Fandom: Iron Man
Category: Vignette. Angst, Friendship.
Spoilers: Entire Iron Man arc in the MCU up to and including Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Summary: Is something still entrusted to someone if the giver doesn’t know it?
Word Count: 1695
Note: Another take on the thing that Happy had at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming, with thanks to M for the metallurgy input.
For Chase, who gave me the idea. I’m so glad life brought you to me, buddy.
Happy punched in his code and stepped into Tony's workshop. As he did, he called out to the hunched man sitting on a wheeled stool at the workbench.
"Yeah?" answered Tony, clearly distracted.
"What is this?" asked Happy.
Tony didn't look up. "What is what?"
"This," said Happy, stepping over to Tony and sticking an open palm into his work space.
Tony stopped and looked at the object in Happy's hand for a moment, then blinked and gave Happy a disapproving look, as if he was being obtuse.
"It's a ring," he said, all sarcasm.
"Thank you, Captain Obvious," said Happy, with just as much irritation. "Why did I find it in the Audi?"
Tony wheeled away from Happy to a different part of his workbench and grabbed a handful of what looked like junk. Then he wheeled back and resumed his work.
Happy sighed and gently reminded Tony he'd asked a question.
"Boss? The ring? Any idea where it came from? It was in the car?"
"So that's where it got off to," muttered Tony, talking around a screwdriver in his mouth.
Happy's brows knit together.
"You knew about this?"
“Well, to be fair,” said Tony, taking the screwdriver from his mouth and setting it on his workbench, “I forgot about it. But yeah.”
Happy shook his head slightly and decided to skip right over the fact that only Tony Stark could get so involved in a project that he forgot about something like this. Instead, he focused on the other mystery at hand.
"It's yours?" he asked, gaping at his boss.
"Well, no. Yes. Sort of. Yes."
"That clears it up," said Happy, still confused but grateful he didn't have to track down one of Tony's conquests to return it.
Tony took a single deep breath as he kept working on his project. He didn't look at Happy as he spoke again.
"It was my mother's."
A long, quiet moment passed. The only sounds were those of Tony's tinkering.
Finally, Happy broke the silence.
"I'm sorry, Tony. I..."
Tony shrugged and cut Happy off. "It's okay. You didn't know."
"I didn't. I was just cleaning the car and... Wait. Why was it in the car?"
Tony shrugged again.
"I dunno," he murmured.
Happy gave him a suspicious look.
"Well," he drawled, "either you carry this around as a good luck charm or you had it there for a very specific purpose."
Tony sighed but didn't say anything.
"And," continued Happy, "you're not the sentimental type."
Tony finally really looked at Happy. He seemed like he was about to speak, but then he just shrugged one shoulder and gave a little sideways nod before turning back to his work.
Happy wasn't sure how to take that and was going to leave well enough alone - until Tony's quiet voice startled him.
"Yeah, well... Mom's kind of the exception to that rule."
Happy nodded sadly. He wanted to say something to let Tony know he understood, but he wasn't sure what to say, so he kept quiet. And when Tony kept going a second later, he was glad he did.
"And there was this guy. Yinsen. In the cave. He..."
Happy's eyes grew wide as Tony trailed off. Tony never talked about Afghanistan. Ever. Happy had no idea what had happened over there. The cave part he might have guessed. But he'd always assumed Tony had been alone. Apparently not.
Happy stayed silent, wondering if Tony would say more and afraid to remind him he was there, knowing that would trigger the patented Stark defense mechanism of sarcasm and deflection.
He was rewarded when Tony continued after a long pause.
"He... he said something to me. And he was right. And I... was just thinking. I remembered I had it and... anyway. Doesn't matter."
Happy nodded again, this time with a note of finality. He'd been down this road before. Those last three words meant Tony was done. He was sweeping whatever this was under the rug. That was all Happy was going to get out of him tonight.
Tony picked up a hammer and banged on a piece of metal twice. Happy waited until he'd put the hammer back down and was inspecting his handiwork to ask his next question.
"So, you want me to just leave it here?"
Tony shrugged. That wasn't exactly helpful for Happy, so he waited another beat, then asked again.
"Boss? What do you want me to do with it?"
Tony gave him a dismissive wave.
"Whatever you want. Like I said, it doesn't matter."
Happy gave Tony's back a concerned look. Then he looked at the ring in his hand for a moment before speaking again.
