Note to self, sunlight causes pain, Tony thought muzzily.
He blinked, trying to focus his eyes, but it was difficult to do, given that he was a) hanging halfway off the sofa, b) in the vicious thralls of a hangover and c) unable to get his arms and legs to cooperate in righting him.
There seemed to be only one option, and with an anticipatory whimper, Tony rolled himself off the sofa to the cement floor of the garage.
The thud was somewhat meaty, and followed by a pained groan.
Additional observation: cement is still unyielding and cold.
Tony rested his cheek on the floor, taking a moment to appreciate the coolness and gathering his strength for a renewed effort at rising. It felt good to lie there, but another thought was forming in the back of his mind, rumbling faintly like a vacuum cleaner being run in the farthest room of a very big house.
Something . . . not good.
Tony frowned. He didn't want to think about not good. He wanted to think about nice things.
Consider: Bio-integrated circuits--nice; the Colanta merger, nice; Pepper's newest shoes, damnniiiiiiice--
"She's going to kill me," Tony whispered to the cement. "Not that there's a lot left to kill, granted. But what there is, Potts will make very, very dead. D-e-d, dead."
"Dead is spelled d-e-a-d. sir. Have you sustained injury beyond your alcohol-induced incapacitation?" Jarvis inquired.
Tony winced. "Jarvis, modify voice to 'concerned whisper' please."
"Ah," the AI replied in instant accommodation, tones much softer "Is this acceptable?"
"Yes," Tony murmured, eyes closing for a long moment. It would have been so easy to just stay there, warming the floor, waiting for the inevitable, but Tony was aware that there were things to be faced, and soon. "Where is Miss Potts?"
"Standing thirty-six centimeters behind you and slightly to the left of your supine form, sir."
"I am not capable of that action at this time," Jarvis whispered.
"Not you, me. Pepper---" Tony attempted to roll over, but only succeeded in twitching a bit.
The beginnings of an apology/excuse/denial were roiling in him, spinning fruitlessly in the stripped cogs of his mind like a hamster on a wheel; that is to say, going nowhere, very fast.
And making the cement look all the more welcoming, as far as Tony was concerned. He let one hand wander up and lever him enough to roll over, which he did, feeling comparable to a beached whale in the surf.
His resulting groan was also appropriately whale-like; low, sustained and slightly pitiful. "Pepper, I can explain."
Then Tony saw her.
As a man of science, Tony Stark had been drilled about empirical evidence. He understood the importance of initial observation, and the need to check such against other senses.
Nevertheless, if this was a hallucination, it was a damned fiiiine one, and he whimpered.
Pepper stood there, not a foot away from him, in a Playboy bunny costume. One of the satin bodysuit numbers in fact, in a blush pink, complete with wrist cuffs, bow tie, ears and long stocking covered legs in ab-so-lute-ly killah black suede stilettos.
"I love you," he breathed, eyes wide in stunned, worshipful lust. Tony wondered if he had enough strength to crawl over and lick those shoes.
"You always say that when you're hung over," she told him, the sigh in her voice apparent. "You need to get up, Mr. Stark."
At the moment parts of him were doing just that, and Tony couldn't exactly disapprove, considering the glorious stimulus causing the response. He worked his jaw a little and tried to speak again, but only managed a low, hungry moan.
Pepper cocked one hip, the move definitely, deliberately sexy as hell. Tony chuffed a little, and the question that had been rattling in his brain like the last M&M in a plastic cup made it past his very dry lips. "Why are you wearing . . . those clothes?"
"I always wear clothes, Mr. Stark; there is no 'nude Friday' on my work calendar. I've brought you some coffee--"
Pepper gracefully executed the low squat known as the Bunny dip; Tony managed to slump to a sitting position, although he wasn't sure if his spine was getting into the act at all since it was behaving more like a Slinky. He reached for the demitasse, eyes trying desperately to focus on the glorious vision of Pepper in pink.
"You're a bun-ny."
"I'm a Pisces," Pepper corrected him, "and to be honest, a little impatient as well."
