Ah, yes, Christmas. My time of the year when I get too lazy and won't even check what Santa left for me under the tree... Guess what? I didn't put up a tree so I guess Santa will probably just fly right over my house and ingore me. I haven't been too good a girl either... sigh...

OH MY GOD!!! WATCH OUT!!! PUBLISHED WITHOUT HAVING BETA THE STORY!!! Yes, Deyhra asked me for a gift in christmas, after I asked for a youtube video with the song You look so fine, and well... Decided to please a good friend with this. And I know someone out there would go, you should have beta this I had no time I started this last Saturday and finished today (Tuesday) It's a Christmas gift, give me a break... I'll be long gone by the time you read this, and reading your lovely reviews after Christmas day. So enjoy my little gift. Merry Christmas!!!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

The house was quiet. Way too quiet. Probably Tony was downstairs, sleeping as he usually did after either long missions or long updates whatever in the suit. Taking a deep breath, Pepper walked to the living room and dumped her load of laptop and papers, and headed in silence onwards the kitchen. Outside the weather was horrible; rain and hail were falling all over Malibu; an statistic bizarre occurrence, and the wind blow hauntingly loud againstthe protective glass windows. Inside the large Stark Mansion everything was warm, light up in dim tones of gray and white... And then there was that humongous huge Christmas tree with a couple dozen gifts waiting anxiously to be opened in twelve days.

Christmas day.

Smiling, Pepper opened the swinging door to the kitchen and scurried towards the nearest countertop; the coffee maker was already humming that delisousaroma... Tony would probably need some too. Reaching withoutlooking, Pepper searched for the sugar vase that was usually next to the cream. It wasn't there. Sure the cream, spoons, and upside down cups were there, but notthe sugar. Frowning slightly Pepper turned and started searching for it. Maybe Tony came upstairs last night and had that ridicoulus amount of unsugared sugarsweetened with her regular white sugar... Then she saw it; it was a cage, a golden cage actually. It was big, nottoo big though, with a tall bonsai tree with a pearhanging from it's small branches. There was a partridge staring at her, moving from side to side as Pepper neared to pick up the sugar that was standing right before it, a note was under it.

Scribbled in an almost unintelligible writing Pepper read the first verse of a very famous Christmas Carol. Frowning she set both her cup and sugar down, and just tried to think why in Earth something like this would be sitting on the table she usually had breakfast on.

At the end of all things Pepper found a nice little corner for the partridge and it's pear. She would stare at it occasionally, and the little bird would stare back from time to time, cheering her usually dark days. She called it Daisy, because daisies were usually a happy flower...

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

During that night she tried to keep lights low, so the little animal could sleep and rest better than Pepper ever could. After a significant yawn, Pepper set the laptop down for a second, just a simple second to catch her breath and keep working. The P.A. stirred, pulled her legs up over the couch and leaned to watch a CNN report on stock holding... And her waragainst lalaland was lost, sleep won and claimed victory over her slim body. When she woke up the next morning it was because the sun was hitting her face, and Tony was calling for her.

When she turned to lookat her partridge it was softly hitting the pear, trying to reach it's juicy insides. "Pepper!" Called Tony again, through the inter-come, making her jump and look at her watch. 7:03.

No good. They had a meeting in 57 minutes and she hadn't even made sure he was feed, or showered, or... god forbid, still downstairs. Gasping and quickly getting up, Pepper started to run the briefing through her mind and answered to her boss' urgent calls.

"Yes, sir?"

"Green or red? I'm trying a new Christmas look, what do you think?" He asked, appearing from the general direction of his room with twoties, already dressed. Pepper stared at him, in amazement. "Potts; green or red?"

"Red." He was showered, shaved, dressed, and almost done for the meeting. As she followed him to the room she saw the briefing notes he usually ignored sprawled about, read and re-read, as he probably either dressed or bathed. Hell knowing Tony Jarvis had to read the whole thing for him. "You remembered the meeting." Pepper stated, unable to help herself. Tony smiled at her, through the mirror, and attempted to put together the knot of his red tie.

"I called it, didn't I?"

"Yeah, you've called many meetings before sir, I think this is the only one you've remembered so far."

"And it's the only one you are not ready for, you better get a shower and hurry up because come eight I'm leaving with or without you." He warned with a suppressed smile, trying (and failing) to be stern with her. He returned to the knot and attempted for a final time to tie his tie. "It's useless." And he turned, took a deep breath and looked at her. "Help me with this."

"You forgot the magic word."

"Help me with this, now." He said with a glint in his eye. Pepper rolled her eyes, and stood where she was. He only spoke again when he realized she wasn't moving to help him. "Help me with this, please." And then she complied.

