With Me

Genre: Romance, Humor
Rating: PG
Time Frame: Post Movie
Characters: Pepper, Tony

Summary: He has the suit, he has villains and a catchy name. Now all he needs is a girl who'll keep his secret identity. Even if it's not so secret anymore. - Shameless Pepper/Tony fluff. -

Notes: I was going to sit down and write something serious, heartfelt, and thought provoking, I swear I was! It wasn't even going to be for this fandom. But, I had Iron Man on in the background, and then the mush addict in me came out and . . . Okay, I'm done with my excuses. I wanted fluff, and now here it is.

Enjoy.


With Me
by Mira-Jade

Her phone was ringing in that incessantly chipper way it only did before natural waking hours. Sure enough, when Virginia Potts forced her eyes open, the glaring red numbers on her bedside stand showed some time after three in the morning.

Fighting her first, and rather strong, impulse to turn over and go back to sleep, she drowsily reached over for the chiming little gadget. With a glare of the deepest loathing, she brought the phone up to her face to check the caller. There was only one person who'd ever call her at this hour, and even though she knew that, morbid curiosity kept her wondering.

Although, if it was Tony calling because he could not find those new Iron Man action figures Rhodes had dropped by the other day, then she would not be held accountable for her actions.

A sigh fluttered past her lips when she realized that it was Tony, as suspected. With an annoyed shake of her head, she sat up and flipped on the lamp next to the bed. Taking all the time she could, she answered. "Hello, Mr. Stark."

"Ah, good. You're awake."

She glared some more at the phone, hoping her ire would would somehow transverse the distance between them. "Yes, how fortunate," she agreed, keeping the growl from her voice.

"Great," he said again in that too chipper voice. The one that said he had crossed yet another line and he knew he was risking her annoyance. "Well, since you already seem to be full of energy, I need you over here."

Pepper blinked. Then oh so articulately blinked again before frowning. "Excuse me, Mr. Stark, but I must have heard you wrong. I thought you said -"

"No, you heard right."

There was a raised brow as she looked at her phone. His request was slowly computing, and she found herself slipping out of bed even as she protested. "Mr. Stark, it's three in the morning. I'm sure that whatever you need can wait 'til normal operating hours -"

"Fury called," Tony gave by way of explanation. She made her way over to the bathroom, running a hand through her tousled hair and picking up her toothbrush. "I'll be somewhere in Brazil during normal business hours."

"Ah. Mutants or warlords?"

"I do believe that it is an enticing mix of both."

She rolled her eyes at his light tone, even as her heart gave a painful little lurch. Her grip on the phone became that much tighter, as if she could keep him out of the line of fire by mere force of will. She took a deep breath, and then released it. "Sounds like fun, a pity I won't make it."

"I think you'd look good in gold titanium alloy. You're a true loss to the crime fighting community, Potts."

"Sorry, but the suit's a little too gaudy for my tastes."

"The red killed it, didn't it?"

"I think that I'll just enjoy it on you," she said instead.

"Did I just hear you say that you enjoy looking at me?"

She rolled her eyes as she laid out an outfit on the bed – never mind that she was still irked, and supposed to be debating his plans. "I don't know what you are talking about, Mr. Stark," she said primly before changing the topic, "So, what is so important that need me over before you leave?"

"Just some schematics that I was supposed to turn in today. I figured that you could pick them up early and drop them off later."

She raised an eyebrow, figuring that Tony could imagine the look well enough. "And this is something that requires my specific attention? You couldn't have had them picked up later?" There were a dozen other holes in his reasoning, but she stifled them.

She could hear his shrug. "Maybe I just wanted to see you before I go," he said, and that simple statement made her stomach flutter, and her hands shake where they were slipping on a pair of shoes.

Fighting against the smile that threatened to break out onto her face she said, "Well then, in that case, I'll be right over."

She hung up the phone, picked up her keys, and made her way to the car, her annoyance completely forgotten.

O

Ten minutes later she found herself standing in Tony's workshop. She was off to the side, trying to stay out of the ways as Tony made some last minute adjustments to the suit. Tony was muttering - something about how this and that should have been done hours ago, and something more that sounded suspiciously like cursing at the robotic aides. She fought to keep the grin off of her face as Butterfingers followed Tony around in a way that could only be described as remorseful.

Next to her on a low workbench, she saw what used to be the suit's faceplate. She picked it up, frowning as her eyes flickered over the burn marks, and something that looked suspiciously like bullet holes. She closed her eyes long and slow against the now familiar twinge of fear that rose up in her. Tony had been working with Fury's group for almost a month now, and had been Iron Man for not even two, and already she was resigned to the late nights wondering if he was going to be okay, and dealing with the bruises that would surface the day after a battle.

