Author's Note: Okay, here it is. The final chapter. This was my first ever attempt a fanfiction, so a big thanks to everyone who reviewed/alerted/favorited. It definitely encouraged me to keep going. I apologize this took so long to get out. I hope it was worth the wait.
Pepper was awake, but hadn't yet opened her eyes. She could tell that the sun was shinking—and not because of a a report from Jarvis. Keeping her eyes closed, she took in the sounds that surrounded her: the faint splashing of the fountain in the living room, the faint sound of waves breaking on the beach, sea gulls crying on the nearby beach, but most of all, that familiar mechanical hum of the arc reactor, and Tony's light snoring. With a contented sigh, she opened her eyes to a very familiar and lovely sight.
Tony was lying on his back, one arm behind his head, the other sprawled open wide beneath Pepper. His mouth was slightly open, drool trickling down the side of his face. She couldn't resist a giggle. After all, who would imagine the famous (former) womanizer Tony Stark drooling in his sleep. No one would believe her if she had told them, but she had known since her third day of work when she had to rouse him from sleep. It was endearing in a very silly sort of way; that way that only someone who truly loved him could understand.
"Tony," she whispered. "You're drooling."
He jerked awake, and then cringed. There were large, white bands of bandage wrapped rather tightly around his ribs, three of which were broken. However, he had refused to stay in the hospital any longer than he had to and was home two days later. Normally, he didn't slow down when he was hurt. Too many times Pepper had come into the house to find him up and moving when he should be taking it easy. This time, he had been perfectly content to lay around, probably mostly because Pepper was there to lie around with him.
The whole experience of the past few months had changed him. It had changed them both, but Tony in particular. He wasn't a sentimental person; when he said things that were meaningful to him, it was usually when they just slipped out of his mouth before he had a chance to think about it. Now, any time there was an opportunity to express the depth of his feelings for Pepper, he seized it. They weren't huge, grandiose gestures; no, Pepper wasn't the kind of girl that wanted that sort of thing. Instead, it was the little things like holding her hand or kissing her forehead. Looking over his schematics on the dining room table instead of in his secluded workshop. Life was too short to miss a moment that could be spent with Pepper.
Tony buried his face in the pillow for a moment before smiling at Pepper. When he raised his head, the drool was gone. "I don't know what you're talking about. I don't drool."
"Right. And Rhodey's retiring today."
Tony raised his eyebrows. "He is?" Pepper laughed and kissed him lightly. One kiss just wasn't good enough for Tony, who rolled on top of her and began to shower her with kisses. The moment was perfect…absolutely perfect. Pepper closed her eyes once more and basked in the beauty of a moment of perfect love.
"This is perfect," she said, pushing a strand of Tony's hair out of his face.
"You're perfect," he answered with a light nip of her neck. She sighed and didn't disagree, because in his arms, she felt perfect. She rolled over so that she was atop him, forgetting his broken ribs for just a moment. The minute the slightest amount of pressure was on his ribs, he gasped. Then she stopped feeling perfect and was concerned again.
"Sorry! Are you alri—"
"Don't finish that sentence," he said, cutting her off with a finger over her lips. For the first time, he was understanding why she hated it when he had asked her that same question when she was recovering.
"You do realize that's my job, right? Making sure you're okay?" she said, a slight grin on her face.
"Your job? So, there's nothing personal about it?" Tony asked lightly, his thumbs tracing circles on her hips.
"Maybe." She gasped as his hands drifted just a bit lower. "You know…just a little."
"Just a little?" She gasped again, her head lolling to the side, her nails digging into his forearms. He was incredibly pleased with her response. Until she noticed the clock on the bedside table, that is.
"It's eight o'clock…we have work to do. We're giving statements at the police station at nine thirty," she whispered. Tony groaned, but rose from the bed. Pepper followed suit, and headed to her room to get bathe and get dressed. By the time she emerged from the bathroom, Tony was sitting on her bed, already dressed. He had pulled a black skirt suit out of her closet for her and a white button down.
"Thanks," she said, hobbling to her underwear drawer. She pulled it open and purposely took plenty of time selecting her under garments, making sure to give Tony plenty of time to salivate over the sexy lingerie that was in the drawer. He would have a normal expression on his face when she turned around, but she was pretty damn sure that right now his eyes were wide and his mouth was hanging open. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she picked a lacey white set.
She was right. By the time she turned around, he was looking cool and collected once again. She quickly pulled on her clothes and applied some light make up, though she had long ago stopped trying to cover the scar on her forehead. It was a mark of her survival, a badge of honor, and she wasn't going to be ashamed of it.
"Tell me why we have to give statements when the police were right there?" Tony asked. Of course, he knew exactly why they had to give statements, but giving one had interrupted his um…personal time with Pepper, and that did not make him a very happy camper.
"Well, for one, we couldn't see what was going on inside the warehouse, and two…there was a crime. We have to establish that my…shooting Williams was in self defense," she answered, her voice quiet as she mentioned Williams' shooting. Since then, she had been a bit more reserved when it came up.
Somehow, despite the fact that she hadn't handled a gun before, her bullet managed to puncture a major artery in Williams' leg. He had bled out on the pavement before help arrived, and she had stood over him the whole time, not moving, just watching him bleed. He had gasped and choked towards the end, and it was only then that she averted her eyes and went to attend Tony, who was slowly regaining use of his limbs.
