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Five Times Pepper Potts Took Care of Tony Stark (and One Time Tony Stark Took Care of Her)

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1.

Tony Stark discovers his newest personal assistant minored in Art the same morning Pepper Potts discovers her new boss doesn't handle hangovers all that well.

She has been working for him for almost two months – which, if Pepper were prone to listen to the rumors, is rare enough for a PA on Stark Industries lately, as Tony seems to go through a new one every week, in a tortuous succession of he fires them or they quit and really, nobody thought Pepper stood a chance (including Pepper – ...and Tony).

When she finds him this morning he is watching the news with the sound off, and cradling his head in his hands, a wailing noise of regret coming out of his whole body.

The only thing surprising about this picture, with the kind of life Tony Stark leads, is that she doesn't find him in this state more often. At least he is somewhat fully clothed today (yes, that's a first day on the job story she is going to be telling for years).

Pepper hesitates when she enters the room, she has seen enough of Tony's moods in these past weeks, but she is still unsure about how to react to them. It's not like there is a manual.

But he has work to do so she decides to just walk to him and drop the open binder on the coffee table.

Tony winces at the noise.

`What is that? Don't put something like that in front of my face.´

That, she would say if she knew how to be confrontational in her new job, is a wide choice of some of the most awe-inspiring works of a whole generation of artists, mister: dozens of pictures of paintings – some of them Pepper has seen in galleries, some of them belonging to private collections she could never dream of beholding. Except that now they seem to be within her reach in some sort of twisted indirect way. Whatever working for Tony Stark is, it is definitely not ordinary.

`These are the... For the new Stark Industries HQ,´ she explains, because he seems to have forgotten. Again. `Mr Stane said you should pick two paintings for the foyer and these are in the range.´

`Oh god, what. Do I have to do this now?´

`No,´ Pepper says. `You have to do this three days ago. When I first showed you the folder.´

Tony frowns vehemently. It doesn't subdue her.

It bears repeating: truth is Pepper doesn't expect to last much longer in the job. It's just a fleeting arrangement, until she finds something more suitable, something less... eccentric. For a starter this wasn't exactly in her life plan: she studied business and she had hoped to land some boring-ass job in an office and go up from there, a nice middle-range company with great bonuses, great Christmas parties and little risk.

Pepper Potts is not really fond of risk.

She interviewed for the job on a whim. Stark Industries is definitely not middle-range but she had no other offers at the time and while she had done the whole how does the boss like his coffee? charade ad nauseam in her internship phase at least here she would get paid (a lot, a really ridiculous lot) to do it.

She read a couple of books on how to do this Personal Assistant thing. She is an excellent employee (her references are pristine) but she has to admit this is a bit out of her comfort zone.

She could have just thrown away the books. With Tony Stark all the things that everybody tells you are important when doing your job turn out to be not so important: Tony doesn't really care if she arrives late, or if she has to leave early or has a personal emergency (he has very sense of timing and responsibility himself), if he notices at all; he is not fussy about methods of organization or planning, he lets Pepper go about things her own way as long as it's efficient; he doesn't require that she talks to him with a modicum of respect, and he is not fond of people telling him what they think he wants to hear, he can smell patronizing on you.

Obviously Pepper is not going to take advantage of her new boss and his quirks but she's sure a more dishonest employee would get away with anything – if it wasn't for the fact that the job is so exhausting. At least she can honestly say she's not bored.

Tony fumbles through the pages.

`How am I supposed to know what the hell should hang on my walls?´ he wonders.

Pepper straightens her very straight skirt, a nervous tic.

`If depends on what do you want. If you want an investment, or you want to show off. If you pick one of the younger generation artists, like this or –wait– this one, well, people are not going to be impressed when they see read the name on the painting but in five or ten years they will be worth ten or fifteen times their current price. But if you just want to show off there's also a good range of... these, the usual suspects, there might even be a Quaytman available somewhere...´

Her rambling is stopped by the look of bafflement on Tony's face. She could blush but that –blushing in front of your employer– is one thing all those manuals describe as a no-no.

`How you know so much about this? Why do you look – excited?´ Tony asks.

Pepper tries to be casual, chewing the inside of her mouth and turning away slightly to avoid his eyes.

`Contemporary Art was my minor in college.´

`Really? I knew that?´

`Didn't you take a look at my résumé when you hired me?´

`I took a look at your legs.´

Pepper goes pale with horror.

