Author's Notes: I have. So much love. For Tony and Pepper.

never ever say never

I really can't stop myself.

What is this Iron Man disease?!

"Owww," Tony whines, jerking beneath Pepper's fingers. "Are you enjoying my pain? Be honest."

His assistant drops the shard of glass into the ashtray beside them, brushing her hair out of her fast with her wrist. "Yes," she tells him flatly. "I'm hoping that you'll die so that I will lose my job, my nice fat paycheck, and the shoes I've been eyeing for the past three weeks." He twists to pout mournfully at her, a gesture which she ignores with practiced ease. "One more," she tells him, a little gentler than before, because if it was hurting enough for him to mention it at all—even jokingly—it must be more tender than she'd thought. Pepper snaps the tweezers at him in a lightly threatening way and he smiles, turning back to give her access to his shoulder blade.

She holds her breath to keep her hand steady and, as smoothly as she can, removes he last piece of offending glass from her boss's skin. She drops it in with the others and then empties the ashtray into the trash bin.

"Hold the alcohol wipe against the wound," she instructs him without turning around, focusing all her attention on sterilizing the tweezers in her hand.

When she faces Tony again he looks sheepish. "You're not going to let me skip the board meeting for this, are you," he sighs, his voice a touch sullen.

"No," she agrees simply. "It is my job, Mr. Stark, to keep your life scheduled and running. I can't help it if you insist on flying off to all corners of the universe whenever there's a problem. I'm going to hold up my end of the bargain, which means making you hold up yours." She smiles at him, gently prying his hand from his shoulder and taking control of cleansing the wound. She dabs at the blood and when he hisses in pain blows softly on the skin. "Maybe if you're good in the meeting I'll take you out for ice cream."

His grin unfolds across his face and he grabs her hand as she reaches for the gauze. She raises an eyebrow. "Marry me," he says, only half joking

"I'm far too busy running your life to marry you," she replies, only half serious.

"I could fire you."

"Then I'd be too busy job hunting." She gently extracts her hand from his and lifts it until his arm is outstretched like a broken wing. With extra care, she holds the loose end of the gauze on the top of his shoulder and begins to bind the wound. "One day you're going to get an injury that I can't take care of in your dirty workshop," she scolds as she finished.

He pushes himself out of the impromptu surgery chair with his good arm and shrugs. "I'd trust my life in your hands over some stuck up doctor any day."

Pepper rolls her eyes affectionately, helping him into the fresh shirt she'd brought down upon his arrival. As her fingers expertly wrestle with the buttons on the front she shakes her head. "That's because you're an overconfident idiot."

"Or maybe I'm just trying to impress you."

She finishes the last button and gently pats his chest. They're close, but she's gotten used to this new-normal for them, this back-and-forth not-quite-attachment that she's grudgingly let them form.

"Mr. Stark," she tells him sincerely, "There's only one way you could do that."

He sighs, holding out a hand. With a victorious smile, she hands him his blazer. "Fine," he whines, "I'll go to the stupid board meeting. But this means you owe me a dinner date."

She follows him upstairs. "We'll see, Mr. Stark."