All right, so I wrote this part up forever ago and posted on Livejournal and forgot to put it here. I just got done watching Iron Man after buying the DVD and remembered! This is kind of a second part to 'For A Decade,' but I like to viw them seperately but linked. Anyways, enjoy! thanks to you all again for the reviews on the first part! :)
x x x
For Another Decade
The world did not exist beyond his pillow; Tony's face was pressed into its comfortable down lifelessly, his mouth twitching the muscle under his nose involuntarily as an inkling of consciousness awoke within him. His head felt weighty, exhausted, and spent, compliments of a heavy night of drinking. It was a murky darkness that surrounded him, like a dense, foggy water that had him trapped under a thick net and suspended him indefinitely in confined space. Though, wriggling and flexing his toes against the cool sheets and sensing sunlight through his eyelids, he felt very content and satisfied to know that his mattress may actually have a Tony Stark-shaped depression in it as sound as he had slept.
He belched something rancid under his breath, and it made him scrunch his nose in repulsion at the toxic smell bouncing off of his pillow and back into his face. It smelled like scotch, whiskey, assorted fruits (apples, oranges, maybe mango or strawberry), Bacardi, vodka… wow, a lot of Bacardi… champagne? His hazy mind fought to remember the night before; he usually could recall a night just by his drinking palette alone these days.
There was a beach, he knew that much. Two hot brunettes at the bar, lots of people, fireworks-
Everything was now dumping back into his memory bank. Oh, everything. His stomach grumbled portentously, the deep sound sounding like it had no source whatsoever. He wondered how he had gotten from the bathroom to his bed; Pepper had been with him, but she bit the dust before he did. She must have woken up af-
He felt his right arm move, not at his discretion. He felt that the extremity was wrapped around something – someone – and he slowly lifted his head an inch or so, eyes fluttering open curiously, bewildered. Who-?
Tony's half-opened eyes stared at an unexpectedly familiar shade of red hair crowning over his pillow top, and he tried a thousand times in one second to convince himself that he was just drunk, his eyes were playing tricks on him, and that something was wrong. Very – wrong. He cautiously peered over the pillow a little more, actually afraid of whom he'd see and why, oh why, she would be there. He froze after another inch and gave his eyes reason to open all the way; his ever-faithful Miss Potts was sound asleep beside him, the blankets tucked under her bare arms revealing not but two thin lavender silk straps loosely looped over either shoulder.
Tony admitted to himself long ago that it was a lie to deny he had never thought or dreamt about this situation, but in all of his little daydreams usually held more excitement, eagerness, and sheer lust. Now, however… He felt denied all of it. Anxiety instead of excitement, fear instead of eagerness, guilty shame (shame!) in place of all the lust he could ever hope to have and hold. He couldn't move or comprehend it. How – in the hell – did this happen? What even happened? Did he-? She let him-?
He felt himself go sick to his stomach with a flood of guilt for some reason. When his tired conscience asked him why, his alarmed yet tainted shoulder angel shouted back 'because this is my assistant! This is Pepper Potts!' as if that explained everything. And it did! She'd never let him… do… whatever he did. Even if they were both drunk. And he'd never actually make her do something she didn't really want to do because… well, he wasn't completely devoid of gentlemanlike manners. He had a shoulder angel right? So it was tainted, but he had one!
And it was kicking the devil's ass and all his desire out of him.
"Oh shit," he breathed just above a whisper, heart pulsing in his throat.
Carefully, he slowly began an attempt to uncurl his arm from around her and make a run for it, but the miniscule motion triggered her to inhale deeply and reposition herself, sliding her arm over his to secure its place from one hip to the other. Tony held his breath wide-eyed even after she stopped moving, his mouth slack at how distractingly pleasant and disarming of a sensation it brought him to feel her hand run over his arm. Every hair on his body stood on end.
Even more so when her other hand, concealed under the cover of the sheets, reached out and touched his bare side (he was shirtless, too?!), gently clutching at it once. A shiver went over him for more than one reason, but he felt it start with a piece of cool metal on his skin where her hand came to rest. A horrific thought occurred to him. He pulled his free arm up, ready to bravely look under the blanket (he could at least feel that he was wearing pants, thank God; he couldn't vouch for the decency of Pepper's attire), but he stopped.
