A/N: Hello all. Bet you didn't expect to see an update for this, huh? Sorry for the dalay in all my storylines, but I've been swamped with life and a possible career change. This song was inspired by the song Whiskey Lullaby, lyrics of which have been written below. Do read them, they were what caused the story in the first place. Listen to the song too, beautiful.
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Whiskey Lullaby

She put him out like the burnin' end of a midnight cigarette
She broke his heart he spent his whole life tryin' to forget
We watched him drink his pain away a little at a time
But he never could get drunk enough to get her off his mind
Until the night

He put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger
And finally drank away her memory
Life is short but this time it was bigger
Than the strength he had to get up off his knees
We found him with his face down in the pillow
With a note that said I'll love her till I die
And when we buried him beneath the willow
The angels sang a whiskey lullaby

The rumors flew but nobody know how much she blamed herself
For years and years she tried to hide the whiskey on her breath
She finally drank her pain away a little at a time
But she never could get drunk enough to get him off her mind
Until the night

She put that bottle to her head and pulled the trigger
And finally drank away his memory
Life is short but this time it was bigger
Than the strength she had to get up off her knees
We found her with her face down in the pillow
Clinging to his picture for dear life
We laid her next to him beneath the willow
While the angels sang a whiskey lullaby

Some days he sits in his shop listening to this song, thinking he's never good enough for her. And so he never asks her because he's so afraid she'll only shoot him down. Those days he wonders what it would be like to end it all, and if she'd cry when they tell her. He thinks he'll leave her a note, like the man in the song does. He wonders if she'll cry because she loves him like he loves her. Or if she'll keep the note in a corner of her house and look at it on nights like this. Whether she'll become like the nameless woman in the song. And that's when he thinks no, no. He won't allow that to happen.

He looks at the bottle on the table in disgust and what happens after varies a little. Some nights he just goes to sleep on the couch, because he doesn't want to do any more, and also because he can't. On braver nights, he takes the car out and races over to where she lives. But when he gets there with flowers stolen from a vase in his house, he stops each time. And it's not just because it's four a.m. in the morning. He always turns to go back to his car, but not before he leaves the flowers at her doorstep, and a small smiley drawn on a scrap of paper.

Pepper never knows for sure who leaves the flowers, but she has a fair idea. A little half-ripped notebook stashed away in the glove compartment of the Cobra confirms her suspicions. She takes to staying up till four a.m. so that she can see him at her door. She falls asleep most nights by the time he gets there and for some reason, neither of them speaks about it the next morning.

One night she jerks awake near the window, and she can see him. He staggers up the steps cautiously, and deposits his burden (white daisies this time) carefully on the porch. She watches him sit down on the steps as he begins to laboriously write out something on the piece of paper on his hand. As he bends down to place it next to the flowers, she opens the door.

They look at each other; him half bent down; dressed in a pair of sweatpants and his dirty wifebeater. Her in an old faded pink dressing gown that clashed mildly with her unruly hair. And for the longest time both of them say nothing. Then she takes the piece of paper from him, gently prying it loose from his hands. He struggles for the smallest of seconds, and then gives up and sits down heavily on the steps.

She reads the words on the paper, written in his almost illegible hand. She's heard this song before. And the thought that this is what Tony thinks, this is what he thinks every time he leaves those damned flowers on her doorstep almost makes her cry. She looks down and sees him sitting, almost pushed into the corner; with his shoulders slumped. He looks so small and defeated that it breaks her heart that she allowed this to happen, allowed him to nearly break himself like this. And she thinks no. She won't allow that to happen.

She says nothing (she can't) and merely runs her hands through his hair. It is hot out, and his hair is damp with perspiration. She likes how it feels underneath her fingers. He, on the other hand, almost flinches at her touch. He looks up at her, his face lit faintly by the moon and the streetlight in the distance. She still doesn't say anything, and even the smile on her face is almost imperceptible. She only holds out her hand to him.

He doesn't reach out for that hand immediately; he doesn't think that this is real. He thinks (he knows) that once he reaches for her, he'll wake up in the shop bearing the imprint of whatever he was working on upon the side of his face. A sad reminder of how pathetic he's allowed his life to become. But then he thinks, fuck it. Why not have it just the one time, if only in a dream? And when he grabs hold he almost gasps to find that it's not a dream, it's real and she's actually here. And not a headstrong fantasy that dances around the edge of his consciousness. That he's not going to be put out like a piece of filter paper wrapped around tobacco.

She slowly leads him inside, and that night they do nothing more than just sleep and hold each other, because it doesn't seem appropriate to do more. The next morning, she makes pancakes for him and brings him breakfast in bed, because she's sure that he's never had that done for him; and she thinks its high time somebody did. He's still asleep when she leaves it by his bedside, and she writes out a little note for him. She keeps it on the breakfast tray next to the one he wrote for her last night, and looks at him one last time before she leaves the room.

When he wakes up, he looks around wildly at first. He thinks that she's gone, and it's really happened; she's really put him out like that midnight cigarette. That's when he sees the breakfast tray and the note. He reaches for it slowly and opens it, hearing the paper crinkle as his fingers touch it. It has only three words written on it. They weren't three words he'd ever expected to see, and they make his heart stop for the briefest second.

He hears a sound and sees her standing in the doorway. She looks very much like she did yesterday, but he doesn't remember much of yesterday, so he stares at her and tries to memorize her features. Tries to memorize this moment so that he can keep it with him forever, how her hair is all messy and lit up by the sunlight that streams from behind her. The threadbare, pink robe she wears; the way it is half open around her waist. The way her hair is wet and sticking out in little spikes, like she'd just washed her face. That odd expression on her face that she gets when she's about to do something… significant. He can see it in the way she fists her tiny hands at her sides.

He watches her walk towards the bed (towards him) and when they kiss it's not the spectacular burst of fireworks he'd thought it would be. Instead it's more... comfortable, and it tastes faintly of her toothpaste and his morning breath and something else he can't put his finger on. It's not the way he'd thought it would happen, but it's a definite beginning.

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