A/N: 116th!! That's where this story was before I updated! My God, it's been a while, hasn't it? I haven't read any Iron-Man stories in over two months and just couldn't work up the energy to finish this off. But nonetheless, I made a promise and I'm sticking to it. I'm also finishing this story in the next chapter. The plans I had for the later chapters I'll turn into a sequel (if I find the energy) Now I remember why I like doing one-shots.
On another note, thank you all so much for reviewing, remembering this story and sticking with it, despite my infrequent updates! I live for your reviews and enjoy the warm, fuzzy feelings they bring.
On the ride from the restaurant, she questioned him persistently about where they were going. Suggestion after suggestion were met with outright snorts or teasing comments. "An art show?" she asked in slight desperation. The telling look he spared her from the road gave her the answer. "Okay, dumb question," she acknowledged.
When they turned onto the road to lead to the mansion, she looked at him carefully and said only one word. "Home?"
"Home," he repeated softly, with a small smile, and glanced at her for an instant. He had to look away almost immediately. A sudden vision of Pepper Potts and all the possible things she could be doing in his home had his hands tightening on the steering wheel. He dropped one of his hands to squeeze hers briefly and returned his attention to the road. A crash would definitely spoil the plans he had. He felt, rather than saw her smile, and could sense her contentment – and excitement. The confines of the car space was the closest they'd been all night and to say that he was near exploding wouldn't be an exaggeration. He took a deep breath, reminding himself that Pepper was leading the proceedings tonight.
How a perfectly, innocuous four-letter word like "home" could have such sensuous undertones was completely beyond her. His home was a place she worked at almost every day. It was practically her second home. The thought of being there with him shouldn't do things to her insides and it most certainly shouldn't invoke fantasies of the man in question, or the hands that had touched hers all too briefly or thoughts about where those hands had touched her before. Pepper exhaled slowly. The ride to the mansion had never seemed so long.
They reached the house without further conversation. The salty sea spray that hit her as she got out of the car was heady and overpowering. She was accustomed to the thick, salty blanket of mist that draped around the mansion occasionally, yet tonight the air felt like a seductive scent, one that clung to her face and skin, made her hands clammy and made her overwhelmingly aware of her femininity.
Or maybe that was Tony's influence.
Taking off his jacket and tossing it carelessly on the couch, he headed for the stairs, saying he had to go in the garage to get it, whatever "it" was, and he was leaving her to her own devices to "get comfortable" - his air quotes, not hers. She rolled her eyes as expected.
It was so rare to just be relaxing at the mansion that at first Pepper had no idea what to do. She felt tempted to fall back into acceptable patterns of behaviour and almost took a step towards her work area. She pulled herself away from those thoughts, chewing her lip in mild bemusement. What does one do when in a date's home? she thought idly and instantly remembered the last woman she'd thrown out of the house and what she was doing at the time: exploring in detail. Definitely not. Which meant that by the time Tony returned from his quest, he was greeted to a sight he'd never seen but was very intrigued by, to say the least: a barefoot Pepper sitting at the new baby grand piano, playing Greensleeves as only she could do it – with furrowed brow, half-bitten lip and intense concentration.
He carefully and quietly put down his parcel and drank in the sight of her at the piano, carefully reproducing the simple melody he guessed she'd learned sometime during childhood, never again played since the day of piano recital. He didn't even realise he was smiling until some sixth sense alerted her to his presence. "We're on a date; you can't laugh at my playing," she said, getting up with a smile. Leaning over slightly to put back on her shoes, she added, "Besides, I haven't played since I was six."
He moved a couple of steps until he was next to her, stopping the hand that had started to slip on the heeled shoes. "We won't need those for what we're about to do." He laughed loudly at the expression on her face. "Potts, you've got to have the dirtiest mind out of all the people I know."
"It's your corrupting influence," she said mildly.
"Shows how much you know. I haven't even tried corrupting you – yet." He winked, then led her to the couch, gesturing to the bounty he'd brought from downstairs. "What do you think?"
"It" was actually a gramophone, accompanied by a dozen or so of what had to be very old records. The gramophone looked as if it had been carefully and lovingly restored and a glance at Tony's proud face left no doubt who was behind the restoration. She looked back at the gramophone. It definitely wasn't his usual choice of toy.
He was winding it up now and carefully loading the needle onto the record. The strains of an old jazz standard instantly filled the room. "It was broken apart when I found it a couple of years after my old man died. Had to rebuild some parts of it myself. Restoring the records was even harder." She'd already guessed as much. Tony Stark would swear before a court that he didn't have a nostalgic bone in his body, but mention his parents – and especially his father – and it was as if she could see a younger, geekier, infinitely nicer version of Tony Stark peeping out behind the lothario the world saw.
He held out his hand to her now, offering with a sweet, boyish smile: "Consider this my statement of intent."