A glimmer of gold caught off the morning sun brilliantly, its shine wrapping all the way around his finger. He stared at it hard. He concentrated on it dutifully as if it might actually just go away. His face registered a trace of panic, his breaths short and concise through his nose. His dry lips were firmly shut, pressed together hard in determination to dispel all of this unexplainable… whatever the hell was going on.
Tony looked over at Pepper swallowing a lump only a fraction of the way down his throat.
He… He married her? Her married her? She let him?!
He glanced around his bedroom, trying to find some train of logic to tie it all together. Had they been in Vegas and just flew back in record time? He'd have to kill Happy for actually driving them through the drive-thru chapel. Just… just really hurt him.
As calm as a purr it was that came from Pepper, Tony nearly jumped out of the bed. He watched in astonishment as her eyes took their time to ease open and adjust to the light before looking right at him peacefully. Tony remained rigid, a look too innocent to be anything but guiltily plastered on his face in defense. He saw her raise her hand and shut his eyes tightly, waiting for a well-deserved stinging pain to swell on his cheek, but it never came. He merely heard her chuckle and adjust the blanket around her before sheepishly opening an eye.
"What are you doing?" she asked, rolling on her side to properly face him. His mouth was incredibly dry all of the sudden, making him try to choke up some words for her.
"I… I don't know," he answered in complete honesty, looking at the length of her nervously. Even under a blanket she was so exposed and vulnerable to his dangerously charming ensnarement, and though part of him loved it to no end that he was seeing her like this, it was all – wrong.
"Umm, I… I think I overslept," he finally managed, propping himself up on his elbow and staring at the utopian scene outside his window. "It's… the sun is up," he said rather unintelligently, pointing at it. "I have an appointment or meeting or something today, like in five minutes, right? Should I be going?"
Tony made to leap out of the bed, but Pepper laughed again, controlling his entire body with the simple grasp of her hand still draped over his arm.
"Calm down," she said, nestling back down into the pillows with him. "You don't have anything major today; your schedule's clear all except for the party tonight." She looked at him with tender concern. "I didn't think you'd be up so soon. You were really sick last night."
Party. Party? Tony shook his head. Unimportant right now.
His face fell as he looked at her, chest heaving. He was sick, and in more ways than one. "Christ, Pepper, what did I do? What did I do?" he repeated weakly, falling on his back and rubbing his face.
"You ate too much watermelon. More than I did."
"I know, I was so dru-" He paused, looking over a t her sharply. "Watermelon? I hate watermelon. Why would I eat it? Why would you eat it? I thought that was a mutual hate for us ?"
Pepper's head fell to the side. She looked to be disappointed about something, but whatever it was, she must have decided to let it pass for the time being. A smile eventually came to her. "It was cute, actually. I had a huge craving for it, but by the time you got back with four watermelons I hardly wanted any, so you ate two whole ones to make me feel better before you ran for the bathroom… "
None of this made sense. He tried to shove that glaring fact aside and stay active in whatever present he was in, his mind forcing the taste of watermelon into his mouth to give him an ill sensation (not that he wasn't feeling ill enough already). He looked back at Pepper ready to smooth over the gaping holes in his knowledge with characteristic ease, but it wasn't happening. He swallowed again as her hand moved along his side with light, absentminded strokes. His mind clung to one of the words in her last vertigo of information, puzzling him further.
"Hang on," he said, shutting his eyes with a brief smile. "You craved watermelon?"
"I was just as surprised!" she said excitedly. "Remember?"
Tony huffed out a laugh, looking away. "Bad word to use right now, Pepper." Not only was his head pounding from all this bombardment, but he threw in, "I just woke up."
"I thought you'd sleep a little longer," she said, her face falling sympathetically. Her hand left his arm and fitted itself in the crook of his neck, sending an electric charge of longing through his veins. He really wanted to see what she was wearing now. His eyes stayed glued to the curve of the blanket tightly drawn to her chest as he spoke.
"Me too," he said distantly, forgetting for a second what he was agreeing to. Deciding to try his luck in such a strangely ideal position, Tony applied a small pressure to her hip to bring her closer to him, eyes lighting up with wonder to see that she would move at his request. He wanted more. He punched the puff of pillow between them down with his cheek, putting his face close enough to hers that he could feel her soft exhales tingle on his face.
Oh, it was soooo good.
Even better when he felt Pepper's leg entwined with his. He slid his leg against hers ever so slowly while trying not to visibly enjoy it too much. He shut his eyes and inhaled deeply, telling his psyche to calm itself, like he was in a secret disguise he couldn't afford to let her know about.
