Pairing: Pepper Potts/Tony Stark
Fic Title: Precious
Rating/Warning(s): K+ / violence
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Romance, Adventure
Why This Must Be Read: I've shipped Pepper and Tony since I first saw them on screen together in the first Iron Man movie, and the thing that has always struck me about their relationship is how much Tony really needs her. The author does a wonderful job showing the impact Pepper has on Tony's life, and when she gets hurt how much he really loves her. Along with a great supporting cast by the rest of the Avengers, the relationships between all the characters were very well written in this piece.
Pepper stood behind the bar in one of the lounge rooms at Stark Tower and glanced up at the clock on the wall yet again. She bit her bottom lip. What was taking Happy so long to bring Tony back here? Pepper couldn't help but worry about what Tony might be doing. He could be so unpredictable at times, even to her. Thor, Steve and Bruce all walked into the room together, they all smiled at seeing her.
Thor greeted her with an approving nod. "It goes well to see you so recovered, Pepper Potts."
She put a self-conscious hand to her bruised neck, conscious of the complaints from her broken rib at the action. "I'm not quite ready for my close-up yet, Thor, but thank you."
"Did the doc say it was alright for you to be up and about like this, Pepper?" Steve quizzed her.
Pepper nodded and picked up a bottle of water from behind the bar. "Yes, the doctor says my system is clear of the drug used on me and I don't have any lasting effects."
Steve looked relieved. "I'm real happy to hear that."
Pepper tried to open the bottled water, but found her the pain in her rib wasn't letting her.
Bruce moved over behind the bar. "Here, let me get that for you." He took the bottle of water Pepper had been struggling to open and easily screwed the lid off.
Pepper smiled as she accepted the bottled water back. "Thanks." She looked down at the water. "I didn't realise a broken rib could be so painful."
"You get used to them," said Bruce philosophically.
Pepper looked at him curiously. "If the other guy gets hurt, do you wake up with his bruises?" She grimaced. "Sorry, that was an insensitive question. I'm turning into Tony."
Bruce just smiled. "Let's hope they never invent a serum for that," he said teasingly. "One of Tony Stark is just about all this world can handle, and yes, sometimes I wake up with injuries I have no idea how I got."
Pepper made a regretful face. "I'm sorry, Bruce, that must be incredibly hard for you."
"I don't care about what happens to me, just what the other guy has done to people while I was out," said Bruce unhappily.
Pepper put her hand on his arm. "You never meant to hurt anyone, Bruce, you have to remember that."
Bruce's jaw hardened. "Does that even matter if people get hurt anyway?"
"Of course it does," said Pepper firmly, "any failures have been errors of judgement, not of intent."
Bruce smiled as he obviously recognised the quote. "Ulysses S. Grant."
"I think he knew something about the pitfalls of being a leader of men, don't you?" Pepper patted his arm. "You," she looked at the others as well, "all of you, are leaders of men and you're going to get it wrong sometimes, but as long as your good intent stays the course, I know the earth is in good hands."
"You have a lot of faith in us, Pepper," Steve noted. "We're not even a team yet."
"Anything worthwhile takes time," she said calmly. "And I know this Avenger's initiative is worthwhile."
Thor smiled. "We will do all in our power to live up to your faith in us, Pepper Potts."
"Then that's all I can ask, all anyone can ask," she said simply. Pepper put an arm to her aching side, not having bothered with the painkillers the doctor had offered her. She hated how they made it so hard for her to think. "I don't suppose any of you have seen Tony in your travels?"
"He stayed by your side all last night, Pepper," Bruce told her.
"I know," she said, "I'm just worried about him." She looked at them all.
"You're the one who got hurt, Pepper," Steve reminded her. "You shouldn't be giving us pep talks and worrying about Tony."
"Maybe," she said, knowing how hard Tony would have been taking all of this, "but I'm not the only one who was hurt yesterday."
The elevator doors activated to reveal both Tony and Happy inside. Pepper felt a flood of relief at seeing them. She flicked a quick glance at Happy who gave her a comforting nod, silently communicating he had it all in hand.
Ignoring the other people in the room, Tony came to stand in front of her. "Hi," he said huskily, those warm brown eyes of his with the impossibly long eyelashes seeming to devour her face.
"Hi," she replied softly, suddenly finding the room just reduced to the two of them, like it always did when he looked at her like that. Her eyes drifted over him and took in Tony's bruised and cut up knuckles. "What happened?" she asked unhappily.
Tony saw where she was looking and lifted his hand up to examine the damage for himself. "I cut myself shaving."
Pepper bit her bottom lip, worried about him. "Tony, are you okay?"
He reached out and cupped her cheek, stroking it's softness with his thumb in the gentlest of caresses. There was a quiet seriousness to him that wrung Pepper's heart out. "I just couldn't breathe there for awhile." Tony rested his forehead against her and closed his eyes. "But I'm alright now."
Pepper braved the pain and raised her arm, cupping the back of Tony's head to press her forehead more firmly against his as they stood as close together as was physically possible. She didn't know how long they'd stayed like that or when the others had left to leave them to their privacy, but it was just something they silently needed from each other in that moment. Neither one wanted to let go of the other ever again.