`For the love of – It's a joke, Pepper,´ he tells her. `I'm joking. I do that some times. In case you haven't–´

`I could sue you for harassment.´

`Yes, sure, you could. But if you sue me you'll have to stop working for me and then who's going to choose the painting for the – for the foyer?´

`What do you mean?´

Deciding that he is too tired for this conversation Tony falls back on the couch, massaging his temples.

`You pick them.´

`What?´

`You pick the paintings. Decide.´

He can't be serious.

`You can't be serious. I can't possibly – Mr Stark, these are invaluable masterpieces.´

Tony grabs the folder again and examines it closer.

`Apparently invaluable is what they are not.´

`If you must know, most of this are a bargain, considering – considering how the market was ten years ago. The prices were so inflated during the 1980s that most of the traditional or casual collectors were locked out of – what

Perhaps Tony Stark doesn't understand the idea of wanting to buy something and not being able to afford it. Perhaps he doesn't understand the idea of wanting something and not getting it. And that's why he is looking at her like this now, a kind of soft but unreadable grin, like she is a harmless alien come from another planet.

`Come on, Potts. You've obviously put much more thought into this than – not surprising, really, because I have given it zero. ´

`But I'm not authorized to...´

He reaches out and puts his hand on Pepper's shoulder. Oh yes, that's another thing about her new job. The boss is sort of casual about physical contact. Pepper is not exactly sure what to do about that, though she has the feeling that if she asked him to stop he would, and maybe that's why she doesn't mind that much. Who knows, perhaps it's Stockholm Syndrome.

`I, Anthony Stark, hereby authorize you, Virginia Potts, to choose any piece of useless abstract art you want for the new Stark Industries building from here on until the time of my death, bankrupt or the installation of glass walls in every floor. What comes first. There, official.´

`But–´

`I'm going to put a little plaque next to the paintings saying Curated by Miss Potts

`I don't know what to –´

`Just do it. Are you not supposed to do everything I ask, that was the general idea? I'm hungover, I don't want to bother going through this, so you do it. It's really not complicated.´

She looks at him and she doesn't know him well enough (yet) to be sure that there's something more to this than just saving him the trouble, but she suspects it. Perhaps he doesn't really care for art. Next time he has a hungover she is going to ask for a raise, just in case she's figured out this trick.

Finally she gives him a smile, a weak smile but full of pity for his current state. He does look to be in some pain.

`I'll get you some tomato juice,´ she says. `And some ginger.´

`Ginger?´

`For the stomach. It actually works. If there is one thing you learn in college is how to get rid of a hangover.´

`Well, I was fourteen when I went to college so... yes, I know exactly what you are talking about.´

He slips into a semi-catatonic on the couch while she goes prepare the drink but stirs awake, like a wary animal, when she returns to his side.

She brings him the glass.

`Are you still going to sue me?´ he asks, hugging himself, head resting on his knees.

`It was a joke, Mr Stark. I was joking. I do that some times.´

He chuckles, and then recoils in pain at the movement.

Pepper takes the folder out of his sight. She sits on a chair while Tony adopts a fetal position and continues to watch (or rather, read) the news, sighing and moaning from time to time.

She picks a small painting first, something new, on a square canvas. A tiny painting. A little star-filled Brazilian sky so sparse and polished the untrained eye might even say it's abstract. There will be no plaque on the walls of Stark Industries headquarters. But. One could call it the start of the Pepper Potts Art Collection.

 

 

 

 

2.

Even the nights she is supposed to have off –that is the evenings Tony goes places where he doesn't want to bring Pepper and think about what that implies– she can't be sure there won't be a call at two in the morning asking her to do something ridiculous for Tony Stark.

There are nights when she ends up in the middle of the street outside a club, sleep-deprived and cold, with Tony lying on his back on the pavement and looking at her upside down. This is her life now. She has to look around, a reflex to check if there are cameras around to immortalize the moment, not so much for Tony's sake (at this point all press, specially bad press, is merely redundant) but because she has yet to accept her life now belongs to the gossip columns.

`Happy told me you didn't want to get in the car.´

`The car was... the carpet was mossy,´ Tony replies.

`Mossy?´

`It had moss on it. It was like – it was mocking me, Pepper.´

`Oh, I will be mocking you tomorrow morning.´

She tries to help him get up but... that is not happening. The most they manage is getting him to turn over his stomach and on his knees. Happy is waiting expectantly by the side of the curb, with the car door open. Poor Happy, she thinks, he is definitely too normal for this job. Pepper wonders what that says about her, then.

