Author: LouBlue PM
Pepperony fic. There are so many things left unspoken between Tony and Pepper. Will they find the courage to tell each other the truth before it's too late? A hopefully fun, angsty, romance-filled adventure with a good dose of Happy on the side.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Drama - A. E. Stark/Tony & V. Potts/Pepper - Chapters: 26 - Words: 62,822 - Reviews: 421 - Favs: 210 - Follows: 140 - Updated: 05-29-12 - Published: 04-30-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8074497
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: And at long last I get back to you with this very important chapter. ;)
It's a long one but I didn't split it because that would have killed the flow and I've teased you all enough anyway. LOL I actually had a lot of trouble finding a way to end the chapter which annoyed me, but I feel better knowing I've still got an epilogue to give you which should round things out a bit more. I'm trying to decide how, shall we say, detailed to make the epilogue in terms of Pepperony's first date. I don't want to scar any young minds out there who might be reading along with gratuitous smut. That would be very bad of Aunty Lou. I shall ponder and try and come up with a tasteful medium where we get some good Pepperony lovin' but still manage to not get too detailed with the hanky panky stuff. Maybe I'll write a one shot connected to this fic and rate it M for that. ;) I don't know if anyone would be interested in that though.
Anyways, just musing out loud on that one.
I do hope this chapter makes all your Pepperony hearts beat a little faster and that you'll find it a satisfying penultimate chapter to this little saga. We've come a long way, haven't we? From arguments to kidnappings to death to defying the laws of nature and then finally a chase scene that Laurel and Hardy would have been proud of. LOL I've loved reading all your comments and many have inspired ideas for this fic, so thanks for that. :D I never quite know what is going to hit the mark with my readers so it's always good to get the feedback.
Okay, and now that you've read all that, onto the actual chapter…
Pepper nodded at the police officer standing on guard by the door which led to the holding cells at the central booking area of the police department Tony and Happy had been taken to. She'd been on the phone for nearly an hour organising lawyers, fielding questions from the press and dealing with the police. Her meal with Robert was well and truly over and Pepper had sent him home with quite the story to tell. She'd been too busy to process exactly how she felt about what had happened that night as she efficiently went about being Tony Stark's personal assistant like she'd always done. It was only now that she was on her way to actually see Tony; Pepper felt the emotions welling up in her. She walked into the holding cell to see both men behind bars. Tony and Happy had blankets around them to dry themselves out with after their impromptu dip. Happy was in one corner, sitting on a bench with his arms folded and not looking very, well, happy. Tony was sitting on the bench on the other side of the cell and he jumped up as she walked in and hurried over to stand on the other side of the bars where Pepper was standing.
Tony's face had lit up at seeing her. "You're still here," he exclaimed happily.
Pepper didn't share his enthusiasm. "Yes, Tony," she said dourly, "sadly, I'm still here." She looked past him at Happy. "Are you alright, Happy?"
"No," he said shortly, "I'm not."
"Ignore him," Tony advised her blithely. "He's in a mood."
"I'm in a mood because I've been bitten, again," said Happy in annoyance.
Pepper gasped and was instantly concerned. "Are you alright? Was it one of the sharks? Oh, Happy, you should have said something, we need to get you medical attention."
"It wasn't a shark," said Happy as he gave a pointed glare at the back of Tony's head. "It was him."
"You bit Happy?" she asked Tony in dismay.
Tony held up a protesting finger. "Wait a minute, there was a lot of things going on when we were underneath all those police officers. Who's to say that it wasn't one of them who bit you, Happy?"
"Oh, yes," said Happy mockingly, "because I believe they teach biting as an effective crowd control measure at the Academy right after how to taser someone."
"I just don't think you can automatically assume it was me," Tony huffed. He turned back to look at Pepper and mouthed the words 'it was me' to her and pulled a vaguely sheepish face. Tony turned back round to Happy. "And besides, I was the one who was trying to help you in the first place."
"By attracting all the sharks?" asked Happy in disbelief. "How was that helping? I nearly died tonight by being eaten. That's second on my list of ways I don't want to die."
"They were grey nurse sharks," said Tony easily, "totally harmless."
"Well, forgive me for thinking that with all those teeth they weren't looking to take my temperature," Happy snapped.
"So, what's your number one way of not wanting to die?" asked Tony curiously.
"I'm not telling you," said a grouchy Happy. "I don't want to tempt fate."
Tony rolled his eyes and looked back at Pepper. "Like I said, he's in a mood."
