Pepper slammed her car door shut and raced up the stairs to the living room. Tony, who also slammed his door shut, got his jacket stuck in the door. He yelled after Pepper, but she was already gone. By the time he untangled himself and got upstairs everyone was quiet and Pepper was nowhere to be seen. Betty, who was leaning against the couch, had her jaw dropped and was confused.
"Can you please explain to me why Pepper just screamed at Betty to stay away from her family and ran upstairs to the twins room?" Bruce asked angrily. Tony sighed.
"It's her mother instincts and protectiveness kicking in," he said calmly, well trying to stay calm. "General Ross was at the dinner this evening."
Betty bit her lip and the expression on Bruce's face changed. "What did he do?"
"He threatened to use his authority to take the twins away from us if Betty didn't leave you and go back to D.C with him."
Betty put her face in her hands and kicked the couch.
"Well can't SHIELD help or something?" Bruce says angrily.
"I'm afraid not," Natasha says and walks towards Bruce. "SHIELD is unknown to the majority of the government. It would expose all our operations if it got into the press."
"I'm so sorry for this Tony…" Betty says with watery eyes. "I should go…"
"No, wait!" Bruce says and grabs her elbow as she is walking towards the front door. Betty turned with a sad smile and tears running down her face. "I just… I just got you back."
For a moment, Bruce completely forgot there were others in the room and that this wasn't his house. Betty put a hand up to Bruce's face and stroked his cheek gently.
"Bruce, I have to. I can't put you or the Stark family in danger…"
"Then I will go with you and confront…"
Betty shook her head and more tears ran down her face. "You know you can't do that. Bruce, you've become something more than a man with radiation poisoning… You're in a position where you don't have to run anymore… because of the avengers and SHIELD."
Tony hated seeing his friend go through this, but he had to turn away to make sure Pepper was okay.
"I don't care! I'm not going to let him hurt you anymore!" Bruce says with hints of anger. Betty can see he will lose his temper soon, which would not be good. She takes his hand and wipes the tears off his face with the other.
"Bruce," Betty chokes out. "I love you, and I know you love me. I'm doing this for you."
"Promise me you won't lose your temper…."
Betty silenced him with a kiss. Bruce held her close for as long as he could before she moved away and he let go of her. She gave one final smile before turning and walking out of the Stark Manor. Bruce could feel the anger building inside of him, but instead of losing control tears fell from his face. He still had his back to the others and he watched Betty drive away. Without saying a word, Bruce walked out the door and just walked away. The others sat and stood in silence. Eventually, Tony came back downstairs and found them like that.
"Where is Bruce?" he asks.
"He left." Clint answers.
"How is Pepper?" Natasha asks and walks over to Tony. Tony sighs,
"She's cradling the twins in her arms and crying," he says without lying. "The thought of losing them really freaked her out."
"And how are you?" Lizzy asks and walks over to him. Tony bites his lip.
"I'm… I'm many things right now."
Lizzy nods and understands he doesn't want to express his feelings so she turns and heads upstairs to find her sister. She finds Pepper in her room on her bed with the twins in her arms. Though she was no longer crying, it was easy to tell she was from the red eyes. Lizzy doesn't say anything, instead she just sits on the bed next to her.
"I feel bad for yelling at Betty." Pepper says quietly, but her eyes don't leave the twins. Lizzy put an arm around Pepper's neck to hug her.
"Hey, none of this is your fault. You were doing what a mother does best and that was protecting your children."
Lizzy smiled, "The usual never giving away emotions but feeling a thousand."
Lizzy sighed and looked down at the twins. "He didn't do well with Betty leaving and he left shortly after she did."
Before Pepper can respond Tony comes back into the room. Lizzy gets up so the couple can be alone with their children. Tony took Will and held him.
"Everybody went out to go look for Bruce to make sure he stays out of trouble."
"Please don't think I'm cold hearted for ignoring Bruce, but I just…" Pepper begins, but Tony kisses her forehead.
"It's okay, I understand and I feel the same way. I promise you I won't let anybody get to them or you."
Pepper shifts closer and Tony wraps his free arm around her to pull her close. All he could do right now was hold his family close.
It was around three in the morning when Pepper woke up. Tony was passed out and looked a bit peaceful. She quietly got up and looked at the twins fast asleep in their cribs. Tony moved them in here until the threat was completely gone. Pepper opened the door slowly and shut it slowly before going downstairs. She got a snack and flipped on the tv. Thankfully there was nothing about the hulk on the news. So she just started watching The Big Bang Theory for a while.
About half way through she heard a noise in the kitchen. Concerned, she stood and tip toed over with a pair of scissors in her hands. She took a deep breath and turned the lights on and pointed the scissors at whoever was in the kitchen. Pepper relaxed when she saw it was only Bruce.
"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you," Bruce says and sits on a barstool. "Didn't think anybody would be awake."
Pepper put the scissors down on the counter and went to the fridge. She pulled out two beers and gave on to Bruce before sitting beside him.
"How are you doing?" she softly asks. Bruce takes a large sip of his drink and shrugs.
"I could lie and say I'm fine, but I'm not…"
They sit there in silence for a while, the sound of the Big Bang Theory could be heard in the distance though.
"Why is it always me Virginia?" Bruce eventually asks as he drowns himself in his beer. "Am I just destined to be alone? To be this… this monster and not have anybody beside me to help me through life? This immortal life I now have?"
Pepper puts her hand on his back and rubs calm circles on it like she does with Tony. "You're not destined to be alone Bruce, nobody in this world is…."
"But what if it's just been decided for me that because I am such a horrible person I don't deserve anyone? The world knows I hurt and break things so they keep the fragiles away?"
Pepper took a deep breath and turned Bruce's stool so he was looking at her.
