cog_nomen: (interested)
[personal profile] cog_nomen
Title: Too Legit to Commit
Fandom: Avengers
Pairing: Pepper Potts/Tony Stark/Bruce Banner (if you squint)
Rating: G
Word Count: 1,082
Status: Complete
Summary: For the Prompt: It was hard...unsettling...damn near impossible for Tony to let people inside the shell he had built around his heart. The Iron Man suit wasn’t just a technological marvel, it was a symbol for his entire being. But there could never be enough gold-titanium alloy to protect him from the thing he feared most - letting someone see into his soul. (Tony/Pepper is great, but Tony/Bruce would be a bonus!)

It's getting harder to take the suit off almost every time. Not because Tony can barely wait for anything to clear the testing stage before he's upgraded things to a whole new configuration, but because the - Team - seemed more willing to approach him with the suit off. Tony doesn't mind company - needs it on a certain level, but also at a certain level. Preferably at arm's length, or further. The problem with the Avengers (with the possible exception of Thor, who's still on extended holiday to Asgard), is that they're all smart.

A byproduct of intelligence is curiosity. They were all possessed of a pretty intense desire to know things. Many times their lives had been dependent on having the correct information.

It meant he suddenly had a group of people just as familiar with him as he was with them, and he dislikes even footing. To his mind, it puts him at a disadvantage. The thing was, once people learned that the majority of what you presented to the world was a mask, they somehow felt they'd earned the right to demand that the mask be taken off whenever they wanted. They didn't like talking to it any more than addressing the emotionless titanium alloy helmet that hid Tony's most serious, most secret moments and kept him isolated and quiet.

Because invariably when people saw that deeply, it would start to get complicated. Either they were like Steve who saw Tony for what he was worth in his own opinion (nothing) an d then turned that painful, ugly mirror back on Tony remorselessly, or they assigned their own worth like Pepper. Tony felt like he was drowning in situations like that - like Pepper was holding a damp rag over his mouth sometimes and telling him to breathe and he lost all air, just that deeply into expectation - a sweet scent like chloroform.

He doesn't mind when no one expects anything for him, or when they write him off as unreliable or absentee. These things are partly true. So is the notion that he does everything with more than one motive, and usually the first one is Tony Stark. It's just not true in the same - and Tony realizes he's sitting here stalling now, enjoying his chance to take a break while the others celebrate victory and fail to notice him - it's not true in the regard everyone expects it to be.

Tony wishes his heart were worth the amount of digging it took to get to it, but he knows it's not and the best he can try to do is make the walls thicker and hope people will give up before they get through. Though he knows he wouldn't. Not yet. Just when he'd thought hew as near enough to perfect defenses, there was this whole save the planet thing seemed to want to happen every other week and -


Bruce. Who, to be fair, Tony had kind of started it. So, if Bruce paid a little extra attention when Tony was withdrawn, well. Partly Tony's fault.

"Yeah?" Tony asks, letting his suit pickups broadcast the sound instead of opening his helmet.

"You're okay - right?" Bruce asks, head canted to one side as if seeking a way to peer through the suit's back-lit eyes and into Tony's own.

The rest of the team's gone quiet, everyone's done congratulating each other. Tony feels frozen under the weight of their attention.

"I'm fine," Tony answers shortly, feeling the suit responding to the stiffening of his spine, the tension in his muscles. He covers as best he can.

"I'll see you when the world needs more saving."

And he launches the suit into flight.


Of course it's only ever that simple for a little while. In the air, with communications cut, he's free. But he can't fly forever - he can't even procrastinate too long on going back home because he'd already used a lot of the suit's energy.

Maybe he'd have to think about arranging more time to joyride after these things. Or just when he had the time. That would be pretty much never between repairs and SI business.

Tony's point proves itself when he lands on the external device removal pad. Jarvis re-links with the tower systems and informs him he has seven voice mail messages and one call on the line.

"Tell the call I'm busy and to try again tomorrow," Tony starts, before Jarvis tries to tell him who he'll be hanging up on.

"It's Dr. Banner, sir," Jarvis continues anyway. "Shall I override the protocol you've given to allow all his calls?"

Of course, Tony wouldn't get away scott-free. "No, put him through."

"Tony, it's Bruce."

"Yeah, I know. Robo-butler told me," Tony reminds, speaking to the air at large as parts of the suit are pulled off of him in order. Bruce's voice feeds into his earpiece. "What's up?"

"Just thought you seemed to be in a bit of a hurry," Bruce answers. "And kind of - avoidant."

"Yeah." Tony says, resisting the urge to just hang up - running away again. At least this wasn't in front of everyone. "Just - not a lot of me time, lately."

He's saying the words without knowing fully why, except that if he plays along, invents something self-centered as an excuse, it usually works to create a little distance. Bruce is quiet on the other end of the line for a moment.

"So - you're probably not up for dinner?" Bruce ventures carefully into that space like a tightrope walker.

Tony's caught in that space between wanting and fear. He can't keep letting Bruce that deep, not if he wants him to stick around - and he does. Because Tony has no faith that what's happened with Pepper can possibly even happen twice - or that he could survive with that many expectations. He freezes. Not now, he's just too tired for defenses and games (and maybe that's why Bruce was aiming for him), and finally he can almost hear Bruce starting to feel worried on the other end of the line.

"How's tomorrow, Bruce?" Tony stalls - but only long enough that he can deeper hide his fears. He doesn't want Bruce to misunderstand.

The only thing Tony Stark's afraid of isn't giant green monsters or dying in space or alien invasions, but that others will find him as worthless as he really is.


