A/n: So I've spent the last few days trying to hammer out this HP piece I've been working on, then got sidetracked by another Iron Man piece. I haven't really been able the get the words out without feeling unconfident about it. But today, I sat down at my computer and typed this all up at once, no hesitation (except for the run I took halfway through).
SO, I ask you to please read this all the way through first, regardless of your first opinion. It might change, you never know...! Tony and Pepper are both a bit older in this one, as it takes place after Tony's been involved with the Avengers and all that, though knowing this tidbit of information is sort of pointless, so let's get to the story!
Disclaimer: I own nothing!
Tony Stark wiped his sweaty palms against the legs of his Armani tuxedo and heaved a long sigh. His bow tie was too tight, the air too thick with nervous sweat even in the air-conditioned place. Ever since eight in the morning, he'd been bossed around (unusual in its own right) and doted on by good-looking women with hairdryers and makeup (not so unusual), then shoved into a limousine and escorted to the park with the rest of the party, where he was subject to roughly two hours of torturous picture-taking. As if the sun had not been hot enough, Pepper had insisted that everyone remain traditional and rented all the tuxes in black. This, Tony realized about the minutes into the photo shoot, made the sunlight about three times hotter, but he wasn't in a position to argue. Her parents had covered the attire, he himself had taken care of the transportation costs—it was the least he could do, after everything.
So he had stood there and smiled for every picture until he was sure his face would fall off—God, he'd never been in more pictures his whole life. He didn't even know most of these people—at which point they had been ushered once again into the limo and carted off towards the town's church.
Now, as he stood at the head of the altar in front of a thousand faces he didn't recognize, he wanted to be nowhere else but home, perhaps curled up in bed with the covers tucked around his neck. Anywhere but here, with the heat and the people and the camera flashes and the smiles. He didn't know how everyone could be smiling when he felt his very world crumbling all around him. Sure, he and Pepper had discussed it a number of times, but now that he was here—
The music struck a chord, a crescendo of Mozart or one of those dead composers; he'd never worried much about music, in his youth. Though hardly loud, it startled him enough so that he jumped noticeably where he stood. Then came a chuckle off to his right, a thump on the back that didn't help his nausea.
"A little nervous?" whispered a voice.
Tony turned to Happy Hogan—his best friend, the only man who could ever make him feel like an idiot—with a quick shake of his head, although it was quite obvious that neither believed the gesture. Happy laughed, radiant.
"Don't worry about it, Tony, it'll be great," he grinned at the billionaire. "I've been in a thousand of these things, it's no biggie."
Tony gave a quiet, disbelieving chuckle. "I don't know how you're so calm. If I sweat any more I'm going to have to strip down right here."
"Here, well, have this—" Happy reached into one of his tux pockets, pulled out a handkerchief, and pressed it into Tony's sweaty hand. "And try not to get pit stains on that tux. I'm sure most of the women won't mind if you get naked, but I'll bet Pepper'll have us both killed."
Tony grinned at the validity of this comment, if begrudgingly so. He wasn't quite sure what to say at the moment, how to explain to Happy that he regretted this day more than any in his entire life, but luckily (or perhaps unluckily so), he didn't have to. The sound of hushed whispers began to fill the chapel, a sound like gas seeping from the back of the church to where Tony Stark stood in all his misery, without a gas mask to keep the poison away. He didn't even dare to blink, lest he miss something drastic. A drop of sweat rolled unnoticed down the side of his face, and though he knew in his mind that he must just stay put, his heart began to design elaborate scenes in which he leapt forward, waving his arms madly and shouting that they must put an abrupt end to this madness. He and Pepper had decided long ago that it could never work between the two of them, so why had he just stood to the side and let his fate unfurl before him, twisting and unguided like tendrils of smoke?
And then he saw her.
To be honest, Tony had never much admired white dresses. They were too pure, always too conservative for the kind of girls he typically philandered with, and as far as he was concerned Pepper was more of an ocean blue than a white, so he was especially surprised when the wooden doors of the chapel opened and Pepper Pots began her descent down the aisle, donned in the purest shade of white that made his chest melt.
Never in his life had Tony Stark felt so torn. On one hand, he wanted with all his heart to save himself by stopping the wedding and telling Pepper that he just couldn't do it, yet at the same time his eyes flitted across her bright face and he knew that his love for her, the very need to make sure she would always be happy, would always take precedence over the latent dread. He, Iron Man, was too dangerous anyway, too much of a target, and those who associated with him were targets as well; Pepper had been a target her fair share of times already.
