The Ball is in Your Court, Ms. Potts
Disclaimer: All the usual disclaimers apply.
Author's Note: I've only seen Iron Man once and I'm working from memory, so bear with me if anything seems off. Pepper Potts fascinates me, and Robert Downey Jr. bewitches me. Love the chemistry between the two of them! I actually started the backstory to this first, only to have this story interrupt my thoughts and literally write itself in a day. So I'll post the prequel later, as well as another piece I'm working on about Pepper's blue dress. Enjoy and review! Btw, this story is from Pepper's POV.
He was doing it again.
The normally unflappable Pepper Potts was finding it harder than usual to maintain her composure because of the way her boss, Tony Stark, was looking at her.
But then again, her demeanor had been pretty shot to hell since the night she had slept with him some two months ago. Never mind the speech she had given him the next day about professionalism and decorum in the workplace, every day since that night – at some point during the day, like right now – the sexual tension would grow to insupportable levels until she felt she could scream and lash out – or attack him with her lips and drag him to the bedroom. Usually at those times, she would quickly turn the conversation to safer ground, but the conversation was already on innocent subject matter, and for the life of her she just didn't know what to do.
It wasn't like she had been thinking about the sex. I mean, she scoffed to herself during saner moments, she'd had sex before – enjoyed it too, thank you very much – and had damn good orgasms. All it was, was that she hadn't had sex in a long time and she had missed it.
So what if occasionally, at odd times, she remembered his hands all over her – and his mouth too! her mind inserted breathlessly – and that she found herself daydreaming about the look in his eyes – the look he was giving her right now, the one that had her toes curling, the bottom of her stomach clenching in anticipation, her breath coming a little more raggedly than before, and a slow heat coursing throughout her body. He was looking at her as if he had seen her naked. And that he liked what he saw, and wanted to see more. Her traitorous body reacted to those thoughts even more, making her words falter slightly and causing his eyes to narrow in on her sudden distraction.
"Why not, Pepper?" he asked her suddenly, interrupting her report on the company's updated annual budget.
She was used to Tony Stark by now to realise he was referring to something else. Hopefully, she thought, not that thing else.
"Why not what, Mr. Stark?"
"It's Tony. Why not you and me?" he said, pointing to the two of them. "I mean, we work well together, you're the only one who doesn't drive me crazy for at least half-hour. We had mad, crazy, hot sex with off-the-charts chemistry. And I actually like you." His tone had been as light as it was when discussing his stock options earlier, but his dark eyes were serious and a little pleading. Sincerity for Tony Stark, she had realised years ago, started with his eyes first.
He leaned in a little closer. "And I know you like me. At least a little if not a lot," he indicated with his thumb and forefinger. "And did I mention the mad, crazy, hot sex which has been totally on my mind every day for the last two months?" he drawled, looking at her with smiling, dark eyes.
She smiled at him slightly, waiting for him to continue. She had somewhat forbidden this topic to come up between them - and truth be told she didn't exactly want to discuss it now - but it was not surprising that he'd mentioned it, considering it had definitely been on her mind too. The only surprising thing was that he hadn't tried bringing it up before. Maybe the threat of quitting had made him hold his tongue, she mused.
They were in her office in his home, and at first she'd been surprised that he'd agreed to sit down with her to discuss company matters so willingly. That was before he started a staring fest for a full ten minutes before launching off into this murky territory. She supposed it was better to get it out in the open, than covering it up with talk of stocks and budgets. She couldn't ever remember a time when accounts had seemed so erotic, with the way he'd looked - and was still looking - at her.
"So why not you and me? Is it the women? Cause they're gone. When we get together, we'll be exclusive and I'll be off limits totally, especially to nosy, blond reporters," he grimaced slightly. Since that night, he hadn't brought home any female company that she had been aware of. Her heart was ecstatic, maybe it meant that the encounter had affected him just as much as it did her; her mind just ignored it as a temporary aberration.
At her rolling eyes, he added, "No? Is it that thing you talked about complicating our work relationship? Me boss, you personal assistant? Is that it? Pepper," he stared at her, completely serious, "you're more to me than an employee. I told you, you're all I've got."
"And that's why we shouldn't screw it up with an attempt at a relationship. You're all I've got too," she interrupted, looking at him just as intently. "God, Tony, do you even know what I want from a relationship, apart from mad, crazy, hot sex?" she said.
"You mean there's more to it than the mad, crazy, hot sex?" he deadpanned.
