Disclaimer: Does not belong to me

Disclaimer: Does not belong to me. I'm not getting any money. Etc.

AN: Question – do we know where Pepper is originally from? I've seen a trend of East Coast, usually NY or Mass. but I have no idea where this stems from. I'll build someone a gold-titanium alloy suit and throw Tony Stark in it if they tell me.

Not really. But it would be a good bribe if it were even remotely true.

Also – it is four in the morning and I'm not sleeping. What the heck is wrong with me?

Title: Strange Bedfellows

Theme 62: Identity

He doesn't often remember their names. Sometimes he even forgets that he's had a bedfellow, if she's boring enough, or he's busy enough. When he doesn't bring up the girls Pepper doesn't even react, anymore, and when he does bring them up (like now) Pepper gets very strict and breezes through her to do list or some business report. This should make him feel smug, that she avoids the issue like the plague and obviously is never quite pleased with his proclivity to random sex – but usually it just reminds him how much of an ass he is, and how much Pepper puts up with.

She's a fucking saint, and probably the only woman in the world worth putting a name to the face.

Title: Celebrity

Theme 98: Pretend

"Oh, come on, a rock star?"

"Actually, he's a musician, not a rock star."

"Isn't he a little too…Coldplay for you?"

"You introduced us." Pepper glanced at him over the top of her laptop. "Will that be all, Mr. Stark?"

"He's a little high exposure, isn't he? You hate the limelight. I can't actually see you on the arm of some pretentious celebrity getting blinded by flashbulbs."

She drops her gaze and hunches her shoulders and doesn't say another word to him for the rest of the day, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why.

-- -- --

Two weeks later he sees Mr. Coldplay out with someone who is definitely not Pepper Potts, and on a whim has Jarvis order three dozen yellow daisies for her.

It would be a lie to say he isn't pleased when she brings him his coffee with a bright smile on her face and stays to banter a bit longer than usual.

Title: Absolutely No Ulterior Motives (I Swear)

Theme 70: Friends

Pepper Potts is the only woman who has ever, or ever will, go to an event with him. He's never even thought about taking a date unless it's her. She hates the red carpet, she hates the flashbulbs going off in her face, she hates the interviews that the celebrity Tony Stark thrives on. She wears conservative, elegant dresses and five inch Manolo's and probably she wears really expensive lingerie, because no matter how grandmotherly her dresses are she always looks damn sexy in them.

Tony takes Pepper when 1) he can convince her he needs her (usually this involves bribery, extortion, or threatening to say something horribly not PC to some foreign dignitary) 2) he really does need her (to entertain him through speeches and table conversation he has no interest in, or to keep count of the number of drinks he's had. Sometimes he forgets things like that.) 3) he just wants to hang out with her.

Title: Strength

Theme 83: Home

He sees her fidget, up on the ball of one foot and then back down, as if she's debating running forward to meet him, and the thought – the sight of her – makes him straighten his back and try not to limp. He thinks his chin even juts out when he catches sight of that blaze of red hair in the California sun.

He's amused by the fact that Pepper wants to see him badly enough to consider turning herself into a blithering, pathetic movie-type girl meeting her sweetheart, but more than anything he's pleased when instead he finishes the walk to her and she blatantly refuses to admit she might have missed him even though they both know she did.

And it hadn't really hit until this moment, but God he'd missed her, too.

Title: Patriarch

Theme 35: Honor

He may have been nothing on Howard Stark, but the Potts patriarch had been no slouch. She's told Tony as much, countless times, but it's only when some political pundit stops to say hello and give regards to her mother that Tony takes any interest in the matter.

"She knows your mother?"

"She worked with my father at the Boston Globe."

"Your father worked at the Boston Globe?"

"He ran it, Tony."

He pauses. "Good to know."

"Where did you think I got my contacts? All those high ups in the business world – including you – could have cared less about a 22-year-old business major looking for a leg up. My dad's the reason we ever even met."

Tony nods and smiles at her in a way that makes her just a little uncomfortable. Then he raises his scotch glass. "To Mr. Potts – without him I'd have no one."

She reaches for his hand across the table as he downs the amber liquid in one gulp.

Title: Truth

Theme 52: Shades

Around them people are milling and talking loudly, dancing to music Jarvis is feeding into the speakers on the patio. Most of the men are in business suits. Most of the women are as scantily clad as is possible, and Pepper can't help but notice that not only is Tony not milling and charming one (or more) of these beautiful women, but he doesn't even really seem to notice that they're there.

Instead, as his party goes on around them, his attention is focused entirely on getting her out of her clothes.

"I've never taken a class on micromanagement," he says, grinning at her, the corners of his eyes crinkling from underneath his sunglasses.

She glances forlornly at her bare feet and the flip-flops lying in the pile of clothes the both of them have already shed, and wishes she wore more jewelry. Reluctantly, she reaches for the edge of her shirt and tugs it over her head.

He takes in the wide expanse of skin not covered by her bikini top, and looks at her expectantly.

"I've never…" She hesitates. "Never saved my own life."

He takes off the dark glasses that have been shading his eyes and tosses them on top of her shirt, and the look he gives her isn't playful, or upset, or flippant, so when he smiles at her it's all she can do to swallow the sudden lump in her throat and let his hand settle on her knee.

Title: Miss Potts' Alter Ego

Theme 54: React

"Did he just sneer at you?"

"No."

"He did. He sneered. He actually curled his lip at you."

She tries to latch onto his arm to prevent him from cutting across the ballroom in the direction of Nick Brians from PR (who she went on three dates with four years ago, though why she still doesn't know), but instead he just grabs her hand and drags her along with him. And two minutes later they are making introductions and talking about their jobs and of course Nick Brians can't leave well enough alone.

"You must really enjoy working under Mr. Stark," he says, and Tony, she sees, has to resist the urge to punch him in the face. Instead he decides to backhand him with wit.

"Actually, this is my girlfriend Pepper. You're thinking of my PA, Virginia Potts who's really just my boss in disguise."

"I'm sure she has a broad array of talents."

"She does. Not only can she walk briskly in six inch heels, she can arrange a call to the President, set up twelve meetings in two days in four different countries, dig into a chest cavity to retrieve faulty wiring, and bring me a cappuccino promptly at three o'clock every day. All those menial tasks you and I wouldn't be able to do in a month, when she can get them all done in a day and have time to spare."

He smirks at Brians and nods, then swings Pepper out onto the dance floor.

"What was that about?" she asks, and she can feel Tony smile against her ear.

"He's sneering at me now."