Title: Small Tokens of Gratitude
Author: chocolatemooses
Disclaimer: Still don't own Iron Man. I do, however, own an Iron Man mask.

AN: Yes! I am still alive. I know, crazy right. Yes, I am still around but I have been so busy the past few months that writing has been almost impossible. But, my schedule has cleared up a bit and now I am trying to jump back into Iron Man. This is just a little short maybe one-shot that popped into my head while I was shopping for my boyfriend. There will definitely be another chapter but I am not sure if there will be more than that. Tell me if you guys think I should write more than two chapters. And enjoy!

That first year she had spent exactly seventeen days, fourteen hours, and fifty-six minutes absolutely agonizing over what to get her boss, Tony I-actually-am-rich-enough-to-buy-happiness Stark, for his birthday. She had been working with him for a little more than ten months and, to Pepper's surprise, she actually enjoyed the job. And, if she was totally honest with herself, she would admit that it wasn't just the engaging work or the amazing places she went or the ridiculously huge paycheck she received at the end of every month that kept the bounce in her step. If she was completely and utterly honest with herself, an occurrence that was quickly becoming far too uncommon, she would have had to admit that it was her boss, her crazy, unpredictable, irresponsible, and brilliant boss, that kept her so content.

It seemed that with Tony, she was able to utilize every one of her skills that made her who she was. She could be that smart, strong, take-charge woman without fear of being branded as a control-freak or a bitch like she had been in her previous jobs. Simply because Pepper, her honest to goodness self, was exactly what a man like Tony Stark needed in his life. She was able to reign in his impulsiveness and curb his dangerous lifestyle to at least a manageable point. She was able to help focus his manic energy and turn it into actual progress, whether in his work or in his personal life. She was able to translate to the rest of the world the enigma that could sometimes be Tony Stark. And she was able to do all of this while staying quietly backstage, never asking or even wanting the accolades she so rightly deserved. Simply because, doing her job made her happier than she had ever felt before in her life, and for this she was grateful.

So when that special day rolled around, she was determined to express at least a small token of that gratitude. And as the days grew shorter and the tension coiled in her gut grew tighter, she began to see that the only problem with her goal was the eternal question: What do you get for the man who has everything?

She had considered every item under the sun, from gourmet chocolates to a custom Armani suit. She had racked her brain for weeks on end, constantly scanning shop windows, browsing through online stores on her lunch break, calling up hundreds of dealers, barters, and traders, desperately searching for the perfect gift. But everything, literally everything, was either something ridiculous and clichéd or something he already owned or even invented. By the second day she felt that she would be doomed to gift certificates.

Then it happened. It was something silly. Tony pulled one of his infamous stunts, something involving an investor's wife and a coat room. It was something serious. She had been at the particular function, she had watched for hours as Tony flirted dangerously with the man's wife. She had even pulled him aside and tried to deter him from the poisonous situation he was creating. It was something unimportant. The investor wasn't a very big player and his wife had a well-deserved reputation for infidelity, all it would have taken is an apology and maybe a couple thousand dollars. It was something important. He had staunchly refused to even speak to the man, despite warnings and even pleas from the Board, Obidiah, and his assistant. He still refused and a human resources agent visited Pepper's office a few days later; telling her quite explicitly that maybe she wasn't as qualified to handle her boss as the company had initially thought.

The threats combined with the stress she had been building for nearly three weeks created the perfect storm.

"Do you even care about your job?! About mine!?"

"Of course I do!"

"Really? Because it sure as hell doesn't seem like that!"

"I said I was sorry. What else do you want from me?!"

"I want you to mean it."

"But I do."

"But you don't…if you did you wouldn't do shit like this."

"…Pepper, I never said I would be the world's greatest boss."

"I don't want you to be. I don't need you to be."



"I'm sorry."

"…I believe you."

The next day Pepper skipped lunch and drove down to the nearest Office Max. She browsed quickly through the store, already assured of her purpose. She made her purchase, along with a permanent Sharpie, some plain brown wrapping paper, and a stack of yellow Post-Its, in less than eight minutes and was out of the store by twelve.

On Thursday, December 6, 2000 at 4:20; Pepper Potts came to work. On this particular day she wore a new suit; gray pencil skirt, maroon button-up blouse, and matching jacket. Her hair was down, loosely curled in waves and a fresh scent of rarely used perfume followed her every move. Her arms were laden with the usual: files upon files of paperwork, a cell phone, a Mary Poppins-esque bottomless purse, and cup of the ever essential coffee. But in addition to her usual load of supplies, was an innocuous brown package, neatly tucked under her arm. She immediately set down all of her supplies, save the package, on the kitchen table. She tip-toed downstairs, carefully and quietly entered the code to open the door, and without so much as a glance around the room set the package on his work table in a spot where he would surely notice its presence right away. Then, as although the room was about to burst into flames, she sprinted back up the steps, into the kitchen to gather her stuff, and then finally to the safety of her office.

The rest of the day passed in relative silence. She made a few calls, made sure all the arrangements for Tony's party the next day were ready, and caught up on some paperwork. She actually didn't see Tony until she was on her way out the door at six.

When she entered the living room his eyes had immediately found hers. He looked, for lack of a better word, happy on that particular day. His eyes were bright and alive and burning holes into Pepper's heart. He smiled at her the moment he saw her and his smile brought one of her own to her lips. His body was sprawled out over the couch and he seemed to be, for once, at ease with himself. He wasn't moving or fidgeting like he usually would, his mind and body needing constant stimulation. The TV was on but Pepper could tell that he had hardly been paying attention to the pictures on the screen. What he actually seemed to be paying attention to was the coffee cup that was carefully balance on his chest. The words that stared back at him were familiar: "World's Greatest Boss". However, there was one distinct difference that made that particular coffee cup special. It seemed that someone had taken a Sharpie to the cup, crossing out the words "World's Greatest" and instead writing the word "My" in neat black print on the ceramic surface.

Pepper's eyes flickered back and forth, from the cup to him until she finally settled on watching his contented features, their small smiles still dancing across both their lips.

"Going home?"

"Yep I'm going to try to get a full night's rest. I have a feeling you'll be making me earn my ridiculous paycheck tomorrow."

"Aww, come on. You know tomorrow's going to be fun. What could be more fun than celebrating me?"

"I am sure I could think of a few things."

"Potts, you wound me."

"Uh-huh…Will that be all Mr. Stark?"

"That will be all Miss Potts."





"Thank you."

"…Happy Birthday, Tony."

AN: Okay, so please let me know what you all think. I found it surprisingly difficult to get back into the groove of writing Tony and Pepper so I would like to know if I came back to it well. Plus, please tell me if I should write more than two chapters. I am for sure writing a chapter for the year Tony becomes Iron Man but I also have been playing with the idea of writing a little one-shot for every year that Pepper gets Tony a birthday present. So, please tell me if that is an interesting idea and if anybody would like to read that Feedback is so helpful and it should encourage me to jump back into consistent writing. Thanks!