Alternative Universe. I own nothing.

You're home

Tony Stark was almost always smiling. Whether he had a Playboy model under his arm or was talking to a high-ranked politician, he would throw around his charming grins and chortle at everything.

When at home, he'd mock JARVIS and laugh at Dummy. He'd meet with Rhodey for a couple of beers and they'd amuse each other truly. Then, when he'd see his assistant, a beaming smile would appear his face.

He had have a good time using his glamor life, you get it.

Well, Tony Stark was most certainly not smiling right now. The first thing she noticed were bruises around his face, near his unnaturally serious eyes. Then she saw a blue sling carrying his right arm. Pepper swallowed all of that and focused her eyes on his whole figure. He was holding onto Rhodey, but still standing on his own. She sighed with a bit of relief, but her heart begun thumping loudly in her chest. It was first time ever Pepper felt so happy to see her employer that she felt like crying. Actually, her eyes were probably already a bit red as she felt them water up.

But she couldn't care less. He was back.

Tony narrowed his eyes a bit, when he approached Pepper, looking at her in a completely strange and new way, trying to find some suitable words after their three months separation. She was only his employee, yet only one of few people that mattered in his life and had some influence on him. Maybe he realized that just recently, but his head was a big piece of chaos right now (who'd blame him really, after all of shit he's been through), and as he finally opened his mouth to say something, his words sounded a bit harsh, when he didn't really mean them to.

"Your eyes are red. Few tears for your long, lost boss?" he asked, somehow his words smartly setting a trap themselves. Word 'boss' was the key, trying to figure out if, after all, he was only that to her. It wasn't the best time to do that, but Tony Stark always did by his own rules. Plus, he seemed a bit carried away, thoughts buzzing inside his head.

"Tears of joy. I hate job hunting," Pepper dodged with her reply, smiling weakly and waggled a bit.

"Yea, vacation's over," strangely unsatisfied Tony wrinkled his nose and headed for car, not waiting for her. Once Pepper breathed in deeply, accumulating all her strengths, she tracked after him.

"Where to, sir?" Happy questioned when they perched into seats and closed car doors with loud thumps.

"Take us to the hospital please, Happy," without waiting for Tony's answer, Pepper asked the driver.

"No," Tony immediately interrupted her.

"No?" came only from confused Pepper and she looked at him entirely surprised. "Tony you have to go to the hospital..."

"No is a complete answer," he answered without looking back at her.

"The doctor has to look at you."

"I don't have to do anything," Tony insisted and finally glanced at Pepper. "I've been in captivity for three months. There are two things I want to do. I want an American cheeseburger, and the other..." he trailed off, which Pepper took for a suggestion.

"That's enough of that," she stated, turning her head away.

" not what you think," he added quickly. "I want you to call for a press conference now."

"Call for a press conference?" Pepper asked even more confused.


"What on earth for?"

"Hogan, drive," Tony demanded, ignoring Pepper's question. "Cheeseburger first."

For a couple of seconds Pepper gaped at the man at her side like he had gone mental. Then shook her head and pulled out her phone, wondering what Tony was up to now.

Tony looked out through the window, trying to ease the pressure he sensed growing inside his skull. After all, he was about to change his company forever. When he heard Pepper's calm voice, as she conversed and commanded through her phone, he finally dared a look at her. Though Pepper was Pepper and she looked the same Tony noticed something new, different about her that he couldn't put a finger on. Was it her hair? No, it wasn't that; these waves of her strawberry-blond curls looked almost ordinary. Was it her pink lips? Still nothing, as always there was no lipstick. What about her eyes? Looking more into these Tony understood that he wasn't the only one with chaos in his head, and unlike her steady, reasonable mask, Pepper's eyes were revealing that well. Then his attention was drew by her sad, brown and baggy costume. His assistant definitely lost some weight since Tony saw her last time. Pepper was still looking good, but the fact couldn't be missed. At the realization his heart ached a bit, knowing she must had been worried about him. That was when he felt stuffy and pulled on his collar a bit. All of sudden, a mix of thoughts about her feelings for him and imaginations of her slim body rushed his head. The pressure he felt in his head, now flooded over his whole body. His nervous hand found the button on the car door and started playing with it, pulling the window between them and Happy up and down. Shortly after that Tony felt a delicate hand over his, stopping his actions at once.

