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Unique from the Beginning


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Hey y'all! So, I've been working on this fic for FOREVER. I just couldn't seem to get it right, and it was driving me bonkers.

Anyway, it's a pre-Avengers Tony/Pepper fanfic. Pepper is still Tony's assistant, and she comes into work sick one day. Lovely Pepper/Tony banter and dynamics follow. I usually don't post stuff this long to start with, but I couldn't figure out a good spot to break it up. If there's enough interest, I'll totally write more!

Without further adieu:


Unique from the Beginning

Part One

When Pepper Potts was six years old, she’d nearly drowned.

She was at the beach on a family vacation, and her parents had finally given into her begging and let her swim in the ocean by herself. She hadn’t been out that far—not by a long shot—but a wave had still somehow managed to knock her off her feet. She’d searched for the surface, but she couldn’t find it; the wave tumbled her and pulled her ever closer to the bottom of the sea. She’d begun to flail—panicking; seconds passed like hours. Then, just as suddenly as it had pulled her under, the ocean had tossed her like a ragdoll back onto the sand.

Years later, Pepper was drowning again. Only this time, there wasn’t even any water.

When Pepper had been hired as Tony Stark’s assistant, she’d been nervous, sure—but she’d also been excited. The job would work wonders for her career, of course; and Tony Stark was one of the most powerful men alive. And not that she’d ever, ever admit it, but she did sort of maybe kind of have...a little crush on him.

But her job—which had started out as a very simple, “Potts, bring me some coffee,”—had rapidly and without warning morphed into, “Hey, Potts, could you arrange these files and organize my calendar and arrange these meetings and look over these forms and sign these ones and maybe just do my whole job for me while I play in the lab?”

Pepper had been working for Tony Stark for three months, two weeks, and five days. She would’ve counted the hours, but she didn’t have the time. She didn’t have the time for anything anymore, least of all getting sick.

So, naturally—she’d come down with the flu. The universe was conspiring against, that’s all there was to it.

More than anything, Pepper wanted to take one long, blissful sick day. That’s all. Just one. But she knew if she did take a sick day, a chain of events would absolutely be set in motion—Tony wouldn’t leave his lab because she wouldn’t be there to boss him around, and so he wouldn’t go to the meetings she had scheduled for him, and then his business partners would get pissed off, and she’d wind up having an absolute field day cleaning up his messes when she came back to work.

She would just have to tough it out.

But, several hours into what was shaping up to be a very long day, Pepper wasn’t sure how much more toughing it out she could handle. She was stuffy and shivery and achy and she just wanted to go home. At least, she rationalized, everything was quiet. Usually, Tony would’ve come bursting into her office ages ago—talking a mile a minute about a million different topics, most of which she knew nothing about. She enjoyed it—she really, really did—but it could get exhausting. She didn’t have the energy to keep up with Tony’s mania. Not today.

Pepper was trying in vain to make even the slightest bit of sense of the messy files Tony had left for her to organize. But she’d kicked off her heels and curled her feet underneath herself, and wrapped up in the heavy winter cardigan she kept at her desk. The previously full box of tissues sitting on her desk was nearly empty, and—based on the sneezes she could feel growing inside her nose—it was going to be completely depleted by the time she went home. She was getting very close to just throwing in the towel, when a door opened and Tony Stark walked in.

He was the kind of person who could fill an entire room just by standing there; he was that confident and charismatic. Pepper immediately became more aware of her red nose and pallor, the loose bun her hair was piled in. Damn him for being so attractive.

Damn you for thinking so, a small voice in the back of Pepper’s head whispered.

“Morning, Potts,” Tony greeted.

Pepper glanced at her desk clock, “It’s two-thirty in the afternoon, Tony,” she said, her voice husky.

Tony grinned, “Ah. So it is. Well, after sixteen hours in the lab, I start to lose track of things a little. Morning becomes afternoon, light becomes dark, breakfast becomes dinner—,”

“And does sleep ever come into the picture?” Pepper interrupted smoothly.

“Very rarely,” Tony said, without missing a beat.

Pepper laughed in spite of herself, though the laugh quickly turned into rattling, congested coughs. Pepper felt her face flame. It was no secret that Tony Stark was a germophobe. He was probably disgusted. Perfect. Just perfect. She knew she was probably going to get fired—and how completely humiliating would that be?.

