A/N: Per Me's request, here's a chapter for Pepper. Thanks for the idea, Me. Thanks to everyone who reviewed, or added this story to their Favorites or Alerts lists.


"That was easy," Steve noted as they gathered after taking out the last of the attack robots.

"Too easy," Natasha added.

"A distraction," Clint put in.

"A distraction? It is common tactic, but a distraction from what?" Thor asked.

"Clint, if you wanted to hurt Tony…" Natasha began.

"I'd ignore him, or better yet get him out of the way, and go after-"

"Pepper! We were just leaving for that meeting when this pulled me away…" At the time he'd been glad to be spared the meeting, but he'd left Pepper unprotected. Happy was on vacation, so she didn't even have him. Iron Man took off to the road she'd have taken.

By the time the others arrived, Tony had the Iron Man suit off, and was holding Pepper's dead body against him, refusing to let the paramedics take her.

The grief Bruce felt, and concern for Tony, overwhelmed his anger – at least for the moment. He knew Hulk liked 'Metal Man', and wondered if Hulk understood that right now Metal Man needed him as Bruce, not Hulk. "Tony…" Bruce began. "You need to let them take her."

"No! They can't help her now!"

Half an hour later Tony finally handed her over to Bruce, who gave her to the paramedics.

They arrived at Stark/Avengers Tower and Tony, the grieving lover, disappeared into the genius Avenger. "Hawk, I need to you watch any security footage you can get your eyes on. If anyone's going to see something that will help us, it's you."

Clint nodded.

"JARVIS, get him any relevant footage you can – I don't care how."

"Already downloading it, Sir. It's on the computer in your room, Mr. Barton."

"Natasha –"

"I'm going to Stark Industries. If this ever happened… Pepper wanted me to retake my place as your assistant/her replacement; and take care of things at Stark Industries for a while. I have the paperwork for The Board. I'll handle the press as well." It went unsaid that Pepper had known Tony wouldn't have Stark Industries as a priority for a long while.

Tony nodded.

"But I'll be here when it's time to go after whoever killed my friend," she added.

"Never doubted that," Tony said, knowing how close Pepper and Natasha had become.


While their days were busy, at night Clint would hold Natasha as she cried, his own tears falling down his cheeks. Their training session became even more intense, as they used the sparring to help work out the anger they felt.


When they arrived at the enemy base, Bruce didn't even try to fight the transformation. Hulk had been unusually patient; and after killing Pepper, they deserved whatever Hulk did. It was isolated, so no real danger of Hulk hurting an innocent.

Hulk didn't wait for orders, just rushed the building. "Kill Pep! BAD!" Hulk growled at the enemy before beginning the serious smashing. He didn't leave much for the others. They were mostly on clean up, catching those who tried to flee Hulk's wrath.

Hulk knew Pep made Metal Man happy, and that Pep liked Little Doctor and Hulk. He was even angrier than usual at the ones who'd killed her. He was enjoying smashing them, and for once Little Doctor agreed with all the smashing.


It had been stormy for a few days when Steve approached Thor. "Been stormy for a while now, Thor."

"And it will be stormy for a while longer, Captain. With the death of Lady Pepper this city has lost much of its light and beauty. The city should know that," Thor answered. Before Steve could say anything else, Thor turned and left.

Tony had been walking by, and gave Thor a small, but grateful, smile as they passed. Thor took that to mean that Tony had heard the conversation, which he had, and approved of his actions, which he did.

The stormy weather continued for almost two weeks. There was only occasional rain, but the sun was never seen. The city's light had been taken from it.

Steve headed down to the gym, and destroyed several punching bags. Then he drew a large image of Tony and Pepper, both smiling and happy, which he gave to Tony. Tony thanked Steve, and hung the image in his bedroom. Steve also drew a smaller 8x10 picture of Pepper with the loving, indulgent look they'd only seen directed at Tony. That picture ended up on Tony's desk.


At the funeral Thor, Bruce, Steve, and Clint acted as paul bearers. Tony walked behind the casket with Natasha at his side.

Once the funeral was over, Tony retreated to his Malibu mansion to grieve. Only the Avengers and Col. Rhodes were allowed access to the mansion. He left Happy in New York to be Natasha's driver as she oversaw Stark Industries for him.