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Midnight Walk

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Extremis wasn’t letting Pepper sleep. Victoria was in bed beside her, but Pepper felt herself growing too warm, and kept shifting, abandoning the covers in hopes that she might cool down. Sometimes Extremis did this for no reason and made her uncomfortably warm for hours, and she had a feeling that this was going to be one of those nights. After a while, it became unbearable, and she got out of bed quietly, trying not to disturb Victoria, and headed toward the freezer in the kitchen. She opened its door and stuck her head inside, letting the waves of cold wash over her. It wasn’t enough, of course - it never was. But it helped.

“Pep? What are you doing?” Pepper heard Victoria’s sleepy voice behind her, and she pulled her head out of the freezer to turn and look at her.

“Sorry, I overheated. Couldn’t sleep.” Pepper knew she looked absurd - woman in a nightgown with her head in a freezer - but she hadn’t exactly been thinking clearly. Victoria frowned, and stepped closer, placing a hand on her shoulder. Pepper flinched a little, not wanting to burn her.

“You’re looking a little orange, yeah.” Victoria noticed Pepper’s flinch, but kept her hand on her shoulder. “Not enough to burn, though. Don’t worry.”

“Hopefully I’ll cool down soon. You should go back to bed, Tori.” Pepper’s voice was weary, and all she wanted to do was curl up with Victoria, but that would be too warm for the both of them. Victoria didn’t move, and she gave Pepper’s shoulder a squeeze.

“It’s all right, I’m already awake. I don’t want to just leave you here,” Victoria said. “Would a walk help? It’s a bit chilly tonight. We could go out on the balcony.” Pepper considered this, and then she nodded, giving in.

“That’s a good idea, thank you.” Pepper hesitated, and then slipped her hand into Victoria’s. “Maybe we’ll take the day off tomorrow. Do you think we can afford that?”

“If you’re not feeling well, I want you to take the day off. I’ve functioned on less sleep before.” Victoria gave Pepper’s hand a squeeze, and began to lead her outside to the balcony.

“A day off would be boring without you…” It slipped out of Pepper’s mouth before she really thought about it, and she saw Victoria’s expression grow a little soft.

“You’re suggesting I stay home?”

“Only if you want to.” Pepper blushed a little. “And if it won’t impact your too much. God, I sound lazy. I never used to take days off.”

“Do I have to lecture you again about how normal people take days off, and that it’s good for their health?” Victoria raised an eyebrow.

“Neither of us are normal people.”

“Touche. But the sentiment still applies.” Victoria paused, considering. “If you stay home and recover, I’ll stay home with you. Just one day. How does that sound?”

“…all right. But just one day.” Pepper took a deep breath when they stepped outside, relishing the cold air. The coolness on her skin soothed her, and she was beginning to feel a little better now.

Victoria, on the other hand, did not look as content.

“Tori, you’re cold, aren’t you?” Pepper’s voice was soft, and Victoria looked a little embarrassed.

“Forgot my coat.” She shrugged a little. “But I’m fine.” Once they were at the edge of the balcony, Pepper let go of Victoria’s hand, and then wrapped her arms around her from behind, pressing herself flush up against Victoria’s back. Victoria hummed and let out a breath, leaning into her.

“God, you’re like a heated blanket.” Victoria’s voice was a bit breathy, and Pepper decided she liked that she could make Victoria sound like that.

“That’s the idea.” Pepper smiled, nuzzling Victoria’s hair a little and breathing in her scent. “Finally found something that’s comfortable for both of us.”

Victoria turned in Pepper’s arms and gave her a brief, gentle kiss. Pepper smiled, running her hand through Victoria’s hair. Extremis was still a big problem in her life, but Victoria made it bearable, and she was thankful for that.

“You know what? We’ll just crank up the air conditioning in our bedroom,” Victoria said, and Pepper felt a little thrill at the words ‘our bedroom.’ “Chilly enough for you, and you can warm me up.”

“That sounds good to me.” Pepper pulled her close again, giving her one last squeeze. “Back to bed, then?”

“Back to bed.”