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With Great Power

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Tony leaned over and kissed her neck, then gave it a quick bite before lifting his lips from her skin.

"You just did that to watch it glow while it healed, didn't you?" said Pepper.

Tony gave a guilty sounding laugh and then hugged his arms around her. "That may have been part of my motivation," he said. "But also your skin tastes really good."

"Mmm," said Pepper, somewhere between charmed and annoyed. She felt this way around Tony a lot.

He pulled he closer and gave her a more gentle kiss, then grinned at her. "You know you're functionally immortal, right? That is so cool."

Pepper wasn't sure she liked being seen as a fascinating science project. "Except for how I could explode into flames at any moment."

"Well, yeah." Tony rolled his eyes as if this was some minor quibble. "But I'm working on that."

Richardson snatched his hand off her knee with a hiss. Pepper smiled.

Later, during the delegates dinner, he cornered her in a quiet part of the ballroom. "What did you do to my hand?" he said in an undertone. "It's got blisters."

"I did say you should stop touching me," she replied. "As I recall you said that my washed up company and has-been boyfriend didn't scare you. Are you scared now?"

"I..." She gave a theatrical grin and let her face glow for a moment. She could see the orange light reflecting in his wide, confused little eyes. Tony would be proud.

"You're...what are you?" he sputtered.

"The CEO of Stark Industries," she said. "And, quite probably, your future boss. You should know, we have a very strict sexual harassment policy. You might want to look it up in advance."

Pepper made a sound of frustration and then stopped and put her hand dramatically to her forehead. "Oh my. I'm feeling a little warm."

Tony frowned. "Don't joke about that."

"No really. The fact you refuse to stop working and go to sleep gets me so angry. I feel like I'm about to just...explode."

Tony narrowed his eyes. Pepper stared back at him, unblinking.

"...fine, you win. For now. But one day I'm going to fix this thing and then I'll be able to get you angry all the time without worrying about your welfare."

She smiled. "Right. You'll just have to worry about yours."

Pepper's assistant Trish looked at her with envy and rubbed her hands together against the chill. "Wow, that coffee looks so warm! I thought you had to leave it here during the meeting."

"Mmm" replied Pepper, taking a sip to avoid answering. She watched the normally poised Trish as she huddled, shivering, with her hands pushed up into her underarms. Damn, she hadn't realised how miserable she was. "Look, until the heating gets fixed in my office there's no point trying to work in here, why don't you take the rest of the day off? It's only an hour, I should be ok."

"Really?" Pepper could see the poor woman's work ethic at war with her extreme discomfort. Thankfully, the discomfort won. "Thanks Ms Potts, I'll see you tomorrow!" Trish packed up her things and started to leave before stopping at the doorway and biting her lip. Pepper looked at her, confused, and Trish blushed. "I hope this doesn't sound weird but...I think people like you are the real heroes. I mean superpowers and stuff are cool but you just do your job quietly without making a fuss, you know?"

Pepper was reminded of Cillian's philosophy of anonymity and had to stop herself wincing. "Thanks," she said, giving a mostly sincere smile. "Though you know people with superpowers are just doing their job too. A lot of them would be working quietly out of the spotlight if they could." Since this thing with her DNA Pepper had had a few very enlightening talks with Bruce about how he coped with his situation (and how he coped with Tony. She'd had some advice to offer there) Sometimes Pepper allowed herself a brief moment of horror imagining what would happen if someone with Tony's disposition ended up in Bruce's shoes. Or in hers.

"Yeah, I guess..." said Trish. "Anyway, I'll see you tomorrow!"

Pepper waved goodbye and then sat down at her computer with her carefully warmed cup of coffee (it had taken her a while to figure out how to heat them up without making the mug explode. Tony had found this process hilarious) She opened up the grant applications she'd be looking at and started taking down some notes. But Trish's words still niggled at the back of her mind.

She'd mostly managed to keep her abilities a secret, but it was only a matter of time before word got out. And until Tony finally figured out how to make the treatment reliably nonfatal her abilities were unique. Would people expect her to be a superhero too? Maybe join the Avengers?

Pepper shook her head and reminded herself she was being silly. She had nothing to offer as a superhero that couldn't be done just as easily by a regular woman with an environment suit and a blowtorch. If a nuclear reactor started going critical she'd offer to go in and stop it, but until then she had better things to do.

She took another sip of her coffee and got back to work.