"I'm not sure I want to know what I'll be craving next," Pepper said to the ceiling despondently, graciously sidetracking his train of thought that was instilling lust back in his eye for her. He quirked an eyebrow.
"Hmph. Who knows," she mused before turning back to him with a chuckle. "I'm sure it won't be as odd as when I wanted only white gummy bears."
Tony had a feeling in this alternate present that he had eaten many bags of gummy bears just to give her a plethora of white ones, because he was pretty sure he'd do a thing like that for her if she really asked him to. She put up with all his outlandish requests anyways, didn't she?
He gave her a look. "These cravings aren't like a condition you're developing or anything, are they?" he asked quickly, ready to make a mental note of more information he was without. She smiled.
"More like part of the condition I'm in," she said with a smirk, brushing some of her hair away from her face. "I think I want something spicy for breakfast, though."
Tony blinked as if he had misheard her. "What now?"
"Spicy," she repeated. "Like eggs and salsa. With some Tabasco. "
Tony gave her a look as his mind snagged on her choice of breakfast, but she shrugged, more than likely accustomed to his reactions. He really wished he could know how much time had passed, especially now that she was thoughtlessly throwing around the word 'craving.' His mind was attacking the small knowing dread with heavy denial as his thoughts progressed into those of the unreasonably illogic. He sat up more in desperate need for a date to anchor him.
"Jarvis?!" he shouted quickly.
No casual disembodied voice replied. His mind went fuzzy as Pepper sat up beside him, casting him an apprehensive look at the distress in his tone. Tony's eyes darted about disquietedly.
"Jarvis?! Jarvis, answer me!"
"Tony, what's wrong?"
"I said now!"
"Tony, he's probably not awake yet," Pepper said, placing a calming restraint on his hand. "Maybe he can't hear you-"
"And why can't he hear me?" Tony half-laughed. "My own-"
"Why are you yelling like that?" she asked as her eyes searched his face with genuine concern. It made his heart beat faster, scaring him to know that not even Jarvis remained constant. He stared at Pepper wordlessly for a moment as his brain continued to fry and frazzle in all of this salvo.
"I want to hear Jarvis's voice right now," he said clearly, nodding a time or two to his confused assistant (wife, whatever). "Where is-?"
Tony's head jerked to the doorway abruptly, and he instantly felt winded. A young boy in a white tank top and red shorts stood in the shadow of the hallway, timidly stepping to the edge of the bedroom. Pepper looked over at Tony, dismissing his alert stare with a sigh as she looked back at the boy.
"It's okay, sweetie," she said as the four-year-old took tiny, carefully steps into the room under Tony's stern, fixed gaze of shock. "Daddy had a long night. He's okay."
Tony's eyes fluttered in disbelief. The words tore through him with no mercy, shaking him to the core.
He continued to stare at the boy, examining every single aspect of him for the first time as he made his way over to Pepper's side of the bed. He… he looked just like him. Just like him, down to the dark disheveled hair and nose. Though, the boy had the wonderful blue eyes only Pepper herself held claim to. Tony couldn't believe it; he was going insane to witness this, this miraculous creation of his – theirs – climb right up into the bed in Pepper's arms. His AI was… was his…
The word was too taboo to even think. He thought his head might explode if he did.
He felt like Geppetto with Pinocchio running around in his head screaming at the top of his lungs 'I'm a real boy!' One of the many movies he thought ridiculous as a child had come back to haunt him.
Pepper repositioned the child on her lap glanced from him to Tony levelly in his moment of silent panic. Realizing he was still staring, Tony took a deep breath as a smile broke onto his face of pure disbelief.
"Good morning," he said breathlessly, giving the boy's small fingers a light squeeze. It was the most powerful thing he felt he had ever created, even if he did not recall doing so. Pepper conjured a pacified smile again between the two of them.
"You look like you've been awake for a while," she said to the boy Tony still had a hard time labeling 'Jarvis.' It was okay to name an AI that, but an actual person? What did Jarvis mean for a person anyways? Just A Really Very Intelligent Son?
"Were you out in the living room?" he heard Pepper say distantly.
The boy nodded with a large grin. Tony's stomach plummeted for the umpteenth time; everything this child did just amazed him, fascinated him, made him think an entirely different way than he ever had before. Pepper giggled.
"Yeah? How about some breakfast?" she asked.
