In the months after Pepper's birthday and Tony's proposal, Pepper had more on her plate than ever. In addition to running Tony's normal schedule, running interference for Iron Man and attempting to plan a wedding. One thing though kept everything from running smoothly, Tony's refusal to clearly answer one question…an agreed on date for the wedding. Pepper had tried to hint at the question through October, even as she planned Tony's favorite charity fundraiser, the Stark Masquerade Ball for Halloween. His only answer was soon but no further elaboration. As it got further into November, Pepper remembered something Tony had said last Christmas. In the midst of his emotional turmoil, he had told her that he and his parents had always spent from Thanksgiving until New Year's in New York. She thought that if he would be willing to accept an old family tradition, he may be willing to be clearer about starting their new family.
Pepper started to put her plan into action on a particularly cold and rainy morning. Tony had gotten back from overseas in the early morning hours so she opted to let him sleep in. When she finally heard him moving around, she decided to bait him slightly with caffeine and food as she tried to make him a bit more pliable.
Coming down the stairs with a cup of coffee and a few slices of toast balanced in one hand, Pepper typed in her code to his workshop and habitually turned down his music.
"You know I don't like when you do that," Tony called out from underneath one of his cars.
"Yes, I know but it's a habit that's hard to break," Pepper said warmly as she set the coffee and toast down on his desk within smelling distance. "I was just looking at the calendar and noticed that Thanksgiving was coming up."
"I thought you usually had these things booked like months in advance," Tony quipped from under the car. "I guess I must be finally rubbing off on you."
Pepper laughed softly at his statement. He may have actually been right but she wasn't about to tell him that. "I was thinking of doing something a little different this year instead of the usual hotel banquet," she started off. "I was actually thinking of going to New York for the holidays."
This statement actually caught Tony's attention enough to come out from under the car. "What are you talking about Pepper?"
Pepper took a deep breath. Spitting this out was going to be hard. "Last Christmas, I remembered that you had said that you and your parents had spent every Thanksgiving until New Year's in New York. I thought it would be a good idea to get away from California for a little while…just the two of us."
Tony was trying to process what she was saying to make sure he was hearing this right. "Let me make sure I heard you correctly," he started as he stood up, wiping the grease off of his hands as he walked up to her. "You want to go to New York for the holidays and potentially do all the crap that goes along with it such as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, Rockefeller center tree lighting and ice skating and New Year's in Times Square?"
Pepper was a bit taken back at first at how quickly Tony had shot those words out of his mouth. What was she getting herself into? "I was actually thinking of a more quiet time at the house on Long Island but I am sure we can fit in a few other things."
Tony thought about it for a moment and shrugged. "I guess a two month vacation couldn't hurt much. When do you want to go?"
"I never said anything about a vacation, Tony. You do have a company to run and you do have a New York office." Pepper corrected him.
Tony groaned loudly in disgust but didn't fight her. "Then we are bringing Happy because that commute completely sucks."
Within two short days and a quick call to Teresa, Tony and Pepper had made it from west coast to east coast seamlessly. Pepper had even managed to set Tony on a schedule without the instant help of Jarvis. Begrudgingly, Tony went to work with the ninety minute commute every morning at Pepper's request but he did enjoy scaring the hell out of the New York office which almost never saw him. It was on one of these long morning commutes which Pepper tried to illicit the next part of her plan.
On the drive in from Long Island, Tony would take advantage of the fact that Happy was driving so he could sleep since he truly hated New York hours. While he was half in and out of consciousness, Pepper decided to try to press him to try to set a date once more, hoping his defenses would be down.
"Tony, we need to talk," Pepper started rather sweetly.
"Hmm?" Tony grunted as he shifted in his seat to get more comfortable without opening his eyes.
"We need to set a date, Tony." Pepper stated plainly. "If we don't set a date, no one will believe that we are actually getting married."
"December 31st," Tony mumbled.
Pepper was a bit taken back at first at how easily that came out. "It's not a long time but I can organize something in a year."
"Not a year from now," Tony corrected as he opened his eyes and turned his head so he was looking at her. "This year."
"This year? That's only six weeks away. I can't pull together a whole wedding in six weeks." Pepper exclaimed.
"I don't want a big wedding. I just want to marry you." Tony stated with utmost clarity.
Pepper just looked at him stunned and her look seemed to wordlessly ask for an explanation.
