Title: Fix a Heart
Fandom: Iron Man (MCU-verse)
Characters: Tony Stark, Pepper Potts
Category: Romance, Angst, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 2,465
Summary: After the events of Iron Man 3, Tony and Pepper discuss the events of the movie and how they go forward from there. Actions have consequences. Bridge between IM3 and Age of Ultron.
Spoilers/Timeline: A few days after Iron Man 3.
Author’s Note: I wrote this a while back, right after Iron Man 3 came out and gave me all the Pepperony feels. I wasn't satisfied with the way it was going and thought I'd never finished it but I came back to it the other day and it seemed pretty complete to me. Presented without further comment...
Warnings: None that I can think of.



“I’m so sorry.”

It wasn’t the first time that Tony had said it or even the fifth. Not that night.

Pepper was lying in bed - not their bed, that bed had gone up in smoke and rubble with the rest of the mansion- sleeping off the exhaustion of the past few days. That and Tony was pretty certain her metabolism ran higher now from the effects of Extremis. The pale, too-bright light filtering in from the bathroom door, left purposefully ajar so that neither of them would wake in the dark, was casting shadows over Pepper’s face. It made her features look strange and eerie and her skin ghastly and washed out. So not a good look for her.

Tony couldn’t help reaching out to touch her. He told himself it was to check her body temperature, to make sure that nothing in her sleeping mind was triggering Extremis and the overload of heat that could kill her. Truthfully he needed the reassurance, in her stillness, that she was still alive, still breathing. He had seen her die tonight. He had promised her that he would catch her and he hadn’t.

It was just that simple. Pepper might have lived through some insane, wonderful twist of fate, but he had seen her die and it had been his fault. It had changed him as much as the electromagnet in his chest and nothing could ever undo that.

Tony shifted closer, dropping his head to rest against Pepper’s shoulder. He was tired, exhausted really, and he could feel his body drifting towards sleep, but he didn’t want to give in, not yet. He raised his head and found himself staring into Pepper’s eyes.

“I thought you were going to sleep in the other room,” Pepper mumbled sleepily.

“Didn’t want to.” Tony brushed a strand of hair back from her face and let his fingers trail through it. He didn’t let go, tangling his fingers in it and stroke her brow with his thumb.

“Tony.” Pepper was using her best concerned voice. “It’s dangerous. If I lose control...”

“I saw you die.”

Pepper swallowed, looked down. “I know.” She tried a smile; it didn’t quite work. “I was there.”

“I don’t know how to-” Tony shook his head. “I told you I would save you and I didn’t. I couldn’t. I am so, so sorry, Pepper. You have to believe me, honey, if there was any way I could have-”

“Tony.” She put a hand over his mouth stopping him. It wasn’t the first time she’d done it to get him to shut up. It might have been the first time he hadn’t retaliated by licking her palm though. She tilted his chin up with her forefinger, making him meet her gaze. “You can’t control everything.”

Tony nodded once, sharply, and made a face. “Right. Got that. Still don’t like it.”

Pepper slipped an arm around his waist, and pulled him closer until he was almost laying on top of her braced on his elbow, his legs thrown across hers.

“I’m here; I’m not going anywhere.”

Tony wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her neck, holding her tightly. “Do I have to let you go?”

Pepper smiled and ruffled his hair. “Not until I have to pee. That would just be...awkward.”

Tony pulled back until he could look her in the eye. “I’d love you anyway.”

“Good to know, but I stand by my previous statement.”

He rested his head against her shoulder, loving the way she ran her fingers through his hair, massaging his scalp. It was the most safe and relaxed he had felt in weeks, months maybe, since New York.

“I’m sorry too.” Pepper said into the silence, her breath puffs of warmth beside his ear.

“For what?” Tony mumbled. It felt too good to raise his head and risk her stopping.

“For before. For not noticing how bad it had gotten, not knowing what to do.”

That was enough to make him pull his head up. “That’s not your job.”

“Not as your assistant, but as your girlfriend. I should have...”

Tony wasn’t her. He cut her off with a kiss, pressing his lips with hers, nipping at her bottom lip with his teeth and soothing it away with a brush of his tongue. He deepened the kiss, running his hands up and down her back, until she responded, kissing him back.

