April 23, 2009

Itch

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 10:31 pm by vrtrakowski

I wasn’t going to take this plot bunny seriously, but oh well, thank you seanan_mcguire.  *snerk*  Iron Man, Tony/Pepper, rated PG.  Read at your own risk due to, um, provocative imagery, and no, it’s not what you’re thinking of.

Banner and rapid betaing by Cincoflex, who never fails me!

itch1

In a way, Tony thought, it was almost awe-inspiring.

Fortunately for his concentration–and his neck–it hadn’t begun until he’d finished the mission and was heading home, tired and sweaty.  Just a minor sensation crinkling up his spine, hardly more than the prickle of perspiration.

Except, it grew.  Swelling from a faint tickle to a definite itch, spreading outwards as though creeping beneath his snug neoprene, sliding on his slick skin.  He shrugged his shoulders as much as he could without deviating from his flight path, but that had no effect.

Gah. Tony twitched inside the armor, scarcely able to keep from reaching back despite the impossibility of it.  Damn, this is irritating–

Itching was one of the minor inconveniences of being Iron Man, along with sneezing, farting, and a full bladder.  He’d learned to work around them, or through them, because even his genius couldn’t come up with a way to scratch himself while suited up.  But he’d never itched like this before.

He squirmed, unable to help it as his nerves complained.  It felt like most of his back was irritated now, spreading down to the top of his buttocks, with that peculiar sensation that danced on the border between heat and pain in little spiky shoes.  What the hell–

“Jarvis, life support analysis,” he ordered his AI, suddenly wondering if the last fight had included a bioweapon he hadn’t noticed.  Tony didn’t quite panic at the thought, though his mind leaped ahead to possible contingency plans if he were contaminated.  There was no fucking way he was bringing a pathogen home to Pepper, for one thing–

“Life support is green,” Jarvis told him calmly.  “All systems are functioning and stable.”

“Then what the hell’s wrong with my back?” Tony growled, flexing his toes in a futile effort to distract himself from the raging itch.  “If you tell me that’s a psychosomatic reaction I’ll–”

“There is no apparent trauma; your blood pressure is high, but all other vital signs are satisfactory,” the AI said.  Which wasn’t satisfactory, not by a long shot.

“Check again,” Tony suggested tightly, rolling his head on his neck as far as he could and ignoring the way his HUD shifted in an attempt to keep up.

“No apparent trauma,” Jarvis repeated.  “Without more sophisticated scanning equipment, I cannot–”

“Okay, okay.”  Now it felt like a thousand tiny mouths gnawing at him, a million needles piercing his epidermis and dermis and heading for the soft flesh below.  Tony shifted his shoulders, desperate, and immediately had to correct for the wobble it produced.  “Get Potts on the line.”

Within seconds Pepper’s voice reached his ears.  “Tony?  What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know,” he grunted, feeling fresh sweat break out on his forehead as he struggled with the sensation.  “My back’s itching like crazy all of a sudden, but Jarvis says it’s not a contamination.  I think you’d better get the doc in–”

“Right,” she said, nothing more, and the connection broke.  Tony knew she was calling his private physician to make an emergency house call, and wondered if he could get home any faster.

The unbearable sensation was ringing a very faint bell, and Tony set his teeth and concentrated, hoping desperately for a distraction.  Itching like fury, all over–and suddenly his mother’s voice sounded out of memory: And don’t scratch!

But I already had chicken pox.  Can you get it twice?

It seemed like forever before Pepper came back.  “I think I know what’s the matter,” she said, and he could have sworn she sounded embarrassed.  “It’s nothing dangerous, Tony.”

Fuck dangerous, I just want it to stop.  Give, Pepper!”

“Um, you remember what we were doing this morning?”

The memory was almost enough to distract him in and of itself.  They’d gone for a run on his private jogging trail, ending up at the edge of his property where the fence was hidden by a stand of trees and scrub.  Teasing had turned to laughter and kisses, and then he’d coaxed her into a little alfresco lovemaking, leaning up against a conveniently wide tree.  “Yeah, but what’s that got to do with anything?”

“Poison oak, Tony.  I think that tree was covered in it.”

Tony blinked in the confines of his helmet.  He’d heard of the stuff, sure, but plants weren’t exactly his strong suit.

Pepper was still talking.  “Dr. Phair said your reaction sounds like contact dermatitis, and she told me to try an antihistamine if you get here before she does–”

“Better make it a double dose.”  He wobbled again; the sweat breaking out on his back wasn’t helping matters at all.  “You didn’t get any of that shit on you, did you?”

“Not that I’ve noticed,” Pepper said doubtfully.  “I’m going to take another shower as soon as I can, though.”

Tony grunted again, feeling like his skin was about to crawl off his spine.  “Oh–” Pepper exclaimed.  “I just had an idea.  Get here as soon as you can, Tony–”

He barely heard her cut the connection again.  If his life wasn’t in immediate danger–

If there had been anyone there to observe, he would have put on quite a show.  The gleaming red-and-gold figure suddenly spun through the sky in a ragged corkscrew, drawing crazy patterns against the deep blue sky; dropping, soaring, doing barrel rolls, all but tying itself in knots as Tony frantically tried to rub his back against its own hard shell.

Finally he had to stop, panting.  All his efforts had brought him only a few seconds of relief; the itching resumed, twice as fierce as before, and he whimpered before speaking.  “Home, Jarvis, emergency speed–”

The trip had never taken so long.  But at long last home came into view, and Tony seriously considered dropping through the roof if it would get him inside any sooner, but in the end he used the garage door instead.  Pepper was waiting with Dummy by her side, latex gloves on her hands and a worried expression on her face.

Tony dropped to a clanging landing and hit the emergency release, shedding armor as quickly as possible.  Pepper moved in to help, pulling off pieces and setting them aside hastily.  As soon as he was clear, Tony reached back to claw at his spine.

Pepper caught his wrists.  “No, you can’t scratch–”

“I have to!”  He yanked one hand free, but she caught it again.

“You’ll make it worse, Tony.  Hold still–”

The only reason he listened was because she was reaching for his liner zipper.  With quick, efficient motions Pepper yanked the neoprene free of his torso, leaving it to hang down around his waist, and grabbed his hands again as he reached up.  Tony wriggled.  “Pepper–”

She reached past him and came up with a pair of his welding goggles, pulling them down onto his head and over his eyes.  “Hold still–”

Her sternness was such that he did as she took three long steps backwards.  Then came a familiar hollow hiss–

The cold that hit his back was a shock, and Tony jerked, but the substance spattering over his shoulders was far too thick to be fire retardant.  It coated his back in a wide stream, and Tony groaned in utter, utter relief as the itch began to subside.

The spray continued for almost thirty seconds, messy and smelly and wonderful.  When it subsided Tony let out a long sigh, dizzy with the cessation of torment.

His back was going numb, he realized.  I don’t fucking care. Reaching back, he pulled out the waist of his liner to allow the substance to drip down over the inflamed skin below.  “Potts, you’re a genius. What the hell is this stuff?”

“Benzocaine.”  Pepper was smiling.  “It’ll do until we get you on antihistamines.  Speaking of which–”

She presented him with a bottle of water and two small pills.  “As requested.  Take them and get in the shower; Dr. Phair should be here soon.”  Her nose wrinkled.  “You’ll need a towel so you don’t drip all over the floor.”

Tony cracked the bottle and swallowed the pills quickly.  He heard Dummy chirp behind him, and turned to see the ‘bot sitting next to a spray apparatus that looked very hastily made.  Across Dummy’s arm was draped a thick bath towel, and as Tony watched the robot extended it to him, looking as smug as something without a face could manage.

Slowly, Tony grinned back, and took the towel.  “Good boy.”

Dummy whirred, satisfied, and rolled away.  Pepper laughed.  “Come on, I’ll help you wash.”

Tony finished the water and handed her the bottle, slinging the towel gingerly across his back to soak up the excess ointment and manfully resisting the urge to rub the cloth over his skin; his nerves were still tingling with memory.  “Are you sure you didn’t get any of this crap on you?”

Pepper shrugged.  “Apparently not.  Not everyone’s allergic to poison oak anyway.”

Tony snorted, letting her guide him towards the basement shower.  “Well, as soon as this is cleared up, I’m going back out there with a flamethrower.”

She clucked.  “Need I remind you that brushfires are bad?”

“Picky, picky.”  Tony stepped into the stall ahead of her, and started humming.

Pepper burst out laughing as the tune to “Tainted Love” echoed off the tile, and swung the door shut after them.

End.

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