The Extremis interfaced him with everything in a way that was almost…
Tony nearly choked out a laugh.
Nearly sexual. Maybe that was what
Flying. Racing. Being
“I’m driving,” he decided.
“Of course.” Hot Rod transformed and opened the driver side door.
Tony slid in, felt the seat adjust to his frame, felt the car vibrate underneath his fingers. Hot Rod was barely controlled energy, a power that Tony had yet to see in full motion. But even the little that he saw and felt was amazing.
Hot Rod’s engine turned from a soft hum to a deep rumble and the R8 felt like a wild, untamed horse, waiting to be released. Tony felt a smile form on his lips and his fingers flexed around the wheel. He carefully pushed down on the pedal and the care moved forward smoothly. He pushed down further, gaining speed, shooting across the airfield toward the road leading back to the highway.
Part of the windscreen lit up with what looked like a ultra-modern GPS system and Tony accessed the Extremis, linking to the peripheral systems without even being aware of it. He chose a route in a second and Hot Rod sent his affirmative.
For a moment he was Hot Rod and Hot Rod was within him, then they became two separate entities once more, man and machine, though the lines had blurred now, with the Extremis involved. Tony was simply racing, feeling everything and nothing, thoughts only occupied by wind direction, ground speed, drift and breaking points. Hot Rod was one hundred percent with him, a presence surrounding him like a safety net. The Autobot’s attention was on the maneuvers, on the road ahead and even on the sky. Tony felt what looked like neural pathways around him, completely alien, unable to interface or interlock with the Extremis enhancements. He was there, but he couldn’t influence anything.
-- Relax – he heard Hot Rod. – I won’t hurt you --
Tony chuckled. Cybertronian technology was where the Extremis had found its current limit. The mechs were safe from him.
-- Nothing is safe from you – came the wry remark.
-- We’re so close, Tony, I can hear you think --
That had him stumble and falter. Tony steadied himself again quickly and pulled his attention back onto the real road, real events.
“You can?” he asked neutrally.
“Only on this level. You’re so close, I can touch the Extremis and link up,” was the reply.
“How close is that touch?”
“I can’t switch off the nanotubes,” Hot Rod tried to calm him. “I can only use them as a bridge to your communication center, into your brain, to talk to you. Nothing else.”
He blew out a breath. Damn. Despite all he had wanted programmed into the Extremis, despite all that had happened and now felt so natural, there were still surprises. These were the surprises that came with being injected against his will with an untested prototype.
“Want to go back?” Hot Rod asked.
He immediately, without thinking, shook his head. “No.”
“Afraid of Barricade?” the R8 teased.
Tony glared at the dash. “No!”
It got him a chuckle. “I’ll let the others know we’ll be out a little longer. Just in case Ironhide sends out a rescue team. Knowing him and knowing your track record, he might already have scrambled them.”
Tony snorted. “I’m not that bad.”
“No, you’re worse.”
“I really want another guardian.”
“No, you don’t. You know me.”
Tony frowned. He hated to be predictable. Because Hot Rod was right. He knew the mech and he trusted him and he wouldn’t accept anyone knew, even if it was Bumblebee or Jazz. He was also secretly glad about the company, even if the company came by the description of a guardian. His baby-sitter.
“And you’re so full of yourself,” he grumbled.
“Takes one to know one.”
Tony smirked. “So we’re two of a kind?”
“With some basic differences…”
He chuckled. “Yeah. Like you being a freaking big robot…”
Tony stopped the car in the middle of nowhere, hot metal pinging gently. Wherever he looked, there was nothing but desert. The mountains were far off in the distance.
He got out and leaned against the Audi.
“I want to get a handle on this, Roddy,” he said quietly. “I have to.”
Hot Rod transformed, dislodging the human leaning against his car form. He knelt down and placed two fingers onto a narrow shoulder.
“You need to be patient, Tony. This will take time. The Extremis was never programmed to handle Cybertronian tech.”
“I only need to reprogram it…”
“And risk your life?”
“My life is at risk should one of your Decepticon friends decide to off me!”
Hot Rod tilted his head a little, actually smiling. “I think they’d rather use their guns, Tony. And you know that Sam won’t hurt you,” he added.
“I don’t like it,” Stark said defiantly.
“Because you can’t control it.”
Tony evaded the knowing blue optics. Hot Rod’s finger stroked gently and calmingly over his back.
“I’m not a control freak.”
“I never said so.”
“You’re thinking it.”
Tony huffed, but he felt himself relax a little. “Maybe,” he echoed softly. “I can’t be vulnerable, Roddy.”
“You aren’t. Neither are you defenseless.” Hot Rod rose, gazing down at the much smaller human. “And you’re getting training sessions with Sam.”
Tony chuckled. “And if I’m really suicidal, I could always ask Barricade.”
Hot Rod didn’t really look happy about that option, but he nodded.
They returned at nightfall and Tony headed for the kitchen where Jones, their resident gourmet sergeant cook was already busy with what looked like a casserole. Tony grabbed a sixpack of beer and the retail pack of Mars bars, and went back out into the couch area. He found
It got him a barrage of peanuts. He chuckled and handed out the beer as a peace offering and used the Extremis again to find an action packed movie. It was the umpteenth rerun of The Rock, but it was fun – especially watching it with two soldiers who were pointing out all the things that were wrong and wouldn’t work and were out-right sci-fi and how the characters shouldn’t even have survived an hour into the movie.
Sam joined them not much later, accepted the chocolate offering, and exchanged amused looks with Tony over the on-going criticism, though sometimes there was also praise for a well-executed maneuver.
“So, up for more tomorrow?” Sam asked.
“Are you?” Tony challenged.
“I didn’t get my ass handed to me today,” Sam replied, grinning insolently.
Tony shrugged. “Live and learn. I lived. With a headache, but I lived. I’ll learn to take you down, Sam, don’t worry.”
“Oh, I’m not worried.”
Figures, Tony thought and emptied the second can of beer. But right now he didn’t care. He felt warm and a bit fuzzy from two beers and nothing substantial in his stomach. He felt strangely at home with all the craziness around him, with people who didn’t give a flying fuck as to who he was, what he was, what he could do, because they were just as unique, special and screwed up as him.
-- You think I’m fucked up? – Hot Rod asked, laughter in his voice.
-- More than anyone else – he replied lightly.
Yeah, right at home, he mused. Right at home.