Avengers Reassembled: Iron Man

author: Lucinda

rating: pg 13

main character: Tony Stark (Iron Man)

disclaimer: Iron Man is the creation of Marvel comics. I hold no legal rights and am making no profit from this.

distribution: Paula, anyone else please ask first.

note: I am attempting to revise things to fit the Avengers into the world of the X-Men movies. So, this will most definitely be AU.

Tony Stark was sitting in his office, a cup of coffee grown cold on the corner of his desk, papers spread in front of him. Anyone that glanced in would assume that he was studying the projections for the next quarter's earnings and considering the proposed budgets for the various research projects for Stark Enterprises. Had the hypothetical person been looking in ten minutes earlier, they would have been correct. But at this very moment, Tony Stark was caught up in his own private musings. He was lost in an old game, the 'What If?' questions. What if his researchers discovered... What if there was a serious equipment problem, what if the government decided that they wanted to buy some of his products for military use... and then the musings took a more personal turn. What if Vanessa hadn't left him, what if he'd had the courage to ask Talia out in college, what if he'd enjoyed college a bit more and studied a bit less, what if... Might as well start at the beginning, and wonder what his life would have been like if he'd been born with a normal heart.

But he hadn't been born with a normal heart. While he understood it's faults and flaws now, he hadn't when he was young, and his mother probably still didn't. His father hadn't when he'd died. The family doctor had told them that he might not live to adulthood, might never have a normal active life. Dr. Schuyler had said that if he pushed himself to hard, his heart would collapse, and he would die. Serious and frightening words for a pair of young working class parents.

That had been part of the motivation for his parents to try again, to hope for a 'normal baby'. His father had wanted a son to carry on the Stark name, to follow in his footsteps. They'd produced two daughters before a drunk driver had hit the car that Maria and her sister had been in, injuring both of them, causing Maria to miscarry the baby that they'd been hoping would be a son. They'd lost thair second son, born to soon, and almost lost Maria, so injured by the accident and torn inside by the miscarriage. She'd survived, but there had been so much damage and scarring that she would never be able to have another baby.

They'd had to focus all over again on the idea that Tony, somewhat small and frail looking, would be their only son. It had been Grandpa Thomas that had suggested that maybe some careful exercise would strengthen Tony's heart. After all, he'd reasoned, the heart was a muscle same as the others, wouldn't a bit of work make it stronger?

So he began a careful program of exercise, starting with periods of walking, and careful patterns of motion. None of it very strenuous, just things that kept him moving, having him stretch and bend and flex. Tony didn't try out for any sports teams in school, although he was able to manage gym class safely. To his surprise, the event that he did the best on with the annual fitness testing was the four hundred meter run. He wasn't the fastest runner, but by the time he was twelve, he could run through the course without becoming entirely breathless, only breathing a little faster at the end, instead of collapsing to the ground, or gasping red faced for air. Tony Stark wasn't quite that frail after all. But things like basketball or football made him feel a bit dizzy, and his chest felt too tight. So, while he might have been stronger, and not likely to just suddenly die while reading a book, he wasn't as fit or healthy as a normal teenage boy. By the time he started college, nobody remembered his weak heart except his family.

Tony found the classes in Business and Finance almost easy, and began adding more classes to keep himself challenged. Higher-level math classes enabled him to study metallurgy and engineering, as well as various scientific theories. Between that and a pre med roommate with a few ambitions for developing bionic replacements for failing limbs and organs, Tony Stark had an idea. Most likely, it was an idea that hundreds, maybe thousands had conceived of before, but the more he considered it, the more it grew on him.

He had a weak heart - why not invent and build something that gave him a way around it? Not a bionic heart, he didn't have the medical knowledge for that, but... what if he created a battle suit, something that could be taken on and off that would protect him as well as bypassing his physical limitations? He began working on the idea in secret, at first worried that his idea would be laughed at. But the more he learned and refined his concept, the more Tony thought it would work. He could build this suit, build a better man, not one of frail flesh and blood, but an iron man.

By the time he graduated with honors, he had the suit entirely planned, having evolved though several stages and versions, evolving to it's current form: the Iron Man Mark II. All he needed was the chance to build it, and Stark Steel would give him that chance. He'd just explain to his father that he had a personal project to work on...