"Stop that, please," leaning over Pepper asked with a polite, but demanding voice, still holding the Blackberry to her ear. "You're distracting Happy."

"So does your phone rambling," Tony shot back, pulling the window once more totally up. Pepper only glared at him tiredly with 'you-wanted-a-press-conference' look, and Tony put his one healthy hand up in a sign of surrender.

When Pepper finally got off the phone, she sighed quietly. "It's all set. They should be ready within 30 minutes. Is there anything you want more?"

Tony shook his head in response, being deeply in thought. Looking upon familiar landscapes he mused how much all of this felt odd. After 3 months of darkness, fear and pain coming back to his old life felt so absurd. Having his loyal assistant by his side was refreshing, but it troubled Tony how it was not enough.

Some minutes after Pepper put away her phone, she found herself being drilled through with Tony's stare. At once she thought how much she missed those brown, sparkly eyes. A heavy sigh escaped from bottom of her lungs, when unpleasant thoughts crushed her mind. He was so far away from home, wounded, for sure everyday threatened. She couldn't help it when her hands begun shaking slightly in response to images flowing in front of her eyes.

"Hey, hey, what's going on?" she heard Tony's unexpectedly soft voice.

"Nothing," Pepper breathed out hoarsely, her insides flopping even more, when he turned his head to her and she spotted more bruises on his face that she didn't saw at the airport. She turned her face away and made her best efforts to put on her professional mien back. Tony's questioning look hadn't eased, so Pepper gave up.

"It seems so peculiar, you here..." she admitted and when noticed Tony's eyebrows going high up she defended herself quickly, "in a good way, I mean. Everyone, Obie, media, Rhodey almost... they gave up on you. And now you're here, safe and sound..."

"We'll see," Tony cut in, cocking his head to side.

"... and I still feel like it's not true and my mind plays tricks on me," Pepper finished, slightly pink all over face and neck.

"Well... I'll think about that doctor's check up if it eases your mind peace," Tony murmured.

"No, I don't mean it like this..." Pepper said, but seeing Tony's confused expression added nervously, gesticulating a bit, "... like this check up. I mean, you have to see a doctor... Jesus, what really I meant was... um, the tangible side. You're here, you are actually sitting here... I'm talking nonsense," Pepper mumbled finally and waved her hand. "Nevermind."

"I get it," he answered with soft, barely heard murmur, and reached with his left hand for hers. When he caught it, his rough from work fingers started running over her smooth skin, massaging her palm. Surprised Pepper jumped in her seat at Tony's movement. "I am here, really," Tony whispered and smiled slightly for the first time since landing. "Is this okay?" he asked nodding slightly with his head towards their lanced hands.

"I guess," Pepper replied suspiciously, looking into Tony's expression, but her heart was melting already under his warm, true smile. What was up with him and his new, concerned and un-jerk attitude? Feeling his fingers run over hers with reverence almost, Pepper felt peace come over her for the first time since her birthday. "You're here," she sighed with pleasure uncontrollably.

"I'm here," Tony repeated, following her chest taking deep, calm breaths with wide eyes, "and I really need my cheeseburger," he reminded, trying to lighten her up, but got responded only with a deep, enigmatic look from her blue eyes.

"Do you need a hug?" Tony asked laughing suddenly and Pepper looked at him offended, sensing irony.

Here's the jerk, she thought bitterly.

"I don't need a bloody hug. I'm not the one who came back from Afghanistan," Pepper snapped and tried to free her hand from his, but failed at that, his fingers holding it in iron grip.

Tony attempted thinking about something intensively. "Well, I might need one then." At once he sat at the seat's edge and pulled Pepper against him, his only healthy hand supporting her back, due to Happy's fast driving. "I missed you, Pep," Tony muffled against her neck, making goosebumps for her.

"I missed you too," Pepper choked out, her mind blank at his exuberance. She breathed in deeply and closed her eyes, ignoring their uncomfortable position and gave into the smell of his hair. It smelled something funny and totally unlike him, like cheap soap, but so damn good. When Pepper raised her eyelids again, Tony's face was millimeters away from hers. His lips were millimeters from hers.

Pepper thought it was a bit of cliché, but she couldn't manage to figure out who's move was the first. However, all her reasonable manners and senses failed the moment their mouths met. Her right hand supported her against his left one, when her other found its way up to his jaw. Somewhere between when Tony's tongue entered her mouth and Pepper nipped at his bottom lip, Tony was back in his seat, between her legs, Pepper on top of him. As he broke the kiss, his mouth started working on her neck and obtained with a quiet moan from Pepper's throat. Tony never imagined that his, so neat, assistant could make such a sound.

