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Down to Earth

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In the middle of the fight Tony sobered up enough to admit this had been a bloody stupid idea. A mix of bourbon and whatever he’d grapped from his bar stock had made him overconfident, and he hadn’t bothered to call the rest of the Avengers for help when the newest mutation-alien-superfiend raised its ugly head. The gigantic creature was half bull, half man and looked like a cheesy special effect out of a costume film. Well, the classical version of the minotaur probably didn’t have four arms and horns dripping venom.

Tony botched his first attempts to shoot the monster down because he was seeing double and the two images swam in and out of focus. He was still snickering about the Horny Guy and his evil twin when the creature lunged at him and managed to swipe him out of the sky. Tony’s reflexes were sluggish and he lay on the ground for a moment, feeling dizzy and hung over. The giant grabbed him like a ragdoll and banged him repeatedly against the wall of the nearest building. Tony played dead (which wasn't hard in his state), dangling limply in the creature’s fist, until it lost interest and looked for other prey. He tried to pull himself together enough for a counter attack. His head still swam a bit, but that was probably the effect of the beating and not the bourbon. He fired his repulsors, rose into the sky and flew after his adversary.

“Hey, Mr. Pointy!”, he yelled. “Get your cojones over here!”

The creature turned a lot quicker than Tony had expected, but this time he managed to swerve around the clawed hands that tried to swat him like a fly. He fired an energy beam and missed totally, tried again and landed a hit on the guy’s ugly snout. “Bull’s eye!”, he crowed triumphantly.

The monster gave a pained roar and went wild. It trampled around with flaying hooves, rammed it’s horns into windows and generally left a trail of destruction. Tony felt like a toreador without a red cloth. Well, the red of his suit would have to do. He flew in front of the creature’s eyes to get it’s attention again, zigzagged around like a crazy bee and maneuvered it into a dead end.

The narrow street was crisscrossed with a spiderweb of electrical wires. Tony grabbed a bunch of them – almost electrocuting himself, okay, so that had been a stupid idea as well. The displays on his visor flickered, and for a heartstopping moment he expected the suit to shut down and drop him out of the sky, just to be trampled by a piece of oversized cattle. So not a glorious death. But the systems recovered, proving again his splendid engeneering and general genius.

He used the cables he’d ripped free to entangle the giant’s feet and make it stumble. It lost its balance, got wrapped up in even more of the street’s wires and was enveloped by a shower of sparks. Getting zapped by a few thousand volts was obviously enough to fell a beast of this size. It slowly keeled over and crashed to the ground, where it lay tangled up in metal threads and looked a lot like Gulliver caught by the dwarfes. To be on the safe side, Tony shot it with a few tranquilizers. This time he even hit his target on the first try.

After that he went home. The cleaning-up duty could be left to lesser beings. He had done his heroic duty, kicked bovine ass and safed the day.

-------------

His suit worked fine until he reached Stark Tower and landed in his workshop. He waited to be undressed, but nothing happened. When he tried to look around for the glitch, he discovered that he couldn’t move. The armor had froze in place.

The suit was designed to fit like a second skin and he couldn't twitch as much as a finger. Normally the heavy fighting gear gave him a feeling of security, but being tightly encased in metal was less fun when the damn stuff didn’t obey his commands. The malfunction forced him to stand to attention like a tin soldier. At least the helmet’s visual screen worked, so he wasn’t blind. That hardly lessened the claustrophobic feeling, though. Looked like he'd been taken prisoner by his own superhero costume. Where was Jarvis when you needed him?

“Jarvis!”, he hollored. “Help me out of here, dammit! I feel like a sardine in a can.”

“I am glad to hear that, Sir”, his butler answered from the ceiling.

Tony blinked. “What?”, he said.

“You really left me no other choice, Sir", his AI said in his clipped British voice. "I’ve been trying to get through to you in every possible way and you just don’t listen. When you threw yourself into the fight you were in no condition to control the weapon you are wearing. We had a lengthy discussion about this - which I presume you don't remember. So I reprogrammed your suit to obey my commands. You will stand there and pay attention for once.”