`What are you doing here?´ Tony asks, dryly, like she is the one doing something dubious.

`Trying to stop you from getting arrested on account of public disturbances. Or exhibitionism. Or both.´

In short, she thinks, your usual Saturday night in L.A. Ah, if her college professors could see her now.

`You interrupted me,´ he tells her, accusatory. `I was proposing.´

Pepper wonders if he s mistaking proposing and propositioning. And in any case...

`You were proposing to a bus stop,´ she states.

`Don't be so judgmental. It's St Patrick's.´

`We are in August.´

`Wha –? Wait. What year? Evil aliens have stolen our months, Pepper. We have to get them back.´

She pats his shoulder. She has no sympathy for his delirium.

`Evil distilleries have stolen your months, Tony. And you have stolen my well-earned nights of sleep. And possibly my sanity. So let's get you in the car now.´

`Well-earned nights of sleep. I know there has to be the perfect flirty comeback to go with that. It's coming to me now – it has to

`You can do that in the car.´

Happy helps her carry Tony's dead weight to the Bentley. He looks miserable and mortified, mumbles apologies for not being able to handle the situation himself. Pepper thinks, vaguely, of telling him to get out while you can, find another job, save yourself but maybe it is too late, Happy seems to like Tony already in a way that makes Pepper feel wise and sorry for herself. She sounds horribly bitter. Doesn't she? It's one of those nights.

They get in the back seat and Tony rests his head on her shoulder. Again, this is the kind of life she leads now. She thinks about it the whole car ride back to the mansion.

There is a pattern to Tony's drinking (she has been working for him long enough to knows this, and she wonders how did this happened) and the trick is to put him in bed before he goes from stages four (awestruck by every little thing) and five (giggly) to six (sadness) and seven (regretfulness).

`That is – my foot.´

`Yes, it is, and I'm taking off your shoes because apparently boy genius hasn't cracked that alcohol makes you dumb.´

Tony giggles. Oops, she thinks, time is running out.

`I can't believe I'm going to bed alone. It's Saturday!´

`Don't worry, I bet next time you can get two girls to come with you. That way this strike will cancel itself and you can keep your average.´

`You are so nice,´ he tells her brightly, like it's the first time anyone has thought of that. `How come you are so nice? I'm going to send your parents a thank you note for the... uh... the you

`I'll leave some aspirin on the bedstand.´

`You know,´ Tony says, navigating the blankets as if he were underwater, until he finds the pillow. `I thought you'd have left this job by now – I mean, no offense, I'm thrilled that... you are... and I was... wrong, but you didn't look like you were going to last. Why are you still here?´

Pepper throws her hands up. `It's a mystery.´

He gives her a glance and he's obviously beginning to sober up. He looks at her like it's a miracle she is here – and perhaps it is a miracle (on the bad days Pepper herself thinks it's a miracle, if there could be such a thing as bad miracles). And she hates, absolutely hates when he does that, when he looks at her like this because she can handle Tony being a complete douchebag 98% of the time and she can handle him being California's leading man-whore of the decade and look, at some point last year she even got used to the idea that this guy sells weapons for a living and she's probably going to go to hell for helping him. Those are the easy bits.

`No, really,´ he says. `Why are you still here?´

She thinks Tony is a much braver person than she is, because she hasn't asked herself that question yet, not honestly, hasn't dared going there. She is just too scared. In case there is no reason. In case there is.

Fortunately Tony falls asleep and is snoring and Pepper can go on living in blissful denial for a while longer. And in this job she has learned to be grateful for small mercies.

Happy, knowing that it's a long way back to her apartment and she doesn't like to drive, offers to drive her, as atonement, but Pepper decides to crawl into Guest Room Number 3. Or rather what used to be Guest Room Number 3, now unofficially known as Pepper's Room. She's surprised Tony hasn't threatened with a plaque with her name on it.

It's not like it's a great epiphany – she thinks about this every time she sleeps in this room and lies here looking at the ceiling. She knows at some point in her life she made a mistake, took the wrong turn, that has to be it, because how could this be the right path, that's unthinkable, literally, she can't think like that. That would be the equivalent of looking at Tony's stupid eyes. This is your life, Pepper tells herself, and it's the fact that she doesn't feel worse about it what really frightens her.

