Hello! Well here it is. The last chapter. The end of this great adventure with you all. Thank you so much for reading and following this story. It really was wonderfl to have such a response to it, especially when this was originally only a one-shot and nothing more. So thank you all and I hope I will see some of you on my other stories or on yours!
So no more blabla and good chapter!
His mind finally kicked in and he threw himself on the side, the second Newman shot. His body collided hard with the ground, his thigh hitting painfully the floor and sending spikes of pain to his brain. He closed his eyes tightly and willed it away, feeling suddenly really tired.
There were hands on his arm and he let them turn him onto his back. "Please, Tony." He opened his eyes, ignoring the way the light seemed to burn his retina. His eyes focused on something just above his head and he smiled when he recognized Pepper's face. There were tears in her eyes and a smile was slowly making its way on her lips. "Tony," she whispered, relief filling the single word, joy vibrating in her voice.
"Hey, Pepper." He raised his right hand and pushed a lock of her hair behind her ear, resting his palm on her cheek. "Told you trouble was the one to find me." She shook her head. "Never the other way around."
He looked around and saw all of the Avengers hovering just behind Pepper, concern and joy mixed in on their face. They all came. Again.
He closed his eyes, feeling safe, knowing they were all there, and let his mind slip into the oh so welcoming unconsciousness.
Fury narrowed his eye as he looked at the images that were on every single TV channel. The Avengers as well as Pepper Potts and James Rhodes were there, sitting around the table, listening in on the news that had been on everyone's lips for the past few hours. The Attack on Tony Stark, but not just any attack, no. One that took place at the Stark Tower itself, where all the Avengers lived.
"… incredible response of the Avengers to the attack on Tony Stark this morning. As you can see the ones known as Black Widow and Hawkeye were both on the scene when the first shot sounded…"
People were moving on the screen, away from the room while the two agents could be seen, heading straight towards it, with their weapons drawn.
"… used to those attacks, judging by the way she was moving in sync with them. The efficiency and swiftness of the response to this attack proved the Avengers are a force to be reckoned with…"
Suddenly Thor, Steve and the Hulk were there as well and quickly everything came to an end as the winning side moved to the room. The camera followed them but stayed a respectable distance away, simply filming the events as Natasha opened the door.
"… close to death as you can see on those very images. Tony Stark was at gun point, ready to be executed, if not for the intervention of not one but three people. Captain America, Hawkeye and Iron Patriot did not miss their target…"
Pepper winced when she saw, for the second time, the state that triple attack put the man into. The arrow had planted itself into his throat which had been entirely cut in the second hat followed by the shield. The head had flew against the wall next to the opened door and the beam Rhodey had sent had burnt a hole inside the man's chest. If Tony hadn't thrown himself to the side, that beam wouldn't have left anything of his head.
"… put a new light on not only the Avengers, but the relations that seemed to bind them. A simple look at the concern on all of their faces as one of their own might very well be dead is enough to realize the team defending us, defending the planet is one we can trust…"
The camera zoomed in on each face, passing over Steve's wide blue eyes as his gaze remained fixed on Tony's form on the ground, Natasha's guarded look but worried chewing of her lips, Clint's swallow as he took a shaking breath, Thor's opened fear displayed all over his face, the Hulk's defeated posture, then moving on to Rhodey's rapid breathing and dark eyes. Finally the camera moved down to her own face, to her tears of joy and concern and relief, to her smile.
"… confirm what was suspected for quite some time now: the relationship between Stark Industries' CEO, Pepper Potts, and billionaire genius, Tony Stark…"
A little zoom out, just enough to be able to see Tony and her at the same time. Tony's smile and opened brown eyes, as he moved his hand to her face, as his thumb wiped some tears away.
For the first time Pepper saw what people saw when they looked at the both of them when they were sharing a moment. She saw the love shining in their eyes, she saw Tony's opened walls – not completely, almost never completely – she saw her own guard failing her as she relaxed completely.
"America, do not fear anymore. Such a team cannot be broken easily. You are protected."
The next image was of the team surrounding the gurney on which Tony was, Pepper holding one of his hands, Happy and Rhodey by her side, both with a hand on her shoulders. None of them were paying much attention to the cameras or the journalists around the room. They were looking over Tony and the other injured people, also on gurneys and being carried into ambulances.
Fury turned off the TV then and moved his attention to them. "Somehow, this turned into good publicity."
A ghost of a smile appeared on Bruce's lips. "A miracle. Are you sure Tony didn't intervene somewhere along the way?"
Pepper snorted. "He's so out of it, he asked why Mike punched him. I had to explain to him he wasn't at a boarding meeting and so Mike couldn't have hit him."
Rhodey laughed and put his hand on his mouth to try and muffle it a bit. Clint bit into his hand as he remembered the face Tony had made when she told him that.
Fury sighed. "Do you think Stark will stop ending up in my infirmary for the next month at the very least? I've seen him there enough and doctors are starting to complain."
"Only now?" Clint asked, with disbelieving eyes. Natasha smacked his arm, sending him a look. He just shrugged, not embarrassed at all.
