Title: You Only Live Twice
Prompt: 'It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses and apologized to no one.' – V for Vendetta
Rating: T – naughty language
Warnings: Language and darker themes.
Summary: Roses make him feel sick.
Author's Note:Apologies for the darker turn this one took. Also I have taken some creative license with the age difference between Tony and Pepper.

When Tony is 24 he thinks that he may die.

He's in this God awful nightclub in the middle of Serbia or some other Eastern European country that his country's government won't give a shit about for another decade or so and he really thinks that he may die here.

He's lying on the floor of the men's room in what he hopes to hell and back is not urine and is actually just the vomit he produced about ten minutes ago. But he can't be sure. He's been blacking out for long periods of time and he's not even sure what his address is anymore.

So he probably is lying in someone else's urine.

But that's not his main concern at the moment.

His main concern is that his vision is blurring and he can't feel his tongue anymore. The thought makes him laugh and all of a sudden he's giggling like some insane person. His ears are picking up some strange, hollow sounding laughter and it takes him a couple of minutes to realise that he's making that God awful noise.

A man stumbles into the bathroom, sees Tony sprawled out on the floor and mutters something in fucking Russian or something and leaves as quickly as he can in his state. He bumps into the door frame and falls down the steps leading to the dance floor.

He's doing a lot better than Tony.

The bass is pounding in his ears and he can feel his heart racing in his chest. There's something dripping onto his upper lip and it tastes metallic so he assumes his nose is bleeding but he can't find the energy to raise his hands to his face and actually check. He guesses that snorting whatever it was he snorted and then moving onto another shot of tequila after the bottle of whiskey he polished off was an error in his usually impeccable judgement.

He watches blood splash onto the bathroom floor and he thinks it is pathetic that his life will end in some grubby Eastern European toilet.

But then the best people are always taken in the most mundane and ridiculous of ways.

His parents are no exception.

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Obadiah announces at the funeral that Maria Stark's favourite flower was a red rose and Tony weeps even harder. There is so much he doesn't know about his parents and they're dead now so he supposes he never will.

When Tony finally actually looks around the funeral hall there is sheath of red that greets him. Every surface is covered with roses and the sight is horrific. It doesn't make him think of happy times or his mother, it makes him think of death and blood and gore. It makes him think of the windshield covered with his parents' insides. It makes him think of the coroner who announced that whilst his father died instantly his mother bled out in the passenger seat next to the corpse of her husband.

It makes him feel sick.

The sight of roses makes him feel sick.

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It is 3 years later and he can honestly say that he hasn't recovered from the loss of his parents. But then anyone with half a brain could tell that just from looking at him.

His Armani suit is definitely ruined.

His brain is slowly turning off and everything is going hazy so Tony barely flinches when the bathroom door bangs open again.

"Jesus, Tony."

He looks up at the sound of the voice and sees some redhead standing in the doorway. It's definitely a female because he can just about make out the curve of her calf disappearing beneath a tailored skirt. She's barking orders into a phone at her ear and he thinks he should recognise her but it's too much effort. She marches towards him, her shoes sticking slightly to the floor, and she crouches beside him so he reaches out to curl his hand around that soft looking flesh.

Her incessant babbling stops momentarily.

"Stop it, Tony." Her voice is gentle, soothing and she removes his hand gently from her legs but binds their fingers together.

It's a small comfort but he is so grateful for it that he could sob.

He tries to speak but can't find the energy to move his lips. The door bangs open again and a couple of guys in high visibility jackets come racing across the room.

That's when he, rather spectacularly, throws up and blacks out.

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When he wakes up in the hospital everything hurts.

And that's how he knows he is still alive. Against the odds.

He eventually manages to crack his eyes open, the bright light is painful at first but then he sets his eyes on her and he instantly feels a little better.

Pepper Potts, perfect as ever, has her hands on her hips and is staring at him with what he assumes is her best attempt at 'livid'. It's pretty terrifying for a 22 year old but he can't tell her that.
"Ah, Potts." His voice is scratchy and he winces slightly. "My angel of mercy." His grin is tight and he refuses to admit how genuinely petrified he was of dying.

"Hardly." He tries to sit up and flinches before laying back down. "I was the one that suggested you had your stomach pumped."

Her raised eyebrow and tone of voice, pity and triumph mixed altogether, is enough to make him laugh.

It hurts and he instantly regrets it but as she approaches him with a glass of water and a worried frown he notices the flowers in a vase on his bedside table.

Unblemished, white lilies.

He shares a secret smile with Pepper.

"I thought I was going to die last night."

"So did I." Her words are honest rather than angry.

"I don't know what I'm doing. I just don't -" He shakes his head and tries to explain. "For three years I had roses arriving at my door nearly every day and the constant memory of my parents' deaths and I...I've never..." He pauses and takes her hand. She's shocked but says nothing. He looks her dead in the eyes, willing her to feel his sincerity. The tears make it hard. "I'm sorry, Pepper."

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The next day the papers are full of pictures and eulogies from the Stark funeral. Obadiah's touching speech has inspired the multitudes and they send gifts and remembrances.

Most popular, of course, are roses.

Flowers arrive by the van load and, at first, Tony accepts the bundles despite the strange lurching sensation in his stomach each time he gets a new delivery. But they are meant as a remembrance to his parents and it would be disrespectful to turn them away. This grudging acceptance soon turns to irritation and then develops into pure rage when 5 months have passed and the damned flowers and are still being delivered most days.

Sundays are his only respite.

He ends up giving the flowers away to everyone and anyone. When he hires Pepper he tries to give her a vase full of the rosy blooms to decorate her new office. She wrinkles her nose and tells him that she doesn't really like roses. She thinks they are a cliché and a poor imitation of real feelings. She prefers lilies because many people associate them with death but they can actually signify elegance and grace.

Tony thinks that is the moment that he started falling in love with her.

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There will be a kidnapping in Afghanistan, adventures with Ironman and kisses on rooftops.

But Tony won't buy Pepper roses. He will buy her lilies.

Years later, beside her hospital bed, he will squeeze her hand and try not to cry. She will smile and comfort him as only she knows how.

"Don't be sad, Tony. For 30 years I had lilies and apologized to no one."

The tears will flow freely and he will think how lucky he was to have a love as great as hers.

&&Fin