 

 

 

 

 

3.

For some reason beyond her understanding flu season always takes Tony by surprise, like it's a big revelation every year.

And it always ends up with some variation of this: they are in his bedroom, and Pepper has her hands on his shoulders, trying to get him back underneath the sheets and blankets, while Tony rebels and braces himself for his eventual demise, all very dramatic.

`I'm going to die,´ he says. He always says this.

`You are not going to die. You say this every –´

`How can you be so flippant, woman? I'm dying and you are not even a bit worried – what are you? Bring me my last will and testament, I can still leave you out of... hey, do you have Liquid Paper or Wite-Out or...?´

`You always say you are dying when you get the flu. Every year. You haven't died not even once just yet. Wait, did you just say I was in your testament?´

`Look, there's only one genius in this room right now and if I say I'm going to die then it follows that – well, it's not like I want to die but Pepper, believe me, chances are I'm going to get dehydrated and die a horrible, painful death. And it's not going to be pretty, so... don't look upon my disgusting corpse when that happens. Oh, Pepper, I want you to remember me as I was in life, so handsome. Do you even know how the human body works? Do you?´

Pepper would like to think she is a decent enough human being and she won't laugh at ill people, but maybe she is not.

`Do you? Does the genius know how many people of your age and constitution die of common flu every year in this country?´

Crestfallen, he draws the sheets up to his mouth. Pepper can tell he's pouting all the same.

`There could be complications,´ Tony mutters, but his heart is not in it.

An alarm goes off somewhere else in the house.

`The soup is ready,´ Pepper says.

Tony's face lights up.

The soup always calms him down. She tells herself she doesn't enjoy his helplessness but that's a blatant lie.

`I'm not going to feed it to you,´ she warns him when she comes back from the kitchen because she knows what the look he is giving her means and no, just no. Tony holds out his arms.

`But I'm so weak!´

`What you are is...You are hopeless and unbelievable.´

`Also weak!´

She groans.

`I brought you soup once,´ he points out.

`Yes, and you are never letting me forget it.´

But at some point in this (completely healthy, thanks for asking) work relationship Pepper decided that it was better to go with the flow in these cases, it is much less work than arguing with Tony. And “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” are lines crossed a long time ago so Pepper sits with him on his bed and lets Tony cuddle up to her in an almost childish way. She knows the danger of letting that get to her. Sure, now Tony Stark looks like a helpless (and okay, somewhat adorable, even if he is trying to grow a ridiculous goatee and how long is that going to last, she bets less than a month) little wounded animal, but tomorrow he will be back on his feet and he will bring the usual one-night stand to this very bed and then in the morning he will leave the clean-up to Pepper. Flu-ridden Tony is entertaining but a total misrepresentation of the man, she needs to remember that.

And she does. She always does. She always sees the whole picture – and Pepper is too smart not to realize how that makes her weaker and more gullible than those girls who go home with Tony at the end of the night because of his clothes and his millions and his smile and know nothing of what he's like when he has the flu, why should they.

So in the grand scheme of things feeding food to an ailing Tony Stark is not the worst decision she's ever made.

She is about to offer him a second spoonful when he stops her.

`Okay, you are right, this is just awkward, give me,´ Tony decides, taking the bowl of soup from Pepper's hands and sitting up.

She laughs. She doesn't leave the room. She sits with him and they watch month-old music videos of Christmas-y songs that feel horribly displaced and nostalgic with the California sunlight pouring through the windows. She is lying on his bed –this bed who has seen a thousand tricks and she doesn't want to think about that right now– and her head is on his pillow and they are laughing at Harry Connick Jr and she knows this is risky but Pepper has learned to appreciate risk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.

This is not the first or second time they are in Venice together but this time Tony gets food poisoned on the first night and has to skip the whole arrival ceremony.

Instead of galas and champagne and dancing and all that here they are both sitting on the floor of the bathroom, with the expensive tiles and the softest hotel towels anyone is ever likely to touch. And Tony is resting his face against the toilet and Pepper is handing him rosemary-scented tissues at a speed. The towels are just too nice to ruin.

Pepper should be disgusted, but they know each other too well.

`You have no one but yourself to blame,´ she says, because she warned him those piadinas looked funky. `You and your love of street food.´

`You are right, of course you are right. Curse my love of street food.´

Pepper is not sure why but food poisoning makes Tony oddly apologetic (the only time in his life he is). The whole business would be just repulsive if it wasn't, well, hilarious.