To Pepper’s everlasting surprise, however, Tony was not flinging himself out of the room as though Pepper were the carrier of a highly contagious zombie virus. Instead, he was standing quite still and studying her. Pepper’s teary eyes met Tony’s dark brown ones, “What?” she croaked.

“You’re sick,” Tony said simply.

“It’s just a cold,” Pepper managed, before she gasped and let out a surprisingly strong, “Ahhh...ah...ktchu!” into two loosely cupped palms.

The pencil securing her bun slipped when her head jerked forward, and her hair loosed itself and fell messily around her face. Pepper sighed and pulled what felt like her hundredth tissue from the box and lightly blew her nose, conscious of Tony’s razor sharp eyes still trained on her, “It’s just a cold,” she repeated, sniffling.

Tony reached into his back pocket, and procured a monogrammed handkerchief folded in a neat little square. He held it out to Pepper. She shook her head, certain it was probably obscenely expensive. Tony rolled his eyes, “Your nose is pink. While it is a becoming shade for you, I can’t imagine it’s particularly comfortable, and those tissues probably aren’t helping any. Take it.”

Pepper blushed but obliged, and delicately wiped her nose. She set it down on her desk when she was done, “Thanks, Tony,” she murmured hoarsely.

“You sound terrible,” Tony said bluntly, “Also, you’re welcome.”

“It sounds worse than it really is,” Pepper sighed. That wasn’t entirely true, Pepper mused, as a shiver ran down her back and shoulders. Tony, naturally, noticed it immediately.

“You’re shivering,” Tony pointed out.

“It’s...cold in here,” Pepper argued, though the excuse sounded weak even to her.

Tony reached out a hand, as though he were going to feel Pepper’s forehead or brush a strand of hair out of her eyes. But he hesitated midway through the motion, and settled for awkwardly resting the hand on her shoulder instead, “You should be in bed.”

Pepper sighed huffily and jerked her arm out from under Tony’s touch, “Tony, you and I both know that if I took the day off, nothing would get done,” she said, a bit more snappishly than she’d intended.

Tony pretended to look wounded, “Ouch. I’m hurt, Potts. You don’t trust me?”

Pepper looked up from her computer and raised her eyebrows sardonically. Tony smiled, “I’ll take that as a no.”

“Definihhhh...hihhh...hih’nxt! Kt’nsh! Definitely a no,” Pepper answered.

“I don’t think you give me enough credit,” Tony said.

“I give credit where credit is due,” Pepper responded primly.

Tony laughed out loud, and Pepper couldn’t fight the grin that appeared on her face. Though, it quickly faded with the onset of more sneezes. Pepper quit worrying about propriety and grabbed Tony’s handkerchief off her desk. She buried her nose in it, breath hitching, “Heh...hhhh...nhsht! Ngkshh! Heh’nshhht!”

When she was fairly certain she was done for the time being, Pepper hesitantly lowered the handkerchief with a watery sniff. Tony’s hand began to make its way towards her again, and this time—it made it all the way to her forehead. The electricity in that light touch, Pepper noticed vaguely in her foggy state, was surprisingly intense.

“Christ, Potts, you’re really feverish,” Tony said, his brow furrowed.

Pepper didn’t have enough energy left to argue—besides, she knew he was right, anyway. She buried her face in her hands and squeezed her eyes shut.

“Pepper,” Tony said with uncommon gentleness, and she vaguely registered the sudden use of her first name, “You feel terrible, don’t you?”

Pepper peeked up at Tony, her eyes luminous with tears. She nodded yes, her mouth trembling. Tony looked just as surprised at the sudden display of emotion as she, “Hey,” he said warmly, “Don’t cry. You’re okay.”

Tears tumbled out of Pepper’s eyes and sheeted her cheeks, “I d-don’t know what’s wrong with m-me. I’m s-so sorry,” she hiccoughed.

Tony laughed a little, “You have the flu, Pep. That’s all. You don’t need to apologize.”

“No, I mean, why I’m so...emotional all of the sudden,” Pepper said, roughly wiping the tears off her face with the backs of her hands as she tried to regain control.

They fell into an awkward silence. Neither Pepper nor Tony was particularly good at dealing with feelings. For Pepper, that came from being a woman in a male-dominated workplace. You show emotion, you show weakness.

