change is gonna come


Tony Stark.


"We should date," Tony tells her as she shakes him awake this morning. Jarvis chimes in with the time and the weather and for a second all Pepper can do is stare stupidly down at her employer. Then she laughs.

"I agree," she says, going over to his closet and pulling out the suit she'd laid out the night before. "I'll date, you'll date, and together, although separately, we will date. Good plan. Would you like eggs this morning, or cereal?"

He glowers at her as he gets out of bed, snatching the suit from her fingers with typical Tony Stark petulance. "Count Chocula," he grumbles. "With extra sugar."

Pepper rolls her eyes but nods, her heels clack-clack-clacking as she moves towards the door. Tony watches her go until he realizes that he's doing it.


The next time he says anything they're in his workshop and he's wearing jeans, a wife beater, and grease. Pepper sighs as he rolls out from beneath his latest plaything and warily eyes his stained hands.

"Right," she decides. "I'm going to sign these for you, Mr. Stark."

He looks down at his greasy fingers and grins. "You know how to forge my signature? That's pretty badass of you, Potts. What other naughty things can you do that I don't know about?"

"All sorts of things, like schedule you a meeting with SHIELD in half and hour." Pepper says without looking up, diligently scrawling his name across the papers in a perfect imitation of his writing. At his silence, she raises her eyes. Her smirk is far too smug for Tony's comfort.

"Oh, low blow."

She refrains from saying that she thought that was where he liked his blows, because Pepper Potts is nothing if not professional and anyway, she doesn't want to encourage his behavior. So she simply smiles, clicks the pen closed, and puts her hands on her hips. "A shower is probably in order, Mr. Stark."

He's pouts quietly for a moment and then says, "You know, if we were dating, it wouldn't be hard to get me into the shower."

She blinks at him. "I beg your pardon?"

"Well, all you'd have to do is promise to go in with me. The water's warm, Mr. Stark," He imitates with a teasing grin.

"I don't sound like that!" Pepper cries indignantly.

"You would if you were about to get laid by your loving boyfriend-slash-boss."

"I'm suing you for sexual harassment."

He follows her up the steps. "Aw, c'mon, Potts. Don't do that. A restraining order would make sex so much more difficult."

She ignores him, and he's fifteen minutes late to the debrief.


"I need someone to leave my stuff to."

Pepper looks up from her laptop, eyebrows raised. "Might I suggest your company, sir? Maybe a charity or two. I'm sure you'll find something."

Tony shakes his head impatiently, brushing aside her words with a wave of his hand. "No, no, I need someone. Someone that I can trust everything with. I mean, what's going to happen to Jarvis? And Butterfingers? And—oh my God—Dummy?" He looks genuinely horrified. "They'll just go to a museum or—a college." His tone is scathing. "I'll not have my robots used for educational purposes."

"Yes, sir. Expanding the minds of the nation's young is a crime, sir."

He frowns at her. "I'm being serious, Pepper. I don't want them to be treated like—like—"

"Like robots, sir?" She's still teasing, but as his despairing look she softens. "Where would you like your assets to go, Mr. Stark? I'm sure you have plenty of friends you can give to. What about Rhodey?"

Tony drops into the couch beside her, shaking his head. "No, Rhodey gets Iron Man, my cars, the jet, and half of my shares in Stark Industries. He doesn't need anymore, greedy." When he turns to look at her, his eyes are very serious. "You'll take them, won't you, Potts?"

She blinks. "Take the robots, sir?"

"It makes perfect sense. They all like you better than me, anyway. And you'll never have to clean up for them, and they'll try to help but—let's be honest—except for Jarvis they're really pretty useless. You're getting the house and everything else, anyway, Jarvis could help you run it…" he's not talking to her anymore, or he shouldn't be because Pepper is stuck back on you're getting the house.

"You can't leave me your house, sir," she interrupts. "I'm just you assistant."

Tony pauses for a second, looking genuinely startled. Then he grins. "Well," he tells her cheerfully, "By the time I die we'll be married, so what's the difference?"

Pepper sighs.


They're in the limo on the way to his latest charity function when he brings out the list. It's several pages long. He hands it to her wordlessly.

At the top is a neatly typed header: Why I Should Get Married.

I need someone to keep me company

I need someone to keep me on schedule

I need someone to look at who has red hair and freckles

I need someone to laugh at my jokes

I need someone to take care of my robots

I need someone to talk to

I need someone to patch me up after Iron Man missions

I need someone to make me take vacations

I need someone to—

Pepper stops reading. "You don't need a wife for all these things," she tells him with a quirk of her mouth. "What do you think I'm here for?"

"Pepper," he says gently, looking straight ahead, "That's kind of my point."


"All right," she agrees wearily when she finds him recreating her apartment in the guest wing in a misguided attempt to convince her to start living there, "I will go on one date with you, Mr. Stark. And you aren't getting laid."

On her way out of his workshop she pauses. "Unless of course," she says without turning around, "it's a very, very good date."

It is.