She wasn't sure that she'd ever get used to it.

Tony saw her out of the corner of his eye, and a small frown came over his face. "Yeah, that was a nasty bunch we ran into."

Wondering how 'nasty' a bunch would have to be to punch through titanium alloy, she shook her head and put the face plate down. Her fingers lingered on the metal for a moment.

"So, the specs, Mr. Stark?" she asked, keeping the tremor from her voice.

"Yeah, right," he said, and made his way over to the other side of the room. He came back to her with an armful of neatly rolled and wrapped blueprints, and she took them from him. He was still looking at her strangely, and her stomach did a little jump. "Are you doing okay?" the concern was almost palpable in his voice.

She nodded, "I'm fine. Just a little tired, I guess."

He took her explanation readily enough, even though his dark eyes were still shadowed. He had a bad habit of being able to see through her little half truths. So she shrugged. "It's all slightly surreal still," she mumbled, looking down again at the ruined faceplate.

Tony followed her gaze with his, and then leaned over to pick up the warped metal. "Just slightly," he agreed.

And that was the truth. If anyone told her five months ago that her boss would become a superhero - complete with a fancy suit and matching name - she would have laughed. If someone had told her that her boss, while still a good person at heart, would give up his routine of whores and alcohol, she would have laughed even harder. And if someone told her that she'd be seriously examining the feelings she'd been hiding for years, she wouldn't have know what to say.

It started out predictably - a drink on a roof, and roses at her desk. A halfhearted proposition that he quipped out before his revealing press conference. He was half joking, and she was half serious when turning him down. Ever since then he looked at her awkwardly with an expectant glow in his eyes. She wondered how long it would take for him to ask her again – used to both his constant flirting and his amiable teasing.

Now she was still waiting.

She raised a hand to trace a scared rune down the faceplate in Tony's hands. He watched the progress her hand made with curious eyes. "I think it'll grow on me though," he said. "The whole superhero thing," he clarified to the question in her eyes.

She sucked in a shaky breath. "Of course it will. The chance for attention and admiration should speed up the process remarkably."

"What can I say? I'm an insatiable narcissist."

"Well, that's the first step to solving your problem," she quipped playfully. Falling into banter made things easier on her. This was familiar – a trait shared by the Tony she knew and the Tony now standing before her.

He shrugged, and placed the ruined helmet down. "Technically the term is 'crime fighter.' Otherwise we just look like Saturday morning cartoons."

She smirked at the mental image of a cartoon Tony – complete with exaggerated 'boom!' and 'bam!' captions. "Yes, that would clash with your image," she agreed.

He frowned thoughtfully, "Of course, my image has taken a three sixty turn as of late, so maybe it would be fitting."

When he laughed it was only half in jest, and she smiled in a painful way. Yes. He had taken a turn. For the better. "Yes. You have the suit, you have the name, you have the zany power, all you're missing is the - " her voice cut off abruptly and her cheeks flamed scarlet as she realized what she had been about to say.

Tony only heard what she didn't say. It was written all over that insufferable smirk he wore. The glow that had been loitering in his eyes for weeks sprang to life full force, drawing her eye against her will. "So, what am I missing?" he asked playfully, reaching out to take her hands.

His touch was incredibly distracting, and she wanted to tell him so. His hands were callused – more than she thought that they would be, but taking in to consideration the things he tended to build, it shouldn't be so surprising. "Nothing, Mr. Stark."

Something akin to disappointment bloomed in his eyes, and he dropped her hands. She had to fight away the voice in her head that said she missed their warmth. "I'm pretty sure that you were about to add something else," he insisted.

Pepper raised an eyebrow. "I was merely going to say that you don't need to conform to society's clichés to be considered a hero." There. And that was all she would say on the subject.

He merely looked thoughtful now. "And what would you say if I told you that I think I need this little cliché?"

The warm little spark deep inside that she had been nurturing suddenly flamed; burning bright behind her heart. In answer, the stupid little organ was beating abnormally fast – in a way she was sure that couldn't happen without a nasty little side effect. She tried to keep her eyes calm, and her hands steady. Her mind instantly pointed out a dozen cons, another dozen pros, and things like might-not, maybe, why-not please?

She folded her hands over each other to conceal their shaking.

