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02 June 2008 @ 04:00 am
Iron Man/Doctor Who: Machinations of the Heart(s) 1/? ; R  
Title: Machinations of the Heart(s)
Author: lieutenants
Characters: The Tenth Doctor, Tony Stark.
Genre: General (comedy, drama, introspection).
Summary: The Doctor and Tony Stark have work to do. The world's in danger, there are evils to defeat and the pizza's getting cold.



For araceli_maura, for digging out the shrapnel and setting my heart alight. ♥

--

"Mr. Smith."

"Mr. Stark."

"You're late."

"And you're a bit early to point that out, can I come in?"

"Beer's on the table."

"Useful information there, though I never drink beer."

"Eh, well. I always offer."

"Pizza?"

"It's comin'."

"Ah."

"Make yourself at home."

"Thank you, I will."

--

"You've put a fire on," are the first words from Mr. Smith's mouth, curled and pink like the bottom of an infant's foot.

"Ya," Mr. Stark says. He flicks a light switch. The room illuminates tastefully into soft orange.

"Aw, and you've got a new coffee table!" coos Mr. Smith, edging his way quite freely past Mr. Stark and into the hallway. He whistles. "Cor, this place. Astounds me every time. Bit too white, though, bit too clean - I know how it is, my place was like that for a while. But I'd have a bit of color just there, you know, a neon sign of a flamingo or something. That'd look quite nice. Garden gnomes on the coffee table. The new coffee table. It's a nice one."

Mr. Stark plucks his scotch glass back off a magazine stand close to the intercom, tips it back. It's like sour gold on his throat. "Like it?"

"Antique, isn't it?"

"Seventeenth century, I think. I don't know. I thought it was pretty sick. I paid for something that old, at least."

"Did I ask the cost?"

"Sorry." Mr. Stark picks something out of his ear.

Mr. Smith briefly strays towards the Steinway edging the staircase leading to the sitting area, plays a couple-dozen quickly-strung notes of an Art Blakey tune on a single hand. He makes a sound like a baby might when looking at something shiny and carefully closes the piano lid. "Ought to shut that," he says. "It gathers dust."

"I know," mutters Mr. Stark. "I was only just playing it."

"You play?"

"Why else would I have it?"

"Rich people have pianos in their homes. Fact. But most of them have trouble fastening their trousers, so be fair, I was right to ask. Granted you are a tad clever so it doesn't surprise me much."

"A tad," repeats Mr. Stark exaggeratedly, in a sort of voice that might come out of a walrus if it were British. "Chuffed at the thought, old thing."

Mr. Smith stops whatever he's doing -- which was silently calculating the exact age of the piano keys beneath his fingers -- before his eyes cut to Tony's and he murmurs, "No. It just, no. Don't do that."

Mr. Stark tucks his mouth to one side, twirls on his left foot before marching quickly down the tiny steps and into the sitting room. He picks a remote control from his nice new coffee table, taps something on it that beeps. The gentle shades over the windows hum to the ceiling, expanding, and the California night's outside, dust and cactus-quiet and spread black peppered with pearls for stars. He presses another switch, Coltrane's ‘Stardust’ gently flickers on unseen speakers (typical in a house this fancy, something that always frustrated Mr. Smith; it brought him some comfort to be aware of the origin from which music was playing in any space. He was also the first to admit that was a really weird thing to be comforted by).

"Are you establishing a 'mood,' Mr. Stark?" he inquires, sticking a pair of spectacles on the bridge of his nose to read a small security screen implanted on the wall beside the Steinway.

"I never could resist an Englishman in stripes."

"Pity for you I'm not English, then."

"Aren't you?"

"No."

"I realize Americans are not always, uh, renowned for their embrace of foreign cultures unless we're completely reshaping them to be more like ours, but pretty positive that's an English accent you've been sweet-talking me with."

"Oh yeah, got the accent. But I'm not English."

"Right." Mr. Stark furrows his brow but he's smiling, tongue jetting against a firm bone-white wall of teeth.

"Where's your secretary, by the way? Miss Salt, wasn't it?"