"I know this doesn't sound like me but let me explain," Tony started. "A big celebrity wedding, which is what it would end up being, is just a magnet for paparazzi and that is something I have no desire to deal with on a day important as this. I have actually been thinking about this for a while and maybe it was just a coincidence that you wanted to come to Long Island this year but getting married in city hall suits me just fine and we can celebrate on our own in the city and watch the ball drop in Times Square."
"I have to admit that I really wasn't expecting this. How did you manage to wrap your head around this idea?" Pepper asked with curiosity as he was seriously convincing her that they could get married in six weeks.
"One, considering you sort of asked me out on New Year's Eve last year it was one thing to keep the date and number two is kind of the bigger one…my parents were married there." Tony admitted.
That was the deal closer and Pepper understood everything. "Fine Tony, we'll get married on New Year's Eve."
After the discussion of the wedding date, time seemed to pass by so quickly. Thanksgiving came and went without a hitch with Teresa cooking for it. Starting on Black Friday, Pepper did her own personal part to stimulate the local economy with her overly generous Christmas shopping. Everything was going along swimmingly and peaceful until December 16th rolled around.
On the evening of the sixteenth, the snow started to fall on what would become one of the several massive snow falls that hit the east coast. It was coming down fast and furious and quickly closed not only airports but roads as well. For most people on the eastern seaboard, this meant a few days inside with hot chocolate and a DVD collection to pass the time but this was almost catastrophic for Tony. December 17th was the anniversary of his parents' deaths and once again he was not going to be able to keep up a promise he had made to himself on that day in 1991 when they were laid to rest – to visit them every year on that day.
In anticipation of the storm, Tony had closed Stark Industries in Manhattan to keep anyone who did not need to be on the roads out of harms way but not working in someway allowed his mind to focus on what day it was and one thought drove him – he had to get back to California. Before all of Long Island completely shut down, Tony was on the phone with everyone shy of the governor to try to get clearance to get his plane out of JFK to get to Los Angeles but was hit with the damned snow from every direction and it down right pissed him off, so much so that after the last 'no,' Tony threw his cell phone against one of the walls and it shattered into hundreds of pieces.
While the screaming eruption had been going on, Pepper had tried to stay out of Tony's way. She knew his temper well enough and knew damn well to avoid it unless absolutely necessary. When she heard the phone shatter against the wall, it had then become necessary to approach. "Do I dare ask what that was all about?" she asked cautiously.
At the sound of her voice, Tony whipped his head around with a white hot fury blazing in his eyes. "This was all your idea and this is nearly ending up like last year," he snapped at her.
Pepper held up her hands in defense as she tried to decipher what he was going on about. "Tony, you're not making any sense here. What did I do and how is this like last year?"
"I missed it last year and now it's going to happen again because of this goddamned New York weather. This was all your idea." Tony snapped as he started to reach for his keys.
Pepper grabbed his wrist before he could get his hands on his keys and forced him to look at her. "Last year I had nothing to do with that. I distinctly remember Iron Man being somewhere over Pakistan on this date and being distinctly unreachable which sent me into panic mode because I know how you are on this date. Now where in hell do you think you're going in this blizzard?"
"Where the hell do you think I'm going?" Tony snapped back as he pulled his wrist from her grip and grabbed his keys.
"You sure aren't driving anywhere in this weather." Pepper countered.
"Who said anything about driving?" Tony countered back.
Pepper was only confused about that statement for about a millisecond before everything hit her like a ton of bricks. "You are not taking the suit out in a damn blizzard!"
"I've flown through a hell of a lot worse!" Tony roared as he tried to pull away once more.
"This is not icing because of altitude, Tony. There is a reason why they close the airports in weather like this! Now, stop talking like this. You're not making any sense." Pepper shot back.
Pepper was right but Tony was too furious and determined to see it. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't leave right now…" he threw down as an ultimatum, challenging her will against his as the lights in the house started to flicker.
"Me." Pepper stated simply. "All we have is each other and in two weeks we will be married. You once asked me to do something which could have potentially killed you and I did it despite that fact. I am not letting you willingly take your life into your hands when you can't handle something. I can deal with Iron Man when it's necessary but not when you get in the suit to get away from me or because you don't like the way life is treating you at the moment. Now, you know damn well that I am always here for you but I am here for you but right now I am going to be blunt with you. You need to handle your emotions a little better because sitting by watching you be self-destructive either with a bottle or a tin can body suit is not something I want to willingly do again. Now, put down the keys and talk to me and let me in."
