Pepper was wrong, it didn't happen often and yet it did.
She believed leaving Tony was the right choice, stifling those feelings in fear of getting hurt and losing everything. She believed that sooner or later she would stop worrying, that her heart would stop beating irrationally whenever the man was nearby.
Then the civil war with Siberia happened and she didn't stop worrying for a moment. The pain and anguish had even increased, as she would no longer be the first to have confirmation of Tony's health, she no longer had the right to be around him as her heart really desired. It was her fault.
She had abandoned Tony like everyone else and now she was just a friend, an ex.
The man would never let her get close.
Every weekend Tony denied anyone access to his personal floor, Friday reiterated that "the boss had guests and didn't want to be disturbed except in an emergency".
Honestly, Pepper was jealous and jealousy is known to be an irrational monster. A small ink spot that you can't get out. Who saw Tony?
It was supposed to be a normal Wednesday, predictably Pepper was looking for Tony. She felt a little silly for wearing the blouse she knew he liked so much, hoping for a positive reaction. She walked quickly to join him, stopping just before turning the corner, hearing Tony on the phone. She immediately captured a female name. Her breathing stopped.
«May, that is not a problem, if you would let me pay ... no, I understand.»
May. So it's true - Pepper thought.
«I'll send Happy to pick him up after school. Yeah. I thought, just ... you know ... Thai and tinkering around in the lab, as usual.»
Tony doesn't let anyone into his private lab.
«Yeah, he definitely has a crush on that girl! My son inherited my charm, he will certainly be fine!»
My son. Her Tony had a son with this woman, May.
Pepper felt the world collapse, she knew that sooner or later a child would come out. She often imagined himself like a stepmother, after all there was no great chance that she would have a child of her own, she had consciously chosen her career but it was not expected that Tony kept it from her. Does he not trust me anymore?
She did not notice that the man had turned the corner and collided with her.
«Pep are you okay?»
«Yes, I think we should postpone the meeting, I forgot my bag. And you have to sign these documents!»
«Did you forget your bag?»
«Yes, well… I have to go.»
She had run into her office canceling all the day's appointments.
She was confused, she wanted to talk to Happy because she clearly knew valuable information and then with Rhodey, maybe she could hope to meet Tony's son. She asked herself if the boy looked like his father, what the man's reaction had been. She picked up the phone and quickly dialed the first number that came to mind.
- Why didn't you tell me anything?
- Happy! I'm talking about the kid ...
- Oh! Oh! Do you know about Peter?
Peter. Peter Stark.
- How long?
- He kept an eye on it before the civil war.
At that time we were arguing often, I thought he was stressed because of the team. How did I not see that there was more?
- Did he run all the tests? DNA?
- Don't let Tony hear you! It is very overprotective, however they have carried out the full package. You know Tony, he wanted all the information.
- How do he behave with him?
- They didn't start in the best way, Tony wanted to keep his distance - fault of the problems with his father, the woman immediately thought - but now it's a thing of the past. They are inseparable, really. Tony does nothing but talk about him.
Not with me.
- What school do he attend?
- What is this: an interrogation? He attending a STEM school, does it surprise you? That kid is a genius.
Like his father. Oh Tony.
- Does Rhodey know?
-He met him once but I don't think he knew what his identity really was.
- I understand, thanks Happy.
Pepper took a deep breath before calling Rhodey, she waited impatiently for the man to respond. Her foot tapped nervously against the desk.
- Hey Pep.
- Are you in town?
- I just finished physiotherapy. Did something happen? Is Tony in trouble?
- Does the name Peter mean anything to you?
- The extraordinary intern he always talk about?
- Is his son.
There was a crash, some objects falling to the ground.
- What the fuck? What do you mean he's his son?
- He's not an intern. He is a teenager. STEM. Happy says he inherited Tony's brain.
- Happy knew? How long?
There was a clear tinge of jealousy in Rhodey's voice, Tony was her younger brother since MIT and was entitled to know he had a nephew.
- Before the civil war, I also discovered it a little while ago. He sees him on weekends.
- I was afraid he had started drinking again. But are we sure Pep?
- Yes. They did the DNA.
- How do you feel?
- I still love Tony, and now he has a son. I don't know if there is more room for me in his life.
- Pepper do you know you should tell him? Tony still loves you.
- He talked to a woman. May. I believe she is Peter's mother.
- Just because he was talking to this woman doesn't mean he doesn't love you anymore.
- Happy picks up Peter today!
- What do we do?
- I thought we could follow him or try to meet the boy.
- Do you think this is a good idea?
- Aren't you dying to meet him? We don't have to tell him we know the truth.
- Damn let's do it. I'm coming.
Pepper asked Friday to keep her posted when Happy arrived at the tower, planning with Rhodey when to intercept Peter.
The plan was simple, as soon as the boy entered the lobby they would be based in Tony's private elevator, the only one that reached both the personal laboratory and the private floor.
She would bring documents with the excuse that she needed Tony's signature while Rhodey would say that he had causally passed the tower to see his best friend and have a look at the new prosthetic model.
She didn't expect to gasp, completely speechless. Rhodey had the same shocked look.
The woman expected a similarity between Peter and Tony, she had tormented herself in the previous hours to imagine which traits Peter had taken from Tony and which from May, but the boy in front of her was the photocopy of genius, the same brown curls and two large dark eyes that were full of innocence.