“What was that for?” Pepper asked breathlessly when he finally pulled away.

“You didn’t leave. You could have.” He said it simply, nonchalantly but it was far from the way he felt. He didn’t know anyone else who would have stayed. No one else ever had. Even Rhodey ducked out from time-to-time, unable to deal with him on a constant basis.

Pepper tucked his hair behind his ear and brushed her thumb over his cheek. He turned his face into her hand like a flower seeking the sun, or a cat looking for its due. “I’m never leaving you.”

“Never is a long time,” he noted, as if Pepper might not have noticed.

“Mmm,” Pepper agreed. “Not changing my mind though.”

He shook his head. “You know people always say I’m the crazy one. If only they knew...”

Pepper’s laugh rang out, loud in the silence of the room. “They already think I’m crazy for sticking with you this long, for running your company.”

“Lucky me,” Tony said with a twisted smile. He rolled off her over onto his back. “Pepper...I know I destroyed the suits. The way I was working on them...it wasn’t good. But, baby, as much it hurt you - me - us I’m not sure I can stop. I am Iron Man. With a suit or without it. It’s something I have to do.”

He was looking at her like he expected her to slap him, to get up and walk away. Pepper hated that look in his eyes. She curled closer to him, putting her hand on top of the arc reactor, playing with the smooth, cold edges under her finger.

“Iron Man scares me,” she murmured, looking down at the reactor in his chest, the most obvious sign of what had been done to him. “It always has from the first moment I saw it.”

“You thought I was crazy.”

“You are crazy,” Pepper said, but there was wry humor in her voice. “I don’t think I’ve ever told you how proud I am of you for Iron Man. When you came back-” Another thing they never mention. “-you could have stayed in your mansion and hid and built things. No one would have blamed you. But you didn’t. You went out and tried to fix the mistakes we’d made.”

“Me, not-”

“I was just as responsible as you were. Maybe more. I was paying attention. I just didn’t...”



“Obie was good at what he did.” Tony’s voice was tight.

“Don’t.” Her hand clenched into a fist on his chest. He thought he saw a flutter of orange beneath the skin of her wrist. “Don’t absolve me. I’m just as...you’re not the only one who had something to atone for.”

He stroked his hand up and down her back in what he hoped was a soothing manner, sliding up beneath her tank top searching for bare skin.

“So what I’m saying is that I would never ask you to give up being Iron Man. You wouldn’t be the man I loved if you did.”

Tony’s breath caught at her words. He knew she loved him, but it wasn’t often that either of them said the words. “I love you too.”

She kissed him gently, her lips barely brushing his before she was pulling away again. “But?”

He wrapped a lock of her hair around his finger, twisting it idly as he looked up at her. “What I do - who I am - got you killed. If it happens again.... We got lucky this time, honey. So damn lucky. If I lost you again....”

“So let’s look at your choices,” Pepper said pragmatically. “You keep the suit and you break up with me to,” she rolled her eyes. “Keep me safe. Or. You don’t break up with me and ditch the suits. That’s what you think, isn’t it?”

Tony gave a stilted nod. He hadn’t expected her to put it so straightforwardly, but then this was Pepper.

“You’re an idiot.”

Tony shot up in the bed, Pepper falling away from him as he did. “I’ll have you know I’m a genius. I’m the genius of geniuses.”

“And sometimes you’re still an idiot. Tony, even if you break up with me right now, I’m not going to stop being a target or start being anonymous. I knew what getting involved with you meant and I made my decision. You don’t have the right to take that away from me.”

Tony sank back down, slipping an arm around her waist to tug her back down to him. “Even if it’s so you won’t get hurt?”



“I thought we just covered that.”

“I could fire you.”

Pepper tilted her head at him and smiled. “Actually you can’t. But firing me isn’t going to stop me from making a difference, whether it’s working for SHIELD or starting a non-profit to feed starving children. I can’t just go back to a normal life. You changed me too.”

“So you’re saying it’s all my fault.”

“Pretty much,” Pepper agreed.

“And I got you killed.”

“You’re very stuck on that, aren’t you?”