That's when they heard Happy turn his radio volume up and hum along to some classy old hit. Pepper could had been flushed with a bucket of cold water and she wouldn't have noticed the difference. At once she rose from Tony, supporting herself now with hand on the roof. "What am I doing?" she asked herself more than Tony.

"What are you doing?" stiffened Tony asked stupidly and blinked twice, his mind totally blown away.

"We... we can't... I'm not that girl. You're my boss. I'm not one of these girls," Pepper rambled, pulling a hand to her face. "I got too far, I don't know..." she started her prattle again, but was interrupted by Tony's finger put to her lips.

He took her face in his hand and said with a strong, steady voice, "Screw these girls." Pepper grimaced and Tony immediately realized his mistake. "I mean, to hell with them. I'm not pushing you into anything Pepper, you know me too well and you know my tricks," he muttered. "Everything is so different by now, and this..." he said, shaking his hand between his body and hers, "this seems so right."

"Why me?" was only what Pepper asked, holding onto her last sources of control. "I'm only your assistant and..."

"You see," Tony cut in, settling her hips against his in some, if only possible in a car, a bit more comfortable and intimate way, "there's simply no one else I have developed feelings for. There's no other woman that I constantly thought about back there. And that's what I'd like to hold onto," he finished and rose a bit to give her a loving kiss as his one last argument.

From this on time flew by unnoticed and both of them forgot about the press conference right away. The loving kiss turned into intense, desperate for each other one easily. Pepper's hands found Tony's belt in a moment. "Put your hips up a bit," she demanded against his mouth.

"What? Why?" Tony murmured back, his whole body filled up with new energy of kissing Pepper. His mind couldn't set to anything else than a thought of how good and reasonable this felt.

"You know why," Pepper replied impatiently.

"I told you I'm serious about you..."

"It's a home-coming gift," were her last, husky words in a while.

For sure, it was the worst place and position for having sex, but neither of them seemed to care about lack of room or Happy hearing them through the thin wall of dark glass. Happy had been in worse situations before.

Tony rose his hips, and by that he lifted them both a bit. As Pepper slid his trousers down, Tony managed to open her blouse with his one hand and then, with minimal help from immobile one, he lowered her own pants and rubbed her left hip softly. Pepper took a loud and comprehensive gasp, when Tony entered her, and grasped tightly her hands in his hair. Both of them moved to the rhythm of their heavy breaths and pulses, until they reached the edge. Pepper's breasts rubbed tightly against Tony's, now seemed to be over-clothed, chest, and both of them buried heads in lover's necks now. Before his one last thrust, Tony found Pepper's lips again and pressured his mouth on them in a searing kiss, trying to have some mercy for Happy and save him from Pepper's obviously coming loud moan. He'd save it for himself for later, to hear it over and over again. When they were done, Pepper hugged him closely and mumbled her mantra into his collarbone, "You're home, you're home." Tony replied with a soft kiss on her hair.

"Hey, it's third time we're passing by Chinatown," Tony noticed, his voice shaky, and noted mentally himself to thank Happy for his cooperation later. A lot.

However, Pepper ignored his words. "Damn. We didn't use a condom," she moaned, in thoughts chiding herself for her rush behavior. Tony Stark really messed with her reasonable mind. "With me on pills there's a small chance, but it is there nevertheless."

"It's okay. If it's always gonna be like this with you, I can have a whole soccer team of babies with you," Tony laughed, pulled his trousers up and caught Pepper's mouth in a kiss once more.

"This ain't funny," Pepper grumbled and sat beside Tony, trying to redo and tidy her looks.

"It is," he snorted, working on his tie.

Then both of them jumped a bit again, frightened, when Happy turned the intercom on and announced, "Sir, I have your cheeseburgers. Do you want them now or in a five that we get to the Stark Industries?"

"Later," Tony smirked into Pepper's neck, leaning over her again. "I'm still working on the third thing I wanted."

Now, Tony had his strengths back more than ever to keep his head up. Times for necessary changes in the company wouldn't be that easy and enjoyable as these with Pepper. Still, Tony Stark had his reason to smile again.


Thank you for reading. (: