Tony walked off the platform with his right leg dragging behind. He hissed in pain, and carefully looked back, trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with his leg. Before he looked at his leg, he looked behind him, and saw the trail of blood he was leaving behind. Tony widened his eyes and immediately glanced down at his leg. His neoprene suit was torn vertically down his calf. He winced in pain again and felt a rush of pain move along his chest.
"Ahh!" He screamed in pain. He tried to stifle it, but he was already too late.
With all of his strength, Tony started to slowly move towards the couch. It felt like bricks were attached to his right leg. If anything, he had to call Pepper as soon as possible.
"JARVIS." Tony practically shouted.
"Yes, sir?" The AI responded.
"I want a full body scan, and let me know of the results ASAP." Tony tries to slowly peel away the suit from where it was slightly torn but the imaginable feeling of knives piercing his chest started to take him aback. "Damn it." He breathed.
Tony looked over at the phone that was sitting on the night stand beside him. He stared at it and hesitated. If I call Pepper, she'll have to drive here… and then she'll start reprimanding me about my actions… and…
Another wave of pain rushed over him, making him hiss in pain, again. In mere moments, his hand whipped towards the phone, grabbing it in a blink of an eye. He pressed Pepper's speed dial and quickly held the phone to his ear.
Pepper was sitting on her couch, reading a red hard covered book with black embroidery. After a few seconds, her delicate fingers turned the page. The ringing of the phone soon engulfed her apartment, making her heavily sigh.
"And it was just getting to the good part." She angrily breathed. Pepper stood up and walked towards the small kitchen. She grabbed the phone off the counter and immediately held it to her ear.
"Virginia Potts." She greeted.
"Hey, Peps." Tony painfully breathed.
"Tony," She glanced over at the oven, noting the time. "It's midnight, whatever you need, can it wait until—"
"I need your help." His attempt at interrupting her failed.
"—Tomorrow." She finished, slowly closing her eyes. "Help with what?" Pepper gave in.
"C-Can you just please… drive over here..." He tried to peel the suit off his back but a separate wave of pain started to slowly make its way towards his shoulder. "Ow, crap!"
"Tony?" Pepper furrowed her eyebrows, becoming increasingly worried. "Is everything okay?"
"Um…" Tony blinked, forcibly. "Yeah… Listen, I know it's late but I could really use your help and—"
"Just tell me what you want, Tony."
"You." He blatantly gasped. "I want you right now, Pepper."
"As romantic as that sounds, It's a little too late and we have a nine o'clock meeting, plus an eleven o'clock meeting right after. Can't we do this tomorrow night?" She started to lean over the counter, resting her elbows on the dark granite surface.
"The faster you get here, the faster you can go to sleep—stay at my place for the night." Tony suddenly felt his calf throb.
"Please, Pepper." His voice started becoming more dark and serious.
Pepper stood up, widened her eyes in seriousness. "Tony, tell me. What's wrong?"
"Nothing, I just really want—"
"I swear to god, if you don't tell me, I'm taking my two week vocation and I'll make damn sure JARVIS can't pinpoint my location." She threatened him.
There was no way in hell he could think of anything to counter that one. The only thing that feared him was not being able to see her, let along for two whole weeks. He would literally die without her daily presence. "I… got into a little accident." He breathed, half admiring how vicious Pepper could be.
"Accident, what kind of accident?" She narrowed her eyes, carefully listening.
"Fury sent me on a mission right after you left… and I just got back." He told her. That's all he had to say to her. Just the slightest mention of a mission and Pepper was on full alert.
"Are you okay?" Worry was taking over her emotions.
"I'm fine." Tony tried to smile but the pain prevented it.
"Full body scan complete." JARVIS suddenly announced. "You have a large laceration running vertically down your entire calf, there's a shallow laceration starting at your left shoulder and ending at your right lower back, there are multiple bruises forming around your abdomen, and there are two flesh wounds along your right forearm suggesting you barely escaped two bullets. My estimation is two and a half weeks worth of recovery."