Pepper's lips thinned. "I don't blame Happy for being in a mood, Tony." She looked over at the disgruntled man. "Happy, I've organised your release, you can go home now, if you'd like."
Tony pouted. "How come Happy can go home and I can't?"
Happy stood up and marched over to the cell where a guard had arrived to let him go. "Because I'm not a biter, that's why."
"Happy was just an accessory to your crimes, not the instigator," said Pepper firmly. "It was easier for the lawyers to organise bail for him. It's a lot more complicated for you, Tony."
"Why, because I did some mild violation of their ridiculously inadequate firewall?" asked Tony in annoyance. "It's hardly my fault that they can't protect their own mainframe from casual interference."
"You also resisted arrest, fled police custody and assaulted not only a police officer, but a shark as well," said Pepper in exasperation.
"And what, the shark wants to press charges too?" asked Tony straight-faced.
"The owners of Atlantis aren't too pleased you felt the need to harass their property."
"He snuck up on me," Tony argued. "I can't be blamed for my lightening like reflexes and superior survival instinct."
"Apparently you can," said Pepper dryly.
Happy walked by them on the way out of the cell. "I'm taking tomorrow off," he announced, not asking for permission.
"What if I need you?" Tony asked and was treated with a glare from Happy.
"I need a mental health day," said Happy informed him.
"Is that a thing?"
"It is now," said Happy sourly as he nodded at Pepper. "He's all yours, enjoy."
"Thanks, Happy," said Pepper, "you take care of yourself now. I'll call on you tomorrow to see how you are."
Happy managed a smile for her as the guard went to lead him away. "Sure, thanks, Pep." He fixed Tony with a hard look. "And you, you'd better make this worth all my pain and suffering, Tony. I didn't go through all this for nothing."
"I will," Tony promised him quickly and then Happy and his escort were gone.
Pepper frowned. "What did Happy mean by that?"
Tony waved a hand at her. "Nothing, he's delirious from the water." He looked past her. "Is Raymond still with you?"
Pepper folded her arms in front of her chest. "You know perfectly well his name is Robert and no, he's managed to escape the madness."
Tony gave a knowing nod. "I thought as much, he didn't look like the type of guy who could take the heat in the kitchen."
Pepper's lips thinned. "The kitchen wasn't hot, Tony, it was a raging inferno. I don't blame him for running screaming in the opposite direction. It's what a normal person would do. Why don't you like Robert anyway?" she asked in exasperation "What do you have against him, Tony?"
"He's too old for you," said Tony immediately.
"He's younger than you are," Pepper informed him dryly.
Tony didn't miss a beat. "In that case, he's too young for you."
"Tony," Pepper groaned, "why can't you just let me be happy? Do I interfere in your life?"
"Constantly," said Tony defiantly.
"Getting you out of jail and getting rid of the string of woman that tramp through your house isn't interfering," said Pepper sharply.
"What do you even see in this guy anyway?" asked Tony in annoyance. "He's so-so normal."
She glared at him. "You say that like it is a bad thing."
"It's a boring thing, which is basically the same thing," said Tony with his usual reasoning.
"Do you want to know what I see in him?" asked Pepper tersely. "Do you, Tony, really?" She wasn't interested in Robert but it frustrated her that Tony couldn't even see what a woman might want in a relationship.
"I asked, didn't I?" said Tony, not backing down.
"Robert asked me out to dinner."
Tony treated her with a sceptical look. "Did he tell you he invented that concept? Because I'm here to tell you, Pepper, that's been done before. It doesn't really set him apart from the pack." Tony paused then and pursed his lips. "Unless it was inside a rocket ship on the way to the moon or something."
Pepper rolled her eyes.
"I guess that would have been kinda cool-"
"You know it wasn't, you don't have to be flashy to get a girl's attention-"
"Eating food through a tube isn't that sexy though, and that's before you even consider the bathroom limitations-"
"Stop it! Stop talking!" Pepper was at the end of her tether. Nothing with Tony was ever straight line with how he thought about things. "Do you want to know what was so great about our date, Tony?" asked Pepper in exasperation, hands on her hips.
"I do," said Tony very sincerely, looking like he was listening intently, "I really, really do."
"He invited me out," said Pepper, her face flushed from their back and forth, "and get this, he turned up, exactly when he said he would and stayed right up until you brought the restaurant down around us."
"Really?" asked Tony, wrinkling his nose. "On time you say?"
"He was early," said Pepper triumphantly, "and then it got even weirder after that."