And Tony...well. Tony was just Tony.

Tony cleared his throat and spoke first, “You really should be at home, you know.”

A ghost of a smile flitted across Pepper’s features, “Will you do any work if I leave?”

“Probably not,” Tony quipped, “That’s my main motive for getting you out of here, though I do think I’m managing to hide it behind the guise of caring about your well-being quite nicely.”

Pepper rolled her eyes, but she honestly couldn’t deny that the thought of being curled up in bed at home was unbelievably appealing, “I think I may take you up on your offer,” she relented, “But, Tony, promise me—you will go to everything I have scheduled for you today, okay? Please.”

Tony was going to reply with his default sarcasm, but something in Pepper’s expression stopped him short, “Yeah, okay. I promise.”

Pepper smiled and stood up to get ready to leave, but immediately went ashen. She pressed a hand to her forehead and tried to fight the dizziness, but Tony could see her swaying. He rushed over to Pepper’s side and managed to wrap an arm around her middle just as her legs folded beneath her.

“Whoa, easy,” Tony said, “Pepper, are you okay?”

Pepper opened her eyes and blinked up at him blearily, “I’m sorry,” she mumbled, “I don’t know what hahhhhh...ahhhh...ah’tishoo! Ishoo! Happened.”

A light mist from Pepper’s uncovered sneeze hit Tony’s neck, and he winced reflexively, “Pepper, you’re starting to scare me a little bit,” he said, and a jumpiness rarely ever present in him crept into his tone.

Pepper just buried her face into his shoulder and didn’t answer. Tony jostled her gently, “Pepper? Hey, Potts?”

Pepper lolled her head upwards, “Hmmm?”

“Okay, good. You live,” Tony joked uneasily, “You were freaking me out for a minute there.”

Pepper giggled almost drunkenly, “Sorry, boss.”

“Not a big deal,” Tony said, trying to be smile and be reassuring. This really, really, really wasn’t his forte.

“Tony,” Pepper murmured.


“I feel terrible,” Pepper whispered.

“Really? Huh. Never would’ve guessed,” Tony deadpanned.

Pepper blinked. With a brisk shake of the head, she seemed to come back from wherever foggy place she’d gone, “Sorry I worried you.”

“Eh, I probably deserved it, for all the times I’ve worried you. Karma, and all that,” Tony said, joking quickly and uncertainly.

“I think I’m okay to go home now,” Pepper said, easily untangling herself from Tony’s grip.

“Really?” Tony said skeptically.

“Yeah,” Pepper said, hoping she sounded more confident than she felt, “I get faint sometimes when I have a fever, but it always passes really quickly. I’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

Tony still looked unconvinced, but he surrendered. He walked over to the coat rack and got Pepper’s coat and helped her shrug into it. Pepper brushed a few strands of hair out of her eyes and tried to fight the lingering dizziness with a bright smile, “Bye, Tony. And, you know...thanks.”

Tony nodded and followed her out of the office, flicking the lights off as he left. Pepper didn’t notice this, of course, but Tony tracked her movements as she walked from Stark Tower to the subway tunnel. He watched as Pepper stopped suddenly, shoulders cringing as she muffled two sneezes into her hands. Tony also couldn’t help but notice the exhaustion in her normally brisk gait, too.

Tony watched, thoughtful, until she disappeared down the escalator and from his sight.

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  • 5 months later...

So I don't know why I never saw this before, but it's AWESOME! You write so well. I haven't seen the Avengers, or the new Iron Man, but your characters are so good it doesn't matter. Any chance you still want to write more?

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  • 6 months later...

This was just too good to leave there. Seriously craving more!! Even after all this time, I think it is fair to say that there are consequences begging to to be written about........... xxx

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I wouldn't mind a follow up on that story ;) and by wouldn't mind I mean I'd-jump-up-and-down-in-drunken-happiness... if you catch my drift:D

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Oh. My. God.

I don't know how I missed this, but my GOD was it GOOD! I feel all tingly and fuzzy inside just imagining the scene.

I too would be beyond happy if there was a follow up on it, if you feel up to it!

In any case, really, this is GOLD! biggrin.png


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I don't know how I missed this,

Me too! Where did this fic come from - was it seriously posted around since 2012?

Anyway, great to finally discover it, and yes - any continuation would be most gratefully received :D

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