I am having such a hard time finishing my second chapter for my story. I wrote this while I was trying to work on my chapter story. I might put that one on hold for a while, I have been messing around with another plot and it is starting to take pretty strong form, so. For now please enjoy this and review. I seriously have a conniption every time I get a review. So, enjoy!


It's all a matter of perception.

Before Afghanistan, Pepper saw the world in black and white. Seeing the world in these two contrasting hues had always allowed her to work her way through life with organization and structure. Just the way she liked it. The black and white never changed. Distinctions like right and wrong were always carefully highlighted and divergent. As a small child her ability to see the world in unwavering shades made her the crusader against bullies and peer pressure. She was the smart girl who got straight A's and proudly proclaimed that she never drank a sip of alcohol until she was 21. She was the girl who volunteered her weekends to tutoring children and spent her summers working hard so that she could pay for college. She was the girl that was always the designated driver, the shoulder to cry on, and Miss Congeniality. And Pepper gladly lived her life in a simple set of knows and wants.

This ability lent itself well to Pepper while she worked for the infamous Tony Stark. For, from almost the moment she met him, she was able to classify and categorize her boss in his own little section of her consciousness. Tony was her employer, her occasional friend and one of the most important people in her world. He was a drinker, a womanizer, and a self-centered genius but he was also a good man who worked for the betterment of his country and ultimately the world. He was brilliant but sometimes saw the world with such child-like wonder, he was facetious but was able to face down the best businessmen, reporters, and politicians in the world, and he had the ability to be the biggest asshole in the world or the kindest man she had ever met.

This was how she saw Tony Stark, it was simple and it worked.

Never had her black and white sight wavered and because of it she was able to deal with anything that Tony threw at her. She was able to deal with the 2 A.M. phone calls from her boss, who wanted to babble away about some new invention or breakthrough while she half-listened, half-slept on the other line. She was able to brush the sleep out her eyes and ask him when the last time he had eaten a real meal was, and (when finding the answer unsatisfactory) was able to rise out of her beckoning bed, dress quickly, pick-up some Chinese take-out, and, with only a little amount of grumbling, bring it to her feverishly working boss. She was able to deal with walking to work at 8 A.M. and find a gorgeous and disheveled woman walking alone through the halls of Stark Mansion. She was able to calmly send their clothes out to the dry cleaners and politely but firmly send them on their way. She was able to deal with his careless innuendos, his lack of boundaries, and his overall appeal that most of the female population found irresistible. She was able to give him a sternly quirked eyebrow, she was able to take a polite step backwards, and she was able to keep even thoughts of jumping Tony's bones buried deep within her sub-consciousness.

This was how it worked, one day at a time, it worked.

After Afghanistan, Pepper began to see her world differently, in shades of gray. Nothing was quite as defined and clear anymore. She had wanted to alternatively drown her sorrows in Tony's favorite bottle of scotch and spend every waking moment ignoring the fact that the one man she had any feelings for at all had just disappeared off the face of the world. She was a jumble of emotions; feeling immense hatred towards Tony for leaving her hanging in the wind, unbearable anxiety about her boss' fate, and this tugging—tugging, oh so hard--of her heartstrings every time she thought about Tony, a tugging that she was beginning to suspect was love. She had hoped (prayed nightly to a God she wasn't even sure existed anymore) that when her boss returned (because she knew in her heart that he would return) that horrible shades of gray would ease back into her manageable black and white vision.

If nothing it just got worst.

Everything was different and the world became grayer. Her boss wasn't quite her boss anymore, he was something more, he had confessed that she was all he had and she knew that he was all she had. It was more than employer/employee relationship. Tony Stark wasn't quite her friend anymore either, there was no doubt that they were closer and their admissions were testaments to that. But there were times when she would look up and find him staring at her with a look so impenetrable and eyes so dark, that she knew that they would never be just friends regardless of what kind of self-control they exhibited. And Tony was no longer one of the most important people in her world, he was the most important person in the world. Her daily thoughts and musings always were brought back to him, no matter how hard she tried to steer them in different directions.

Pepper couldn't stand living like this, lost within the sea of gray unable to make her old distinctions. Her ability to be decisive in every part of her life was essential to her life. And now every day she was unable to separate herself into the neat sets of black and white. Her professional and personal lives were coming together in an unacceptable way. Compartments of her life flowing over into each other and melting in an unacceptable fashion. She felt like she was going crazy, stumbling blindly through the haze of gray.

When Pepper had carefully tip-toed her way through the broken glass that littered the stairs and doorway of her employer's workshop and saw aforementioned boss entangled in a metal suit, that was being pried off his body one red and gold piece at a time; they way she saw the world changed once again. Watching in horror and amazement at Tony's new alter ego, two colors were able to break through her gray haze. A brilliant hot rod red (Tony was still, at times, horribly predictable) and a shining, shimmering gold.

Everywhere she went the gray haze was now intruded upon by reds and golds. If she saw a woman walking down the street her eyes would immediately be drawn to the simple gold chain hanging around her neck, it became as luminous as a lighthouse on a foggy night. In a large crowded parking garage, she could immediately pick out and count the hot-rod red cars, stripes, and even headlights, the average for Stark Industries parking garage was 56 candy red cars. If she attempted to ignore the new glowing colors in her life, they would glow brighter and stronger, demanding her attention. Just like the man who was beginning to rule her world.

Because of this, it became harder and harder to ignore the feelings she was having for a certain man who also had a penchant for red and gold. Every day that invisible line of professionalism that separated her and Tony was getting closer and closer. It was coming, the inevitable point where she wouldn't be able to ignore the blinding glow of red and gold in her life. The point where she would have to finally walk away from the black and white distinctions that she still clung to, desperately seeking a thread to connect her to time before her life depended so much on Tony.

And she wasn't ready. She wasn't ready for that point, not in any sort of capacity. She knew she could never control Tony, she knew that he would never stop putting himself in life-threatening danger, she knew that if she stepped over that line of professionalism the rest of her life would be thrown into a convoluted swirl of emotions that would blend and mix and run wild throughout her being.

And Pepper, smart, organized, meticulous, strong Pepper, wasn't ready for that.

But ready or not, that point would come. One way or another, and when it did Pepper's world would be completely changed.

But for now Pepper could only wait, in her gray, red, and gold world, for that day. Sitting quietly in her office, plucking away at her keyboard, studiously ignoring the glowing red of her picture frame and the glossy gold of the sunlight that was streaming. She looks up from her desk to the open doorway to find Tony staring at her, an enigmatic smile on his face. She asks him if there is anything she can do for him, she expects his usual innuendo but instead he just says no and leaves the doorway, the room becomes brighter as he leaves the room, more sunlight pouring in. Her eyes shine brightly as she watches the sunlight dance and she can't help but wonder if her world is a little more colorful in Tony Stark's wake.


Please R and R!