As the wind howled more outside and the lights finally went out, leaving only the fireplace to illuminate the room, Pepper's words cut right through Tony as his hand slowly moved away from his keys. He swallowed hard as he slowly looked around the room and his eyes glassed over as a flood of memories hit him like a 1000 Jericho missiles. "The house is supposed to be decorated," Tony whispered as his breath hitched.
Pepper had barely heard what he had said but when it registered, she remembered the story he had told her last Christmas. She remembered that he had gone back to New York after the funeral for the holidays and the house had already been decorated for a party that wasn't going to happen. Instead, his parents' house resembled his mansion – devoid of anything related to the holidays. Aside from the snow, it eerily resembled the way Pepper had found him last year on Christmas Eve when he had sent her away. "We can do that if you want," Pepper told him gently as she took Tony's hand and led him away from the door and towards the couch in front of the fire. "You didn't tell me where they were."
"Attic…" Tony whispered as he let out a shaky breath as it further hit him at what he almost did. He glanced out at the snow as he sat down and the fire light didn't hide the few tear that had escaped his control. "I'm so sorry," he whispered as he stared into the fire, not having the strength to look Pepper in the eye yet.
"Sorry for what?" Pepper gently prodded. She wanted him to talk to her but she knew she would need to nudge him a bit.
"First," Tony started as he harshly wiped the tears away, "for being a total ass and completely losing grip with reality. Second, for not really knowing how to handle this time of year especially since I shot myself in the ass the past two years."
"What are you getting at, Tony?"
"I love you…more than life itself and you know that," Tony explained. "I know that we are starting our own family soon and any traditions that go along with it but I really don't want one of them to be me being a total basket case every December. I don't want to forget them, Pepper, but I don't want it to hurt either."
"I think we'll be able to work it out together. We have so far." Pepper said as she pulled the quilt she made for him last year off the back of the couch and draped it over them. "Tony, just one question, given what I know of your father and you, why doesn't this house have a generator?"
Tony had to laugh a little at the comment. "What? You don't like the romantic atmosphere?"
"It's not that but…"
"You want to know if you'll be able to check your email and everything else." Tony said with a smirk. "Crackberry just won't do it for you?"
Pepper's cheeks flushed a shade of pink that was even visible by firelight.
Tony laughed. "If you listen, the house DOES have a generator. The fridge, the heat…everything has power. Just flip the switch." He stated as he gestured to the lamp on the table next to them.
Pepper sighed and turned on the lamp and then playfully punched Tony in the arm. "You should be glad I love you or I'd be making you shovel that two feet of snow that's predicted when this stops."
"I figured as such," Tony said. "That's why I already hired someone."
After the snow day fiasco, Christmas flew by in no time and December 31st was knocking on the door. The morning of New Year's Eve was a dreary one with freezing drizzle mixed with light snow. Pepper took advantage of it being dark on winter mornings and snuck out of the house and over to Teresa's well before the earliest time Tony would consider getting up to avoid seeing each other on the day of the wedding. She did have one concern lingering in the back of her mind…would Tony actually remember to get up, get ready and get to their wedding on time without her personally reminding him in addition to all the digital reminders she set up on his cell phone, email, etc.
In the end, Pepper really didn't need to worry because reinforcements were arriving without her knowledge.
The cab pulled into the long driveway before eight o'clock in the morning. The passenger paid the outrageous fare from JFK to the Hamptons, grabbed his one bag, closed the door and walked up the rest of the slippery slope and pounded on the door as loud as he possibly could.
Tony groaned and pulled his pillows over his head when he heard the pounding on his front door. When the pounding wouldn't stop, he peeked out from the blankets he had buried himself under and let out a solid stream of curses wondering why someone would be pounding on his door at 7:55 AM before screaming out for Jarvis to get the door. It was when he was greeted with a muffled "Tony! Get the hell out of bed and open the damn door!" instead of a polite succinct reply from his AI that Tony begrudgingly pulled himself from his warm blankets and went downstairs in his MIT sweatshirt and flannel pajama pants to potentially kill whoever thought it was funny to get him up so early.
Tony peeked out the windows and sighed. Only Rhodey would have taken the damned red eye to get to New York. "Your arms tired, Platypus?" he said through a yawn as he opened up the door to let in his somewhat irate friend.