Touched, to say the least, she slipped her hand in his and the instant thrill was felt by both of them. It was a wonder she hadn't melted in a puddle on the spot, but she was somehow strong enough to wrap her arms around him in embrace, and loosely sway to the music. The faux fireplace was on as usual, engulfing the room in warm firelight and golden ambiance. It was the only light in the room as Tony hadn't bothered Jarvis to turn on any others.
Somehow, everything felt in its right place. Being this close to Tony and his intoxicating blend of man and genius was incredibly sexy, but comforting at the same time. They had broken the dance once when Tony had to stop to wind the gramophone and change the record, and on his return, she found herself warmed, welcomed and content in his embrace. They fit perfectly together, and as she unconsciously snuggled closer to him resting her head on his shoulder as if it existed solely for that purpose, she had to reflect that Tony was right – once again. They did make a good fit, in every sense of the word.
"See?" His quiet observation pulled her out of her thoughts and had her leaning back slightly to see his face. "Dancing with me isn't so bad, is it?" Jarvis' words had stuck with him for the whole night and had nagged him – how could he treat her any differently than the others? How could he convince her that she was more special to him, more essential than any other woman he'd been with? The gramophone had been a long shot (and to his mind, incredibly cheesy) but Pepper was the one person he could think to share that with – along with the rest of his life.
She smiled. "I never said it was bad. In fact, it's the complete opposite of bad."
They had been swaying slowly for a little while, content for now to dance with each other. He raised his eyebrows at her. "So why didn't you want to dance at the restaurant? Still concerned about what everyone will think?"
"I wouldn't have gone out with you if that was the problem." It didn't answer his question directly and her averted eyes confirmed as much. "Besides, I like dancing with you."
"So you didn't dance with me because you like dancing with me." Tony's frown and confused tone suggested he wasn't following her line of reasoning. She flushed. She really didn't feel like telling him how idiotic she felt in front of others when she danced with him.
"I do like dancing with you," she insisted. "It's just…The night of the firefighters' benefit, I'd never worn a dress like that before and I felt…completely self-conscious and then you showed up and…" She moved one of the hands that had been resting lightly at the base of his neck and waved it about in the air to signify how flustered she'd been. "And you were flirting and looking at me…like...like…" He was staring at her now with such arrested, sexy expression, she could literally feel the heat from him. "…Like how you're looking at me now and I just wanted to…" She trailed off, mouth slightly open and flicked a glance at his lips, then back to his eyes. "I want to..."
On one level she was conscious of the silence indicating the music had stopped, but her immediate focus was on the man in front of her, his breathing, his eyes, his mouth – him, his essence; he was completely overloading her sensory faculties, and she should be doing something constructive about it, like kissing the hell out of him, instead of looking at him like a dazed fish.
She wanted him so badly.
She closed what little space there was between them, instinctively closing her eyes as her mouth met his, and immediately her senses went further into overdrive. Oh God, he smelled good, tasted better. Their mouths moved together, first gently, then more urgently, in a twisted tango of need and desire.
When he regained the ability to breathe, he said hoarsely, "I was being patient and giving you space." His hands cupped the back of her neck while he trailed the length of her neck, which caused her to arch her neck to allow him better access.
When he came back up, she whispered against his mouth in a way he found completely erotic, "You don't need to be patient anymore." And then she was kissing him along his jaw line and his neck, little fluttering pecks and nibbles that were sending electric impulses along his nerve endings. His hands ran the length of her body, and after a few caresses eventually found the zipper with little ease and in a move that bespoke his decades of experience, pulled it open smoothly and made to drag the straps over her shoulders.
"Wait." She caught his fingers before he could do anything, squeezing them reassuringly. "Let me," she whispered, before pulling back slightly to stand a few steps away from him.
With a confidence borne out of sheer sexiness and the electricity being generated between them, she slowly undressed, slipping the strap off one shoulder, then the other, before letting the whole garment slide agonisingly slow against her body to land down on the ground in a heap. His eyes followed the black dress briefly, before outright ogling the lingerie set she was wearing. It was a pale blue strapless, bustier set, with matching garter belts that clipped onto the sheer pantyhose she'd worn.
She slipped her fingers through the garters, toying with them teasingly as she unconsciously took deep breaths, pushing her swollen breasts forward. Tony felt his breath catch in his throat, and had to remind himself to swallow. He was…excited; heck, he was almost bursting out of his pants. "Oh, no fair Potts. That's just plain old cheating." His eyes flicked once again to the garters. There were easily half dozen ways he could think of removing them – including with his mouth – his goatee against the smoothness of her skin and pantyhose – toying, brushing and nibbling on the pale softness of the lingerie…God, if he kept up those thoughts, he wouldn't last two minutes inside of her.
"Next time, you set the pace." She licked her lips and walked back to him, kissing him hard and dragging his hands onto her body….