"Weirder after the time thing?" questioned Tony straight faced. "I'm having trouble imagining that."
"Well, hold onto your hat, Mr. Stark, because not only was Robert early for our first date, but he wanted to know all about me," said Pepper in satisfaction. "He wanted to know everything about me and my life. Can you imagine that, Tony, another topic of conversation other than Tony Stark? It boggles the mind!"
"I don't need to talk about you," said Tony calmly.
"Of course you don't," said Pepper in annoyance. "What was I thinking?"
Tony fixed her with a determined look. "I don't need to ask you questions, Pepper, because I already know all the answers."
"Tony, you can't for a minute believe that," said Pepper in exasperation. "You've turned being self-absorbed into an Olympic sport. All you ever see is yourself."
"Not true," said Tony quickly. He reached out to take her hand and Pepper reluctantly let him take it. His liquid brown eyes were suddenly full of emotion which was hard to look away from. "I mean, yes, I'm self absorbed but that is not all I am. You know that, otherwise you wouldn't have stuck around all this time."
"Is that right?" said Pepper tightly. Tony's thumb was stroking the back of her hand as they spoke and Pepper cursed herself as to how vulnerable she was to his slightest touch.
"I see you, Virginia Pepper Potts," said Tony, his voice low and insistent now. "I have always seen you, every minute of every day of these last ten years." Tony pulled gently on her hand, moving her closer to the bars so their faces were almost touching. "I know you like to wear ridiculously high heeled shoes because you think they make your legs look sexy. Your only real vanity." His eyes dropped to her legs then, scrutinising them carefully. "And they do, by the way," he informed her throatily.
"Don't," said Pepper unsteadily. She didn't know why Tony was doing this but it was having too much of an impact on her and it wasn't fair.
"I know that you like to eat your food in alphabetical order." Tony held up a finger as she went to protest. "Don't deny it." He half smiled as Pepper closed her mouth and tried not to look embarrassed. She had no idea that Tony had noticed that little habit of hers. His warm gaze wasn't leaving her face. "Once a year you like to read 'Charlotte's Web' around your father's birthday because it reminds you of him and how he used to read it to you as a child," said Tony softly.
Pepper's eyes widened at Tony knowing such a thing about her. She didn't even remember telling him that.
"And you still cry every single time at the end because you always hope that this time Charlotte will live."
He was close now, so close that Pepper could feel Tony's warm breath on her face, could feel the heat of his body rolling off him and enveloping her in a strangely intimate caress. Surprisingly Tony Stark didn't favour aftershaves but there was still a unique smell to him, soap from his showers and grease from his workshop time. Even the power source in his chest had a kind of slight metallic after note to it that could only be noticed when he stood this close to you. They all combined to make a heady scent that made Pepper's senses swim. "Why are you saying these things to me, Tony?" she asked unevenly. Pepper was too scared to hope.
"Because I don't want you to have dinner with any man but me," he said seriously.
Pepper closed her eyes. "You're being totally unreasonable," she said emotionally. "I'm a person, Tony, not a possession. You can't possess me."
"Then how is it that you possess me?" he asked quietly.
Pepper looked at him in amazement. "Wh-what?"
Tony tightened his hold on her hand, an earnest look coming over his face. "I don't expect you to return my feelings, but I had to tell you how I feel. I need you, Pepper, you keep my feet on the ground and my head out of my ass. I love you."
Pepper's eyes welled up with tears as she gave a choked laugh to cover her shock at his completely unexpected words. "Only you would have a declaration of love with the word 'ass' in it." Pepper's heart was pounding loudly in her chest as she tried to process what she'd just heard. "And that last bit is a full time job by the way."
Tony gave her an uneven smile. "I wouldn't want you to get bored." He was looking at her intently, obviously waiting for her to respond to his words.
Emotions were flooding through her and Pepper did her best to guard her heart from the power he had over her. "You want me because you can't have me," she shakily. Pepper was desperately to hang onto that common sense she was so famous for.
"There are a million reasons to love you, Pepper Potts," said Tony thickly, their faces so close that their noses brushed each others as he spoke. "I could love you because you are a staggering beautiful woman that makes grown men weep when you walk into a room-"
"Tony," she said weakly, shaking her head for him to stop.
"I could love you because you are smart and funny and strong," continued on Tony as though she hadn't spoken. "But that isn't why."
"Then why?" she asked brokenly. Pepper was so scared to believe that Tony really meant and understood what he was saying to her.