His tux awaits, hanging behind the bathroom door but there will be no party for Tony Stark tonight.

`I had a date tonight,´ Tony whines. `I had at least three dates.´

`Spare those poor girls for one night.´

Tony turns around, putting the toilet seat down and resting his back against it. He closes his eyes, beads of sweat running down his temples, looking like he is in pain and Pepper has one of those moments of weakness.

`This definitely is not on my job description,´ she comments playfully, brushing her fingers across Tony's forehead.

`No. You do it because you love me so much,´ he says with his eyes still closed. It doesn't sound completely like a joke.

She snorts. `Yeah, that's it.´

She rolls her eyes at him while she helps him all the way from the bathroom to his bed. He falls like a dead body and then just stands there like he is waiting for her to tuck him in. Which she is not, no way, there has to be a limit somewhere, even though she's helped him get into bed a million times. But then he turns and hugs the pillow and falls asleep before Pepper can say no way.

Just as well.

And it's before nine, and that means Pepper is going to go to bed earlier than she's done in ages, maybe since she started working for him, no parties and no emergencies and no random three o'clock in the morning phone calls, and obviously she doesn't wish Tony any harm but she is really grateful for the odd food poisoning. She would feel guilty about it, but she is too jet-lagged and tired. She would feel guilty but in all fairness Tony deserves to be food-poisoned from time to time.

The next morning Tony greets her in the breakfast room, an insane amount of food on his plate and grinning at her, looking younger and better than he's done in months.

`I feel great,´ he announces. `I feel healthier than – oh you have to try this orange juice, Pepper. It's otherworldy. Cancel all my plans. Let's go to the beach.´

Let's go to the beach really means let's go to the beach, you and me alone.

But then the beach is crowded and it unnerves Tony.

They decide to take a walk through the city instead.

Tony buys a bottle of cheap but excellent wine. They walk through the chiaroscuro of narrow streets and the washing hanging in lines between houses. Tony never goes anywhere walking but here he does, here they do. They pass by Vaporetto stops and tiny churches. A stray cat follows them for a while.

Finally they find an empty square in the sun and they sit in a cafe and buy ice cream. The owner serves it from a bowl as big as a fountain.

They eat in silence and then they read the local paper, moving their chairs close together, and Tony translates the words she can't understand (Pepper speaks French, not Italian) and when they finish they stare at the pigeons in the square and order another gelato.

`This is good. Right?´ Tony says, experimentally, without much seemingly conviction in case talking about the moment completely destroys the moment.

Pepper realizes how few occasions Tony has to be anything other than Tony Stark, like that, italicized. This is one.

`This is really good,´ she takes a spoonful of ice cream in her mouth, pretending she is not talking about something else entirely.

He smiles at her.

Pepper knows a million girls have seen Tony smile, but never like this. Not like this.

 

 

 

 

5.

`I need you to go to the cabinet and give me all the painkillers you can find there.´

`I was just about to!´

Adrenaline. Drama. First Aid Kit replenishment. These are now the fields Pepper Potts is an expert in, and nobody could accuse her of being anything but a fast learner.

Tony, on the other hand, looks like he is about to cry like a child. She is not worried. She tries not to be worried. The fact that he is here and they are yelling at each other and he is complaining about his wounds is proof that he's all right, all right enough anyway.

`Notice I did not say Give me a bunch of painkillers, I said All of them. I want you to get me all the pills I am legally allowed to swallow without having the authorities call it suicide attempt.´

She rolls her eyes. `You are such a baby.´

`A baby? Did you miss the part where a building fell on my arm? A whole building. Six floors. Plus attic.´

`My hero,´ she mutters, irony dripping thick like honey.

`Yes, many people would consider me a hero.´

`In my limited experience the trademark of a hero is that he doesn't go around calling himself a hero.´

`You must have such an old-fashioned concept of hero. It's all PR these days.´

`I can't imagine why they think you don't qualify for the Avengers Initiative.´

Tony snorts. `They are jealous of my swagger.´

She doesn't mean to but she finds it funny. Unlikely, though. She's met Fury.

She reaches her hand to Tony's head and she runs her fingers through his hair. Tony positively purrs.

`Ah ha,´ he says, victorious, and apparently he's not interested in painkillers anymore, unfazed by the bruises on his arm.

