I've watched Iron Man 3 two times and am still a bit bitter about the lack of Pepper. I get it, it's about Tony, but given that she too has some shitty things to deal with, and that I had been lead to believe (by interviews and press conferences with RDJ in Lederhosen) that this movie's core is Tony and Pepper, and that there's more to Aldrich's and Pepper's relationship/friendship/whatever than just him kidnapping her to piss Tony off, an itsy bitsy part of me in the theatres was dissapointed. So I wrote this and wanted to publish it to hear your thoughts. I know I make commas way too often, you'll have to excuse me. My mother tongue is german and, we, use, commas, a, lot, like, A LOT. I'd be more than happy if you could point out some mistakes.

Also, the reason why Tony hardly has lines is because I (sadly) lack the vocabulary and american culture references to not screw it up. And because Pepper is a babe and people need to cut her some slack. Somebody on tumblr pointed out that, when we see Pepper get injected with Extremis, she seems to be saying "Tony, make it stop!", which then causes him to jerk back and look away (oh my bbs/3) Oh, and Pepper backstory is the best, y/y?

Tony wasn't the only one who suffered from PTSD.

Pepper may never admit it to anyone but Tony, but the recent events had worn her out. She'd had a lot to take in with Tony's absence (and constantly telling herself that the sleepless nights where due to her hectic job) and Obadiah Stane. And then Hammer's druids almost killed her, and then she had to watch the man she loved with every fibre of her being willingly fly into a black wormhole with a missile on his back. The nightmares were never as hard as Tony's (never as important) and would sometimes not reoccur for weeks, months even, but still. She had a big business to run and a boyfriend who would lock himself in his workshop for days and not even let her in.

But unlike Tony, she always had ways to cope with them. Every night when Obadiah was intent on killing her, or when innocent civilians died like flees around her, she'd do the ritual her father had taught her when she was too scared to go to school because of bullies who would push her into lockers. She knew it by heart.

1. Sit on the edge of the bed and close your eyes

2. focus on breathing steadily

3. grip the mattress, try to convince your mind that you're safe, you're safe, you're not dead

4. Picture the happiest moment in your life that randomly comes to your mind and focus on it. At first it was trips to New York with her mother, story time with her father. Now most of her moments had been shared with Tony.

5. Repeat this for as long as you need and if you feel yourself slipping again, knock on your parent's door and sleep in their bed. Both of her parents were dead now though, she hadn't given her mother enough time of her week and then she was dead and her father had followed shortly after. Now her options were more limited.

It felt like a safety rope, reminded her of home when her mind was full of ashes and burnt buildings.

After Killian, after feeling your skin slowly peeling off your body and at the same time getting healed by a fiery spot in the back of your head, after thinking you were dead for 5 whole minutes and especially after crawling out of a fiery pit with both of your arms and legs broken, it lost its effect. Tony still wasn't fully well again, but neither was she. They both held onto each other during the night, both screaming for the other and neither knowing what to do. Tony dreamt of New York and the Mandarin, Pepper's dreams were filled with fire and Killian's face, his daily flirtations, the way he had gone ballistic and had crowded her against the wall after telling him about her plans of leaving A.I.M. Tony seemed to like her immediately because she knew how to handle him, but truth be told, his mood swings could never be worse than Killian's. No one could scare Pepper Potts like her old boss, not even aliens and Tony's self destructing tendencies.

When they had infected her with Extremis, he had been present at first, his disgusting hand stroking her cheek as if she were his plaything, his trophy. The pain had been everywhere, she swore she could smell her insides burning, could see death coming her way. She had been screaming and weeping for Tony ("Tony, make it stop!") and closure while the guards had been laughing at her weakness, with the same glowing colour radiating from their body as Pepper's. Even after all of that, she could still feel death nearby, in the form of her exploding and possibly killing Tony as well.

When she first started again, Tony was in the workshop, trying to cure her from the time bomb that was planted in her brain. She didn't know how many times she had to buy another pillow, or blanket, because it was burnt to ash (secretly hoping Tony didn't notice, but he did). It was embarrassing. To be so out of control.

She hadn't told him at first, too scared it might increase his own PTSD (He never referred to it as that, he just called it his 'little problem'). But this wasn't right, she'd told herself. 'I need him and he deserves to know.' His expression was heartbreaking, but he'd reassured her that he'd always be there for her. And he held that promise. Now Tony was always present when she was going to bed and always watching her carefully while she drifted off to sleep. He woke up instantly as soon as she started crying, or burning, or both.

"Pepper, you're going to be fine," he whispered while she was trying to cool down. "I'll fix you and then I'll fix myself and it's gonna be just like it used to."

Her heavy breathing caused her to whisper so quietly that Tony had to position himself mere centimetres away from her face for him to understand her. "Stupid," she whispered and coughed, which worried Tony even more. "He called me stupid. And shallow. That I'd never get into a big company, because he was my only option. The only thing I could turn to. He ... promised that he'd make me pay for leaving him." Once she started talking, she couldn't quite seem to stop. Her mouth closed and opened and somehow she formed words. "I worked for him for 5 years and at times he was fine but on other days ... I didn't ... couldn't ..."

"Pepper, he won't hurt you any more. He won't come looking for you." When it was finally safe to touch her again, Tony began to stroke her back. She felt so sorry for him, the circles around his eyes were just as bad as hers, his expression just as worn out and yet here he was, trying to be her therapist. It hurt her to know that her weakness jeopardized his own recovery. "You're safe, here, with me. You kicked his ass, remember?"

What was supposed to be a laugh came out of her throat mixed between a sob and a cough. Her throat hurt, everything hurt. She needed to see a doctor. "I killed him," she murmured again and again. "I killed someone ... And I don't even regret it." Tony didn't know how to respond, to be quite honest, she didn't either. "I felt so strong and powerful ... I just ..." Pepper's head was rested on Tony's chest while her hands clutched his t-shirt. "I'm ... so scared and I'm not okay and I don't ... don't know how to fix myself ..."

"That's why I'm here, honey," he said, smiled and kissed her hot cheek. "I'll get this damn cure for you and everything will go back to normal. I will be annoying and you will call me out on it, I will tell you what a pain in the ass you can be - even though you're right. And afterwards we're gonna have hot sex against a wall." And this time, both of their faces lit up and somehow fought off the darkness that surrounded them. Together.

In that moment Pepper knew they could get through anything this messed up world could throw at them as long as they had each other, always looking out for the other.