A/N: My apologies for not updating sooner! I did post a joke chapter earlier, but I didn't put it on ffnet- only deviantART. If you want to check it out then here is the link: fav . me/d5v6or4 with no spaces. Warning, though, it is incredibly random. A lot of work went into this chapter- I hope you enjoy it!
There was something fading in and out of focus, but it wasn't the room. Not unless the room was filled with countless glittering stars.
There was another thing, too. A huge face. Who was it? It was rather difficult to tell with such a foggy brain and such flickery vision. But it did resemble someone…
"Fools," said Loki's head, if that was indeed who it was. "It's too easy! It's far too easy to deceive you. You've rather disappointed me, you know."
Pepper blinked desperately. "What?" she mumbled, shaking her head in an attempt to clear it and squinting hard.
Loki laughed, but it sounded off, somehow.
"You're all so simple. So vacant. Oh, this has been fun. But the party's over, my friends, and we must return to work. I have so much more to do… So much worse to do. So long. Perhaps we shall meet again." Loki's face disappeared, and so did everything else.
Pepper's eyes blinked open for real.
She was sat on a couch. A bit anticlimactic after everything she'd been through, she thought. It was just a couch.
She stretched, and her fist collided with something warm, soft and a little scratchy.
The something grunted.
Pepper froze. Slowly, not even daring to breathe, she looked up to see Tony's stubbled face smiling down at her own.
"Morning," he said.
Pepper shrieked and tumbled off the couch.
From her new vantage point on the soft carpet, it was easier to take stock of the situation.
Six people were asleep on the couch… And one Tony was wide awake and smirking at her.
"You punched me," he mock-whined, putting on a puppy-dog face. "That's not very nice."
"You're an adult!"
"Well, yes, I think it's about time you realised that," he chuckled. "Oh, Tony, you're such a child," he mimicked her. "Act your age, Tony! Tony, stop being so immature!"
"Are you okay?" Pepper frantically scrambled to her feet and pulled up his shirt.
Tony whistled. "How forward, Miss. Potts."
She frowned at him and looked closely at the arc reactor. It was at normal size and glowing, glowing the same friendly blue that she'd become accustomed to. His heart was beating steadily. No sign of a fever. In fact, he looked… Healthy.
Her eyes widened. This… This was nothing short of…
"A miracle," she whispered.
Tony grew serious. "It's not a miracle," he said softly.
"'Course it is," she replied immediately. "Even you can't call it a tragedy."
"No. It's not a miracle because you were the one who made it happen, Pep." Tony looked at her, his eyes fixed.
Pepper looked down. "Stop it," she said, trying to sound stern and nonchalant.
"No." The corner of Tony's mouth twitched into his usual confident smile. "It's true."
"You've always overestimated me." She smiled awkwardly.
"I've been underestimating you," he corrected. "You've been so brave."
She snorted. "Brave? C'mon. You're a superhero. I'm just your personal assistant. The bravest thing I do is try and balance your hot coffee when you're busy exploding things."
"What about when you tried to distract the Hulk? That was the bravest and most foolish thing I've ever seen."
"Oh, that was the most stupid thing you've ever seen. Wow. You really need to sort out your priorities. Tell me, how many times have you been on the news in the past two months?"
"Pepper." Tony's gaze hadn't wavered. "I'm being serious. I know it's not easy to look out for us. I must have be even harder when we were kids, and harder again when we were sick. Fury did something right- he called you. You were the only one who would do it. And I- I'm so proud of you." He pulled her to him and hugged her tightly.
Pepper's lip trembled. "I love you," she whispered.
He pushed her away and looked at her carefully before pressing his lips firmly on hers. "I love you, too," he mumbled.
Next to them, Natasha stirred. "Mmf," she mumbled, and then sat bolt upright. "Clint?" she rasped, her voice slightly hysterical, just as it had been on all the missions they'd ever shared.
She turned wildly, and relaxed slightly when she saw him twitching on the couch beside her. She shook him violently.
"Argh! No, don't put the orange on the chicken! What? Natasha? What?" Clint babbled wildly for a moment before his eyes focused.
Natasha sighed with relief and settled back against the back of the couch.
"Nat? You okay?" He sounded calm and collected, just like he always did in a pressured situation.
She nodded, swallowing. "You?"
He smirked. "When am I not?"
"When I have to save your ass in basically every mission?" she replied drily.