"Bruce, you're not a bad person. You're a very good person who has had terrible things happen to. That does not mean you have to suffer the rest of your life. You're time will come whether it is with Betty or another woman. You can't give up."
Bruce gave a small smile and Pepper returned it.
"Tony's lucky to have you… Can I ask you something?" Bruce asks. Pepper nods and waits for him to ask his question. Bruce frowns a bit, "How did you know Tony was the one?"
Pepper gives a small smile and looks down at her engagement ring. She thinks over her response before answering. What neither she nor Bruce know is that Tony is standing in the shadows of the doorway, waiting for her response.
"It was the night Stane told me Tony had been kidnapped. I remember it as if it were yesterday," she says slowly and her eyes build tears. "I was sitting in the living room going through some emails Tony had neglected to respond to when Stane came in and sat down next to me. He told me what had happened, how Tony was ambushed and that there was no sign of him. After Stane left, I cried all night and prayed he would be found. I wasn't fully prepared for that I mean yes I did consider Tony a friend, but his track record of women kept me from believing we could ever be something more."
Bruce smiled, "I do remember reading about him and his… ladies."
Pepper chuckled a little bit and sighed, "It was hard sometimes. But then when we went to New Orleans together after he became Ironman everything changed. And here we are today."
Bruce nodded. By then he knew Tony was listening so he stood up.
"Thanks for the drink, I'm going to try and sleep now. I'll see you in the morning."
Pepper nodded and watched him walk away. She got up to go back to the living room when she felt Tony wrap his arms around her waist from behind. He nuzzled her neck and kissed it.
"You know what I think." Tony says as he repeatedly kisses her neck. Pepper smiles.
"Do I want to know?" she teases. Tony laughs.
"I think you should pick a date for our wedding."
Pepper's eyes go wide and she turns to look at him. He has a smile on his face and she begins to smile.
"Don't you think we need to pick a location before the date?"
Tony smiles and takes her hand. He leads her back up to their room and then goes into the closet. Pepper sits on their bed and waits for him to reappear. He comes back with a scrapbook and she gasps.
"You've got it all planned out already."
Pepper, in shock, looks at him with wide eyes. "But how…?"
"Your dad gave me it."
Pepper took it and Jarvis dimmed the lights so she could see. "I haven't seen this in years. I thought it was thrown out." She smiles as she looks through pictures she cut from magazines, some she took when she was in Disney, and what she took from Disney like napkins, bracelets, room keys, etc.
"I did say I wanted to take the twins there for their first birthday…" Tony says after a couple minutes of silence. Pepper had tears in her eyes and she nodded. They flipped through it together for a bit before turning the lights off for bed.
"Umm can you do me a favor tomorrow?"
"Is this a favor I'm already signed up to do?"
Tony clapped his hands and the lights dimmed again. He sat up and looked at Pepper. She was biting her lip and smiling.
"I have a dentist appointment tomorrow and I was supposed to do a press release with Stark Industries and it would be a big help if you did it for me."
Tony banged his head against the headboard.
"I'm not exactly the best with the press."
"Which is why I am sending Steve with you. He will be in the back for… well just in case."
Tony sighed, "Fine."
Pepper smiled and kissed him before going back to sleep. Tony sighed again before tucking in for the night.
"Now just remember stick to the script!" Pepper yaps at Tony on the phone. Tony was currently in the backseat of his car with Happy driving and Steve next to him, who doesn't look thrilled to be there, too.
"Yes dear…. yes….. yes…. awe."
Steve chuckled a bit and Tony hung up.
"The last time I did this I told the world I am Ironman and shut down the industry."
Steve nodded, "Yeah I would avoid that today… we have dinner plans with you guys tonight and I was hoping you'd remain civil."
Happy pulled up to Stark Industries where the press was already waiting outside. Happy filled his role as bodyguard and led Tony in while Steve kept a few steps behind to stay out of the press's eyes. When they entered the building Tony went to the podium.
"Okay, thank you all for coming I just have a couple of quick announcements…"
Pepper fidgets in her chair at the dentist as she watches Tony on tv.
"I don't know why you're so worried," Lizzy says as she flips through a magazine while her sister's teeth are being clean. "He sounds and looks fine."
"I alays wooy hen he ish wit peeple" Pepper tries to say while the dentist is in her mouth. Lizzy laughs.
"Any final questions?" Tony asks as he begins to wrap it up. One man in the back raises his hand.
"Have there been plans to have another reopening of Stark Industries Dallas?"
"Er… not at the moment we've been a bit preoccupied."
Steve could feel the mood in the room changing. "Oh….. boy…"
"Have the Avengers made any plans to reapproach the villain that escaped?"
"Not at the moment."
"But are you planning to?"
"Make a plan?"
"How are you handling General Ross's threat about removing your children from your home, claiming it is unsafe?"
Tony snapped his head and looked at the reporter.
"How the hell do you know about that?" he snaps. Steve's eyes go wide and now he knew this was going south.
"Sources." the woman replies.
"Well tell your sources to shove it. We're done." Tony angrily says and storms off the stage.
"It isn't unreasonable for people to be concerned about your children!" the lady yells. "They shouldn't be treated any differently than any other child."
Tony made a fist and walked over to the lady.
"Let me tell you something," he growls and shakes Steve off his arm, who is trying to get him away. "Virginia is a damn good mother and everybody who is close to us knows that. I will fight anybody to the death if they even try to take them away from her and me. They are nothing but safe and loved in our house and anybody, including General Ross, who says otherwise can go to hell."
Steve grabbed Tony with more force and pulled him away and Happy helped get him into the car.
I apologize for the delay. I felt like updating was a chore rather than writing for fun and I thought I jumped the shark because people weren't reviewing anymore and I got discouraged. But I will do my best to keep going and any feedback is greatly appreciated!