Thor smiled happily. "We will make sure the Man of Iron stay out of danger."
"Do you think it's possible to tie him down on the couch for the next month?" Steve asked idly, arms crossed over his chest, eyes shining with amusement. Bruce grinned at the thought while Natasha raised an interested eyebrow.
Rhodey scoffed. "He'll find a way to still hurt himself." Pepper closed her eyes, smiling and brushed her hair back from her face.
"Who's gonna hurt himself?" A voice asked behind her. She wiped her head back and raised her eyebrows at Tony when he smiled cheekily at her. "Doc let me out when I made the alarms go off twice. Said they couldn't bother keeping me around."
Exasperated and fond sighs escaped all the people around the room as she rose from her seat while throwing him a disapproving look. "I thought I told you to be nice."
"I was!" he protested. "They just wouldn't let me be my genius self. What was I supposed to do down there with nothing but a stupid remote to a dinosaur of a TV?" She heard somebody – somebodies – snort behind her at that. "It's not funny, Clint and – Rhodey? How dare you betray me like that, siding with Robin Hood!"
A chair scraped the floor and she moved to the side, to be able to see the rest of the people there. Rhodey was up and moving towards Tony, a bid smile on his face. "You know what, Tony, it's good to have you back."
Tony narrowed his eyes. "Don't think you got me fooled, platypus, I'm not gonna forget you sided with a bird over your best buddy." Clint rolled his eyes and crossed his arms.
"Platypus?" Thor asked, confused.
They all looked at him, then the attention snapped to Tony and Rhodey who were glancing at each other. Rhodey scratched his chin while the inventor shrugged. Bruce decided to at least cleared Thor's confusion a little. "It's some kind of animal. It's very peculiar. I'll show you a picture of one if you want."
"What I want to know is why you would call him that," Clint asked, snickering. "Cause really Iron ass, I don't see why he shouldn't side with me seeing as he lays eggs just like a bird."
"I don't lay eggs!" Rhodey cried indignantly while Tony started laughing.
Fury let his head fall into his hands and grumbled something that sounded a lot like: "I'm in a kindergarten."
Pepper simply smiled and wrapped her arms around Tony's waist careful of his yet-to-be-healed ribs, leaning into him slightly and listening absently to Clint, Rhodey and Tony's back and forth. She felt his arm around her shoulders and, looking over the team, her boyfriend's relaxed posture, she knew everything was going to be alright again.
"Seriously, you can't stay any longer?"
Steve looked up from his sketchbook to see Rhodey (as he had insisted everyone called him that) and Tony enter the living room where he was. Tony no longer had his crutch but he was still moving slowly and limping. Unfortunately no one had managed to get him to keep on using the crutch for a while longer. Therefore the genius had ditched it two days ago, judging there was no way he would be appearing at the New year's Eve with it (It doesn't go with my style. – This isn't about style, it's about your health, Tony. – Discussion closed, Dummy, here's a new toy for you!). The robot had loved it and rendered it completely useless after managing to bend it.
They didn't seem to realize he was there as Rhodey sighed and stopped to face Tony. "I came against my direct orders in the first place Tony. It's been three weeks, I have to go back."
"A week! Just a week! Come on, I almost never see you cause you're always somewhere in Asia!" Tony whined, which made Steve smile. The billionaire could really sound like a child sometimes.
"I'll come back flying."
Tony rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. "I should have never let you have the suit."
"You'll be fine, Tony," the colonel said, putting a hand on Tony's shoulder.
He visibly deflated. "It was better when you were hanging around the States." He grabbed the man's arm and squeezed. "What do you say? Next time you're in the country, we go have a drink together. And we talk about that hideous name. Iron Patriot? Who came up with that?"
Rhodey squeezed back and smiled. "Sure thing. A drink. And War Machine was too provocative according to the government."
They let go of each other and started moving again, heading out, their voices slowly fading out. "Since when are they right?" was the last thing he heard.
Steve looked back down at his sketchbook and breathed out. The relationship between the two friends had baffled him. They were different but the soldier imagined years together and common memories were what made their friendship work.
He felt like he had intruded into something he shouldn't. They didn't say anything they wouldn't have said in front of them, maybe Tony had been a little less guarded than usual, but it was nothing. He groaned and let his head fall back onto the couch.
He had seen it. The proof of how right Fury had been a couple of weeks ago. Tony might never trust them back fully, completely. But he was okay with that. They all were. They had screwed up and it seemed fair they didn't get away with it as easily as that.
He wouldn't be surprised when he saw the guarded look in Tony's eyes when he looked at them while they were talking about a touchy subject or getting into too deep of a conversation.
None of them would.
None of them will push.
Because they learned the hard way how fragile and precious trust was. It was a gift given to them because one thought they deserved it. It was a rose easily crushed, a rose easily destroyed by lack of inattention to it, by lack of appreciation and they were going to make sure that rose never died again.
It was their second chance.
It was their last.
It was beautiful.
Here it is. The end. Hope you liked it.
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