Photo credit: lorettastwilight
Nobody's really surprised when Pepper and Tony break up.
It's unspoken, but people have been either expecting Pepper to open her eyes and realize she deserves better than Tony or expecting Tony to crave the freedom of his old lifestyle without any constraints like a relationship to hold him down. Both are rather bullheaded, stubborn to a fault and persistent as hell. In a lot of ways, they're similar.
But in other ways, important ways, they are too different, and this is what eventually tears them apart.
It starts slowly, with Pepper staying at the office later and later to get work done, with Tony not really noticing she's gone. She crawls into a bed that's still cold, that will stay cold when she wakes up because Tony will still be tinkering away down in his workshop, unable to sleep as the nightmares plague him.
There's less intimacy in their interactions, less affection in the way she talks to him.
It takes a while for Tony to realize it. He's so caught up in trying to outwork the anxiety, the paralyzing fear of Earth being overtaken by a force they can't stop, that he neglects her. He doesn't realize how much until she's walking out the door, suitcase in hand, an ultimatum that hits him as sharply as his own fucking missile had back in Afghanistan.
"I don't need Iron Man, I need Tony. Come get me when you find him again."
And it hurts.
Because what she and SHIELD don't seem to understand is that there is no separating the two. Tony Stark wouldn't be alive without Iron Man, and there is no Iron Man without Tony Stark.
SHIELD says, Iron Man: yes, Tony Stark: not recommended.
Pepper says, Tony Stark: yes, Iron Man: fuck no.
They are one in the same, and ultimately, he's not good enough.
He's never good enough.
Tony watches her go, feels such a deep and profound loss as her footsteps get further and further away from him. She's gone, and all he can do for the first few hours is sit on the couch as the sun disappears into the horizon, as the stars come out, and stare blankly at the wall.
JARVIS speaks softly to him, a comforting presence, but he sits there, still, and wonders just what the fuck is wrong with him.
How the fuck did he become his father without him realizing it?
Because this is shit Howard would do. His parents never really fought in front of him, but he's overheard a few conversations between them, and Howard's neglect of his family for work was a primary concern. He doesn't want to be his father, always hated feeling like he would never amount to anything in the eyes of Howard Stark.
And here he is, watching arguably the best thing that ever happened to him walk out of his life. He wants to chase after her, wants to do whatever she wants him to do so long as that means she'll stay by his side.
But he can't.
Tony Stark is Iron Man, period.
Rhodey is the first person he tells. He calls him at four twenty-two in the morning, eleven hours, six minutes, and fifteen seconds after Pep—Miss Potts—leaves. "I'll be right there," Rhodey says, because his platypus hasn't yet let him down.
He ignores the part inside him that feels it's only a matter of time.
The first thing Rhodey does is hug him, and it reminds him of their MIT days, when Sunset Bain toyed with his heart and took pleasure in metaphorically ripping it out. Rhodey feels like home, like strength and dependability, and Tony really fucking needs it right now.
He doesn't cry, can't really muster up the energy to have any sort of emotional breakdown. They drink and drink and drink until the sun comes up and they can't string any words together.
It isn't until Rhodey leaves days later that the realization fully hits him.
Pepper isn't coming back.
Tony had open heart surgery without anesthesia in a dirty cave in Afghanistan. He had his insides rearranged to make room for an electromagnet that left him with daily pain. His captors mercilessly waterboarded him, didn't care that the car battery would shock him when it got wet.
And somehow, none of that feels as devastating as this.
Work is hard. He tries to fall back into their old routine, tries to keep things professional, but he struggles. He has a hard time separating Pepper – bright smiles, breathless laughter underneath the sheets, warmth and joy and love – with Miss Potts – brilliant CEO, polite and professional, distant, forever out of reach.
Pepper smiles more (fuck, how long has she been miserable with him?), carries herself taller. She's a strong woman, of course something like this wouldn't break her. Of course she can pick herself back up, carry on with her head held high, make it look as easy as breathing.
And he can't, so he leaves. Moving back to New York City simultaneously lets him breathe easier and steals his breath. He has the space he needs to try to pick himself back up, brings back a slew of casual encounters because he doesn't know if he can put his heart out again.
But New York City is where that fucking portal opened. If he closes his eyes, he can still see the fleets of Chitauri, can imagine what would have happened if he hadn't sent them that goddamn nuke.
He knows something is out there. He knows the Chitauri was just the beginning, the opening number.
He knows, and it fucking terrifies him.
But Stark men are made of iron.
Tony is adaptable, if nothing else.
The bar is rather mellow. It's not bursting with activity, not full of people looking to have a good time. Wednesday nights don't always have an active party life, but that's okay. Tony's not exactly looking for company right now.
Normally he drinks at home. He has an excellent selection of scotch and whiskey, ridiculously expensive bottles that cost more than a month of rent in a Manhattan condo. But tonight, the appeal of drinking in solitude is lost.
Rhodey is away being an actual adult with a job, whatever that means.
Happy is busy tonight with family obligations.
Pepper is… yeah, not going there again.