"Mmm, Count Chocula," she laughed, grabbing a robe from beside her. Tony blinked as the boy hopped of the bed and Pepper stood, sliding blue silk over purple silk. At the angle she was standing, Tony felt his face go numb as he stared slack-jawed at the unmistakable makings of a baby bump.
Two kids? Seriously?
She turned back to the bed, Tony not sure he had the power to move a hundredth of an inch.
"Y- Yeah," he said dumbfounded, demanding himself to pull out of the trance. He quickly looked around for a shirt, finding a navy blue T frumpled up on the floor beside him. He stood, shook it out, and threw it on just in time to watch Jarvis (watch Jarvis? He could do that now?) patter out of the room barefoot. Pepper stopped halfway between the bed and the door, looking back at him.
"Do you want eggs and salsa or Count Chocula?" she asked with a playful smile. He smoothed out the front of his shirt and adjusted the waistband of his sweatpants as he walked towards her with a curious thought.
"They still make Count Chocula?"
"And Frankenberry," she laughed.
He stopped at the doorway, not sure if he could go out in that hall. It would be too final. He would be accepting the reality that he was married to his assistant, and they had a – a son (there, he at least had the gumption to think it) that was his AI-turned-human (or just named after the absent AI). Oh, and there was another kid on the way! Was he still CEO of Stark Industries? What if he wasn't? What if there were other children out in the house that were his and he actually had more than two?
Pepper turned around again, giving him an odd look as he stared at her wide-eyed from the precipice of the bedroom. "Are you coming, Tony?"
"Actually, that… watermelon is getting to me again," he said. He didn't have to try very hard to look ill or feel dizzy. "I'm just gonna," – he pointed in the direction of the bathroom in the bedroom – "you know, go… in there. Could you-? Just, just give me five minutes."
Pepper hurried back to him with concern. Her fingers touched his forehead and pressed through his hair willingly, and Tony thought of how wonderfully insane it made him feel. "Are you all right? I'll get you some water and some Pepto."
"No!" he said in outrage (how long had he been taking Pepto Bismal now?). "No, I'm just going to go get a shower and hopefully feel better." He tried to convince himself more than her, but it wasn't exactly working. He still felt uneasy and turned on at how casual and intimate her touches could innocently be. Perhaps he should take advantage of this situation, just in case he wasn't stuck here forever.
Tony smiled at her. "Wanna scrub my back and other hard-to-reach spots?"
"Jarvis needs breakfast," she said, her swollen stomach separating them more than he liked. A hint of mischief glimmered in her eye. "Maybe I'll come check on you once I get him something to eat?"
Oh, how that look summarized all that she was. Tony nodded. "That sounds devious and kinky and I love it."
Pepper's cheeks flamed as she walked out of the bedroom, leaving him to his shower.
A cold shower?
No, Tony didn't think he could handle it at the present time (which shocked him more than anything). His mind in a typhoon of confusion and bewilderment, Tony staggered towards the bathroom clutching his stomach. He wished something as miniscule as watermelon was the cause of all this stressful anxiety as opposed to what life awaited outside the bedroom. He shut the door and turned on the fan and light, leaning against the sink in front of the toilet forebodingly.
He looked at the wall under the window. Pepper was there just last night, not four, five, ten, or however many years ago. Laying there as drunk as he was, making sure he was okay, passing out before he himself did. Thoughts slowly came back regarding arguing over an anniversary she had mentioned.
'It's our anniversary.'
Whatever anniversary it was, the word alone, along with others such as 'craving' and 'son,' made him groan and head into the shower.
For the better part of twenty-five minutes he just stood under the welcome stream of hot water. It felt cleansing and revitalizing, but it also felt ineffective and hard on his skin. He kept his eyes shut, staying rooted in place as he swayed a little. The sound of the water was hypnotic and drowsy, but not so much a relief on his frazzled nerves.
'You're a beautiful cow.'
'Fondle Me Friday.'
He was carrying her out to sea in Vegas.
God. Tony still thought he was drunk.
When he finally came to the conclusion that the shower was doing nothing to improve his panicked state and one of the worst hangovers ever, he turned off the water and stepped out.
And he jumped right back in.
Quickly, he covered himself with the shower curtain and peered around the corner of the shower. He blinked several times, convinced he was hallucinating. But the image did not go away or alter at all. Under the window against the wall was Pepper in her gorgeous aquamarine dress. Her hair was messy and clumped from air drying wet, and her face was pushed into the floor in the same drunken heap he remembered her falling into.