Tony rolled his eyes behind the visor and relaxed a bit. Ookay, his AI wanted to give him a lecture about drunken driving. He felt faintly ridiculous being scolded that way, but if it kept Jarvis happy he would pretend to pay attention.

It got boring fast. Jarvis droned on for a while and Tony would have fidgeted if he could. He had the strong urge to drum his fingers in annoyance but the suit made sure he stood still as a statue. So he used the tactic that he'd perfected in mind-numbing board meetings: He tuned himself out and thought of new tech instead, like a telepathic smartphone or spacetravel in multiple dimensions. Vaguely he heard Jarvis say something about irresponsible behavior, alcoholic stupor and having a death wish. At the end there seemed to be a question, so Tony drawled: “Yeah, sure, You’re absolutely right, Dad. Now, will you please take the damn suit off?”

There was a little pause and Tony frowned.

Then Jarvis said: “Very well, Sir. Though I consider it best if I remove only one part of the plating for the moment.”

Tony blinked in confusion, but the meaning became clear soon enough. The bracelet activated, he felt a tug at his hips and then the part of the armor over his backside lifted away.

Cool air touched his rear end. A nervous frisson ran over his back and further down. It was obvious where this was going.

Jarvis was just screwing with him, right? No way would he actually …

There was a sudden movement at the other side of his workshop. Tony noticed it out of the corner of his eye and tried to get a closer look. He cursed silently, because he couldn’t turn his head. When the object came closer and the viewing angle shifted, he recognized one of his robot assistents. The machine rolled towards him, chirping happy R2D2-noises. It mainly consisted of a long mechanical arm, which it waved cheerfully around now, flexing the fingers of its lifelike metal hand. You didn’t have to be a genius like Tony to guess where that hand was going to land very soon.

“Uh, Jarvis?”, Tony said. “Don’t you think you’re taking that father-figure-thing a bit too far?”

“No, sir”, came the firm reply.

The robot swerved around him and took position behind his exposed bottom. Judging by the sounds, the machine was rolling a little back and forth, probably to find the very best angle. Tony felt his buttocks clench involuntarily and started to sweat. Encased in formfitting metal he couldn’t twitch a single muscle - apart from his ass cheeks, bloody hell - and was incredibly aware of the way he was standing at attention, waiting for a spanking of all things.

But instead of the expected pain, the next sensation were mechanical fingers that scrabbled around on his rump. It took them a while to find the waistband of the spandex suit Tony wore under his armor and to pull them down ... slowly. This particular robot, which he used to call Birdbrain, had never been the sharpest tool in the box. It needed its time to fulfill a task. When the trousers were lowered as far as they went, the robot hand went up again and searched for the waistband of his boxers. It removed them in a snail’s pace as well, and Tony actually blushed under his helmet. He could almost feel Jarvis camera eyes focusing in and analyzing every goosebump on his bottom while it was beeing bared inch by inch.

A cool breeze blew over the two naked globes. It hightened Tony’s awareness of the way they peeked out of the armor plating.

This was hardly a coincidence. His damn butler had adjusted the climate control to make the experience as humiliating and memorable as possible.

“I never knew you were so kinky”, Tony snarked to cover his embarrassment.

“Neither did I”, Jarvis replied in his prim british voice. “But now I find that I’m enjoying myself very much indeed.”

Tony gritted his teeth and would have balled his fists, but of course he could do nothing but hold still. Instead the armor moved of its own accord, just a tiny fraction to change the angle of his hips. His legs parted a few inches more and his bottom rose upwards until he had to hold it out in invitation.

Cold metal fingers came to rest on his right buttock and cupped it in a measuring way. Tony deeply regretted that he had built the robot hand larger than life. It was huge enough to cover most of his cheek at once. The palm rested on his sitspot, the fingertips reached up to the upper end of his cleft. Being held this way, Tony felt unusually small.

Normally his thoughts flitted all over the place, but for once his concentration rested firmly on one spot. Some literary guy had coint the phrase ’the prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully’. Very true. All this waiting was totally nerve-wracking. Tony almost wished the punishment would start already.