Yes, he was certain that his father would allow him to 'indulge in' his personal project. His father had been so impressed and delighted by Tony's education – a double major in electronics engineering and metallurgy, with a minor in business. If he wanted a side project that wouldn't require the hiring of any additional workers or the acquisition of any expensive new machines, Howard Stark would be entirely content to let him. After all, he'd already developed several useful inventions already, gaining patents, income, and reputation for the family business even before he'd graduated.

It was a wondrous thing. It had taken months of torturous effort to create it, to bring life to the images and diagrams that he'd cherished for so many years. To cast in metal and wire the suit that could answer his prayers. And in the end, it was glorious, a shining shape of steel that should enable him to far surpass the limits of his fragile mortal flesh. His hands were shaking a bit as he carefully put on the suit, his mind wondering if this was the feeling that medieval knights had when first presented with a suit of plate mail.

The feeling of it… it was almost indescribable. On the one hand, it felt a bit close, almost claustrophobic, and the sensory input was limited. Sounds were a bit muffled, the visuals grainy, with slightly murky color. But he could move, and there was this odd elation from the freedom of it. He could toss cars with his metal encased hands.

He'd first used it to catch a would-be saboteur. That had lead to the unsettling yet wonderful discovery that the suit was impervious to bullets. He'd taken the man to jail, turning him over to the police. Naturally, they'd wanted to know who he was. He'd felt a moment of panic, and hoped that his response wouldn't sound too far-fetched.

"I am Iron Man."

Thankfully, the flat mechanical voice had covered his nervousness, as well as concealing his identity. He'd claimed to be a bodyguard for Tony Stark, wearing a prototype suit under research and testing. They might not have quite believed him, but they didn't challenge his explanation at all.

He'd kept working, tweaking the suit, improving things here, there, adding a feature, modifying the fit just a bit. There had also been continued efforts to steal secrets from his father's company, or destroy equipment. These efforts were continually thwarted by Iron Man.

Then, he'd moved a bit farther out, trying to keep a wider area safe. Anything he found going on in the area, in the city instead of just at Stark Steel. That had been how he'd met Captain America. Yes, the real Captain America, the greatest hero of World War II, American icon and symbol of justice… the whole works. He'd ended up helping the Captain capture a super villain.

Nothing in the world could compare to the way he'd felt at the simple "Good job, thanks for the help."

Captain America had said 'Good job.' He'd known right then that something had changed irrevocably. He could be a hero, protect something greater than his possessions, his home. He could protect his nation, defend the American people.

Of course, meeting Captain America had been just the beginning. That had started the honing of his sense of justice, his habit of protecting those who couldn't protect themselves. The frightened children, the sweet grandmothers and earnest businessmen… the people whose hearts were to fragile to let them fight their own battles. It had led to him traveling to Europe at the side of Captain America to battle the Red Skull, and then led to a desperate fight against Magneto.

If he never had to fight someone with magnetic abilities again, it would be quite soon enough. That had been pure misery – his visuals had been almost gone, and the pain of that magnetic force gripping him… it would give him nightmares.

But then Magneto had dropped him, and his frantic efforts not to crash had somehow led to him clipping a moving pale blur, and then he was on the ground, feeling as if the whole left side of his body was numb, watching a woman with darkish hair kneel over the figure of a blond man. He'd realized that the blond had been the moving blur.

Part of him had hoped the two of them, hardly more than kids, would be alright, that they could be dragged out of this mutant superiority mess safely. Another part was hoping that his side was numb from the impact, and not a heart attack.

They hadn't been able to find the kids when the police had taken Magneto away. Truthfully, nobody had looked very hard. They'd somehow turned up in America, almost a month later. They seemed to be trying to lead almost normal lives, without any sort of apparent involvement in the mutant question. He'd watched her for a while, unable o discover where the blond was staying.

He'd had several long talks with Captain America, although he had been told to call him Steve. Sometimes it was still hard for him to think of Captain America having a name, of the American icon as Steve Rogers. But the two of them had come up with a dream. They'd envisioned a group of heroes, people all willing to help keep America safe, a group willing to work together. They'd first approached the man who called himself Thor, offering him a place in this group that they hoped to form. He'd jumped at the chance, and had actually been the one to suggest the name 'Avengers'.

All he needed was a few more people… Fortunately, he had a list.

End Iron Man.