“Shouldn’t I be? You died. It’s not a free pass, Pep. People with Extremis can still die. I killed them.”

“And I was even more vulnerable before,” Pepper pointed out. “The difference is you know it now.”

“Huh,” Tony said. “That sucks.”

Pepper didn’t disagree. Instead she put her head down on his chest and curled closer to him, knowing he needed a moment to think, figure things out for himself. He always had.

“So what do you think I should do?”

The fingers that trailed down her spine left her skin tingling in their wake. Pepper tried to ignore it as best as she could. It had only been two days since she had died and woken up again with this thing under her skin. It had been a lot longer than that since she and Tony had been together though. She ached for his touch. All this cuddling - distracting though their conversation was - hadn’t been enough to keep her from noticing his closeness, from taking in his body pressed against hers. She sat up, hoping a little distance would help clear her head and knowing that there was no where on this planet that would be far enough if she was trying to get away from Tony's distracting presence.

“I think you should be who you are, Mr. Stark. I think Iron Man is part of that and I don’t think you should run away from it.”

“And if it sucks me down again like it did before?”

“If you get lost, I’ll find you.” Pepper sat up. “I meant it, Tony, when I said your suits were just distractions. You might have been building the suits - suit after suit after suit - but you weren’t being Iron Man. When was the last time you went on a mission? You lost who you were.”

“There was a bomb, Pepper,” he ground out. "A bomb and aliens in a space portal."

“I know,” she said soothingly. “I can’t imagine how you felt and I am so, so sorry I didn’t answer that damn phone...you’ll never know how sorry. But don't let it stop you. You can be great. You are great."

"I don't feel so great," Tony admitted.

Pepper laughed. "That's how most of us feel, the non-geniuses. You just have to learn not to let it stop you."

"Is that what you do?" Tony asked, shifting so that he could run his hand up and down her bare arms, taking in the feel of silky skin and fine hairs even as he waited for her answer.

"Duh." Pepper said simply. She leaned in closer to him until her nose was almost brushing against his. "Who do you think I learned it from? You didn't have time for anyone who couldn't get the job done - even when it seemed impossible. No doubters. So I stopped thinking things couldn't be done and started doing them."

"That simple, huh?"

"Not really," Pepper said with a smile. "But it's a start."

Tony pushed himself up against the headboard and pulled Pepper into his lap. She went willingly. "You're too good for me."

"You're exactly what I need." Pepper knew she shouldn't. It was a very bad idea. She bit her lip and sighed, running her hands down Tony's chest again. "What I want."

Tony's eyes flicked up to hers. "What you want?"

Pepper nodded, still biting her lip. "Very much." She sighed. "But Extremis.... It could be dangerous."

"It could be," Tony agreed. Despite his words Pepper felt his erection stiffen against her thigh.

"We're crazy for even thinking about this."

Tony's jaw clenched. "I won't put you in danger."

"Right." Pepper frowned. She knew it was the right decision, the smart one. Neither of them wanted to do anything to put her in danger, certainly not something that could be avoided. She remembered the searing heat and the fire all too well. Just because she hasn't died, just because she had healed, it didn't mean she hadn't burned. The pain had been beyond excruciating, more than she could imagine or handle. Crawling out of the fire had been more fight or flight instinct than conscious thought.

And yet. She wanted Tony. She ached with it, yearned for the touch of his skin against hers, his weight over her, pinning her to the bed, the feel of him inside her. She wanted it all.

But if they couldn't...maybe she could still have some of what she wanted.

"Jarvis," Tony called out. "Can you monitor Ms. Potts internal temperature with this setup?" Stark Tower was still under repair from the Chitauri invasion and he wasn't sure how finished this room was.

"Certainly, sir."

Tony met her eyes steadily. It was a leap of faith, placing herself in his hands, trusting that his creation wouldn't fail, trusting that he would stop if she needed him too. All she had to do was take his hand.

"Trust me?" he asked with a lopsided smile and, Pepper realized, it really was a question. He wondered if she really did trust him.

So she did the only thing she could. She put her hand in his and moved forward until she was crouched on her knees over him, straddling his thighs.

"Always."
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