SUMMARY: Theme #004 BLACK: Movie-verse. Tony has a monster bruise that Pepper finds out about by accident.
DISCLAIMER: Iron Man etc. belong to Marvel Comics et. al.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: For the 100 Themes Challenge over on pepperony100
His back was killing him. Not literally, of course, but it certainly felt like it might be capable of doing some serious damage in that sense. It was why Tony was floating in his pool on one of the hottest days of the year with a T-shirt on.
He’d given up on trying to free float in the middle of the water and was using one of the steps at the far end as a truly uncomfortable pillow.
“There you are.”
Tony rolled his head a bit to the right to see Pepper standing, barefooted, at the side of the water with her Blackberry in her left hand.
She was sensibly wearing something sleeveless today.
Though black wasn’t the smartest color to choose—it soaked up all the sunlight it could. Technically, it isn’t even a color—it’s the absence of color. Now if you want real color, then there’s white, which happens to be all of the colors piled upon each other—I’m wearing white. Which goes kind of transparent when it gets wet and shit my back! She’s gonna see it and flip out and might try to quit again and I don’t want that happening because I could barely handle it the first time I think I’d end up a hermit if she did it again. And I would cry a lot and kids would call me the crying hermit man but I don’t think there would be kids, because I’m a hermit so I’d be calling myself—
“What are you doing out here?” she asked, thankfully halting his racing train of thought. “It’s got to be over a hundred degrees today.”
Tony’s sharp mind quickly came up with something that sounded less self-damaging than the truth. “Needed some sun,” he mumbled.
Pepper dropped her Blackberry on one of the deck chair and stepped to the edge of the pool. Tony watched curiously as she dipped the point of one cutely painted toenail in the water.
Looks like the cotton candy you get at the fair… he thought.
His eyes snapped back up to her face and watched as she did that thing and bit her lower lip as she smiled. Pepper sank to sit on the edge and dropped her legs into the water completely. Her floaty black handkerchief-hem skirt rode up above her knees and Tony just stared at her legs.
“You know, that sun excuse would work better if you weren’t completely clothed, Tony.”
At least we’re starting off with first names, Tony grumbled in his own head. “It was an impulse. And I’m not wearing underwear.”
Pepper looked down at his pants. Tony really had to put a leash on the lewd comment that was just raring to go when she did that. “I don’t envy you later.”
For a brief, horrible moment, Tony thought she knew. But when he chanced a look at her eyes again, he saw she was shaking her head and pointing at his jeans.
“I mean, trying to get out of wet jeans is just about the most irritating task on the planet.”
Tony raised an eyebrow. He knew his facial expression would be enough to get her to think about anything remotely sexual she may or may not have stated and then blow the entire thing out of proportion and possibly leave the pool. Unfortunately for him, Pepper was in a really good mood today. She simply grinned and tipped her head a bit.
“I do not envy you,” she repeated.
Little did Tony know, Pepper was just waiting for her boss to realize she came out here with the intention of getting him inside to dig into that cheesecake she’d brought back from The Cheesecake Factory.
Tony swung his arms loosely through the water and squinted up at the sun. “I don’t envy you if you stay out here any longer. We both know that you have the tendency to turn into a cooked lobster.”
Pepper kicked her leg and splashed his head (an action he was secretly grateful for—his face was hot). “Not a lobster. More like a… Strawberry. And if we’re going the food route, that makes you a slice of toast—which I think is entirely unfair.”
Why are we talking about food?
“Face it, Pepper. When you get too much sun, you become a boiled crustacean. Even your arms go stiff,” he quit the soothing gliding motion of his hands to demonstrate her I’ve-forgotten-sun-block-again- posture.
She kicked more water at him. “Shut up. Are you going to come inside? I brought back that cheesecake you wanted.”
That’s why we’re talking about food!
Overeager just by the thought of creamy cheesecake, Tony launched himself out of the water and practically tripped up the steps—looking like a gangly teenaged boy who was about to raid the refrigerator of its entire stock.
The only two things that distracted Pepper from the mental comparison were the fact that, A: Tony was wet and his clothes were sticking to him and the once white (now see-through) T-shirt was transparent and showing off every muscle he’d honed since his return— and B: that transparent T-shirt also revealed a rather odd thing about his back.
It was black.
Pepper quickly hopped to her feet and grabbed the hem of his shirt as he tried to skid past her and make it to the stairwell at the opposite end of the pool. She yanked it up until it bunched beneath his armpits and gaped at the damage he’d done to himself.
The bruise was huge. And it wasn’t that sissy yellowish green color. It was such a dark shade of purple that it looked black.
“Tony…” Pepper whispered. “What happened?”
She felt the muscle in his neck tense as he winced. “First you have to promise me you won’t quit,” he grumbled.
Pepper automatically held out her free hand—pinky extended. “I promise. On the usual terms we agree to. Just tell me what you did and I’ll get you all fixed up.”
Tony hooked his own pinky around hers and shook lightly. Instead of letting go like he normally did in Pinky Swear© situations, he twisted his hand around and held all four of her fingers against his palm.
Like a knight about to kiss his fair maiden’s hand.
“Remember how I was out this morning? Well… First off, I need to make it clear to you that the armor is now completely bulletproof. Okay?”
Pepper nodded but didn’t release his neck. She looked back at the bruise and winced for him. “If it’s bulletproof, then isn’t the impact absorbed?”
He mentally crowed at her scientific thinking and said, “It is. This is different.”
“What, did a tank run you over or something?”
“Oh. My. God. You were run over by a tank?!?!” Pepper shouted. Her fingers tightened within his grasp and Tony felt the bite of her nails. “Was it like, a surprise tank that popped out of a cave and jumped on top of you? Can tanks really be that sneaky?”
“Well… There were two tanks. One was shooting, the other was being ‘sneaky.’ I got two shots in my back from the mounted M-60 that got me to turn around, and then when I’d finished with that tank, the other one did the same trick with the actual—“
He stopped talking and looked into Pepper’s eyes. “Short answer is I got knocked down and run over.”
She nodded tightly and smoothed his soggy shirt back down (she still hadn’t demanded her other hand back from him). “And you know a way to fix this reinforcement problem?”
“Trial and error,” Tony grumbled.
Pepper tugged on his arm and started heading for the stairs. “Less error would be nice, Tony.”
“You’re telling me?!”
“Go get changed, Mr. Burnt-Toast-With-Grape-Jelly,” she ordered and pointed at his purplish-black musculature.
Tony grinned and did kiss her knuckles as he passed her.
Pepper waited until he was halfway up the stairwell before shouting, “Just for this, I’m eating half of your share of cheesecake!”
He slouched some more, then perked up on the next two steps. “You’re going to eat three quarters of an entire cheesecake?”
“Tony Stark, you are not eating half a cheesecake for lunch!”
Tony’s posture straightened a bit even though his jeans were chafing him in areas he didn’t like to be chafed. Now she’ll have to wait and see if I was serious, he gleefully plotted. And now I don’t have to wear a shirt…
Damn, his back was killing him.