Hello! Alright, since I didn't extend my first TonyPepper oneshot, I had to write another. Here it is! Not much but fluff and fun I guess, and it satisfies the pepperony100 prompt number 74, 'Years' over at LJ. I might do another, but it'd be a way's off; I'm getting to upload another big story I'm working on all summer. But trust me, if I get bored with that, I will always come write more of these two! Thanks for all who read and reviewed 'Extra Day, Extra Olive!' Glad you liked it and hope you enjoy this one, too. Read on!
x x x
For A Decade
The summer night sky was clear, filled with stars and the occasional burst of colorful fireworks. On the white beach below, yet another over-the-top Tony Stark party was taking place, all at his expense. Pepper had arched an eyebrow and stifled a laugh when he first told her he wanted to have an Independence Day 'barbeque' only three nights prior, but a lot of money made up for the short amount of time. That was just his style. The preparations and arrangements nearly sent Pepper up a wall – he wanted a bonfire, a cocktail bar, tiki torches, flamboyant décor, six pineapple upside down cakes, a sand sculpture, loud music, an imported chef, the list went on!
But now, as Pepper slowly strode the length of the beach, she felt at ease. Everything was running smoothly so far, granted her boss wasn't somewhere dying and she didn't know about it. Though he made her promise to have a few drinks enjoy herself, part of her mind had to always be prepared for some mishappening involving him to occur. But perhaps she would fret over it another time. She felt happily lost in the slight blur of the elements surrounding her. It was a unique peace she rarely indulged in.
The food and drinks were sensational (every drink alcoholic, of course). She held the remnants of her third appletini and breathed in the salty ocean air, her heels sinking into the sand with every step. Part of her wanted a fourth, or maybe a margarita with extra lime-
Startled, Pepper stopped in her tracks, Tony's drunken smile magically appearing before her with enough alcohol on his breath to knock her back a few steps in repulsion. If Pepper's distorted face was not indication enough of how far gone he was, the empty bottle of Bacardi in his hand had to be (not to mention all other drinks he had probably consumed in the last two hours). She glanced up at him uncertainly, beginning to feel nauseous from the overpowering stench of his breath.
"Erm," – she coughed with a grimace – "Yes, Mr. Stark?"
"Miss Potts, the scotch has been spiked, so you might- Whoa."
Pepper watched him stare at a passing server before burying her face in her hand to cough again. Tony dropped his empty Bacardi bottle to the sand carelessly and reached out to the passing tray, taking from it two glasses of champagne and two strawberries. As Pepper raised her head, he bit the whole of a strawberry and downed it with champagne smoothly, tossing the glass to the sand as well. Her expression was placidly astonished.
"Mr. Stark, are you well?" she asked warily after a moment under his glazed stare.
His response was moderately delayed due to his heavily intoxicated brain; he whimsically raised the other glass of champagne and dropped the strawberry into it, extending it to her suavely. Pepper gasped as the pale drink threatened to slosh out of the glass onto her gown.
"Hey, Pepper, take a walk with me," he said quickly, hooking his arm through hers and leading her towards the shoreline. She stumbled at first until she fell into step with him, looking back at one of her shoes abandoned in the sand.
"Leave the shoes," he commanded boredly at her distress, keeping his pace towards the dark ocean. She had no choice but to follow, kicking her other shoe off to the side reluctantly. She hoped she's get them back.
At the water's edge, Tony showed no signs of stopping as if he were being defiant. Pepper glanced over at him with concern, hurrying to collect the hem of her gown before the sea water could ruin it.
"What are we doing?" she asked, her voice rising. "Hey! Tony, stop!"
He did not answer. Rather, he walked her right into the warm, shallow surf and came to an abrupt stop. She let out a small squeal of surprise, but Pepper felt it delightfully pleasant as the water rolled over her exhausted feet in welcome. A laugh escaped her as her body relaxed into the comfortable wind. She looked over at Tony, a Cheshire cat grin on his profile. The corner of her mouth tugged into a smile.