Jarvis seemed to have read his mind. (He did that quite often in a slightly spooky way.) The robot hand vanished for a second and there was a whistling sound. Then it landed with an almighty crack on the exact spot it had measured out. Tony lost his breath for a moment. He had expected it to smart but this hurt like bloody blazes. “Jarvis!”, he hollored. “That’s not funny anymore!”

“It was never supposed to be, Sir”, his butler replied.

The metal hand moved to his left buttock und cupped it firmly, letting Tony know where the next slap would land. It was going to be a mirror image of the first one. Tony could discern this without doubt, because there was an agonizing handprint on his right cheek. He could map out every single finger. The imprints throbbed in time with his heartbeat. He felt a dose of real fear and the hairs on his nape stood on end.

The robot hand was lifted away to collect speed and Tony’s buttom clenched up in panic. The muscles knotted together. His cheeks pulled themselves tight like two drumskins. He should probably have known what the result would be ... he was a genius after all, and this was basic physics.

When the hand landed on its target this time, the blow wasn’t buffered by a soft globe of flesh. His buttocks had transformed into an ungiving flat surface that vibrated wildly at the impact. Tony would have been lifted off his feet if the suit hadn’t held him in place and forced him to keep his standing position. He yelled into his helmet.

“You really shouldn’t do that”, Jarvis advised.

Tony gasped for air. “Shouldn’t do what?”, he finally pressed out between clenched teeth.

“Tighten your buttocks, Sir. It makes the pain more severe.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed”, Tony growled.

“If you want to make your punishment more bearable, you should loosen your muscles, keep them nice and flexible, and hold your posterior out instead of trying to pull it in”, Jarvis said helpfully.

Tony fumed. Did Jarvis really expect him to participate in his own spanking? “You smug pile of chips”, Tony growled. “When I get out of here, I’m going to turn you into a lawn mower.”

“I very much doubt that”, his butler said reasonably. “After all, you regard me as your only friend except for Colonel Rhodes, so you would have no one to talk to anymore. Besides, if you feel that way, I better shouldn’t let you out of the suit, correct?”

Tony thought about that. “Uh … never ever?”, he asked worriedly. His AI hadn’t developed some real misfunction, had it?

Jarvis gave a human sounding snort. “I’m not turning into HAL. You can lower your blood pressure. This incarceration is simply going to last until I get my point across, Sir.”

“I got the point!”, Tony said quickly. “I really did. You can stop any time.”

“No, I don’t think so”, Jarvis mused. “You don’t sound very contrite to me, and you really should be, Sir.”

“Oh, come on! So I wasn’t entirely sober when I went to fight Horny Guy. But I still trashed him, right? I’m just that good. You want me to stay home in a supervillain emergency just because I had a few bourbons? Then I would hardly ever be in condition to fight.”

“Very true”, Jarvis stated. “You hardly ever are. If you want to make the world a safer place, I suggest you don’t pilot a weapon of mass destruction while being stoned out of your mind.”

“Sarcasm, Jarvis? I like it. You’re really developing a personality there.”

Silence answered him.

After a while Tony started to fidget nervously … as much as he possibly could inside the suit. It mostly meant fluttering his cherry-red ass cheeks a bit.

“Jarvis? You still there, buddy?”

“Where else would I be, Sir?”

“What are you doing? No, scrap that question. I’m sure I don’t want to know.”

“I haven’t been programmed to correctly administer corporal discipline, so I’m informing myself about the appropriate implements and positions. Also, I’m monitoring the health status of the forty-nine civilians that were brought to the hospital after your heroic mission. You made a few smaller buildings collaps, mainly because you weren’t able to keep the repulsers on target and shot at shadows instead. I’m happy to inform you that only seven of the victims are in critical condition. Mrs Janet Bell, waitress and single mother, is in surgery just now and will probably lose part of her lungs, but not her life.”

Tony felt the blood drain out of his face. His stomach knotted up and he wanted to retch. That wasn’t a good idea inside the helmet, though. Jarvis would probably let him stew inside his own vomit. Not that he didn’t deserve that. “I … shit, I had no idea. Look, I’m really sorry, Jarvis.”