JARVIS will keep him company, like always, but there's only so much his baby boy can do. As human-like as JARVIS is, he's not human. He can't sit next to Tony, share a drink.
And he doesn't want to be alone right now. His tower is fabulous, full of state-of-the-art tech, modern and sleek, everything that he could want in a home. But it's also cold, lonely, and he's already going to have enough of those days ahead of him.
And so, he heads to the bar, quipping to JARVIS, "Don't wait up, baby boy."
The bartender, Dean, recognizes him, because of course he does, but most of the bartenders know that him walking through their doors means massive profits for the night. Dean keeps his shots going all night, a flirtatious smile on his face. He's cute, boyish with his cropped brown hair and dimples when he smiles, and Tony considers perhaps bringing him home afterwards for some fun.
It's been a couple of weeks since he's last brought someone home. A new record since Pepper, the tabloids cruelly jab, but Tony is well practiced in ignoring what the media has to say. He knocks back another shot, sighs happily at the burn as it travels down his throat.
He's about to pay out his tab, hit that bartender up for his number, but then his eyes catch someone…interesting.
The woman is locking lips with another man. It's not like making out and hooking up in bars is an unfamiliar sight. He expects to see people getting it on at some point every time he walks in the door. He does not expect the woman to look so bored.
The man is moaning, groping her ass, but the woman does not look nearly as enthusiastic as her partner. Tony can't help but stare, wonders if he's going to get some other form of entertainment tonight.
He's proven correct when the woman pushes the man away. Her green eyes are unimpressed, her mouth a thin line of disappointment.
"Yeah, this isn't happening," he hears her say.
"I'm sorry, I just don't think this will work out." She looks apologetic, turns around to walk away.
The man's face scrunches in confusion, but that quickly disappears into anger. He grips her arm tightly, turns her around to face him.
Tony's out of his chair and striding towards them before the man can open his mouth. "Hey, the lady doesn't want to go with you," he says. He grabs the man's wrist, squeezes until he lets go of the woman's arm.
"Why are you—?"
"If you know what's good for you," Tony continues darkly, not letting up on his own grip, "you'll just turn around and leave."
The man cowers underneath his grip and his stare, scampers out of the bar when Tony finally releases him. Tony watches him scurry down the street and out of sight. He turns to the woman, who watches him with a raised eyebrow.
She's beautiful, now that he's standing in front of her, with her long inky black hair pulled in a high ponytail, bright green eyes, pale complexion. There's no make-up on her face, a pleasant surprise considering most of the women Tony knows or has become acquainted with uses cosmetics on their faces. Her pants aren't indecently tight, shows off the curve of her hips. Her shirt is red and gold, his colors, and it highlights the way her waist tapers in.
The best part of all?
She looks nothing like Pepper.
"I could have handled that," she says lightly. She has an accent, British, and he's only slightly surprised when his cock twitches in interest. He has a thing for accents, sue him.
Tony nods. "Undoubtedly," he says, "but it would have been remiss in my duty if I didn't step in and help."
She cocks her head to the side. "You a copper?"
That makes Tony pause, stare at her in incredulousness. She doesn't look roaring drunk, so there's absolutely no reason why she doesn't recognize him. Unless… "You don't know who I am?" He can't help the shock in his voice.
She regards him seriously. "I'm sorry, am I supposed to?"
Tony stares at her, shocked, but then he grins. "I'm Tony," he says, sticking out a hand.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Hari." Her handshake is strong, her hands a little calloused.
His thumb caresses her hand, and he leads her to the bar. "Let me buy you a drink," he says, waves for Dean.
Hari laughs a little. "You never answered my question," she points out.
"I like having this element of mystery," he confesses. His grin doesn't leave his face as Hari gets a shot, accepting his offer for a drink. "So, what brings you to the States?"
She downs the shot, shifts on the barstool. "I thought we were maintaining this mystery?" she teases. Hari's a cheeky thing, her grin utterly unrepentant.
Tony lets out a bark of laughter. "Touché. What I'm really trying to find out is are you here for business? Pleasure?"
Hari licks small droplets of alcohol from her lips, her eyes sparkling as he avidly watches the movement. "Pleasure," she purrs, "but I think you're already aware of that, aren't you, Tony?"
Okay, so he might have a thing for people saying his name. He stares at her with half-lidded eyes, leans close so he's in her personal space. "I don't typically assume anything, and you didn't seem as interested as your last partner was."
She snorts. "Yes, well, I want to have fun, and I can tell when someone's a waste of my time."
Tony leans in, puts a hand on hers. "I don't waste anyone's time," he says confidently.
"No?" She stares at him challengingly, a hint of a smile on her lips.
"I'm also really good at putting my money where my mouth is," he assures her. He's Tony Fucking Stark, even if she doesn't know that (which still pleasantly baffles him), and his exploits are well known. His former bed partners happily went to the tabloids, earning him the reputation of being a playboy, but none have ever complained about leaving his bed unsatisfied.
"Prove it." Hari turns on the stool to face him, leans her back against the bar.