"You've almost ruined my dress," she said, shaking a fist of aquamarine beside the top of her knee. His head rolled to the side, looking her up and down several times with glass eyes.
"Nice dress," he deadpanned, looking back out to the ocean. "Where'd you get it?"
Pepper smiled knowingly at him. "My skilled, intelligent, handsome employer bought it for me," she said. "It was his 'thank you' for making me plan a party last minute with no time to go dress shopping."
"Really?" Tony asked, speech somewhat slurred. "He sounds like the greatest person in the world."
"He very well may be," Pepper agreed amusingly as she looked out to the opaque water and sky. She sighed, eyes wandering to the strawberry in champagne in her other hand. There was no hope in drinking it; she'd have to let her gown fall victim to the water if she wanted to switch hands. She looked at their linked arms of bare skin and fine navy fibers, feeling reminded of something.
"Do you know what the day after tomorrow is?" she mused, fondly examining their contrasting forearms.
"Thirsty Thurdsay?" he asked hopefully. She gave him a look at which he searched for another answer. "Whipping Wednesday?"
"Fondle Me Friday?"
Pepper's mouth fell open only to snap shut at his typical alcohol-induced banter. She looked back over at him as a twinge of hurt grew in her eyes, but he still waited expectantly for her to confirm 'Fondle Me Friday.'
Tony snorted loudly to her surprise.
"Sweetheart, by now, with you around, I've forgotten the days of the week," he said, causing her face to fall a little at the sad truth. "I only know what day it is if you tell me. It could be Spooning Sunday, but if you say it's Two Tequila Tuesday, I'd probably believe you."
Some disappointment arose in Pepper, but she knew him correct – she was his calendar, as well as his clock and to-do list. Always being bombarded with meetings and changes and travelling? She couldn't expect him to be too conscious of the swiftly passing days.
"So… what day it?" he asked, squinting at the pressure encasing his head. "The week after yesterday's… tonight or something? It's not Missionary Monday, is it?"
And he was drunk.
Still, Pepper smiled to the sand regretfully. "It's our anniversary," she said quietly.
Tony's head spun around to her sharply, direct. "Anniversary? When did we get married?"
Pepper looked away, her body traitorously reacting to the thought. Tony sighed overdramatically, suddenly feeling devastated at her reaction.
"I know," he whined, causing Pepper to look back at him in confusion. "I'm sorry, I just can't remember everything! That's why I have you! You do all that stuff and I expect you to and I'm such a self-righteous bastard for forgetting… damn it-"
Pepper shook her head quickly and tried to calm his unexpected upheaval. "Mr. Stark, it's okay."
"The hell it is!" he shouted incredulously, almost falling backwards. Pepper caught his back to steady him as he continued to ramble. "I forget everything when I'm like this. I've cheated on you and you know I do and that's how insensitive I am."
"Hey! Tony!" she grabbed his chin a little harder than she meant to and made his darting eyes stay on hers (not one of her best ideas in retrospect) . "We aren't married," she said gently, easing her solid grip on his chin. She stroked his goatee a few times with a tiny apologetic smile.
Tony stared at her looking slightly irritated. She felt herself shrinking under his gaze; it still had an intense effect even when he was completely wasted. She finally dropped her hand from his face, meeting his eyes again as he tilted his head to the side curiously.
"Are we in Vegas?"
"No, sir, we are in Malibu."
"Because I swear I don't remember flying here." Pepper gave an exasperated sigh as he let out a light gasp. "We did one of those drive-thru weddings! God, I haven't done that in a long time…"
"I got in annulled the next morning, so you're the only Mrs. Stark right now, I promise." He looked down at his foot, lifting it out of the water with a disgusted expression. "Good god, this casino is flooded. Somebody get a damn mop for Christ's sake."
"You're not in a casino! We-"
"We need a hotel room, exactly."