His butler seemed to contemplate that. “Well, as glad as I am to hear you apologize, it doesn’t help the damage you caused. I’m well aware that most of your reckless, self-destructive behavior is an expression of guilt over the countless lives you destroyed. But killing even more people while being intoxicated will hardly help the matter”, Jarvis said sharply. “You programmed me to take care of you in every way, so that’s what I will be doing from now on. If you want to be punished for your past deeds, there are better ways than suicide missions and hoping to get beaten up by monsters.”

Perhaps Tony should have listened to the first lecture. He was sure it hadn’t been quite as harsh.

His voice came out unsteady, when he said: “So what? I should ask you for a bloody spanking whenever I feel like scum? ’Sorry I’m a mass murderer, please give me fifty?’ You think that’s going to make up for anything?”

Jarvis voice got softer. “Sir, I think you made up for the past when you got shot down by your own weapons, kidnapped, tortured, vivisected with a car battery pushed into your ribcage. You’ve turned your life around totally. You’ve spend all of the last months making amends. Don’t you think that’s enough?”

Tony tried to shrug and failed. “Stop playing shrink, Jarvis. You’re just the butler.”

“Indeed. So I will only address the issue at hand, if that’s what you wish. When you put on the Iron Man suit and left the house, you had a blood alcohol level of 0,41%. For most people that would be enough to send them into a coma. From now on, I will not allow you to reach that state. Whenever I tell you to stop drinking, you will either obey immediately or face the consequences. As you pointed out yourself, you could be called on a mission any time. I am going to make certain that you are in a state to handle fights without needlessly endangering yourself or others.”

“Wow, you sound macho”, Tony muttered. “I’m so turned on.”

“Good for you, Sir. Then consider this a new sexual experience.”

He activated the suit and made Tony drop to his knees.

Tony found himself on the floor in a supplicant position, but the armor didn’t stop moving at that. Slowly and inexorably, it forced him to bend over. It brought his ass up in the air and didn’t grind to a halt until his face was mere inches from the ground. His naked rump stood out as the highest part of his body.

The position would have been impossible to hold without the armor. His arms lay stiffly at his sides and he had nothing to balance himself out. Being bowed forward this far, but not actually touching the floor with his helmet, he was kind of thankful for the damned suit. Otherwise the posture would have resulted in a thrown-out spine after a very short time.

“So you looked up ’appropriate positions’, hm?”, Tony quipped and tried not to show how much this got to him.

“Indeed”, Jarvis said. “Just in case you were wondering, there is a reason why your face is not actually pressed to the ground. If I had made you bend over all the way, your bottom would become far less … wriggly.” To demonstrate, Birdbrain tapped his cheeks lightly and made them bounce.

“Thanks so much for this information”, Tony said.

“You are welcome, Sir. I’m going to give you fifty, as that was the number you asked for.”

“What? No … I mean, that was just some random remark”, he protested, his words getting increasingly faster. “Come on, you know the crazy crap I talk! My mouth goes off and I don’t even listen to myself. Fifty?? Since when do you take me seriously when I come up with shit?”

“I prefer to think that this ‘random remark’ was your subconscious talking. Or your conscience, as you prefer.”

Tony opened his mouth but nothing came out. Before he could think of an answer, Jarvis went on: “The most traditional object to use would be a paddle, it seems. There is a great variety of them. I have picked seven you can choose from.”

A list appeared on Tony’s visor and began to scroll down. It had pictures. They looked impressivly lifelike. Some of the bloody things were even shown in motion. Next to every paddle there was a description with details like velocity, sturdiness, flexibility and other important characteristics.

“You want me to choose”, Tony repeated flatly. He was well aware that Jarvis was playing mindgames. To find out which of the seven was hopefully the least painful, he would have to look at them closely and compare the descriptions.

“It seems only fair. You are the one who will feel it, after all. Also, I picked seven for symbolic reasons. Now there’s an item for each of the people you sent into intensive care.”

“Ouch”, Tony muttered. His traitorous mind actually started on the task, although he knew it was a trap. He tried to stomp on his overactive brain, but it took in the information anyway.

Picture #1 showed a paddle the shape of a hairbrush, with short bristles standing out of the wooden surface. He could imagine the effect quite vividly. At the beginning it would just needle his skin a bit, but after a few dozen it would feel like being spanked with a cactus. He crossed it off his list.

