It's over. She left. No more Pepper nagging him to sign those papers or go to that meeting. No more having someone yell at him when he doesn't follow directions. No one crying when he comes back hurt. No one reminding him to eat and sleep because "You're not a machine, Tony!" No one to talk to when missions get bad. No one to tell him that he's doing a good thing, being Iron Man. No one to care about him anymore. Pepper is gone, and she's not coming back.
Not if Tony has any say in it.
He tried so hard. Tony tried to be perfect, to always do the right thing, to be the boyfriend that girls dream of. He cut back on his drinking, he tried to make time for her everyday outside of the lab, surprised her with nice gifts. Hell, he even started to go to meetings on time. He told her he loved her. He thought that she knew him, thought it would be enough for her. Tony was apparently wrong.
He was very wrong, because Pepper cheated on him.
Happy was driving Tony back to the Tower when he saw them, Pepper and some guy with stupid hair. They were holding hands, which, okay doesn't necessarily mean something's wrong, but then they started kissing and Tony's world just ended right there. Pepper was kissing another man. Pepper was kissing someone that wasn't him, and that was not okay, will never be okay.
She never said anything aside from the usual. Never said that there was something lacking, something he wasn't giving her that she needed from the relationship. That's what hurt the most. She never said something was wrong. He never knew something was wrong until that moment.
Happy finished driving Tony back to the Tower, never saying anything even though he saw them too. Happy saw how Pepper broke Tony's heart in the span of five seconds. He saw the expression on Tony's face and didn't know what to do, so he did nothing at all. Tony left the car silently.
He went to the main kitchen and waited. She came up an hour later.
"Hey, Tony" she said with a smile. There was nothing different about her facial expression. There was no guilt or shame, just happiness.
"Hey," Tony said quietly. It was then she noticed something was off.
"Who was he?"
She paused for a second. There was a flash of panic before her face settled into confusion. "Who was who?"
"Who was the man that you were kissing? Is he your boyfriend on the side?"
"Tony, what are you talking abo-"
"I saw you! Just a few minutes ago, holding hands, kissing that man! How dare you!"
"How dare I what, Tony? Find someone who actually pays attention to me. Who isn't choosing his job over me? " She said with tears starting to fall.
"You never said anything was wrong! You never asked for anything!" Tony yelled with tears in his eyes as well.
"I shouldn't have to ask, Tony. It's Relationships 101, spend time with your partner, go on nice dates every once in a while, be romant-"
"Don't cheat on them?"
"Don't blame all of this on me! If you weren't such a emotionally backwards child I wouldn't have cheated on you."
"I tried so hard, Pep. I always thought it was me who was going to make the huge mistake, but I was wrong. I thought I could trust you. I guess I was wrong on that front too.
She stares at him for a few seconds, eyes red with tears, full of anger. Then she turns on her heel and walks out.
A few minutes later the rest of the Avengers walk in. "Hey, Tony, we just saw Pepper walking out in tears. What the hell did you do?" said Clint.
"Fuck off." Was Tony's reply as he escaped into his lab.
A few hours later Tony called Rhodey. He was currently on a mission in Afghanistan with the War Machine suit.
"Hey what's up, man?"
"Pepper and I broke up."
"What! What happened? What did you do?" Tony wondered if everyone was going to ask him that. He wondered if he was so bad that Pepper was justified in cheating on him.
"Never mind." Tony hung up.
It had been a week since Pepper walked out and Steve was worried. The wellbeing of the team was his concern. If anyone was hurt physically or mentally it was his job to make sure that they're okay and get the help they need, but it was more than that this time.
Steve admitted to himself that their initial meeting could have gone better and that the reason it didn't was mostly his fault. He judged the shorter man too quickly, and he apologized as soon as he was able. Once they moved past their first argument they got on surprisingly well. Steve was lost in the twenty-first century with its cell phones, internet, HD television, and fast cars. There was so much he needed to learn in order to live like how to use the microwave and the coffee machine, how to turn on the television, and how to use the darn phone. Living with Tony in his Tower actually made learning easier, despite the Tower being the most technologically advanced building in New York City . If he had any problems he could ask Tony, and if Tony was too busy he could just ask JARVIS.
The first time Steve had a problem he went down to Tony's lab to ask for help as he was still weary of JARVIS (the man in the ceiling). When Steve asked his question Tony didn't laugh as he expected. Tony just explained as simply as he could and said "If you have any more questions just ask me, or if you don't want to, ask JARVIS. I'm always here to help." Tony didn't lie. Every time Steve had a question Tony answered without judging, and eventually Steve went down to Tony's lab just to talk when the CEO wasn't too busy.
They were friends, good friends, but Steve couldn't help it if he wanted more.
That wasn't the point though. The point was that it had been a week since Pepper walked out and Tony hadn't left the lab for a week, except for one food trip. He even slept in the cot that was there because of the nights when he didn't have enough energy left to go to the elevator. After Pepper left Tony went straight to the lab and put it on lock down. No one was allowed in the lab unless they had permission and no one had permission, not even Steve.
Tony's one trip away from the lab was worrying. He came to the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, and made a sandwich. The whole time he didn't say one word. Tony looked dead on his feet. There were dark circles under his eyes, he was very pale, his shirt and pants were covered in stains, and his posture was slumped in almost defeat.
Something was very wrong.
Clint was the only one who attempted to talk to him.
"Man, you look like shit. If you just apologize to her then maybe she'll take you back."
Tony said nothing.
"What did you do to her anyway?"
At that question Tony's posture slumped even more. He finished his sandwich and left as silently as he came.
Steve decided right then and there that maybe another attempt to enter the lab was in order. He waited for about half an hour, and then went to the staircase (JARVIS controlled the elevators).
"Tony can I come in?"
"Go away!" At least he said something, Steve thought.
"Come on, Tony. Please."
There was no response. Steve decided that he would wait outside the door until Tony opened it. He would have to eventually let Steve in, right?
"JARVIS, make sure that Tony knows I'm still waiting here."
"Of course, Mr. Rogers"
It took two hours for Tony to let Steve in. He didn't see Tony when he first entered the lab.
"Where are you?"
"Right here." Tony was sitting next to one of his cars with his back against the wall. He looked remarkably small compared to what Steve was used to when being with Tony. Tony's large ego and personality easily made up his lack in height. He went to sit next to Tony. Their shoulders brushing against each other.
"What happened, Tony? Did Pepper do something?" Tony looked over to Steve in surprise.
"You're the first person to ask me that. Everyone else just assumes that I did something wrong, because, let's be honest, that would normally be the case."
"Tony...just tell me what happened."
"She cheated on me, Steve. Pepper cheated on me." Steve didn't know how to respond. Pepper? He would never have thought that.
"I mean I understand that I'm not the best boyfriend in the world, but that doesn't mean that she had the right to cheat on me, right? I wasn't that bad. I didn't deserve that, right?"
"Of course not, Tony. You were a good boyfriend to her. If she wanted someone else she should have broken up with you first, not cheated on you." At those words Tony's body lost some of its tension.
"If you ever have a problem with me promise that you'll say something. Don't lie to me." said Tony while looking Steve in the eyes.
They sat in silence next to each other for a few more hours, taking comfort in the presence of one another. And if Steve decides that he'll tell Tony about his feelings once Tony is ready, well that's really only his business, isn't it?
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