"Uh, Pepper, actually. And Pepper's her first name, well. Nickname. Miss Potts, she's called."

"Oh yes, Miss Potts! Silly of me. Aw. Like Beauty and the Beast."

Mr. Stark stares at him.

"They had a teacup in it. She was called Mrs. Potts."

"Yeah, I know."

Silence.

"She's, ah..." breaks Mr. Stark, "she's downstairs, if you need--?"

"No, no. That's all right, maybe later." Mr. Smith claps his hands, exhales out his nose with wide eyes and tears a hand through his hair before snatching the glasses from his face. "So! What on earth can I do for you tonight, Mr. Stark?"

"Huh," says Mr. Stark. He scratches the warm curve of his neck and glides his hand over his hair, leaving a soft spill of black edging into his eyes. "I don't...wait, didn't you say you had something to tell me? Or not?” He almost laughs. “It's just that I really never know with you, Mr. Smith."

Mr. Smith thinks on this very carefully.

"Ah! Yes! I did have something to tell you, well done, see, told you you were clever."

"Sweet. Thanks." Mr. Stark sounds slightly lacking in enthusiasm.

Mr. Smith doesn't say anything for a moment, before a smile flickers on his little lips and he says, "Let's take a walk, Tony."

"You know how many times that line’s been used in The Sopranos? And then ‘Tony’ usually ends up nearly sprawled out with his brains all over the carpet?"

Mr. Smith makes a face. "Nah, wouldn't worry about that. Besides, you haven't got a carpet." He abruptly whirls round, past the clean, wet rush of cascading water and round the spiral staircase into the basement. Mr. Stark follows quickly, tipping his weight on the banisters and hopping every other bare-footed step to the floor. The door to the lab breezes open, and Mr. Smith steps inside, holding the entrance ajar for Mr. Stark with a Converse-covered foot.

"You're a real charmer, you know that?" grits Mr. Stark, slightly ruffled by the door slamming centimeters from his backside.

"Boy, do I," says Mr. Smith. 'What a Wonderful World' drifts through the once again invisible speakers connected to the sound system upstairs, and he feels an itch in his sock.

"I hate this song," says Mr. Stark.

"Then why have you got it?" Mr. Smith's helped himself to one of the work desks, upon which is scattered heaps of metal ligaments and iron bars, miscellaneous gadgetry and the odd thing or two that lights up, which seems to delight him.

He pulls a long, slender sort of device from his jacket pocket and the thing stars to whir and hisses to blue life and he runs the light up and down the surface of one of the conduit adapters.

"I don't know," says Mr. Stark after a moment. "I used to like it, I think."

"Oh, and don't tell me, you've seen this planet for what it really is; its horrors have eaten you to the very core, and with all this atrocity you suddenly realize this cannot, cannot be such a wonderful world."

Mr. Stark pauses. "I don't know, I think it's because Louis Armstrong sounds like he's choking on his lunch in the chorus and my music tastes have matured since I bought this CD, but you could be right."

"Well, you're wrong on the latter, last time I was here you were listening to Snow Patrol."

"They have like, one good song," insists Mr. Stark. "Besides, I liked them before anyone else."

"Everyone says that," snaps Mr. Smith, still at work with his blue-tipped machine.

"What's that thing do, detect unsightly, unsavory stains projected voluntarily or not from a human body?"

"It probably can," muses Mr. Smith after he's spent a second thinking about it. "But I should hope I don't find any on this conduit adapter."

"You never know in this house," admits Mr. Stark, tipping his scotch into his mouth. Mr. Smith abruptly snatches the glass from his hand and slams it on the table.

"That's quite enough of that."

Mr. Stark exhales curtly. "You know you act more like my mother than anyone I've ever met," he says. "Apart from Pepper, I guess. And...my mother."

"Dead, isn't she?" asks Mr. Smith rather bluntly. Mr. Stark chews on the wet under-skin of his cheek, it's stung him more than he thought a remark like that would.

"Yeah," he says.

Mr. Smith twists a small nodule on his device, digs it against the double-screened computer planted on the corner of the work station for a moment, but his eyes drift slowly to Mr. Stark and he says, "I'm sorry."

