If it's beeping, it's going to explode. If it's beeping, you should run away. The facts were simple and what she had to do did not take any kind of logistics. Pepper, beeping means run. So you run. RUN. -
Except that for some reason her legs and arms wouldn't work. She could only stare at the drone and the red circle in its chest. Beep. Beep. Oh god. Ohgodohgodohgod it was too late to run now; even if she did she wouldn't get far enough away. Okay. Okay calm down. Maybe it's a dud. Or a psych-out. Even in what was surely her last moments, Virginia Pepper Potts was extremely rational.
That rationality disappeared when she was grabbed roughly around the waist and lifted- powered, rather- into the night sky. Beneath her, the Expo exploded into deadly fireworks. She stared down at where she would have been lying, dead, if- and she was flying.
She didn't have a problem with heights, but flying while not in a plane and not in a helicoptor and not in any kind of protective suit was quite possibly the most frightening experience ever, even if Tony's arms were wrapped around her with no possibility of her falling. That was a problem all on its own. She was pressed tight against the suit of armor. The generator in his chest was vibrating against her hand and she was fairly sure that she was screaming.
He landed jerkily on the roof of a building and as soon as her feet were on solid ground, she pushed him away (still screaming, albeit out of breath). He pulled off the helmet and all of her emotions bubbled to the surface, uncontrolled.
"Oh my god I can't take this anymore." She covered her eyes with violently shaking hands, trying to calm herself.
He sounded indignant and surprised."You can't-"
"I can't take this-" breathe, breathe, BREATHE Pepper, breathe-
"what're you lookin' at me-" Swallowbreathespeak.
"my body…literally cannot handle the stress. I never know if you're gonna…kill yourself, or, or, or wreck the whole company-"
"I ju- I think I did okay!" He jestured to their loud and still smoking surroundings. She was exhausted and exsasperated and the last thing she had expected to come out of her mouth came right out into the open.
"I, I, I quit, I'm resigning…that's it."
It was as if someone had taken a lead-filled tank off of her chest and shoulders. She could finally breathe again, although the relief lasted less than a few seconds, because then he started to move toward her.
"What did you just say? You're done?"
"That's surprising. No, it's not surprising. I get it. You don't have to make any excuses."
"I, I, I'm not making any excuses-"
"Well you actually were just making exuses-"
"No I wasn't making exuses-"
"but you don't have to, listen-" He took her hand and she kept on rambling because he was touching her and that always made her nervous and trembly.
"-because I'm actually very justified, I-"
"hey, hey, hey- you deserve better."
ThumpWhump. Her heart skipped a beat.
"You've taken such good care of me. I've been in a tough spot and you got me through it, that's all. Right?"
Yes, right, that's all. That's all anything they'd ever been together for was about, him and his tough spots and her and the fact that she could always fix whatever he fucked up.
She wished he would let go of her hand. She was starting to break out in a nervous sweat and her knees were knocking.
"Thank you for understanding."
"Yeah, yeah, let's talk, uh, let's talk cleanup."
Finally, something she was good at. Except he was still holding her hand.
"I'll handle the transition, it'll look smooth."
He was inching closer to her and she couldn't stop him. She wanted him closer, and at the same time she wanted him far away, because he was crossing boundaries and she wasn't sure that either of them should cross anything any time soon.
"Okay what about the press, because you only had the job for a week, that's gonna be sort of-"
Or maybe she was just scared.
"Well, with you it's like dog years. I mean, it's like the presidency."
She had been about to make a sarcastic crack at him but the magnetics were too strong. They both moved at the same time, crossing the distance between each other's lips, which met in a flurry of fumbling fear and anticipation and electricity and it was perfect. She couldn't stop one hand from touching his cheek (is this real?), but she was so weak tat she gave up and let it fall to his metal-coated shoulder. It lasted far too little time and he pulled away first.
Her heart sank until she realized it was a question, his dark eyes were searching her face for the answer and he was still holding her hand, the other around her waist.
"No, it's not weird." She shook her head, incapable of anything more than a whisper.
"It's okay, right?"
The hope in his expression melted her right down to the very center.
"Run that by me again."
They kissed again and this time she could feel him relax slightly, with one hand on the back of her neck, sending shivers up and down her spine.
"I think it was weird. You guys look like two seals fighting over a grape."
They pulled apart and simultaneously remembered that Rhodey was still present, crouching on the roof a few feet away. And still making jokes. She felt herself blush and started to ramble again, but this time Tony was rambling right along with her, his arm wrapped around her waist.
"I- had just quit, actually-"
"Yes, we're, uh-"
"You don't have to do that, I heard the whole thing."
"You should get lost."
"I was here first! Get a roof."
Tony chuckled and their sides brushed. Pepper found herself unable to even manage a small laugh- the exhaustion of the past week was finally catching up with her now that there didn't seem any reason to worry.
"I thought you were out of one-liners."
"That was my last one."
"You kicked ass back there by the way."
"Thank you, you too. Listen, my car got taken out in the explosions, so I'm gonna have to hang on to your suit for a minute, okay?"
"Not okay. Not okay with that." He looked at her like he was including her in the decision, like the implied I'm was an implied we're.
"Wasn't a question."
Rhodey shot off into the sky, and as he did, Pepper couldn't help but be scared by the idea of her doing that mere minutes ago.
"How're you gonna resign?" Tony grabbed her hand and turned her so they were facing each other. She slipped her other hand into his in turn.
"I don't understand." She laughed at the same old Tony, the lost boy who probably couldn't even tie his shoes without her help. "You look exhausted," she said, noticing for the first time the bags under his eyes and the slowness with which he blinked. "So do you," he pointed out. "Hold on."
This time, when he took off with her firmly in his arms, she wrapped her arms around his neck and let go of all the fear and anxiety and confusion. She wasn't quite sure where those kisses left them, but she was too tired to worry about it.