While she walked slowly, gracefully down the aisle in the most wonderful dress he had ever set eyes on, he stood in his silent contemplation that they were making the worst mistake of their lives. He wondered briefly of Happy could sense his discomfort—or that he knew its source, more like, and he consequently cast a sideways glance in his friend's direction only to see that Hogan, like everyone else, had his eyes fixed on the bride. He was smiling, and he looked at Tony and suddenly Tony realized that he should be smiling too, but when he tried he only seemed to make himself look more strained than before. Nobody would think twice about it, of course; Tony had never done this before, after all, and it was his Pepper walking down the aisle.
Pepper, dressed in a white dress with a ridiculously long train, the front hemmed just enough so that he could see her ever-present taste of stilettos poking out with each step. Pepper, whose red hair sat in half-pinned curls and a modest veil, one of her arms wrapped around one of her weeping father's. Pepper, who had spent more time rolling her eyes at him and scheduling and rescheduling and laughing than any woman he'd ever met, or would ever meet. Tony stared shamelessly at every aspect of that white dress and the woman so perfectly dressed in it, taking in every feature from the tied waist to the flowers in her hand to the delicately radiant grin she bore. One of his hands twitched by his side, his left middle finger rubbing against his naked ring finger and making his heart flip-flop once or twice.
It was time. Tony took a deep breath.
Pepper left her father at the bottom of the red-carpeted stairs and took one, two, three steps to the top, where she reached out and took the sweaty hand of her undoubtedly nervous groom. Tony, who only just realized that he had been holding his breath, let it out only once her eyes met his from where she stood. His dilated eyes followed her arm, the smooth curve of her bare shoulders and finally her elegant back as she made her way past him, her arm gently brushing his with the innocence of a young child. The effervescence of her perfume momentarily overwhelmed his senses—how many times had he smelled it, on a casual day?—before it too passed, and he knew that it was finally, after years and years of trying, gone.
The priest began to talk, but he wasn't listening much (she would kill him if he ever told her, of course, but that meant nothing), as the very scent of her had sent him into a dizzying daydream, a recollection of one of those summer days the pair of them had spent together in Malibu, just talking over coffee and a pile of paperwork. For the first time, a genuine smile crept up in the corners of Tony's mouth, and the bridesmaid he'd apparently had his eyes fixed on took it to be directed at her. She smiled back, suggestive, the curve of her eyebrow rising delicately against a decorated face, but once he blinked back to reality and set his stare back on the priest, she frowned.
Maybe I'll ask her out at the reception, he half-joked to himself.
The priest's words brought him reeling back to reality, where the air was hot and the arc reactor beneath his tux seemed to be on the fritz.
"Do you, Virginia Potts, take this man…"
Tony felt that dreadful sensation in his throat again, swallowing it back down with a bit of effort and thankful that he had turned his back on the audience to follow the procession.
He frowned. The dress was white—a symbol of purity and love and innocence, and yet the thing she was doing to him was more evil than any villain he had faced. She should have been wearing black, Tony decided. He wondered if she had ever thought twice.
"And do you, Harold Hogan, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you pledge to share your life with her openly, to tell the truth to her in love?"
I should have told her, he scolded himself.
"Do you promise to honor and tenderly care for her, to cherish and encourage her own fulfillment as an individual, and to love and respect her through all the changes of your lives? If so, please answer, 'I do.'
"I do," said Happy.
Tony bowed his head, the slightest bit. Right now, he would be the most fantastic best man that Happy could ever ask for. He'd smile for photographs, his speech would be perfect, and when he would ask for a dance with Pepper, he'd congratulate her and wish her the best. Because he really did want the best for her—he only wished he could have been the one to supply it. He'd smile and laugh, but he would not feel it. He might be happy for them in due time, but right now all he could feel was that a part of him had died with those words, a part he would likely never get back.
"You may kiss the bride."
Tony Stark closed his eyes.
A/n: Yeah, okay, I'm sorry. I really am! I told myself that I'd wait at least three updates before hammering out the somber stuff, but I just couldn't help myself this time.
But the next time I update, I swear it'll be happier! Thanks so much for reading, and any constructive criticism is welcome.
But P.S: Please don't leave reviews saying "blah blah that could never happen etc etc", because it definitely did during the comic series. Although Tony and Pepper are working together in the Civil War universe again, and I'll just neglect to mention Happy's untimely demise and Pepper's love for him... :D