Pepper widened her eyes in fear and worry. Forget the damn book. She hung up milliseconds later, grabbed her keys, her heather gray sweatshirt, and darted out the door. She hardly thought about the clothes she was wearing. Her short blue and white plaid shorts, and her white spaghetti strapped tank top was all she had on. Tony looked up at the ceiling, hoping to god that Pepper didn't hear anything JARVIS had just announced.
"Pepper, take your time. It's not as bad as it—" Tony heard beeping coming from the other end. He was then greeted by a recorded voice, telling him that he might have the wrong number. "—sounds." He ended the call. "Thanks a lot, JARVIS."
"You're welcome, sir." JARVIS blurted, making Tony look up at the ceiling with annoyance.
While Pepper was speeding towards his house, Tony gave it another try, and carefully started to peel the suit off of him. The mixture of blood and sweat made the suit stick to every hair and surface on his body. He managed to completely rip off the section that was covering his right leg.
"One down…" He heavily breathed, half bending over.
"Sir, Miss Potts has entered the house at an accelerated rate."
"Mm." Tony hummed, focusing on the rest of the suit that stuck to every inch of his body. In mere seconds, he heard the glass door that separated the rest of the house from his workshop swing open. Without moving an inch, he felt Pepper's worried vibes overflow the entire place. He slowly looked at her and saw her widened eyes, and half open mouth.
"Hi." Tony almost cheerfully greeted.
"Hi?" Pepper breathed, slowly balling her fists. "HI!" She yelled. Tony started becoming deathly afraid of her.
"Now, Pepper—" He tried to calm her down but it didn't work.
"You call me, telling me that you're 'okay' "She air quoted. ", and then I overhear JARVIS explaining your full body scan, and all you can say to me is hi?" She stared at him, right in the eyes.
"Should I start over with an 'I'm sorry' or 'I love you'?" He joked, trying to lighten up the mood.
Pepper darted her index finger towards the couch. Without saying a word, Tony slowly limped towards it with her carefully trailing behind him. He slowly sat himself down on the couch and managed to stifle a hiss. He felt Pepper sit beside him. It felt like their daily patch up ritual. Tony slightly turned to the left, giving Pepper a clear view of his back, and the back of his right leg.
"I tried to tear the neoprene suit off but—"
"Tony." She breathed, carefully touching the torn jagged edges of the neoprene suit. She ran her fingers along the cut that lasted for what seemed a mile. Right when she got to the middle of the wound, she felt Tony tense up. "How—What—What happened?"
"Saw blades." He breathed, trying to look behind him, but Pepper jerked him forwards.
"Saw—Saw blades?" Pepper made a hissing sound herself as she inspected the laceration on his calf.
"There was a factory… and it exploded…" He took in a deep breath. "They went flying everywhere, and the suit was already previously damaged from the mission before that." Tony explained to her.
"Fury sent you on a double mission?" Pepper whispered, still following the trail of his wounds.
"Well… Kind of." Tony pressed his lips together.
"What do you mean by 'kind of'?" Pepper's voice began to rise.
"I swear, I was flying back home and right before I could land, Fury asked me to take over Captain American's mission." He felt Pepper carefully remove some of the neoprene suit on his back to get a better reach of the long laceration. "You were angry at me… so I…I didn't want to go home... And that's when I told you, through JARVIS, that I was still on the same mission."
"Angry at you?" Anger slowly raising. "Angry at you!"
"Pepper… I really don't want to have to do this now—"
"No, Tony." She angrily told him, making him turn around to face her. Pepper pointed at him with her index finger. "You were the one that wouldn't sign the damn papers." She then pointed at herself. "I wasn't being the stubborn dumbass, fleeing like a scared deer."