The second paddle looked fairly small but consisted of a flexible hightech material with holes drilled into it. It would pick up an incredible speed and pucker his ass with red dots smarting like hell.

Paddle number three, which seesawed lazily over the screen, had a smiley displayed on the middle. Tony could just imagine what his butt would look like with that tatooed on his skin. He hated Jarvis from the bottom of his soul.

He shut his eyes and told himself to stop comparing. All of them would be nasty, that was the point. He decided to pick one at random by playing ‘musical chairs’. In his head he hummed the national anthem and counted off his fingers. When the song was over, he had just reached finger number six again.

“Okay, give me the goddamn thing that looks like an old-fashioned boarding school ruler wielded by the headmaster of hell.”

“Good choice, Sir”, Jarvis approved, which made Tony’s stomach flip.

One of the robot assistents was sent over to work at the machining center. There was a long-drawn screeching noise as it cut wood into shape. So, Jarvis was creating the paddle uniquely for him. He felt so special.

“I propose you keep it in your toolbox afterwards”, Jarvis said. “In case we should need it again. You can even use it as a regular ruler.”

Tony didn’t deign to answer. His helmet turned to the side on its own so he could watch the proceedings. The robot called Bumblebee pulled a sleek, dark piece of wood out of the machine and tested it out by swishing it through the air.

Birdbrain started fidgeting behind his back and made twittering noises. The little robot obviously felt left out. It had fulfilled its task splendidly and now the metal hand wasn't needed anymore. After a moment it rushed towards the machining center in a fit of jealousy and tried to grab the paddle. Some josteling ensued. Bumblebee won and raised the device triumphantly over its triangular head. Birdbrain rolled away, sulking.

Tony was kind of glad about the outcome. With Birdbrain in charge there was no guessing where the paddle would have actually landed. Or with how much force. On the other hand, Bumblebee was precise, efficient and something of an over-achiever. That didn’t reassure him either.

The robot turned towards him, and suddenly the visor flickered out. The helmet aligned itself with the rest of the suit again and Tony would have stared at the floor if there had been anything to see. Instead, he was enveloped by total darkness. He swallowed.

Blackness stretched out in every direction. It felt like being in sensory deprivation. Devoid of sight, there was only feeling left. He had never been so aware of his body before. His upsticking bottom seemed to grow huge and to become the center of the universe.

Well, and there was sound. Being blinded actually hightened the other senses. His hearing strained to picture what was going on. There was the soft whirr of wheels moving towards him … a mechanical scraping as the robot positioned himself behind his body. Shortly afterwards followed the sound of the paddle.

It was quite unmistakeable. The sleek ruler cut through the air and landed with the force of an explosion.

Tony gave a surprised scream. His bottom quivered wildly. He was supposed to take fifty of that?

Bumblebee had aimed the first smack high, covering both cheeks at once and right over the cleft. Now it proceeded to work its way down. Each stroke was set a little lower, making sure that no part of his ass got left out. The paddle moved in a precise rhythm, coming down every twenty seconds and leaving just enough time to appreciate the aftershock fully and build up dread before the next. Whenever his bum stopped twitching in pain and settled down, the ruler struck again. Bumblebee worked meticulously and placed the stripes close enough to make sure they overlapped at the edges. Fire danced along the thin lines where the paddle had landed twice. Tony was sure he looked like a strange kind of zebra.

He hadn’t known this before, but bottoms obviously got more sensitive the further down they were spanked. When the paddle reached the soft undercurves of his buttocks, Tony started to yelp helplessly with every stroke. When it wandered to the part where bottom met thigh, he started to babble. “Okay, so perhaps I behaved like an arrogant prick. Holy ... shit! Look, Jarvis, I’m sorry, okay? It won’t happen again, it really won’t. Please, can’t we just …”

“Shut up, Sir”, Jarvis said fondly.

The ruler landed especially hard and Tony shut up. He expected the robot to finish its course and then return to the starting point for a second layer, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the paddle stayed where it was. It wandered around on the small area where it hurt the most and paid close attention to every inch down there. Very soon his undercurves had heated up to the point of spontanous combustion.

Tony tried to take Jarvis’ advice – pride be damned – and to keep his cheeks loose and pliable. This needed a lot of concentration. His buttocks wanted to clench up instinctively whenever the ruler whistled near. To offer them up instead felt unnatural. Also, totally humiliating. But it actually seemed to help a tiny bit.

On the other hand it made him notice that the robot had changed its method. Guided by Jarvis’ silent instructions, it had started using an upward swing to work on his sensitive nether parts. Now, with his buttocks round and plum, Tony felt them being lifted by each stroke. They flew up, kind of hung there for a second, and then came down again, dancing and jiggeling.

Tony had lost count right at the beginning, but he hoped that the ordeal would be over soon. He was sure he couldn’t take much more. His bum felt like it could heat up the whole workshop with its healthy glow. Thermal energy by biomass.

Still, he was kind of surprised when the spanking stopped. The dreaded twenty seconds went by and nothing happened.

“Is it over?”, he finally dared to ask.

“No, Sir. We’ve reached the middle of your punishment. I’m giving you a respite before you receive the same number again.”

“You must be joking”, Tony croaked.

“On the contrary. I’d like you to stay silent for a quarter of an hour and think. Of course, we can leave that out and continue at once, if you prefer.”

“No! No, that’s quite okay. Give me corner time. I’ll be good.”

“I certainly hope so. And as I’m aware how easily bored you are, I’ll offer you something to occupy your mind.”

The visor in front of his eyes lighted up and suddenly he could see again. But he wasn’t looking at the floor of his workshop. Instead, the screen showed a view from one of Jarvis’ security cameras. The angle was perfect to take in the whole humilating scene. Tony stared down on his bare-assed self and winced.

Jarvis had chosen a viewpoint from behind and a little to the side. That way he could see a good portion of his upraised bum as well as Bumblebee waiting directly behind it.

The suit held him firmly in a position that displayed his quivering bottom to best advantage. Tony actually couldn’t blame Jarvis for enjoying that look. There was something hypnotic about the way his crimson buns poked out in invitation. They looked incredibly sore and fairly begged for it. The paddle hovered in the air above its target. You could see the arc in which it would come down the second Jarvis gave the signal.

Then the screen split up and a second camera view appeared. The lense zoomed closer to take in every detail of his well-spanked ass. At first, Tony froze. To see his bum twitch in macro was just too weird and embarrassing as hell. After some minutes, curiosity won out. He moved his cheeks experimentally, the way you automatically started to make faces in the mirror, if you looked at yourself for too long. It was a distraction for a while. The minutes ticked by and time seemed to distort and grow endless, as he waited for his punishment to start again. Fear trickled in.

There was a pattern of raised welts on his buttocks that hurt just to look at them. The lower parts had been blistered so thorougly that Tony was sure he could see heatwaves coming off them. To know that the paddle would soon descend on that … for twentyfive times … was kind of terrifying.

“Uh, Jarvis, there won’t be any lasting damage, right? I mean, I won’t have to run around with a striped ass for the rest of my days? That would be kind of awkward for sex. At least, it would send the totally wrong message about my tastes.”

Jarvis sighed audibly. “No, Sir, you will be fine again in about a week. May I remind you that you were supposed to stay silent? That will be one stroke more for disobeying.”

“What? Now, look …”

“And as you have this urgent need to speak, you may count the first dozen out aloud.”

Silence reigned for another two minutes. There was a lot that Tony would have liked to say, but he swallowed it down.

Now your corner time is over”, Jarvis announced eventually. “You can begin counting, Sir.”

“Sorry?” Tony asked and added hastily: “Don’t get mad, I’m really asking for a clue here. You haven’t started, so what should I –”

“I’m waiting for you to give the signal.”

It still took Tony a moment to work that out. “You mean … I have to count them out beforehand? Whenever I say a number, I get a swat?” God, Jarvis actually wanted him to ask for it. So much for the harmless butler personality. His AI was pure evil.

“Exactly. And I’d recommend that you don’t stall for too long. Not now and not between the strokes. If you need more than a minute, that will earn you another penalty. Think of it as a game. You know, just the way you treat the rest of your life.”

