Author's Note: Thank you for all of the wonderful reviews. I appreciate each one, and they have definitely helped to encourage me in my writing. I haven't yet decided if this will be the last chapter of this story or not. There is more to tell, but I don't know if the right setting for that is another story, distinct, but set directly after this one. I need to think about that. In the meantime, here is something for your perusal. (Non-Sequitur: don't forget to check the 'M' rated stories if you are of age to do so, as I'm thinking of an interesting one-shot that didn't end up fitting in this story line.)
Tony Stark was never accused of being a good boy, but he had recently had a conversation with Rhodey and had his worst suspicions confirmed. What women generally want – says Col. Rhodes - is patience, tenderness, communication, emotional connection, a sense of security, and wild crazy monkey sex. And they want it in exactly that order.
Tony balked at this, as he had experience with something like 200 different women, and not a single one of them had wanted anything but attention before the wild crazy monkey sex part, and none of them had wanted anything afterwards, at least that he'd noticed.
Col. Rhodes then had the temerity to point out just how contented any one of those individual 200 plus ladies hadn't made him. And now that Tony seemed, seemed stressed Col. Rhodes, to be pursuing one woman in particular – did he really want to fuck it up? It was a point which Tony did grudgingly cede. But it got Tony thinking.
He'd been patient. He'd also been explicit in his intentions. He'd been tender. He'd also been demanding and occasionally petulant. If he and Pepper didn't have an emotional connection, he wasn't sure he was capable of one, so that had to count. And last month he'd secured her financial future. So, all things considered, it must have been time for the monkey sex. And yet…
She shied away from his flirting with a little smile and a redirection of the conversation. The moments when they were physically close together were entirely too short, and while he thoroughly enjoyed their time together, she refused to be seen socially with him.
But Tony Stark was not a blind man. It wasn't that she wasn't attracted, and it wasn't that she didn't care. Possibly, it just wasn't the right time yet. Possibly he was still too close to his playboy past for her comfort – understandable, he supposed. Possibly she just needed time for reasons unknown to him, but until his meeting with the engineers in section 6, he'd never thought it possible that she might be seeing someone else.
She didn't always attend such meetings, but occasionally it happened, and today at the end of just such a meeting she indicated her intention to linger and he nodded to show that he would wait for her outside, idly wondering the reason, but fully trusting that it was a good one. He strolled out of the workspace at a leisurely gait. He had only just turned the corner when something caught his eye. He picked up the piece of machinery and started to fiddle with it, tweaking it before setting it back down again. He'd have to have Pepper send a memo of his changes later on, so the engineers and techs wouldn't think that the problem had miraculously solved itself.
Tony smiled a little at the image – every engineer occasionally just wished a miracle would occur and fix the bugs they didn't understand – but quickly the small smile was wiped off his face as he overheard a conversation not meant for his ears.
"Geez, Pepper, I thought I'd never get you out of the clutches of Mr. Stark, evil genius." The voice was laughing and low, and he couldn't quite place a name to it.
"James," Pepper said admonishingly, but with laughter in her voice, too.
"No, I'm sorry. Outta line. Let me buy you dinner to make up for it. Same place we went to last time?"
James Deventhal, Tony thought. James Deventhal is flirting with my Pepper, and I'm going to fire him. I'm going to fire him, because Pepper wouldn't understand if I killed him.
"A simple apology will do just fine, James. You know I think very highly of Mr. Stark." It was her voice of polite refusal. With this, Tony was well pleased.
"Didn't you like the restaurant we went to last time?"
She's been out with him before? Tony saw red.
"It was lovely, as I told you. Things are just very busy for me right now."
"Yea," he heard James say ruefully. "Must be crazy to be a superhero's right hand, huh? Can't imagine what he asks of you now."
"Mr. Deventhal, what I do or don't do with Mr. Stark is frankly none of your business, and if you must speculate about it, I wish you wouldn't do so in front of me. Have a nice day."
Tony clenched and unclenched his jaw, but was slightly unprepared for the look of outrage that accompanied the click of her heels against the cement floor of the shop as she rounded the corner. If he thought she could get no more upset, however, he was wrong.
Her eyes were full of anger and a single finger came up, forbidding him from saying anything at all. Nothing was said, in fact, until they got to the car. Happy was waiting for them, but Tony waved him off and he was back in the driver's seat with the door closed before it began.