"I bet your turn-offs are drunk billionaires," Tony whined, "and guys who tweak your fluffy tail. You have one, right? Turn around, I wanna see."
"Tony, I'm not in the mood to indulge you and your post-liqueur chugging fantasies," Pepper told him, rising gracefully and showcasing her million dollar legs. "You have three meetings and a speech scheduled for today."
"Yes, okay fine," he murmured, preparing to slam down the espresso, "but I'm still very curious about the whole . . . bunny business."
Tony brought the cup to his mouth and gulped; the black lava took an express route to his stomach, searing its way down and making him shudder.
Espresso; pick-me-up of the Gods, as far as he was concerned.
Pepper always made it just right: hotter than Hades and twice as bitter as a divorced trophy wife. He gave a sigh, steam floating out of his parted lips. "Ohhh, you own my soul, Potts."
"Really? I assumed the part I owned was lower down, and behind you," she tartly replied, but her smirk softened the comment. "Uppy, uppy, Tony. We need to get you clean, dressed and sober."
"Seriously, why are you dressed to cater to my baser nature and fantasies? Not that I'm objecting—God no—but it's going to make zipping around work today sort of . . . interesting," Tony mumbled as he attempted to stand, suddenly feeling a pang of jealousy at the thought of all those other male eyes on his fluffy bunny.
No, this was not acceptable. Pepper could be lusted after discreetly, yes; Tony understood the quirks of the masculine mindset, but having open stares and bare-faced leers directed at that pert Potts ass and those sex-Potts legs . . .
He wobbled at bit, his own more like Jell-O, and Pepper slipped a supporting arm under his. Tony liked that. A lot. "Hello," he murmured, blinking his unfocused eyes at her. "You're warm."
"Byproduct of my growing temper," Pepper warned, not smiling. "This is the part of the job I genuinely detest, Mr. Stark."
"I'm sorry," Tony sighed. "But it's been a while. Last night my liver was assuring me it could handle the load."
"Which means I'm the one handling the load, ultimately," Pepper responded, steering Tony towards the master bathroom. "Shower, dry and dress yourself in the next fifteen minutes or I'm going to have Jarvis set the temperature to arctic."
"You only say that 'cause you're a snowbunny," Tony countered, amused at his own wit. "Get it? Snowbunny?"
"What I get, Mr. Stark, is that you didn't read the part of that liqueur's label that mentioned hallucinations. Go. Shower."
Tony stumbled away, lower lip out in a pout that jutted like an open drawer. "Well I thought it was funny. What do you think, Jarvis?"
"I think Miss Potts is being exceptionally patient with you while you are incapacitated, sir."
"Sure, you always take her side," Tony accused as he groped his way into the stall, hands along the tiles. "Well she's my bunny, from her satiny ears to her pointy sexy shoooes."
The water came on, soaking him and his grimy clothes instantly; Tony slowly slid down the wall of the shower, a bar of soap in his hands. "Was that your best shot? Pffft, you have a poor sense of humor, Jarvis."
"Thank you sir; a clear reflection on my creator."
By the time Tony was out of the shower, the throbbing between his ears felt as if his brain was slam-dancing against his skull from the inside. Despite showering with his mouth open, his lips were still dry, and Tony was sure the frown lines between his eyes were as creased as an origami accordion.
"Yeah, I can still hold my liquor," he bleated to the squinty mummy in the bathroom mirror. "I'm good."
"Tony," Pepper called, stepping into the bedroom. He managed a cracked smile at her, blinking happily.
"You're still a bunny. You know, a hallucination like this is practically worth the death of a few thousand brains cells, even mine."
Pepper gave him a skeptical look, adjusted her ears to a perky angle, and motioned to the door. "Happy's waiting for us."
"Us? You're actually going to work dressed like one of Hef's babes?" came the croak. "Ohh, wait—hallucination. Okay, sure, Miss Potts. Let's . . . hop to it."
"I'm ignoring that," she sighed. "And you're not drinking any more of that Crème de Petite Lapin Rosé."