Tony looked away, almost feeling too ashamed to look at her. It was true, he did beg Fury for a mission just to get away from the house and her. He turned his head, and looked at her, straight in the eyes. "I didn't want to deal with it."
"Every couple has a fight. One fight doesn't mean it's going to be the end of the world."
"No, you don't understand, Pepper." He calmly told her, taking her hands in his. "I didn't want to deal with… this."
"This?" She furrowed her eyebrows. "What do you mean by, this?"
"This…us…what we're doing." He squeezed her hands, trying to get his point across. "I just—"
"Are you having second thoughts?" She asked him. Tony could see the fear in her eyes.
"Yes—no, yes… no… yes—Pepper I—" He tried to explain it to her but he was cut off.
"Tony, it was just one fight. It doesn't mean I don't care about our relationship, or-or that I'm suddenly going to want to resign—"
"No, Pepper." He squeezed her hands again, making her pay attention to him. "This is new for me." Tony looked down at their linked hands and then up at her, catching her gaze. "We've been together for a month now, and I'm just starting to get used to everything."
"What… What are you trying to say?" She looked at him cautiously.
"What I'm trying to say is that… I don't want to treat you like a one night stand because you're not, Pepper. You're better than that." He breathed. "You mean everything to me and despite what the press keeps assuming, I'm not going to go back to my old self."
"So you didn't want to sign the papers, and instead got into a fight with me because you were thinking about our relationship?" She asked him, noticing the waves of pain that flashed through his eyes.
"…Basically, yeah." He slightly nodded.
Pepper's lips suddenly formed a smile. "You're such an idiot." She reached up and gently touched his cheek. Tony leaned into it and closed his eyes for a few seconds. Before he knew it, he felt her hand abruptly slap his cheek, making it burn bright red.
"Pepper—" he tried to make her understand but Pepper's angry raging ocean blue eyes were already sending spears of fear through his throat.
"Turn around." She angrily told him.
Pepper was clearly not in the mood to talk. Despite how much pain she would cause him, she grabbed both of his shoulders and whipped him around. He hissed, feeling her arms firmly hold her in place. She then reached under the couch and pulled out an emergency aid kit. She set it on her lap and opened the box. She took out a bottle and a cotton swab. Tony felt her small delicate hands reach for the torn edges in the suit. Without thinking about how much pain it would cause him, she ripped the neoprene suit off his chest like a child ripping off a band-aid. Knowing what would happen next, Tony prepared himself and gripped the edges of the couch cushions. He felt the cotton swab lightly dab the laceration that ran across his back.
"Ow-ow-ow!" He hissed.
"Stop being a baby." Pepper dabbed every inch of his wound, trying really hard to ignore his cries of pain.
"You're not the one who got sliced by dozens of saw blades." He mumbled, closing his eyes.
"If you had just signed the damn papers, none of this," She dabbed his back again, making him flinch. "…would have ever happened."
"Touché, Miss Potts." He breathed.
"Let me see your shoulder." She ordered him. Tony turned towards her and shifted his shoulder to give her a better look. She looked at the two marks the bullets left and heavily breathed. "Does it hurt?"
"Kind of." He responded back rather quickly. Dummy came up to her and handed her a damp clean white towel with his robotic claw. Pepper used it to wash away the semi-dried blood that traveled down his arm. She looked up at him and saw his curious gaze. After a while, his eyes locked with hers, and Tony did what he did in most awkward and scary situations. He smiled, hoping she'd do the same.
Pepper looked away and simply shook her head at him. "Do you always have to get hurt when you're on a mission?"
"It's not that simple, Peps." He breathed. "You don't have to keep patching me up, you know. I could get Dummy to do it."
She breathed a laugh. "That would be a disaster."
"Yeah," he laughed with her. "I guess you're right." But the laugh quickly faded when he felt Pepper dab his shoulder with another cotton swab. He felt the stinging sensation after every single dab, but he had gotten so used to it. He didn't bother to make a sound.
