Title: RESURRECTING REDMANE
Summary: Tony and Pepper find an old pendant that used to belong to his mother ... and neither are prepared for the consequences. And the consequences involve Tony having to face one of his greatest fears, which is tied to the single most painful memory of his life. But it is Pepper who pays the price.
AN: This is an entry for the Valentine's Day Challenge at its_always_been posted for marienomad. She requested:
"...A fic involving Pepper being turned into a horse. She could not talk, but Tony knows about it. She will not be a magical pony but a regular horse. If she's a regular pony, that's okay too."
“What. The. Fuck-“
Ah-ah! Language! Remember who you’re talking to, human. Looking for your dearie
“Who the fuck are you! What have you done with Pepper!” Tony clenched his fists, and prayed fervently that she stayed where she was, because he’s never, ever even thought about hitting a woman, not once in his entire life, but today seemed like a good day to do it.
Please, Anthony. You really think you could ever come so close as to actually lay a finger on me? I thought you uncommonly intelligent for your species, if not smart. Am I to understand that was a miscalculation on my part? It happens, I suppose. One never knows with your kind.
“I want answers, and I want them NOW! What have you done to Pepper?”
All in good time, Anthony. Really, I’m being far too kind in all of this. I should not have returned, I should have simply let it all run its course without a further word or hint from me, but I wanted to make sure more than anything that you got my message.
His eyes smouldered and were frightening in their violence, his body wired and tense ready to spring into action and cause damage.
“Where. Is. Pepper.”
She smiled again, and that awful show of all her teeth was the thing that made him feel as though he was an insect, and despite the crippling pain she was giving him, it was about to get a whole lot worse. His desire to hurt her rose, and his body cried out for her blood in the wake of the perceived threat to his mate.
Virginia is not here, as you have gathered. But I am. Would you like to leave her a message, Anthony? I’ll be sure that she gets it.
Tony roared and dove for her. His body sprung tightly and he prepared to tackle her to the ground, his hands opening wide in order to grab her and inflict damage-
But they closed over thin air and he landed, stunned, with a thud onto the thin rug. White-hair woman had literally vanished into thin air at the last possible second.
This couldn’t be real, it just couldn’t be!
Get up off that floor now, Anthony, and if you keep your mouth shut and your body to yourself, I will be magnanimous and decide to ignore what you’ve just tried to do.
He rose again and stared at her, disconcerted and frightened.
I am the goddess Epona. Do you recall our meeting last night? Yes, I see you do in your own way. Allow me to remind you then, of the reason I have come to you in the first place. When you took that pendant of your mother’s out of the box it was kept in, I could see and hear all that happened. I could see you, and hear what you said about horses. Your violent hatred and wish to see them all extinct were things I could not tolerate. You had to be punished for slighting me. One does not say the things you did, within my hearing, and simply get away with it.
“Let’s admit for a second that what you’re telling me is the truth. If you’ve come to punish me, what does this have anything to do with Pepper? She’s done nothing wrong! If it’s me you want, leave her out of this!”
Ah yes, your heart cannot take such pain, can it? Even now as we communicate, it is crying out for your mate to be returned to you safe and sound, and for retribution to be meted out, swiftly. Imagine then what I must have felt when you did what you did. Therein lies the reason why this could not be allowed to pass. Pain, suffering … they are such great motivators for striking out to seek revenge, are they not?
Tony’s face was pale, as he imagined all the things she could have done to Pepper and could still be doing-
“What have you done with her?! Where is she!”
I bestowed upon her a great honour, indeed. To be, to walk, to see, to feel the world as horses do, indeed living inside their skin, is an experience that everyone should have on this wretched earth. As to where she is, I simply sent her on her merry way where she would most feel comfortable in her new skin, to one of the last few places in this world where horses still run wild and free.
Are you satisfied? No? But I am only just beginning, Anthony.
For a moment, Tony was sure, sure above anything in the world, that he must have gone mad. He could not have heard her right. He could not have heard her say that Pepper-
Would you like to see it, Anthony? See, I knew your wretched species in this day and age, dependent as you are on only believing in what’s blatantly in front of you, would require physical proof, so I took the liberty of … what is the term you use, to… record it? Go ahead, it is all there, in that shiny mirror that moves, the one on that table.
She pointed at Pepper’s laptop, which he only just noticed was switched on. Unsteadily, and feeling very much like his world had been ripped apart and would now be ripped out from under his feet, he made his way over to the computer. There was a video program window open on the monitor, and he pressed play, feeling like an automaton.
