Disclaimer: Iron Man and all related characters, plotlines, etc. belong to Marvel Comics.

Written for Rowena DeVandal's One Thousand Words or Less Challenge: August, over at The Fireplace. One-shot.

Get In the Boat

"I can't believe you thought that was a good idea!"

Here it came. The first person I'd envisioned chewing me out for not "sticking to the cards"? Pepper.

Oh, Pepper. She always did turn the most enthralling shade of pink when she was angry. I'd hurried out of the press conference and taken a separate car to the docks so that maybe, just maybe, I could get a darker shade out of her. I knew I was pushing it, really. Pepper finally losing it and snapping on someone, so I'd always said, would be a ticket-selling, gruesome event.

I hadn't exactly figured into the equation that that someone would ever be me.

But, with a grin to cover my unease (because really, those high heels of hers looked pretty damn dangerous), I jumped down into my sleek little yacht and began untying it from the dock. So I'd told the media and, consequently, the entire world that I was Iron Man. So what? It wasn't like they wouldn't have found out sooner or later. Damn paparazzi. "Somebody would've found out," I said casually, squinting at her. I'd forgone sunglasses just to see how mad she'd gotten; probably not the most brilliant thing I'd ever done. Ah, well. It was worth it. She was pretty much red, now. Delicious.

"S.H.I.E.L.D. could keep them quiet!" Pepper spluttered indignantly, throwing her hands—absent their usual clipboard she used to keep me (hypothetically) on a schedule—in the air. "That was the whole point of the cards: an alibi!"

I shielded my eyes with my hand and looked at her, just for real kicks, like she was yelling at me in another language. From the start, she hadn't been with me on the superhero thing. I'd seen it in her eyes, as her jaw dropped and she watched my array of machinery attempt to separate me from the Mark III suit. Hell, I'd seen a lot of things in her eyes that night. Shock. Fear. Annoyance. Anger. Paranoia. All of it had come together for a "this-was-not-in-the-job-description," "I'm-going-to-hurt-you" look. Not as good as just plain anger and a little bit scarier.

I laughed it off then ("Let's face it, this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing"), but I realized later that my Pepper, my assistant, the one human being that actually gave a damn about me…might quit. Good-bye Pepper, hello number one thousand and six (more or less) on my "Things I Really Screwed Up" list.

"You don't care." Pepper narrowed her eyes. It sounded like it was meant to be a question, but in all actuality, she knew me well enough to already know my reply.

I let her have it anyway. "I don't."

She gave me that long-suffering, "you-couldn't-possibly-pay-me-enough-for-this" glare that she seemed to forever be tossing my way. And…the red faded from her cheeks. Damn. She'd given in already. Way too early. I silently hoped those heels on her little feet weren't too sharp.

Maybe she was about to quit on me for good, give up on Tony Stark. Well, Potts, kiddo, I thought as she seemed to wilt before me, you won't be the first and you damn well know you won't be the last. Didn't know you had it in you. Guess you did.

"There's no stopping them coming after you," she said slowly, folding her arms. She was prolonging it, I guessed, telling me she'd had it. I wished she'd just get it the hell over with.

"There's not," I shrugged, not needing to know who "them" meant. No, there wasn't any stopping anyone from trying to take a swing at me now. They could try. Let 'em try, I mused darkly. They can look forward to comparing notes with old Obadiah wherever the hell he is right now.

Pepper just stared at me for a moment. Really, any other day she'd rejoice and be glad I'd admitted she wasn't wrong about something. What was wrong with her?
Oh. Right. The whole "I am Iron Man" thing.

"Have you not got anything coherent to say?" she finally exclaimed.

I looked around and decided on something off the wall. Maybe I could get one last scrumptious shade of pink out of her before she walked out of my life forever. "Nice day for sailing."

Her hand massaged her undoubtedly throbbing forehead, and she sighed in frustration. "Tony?"


"I'd resign right now," Pepper sighed, "but I don't think I could live with dumping you on some poor, unsuspecting soul."

"Neither of us would last a week," I agreed, relieved, giving her my best kicked puppy look. Even she couldn't resist. No woman ever had, and I certainly didn't want this one to. Not now. She may have been my assistant, but she and I both knew there was something else there. "C'mon." I held out my hand for hers, and she hesitated. Probably at what it impled. "Look, Pepper, I need you. You're all I got. You couldn't stand it if something happened to me, but you know you're not going anywhere. I promise not to get into trouble today." I paused, openly mock-appraising her bare legs at eye level. "Well," I added as an afterthought, my trademark grin tugging at my lips, "much."

"You're not funny." Ha! She took my hand anyway.

"Oh, Potts," I said. "Shut the hell up and get in the boat."

Huh. Never written for Iron Man before; that was pretty fun! Reviews are appreciated. –MJ-Skywalker