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"Exactly As Practiced"-Avengers, M, Tony Stark, cold


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Just another oneshot to get my creative juices flowing and I was daydreaming about sneezy Tony in a tuxedo so here we are.  Left it open to be continued if the urge strikes me.

Set shortly after Iron Man 1.  I usually write from the sufferer's point of view so I'm trying it from the outside observers this time.

Tony has to make a brief speech at a public appearance.  He is also coming down with a cold.  That's all really. :laugh:


“Stop squirming and just read what’s on the cards.”

“I’m not squirming and I can’t read when you’re tying that so tight.  You never tie it so tight.”

“Maybe you’re putting on weight.”

It may have seemed like a careless throwaway comment, but like everything Pepper Potts did and said when it came to Tony Stark, it had a carefully crafted hidden purpose.


“I never liked this one anyway.  Go get me a different one.”

Right on schedule.  With a swift, careful flick she pulled the untied bow tie from under his upturned collar.  With a similarly practised and effortless gesture, as soon as her back was turned, Tony reached up and pinched his nose to stifle a sneeze into near silence.

 Pepper heard it of course.  Just like she had heard the other twenty or so over the course of the last hour.  She had pretended not to hear all of those, less out of a sense of loyalty to her “boss but maybe something more”, than out of a sense of not wanting to deal with a sulky Tony when her priority was making sure he got ready for his speech.  Now, however...

“Bless you!” she called in a sing-song voice over her shoulder.

“Don’t say pointless things for no reason.  It’s weird.”

Well okay then.  He was going to continue being grumpier than usual, probably from the cold he was very obviously coming down with and doing a terrible job of hiding, and she was going to keep pretending that it wasn’t as obvious as the slightly pink nose on his face.  Splendid.

“I don’t hear practising,” she called back instead, her tone as smooth as ever with faint undertones if frustration blooming to the surface.  “Try to get a little farther before getting distracted this time.”

Tony sighed and raised the stupid, annoying and...he couldn’t think of any other adjectives right now...card and began again.

“Good evening everyone.  I’d like to personally extend my sincerest welcome to everyone here.  It’s wonderful to see so many returning faces as well as so many new ones.  And whether it is your first year attending or your tenth, I...”

Exactly the same spot as before.  And three...two...

“Ttss!” was the only noise that escaped from his near successful stifle.

“Why did you stop?  It sounded great.”

Pepper said with feigned innocence.  For crying out loud, if he would just admit that he wasn’t feeling one hundred percent, she could at least try to do something to help.  Maybe give him something to take the edge off until he could go home and rest.  As it stood right now, he was likely to reject all offers of help.  Which was a shame because that small portion of the speech did not actually sound all that great.  He sounded tired and obviously nursing a scratch throat and stuffy nose.  

She liked the new Tony Stark, the man he had become when he took on the role of superhero.  She really did.  She had to admit, he had become a whole new person in her eyes.  But the endless hours flying around the world, making appearances and solving problems with little time for rest or nourishment was just as detrimental to his health as the hard partying was.  And his general health wasn’t exactly stellar to begin with.

“I don’t like it,” he grumbled with a sniff that he thought he camouflaged perfectly but didn’t.  “There’s nothing here that’s really me.  I need to put more personality into it.”

“Oh god please don’t,” she retorted as she draped the new bow tie around his neck.  She allowed her fingers to brush against his skin as she did, and felt the near imperceptible jump his skin did in response to the electricity of her touch.  It was part of their new dance now, the subtle and tentative little hints of courtship as they both tried to work out what this new thing between them was.  But it served another purpose, as the brief encounter allowed her to gauge just how much heat was radiating from his skin.  “I don’t think we’ve finished apologising from the last time you decided to add some personality to a speech.”

“Hey, how was I supposed to know that Congressman’s wife really had left him that afternoon?”

“You see, that’s exactly the sort of sentence most people go their entire lives without ever needing to say.  Please just stick to the cards.”

As he began again, she patted the bow tie flat and stepped back to assess his overall look.  God but the man could wear a tuxedo like nobody else...of course that was not what she was supposed to be assessing.  Tie straight, shoes shined, pocket handkerchief folded perfectly...

“And whether it is your first year attending or your ten...tenth.. ehhptchhgh!”

Before he had time to react to the wetness he had just expelled into his own hand, a tissue was pressed into his free palm.  The moment he had wiped his hand dry he was swiftly handed two bright red gel capsules and a chilled, freshly opened glass bottle of his favourite water.  Expensive water, naturally.