She gave him a level look, not that he could comprehend it. "There are no beaches in Las Vegas," she said firmly. His eyes stopped on her and narrowed challengingly to disprove her logic.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I am positive," Pepper assured him, clearing her throat. Surprisingly, he seemed to be okay with that as she let her mind recover from the previous chaotic conversation. After a minute of feeling him sway absentmindedly beside her, she looked back up at him.
"The day after tomorrow will be ten years to the day that I became your assistant," she murmured quietly with a smile. It was in vain to tell him since he would never remember in such a drunken stupor, but something made her feel obligated to bring it to his attention.
He raised his eyebrows high, a rush of rancid air escaping his lungs. "Ten years? You've dealt with my sorry ass for ten years? Wooooow…"
"I know. It's a… long time," she said, perplexed as she watched him take the strawberry in champagne from her hand and down it. When the strawberry rested in his mouth, she reached up and took the glass from him despondently. "It's a very long time," she added pointedly.
Tony chewed up the strawberry, spitting the leaves into the water unceremoniously. "So," – he spat again – "where… do you see yourself in another ten years?" he asked bleary-eyed.
Pepper laughed. It was a long way into the future to be thinking. She was quiet for a minute; she'd never worked everything out entirely. Life-changing events could happen anytime, so she hardly had concrete plans. She would be in her 40s. Would time be kind in aging her? Maybe she'd have a job or career change or meet someone… There were too many possibilities and, for that matter, outcomes.
"Well," she began slowly, "given that I remain an employee of Stark Industries and your assistant, I should be right where I am now." Pepper wasn't sure how the statement made her feel. Content? Treading water?
"Are you happy where you are now?" Tony asked, discarding the champagne glass to the ocean with a small splash. Pepper reflexively smiled, peeling her eyes away from the glass tumbling in the water and sand to look at him.
"Of course I am," she said. "It is… almost always a pleasure to work for you."
"Then that should be enough for you," he said with a shrug as if it were common logic. At her silent nod, he felt a troubled pang drop into his stomach. "You… you don't want to leave me, do you?"
Pepper glanced up at him. He made it sound like they were discussing divorce.
"No," she answered honestly. "I'd never want to leave you, but some things down the road may be out of our hands. A lot can happen in another ten years, Tony. A lot."
"Like what?" he asked slyly.
"Your company could take a major turn in any direction, we could get married-"
"But we're already married," he said. She conjured all of her remaining patience if she were to keep herself calm and collected.
"I meant to other people," she clarified, now developing her own headache.
"Because maybe…" Tony craned his neck back to the cocktail bar, his words falling away. "Never mind. Let's get a mojito and I'll buy you a car and then we can properly commence this ten year anniversary with lots of hot beach sex."
"I don't care who's watching, they're just jealous because they can never be this drunk," he said, starting for the bar sluggishly.
He turned back around after twisting her arm the wrong way and collided with her, knocking her backwards into the shallow water. She sat in shock heaving out audible breaths, giving her boss the heated glare he deserved. Tony stared at her as if waiting for a dog to do a trick. Then, his eyes went wide.
"Holy shit, Pepper, you're more drunk than I am," he muttered, bending over to help her up. She sat there at a loss for words entirely, both from falling and his comment. How dare he make such a wild accusation! Regardless of how drunk he was… Okay, so she was drunk, but not beyond his capacity.
"Mr. Stark, I'm fine, just move," she said immediately after he wrapped his arms around her to pick her up.
"Mm, no, I gotch'ya," he said, sloppily pushing his arms under her knees and back.
"No, really! This is a bad idea!" Pepper shouted as he tried to lift her and the weighty dress from the molten sand and water.
"I only have genius ideas," he retorted. "Because I'm a genius. It's in the thesaurus."
Pepper's heart beat frantically as he lifted her out of the water about a foot. Just as she was about to hope and pray that he wouldn't drop her, he lunged forward and sent her clinging to him with a shriek. He planted a foot to catch the fall, though; Pepper slowly removed her face from his shoulder and met his eyes.
"You are fat," he said outright.