Mr. Stark's lip twitches; the movement travels rapidly down his shoulders transforming into a shrug. He's about to open his mouth elaborate with a line of forgiveness before Mr. Smith's attention immediately returns to whatever he's doing at the computer. Sympathy, off.

"What the hell are you doing, anyway?" asks Mr. Stark, pivoting to the opposite side of the table to lean over Mr. Smith's shoulder. "This is my stuff you're going through, pal."

"So stop me," says Mr. Smith.

Mr. Stark says nothing, and the response is gently alarming to him. It hits him quite suddenly that, normally, this guy would be hanging on to life by the skin of his teeth by now and his four limbs would wind up as deck furniture. But somehow he'd managed to find his way down into Mr. Stark's basement, play his piano, comment on his interior decorating and make a pass at his love for ‘Chasing Cars’ (still a good song, okay? he thinks). Yet it's starting to trickle through his veins, cold and creeping and predatory, this man is a stranger: a stranger with a face as familiar as his own reflection. Mr. Smith. Mr. Stark knows the scent of him, like burnt apples; a gentle glaze of sugar in a rainstorm licking the skies in summer, it swells everywhere he goes, never dissipating. He has memories - tens of memories, hundreds perhaps: the party where they met, the cool hush of Balenciaga gowns under lamplight, the beer freezing and wet beneath his fingers. Pepper in her ripe purple dress sprouting anecdotes quietly into his ear regarding all the guests, all but one, this Englishman, with a sharp face and hair like a brown tangle of wood in winter. And after that, there was the time when...well, surely there were other times. Surely.

"Tony?" asks Mr. Smith.

Mr. Stark abruptly digs into a metal drawer beneath the work station directly adjacent to the one Mr. Smith is bent over, and slams it shut. Something black and shining's in his hand.

"Ah," says Mr. Smith.

The gun's already cocked and aimed, and Mr. Smith's eyes gently fall to the circle of light pinned at Mr. Stark's chest. It delicately begins to pulse and heave, piercing cloth as Mr. Stark takes a deep, shaking inhale and steps almost violently forward. "Who are you?" he clips, paralyzed with control.

"Put the gun down, Tony," says Mr. Smith. His voice, crushed fruit, crumbling...

"Who the fuck are you?"

"Who do you think I am?"

"I dunno," breathes Mr. Stark. His voice cracks.

"Think about it."

Mr. Stark jams his finger against the telephone plugged against the work station and shouts, "Pepper? Pepper!" There's no response, and his free hand jolts to join the one gripping the trigger, and he grits, "Keep the fuck away, okay?"

"This isn't you. Used to be, maybe, but it isn't now. You wouldn't shoot me."

"Wanna bet?" barks Mr. Stark. "Where's Pepper?"

"I don't know," states Mr. Smith calmly, "honestly I don't know, I'm sure she's fine..."

"Mkay. I'm calling the police."

"I know who you are," hisses Mr. Smith, fever in his voice. "I know what you are. I'm here to help, I've always been here to help."

"What the hell do you mean 'always,' who are you?!"

Mr. Smith closes his eyes gently and when he opens them, there's a calm coating them, the likes of which Mr. Stark has very rarely seen before in anything outside some force of nature, outside a cluster of light in the sky. He says, "Put the gun down. Just set it down, I'll tell you. All right? That's why I came here but for pity's sake, I can't concentrate staring down that thing..."

Very slowly -- it could very well have taken over thirty seconds, time's slowed down like a spent wheel -- Mr. Stark's fingers gently release the butt of the gun and he rests it on the desk, pointing the barrel away from the two of them. Mr. Smith exhales extravagantly and says, "Thank you."

"Answer everything or I'm packin' again," says Mr. Stark. "And believe me, that thing's a fucking squirt gun compared to what I keep in the closet..."

"I know that," says Mr. Smith. "Now I know things have happened to you, Tony, extraordinary things, so I can trust that you'll have an open mind when I tell you who I am."

"Sure," says Tony slowly.

"Mr. Smith is just an alias, as you might have guessed. I'm called the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey."

Mr. Stark is silent.