"No! Not one word. You don't get to comment on one word of what you heard because you had no right to hear it. I cannot believe that you were eavesdropping, Tony! Have you no shame at all?" He had one hand extended to open the car door, but when she started talking, he'd ended up back up against the car, with her pointing a finger into his chest.
"No," he answered quietly.
"No? What do you mean, no?" It brought her up short, and she stopped poking him, but she hadn't moved away at all.
"No. I don't have any shame. Or, not much. At least, not about this. Actually, I've got quite a lot of shame about some things we won't go into right now. They mostly have to do with bombshells – both the female and munitions varieties. But when it comes to you? No, Pepper. I have no shame. And whether you want to hear it or not, you'll have to send a memo to the engineers to tell them about the modifications I was doing at that workstation around the corner. Which is why I paused there. Not because I don't trust you.
"And as for Dipshit," he started again, but was interrupted.
"James," she corrected.
"Dipshit," he affirmed, before continuing on. "Are you dating him?"
There was quite a pause before she continued. She narrowed her eyes and tilted her head back, giving him a good hard stare. There was the same level of excitement and apprehension in his gut as when he faced down Obi on the roof of the arc reactor complex, not certain of the outcome, but not daring to be elsewhere.
"Are you dating anyone?"
"Well," she began, and his gut clenched. "There is one guy. The tallies in the for and against columns are pretty even for him, but I'm thinking about it."
Please let it be me, he thought. "And? What do you think would push you over the edge in his favor?"
"That's classified information. I'm sorry, but your security clearance just isn't high enough, Mr. Stark."
Oh my God, what if it isn't me? "Could I put in a request for a clearance upgrade?"
"Could take time," she said, and this was just the point where his precarious perch mostly on one foot, but leaning against the Bentley slipped somewhat. Now his legs were wide apart, he really was leaning on the car for much of his support, and she had several inches of height on him. And this was the point that she took one step in, and her outer thigh brushed against his inner thigh. The fact that they were fully clothed seemed to make no difference to his libido.
"I could have a word with the person in charge. Speed up the process, maybe."
"Mmm," she murmured, drawing in a little bit closer to him. "Maybe. I've heard she likes you."
Their lips were so close.
"Yea?" he breathed out softly. "It'll suck to disappoint her, but I've only got eyes for you." And at that point Tony leaned ever so slightly up and caught her lips. It was a gentle kiss, and his heart, which had taken up residence in his throat, seemed to come back down to join the arc reactor in his chest.
The first kiss was gentle, the second lingering, and the third searing. When his lips left a little trail of kisses down her neck, while her nails scratched at the nape of his neck, while his hands smoothed down the invisible wrinkles at the back of her skirt, she spoke, finally, her voice soft and full of breath.
"I think. Maybe. We should get… in the car."
This was also the point that Tony realized, his hands on her rear, exactly what sort of undergarment she was wearing. The realization floored him and said awakening libido spiked to attention.
"You're wearing the garter belt I bought you," he said, not realizing how low and gravelly his voice had become through the haze of sensation.
Her eyebrow quirked upwards, even as he hauled her closer so their hips were sealed together.
"I had no idea it would have this effect on you," she said, her hand coming around so a fingernail could scratch at the corner of his beard.
He turned his head slightly to nip at the finger so close to his mouth, then once he had it, suckled it for a moment. He watched her as he laved her finger with his tongue. He watched her eyes glaze over. Then he pulled back and nuzzled into her hand.
"Yea," he said with a nonchalance he didn't actually feel. "We should get in the car."
And without letting go of her, he moved them away from the car door so he could open it, then ushered her in. When they were both seated with the door shut again, he spoke to the chauffer.
"Take us home, Happy."
As the car started to roll gently away from the door of the R&D3 building, Tony tugged on her arm, trying to persuade her to remain within kissing distance, but she was resisting. She directed a significant glance to the front seat, and Tony rolled his eyes.
"Hey, Happy. Is it going to weird you out if Pepper and I snuggle back here?" He turned to look at her, and without pause, continued on, "Because we're an item now."
"Not at all, Mr. Stark."
"Excellent. On to Malibu, then. And if any blonde bombshells try to waylay us, feel free to run them over." And then she shifted over, still blushing. And then Tony kissed the blush right out of her.
"Gotcha, Mr. Stark."