May 7, 2009

Crack

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 7:16 pm by vrtrakowski

Quick and unbetaed, inspired by comments about spoilers on the tonypepper community. Heh. Rated PG just to be on the safe side. Please note, I know almost nothing about the comics, so I’m faking most of this.

The sun was overhead, making Pepper glad that she’d slathered on the sunblock, but beneath it the sand was brilliant and the ocean glittering, a feast for the eyes.  Pepper picked her way along the beach, stepping carefully around the chunks of roof and the weird spots where the sand had melted, grateful for her surf shoes.  Still, Tony’s private piece of shoreline was relaxing despite the battle’s aftermath, and it was good to get out in the open air again, now that everyone else had left.

It had been what Tony described as an “epic” fight, and Pepper had decided privately that if that was his term for the present destruction, she didn’t want to know what he’d consider “horrific”.  He’d scoffed when she’d expressed dismay, pointing out cheerfully that the damage was mostly cosmetic, but all Pepper could think about was whether the insurance covered wanton destruction by super-powered entities, or if that fell under the “acts of God” clause.

Which god, that’s the question.

She’d been so busy, afterwards, coming up with coffee and sandwiches and treating various minor wounds until Tony had caught Dane flirting with her and declared the party over.  Pepper had met the Avengers team before, of course, but a post-battle situation was much less formal, and it was…reassuring…to put personalities to the names and costumes.  Uniforms.  Whatever.

Speaking of names, what is it with these people?  “Iron Man” was bad enough, and at least Tony hadn’t come up with it on his own.  And while everyone knew who Captain America was if they’d paid any attention at all in history class, the others…

Still, up close they were much more human, tired and hurting and joking around like any bunch of colleagues after a hard day.  And Pepper had to admit she liked some of them, though as far as she was concerned Nick Fury could still go dig a hole and pull it in after himself.

She wasn’t up to surfing today, but Pepper draped her robe carefully over a handy boulder and waded in, diving smoothly past the combers to deeper water and enjoying the caress of it over her skin.

I needed this.

It had been a long two days.  Between bouts of paperwork and rescheduling, she’d been helping Tony and the ‘bots pick up around the mansion, triaging damage and–in her case–making insurance estimates.  Fortunately most of the fight had concentrated in the workshop and the roof, with a brief detour through the latter and into the master bedroom; her own private suite on the far side of the house hadn’t been touched, nor–thankfully–the vaults in the sub-basement, though Pepper figured it would take a great deal more than a couple of annoyed supervillains to get into those.  Tony was known to consider threats like low-yield nukes a challenge, after all.

But that hadn’t stopped the stress headache from building up behind her eyes, and the pain hadn’t been helped by Tony’s tease that he would just join her until his room was habitable again.  She didn’t know if Tony had actually noticed her winces or if Jarvis had whispered in his ear, but either way he’d suddenly turned on her and shooed her out of doors to get some sun.  Backed up by Jarvis, which was somehow adding insult to injury, but in the end she’d given in, leaving her bruised but cheerful boss behind to continue working on repairing the suit assembly platform.

Pepper was giving serious thought to figuring out how to jam the thing herself if Fury called before Tony had time to heal up, but that was another issue…

She swam for a long time, working out the knots she hadn’t felt building; sliding through the silky water, twisting and turning just to let it stroke her overstretched nerves.  Pepper privately considered easy access to the ocean to be one of the best unofficial perqs of working for Tony Stark, even if she didn’t often have time to indulge.  Sometimes just knowing that the option was there was enough to get her through the day.

Finally she let the waves carry her back to shore, squeezing moisture out of her hair as she walked back to dryer sand and twisting the strands up in a quick knot to keep them off the back of her neck.  Water streamed down her arms and legs, causing her to shiver pleasantly, but already her black tank suit was absorbing the sun, warming faintly against her skin.

Pepper caught up her robe but didn’t put it back on; the sun felt too nice and she was still soaking.  As she headed back up towards the cabana showers and the cliff elevator, she had to detour around yet more debris.  She almost stepped on a dark coil in the sand before she realized it wasn’t seaweed.

She hadn’t seen most of the battle, but she’d heard various details from both Jarvis and the Avengers, though Tony kept brushing her off when she asked him about it.  So when she recognized the shape, she knew where it had come from.  Whiplash.  Another really dumb name–

Pepper supposed she really ought to leave the thing for the ‘bots to pick up later, but she was curious.  And she’d handled one before, though it had been at least twenty years since her uncle had brought them back as souvenirs for both Pepper and her brother…

The handle was smooth in her hand, with odd indentations; the lash was long and didn’t look like any material she was familiar with.  But when she lifted it and snapped it experimentally, it sang through the air with perfect balance, the crack small and sharp and clear.

Pepper smiled in reminiscence.  I wonder if I’m still any good at this.

She missed the first two times, but on her third attempt the seaweed bladder exploded with a wet pop at the touch of the lash.  Pepper took out all the others she could see in the heap of tangled leaves, then turned her attention to the tricks she and Terry had learned to do.

The whip handled like it had been created for her, the lash wrapping obediently around her waist or leg or shoulder like a snake in love with her warmth.  She made it score patterns in the sand, and set up shells and pebbles on top of a big rock before snapping them off one by one with an efficiency a sniper could envy.  It circled whizzing around her, with just enough danger of a welt if she slipped, and Pepper found her feet moving in the old steps Terry had invented, the simple dance a reminder of uncomplicated, happy times.

It was fun.

Pepper smirked to herself, and swung her hips, updating the dance for her adult body and making the whip her partner.  And wondered if she could sneak the thing past Tony and keep it.

Above her, in the half-wrecked workshop, Tony Stark stared riveted at the screen on his desk, whimpering under his breath, lost in the feed coming in from the beach cameras.

End.

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