She had tried to comfort herself by saying that he had been dealing under the table, that he had tried to kill her, and that he had tried to kill Tony. None of her logic seemed to be working. Maybe some of it had to do with the fact that she was raised Catholic and definitely had the Catholic guilt, but no matter how she tried, she was still upset that she had allowed a man to die when she could have saved him.
"Feeling guilty?" Tony put his hands on her shoulders, gently massaging them. She nodded.
"Yeah. It…I know in my head that he had killed plenty of people, and that he was the reason I was kidnapped, but…I feel like I should have tried to save him at least."
"Pepper," he said as he turned her to face him. "You hit the femoral artery. There's nothing that you could have done."
"I could have tried."
"So that he could take another shot at you? If you had tried to save him, he would have tried to kill you again…and if he had…Pepper, if he hadn't…I didn't go to that warehouse to catch him."
"I know," she answered quietly, resting her forehead against his.
"You don't care?"
"I care, but…it's different…somehow."
"It's different because you are far too quick to be harsh on yourself and not on me, and you know it," he said, placing a gentle kiss on the tip of her nose. "Williams murdered eight police officers in cold blood. If you hadn't done what you did, he would have killed us all."
"I know…I just think it's funny that of all the people to shoot him, it ended up being me…Tony, why me? Why could I move when you couldn't? It doesn't seem right."
"Do you remember waking up during your surgery?" She nodded silently. "I did some research after that. Did you know that it takes fifteen percent more anesthetic to be effective on red headed women?"
"Can't say that I knew that."
"Well, I'm thinking that the same principle applies. However that contraption works, it takes more to work for longer periods of time on red heads."
"Is there actually research to back that up?" she asked, skeptical.
"I can have Jarvis pull it up right now."
"That's okay. We need to leave or we're going to be late." He took her hand and they walked out to where Happy was patiently waiting with the car. Upon seeing them hand in hand, he almost smiled. It was a close one. The drive to the police station was shorter than it should have been, or maybe it just felt that way because they could have comfortable conversation for the first time in months, knowing that they didn't have to worry about someone kidnapping them.
Detective O'Shea was waiting for them in his office. Tony and Pepper took a seat in two chairs opposite his desk, and they went through the painless but boring process of answering all his questions. Mostly, they verified what everyone had seen, and that Pepper's shooting of Craig Williams had been in self defense. Naturally, the whole thing was being investigated, but it was obvious that Pepper wasn't going to face any consequences. Even if she were going to, Tony would have just bribed the jury.
As they stood to leave the office, Detective O'Shea grabbed Pepper's arm. "I know you're feeling guilty about Williams' death and your part in it. You should know that the DA said if the case had gone to trial, he would have gotten the death penalty. I don't know if that makes you feel any better, but…"
Pepper nodded. It did help. At least this way she could say she was doing a favor for society and the taxpayers of America. "It does. Thank you," she answered quietly. With a nod of thanks, Tony took her hand and they left the office.
As usual, a crowd of paparazzi were mobbed outside the station. Happy had the car waiting for them. They pushed through the crowd, laughing at the ridiculous questions they were being bombarded with. As Tony helped her into the car, she was laughing hysterically.
"What?" he asked, confused.
"No matter what happens, they always want to know if I'm having a love child. It's funny. If I ever got pregnant, I'm sure they would want to know if I gave birth to an alien."
Tony was quiet for a minute, a reaction that Pepper had not been expecting. Her expression asked the question.
"You said, 'if I ever got pregnant.' As in…you're considering it?"
"It—I hadn't really thought that—I'd always thought of adopting if I couldn't—Children are…I've always wanted children," she answered nervously. All her fears were pushed aside when a huge, genuine smile spread across his face.
"Even if they had some crazy Stark genetics?" Her smile was just as beautiful and joyous as his.
"Especially if they had some crazy Stark genetics." She wrapped her arms around him, pulled him close and kissed him soundly. He started to push her back into the seat, but she stopped him with a hand on his chest. "Not here," she whispered. He groaned in frustration and pulled away. She rested her head on his shoulder and they rode peacefully until they arrived back at the mansion to find several large trucks in the driveway.
"Happy, what's going on?" Tony asked, concerned. The car came to a screeching halt in front of the mansion and Tony climbed out to confront the men standing around the trucks.
"Tony," Pepper called. He ignored her, and continued heading towards the men. "Tony! It's fine, Tony!"
"You know what's going on?" he asked quizzically, turning to face her.
"Well, I thought that maybe I would take the liberty of having some of my stuff moved in," she answered, biting her lip.
"Some of your stuff? That's your whole apartment—Oh…"
"I didn't think you'd mind. I mean, some of it will have to go into storage, but I'm sure we have plenty of room for it. I think I'm going to have to have my own closet, though."
"I think that can be arranged." Ignoring the pain in his ribs, Tony picked her up and kissed her, not caring about the moving crew cheering and making catcalls. They didn't break the kiss as he carried her into house. He set her down on his bed and lie down beside her, pulling her close against him.
"Now…about those children...I'm thinking we should get started on that," he whispered, unbuttoning her blouse.
"I think that can be arranged…"
Author's Note: So, there it is. I hope you enjoyed. Please help to make my day and review!!!