Tony grins. He brings his hand up to cup her face, pulls her in for a kiss. He starts slow, a gentle pressing of his lips against hers, and then he applies more pressure. Tony nips at her lips a little, tugs at the plump bottom one. She opens her mouth and he dives in, thoroughly explores with his tongue. She tastes like vodka, and he moves his hand into her hair, tugs a little at the strands.
Hari lets out a little moan that makes heat pool in his gut, his pants tightening a little. His hands find purchase on the swell of her hips, steps closer to her so that their bodies are pressed against each other. It's perhaps a bit indecent, to get to this level in the bar, but he doesn't care.
Her own hands snake up his body until they're around his neck, and she kisses him back with wanton desire.
When they pull away, he's delighted to see she's panting heavily, her nipples hardened into nubs that strain against her shirt.
"I don't waste anyone's time," he repeats.
Hari laughs, but it's a deeper sound than before, raspy. "My apartment isn't too far from here," she offers.
Tony smirks, smug, and he slaps several large bills on the counter. "Well, what are we waiting for?"
Hari's hands are in Tony's hair, clenching small tufts and inadvertently tugging at the roots. Tony doesn't mind, keeps his face buried between her legs, licks and sucks and nips at her clit. He loves oral sex, whether it's eating pussy or sucking cock, loves how he can make anybody come undone with his tongue alone. Hari is very responsive, her hips making small rocking motions into his mouth, guttural moans escaping her lips, deep bodied shudders creeping down her spine.
"I'm so close," she chokes out.
Tony eases a finger into her. She's sopping wet, and he thrusts into her with delightful precision, pulls away with a groan. "God, you're so fucking beautiful. I could eat you out for days," Tony says, his voice deep in his arousal. His erection is straining against his pants. He shifts a little, grunts at the slightest bit of friction that affords him, and dives back into her slick folds.
His tongue circles around her clit, using just enough pressure to coax even more wetness out of her. He withdraws his fingers ever so slowly, then thrusts back in at just the right angle. Hari lets out a choked moan, and her hands grip his hair tight enough to hurt.
Tony pulls his fingers out completely, ignores her whines of protest. Her legs go over his shoulders. He stiffens his tongue, thrusts it inside her, moans as her juices coat his mouth. His hands grasp her generous thighs, just hard enough to stop her from squirming too badly, but not enough to leave bruises.
Her moans get higher and higher in pitch, each one a little longer than the last. Tony waits until the right moment, just when she's on the cusp of her orgasm, and then he pulls away entirely.
"What are you doing?" she demands breathlessly.
Tony chuckles, ripping his clothes off as quickly as he can. "I can't let you have all the fun," he quips as he rolls a condom on. He crawls over on top of her, uses the head of his cock to tease her.
"No, I suppose not," she agrees. She moans softly, spreads her legs just a bit wider. "Come on, Tony, fuck me."
He grins. "Since you asked so nicely…"
He thrusts in one hard, fast movement, gyrates his hips, and then slowly pulls out completely. Hari takes in a shuddery breath, her eyes rolling in the back of her head. "Fuck, that's so good."
With every thrust into Hari, she gets closer and closer to her orgasm. He watches her, completely captivated, eyes clouded over in desire, her lower lip clamped between perfectly white teeth, her hands cupping her bouncing breasts.
Tony doesn't even warn her; he starts fucking her in earnest, his balls smacking against the perfect globes of her ass in a hard, thwacking motion, and he grips her hips to pull her into his every thrust. She comes immediately, tightens around his cock, and he throws his own head back and moans, but he doesn't stop. He fucks her through her orgasm, sets a brutal pace. Hari cries out, her legs coming up to wrap around his hips.
"Like that?" he pants, groans as the heat pools and coils further in his gut.
"I'm gonna come again," she cries out.
Tony slows down, doesn't really want this to be over just yet, leans over to kiss her, still rocking into her with hard thrusts. She scratches down his back, and he nips at the smooth column of her neck.
"You gonna come for me?" He pulls out again, thrusts in deeply. He plans on teasing her again, loves it when she looks ready to pull her own hair out, but Hari has different plans. With a surprising amount of strength, she manages to flip them so that Tony is on his back and she's straddling him.
"I think you mean you're going to come for me," she breathes in his ear.
She grins at him, wicked and devilish, and lines his cock with her entrance again. Hari sinks down in one movement, a breathy sigh of ecstasy spilling from her lips. Tony sits up, grips her ass as she bounces on his cock. His mouth finds her breasts, and he sucks at the supple flesh.
He feels his own orgasm approaching, groans because she's riding him hard enough that they both see stars. She comes again when he tugs at her nipple with his teeth, and the way her body clenches tightly around him, the way she soaks his cock, he comes so fucking hard with one last hard suck at her right breast.
She collapses against him. He wraps his arms around her, pulls her into the position of the little spoon. Hari doesn't fight it, settles into his hold. It's nice, her body molding against his, skin on skin contact, and he settles his head against her hair.
"If you're still here in the morning, we can go another two or three rounds," she says, her voice thick with exhaustion.
"Oh, we'll have a few rounds in the morning," he promises.
Sleep claims him quickly, Tony's arms wrapped around Hari's waist, her own even breathing lulling him into a peaceful slumber.