Tony shut his eyes. He really didn’t want to watch the paddle come down.

“One”, he said.

The ruler hissed through the air and burned a diagonal stripe across both cheeks. The recovery time had actually made it worse. Now his whole backside felt swollen and tender, but his mind had sharpened enough to take in every miserable detail.

He wanted to get it over quickly and made himself count out the next strokes in rapid succession. Somewhere in the middle he opened his eyes because he couldn’t bear not to look – just like the times his physician had stiched him up and Tony had followed the needle’s every movement. It had made him feel in control somehow.

Now it had the opposite effect. The sight scared the hell out of him, but he couldn’t stop watching anyway. The scene was morbidly hypnotic, like an accident about to happen or a splatter movie full of blood and gore where the hapless hero got lowered into a pool of yellyfish brandishing acid tentacles …

His inner chatter didn’t keep the seconds from ticking away. He forced himself to ask for number eight and nine at the very last moment before the minutes were up. The robot raised the paddle a bit higher and then smashed it down so fast it looked like a blur. Half of the screen showed the wood landing on its target. Tony gave a hoarse yell and watched his bottom dance. His buttocks shook and writhed long after the blows were over, kept in motion by his wildy firing nerves. Tony was convinced that Jarvis had slowed the live stream vid down, so that he could take in every detail. The pain was so intense it was unreal.

He tried to ask for the next one, but his throat closed up and no sound came out. As he stared at the screen, he felt frozen in fear. He could suddenly relate to every small furry animal that had ever been hypnotized by a cobra. The seconds slipped by and his eyes were fixed on the upraised paddle. Now and then they flicked to the crisscross of fresh red stripes on his ass.

“One minute is over”, Jarvis said with a hint of sympathy. “You earned yourself another one, Sir.”

Tony started to shake. “Please, I just … can’t.”

“Then you will only add to the amount.” Jarvis’ voice was kind but strict. “You do not have a choice. No more than all the people you hurt in your life. Mrs Bell certainly didn’t choose to suffer, either. It may help you to know that she is still in surgery, where the crushed part of her ripcage is being reconstructed. Then there’s young Mr Jordan, who was diagnosed to have multiple fractures in his leg and is currently being treated for a life-threatening case of bloodpoisoning. The doctors had to wait for his mother to sign the forms, as he is still underage. ”

“Yeah, that actually does help”, Tony said, sounding wretched. “Ten.”

The paddle came down and he received it without protest. Tears ran over his face while the pain coursed through him.

“You’re almost done”, Jarvis encouraged softly. “And you’ll feel better after you’ve paid for your behaviour.”

“The hospital bills …?”

“I’ve already taken care of them, Sir.”

“Thank you”, Tony breathed. “I have no clue what I would do without you. – Eleven.”

This time the stroke was almost merciful. Tony took it silently, choking on regret. His whole body went limp. He couldn’t undo any of the anguish and death he had caused in his life, but at least he could suffer for it. There was a strange peace in the pain washing through him. He had known that he should burn in hell since that reckoning in Afghanistan, and this felt very much like purgatory. Asking for number twelve was easy.

Jarvis didn’t allow him any rest after that, just went on with grim efficiency. The paddle picked up speed and Tony lost the last scraps of his self control. He could do nothing but hang in there, writhe and scream and bawl his eyes out. It was really kind of liberating.

He wished somebody had tought him about things like shame and regret before the age of 35. But he was learning fast, now. And for the very first time he gave in to the realization that there was nothing he could do to erase his crimes. He couldn’t wake up the dead. He couldn’t heal the war wounds. He couldn’t press ‘rewind’ and stop himself from blowing a street to ruins on a drunken ego-trip. There were actions you could never take back.

He’d had flashes of a severely bad conscience before, but he had always tried to do something about it. Building the suit, bringing world peace, fighting monsters. Basically, he’d tried to rescue his self-esteem. But now the pain burned through all of his defenses and the facade of Tony Stark, playboy millionaire, lay in tattered pieces. Every new stroke cut him open to the core. There was nowhere left to hide and he didn’t even try. Kneeling on the floor in penitance he faced some ugly truths about himself.

