The Right Formula

By Sheryl Nantus

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Tony/Pepper (2008 Movieverse)

Synopsis: There are some things that not even Tony Stark can figure out…

Disclaimer: SO not mine.

"Pepper, I need you." The voice drifted through the house and five intercoms, strategically placed to find the overworked personal assistant, no matter where she was hiding.

She stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, her mouth falling open. "You have got to be kidding me." One finger stabbed the black box on the wall. "And where are you?"

"In the workshop." The voice paused. "Where are you? I'm getting this weird echo…"

The long slender finger punched the button, cutting the connection. Spinning on one heel the woman slammed the door behind her and headed for the garage/workshop at the bottom of the Stark estate.

"Tony, we've got to talk about the next press conference. The first thing I think we should do is get that Vanity Fair 'reporter' moved to the back; she's just a little too smug for my liking." The tall redhead stopped at the bottom of the steps, her mouth slightly open.

"Hey." He waved her in, lying yet again in the special chair he had set up for "repairs". Dressed in only a pair of well worn track pants the man watched her intently. "Guess what?"

Pepper raised her hand. "No. No. No. I am not doing that again. You call Rhodey, you get Dummy some sort of special attachment…" She stopped, seeing the pained look on his face.

"Actually, it's not that." He waved her into the workshop. "I need your expertise."

Her eyes went wide as she approached the prone inventor. "Oh, Tony - your skin…"

"Yeah, well…" A finger gingerly touched the raw and cracked skin around the light blue dome. "It seems that there's a bit of chafing going on under the special shirt I created to wear under the suit."

Pepper stared at the angry red patches of skin extending out from the arc reactor. "Oh, Tony…" She sighed. "This could be serious, you know."

"It's all fine medically. I mean, it's not infected. All I need is some sort of skin moisturizer to make it better while I adjust the suit." He shifted to one side. "It's sort of like when you get a wetsuit fitted. If it's not perfect you end up with problems."

"But this is…" Her fingers hovered over the blotchy skin. "You should really see a doctor."

"And have him tell me to just slap some lotion on it. I already did." Tony smirked as she tilted her head to one side. "I sent in pictures. Didn't see the reason for him to come out here and start blathering about how I've missed my yearly physical for the past three years."

"Five, actually." She raised her hand, wriggling her fingers. "And considering how many times you've had me call and ask for antibiotics…"

"Anyway, he said to just slap on some moisturizer and it'd be fine." His voice rose over her words. "And to keep an eye on it, obviously."

"And you need me because…" One eyebrow rose.

He gestured at a large cardboard box sitting on the workbench beside him. "Jarvis took the initiative to order in a variety of lotions that he thought would help alleviate the problem. Unfortunately he's unable to tell me which ones are actually going to help and which ones are, for lack of a word, crap."

"Ah." Pepper's lips curled into a smile. "I never thought you'd be consulting me on what lotion to use."

A light blush crept over Stark's face. "Usually I wouldn't bother. However, I know that you always carry some with you; I've seen you apply it to your hands."

"You watch me doing that?" Her right eyebrow tilted upwards. "Close to stalking, Mr. Stark."

"Just being aware of my surroundings." He retorted. "Besides, I figure this is the sort of thing that needs a woman's touch, so to speak. So if you could go through the box and discern which one would be best for my… skin condition I'd appreciate it."

"Wow. Stereotyping of the worst degree." Stepping over to the box she looked inside at the plethora of plastic and glass bottles.

"Except I'm right. Right?" His tone rose on the last word. "Come on, Pep – throw me a bone here. Unless you want me to just mix them all together…"

The redhead closed her eyes and shuddered. "Don't even joke about that." Reaching into the box she picked up the nearest bottle. "Okay. Let's see what you have here." Her eyes narrowed as she began reading the ingredients.

"Crap. Garbage. Junk." For each word a jar or bottle flew into the nearby garbage can - some shattering, some not. He watched her movements with slight amusement; one eyebrow raised.

"More junk." She held up a nearly perfect globe. "Extremely crap."

"That came from Italy." It soared in a perfect arc, crashing into the trash can. "It was expensive." He muttered under his breath.

"Expensive crap." The redhead continued her search through the cardboard box, alternating between frowning and laughing.