“Don’t ask any questions, just swallow them,” she ordered, and then was mildly surprised when he did.  Perhaps his burgeoning cold was actually getting to him to the point where he was willing to consider accepting help.  Not a moment too soon, either.  By taking them now, the pills had a chance of working by the time he was out there under the bright lights with all eyes on him.  She wondered where he had picked this one up.  He sometimes seemed to collect cold viruses like souvenirs of his travels these days.

She pressed another tissue into his hand and instructed him to clean his nose.   She didn’t often say “not in my job description” when it came to doing things for Tony, and she may have essentially just dressed him, but there was a place to draw the line, and wiping his nose for him was exactly where that line was.  To her surprise, he not only accepted the tissue but cradled his nose with it and directed three harsh sneezes into its soft, forgiving folds, then wiped his nose before stuffing it into his pocket.

“Feeling okay?” she ventured.  “You’re not coming down with something perhaps?”

He grunted but didn’t say anything in the way of denial.  That was a big leap of progress.

“Does whatever you just bade be take do addythi’g for a headache?  Cause I’ve got a killer ode ri’de dow.”

She nodded, wondering if he was at all aware that his voice sounded like that.  “They have paracetamol in them, so they should help.”  Unsaid went the addition that they should help his temperature and provide a brief respite from the stuffy nose and the cough that he was desperately trying to avoid having by repeatedly clearing his throat.  That would get him through this.  She would have all the time in the world to worry about getting him to rest afterward.

“Ehhptchhgh!  Tccchghk!  EhhTCHUU!”

She wordlessly pressed another tissue into his hand, slightly worried that this illness now seemed determined to take hold as quickly as possible.

“Fifteen minutes.  Let’s do the speech again and maybe you can get through the whole thing this time.”

Tony snuffled, nodded, and cleared his throat.”Good evedi’g everyode,” he began, and Pepper involuntarily cringed in sympathy at how bad his voice sounded.

“...so whether it’s your first year atte’di’g or your tedth I...damn it...ehhptchhgh!  Hehh’ghhchff!...*sniff*”  He finished off with a tickly, dry cough.

Yet another tissue quietly made its way into his hand.
“On second thought,” Pepper said quietly, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder and handing him a freshly opened bottle of water.  “Take a break and drink this.”

He accepted the bottle and sipped it’s chilled contents slowly, allowing the soothing liquid to run down his irritated throat, providing short but sweet moments of relief.  Without being prompted, he mumbled a quick practise of the speech under his breath between sips.  In all the years that she had been writing his speeches for him, him actually willingly practicing beforehand without being coerced or threatened...that might be a first.

“...so whether it’s your first year or your...ehhTCHUU!...*sniff*...tenth-“

“Five minutes.  You ready?”

Tony scoffed.  “Of course I am.  I’m awesome at this.”  He paused and then added quietly.  “And Pep?  It’s...ah...it’s a good speech.  They’re always good.  So...Yeah.”

Okay, now that was a first.  That was so close to an actual thank you it was nearly unbelievable.

“I know,” she replied with a slightly teasing smile.  “That’s why you’re going to go out there and read it word for word, with no embellishments and none of your nonsense, exactly as you practised it.  Now go on, you’ve just been announced.”

Through the wall she could hear the applause that erupted signalling his evident arrival in the spotlight and gave a wry smile at the thought of how much he must be enjoying that.  She could just make out his voice.  From here it was hard to discern how stuffy and scratchy he sounded but if she listened very intently she could just about make out the words.  Nodding in approval, she noted that he was indeed sticking to the prepared speech for once.  Just as he’d practised it.

“...so whether it’s your first year or your...ten...te...ehhTCHUU!  Ehhptchhgh!”

Peppers eyes widened as she listened to it unfold.  Now this he would not be pleased with at all.  All those people watching?  There would need to be damage control by means of ego stroking later.  This was not good.   
Though she did have to smile at one thing despite herself.  For once Tony had actually done as instructed because, really, he had done the speech exactly as practised after all...

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I literally laughed out loud at this. It's just too cute! The dynamic between Tony and Pepper is flawless, and I'm really digging the subtle ways you make their relationship seem so perfectly similar to the one they have in the movie. Lovely job, and I can't wait to read more from you!

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  • 9 months later...

She knows him so well and he has no idea. :wub: I love her playing dumb when he sneezes mid-speech, trying to get him to admit he's not feeling well.

He sometimes seemed to collect cold viruses like souvenirs of his travels these days.

^I loved this^

Loved all of it, really! Especially how he kept consistently effing up at the same spot. :yay:

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Wow, I forgot I wrote this.  The original obviously did not survive the change over to my new computer.  Thanks for bringing this back up, I enjoyed reading over it like it was brand new.

And I never thanked everyone who commented.  I was never too sure on the etiquette about bumping my own thing if I'm not adding a chapter or whatever.  But I am super super grateful you guys.

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