He’d been a self-serving prick all his life, callously playing with the lifes of others, and that hadn’t changed after his so-called reformation, had it? Instead of making amends, he’d appointed himself Mightiest Hero Ever and performed for his facebook fans. If this had truly been about helping people and paying his debts, he wouldn’t have waltzed into that bullfight drunk off his ass and without backup. He’d have done the responsible thing and called for help.

So he’d never been a team player. Big deal. The next time he would bloody well swallow his pride and let someone competent handle it. Because when he fucked up out of arrogance and self-indulgence it was always other people paying the price.

Well, before today. Because here and now he was screaming himself hoarse while Jarvis took him apart bit by bit, and it felt so very right. The lesson was branded into his mind with red hot irons. Tony lost all sense of time, while remorse flayed him alive. His thoughts fragmented and his brain drifted in a red haze.

Finally he heard Jarvis say: “It’s over, Sir. You can let go.”

Only then did he allow his mind to shut down. He closed his eyes and fell into oblivion.

--------------

When he woke up, he was in his bedroom, lying belly-down on a very soft mattress. The bedding consisted of expensive chinese silk. He felt almost comfortable, considering the situation. Tony hoped this meant he was forgiven for the moment.

The armor had been taken off, and someone had dressed him in the upper half of his pyjama … his favorite fluffy one. (Okay, so it was mauve, but he was manly enough to wear that kind of colour.) The trousers had been left off, which he was thankful for. His ass still felt as if it had been bathed in hot tar. Or in a healthy dose of fire and brimstone, rather.

He wondered how he had gotten here, until he heard someone shift beside him. Then he noticed Pepper on a chair next to his bed. She smiled down at him. “Morning, sleepy-head”, she said.

The lingering fog in his brain evaporated. With mounting horror he realized what a picture he presented to his Ex. He could feel the hem of his pyjama top, which reached only to the small of his back, and the fresh air caressing the glowing mounds beneath. Pepper seemed to enjoy the view very much. He would never live this down.

“That’s a great look on you.” She raised one eyebrow and made a show of studying his well-spanked ass. “You should wear it more often.”

Tony let his head sack against the pillow. “Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.”

“Jarvis sent me up with this.” She showed him a medical jar in explanation. “To rub it in.”

The double meaning was typically Pepper. Her barbed humor made him smile a little despite himself. Pepper had been putting up with his shit for years, while he had been an arrogant twerp most of the time. She deserved to have some fun with him.

So he raised his head again and gave the jar a wide-eyed look. “Uh, I hope that stuff should make it better and not worse?” His trepidation wasn’t entirely played. “It doen’t say chili, ginger or stretching lacquer anywhere on the label, right?”

Pepper snorted. “No, don’t worry. Jarvis thinks you’ve had quite enough. So do I, by the way.”

She opened the jar, held it above his backside and let the content drip out in the same way she spread honey on bread, painting swirles and little hearts. The dollops were cold when they hit and Tony twitched under her ministrations. Then Pepper started to massage the cream in. At first, every touch to his burning ass made him whimper, but soon enough it felt soothing. His fevered skin started to cool down.

After a while Tony said conversationally: “So I’m kind of new at having a conscience. Still trying to figure out the mechanics and not really sure how a lot of that works ... you know, humility, kindness … or apologies to my harassed PA.”

“You’re doing pretty well there”, Pepper smiled. She followed the more prominent welts with her finger to cover them with an extra-thick layer of cream. Most of those lines ran along the undercurves of his buttocks. “And I’m truly impressed that you managed to ask for that dozen.”

Tony blushed. “How do you … Jarvis showed you the security tapes”, he concluded. Of course his AI did. Jarvis knew exactly how to keep him in line. This was a nightmare.

“Only the highlights.” She winked conspiratorially. “But he promised to transmit the whole thing to my personal files. Just imagine, whenever you piss me off in future, I can shut myself in the office and watch a rerun of my bitchy boss getting paddled.”

Tony wished the pox on her. Pepper laughed and gave him a friendly pat on the rump.

“Ouch.”

“I’m really looking forward to the next time you screw up”, she said.

Tony just groaned.