Pepper could feel his knees buckling beneath them. She shut her eyes tightly, shaking her head and biting her lip. "Don't you dare drop me, Tony Stark."
"You are so fat…"
"Don't you drop me…"
Tony tried to move his foot closer and stand more upright, Pepper squeezing his neck tightly and tensing her body against his for fear of falling. He made a few more gradual movements until he stood as straight as possible, triumphantly looking at Pepper's dazed expression.
"Did you know that Tony Stark can carry a cow?" he chuckled, looking around proudly at his current stance. Pepper was still attached to him, also glancing around, questioning the stability of his footing.
"Um, fascinating, now let me down," she said quickly, feeling her dress slip against his arm under her knees.
Instead of her request being fulfilled, Tony put her under his powerful, irresistible stare.
"You are a beautiful cow."
"Yes, I kn-" She did a double take. "What? Oh, no-"
Tony waggled his eyebrows (did she really see him do that?) and leaned towards her for a kiss, never minding his balance. Pepper felt gravity pulling him towards her and her towards the ground, and she let out another horrific yell before the warm water (and Tony) submerged her. Under his dead weight she kicked and pushed him up, gasping for air as she resurfaced.
She looked over at him as he shook the sand and water from his hair like a mutt, plastering her figure with more of it.
Pepper pouted in defeat, part of her wishing to be far from this place in ten years, if only for a moment. Tony splashed more water around as he came near her, holding up his finger to speak, but he did not get a word out.
He passed out, falling face first into the water and sand beside her.
Pepper rolled her eyes before hurriedly lifting him out of the watery sand so he wouldn't drown, setting her mentality back into assistant mode to prepare for another long night of sobering him up.
"Come on, Mr. Stark," she said with motherly concern. He groaned as she threw his arm over her shoulder, struggled to stand, and decided to get him back to the house. "Come on, easy."
x x x
Tony retched for the umpteenth time, throwing himself over the toilet bowl. Pepper looked at him sympathetically from against the nearby wall, barely keeping her eyes open.
"Are you okay?" she asked. Her dehydrated muscles ached as she stretched to hand him a towel. Tony wiped his mouth sloppily before resting the side of his head on the toilet seat.
"I hate re- regurgi- puek," he breathed out above a whisper. "And the color fuchsia. It's a fucking annoying color."
Pepper's head lolled against the wall in exhaustion. "Don't… let your head fall into the toilet," she said, chuckling afterwards at how silly it had sounded. Though, it hadn't been funny the time it really did happen.
Tony's uneven breaths made him heave again, which made Pepper's stomach churn unfavorably. She winced, watching Tony hover over the toilet almost lifelessly. He was so wrong and arrogant and flawed and drunk, but she knew she'd never experience a night like this anywhere else, with anyone else.
"You need to get to bed," she said at length, not looking forward to the prospect of helping him (or moving at all) when she felt this awful.
"Hey! I'm still barfing up what remains of my liver over here," he drawled, putting his cheek to the cool porcelain again.
"Would you like… some aspirin and water?" she asked quietly, his image blurred and dizzy before her.
"Not- not yet," he panted. "I'll just yak it out like…" – he swallowed a terrible taste in his mouth – "ew… like everything else."
Pepper nodded, only just. Her eyes flickered shut unwillingly. "Okay."
Tony sat up a little, feeling very alone when he saw her eyes close.
He couldn't speak any louder, and it made him angry. His stomach gave another forewarning lurch as he watched her slide over on her side to the floor in a motionless heap. He'd officially broken her after ten years.
"No more anniversaries for you," he said to her in the best authoritative manner her could muster. He was going to wake up on this bathroom floor tomorrow because she had to go and pass out before putting him to bed. "Not, at least, when...you are n- can't…"
He stopped, pushed through his jumbled words, and took a deep breath.
"Don't you ever get shitfaced at the same time as me again, or we're getting divorced. And I will keep Jarvis," he said before sliding off the toilet to the floor.
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