Tony lay back in the chair, a smile on his lips as he watched her go through the lotions with an expert eye. "Are any of them up to your standards?"

She held up a cheap plastic bottle. "This one."

"You've got to be kidding me." His eyes narrowed as he took in the generic label. "I don't know why that one's even in there. I thought it was a joke Jarvis was planning the punch line to."

"Because Jarvis has a better eye for what you need than you do." Flipping the lid open she squirted a small amount onto her fingertips. "Just because it's expensive it doesn't mean it's good."

"Is that a comment on my dating… ah, ah, ah!" He yelped as her fingers landed on a raw patch of skin just below the arc reactor. "Damn it, Pepper – that's cold!" Stark arched up almost out of the chair, his eyes wide. "Damned cold!"

A twinkle appeared in her eye as she retreated. "I never knew you were so sensitive." She added more lotion to her hands, rubbing them together.

Tony let out a sigh, settling back into the chair. "Hey, that's me. Sensitive guy." He flinched as the fingers landed again on the chapped skin. "Oh, much better."

"Why, thank you Mr. Stark." The hands began to move back and forth; rubbing in gentle circles as the lotion soaked into the angry skin.

He sighed again, closing his eyes as Pepper continued to rub around the glowing orb; adding more cream-colored lotion to her hands every few minutes. "Oh, that feels good…" Tony mumbled, a look of relief on his face. His lips drew back; his upper teeth latching onto his lower lip as a low moan broke free. "Oh, man… so good."

"You really can't neglect this, you know." Her professional voice drifted across his consciousness. "You may have built this reactor to keep you alive but it's still a foreign object in your body. And something as simple as chapped skin can lead to infections or something even worse."

"Hmm. Yeah." Tony hummed in response as her hands continued to dance over his chest. "That's nice. Very soothing."

"Thank you." Suddenly the touching stopped. He opened his eyes to see her reaching for a tissue.

"Hey!" His lower lip shot out in a childish pout. "What's wrong?"

"All done." The redhead grinned as she rubbed her hands together. "Although I'm sure you'll have to do that more than once. I'd say to give it a few hours and then reassess the situation and reapply if needed."

"Well, I'll probably need help." Tony caught her eyes, a smug look on his face. "And after all, you're the expert on doing this sort of thing."

"'This sort of thing'?" She tilted her head to one side. "Spreading lotion on bare skin? Don't tell me that you've never…"

Stark hastily interrupted. "You know." One hand waved in the air. "Saving my life and all that."

"Would that include when I shocked the hell out of your heart?" She waggled her fingers in the air over his chest, simulating yanking the wire out.

"Well, yeah." He rapped his knuckles on the blue dome. "I mean, you got it going again so it's all good."

Pepper rolled her eyes. "Just don't let this get so bad next time." She turned to go.

Suddenly a hand latched onto his arm, spinning her back to face him. "How about a get-better kiss?"


A smirk appeared on his face. "You know, make-it-all-better kiss." His fingers ran over his lips and chin. "Make me feel all better."

"Oh, really?" The redhead grinned as she leaned in, letting her long tresses brush over his bare skin. "Would that make you take better care of yourself?"

"Maybe." Tony whispered as she drew nearer, a suddenly shocked look on his face. His tongue flickered out, wetting his lips.

"Okay, then." Pepper hovered over him, her right hand reaching up to touch his face. She paused there, her lips mere inches away.

Then she dipped her head down and placed a long, luxurious kiss on the glowing blue shield of the arc reactor. Bringing her face back up she grinned in her employer's face.

"Now I'm going to go back upstairs and order us some dinner. Get dressed and we can discuss the next press conference."

Unable to speak or to move Tony managed a nod as his personal assistant spun on one deliciously-evil stiletto heel and strode away, clattering up the steps and out of sight before he could draw another breath.

"Shall I begin automatic shutdown of the workshop, then?" Jarvis's voice hummed overhead.

"Uh. Yeah. Sure." He lay back in the chair, taking deep breaths. "And make a note to keep plenty of that stuff on hand. Like, obscene amounts."

"Duly noted." The AI sounded almost as if he had been laughing.

Suddenly he looked down at his chest, a wide grin breaking across his face. For there, right in the middle of the arc reactor cover sat a perfect impression of Pepper Potts's lips. In full glaring color.

"Oh… and get out the laser-etching equipment."