She was spellbound staring at the boy. Rhodey gave her a sly look as if to say: Wow, he looks like Tony's.
«OMS ... War Machine and Miss Potts! Um… H-i… I'm -I'm Pet-er! »
«Tony told me about you. You're his intern, right?» Rhodey asked, underlining the word intern in his tone of voice.
«Yes sir, me and da-Tony work on the suits, we check some SI projects. We often have dinner together and watch movies. » Both did not miss the young man's mistake. Dad.
«We're just going to him.» Pepper said softly. The more she looked at Peter the more she felt her maternal instincts scream to mess his hair.
As soon as they got to the man's personal floor, Tony shouted from the kitchen « Underoos I ordered some Thai!»
«Why don't you ever order me some Thai when I come to see you?» Rhodey asked.
«Sweet cheeks what are you doing here ?! I see that you have met Peter ... »
«Can't I come say hello to a friend? Anyway, yes, Peter was talking to us about his internship.»
«Fantastic. How did the chemistry test go?»
Tony asked Peter as he took the backpack from the boy's hands and set it on the ground, an action that surprised his friends even more. « What do you put in these backpacks? You should use tablets! They weigh too much. »
«It went well, at least I hope. » Peter said starting to eat and offering some to the others as well.
«Don't be so modest! You know Peter has top grades in school? He goes to almost every AP class. I'm sure Pete will join MIT. He helped me with your prosthesis, after he ate I'll show it to you, okay sugarplum?»
Pepper observed their daily life in silence, father and son who without realizing it made the same gestures, smiled in the same way, creating small dimples. The two looked at each other with pure affection, and for a moment Pepper imagined coming home tired from work to find Tony with dinner ready and a glass of wine while their children played together.
She looked at Peter and thought: he is Tony's son. No one could deny that that boy was his son, and fatherhood gave so much to the man she loved.
«Miss Potts are you all right?»
«Please Peter call me Pepper!»
«You are lost there Pep... Are you sure everything is okay? »
«Yeah, it's alright Tony. I only have documents for you to sign. »
«Others? And I was hoping you miss me.»
«Peter if you're done why don't you start showing me your work? » Rhodey asked politely, she couldn't take her eyes off Tony. She seemed to see more scars that weren't on the man's face before. How much damage has Siberia really left?
«Yes Underoos, I'll join you as soon as I've signed the paperwork! Don't blow anything up or Maggio will kill me.»
As soon as the two left, the woman moved uncomfortably. He didn't even glance at the documents.
« What is bothering you Pep? You're different today. Does anyone bother you? »
The worried and serious tone in his voice almost made her cry. Why did I let him go?
« Nothing, really. Maybe I'm just tired. »
«Yes? You should take a vacation, you deserve it. I would be lost without you. »
She didn't really listen to him. The words came out of her without thinking too much, instinctively.
« Tony I know about Peter ... »
Yet the man didn't seem surprised « If anyone could understand it, it was you. »
They looked into each other's eyes, she just wanted to get close and press her lips to hers but she couldn't even though he was so close.
« I'm having an incoming call from May Parker. »
It was like an electric shock for Pepper, before the man could say anything to her she left without even collecting the documents.
My plan wasn't all that brilliant.
Peter left before dinner, Rhodey immediately offered to give him a ride before Happy could leave with the young boy. Pepper found Tony still bent over his desk in the lab arranging a bundle of electrical wires. Surely Friday had warned him of her arrival.
« Why didn't you tell me about Peter?» she asked in a low voice.
« I made a lot of mistakes, okay? The boy is 15 years old. If he doesn't want to reveal it, it's his right, it's his life. If it had been up to me, I probably would have announced at a press conference.» Tony's voice was warm and protective.
« He's a good guy.»
« Yes, he is.» Tony's sweet paternal smile made her legs melt. Pepper smiled sadly back, unsure whether to ask the next question.
«You are happy?»
Tony looked at her closely, a veil of confusion frowning on his face.
« When am I with kid? Yes, I love that kid.»
« And she? You love her?»
« I love her?»
« His mother.»
« May. Do you feel anything ... you ... will you be a family? »
« Do I feel anything? Pep what the heck are you talking about? His mother died. May is his aunt.»
« I'm sorry I did not know! None of my business.»
« Pepper wait! I think we are on two different tracks here. »
« May. You love her ? She is related to your son. »
« I have a son? »
« Peter? »
« Oh. No. Peter is not my son! No. Pepper what... Peter is Spider-Man. »
« SPIDER-MAN? BUT HE IS FIFTEEN! »
« Hey he was a little spider before we met! »
« He's not your son then? But I thought ... »
« No. Well, I can see him as a son. Maybe I want adopt him, but it's not biologically mine. Why the heck did you think it was? »
« I heard you talking to May and then Happy confirmed. The boy is identical to you! You have the same expressions and the same genius gene, what was I supposed to think? You take him to the lab with you, spend weekends with him and constantly brag about his grades. Can you blame me? »
« You were jealous. »
« What? »
« You were jealous of May»
« No. I wasn't jealous Tony. »
« Yeah, you were jealous Pepper. »
« Even if it were…»
Tony grabbed her hips and kissed her passionately, Pepper's heart seemed to explode from his chest with delight.
« The only woman I love is you. »
« Really Mr. Stark? »
« Really Miss Potts. »
She leaned forward for another kiss, it was like breathing again.
« Adoption, huh? »