"Oh contraire," Tony shot back as he tottered on rubbery legs down the stairs towards the driveway. "If this . . . " he waved at hand at Pepper, "is what it does to my perception of you, I am for it, one hundred percent. Or make that proof, actually. Let's order a couple of cases."
He sloshed towards the limo, ready to ask Happy what he thought of Pepper's new outfit, but the quip died with a sudden burping squeak as he stared at his chauffeur standing by the passenger door.
Tony swayed like a dark-eyed daisy in a winter gust, unable to accept the vision his eyes kept insisting on bringing to his already suffering brain.
"Mr. Stark," Happy rumbled mildly, "You okay?"
"Hhhhhhhuuunnnnnnn," Tony wheezed, sounding a lot like a deflating balloon. "Huuuuhhhhhh . . . ."
"Happy," Pepper corrected. "It's not that hard to pronounce, Tony."
Tony huffed and puffed again, sounding like the big bad wolf.
Had to be.
Bare, beefy shoulders, tattooed arms, hairy legs . . . .
. . . in a Playboy Bunny suit.
A pink Playboy Bunny suit.
"Boss?" Happy inquired, cocking his head slightly and making his fuzzy ears tilt. "You okay?"
"Gaahhhhh," Tony bleated. The clear vision of Hogan's five o'clock shadow over the perky bow tie around his thick neck was frightening enough, but to see the burly tree-trunk legs and bulky feet squashed into high heels was nearly too much. Tony began to shake, sweat breaking out along his temples.
He closed his eyes. "Sick. I'm . . . sick, Potts. Ill, unwell, under the weather, ailing, out of it, not up to any meetings or speeches, noooo, need to get to bed."
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Tony," she murmured. "Are you sure? Happy and I could take you to the doctor--"
Tony whimpered as garish nightmare visions of tabloid insanity—"FLUFFY" FETISH REVEALED! BUNNIES FOR THE BILLIONAIRE! and worst of all, STARK RAVING FOR RABBITS? Flashed across his appalled mind, complete with full-color photos of him pale and shitty, with Pepper and Happy, flanking him like bookends.
Pepper alone wouldn't be so bad, Tony thought in a brief mental footnote, but Happy . . .
The tinted glass window of the limo rolled down, and a voice called impatiently to him. "Tony, are you getting in or what?"
Tony blinked, and the nausea rose higher, sloshing inside him as Colonel James Rhodes leaned out the window, his wide, muscular mocha shoulders a lovely contrast to the pink satin of his Playboy Bunny suit.
It made perfect sense that Platypus would be a brown bunny, Tony blearily realized. Perfect sense that everyone would be bunnies today----
"Nooooooooo. No-no-no-no," Tony turned, trying to run, trying to climb back up the stairs and away from this melon-colored madness. He tripped, scrambled frantically to catch his footing and crab-scuttled up the stairs back into the mansion, moving with remarkable agility for a man who had been doorbell ditching death an hour earlier.
Pepper, Happy and Rhodey watched him go, the three of them frozen for a long moment, their gazes locked on Tony Stark's retreating ass. When the door closed, Rhodey shot a concerned glance at Happy and then turned his gaze to Pepper.
"Got to hand it to you Miss Potts--you sure know how to stage a hell of an intervention."
She smirked, and the saucy look she shot both men was both mysterious and endearing. "I could not have done it without your help. Thank you, gentlemen, for doing your bit to keep Mr. Stark sober."
"If it was for anyone else on the planet—" Rhodey muttered, but he grinned as he said it.
Hogan gave a burly shrug. "As long as I don't have to walk in these things."
Pepper laughed. "Go get changed guys, and I'll see if I can get Tony to take a long, quiet nap. And remember, no bunny here knows a thing, right?"
"Oh not a problem," Rhodey agreed.
Hogan nodded, making his ears bound a little. "I think we can keep vewy, vewy quiet, Miss Potts, as long as you keep him away—"
"—from the hare of the dog," she finished, laughing, and headed up the stairs, cottontail tail bouncing.
Sometimes, Pepper thought, revenge was deliciously . . . fluffy.