"I love you even when I know I shouldn't, when I know I'd most likely ruin your life and even knowing that, I just can't make myself stop," he confessed to her achingly. "I love you, Pepper Potts, because you see me for exactly who I am and you're still here. I know it's real because you're the only place that feels like home to me. When I'm with you, it's the only place I make sense."
Pepper made a choked sound and pressed her free hand to her mouth, tears welling up in her eyes, too overcome to speak.
Tony made a pained expression when she just continued to stare at him wide eyed. "I know I just said that I don't expect you to return my feelings, Pepper, but I'd really love for you to say something right now."
Pepper had never seen Tony looking so vulnerable. She blinked away tears. "Why are you saying these things to me now?"
"Because I lost you and felt like they'd buried me along with you in that grave," said Tony without hesitation. "And when you came back to me I didn't know it was possible to be that happy. I don't want to ever have to let you go again, Pepper. You're a part of me, a part I can't live without." He cupped the back of her head through the bars and drew her closer, claiming her lips in a passionate kiss despite being limited by the bars which separated them.
Tony's kiss set Pepper's body on fire, making her head swim and suddenly she was bombarded with familiar memories of another kiss, equally as passionate and desperate. Pepper didn't know if it was a real memory or not and she was overcome by all that had just happened between them. She broke the kiss, trying to catch her breath and her emotions.
Tony was looking at her anxiously. "Pepper?"
"We just kissed," she said shakily.
Tony swallowed hard. "I know."
Pepper blinked rapidly. "You said you loved me."
Tony nodded slowly. "I did. I do."
"You saved me," she whispered, thinking about all that he'd risked to bring her back.
"It only seemed fair; you've saved me a thousand times before." Tony's face clouded over. "But I don't want your gratitude, Pepper. I love you, but I don't want you to feel obligated to return those feelings." He gave her a lop-sided smile. "But just so you know, I'm probably going to take those feelings of gratitude and work on them so you'll end up falling in love with me too."
Everything that Tony had said to her was slowly sinking in. Pepper's heart swelled in her chest. "That's not going to work, Tony."
A muscle ticked in his cheek. "Don't say that, Pepper."
Pepper shook her head at him misunderstanding. "I mean it's not going to work because I already love you," she said huskily.
Tony's eyes went wide. "What?" He hesitated. "Why? How?"
Pepper leaned in against the bars, her voice low and full of emotion. "You were right, I couldn't have stayed for as long as I did without seeing who you really are, Tony, and that's the man I fell in love with."
"The other guy is also me too," said Tony a little nervously. "You know, the guy who punches sharks and rides on the hoods of cars. How do you feel about him?"
Pepper smiled. "I'm here, aren't I, bailing him out of jail, absorbing the heat for him. You're not a mystery to me, Tony. I know who you are, all the elements of you and that includes Iron Man."
"And you love me," said Tony slowly, clearly grappling with concept as well.
"Yes," said Pepper huskily. "Are you ready for that, Tony?"
"I know I'm not ready to live without you," he said honestly. "I want more from us, Pepper, I want the next step."
"I want that too," she confessed, hardly able to believe this was happening. Pepper looked at him in amazement. "So, tonight, it was all for me?"
Tony wrinkled his nose. "I know flowers are more traditional when courting a woman. I read that in a book somewhere."
Pepper bit her bottom lip, trying to stop herself from grinning like an idiot. "I don't think I could take being courted like this every night, Tony, and I know for a fact Happy wouldn't be able to take it."
Tony's eyes were full of mischief. "Happy's fine with it. He had the time of his life tonight."
"Tony, you bit him," Pepper reminded him wryly.
"Accidentally, that has to count for something," Tony protested. "I was a man on a mission."
Pepper leaned in against the bars and looked at him lovingly. "You could have waited until tomorrow," she said huskily, "and just told me when I came to work."
"Yeah, but then I would have had one less night of knowing you love me," said Tony, looking very happy about that fact. "That was worth anything."
Pepper's lips twitched. "You're going to be so much work," she groaned laughingly.
Tony leaned in closer, looking at her adoringly. "I'm already a lot of work," he reminded her throatily, "it's just now your job really is 24/7."
She gave him a cheeky look. "I'd better be compensated for my time, Mr. Stark."
"Oh, I think we can work something out," he said huskily just as he claimed her lips in another soul destroying kiss and Pepper kissed him back with everything she had inside of her, the two of them losing themselves in each other and forgetting about the rest of the world…