He stared at her. There was… no way.
Tony looked at his hand to try and outsmart whatever entity or force that was messing with his realities, but his golden wedding band was gone. Horrified, he looked at the other hand. It was bare. He spun around the shower a few times, looking around shampoo and body wash, shaking his washcloth as if it might magically fall out, but it was gone. He looked back out at his unconscious wife (assistant?) defiantly.
Ripping the shower curtain down absentmindedly and wrapping it around his body, Tony went over to her and picked up her hand, searching in vain for the huge diamond she was just wearing while laying beside him out in his bed. He dropped it and grabbed for her other hand as she stirred and sat up slowly in confusion.
"Hmmph? Oh, JESUS!" Pepper sprang to life, pressing herself against the wall frantically as her boss examined her hand dripping wet, naked, and wrapped in a shower curtain. She pulled her hand away and tried to stand, but she slid back to the floor under his calm stare. "Tony Stark, what are you doing?!" she shouted.
He blinked at her.
She was his assistant.
She wasn't his wife.
"I am very confused right now," he said slowly with a nod. Her abashed expressions softened slightly to know she wasn't in immediate danger or had been in the shower with him seeing as she was still dry.
"You most certainly are!" Pepper agreed, still trying to figure out why he was wearing his shower curtain. "We aren't married!"
He gave her a look that looked somewhat disheartened to hear it said aloud. "I know." He suddenly raised his eyebrows and pointed at her as he sat down in front of her. "But in another life, I have a feeling we would be."
Pepper's head hurt. Why was he just sitting there in a shower curtain like it was no big deal?! Her head spun itself silly with the awful smell of alcohol passing on each breath she took, and she was shouting crazy things about being married to Tony. Which, she wasn't! She sighed in exhaustion, barely able to keep herself upright again. Tony was waiting for her to bite the dust a second time.
"Pepper? Pepper?" She rolled her head against the wall until her sinking eyelids lined up with his eyes. "Hey, you want some coffee? Breakfast?"
"Water," she managed as Tony stood and helped her up carefully. She looked over at him and away, shaking her pounding head. "Why are you wearing your shower curtain?" she whined as they passed out of the bathroom, bedroom, and into the hall.
"I'll tell you when you feel up to it," he promised. When they reached the living room, Tony sat her down on the couch, turned on the TV, and handed her the remote. "Do you want something small to eat, too?"
"Not if you're cooking in the shower curtain," she said, half of her face in her hand. "Please go put some clothes on."
In the two minutes that it took Tony to get dressed, he had himself convinced that he would round the corner into the kitchen and find Pregnant Pepper and Real Boy Jarvis eating breakfast just so his fucking mind would explode from confusion. Not sure what was happening anymore, he stuck to the plan to make Pepper breakfast for now. He got a glass of water from the sink in his bathroom and came back to the living room, but Pepper was already stretched across the couch sleeping again.
x x x
Pepper inhaled deeply, her eyes opening on the muted weather report as the remnants of a sundown glowed shards of intense oranges and reds between the darkening night sky and ocean. She sat up, groaning to see that she was still in her dress from the night previous when she saw the arm wrapped around her waist. She looked over her shoulder accusingly, but Tony's face was dormant, lopsided into the back of the couch.
A smiled touched her lips. She longed for a good shower, but she wanted nothing more than to stay where she was. Pepper lay back down gently, the lights of the house dimming as she sighed.
"Thank you, Jarvis."
"You're welcome, Mrs. Stark."
She shot up, glaring overhead and then down at Tony. His lips then quirked into a smile, and she grabbed the sleeve of his shirt, jerking him out of his false sleep immediately.
"What?! What did he just call me?!"
"It was a joke, Pepper, calm down!" Tony laughed, jerking his sleeve from her grasp. She collapsed with a sigh of relief against the couch, and he pulled her back towards him. "You didn't find that funny?"
"Only you would take marriage as a joke, Mr. Stark."
He reached for a bowl on the coffee table and handed it to her. She looked at the soggy chocolate cereal and milk questionably.
"What is that?"
"Your breakfast I got you this morning after you fell asleep," he said, turning up the television. "It's Count Chocula." Pepper squinted at it with a smile.
"They still make Count Chocula?"
Tony looked at her knowingly as she picked up a spoonful of the cereal and let fall back into the bowl.
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