"I was under the impression that my billionaire best friend was going to be picking me up at the airport instead of making me fork out $200 for a cab ride out to Long Island on government pay. Care to explain?" Rhodey pounded out as he brushed the snow off of his coat and set his bag down on the floor in front of Tony.
"You're here now so what's the difference?" Tony yawned out as he stepped back from the snow that Rhodey was trying to brush on him.
"Two hundred dollars is what the difference is," Rhodey countered as he held his hand out.
Tony got out his wallet and put two nice pictures of Ben Franklin in Rhodey's hand and changed the subject as he poured himself some coffee. "Thanks for doing this. It means a lot to me."
"Man, I wouldn't miss this for the world. Wonder how much being the only eye witness to Tony Stark's wedding could get me from the tabloids?" Rhodey joked.
"Two black eyes and a split lip from the groom to begin with." Tony added as he shoved a mug of coffee into Rhodey's hands.
"I was just kidding," Rhodey countered defensively. "I don't want you to get your toys out."
Over the course of the morning, Rhodey even managed to impress himself and silently gave Pepper a lot of credit for what she did. After a few distractionary rounds of Call of Duty on the 360, Rhodey wrangled Tony together and made him get showered and dressed while getting ready himself and he got them both, with Happy's help with the driving, to city hall a half an hour before the ceremony was supposed to start. Tony was just starting to get antsy when Pepper came in with Teresa.
Given their less than traditional ceremony and abbreviated planning time, Tony didn't expect a wedding gown but something that complimented the sharp black Versace suit that he wore and Pepper nailed it. She wore a tailored white silk wrap around blouse, black silk pencil skirt and a red rose corsage pinned to her blouse.
"You look beautiful," Tony mouthed to her as she stepped up next to him in front of the judge that was going to marry them.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join in matrimony Anthony Edward Stark and Virginia Potts. Do you, Anthony, take Virginia to be your lawfully wedded wife? Will you promise to love, honor and cherish her and forsake all others for as long as you both shall live?"
"I will," Tony answered without hesitation.
"Do you, Virginia, take Anthony to be your lawfully wedded husband? Will you promise to love, honor and cherish him and forsake all others for as long as you both shall live?"
"I will." Pepper answered quickly, showing a little bit of the nerves she was trying to hide.
The judge then looked to Rhodey. "The rings?"
Rhodey pulled out the velvet box out of his pocket and handed it to the judge. Pepper's ring was three intertwined circles of pink, yellow, and white gold that was studded with diamonds. Tony's was a simple platinum band – classic but expensive. The judge first handed Pepper's ring to Tony. "Repeat after me. Take this ring as a symbol of my love and fidelity."
Tony slipped the ring on Pepper's finger. "Take this ring as a symbol of my love and fidelity."
The judge then gave Tony's to Pepper. "Repeat after me. Take this ring as a symbol of my love and fidelity."
Pepper slipped the ring on Tony's finger with a little effort because his hands were sweating. "Take this ring as a symbol of my love and fidelity."
"In the presence of this company these two people have exchanged vows and rings and it is my pleasure by the power vested in me by the State of New York to pronounce these two to be husband and wife. You may kiss your bride."
"It's about time we got to that part." Tony said smartly before kissing Pepper tenderly on the lips.
After everything was all signed and legal, Tony, Pepper and Rhodey jumped into the back of the limo for Happy to drive them into New York for the second part of the celebration. The four of them shared a quiet celebratory dinner at the Trattoria Dopo Teatro as the revelers started gathering outside in Times Square for the end of the year party. After dinner, Tony had paid for Rhodey and Happy to stay in the New York Marriott Marquis so they didn't have to drive back to the Island on the craziest night of the year.
After saying their goodbyes, Tony and Pepper headed up to the Presidential Suite of New York Marriott Marquis to start their honeymoon and get a first class view of the ball drop. As Tony watched the party forty-nine floors down, Pepper slipped into the master bedroom to slip into something a little more enticing for Tony. Within moments, she silently crept up behind Tony and covered his eyes from behind to get his attention.
The simple gesture was enough of a distraction for Tony to get him to turn around and nearly stop breathing. He actually had to take a step back to admire Pepper in a red and black lace halter negligee that left very little to the imagination. "Right now, I'm glad I have had a lot of practice and endurance tests with women because that ensemble alone would kill any normal man."
Pepper smiled as she snaked her arms around Tony's neck and kissed him deeply as the crowd below started counting down to the New Year. "So what gift are you going to give me for next year, Iron Man?"
"How about the New Year's baby?"