Pepper fondly brushes her thumb across his forehead.

He looks at her like it's a miracle she is here. Pepper never really stood a chance.

She kisses him.

He kisses her back, arm snaked around her waist. Pepper laughs, pulling back a tiny bit.

`Didn't you arm hurt?´ she mocks. `Didn't you want all the painkillers I could find? Because a building had fallen on you, six floors? Oh, and the attic.´

He groans against her mouth. `Priorities, Miss Potts, priorities.´

`My hero.´

And she means it.

 

 

 

 

 

1.

There is something inherently wrong about having her boss standing in the middle of her bedroom with a Tupperware in his hands. Not just because of the boss thing, it's mainly because there is something bizarre –and again, wrong– about Tony Stark having come to check up on her because she took a sick day.

And here he is, standing between the Popova print on the wall and her bed – where she currently is, wearing her old green pajamas.

At first Pepper thinks he has come to drag her back to work, no matter her state – her state is a seriously annoying cold, complete with throat infection, fever, a lot of sweat. And if he asks Pepper might have to get out of bed and back to work. Tony can be quite unreasonable, she learned that pretty fast.

But then she notices the chicken soup.

`I brought you this,´ he says flatly. `You sounded really awful on the phone. I could hear your snot.´

And she knows he's not lying. Tony Stark is not the type of boss who would insidiously go to his employees' houses to see if they were lying about their crippling illnesses to get a long weekend. He can be a lot of things –a lot– but Pepper is sure someday he is going to get robbed blind, he tends towards the suicidally trusting most of the time.

Also, Pepper is a model employee, she is pretty sure this is the first time she has taken a day off work at such an inconvenient time.

She watches Tony place the soup on her bedside table and then sit on the edge of her bed, and that's just surreal, Tony Stark sitting on her bed.

She eyes the soup suspiciously.

`You didn't make that,´ she says.

`Of course not. I have never cooked for another human being in my life. And never shall. That would be the day that Tony Stark –´

`Okay, okay, I get it.´

`But I brought it here, to you. Which is, all things considered – and I know how much you like to do that, consider all things – a pretty grand gesture. How many bosses would bring food to their employees when they are sick, answer me that.´

She suddenly feels guilty, just looking at his face (he almost looks worried), she knows what a day Tony has in store tomorrow and how important it was for her to sort everything out.

`I'm sorry, Mr Stark. I'm very sorry about today, I know you have a big presentation tomorrow and I should have –´

`Blah, don't worry about it. I'll be fine.´

`Will you?´

`Of course. This might surprise you, Miss Potts, but there was a time, not so long ago, when I didn't have you here to take care of every little detail, and I managed to survive until you arrived.´ Then he gives her a wide smile. `Barely survive but well, you know. In fact I spent most of my life not having you around to tell me what to do. Shocking, I know. But I still remember a couple of tricks. I think.´

`Just in case. I already arranged for the car to pick you up at nine tomorrow. In case you forget.´

`Fair enough. I'll leave the soup here for when are hungry. Pierre said he put extra basil because you like it?´

`Oh, Pierre.´ She gets a bit tear-eyed thinking about Stark Industries' chef of choice.

`Hey, who brought you the soup? Was it Pierre? No. It was me.´

Pepper rests her hand on the crook of Tony's elbow.

`Thank you, Tony.´

Tony shrugs, suddenly uncomfortable. Pepper might not have been his PA for long just yet but she has already caught up with this trait of his; as much as Tony likes to pinch and push and press people he is unable to react to genuine human emotion, even when he offered it first.

`Yeah, sure,´ he dodges, looking away. `Just feel better soon. Soon like, tomorrow. There's only seven million things you have to do. But hey, no pressure, take your time.´

`I'll be there tomorrow to pick up the pieces after the presentation,´ she tells him.

`Deal. I told the company's doctor to be on standby, so if you feel any worse just give him a call.´

`That's almost sweet of you, boss.´

`I know. I regretted it as soon as the words left my mouth.´

`Bye, Tony.´

`Yeah.´

He stands up to leave but he hesitates, pausing for a moment before turning and walking away.

It might very well be her fevered state but Pepper decides that the image of Tony Stark standing in the middle of her bedroom doesn't feel so bizarre or wrong anymore. It must be the fever, absolutely, so she pushes the thought away and goes back to sleep.