At her exasperated look, he quickly got serious. "Come on, Pep, it was a joke. You know to lighten the atmosphere?"
"That's the problem, Tony," she said a little sadly. "Everything to you is a joke. You don't take anything seriously at all–"
"That was the old me, Pepper. I've changed," he raised his voice slightly. "What, I have changed!" he added in response to her pointed look. "I'm more responsible, you know, saving people and being a superhero and all. Now there's a responsible job, not like being the CEO of a weapons company."
"You created a firestorm last month when you flipped the bird to the President. The President of the United States, Tony!" Pepper exclaimed, spreading her hands a little. "I'm still getting 50 calls a day about it!"
"No, I did not flip the President, I flipped his snotty bodyguard, who I might add, was very rude to me."
Pepper closed her eyes, and rubbed her temples, sighing, "You had just destroyed Air Force One. Did you want him to congratulate you?"
"There was a bomb threat, Pepper!"
"By a 14-year-old boy goofing off, Tony!"
"How the hell was I supposed to know it was a prank call?"
"You couldn't know that, but you didn't listen to Rhodey when he told you to stand down either. His ass is on the line too, Tony," she said in frustration.
"So I'll buy the President a new plane. Hell, I'll build it for him myself and throw in a couple of pretty toys," Tony quipped.
Pepper sighed and looked away. Tony Stark could be completely infuriating when he was wanted to be. "As I was saying, you don't know what I want." She looked at her hands for a moment, studying the ring finger on her left hand. "I'm 34 years old. I'd like to get married, have a few children maybe, settle down in life, and still have a career I love. Normal stuff." She looked at him earnestly. "I don't do casual relationships, even if the sex is good. That's why we won't work, Tony. At work," she waved her hand at the laptop and papers on her desk, "we compliment each other. You're the brilliant genius, I'm the efficient PA and that works fine."
She looked at him even more intently. "But in a relationship, Tony? We'd be a disaster. I'm practical, responsible and somewhat traditional. I'm also focused and pretty obssessed with order. You're impulsive, brilliant, a loose cannon and a completely egotistical, likeable asshole." He raised his eyebrows at her word choice. "Not my definition," she added hastily. "That's how Obadiah Stane described you once and I agree."
"Potts, I can't help that. That's me," he said a little defensively.
"I know." She held up her hands in a peacemaking gesture. "That's why we won't work, because you're you and I'm me. The combination doesn't gel."
After a moment's silence, Tony stood. "You know," he said with a little laugh, "If it's one thing I know how to do right is to make the impossible seem easy. It's just a knack I have, especially with machinery. I know what feels right and what doesn't and I just go for it when my gut tells me to. And this, Potts?" he indicated the two of them, "My gut is telling me to go for it."
He stared at her full blast. "I don't know a shit about relationships, I'll grant you that much, but I know women. Women," he laughed, "are easy for me. I'll sleep with one and forget her name when I'm having sex because I don't care," he said in a dismissive tone that made Pepper wince internally.
"But I can still taste you, Pepper," he looked at her intently. "Do you know how strange that was for me? I couldn't even figure out what the hell was wrong with me until the next morning when you showed up for work and I smelled your perfume and I thought, 'That's what it is.' I can still taste you all like now. I don't know what that means to you in the grand scheme of children and marriage, but it damn well means something to me." Pepper's heart stopped at his words. She found herself lost in his eyes, daring to believe that he was actually saying what she thought he was saying.
"And whether you want to acknowledge it or not, we have chemistry." He narrowed his eyes. "It isn't just about the sex. I have no idea how a conventional relationship works, but I've never been conventional in my life. I know what works for me and I know we would make it because we're perfect for each other." Pepper found her jaw dropping open. They stared at each other for a minute longer, he in bold declaration, she in shocked optimism.
"So if you want to make up excuses, that's fine. Go ahead." He walked towards the stairwell that would lead him to the shop. "But remember this," he turned around. "When you're ready, you know where to find me." And he turned to go down the stairs, walking and whistling as if they had just been talking about the weather.
After a couple of minutes in the same position, Pepper roused herself from the chair she'd been sitting in. She felt completely dazed, and as hard as she tried to return her thoughts to her work, her mind refused to let her hear anything other than Tony's heartfelt speech. He was patiently waiting on her - waiting patiently! - and he wanted her.
Maybe, just maybe, her heart whispered triumphantly, she hadn't realised just how much Tony Stark had changed after all.