"Ah, it's not every mission." He grinned easily as Natasha rolled her eyes. His own eyes grew a bit more sombre, and he asked quietly, "Really, though. Are you okay?"
"Sure," she mumbled. "I mean, why would being turned into a toddler make me anything but okay?"
"Sorry." She sighed and relaxed against Clint, who put his arm around her. "I dunno. I am okay, really, but… A little different, maybe."
"Yeah. Me too." He looked uncomfortable. "It's weird."
She nodded, and an awkward silence followed.
Not unexpectedly, Clint tried to break the silence. He cleared his throat, but before he could say anything, Natasha leaned over and kissed him softly.
She pulled away, and Clint blinked several times, apparently needing to clear his head.
"Love is for children," she said quietly, echoing what she'd said to Loki all that time ago. "Maybe this is what we needed to help me see that we're just children grown up."
Clint blinked a couple more times, and smiled. A small, tentative smile. And suddenly, they were just children again. Innocent and naive. And for the first time in their lives, they were okay with it.
Thor and Loki eyed the two couples uneasily.
"Don't get any ideas, brother," Loki joked, with an undertone of warning.
"Loki, you're disgusting," groaned Thor, shoving him.
Getting serious again, Thor asked, "Why would you do this?"
Loki scowled. "I didn't."
"Ask Pepper," Loki suggested.
"Ask Pepper what?" Steve wondered, groaning as he shook his numb arm.
Bruce didn't say anything, glancing uneasily over at the other side of the couch and looking just as uncomfortable as the other three.
"It is… a long story," answered Loki, a little cranky. "But it's not always my fault."
Pepper looked away from Tony for a moment, and at Loki. Her eyebrows were creased. She opened her mouth to say something, but at that moment, the door burst open and Fury hurried in.
He relaxed as he saw the eight exhausted but seemingly healthy adults on the couch. "It worked," he sighed. "Thank goodness for that."
Tony stood suddenly, and offered his hand to Pepper. "Well," he said. "I don't know about you lot, but I'm going home."
"Me too," said Steve immediately. "I, uh, need to rethink my entire life." He threw a sideways glance at Clint and Natasha, who were discreetly holding hands.
The others murmured assent and stood, not entirely sure what to say to each other after the massive ordeal.
"Wait!" Fury protested. "We need to run tests, make sure it's really safe-"
"Oh, sod it, Fury," yawned Bruce, and the others stared at him. "What?" he asked, somewhat self-consciously. "I'm too tired to care about even science right now."
Fury looked on helplessly as the eight of them straggled outside in a ragged line. "I'll be in touch," he called after them.
"No doubt," muttered Pepper, and they headed home.
**SEVERAL WEEKS LATER**
Pepper shot to her feet. "What'sthematterisTonyalright? Why isn't he home yet? Has somebody called?"
"Miss. Potts, Director Fury is on the phone."
"I'm sure everything is fine," soothed JARVIS.
Pepper swallowed. "Yes, uhm... Answer the call. Hello, Director Fury," she added as JARVIS put her on the line. "Is everything alright?"
"Miss. Potts," Fury acknowledged. "I'm afraid we're going to need you to come in."
Just then, Tony walked in. "Hi Pepper," he said. "What's up?"
Pepper glanced at him, and smiled.
"Sorry, Nick," she said. "But I'm off the clock." And she hung up with a grin to the sweet sound of anxious protest from Director Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. himself.
A/N: It's over! How sad it feels to finally have made my last update on this long running and beloved story of mine :') Thank you all so much for your support and lovely words, I couldn't have asked for a greater response and I certainly couldn't have expected a readership of this magnitude.
I do feel that I need to clear this up: I won't tell you who did it. :) Either it was Loki, or it was another villain- one who you'll never have heard of because if it wasn't Loki then it'll be a villain I've made up. But I won't tell you which, so you decide.
Perhaps I'll write a sequel one day, but that's not very likely.
Anyway, thank you all again, I love you all. Don't unfollow the story in case I decide to upload more antics (antics which happened but weren't recorded in the actual story)- unless of course you don't want to hear about them :) I'm not sure if I will, though, so we'll see. My deviantART account is fairybubblepuppy. deviantart .com (no spaces) and I do upload a great deal more stuff there, and of course feel free to follow me here on if you want to see more from me.
That's all! Please, please, please review and tell me what you think of this chapter, which has been a long time coming. All the best to you all, love and cupcakes for everyone!