"What if I told you that while I'm out there, the biggest thing that gets me through each mission is the thought that I have you to come back to? You're the light at the end of the tunnel, my rock and support and everything else." He was frowning, and maybe he was even a little flustered, she liked to think. The meaningful little smile that had been spreading across his face was replaced by a scowl as he realized just how unarticulated he was being.

For some reason it made the moment endearing. Not that she meant it to. She'd been ignoring the obvious for so long now, just because it was the easier thing to do.

And now he wasn't playing along. And suddenly denial seemed such a far away thing.

And the thing was, it was already a role she was playing so very well. She may not be his in name, but he had no one else up late worrying about him. Last week's mission had left him with bruises the size of frisbees up and over his chest, and she had to stop herself from falling apart at the sight of them. Yet, it was her whom he called after each job. It was her who moved his schedule around and put ice over the worse of the injuries. It was she who took care of him when he couldn't do so himself. The knowledge that maybe, just maybe, she was the thing that made each ache and pain bearable, made something warm a fierce come to life inside of her.

Tony was watching her carefully, aware that the line between banter and serious conversation had been crossed, and waiting to see how she would react.

She didn't say anything in response to his question. She wasn't sure that he was expecting her to. Whatever it was, he must have found some answer on her face that she had not been able to project in words. Both were tangible things though, and so his hands came up to cup her face. His thumbs brushed across her cheekbones in a way that was so sweetly sensuous that she couldn't help but sigh contentedly.

He was still watching her closely, and what he saw must have spurred him on. "I love you," the words came tumbling out of his mouth before he thought to stop them, for the surprise on his face was a mirror of the surprise on her own.

She blinked at him, watching as he shook his head in a way that suggested he was trying to muster up every ounce of determination in him. "I. Love. You," he repeated again, his voice firmer and more sure as he grasped on to the truth that had been loitering outside of their relationship for so long.

She gapped a little as her heart sped up even more. She opened her mouth to speak, because a statement of that magnitude needed to be addressed, and -

"Just let me talk for a minute," he interrupted whatever she was going to say. She wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing. "I think I've known it for a while – it just took three months being locking in a cave and another few saving other people's live for it to really sink in. I . . . I know I'm probably scarring you right now, but I have to know . . ."

He was fumbling. Actually tripping over his words in an attempt to vocalize his feelings. A smile lit her face as she realized it was one of the most beautiful things she's ever heard him say.

Both to stop the flood of words escaping his mouth and to indulge in something that she'd wanted to do since that night on the roof, she reached up and gently pressed her lips to his. The words stopped immediately, and his hands on her face slid back to tangle in her hair, angling his mouth better against hers.

The flames roaring inside of her morphed to something tamable and almost peaceful as she kissed him. She could say that this is the best kiss she's had to date, but that would be an understatement. Every nerve ending seemed to be on fire, and the combination of the arc reactor humming against her chest, and his arms around her seemed to be tailor made for her body until she let go of thinking and just let herself feel.

When he finally pulled back her breathing was coming quicker and her heart was pounding somewhere in her throat. He was still touching her face, as if unable to relinquish contact with her. He smiled lazily, and her matching smile was equally content. "And here I thought you'd make me wait forever," he drawled.

Her smile grew, even as she rolled her eyes in fond exasperation. "Well, don't make me reconsider it."

His hands were moving to thread through her hair again, and she leaned into the touch almost greedily. He watched her reaction with an expression that she was starting to realize was loving. Her heart skipped yet another beat. "So, you have considered it?"

She looked at him closely, from the easy tilt of his mouth to the sincere wonder in his sepia eyes. And she made a decision. "Yes," she answered. Her arms moved to sling over his neck, and the position just felt so right that she let them stay there. "I love you, Tony. Truly, I do." There, she said it. She put her heart on the line, and oddly enough, she no longer feared for what he would do with it,

He realized that as soon as she did, and then he was kissing her again, and suddenly thinking was so much harder than feeling so she let herself let go. And it felt wonderful.

Some time later, when her sense of time had completely deserted her, Tony pulled away. There was a smirk on his lips, and a wicked twinkle in his eyes.

"You do realize that I'm legit now."

She raises a brow at him.

"The whole superhero thing, it feels more real now," Tony clarified, an unashamed smile on his face.

Her brow raised even higher, yet she was finding it hard to feign ire now. It was an unintentional side effect that she wasn't quite sure how to deal with yet. So, as any sane girl in doubt did around Tony Stark, she kissed him again.

And really, this was a way of silencing him that she could definitely get used to.

FIN

~MJ