Tony nodded, then gave a small snort.
"I know," he said. Then he rushed on, not giving Happy a chance to respond. "It's vibranium, too, you know. One of a kind. Leave it to Dad."
Tony sighed. So did Happy. He was no closer to getting an answer from Tony and it was never good when Howard came up. So he made a suggestion, trying to end the conversation as best he could.
"I'll put it in the vault, then?"
Tony paused and turned to Happy again. He looked thoughtful, and that made Happy nervous.
After a long moment, Tony snapped his fingers twice and pointed at Happy.
"Tell you what," he mused, voice full of bravado. "Why don't you keep it?"
Happy goggled at Tony.
"You keep it," said Tony, as nonchalant as if he'd ordered coffee. Then he turned away as Happy struggled to come up with a response.
Before he could, Tony spoke again. His voice was back to the quiet one from earlier, but Happy heard him well enough.
"Maybe you can find a use for it."
Happy tilted his head sideways and just looked at Tony, struggling to make sense of his words; trying to understand how someone who had just admitted sentimental attachment to something (for once in his life) could turn around and just give that something away. This was more than just Tony being impetuous. That Happy was used to. But the underlying serious tone to Tony's words; the cracks in his usual facade - this felt different, and Happy wasn't sure what to make of it. He stared at the back of Tony's head for a full minute. And then, suddenly, it all clicked into place.
It was different.
Because Tony was different.
Tony had nearly died in Afghanistan. And while everyone knew that had changed his professional priorities, no one (Happy included) had bothered to ask about his personal ones.
Could it be that Tony-different-woman-every-night-Stark wanted something more than that? That he'd dug out his mother's old engagement ring and was musing over it in the car when he'd dropped it there?
That made sense to Happy all of a sudden, except for one thing. Tony was good with his hands. He rarely dropped anything. And if he did, he picked it up and put it away. Something like this? He'd never leave it lying about. Tony was a mess, but not when it came to his tools or his toys. And certainly not when something pertained to his family. Hell, Happy didn't discover JARVIS's namesake until he got bored one day and read the family archives (because of course the Stark family had archives). He'd always assumed the name was an acronym, and Tony never suggested otherwise. So he knew Tony would never give away this glimpse of himself so carelessly.
Unless he'd had no choice. Unless he'd dropped the ring in surprise and couldn't pick it up because someone had gotten in the car.
Happy remembered then. That day last week, when he'd picked Pepper up on the way to headquarters with Tony. How Tony had been unusually quiet that morning. How, despite that particular detour not exactly being rare, it seemed to surprise Tony that day. How he'd gone from quiet to babbling in a microsecond. Happy had thought he'd just been hung over and then the coffee kicked in, but now he suspected something else had gone down. Something he wouldn't have expected from the old Tony. Something he hadn't thought to imagine with the new Tony, but that made so much sense that Happy felt like an idiot for only just now seeing it.
Happy didn't know what this Yinsen character had said to Tony, but he could guess. He'd thought the same thing from time to time: That if Tony Stark ever got his head out of his ass, his life would be a lot brighter. And if his theory was true, it looked like maybe, just maybe, Tony was starting to see that too.
So he did the only thing he could. He agreed to Tony's request.
"Okay," he said. "I'll keep it."
Tony nodded to himself, still tinkering with whatever was on his workbench.
"Good," he mumbled. "God knows I'll never use it."
Happy pretended not to hear that. He knew better than to argue with Tony when his mind was made up, and on this topic, it wasn't changing any time soon. So he acted like this night was perfectly normal, though it was anything but.
"So I'm going to take off then, okay?"
Tony waved a hand dismissively.
"See you tomorrow," he said, never looking up.
"Night, boss," mumbled Happy. He then nodded once, spun on his heel, and left Tony's workshop.
On his way up the stairs, he passed Pepper going down. They nodded their greetings to each other and Pepper kept going. But Happy paused for a moment. He looked back through the glass of the workshop wall and saw Tony was no longer at his workbench. Instead, he standing about a foot from Pepper and staring right at her. He looked exasperated and she had one eyebrow up in the perfectly patient look she gave him when she was waiting for him to see her point.
Happy snorted, then continued up the stairs.
He'd keep the ring, alright.
But the only use he'd ever have for it were the two people arguing behind him.
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