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I'll set you up against the stars

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Pepper wakes with a buzz under her skin and the feeling that something big is about to happen. She's not really one for intuition; after all, she's been travelling with Tony for years now. In that time she's learned to put her faith in her own mind and in Tony's, in the goodness of other people, and -- perhaps more than anything else -- in pure chance. So far, intuition's something she equates with total danger, given that the last time her mind was urging her to do something, it turned out a telepath with an agenda was trying to use her to steal security codes.

This feeling, though, is different. There's nothing urgent about it, just a low, pleasant buzz and the idea that something's coming her way. It's not an entirely new feeling, though she's only felt it once before, and that was the same day a flying blue box called JARVIS crashed through a wall during her graduation ceremony. With that in mind, she's certain that something big is about to happen, and she's not about to ignore it.

She dresses quickly and starts looking for Tony. Unsurprisingly, she finds him in the console room, wide-eyed in that way that means the last time he slept was anywhere from two days to two weeks ago. "Oh, good, you're up. Where are we headed today, Miss Potts?" he asks. He's already reaching towards the console, and Pepper's sure he's already got a destination in mind -- or that even if he hasn't, they'll mysteriously end up a full galaxy or two away from where she wants to be.

"Nowhere," she says, grabbing his wrist lightly before he can flip any switches. "Not until you fix the dematerialization circuit."

"It's fine," he says, and she narrows her eyes, tightening her grip on his wrist.

"It's not fine, Tony. We nearly got stuck in the Time Vortex yesterday."

"Nearly," he protests. "But we didn't, and we still made it to Dublin in time to solve the murder and go out for drinks with Oscar afterwards." He's pulling back from the console, though, a distracted look taking over his face as he stares down at it. "Now that you mention it, it has been a little unstable lately, hasn't it?"

"It really has," she says.

"Fine," he says, rolling up his sleeves, and Pepper smiles. As much as Tony complains about being stuck in one place ("You'd complain too if you spent half of the seventies working for S.H.I.E.L.D.," he always says), he's fully capable of immersing himself in a project for weeks at a time. "Have you seen --"

"Tool kit? In that floor compartment where you keep that jar of pickles and the signed photograph of the vice-chancellor of Dagomere. Which reminds me, I've been meaning to ask about that."

"It's better if you don't," he says, kneeling down and knocking on the floor; after a few taps, he gets a hollow thud and grins, sliding the compartment open. "Thanks, Pep. You go on and take a nap or send sexy pictures to Natasha or do whatever it was you wanted to do so badly that you felt the need to distract me with work."

"If I'd really wanted to distract you, I would have just taken the sexy pictures right here," she points out. He's already well and truly lost in his work, though, because he just waves a hand absently in her direction, not a trace of a leer to be found. She lets out a relieved sigh, walking out into the corridor.


Pepper's not really worried about the dematerialization circuit, or about getting trapped in the Time Vortex. But if that nagging feeling is right and there's another big life change, well, there's no telling what it could be. And if it's her last day alive, or Tony's, or JARVIS gets destroyed and they get stranded somewhere, or if Tony finally tells her to just go home already -- if it's the last day she has here, whatever the reason, she wants one day of quiet, one day where she can just take stock of the way things are, fix them in her memory.

The library's always been her favorite room, even if finding it is always a challenge. Discovering it today is like going to Narnia -- the door turns out to be in the very back of her wardrobe, and she smiles as she passes through.

She doesn't stop to read, just trails her fingers along the shelves, pausing every now and then to try to figure out what language the books are actually in (it figures, she always thinks, that she spent so much of her time at college taking French and Spanish only to gain the ability to speak any language on the very same day she graduated).
She doesn't stay too long, because there's a lot she wants to do today and the bookshelves are always just a little too enticing, and she continues on. She does a few laps in the pool (unlike the library, it's in the same place as always -- down two hallways from her bedroom and up a rope ladder) and then makes her way to the kitchen, where she ends up with marmalade on toast and a black and white cookie.

Pepper's had a list in her head since she woke up of all the things she wants to do, but she's a little tired, truth be told -- yesterday had been exhausting enough before they'd gone drinking with Oscar Wilde -- and honestly, if everything could be gone tomorrow, there's one thing she wants to keep locked in her memory more than anything.


When she gets back to the console room, Tony's still lost in his work, and he pays her no heed until she's opening JARVIS's door and poking her head out.

"We're in orbit, Pep, don't lean too far," he says.

"What am I, new?" she asks, and sits, dangling her feet over the edge, leaning against the doorframe.

The planet they're orbiting is a pale lavender; it has three suns, seven moons, and patchy clouds of silver mist. "Is this Amycus Nine?" she asks.

"Good eye," he says, and she smiles, looking up at the stars above. She never gets tired of this: constellations that change every day, new galaxies and planets and people and dangers, she and Tony somehow managing to keep each other alive.

She rests her head against the doorframe while she stargazes, listening to the whirrs and clangs of Tony toying with the console, until the sounds die down and Tony comes and sits next to her. He touches the ends of her hair, just gently, and tsks. "Didn't your mother ever tell you not to travel through space with wet hair? You'll catch a cold."

"I'll take my chances," she says. "How's JARVIS?"

"I think he's a little angry with me, but he'll get over it. Everything's running smooth now. You want to see?"

"Just a sec," she says, resting her head on his shoulder.

"Is something wrong?" he asks, wrapping his arm around her. "Not that I'm opposed to quiet days off and cuddles in the middle of deep space, but you're strange today. Stranger than normal, I mean. Not that you're strange--"

"I'm fine," she says. "We're just waiting."

"For what?" he asks, and she shrugs, and then a moment later a phone rings.

"Maybe for that," she says. He raises his eyebrows, then hops up, offering her his hand. She shakes him off -- it's her phone that's ringing, not his.
Caller ID is always a little wonky in space, so she answers cautiously (she's had more than a few unexpected conversations with telemarketers from call centers much, much further away than another continent). "Hello?" she says.

"Good morning, Miss Potts."

She'd recognize that voice anywhere. "Sgt. Fury!" she says, ignoring the loud, exasperated sigh Tony gives. "How are you, sir?"

"Well. Very well, in fact. We've had someone rather... unexpected turn up."

"Good unexpected or bad unexpected?" she asks, and the answer he gives has her nearly dropping her phone. She manages to hang on, which is a lucky thing, because Tony's never stopped giving her grief about the time she managed to send a full thermos of coffee right out JARVIS's door. (Every now and then, when they're stuck somewhere with no sources of caffeine, she wonders if it's still floating out there, and if it is, if it's still drinkable.)

"What?" Tony asks, and then "Seriously, Pepper, what's he saying?"

"All right," Pepper says, ignoring him. "We'll be there shortly. When and where are you?"

"April 6th, 2011, same place as always. 0800 hours. See you soon, Miss Potts, and tell Stark that if he ever answered his phone, he wouldn't have to bug you for information."

"You've got it. Always a pleasure, Sergeant."

"What?" Tony says, and Pepper raises her eyebrows, ending the call.

"Did you mute your phone again?"

"Ages ago," he says. "What, it was always ringing. I'm a busy man. They'll call back if it's important.

"You mean they'll call me if it's important. Speaking of which," she says, a slow smile starting. "April 6th, 2011, S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, eight o'clock and not a minute later."

He's already keying in the coordinates. "Are you going to tell me what's going on, or are you just going to leave me without any whatever information it is that will save our lives when it inevitably turns out to be some kind of trap?"

"Hurry up," she says. "You always talk about how mad you are that you've never managed to meet Captain America."

He blinks. "Right," he says. "Was that eight a.m. or p.m.?"