"I travel through time and space in a dimensionally-transcendental phone box, it's called a TARDIS. Time And Relative Dimension In Space, you figured out the acronym on the spot, first person that's ever done that. I said you were clever, didn't I? You traveled on it once but you were a bit under the table and got sick all over the console, so you won't be coming back again."

He pauses once more so Mr. Stark can speak, but again, he's greeted with nothing but the gentle hum of the air conditioner and Billie Holiday warbling about a ghost of yesterday stalking round her room. Mr. Smith picks up his cue.

"I met you at an Esquire banquet one month ago exactly. I was there because, well, I tend to get...involved in things, and when I picked up Defghi Energy coming from the heart of Los Angeles I knew that was a very, very bad thing. I had my suspicions about this one bloke, Grant Sutane, some eligible bachelor twat who drove cars or some nonsense. Anyway. Turns out he'd been using the Defghi prototype cerebral cortex which was, essentially, the very, very bad thing I'd sought to prevent: using it to make a kind of super vehicle that wouldn't need fuel or batteries or anything but instead emitted a toxic gas that's harmless to humans but it spreads, penetrates the atmosphere out into other worlds, wipes 'em dead. And he knew this, apparently he'd murdered the Defghi queen in her chambers at the Beverly Hills Hotel after she'd insisted an alliance wouldn't be possible and the Defghi wouldn't take part in any sort of use of the cerebral cortex - the CCX, as it's known - for personal gain.

"Anyway, he was at the party, as were you. I was curious, you know, you seemed like a remotely intelligent person - at least, you are when I'm not in the room - and I'd heard these rumors, rumors you'd built yourself a suit. Entirely out of materials and equipment suitable and appropriate for this time period, which is remarkable, really, that's when I was like, "aw, this guy, he's no ape." Well, 'till you started sticking your hands up the skirt of every lady in the room apart from your poor secretary - look into that, by the way, it's obvious she's mad for you. But really, brilliant. 'Cause quite honestly, Tony, before this year you were probably known as the biggest git in the universe, if you don't mind me saying. Very much not on my Christmas card list, along with anyone who is responsible for the manufacture of weapons that wipe out millions of people, which is a shame because I give brilliant Christmas cards. But you get kidnapped in Afghanistan. You're tortured. You realize what you've done, you must survive and so must everyone else! You put that human head of yours to good, you take action, you fight evils and you save people, oh, I love it.

“ 'Course I didn't buy it much, tabloids, you know. They'll do anything. But there you were, suave, scotch (or several) in hand, me in my suit. I shouldn't have worn that suit, looking back, something terrible happens every time I wear that suit. And there's Grant Sutane. Stands up to make a toast, citing his brilliant invention of the CCX automobile system is going to revolutionize the market and make everyone a whole lot richer and a whole lot safer. Well, I can't keep my mouth shut about that, can I? Have to open my big gob, let everyone know what he’s really up to. Then old Grant pulls out a X-RVV 89-Alpha gun and holds it to Esquire's senior editor's head, saying we're all going to die, that the universe will tremble before his might, etc. etc. And then, suddenly, WHOOM! This thing, this beautiful gold and red metal thing, swoops in above the open garden, tells everyone to get out. And it's you, Tony, it's you! Then the garden's empty, everyone's gone out safe, it's just you, me and Mr. Sutane. You had no real idea what was going on, bless, but you stuck around. Threatened to blow his brains all over the yard which I didn't appreciate so much, but in the end, he did it himself - yet not before activating the CCX in several million automobiles across the world. The damage was done.