Silence overtook the whole entire workshop. There was nothing left to say. Pepper was expecting him to say something about their relationship, since it got him hurt in the first place, but alas, not a peep was heard. Pepper took out some gauze and started wrapping his shoulder with it. She went around his wound twice before taking the opportunity to gaze up at him. Sure enough, their eyes immediately locked on to each other's.
Tony's lips started to curl upwards but Pepper immediately avoided it. She wrapped the gauze around his arm five more times before securing it with some tape. She picked up another roll of gauze. Her eyes were completely locked to his while her arms stretched behind and around his back. He looked down at her and swallowed hard, trying to restrict himself from kissing her. Pepper's eyes abruptly traveled down his chest. She began staring at the blood soaked neoprene suit that pooled at his waist.
Her eyes were a different color blue. It wasn't an ocean blue anymore. It was a darker blue. All of the signs were pointing at the same thing. For more than ten years she had worked for him, and as those years flew by, her emotions were mapped out in his brain like a mental check list. She was definitely pissed at him.
Pepper wrapped the gauze at an upward direction starting from his waist, and towards his shoulder, containing the shallow, and long laceration perfectly. She did this twice before wrapping it around his waist. After she secured it, she mindlessly trailed the gauze with her hands, noticing how some of it covered the arc reactor's calm blue glow.
"Tony." She softly croaked. His soft brown eyes looked down at her head, carefully searching for her face. He tried to contain her feelings, and his, by placing both of his hands on her waist.
"Pepper—" He mimicked her soft and gentle tone.
"You need to stop acting alone." She finally looked up at him. Tony's eyes grew wide in confusion.
"What do you mean acting alo—"
"You want to think about our relationship? Okay, fine. I'm fine with that, but don't think that you can't talk to me about it." She sternly told him. Her eyes filled with betrayal and hatred.
"I—I can't talk to you about it, Pepper." He tried to make her realize. "I'm not exactly the type that likes to share my feelings willy-nilly."
"Then don't let your emotions control Iron Man." She retracted her hands and let them fall into her lap.
"Iron Man has nothing to do with this, Tony." She lectured. "I don't care if you're having second thoughts about our relationship—"
"But I'm not, Pepper, I'm just—" He got cut off again.
"I certainly don't care if you want to think about things. Take a walk, go to the mall, build something stupid – do whatever you need to do to think things through but do not involve Iron Man." She breathed. Her hand grabbed the side of her head as if she were having a terrible headache. Tony watched as her hand dropped to her side. "You're human, Tony. Not some machine. Iron Man saves the world, and Tony Stark doesn't."
"What—" He furrowed his eyebrows at her in confusion. "That didn't make any sense—"
"The suit makes you a hero. The only thing separating you from Iron Man is your emotions." She reached up and placed her entire palm on his chest, covering his heart. "Everything in here, Tony." Pepper tried to make him understand, but the way his eyes were fixated on hers and the way his mouth gapped – she already knew that he was still befuddled.
Pepper looked away; disappointment engulfed her. She moved out of his grasp and stood up. Tony was speechless. All he did was watch her movements.
"I'm tired." She started to walk towards the glass door. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Are you staying here?" His voice sounded painful and full of confusion.
Pepper opened the glass door and turned around. Her blue eyes looked so deep. It looked like an abyss. "I'm going home, Tony."
Those few words felt like knives that wanted to pierce his heart at every single angle possible. "Oh."
"Please," She slowly blinked. "Think about what I said."
Those were the last words he heard her say that night. Despite her lecture and disappearance of her healing touch, he still patched himself up. With a bit of help from Dummy, he managed to put ointment on his calf and wrap gauze around it. He painfully ripped the rest of the neoprene suit off his body, and climbed into a grey cotton t-shirt and matching grey sweats. Her words were running through his head all night. It was until the last second of his wakefulness he solved her riddle.
Disappointment engulfed him as well.