The video footage was brief, but starkly detailed and it left no chance for escape. Or room for denial. It showed Pepper staggering from room to room, dressed in her pyjamas. She looked ill, like her skin was stretched too tightly over her body, and the way she repeatedly bumped into doorways and into the furniture, like she was blind-
The breath seemed to rush out of his body and never wish to return. In the macabre video, cruelly dispassionate about all the details it caught, Pepper was clearly in pain and in a disoriented state of mind. It was like her senses, like her sight, were altered somehow, because she couldn’t seem to see obstacles in her path in order to avoid bumping painfully into them, and couldn’t seem to find it in her to speak coherent words, because all the noise her mouth emitted sounded like that of a frightened creature. And when she started curling up on her bathroom floor, clearly in physical pain, Tony realised there were tears scalding his face as they leaked from his eyes.
The rest showed Pepper’s body stretching and transforming, mutating into that of an animal, and it was too horrible for him to fully look at. He shut the monitor abruptly and leaned heavily onto the desk for support, crying and gasping for breath, for strength.
What have you done to her? What have you done to her? What have you done, what have you done, what have you – Pepper, god, NO! NO!
“You give her back to me. You bring her back, put her right, return her to how she was! GIVE HER BACK TO ME!”
I bend to no one’s will, Anthony. Shouting and violence, though possibly understandable in this situation, will get you nowhere. And you will have to be careful of what you do now, now that you have seen what
I told you I would punish you. I told you I would not let this go.
“Then you should have done that to ME! You had no right to involve her! Take ME, punish ME, not her! Bring her BACK!”
I am punishing you, Anthony. Rest assured that I knew the best way to act was to take your beloved mate; only then would you really suffer, and my desire for justice would be satiated. In getting to her, I am undoubtedly getting to you. She simply happens to be enjoying the experience more than others could in these circumstances. And the only thing that protected her truly from my wrath was that she loves my creatures and all animals, and is a gentle soul who could never harm them. How does it feel to have the thing you love most and treasure above all … turned into the thing you hate and abhor most?
Tony cried silently. All he could think about was Pepper-
“What do you want me to do? Where is she?”
I have sent her to one of the states in your country where a particular species, the mustang, still roams the wild planes freely. I believe it is called ‘Why-omm-ing’. If you take the pendant, and wear it around your neck, the way your devout mother used to, that is all you will need to find her. And if you truly want her returned to you in the state she was, you have to love her without restraints despite her current nature. But whether you will be capable of that or not, is up to you. Farewell.
And in the next instant, she was gone. Simply snuffed out of existence as though she’d never been there in the first place, a mere apparition.
Tony slumped heavily onto the sofa in the living room, screwing his eyes shut against the ghastly images of Pepper being turned into a horse shunting their way into his brain, and branding his heart with a pain so crippling that he couldn’t think straight.
Putting aside the sheer absurdity of it all, Tony finally rose, and with a look of sheer loathing, picked up the pendant the goddess had left for him, and put it inside his pocket.
He straightened out Pepper’s things, cleaned the blood from the kitchen and the broken glass, and went outside into the landing. He shut the door and activated the code linked to ‘vacation’.
As he tore through the streets, his brain told him that all he needed to focus on was to find her. By the time he got to his home, he’d already planned out his next move, and hopefully with JARVIS’ help, he could figure out a way out of this.
But at least one thing was clear; he had to get to
The first thing he did was to tell JARVIS everything that had happened as soon as he got home. He’d taken Pepper’s computer with him, so JARVIS also viewed that video where-
He couldn’t think about that now.
Within half an hour, he’d arranged for wheels up on his plane that same day. He contacted SI and let them know that Pepper had had a family emergency and would not be reached in the next few days, so all calls were to be diverted to his house. JARVIS would keep him updated of all important developments, so that he would only need to worry about stepping away from his search if it was absolutely vital. Next, he left a terse and brief message with Agent Coulson to inform him that he was leaving the state should S.H.I.E.L.D. need him, but did not tell him what had happened.
He briefly thought about calling Rhodey, but then remembered he was busy on secret AirForce stuff and wouldn’t be back into town for another two days.
He packed sensible clothing into a bag and all the small items he deemed necessary or helpful. What he truly couldn’t decide was whether he should take the ‘football’ or not. But he didn’t waste much time over that internal debate. He agreed with JARVIS that the suit could fly to him should it be necessary, controlled by JARVIS, and reach him in less than thirty minutes.
Putting the house on lockdown until he came back, the last thing Tony did was to leave a message with Happy to let him know that he could take a few days of paid vacation until he returned.