"However, I for a fact know that these planets did not become overrun by toxic fumes and go to waste. Because...I’m amazing. Couldn't get rid of you after that, made you take the suit off though, 'cause well, it frightened me and made me feel like a skinny piss-streak of a man. You came along in my TARDIS after having four double-vodkas in your living room, got sick on the console, I yelled at you. We whizzed back in time, quietly escorted Sutane from the party before he had his fit, knocked him out, slipped him a bit of magic amnesia medicine and parked him back in his disgustingly expensive house where he remains today having a lark with his nineteen-year-old tennis instructor. So, essentially, we saved the world. Huzzah. And you actually did do considerably more than I've let on, I'm taking advantage of the fact that you can't remember because this friend I've got who's based in Cardiff, that's in Wales, he's got this pill that makes you forget things, but you can break it if you're clever. You can remember tidbits, little morsels of information:

“I seemed familiar to you, you remembered the name I first gave you, Mr. Smith. You knew I'd been inside your house before, that I liked Hawaiian pizza - did that delivery ever make it here, by the way? I was nervous you'd constructed your suit out of more-than-human materials, that worried me, figured I'd wipe your head of our meeting so you wouldn't pick up on that and erase all the evidence before I got a hold of it. That's what I'm doing here, that's why I'm going through the files. But obviously you're just a genius ahead of his time, Tony Stark. Well done."

The Doctor notices that the skin of Tony's face has turned the color of butter. He swallows heavily, his eyes darker and wetter than any the Doctor's ever seen outside of a marsupial, and Tony quietly rises to pour himself a drink. The scotch glass is filled to the very top, liquid gold trembling, and he sits back down and tosses the entire thing down his throat in a single go.

"Okay," he chokes at last.

"Do you believe me?"

"Yup," manages Tony.

"Fantastic!" His alien senses seem to lack an ability to detect sarcasm. "So out of all this, I've got a proposition for you."

"What's that?" breathes Tony. He feels his eyebrow twitch.

"I take companions," says the Doctor.

"That's...lovely."

"Friends," insist the Doctor. "Well, mostly. Friends, they come, they travel with me through time and space."

"You want to be intergalactic crime-fighting super-friends?"

"No. You were sick on my console and you are never traveling in my machine again."

"Oh."

"Instead, I was wondering if you'd like to be my first stationary companion."

"What's that mean?"

"You're here on earth, always. I call when I need you. I need someone like you. Someone clever, someone with a knack for staying alive, someone who's been bit on the lip by death, who's seen it, caused it, and now wants it all to end." He pauses. "I need someone like me."

"Have you tried eHarmony?"

The Doctor grits his teeth and emits a quick breath before saying, "Here." He slowly reaches for Tony's hand, but it's snatched away. "I don't bite," snaps the Doctor.

Tony reluctantly lets the Doctor's fingers gently come in contact with his, and he pulls him slightly forward and presses his hand to his chest. A pulse, sure, soft, almost quick. Then the Doctor delicately pulls Tony's hand to the other side of his torso: another pulse.

Tony lets out a surprised "waah!" and jerks his hand back to his side. The Doctor smiles, and his fingers drift over Tony's collarbone and he very easily tugs down at the edge of Tony's shirt, the light of his heart whole and piercing and peeking like hot-white dawn above the cotton.

"Our hearts are in the wrong place," says the Doctor. "There's something to think about." He adjusts the sleeve of his jacket. "Tell you what..." He reaches into his pocket and removes an identical blue-tipped device to the one he was using earlier on the computer, and sets it down in front of him. "It's called a sonic screwdriver," he says. "Yours."

"What's it do?"

"Everything."

"Does it whistle?"

"Oh, definitely."

Tony plucks it from the tabletop and rotates it slowly against his palm. He abruptly presses down at a button towards the blunt end of the screwdriver, and a blue light snaps on, a heavy buzzing like thousands of cicadas pinches the air and the a spark flies wild from the ceiling and a light fixture crashes to the ground. The Doctor coughs.

"I'll give you a manual."

---

I'm intending for this to be a multi-parter if you guys dig it; Pepper will pop up frequently, as will Ten's companions, maybe a bit of Torchwood, anything's possible. I can't begin to explain how much fun this stuff is to write, seriously: it's crack and feels so good.

Thanks so much for reading, reviews are ace! ♥
 
 
 
Eledhwen: dw_cometorn_eledhwen on June 3rd, 2008 06:27 am (UTC)
Great stuff, very enjoyable, looking forward to more!

(Question: does Liz Shaw count as a "stationary companion", or not? Three being stuck on Earth kind of precluded her going in the TARDIS, but would the Doctor see it like that?)