Title: Electric Things Live Too
Fandom: Person of Interest
Pairing: None.
Rating: G
Word Count: 1,144
Status: Complete
Summary: He doesn't know what he thinks the machine is. But, he knows when he stands on the street and looks up at the encompassing but uncomprehending eye of the camera that because of what Finch has only barely hinted; that the machine, whatever ghost it holds, knows that he is there.

Lights flash expectantly at John and he has little idea what to make of it. He has never felt so oppressed by belief. Finch would know what to do, but John feels as if he's hit a wall without the backup that he's slowly become accustomed to. His mind blanks at the notion of trying to deal with the machine. It's an anomaly in himself that John can't explain, and that itself gives him pause when by all rights he should be moving. He's wasting seconds against a dwindling time frame because he's come to believe, perhaps, that Finch and the machine are inseparable and because of that trying to force his way into the middle feels - impossible. Sacreligious. The computers themselves lock him out with the warnings that failed passwords will erase everything, remove even that tenuous link he has in a vacant chair, blank screens. He powers them down and leaves them be.

He doesn't know what he thinks the machine is. But, he knows when he stands on the street and looks up at the encompassing but uncomprehending eye of the camera that because of what Finch has only barely hinted; that the machine, whatever ghost it holds, knows that he is there. Recognizes John from the sea of faces as an individual. He attributes some humanity or divinity to the machine. When he looks up with only a red light to answer him and asks for help, it doesn't feel so much like a prayer as it probably should, seeing how utterly he's placing his faith in something unknown, unseen, and intangible.

Something inside him understands. that it will answer, and therefor it's not a prayer, but a desperate and quiet request for help.

He doesn't know what the answer will be, just that there will be one. He's no good at waiting in one place without the orders to do so, so he waits in motion, moves back to the docks to see if he can't find any other hints. Briefly, he considers the desperate notion of going back to Elias, of getting word to him in jail through Carter or Fusco, but he doesn't dare risk the contact. Maybe Finch's eyes are now someone else's eyes as well. Not the machine, he won't give the machine up so quickly, but not all of his access is tied to it and Finch is human. Humans can be swayed to extremes through pain and promises.

John returns to the docks - carefully. Though the body is gone, it leaves a point of focus. A sharpness of attention.He finds nothing; police tape, police - unfamiliar faces. He pulls a baseball cap lower over his eyes and studies the same tracks, the same depressions on the dirty concrete. Chalk outlines are a television myth, but he remembers where and how the body lay, a woman only distantly familiar.

This isn't the first time he wishes he was a dog in more than a metaphorical sense, so that he could follow the trail past where it disappears on the highway exit, but it's possibly the most acute way the desire has manifested.

His phone chirps. It doesn't ring or shake, doesn't indicate any standard form of message as he's used to receiving. The noise is sharply electronic, as if it came from the board or circuitry itself, rather than through the speaker.

He moves out of the light, into a byway between two buildings. An alley where fire escapes descend. The screen tells him he has a voice-mail. Unusual, no rings had indicated a call, and when he checks incoming calls the history's bare and clean. No numbers. Finch?
He rushes to check it, in case that spirit disappeared as quickly. No voice-mail options announce themselves, no automated voice tells him when it was received or from who, or to press three to reset his greeting.

The phone clicks in his hand, three times in succession, and then unleashes a torrent of machine noises against his ear. Harsh static intersperses with inorganic twangs, the sounds of old hard line connections.

He loses himself.

John's eyes unfocus and he becomes unaware of time, sound, light, being. All things fade from his consciousness, including his own presence in the world. He only realizes he should struggle against it when some faint spark of himself rebels, but by then it's too late.

John is closed away in a box, and he loses light and sound, all of it so suddenly that he doubts his existence - that he ever existed - for a moment, before he forgets how to doubt at all.

Reese terminates the connection on his phone and discards it in the street, in motion as it falls. The time that passes after, he is unaware of.


"How did you find me John?"

Finch's voice penetrates the silence and seems to slice a rent in the hole he's fallen into, the quantum box in which so many cats had met unknown fates. It cuts, and his eyes process light in the world that Finch's voice has birthed him into, and John winces, flinches back from the rush of -

lights, fluorescent, overhead, hands, sounds, cold metal under his fingers, a voice, no fresh air, solid ground, up and down re-orienting themselves, gravity pulling, the tension and power of muscles overtaxed but mostly whole, inrush of air, breathing, stale air, old pain, new pain and-

Harold Finch on the floor and held in handcuffs and looking worse for the wear but alive. Looking at John, afraid of something.


Reese stumbles over something as he moves further backwards. A - corpse. The graceless motion pulls sharp pain in his side and he presses a hand to the hurt - finds a wound losing blood. He feels strangely as if he has to reassert claim over his own body, wants to shake himself until all of this makes sense, but - can't.

Not here. He can't question this now.

"Mr. Reese? Are you alright?" Finch's tone has climbed an octave, and his eyes don't miss a single motion. John Reese hasn't experienced so absolute a moment of panic since he was ten years old. He had long since managed to learn how to keep his balance when everything dropped around him.

"I'm okay, " he tells Finch through clenched teeth. He moves forward to get the cuffs off of Finch, resuming what he had been doing when he'd found himself... here. "Let's get out of here. I'm okay."

"You most certainly are not," Finch argues, but he doesn't protest as John frees him and pulls him up to his feet.

John doesn't remember his way in, and therefore the way out, but Finch remembers and they move together, equally supporting each other.

John can pretend he's not being led.

September 2017

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