Author's Notes: Well here comes the greatly awaited reaction from Tony. I think I'm getting near the end of this story now, can't see it going past about 5 more chapters I think. I may be wrong, but I think that's all. I have an idea for a new story too based on the song 'Congratulations' by Blue October. Also – I now own a bearded dragon! He's so cute! Anyway – Chapter 12.
As Pepper told her story, Tony's fists slowly clenched tighter and tighter. How could somebody do something like that? And to Pepper, no less. He kept his arm securely around Pepper and pulled her closer to him, offering what comfort he could. When Pepper looked up at him through wet lashes, Tony thought he'd never seen anything prettier, even with his new-found memory. Despite the horrid situation they were in, Tony could only think now of how much he wanted to kiss her, to take away the stench of Boss on her.
Pepper must have seen the fire appearing in his eyes, because she sat up straighter. Tony was about to apologise, when Pepper's lips found his. She was trembling, and her lips were salty and wet from tears, but Tony still kissed her back. When Pepper pulled back slightly, leaving barely a hair-breadth of space between them, Tony went to ask her what was wrong, but Pepper spoke first.
"Make me forget," she whispered. "Please Tony, all I can feel is him please I need you to take that away."
Tony searched her eyes, and seeing nothing other than sadness, pleading, and a desperation he himself felt, he reached forward, and covered her body with his, returning his lips back to hers.
Rhodey was sat in Tony's living room, searching his brain for any clue as to why Pepper would have disappeared. He came up with nothing other than kidnap.
So he'd waited at the Malibu home, waiting for her to show up, and when she hadn't, he'd had Jarvis play him back all footage. Tony had been trying to remember, for Pepper's sake. A news crew had spotted Tony out and about, gone mad, and it had been caught on camera when a masked man had drugged him and taken him away.
Rhodey couldn't help but wonder whether Tony ever got bored of being kidnapped. Then decided that it was too traumatic for him being kidnapped in the first place to be thinking about the novelty wearing off.
"Colonel Rhodes, there has been a package left at the gates for us. Shall I send Dummy?"
"Yeah, sure," Rhodey replied distractedly. Then straightened up. "Did you say for 'us', Jarvis?"
"Indeed," the AI replied. "It is addressed to Colonel Rhodes, courtesy of Tony's AI, followed by the address. I do not know whether to be insulted they do not know my name, or impressed that they even know of my existence."
Rhodey smirked at that, and accepted the package from Dummy. "Scan it Jarvis, let's make sure it's not dangerous."
After a moment, Jarvis replied. "It contains simply a Universal Serial Bus."
"A USB Memory Stick," Jarvis sounded as if he were talking to a child. Rhodey decided that Tony had made him very human-like.
"Right," Rhodey replied. "Well, we'll put in it, view it and you'll just have to keep your sensors on crazy for any type of virus or malware, right?"
"Correct," Jarvis replied.
They set to work doing exactly what they said they would, and discovered a video file hidden deep within the encrypted files on the flash drive. When it began to play, showing a video of Pepper being held in front of a camera, Rhodey knew to expect the worst.
The video didn't ask for a ransom, just told them they'd be given back when they've done what they need to do. But the sounds Rhodey heard when Pepper ran from the leader…
Rhodey couldn't bear thinking about it.
The AI and Rhodey were silent for a few moments after the video ended. The image of Pepper broken on that chair at the end burned deep into Rhodey's mind.
"Jarvis," Rhodey croaked out. "Can you try and find the location where this video had been recorded?"
"I could track the IP of the video, yes. Estimated time until completion: two hours, thirty-three minutes." The AI replied.
Exactly two hours and thirty three minutes later, Jarvis had found the location of the video to be an abandoned warehouse one hour's drive from Malibu. During the time in which Jarvis was locating Tony and Pepper, Rhodey had called the LAPD, who had arrived at the mansion and asked the usual questions.
Eventually came the time to go and save Tony and Pepper.
Pepper was laid on one of the beds, cuddled into Tony's side. Tony had his arm around her shoulders and was gently stroking her arm, his nose buried in her hair. They'd been this way for about two hours by Tony's calculations, and knew that before long, Boss or Danny would come and collect either one of them for any number of reasons. Tony had already decided he'd make the virus for them when they next asked, instead of letting Pepper getting the blame for him not.
He'd began to wonder if Pepper had fallen asleep on him when he heard the commotion outside the door. There was bangs, a shout of a male that he didn't recognise, a curse from one he did, but then the hsouting just tumbled over each other and he couldn't make out specific voices.
When the door to the 'cell' banged opened, Tony expected the worse.
But he didn't expect to see Colonel Rhodes face.