"A man who can solve the most intricate algorithmcan't even tie his own tie. Aren't you ashamed."

"Deeply so. I will hide my face behind the iron man suit and a brown paper bag from now on."

"You could never do such a thing; what about the eye lock on the SHIELD data base."

"Lies, Pepper, all lies. They just have to invent a secret handshake."

"I believe they already do have one."

"Really? And I don'tknow it."

"Yes, it goes like this." And she went on demonstrating a very complicated move that he just watched with a grin and a frown. Finally, when she bumped his elbow with his, Tony snorted.

"And here I thought I was the cool superhero." He said turning to inspect the perfect tie knot around his neck. "If you want I can give you ten minutes so you can wash up and dress, I'll stall them."

"Oh, don't worry about me. I'm sure I'll survive if I don't go to this meeting."

"You are not coming? How bizarre..." He frowned at her, eying her with worry. "Are you a robot? What have you done with my Pepper and what do you want for her return?"

She smiledand turned. "Youwill see your Pepper in the meeting in 15 minutes, sir." And she left the room. "And the fact that Jarvis will be recording said meeting has made no impression on you yet, has it?"

"Jarvis? You hanging out with me today?"

"I believe so sir." That was the last she heard as Pepper entered her own room, and closed the door. She was aware of more mumbling and arguing, as she picked some items she'd secured in (what Tony deemed) her closet and hurried to the bathroom. Sure enough she tooka five minuteshower, forsook breakfast and was halfway through picking her hair in it's usual tight bun when Tony's voice interrupted her humming.

"Come on, Potts, we've got to move. Chopchop!" Weir having the roles reversed on her. Pepper quickly answered that she was almost done, and picked up her briefcase and hurried downstairs, found her laptop, blackberry (13 missed calls) and saw Tony standing outside, Happy holding the Bently'sdoor for both of them. "I knew you wouldn't be able to ignore this meeting." And so they were on their way.

Halfway through the meeting Tony asked for coffee. Pepper had to admit that for a coffee addict he seemed to be asking a lot for it today, maybe he also skipped breakfast... If that was the case she knew Tony would probably get cranky just after the meeting and only some decent food (if you call cheeseburgers or pizza decent) would he cheer up. So picking up his mug, and listening to his constant bickering with the guys from R&D over some formulas that weren't really adding up, Pepper hurried to the coffee carafe one of the other secretaries had left for this reason.

It was empty.

Sighing, Pepper just let her shoulder fall. Well, the way she saw thing, it was probably a good idea to go to the kitchenette they had in this floor, find some coffee and brew it herself. Keep Tony happy would keepher happy, and she needed something to snack on too... So picking the carafe, and empty sugar bowl, Pepper slipped outof the room. Outside geeks and nerds (there was no other way of calling them) hurried about, trying to fix equipment or whatever they had been working on, and no one noticed her entering the kitchenette. She found the coffee, brew a large amount of the blessed bitter liquid and refilled the sugar bowl.

"Miss Pepper Potts?" Pepepr gasped and turned to see a UPS delivery man with a Visitor card on his shirt. He held a small package and the usual tray of digital signatures and receipts.

"Yes?"

"I have something for you." He handed the package, and then showed her where to sign. Frowning, and wondering if it was probably the replacement battery she'd ordered for her blackberry, Pepper thanked the man and watched him go. "Merry Chrstimas." He said happily, and Pepper just smiled at him. Behind her the coffee maker wasn't growling any more, and so she returned to her task, wondering what contained the box. As she poured the coffee in the carafe the gift was placed protectively close by, turning to it and wondering how long it would take for this colored water to finish pouring... And unable to hold long, she just finished pouring the dark liquid, spilling some around the carafe, dumped the coffee maker on the sink and picked the small box up. It was wrapped in beautiful red foil, with a green ribbon holding it together. She quickly unmade the bow, was careful not to break the foil (yes she was careful with such things, it kept anxiety at bay, and soon was uncovering it's insides. There was a silk scarf inside, good for the current weather, and right on top of it a pendant with a thin gold chain. There was another note, stuck under the small lid's inside and she read the second verse of that old carol, making her smile.

The pendant were two small turtle doves, tangled around their necks in a hug of love.

Pepper smiled, her insides melting, and fell to one of the uncomfortable chairs against the wall. Her eyes set on the nearest corner, and her mind flew in the dove's wings. Someone was romancing her, quietly, not even acknowledging so. Hand against her cheek Pepper felt the thick flush grow on her skin as she smiled broadly...

"Miss Potts?" She gasped in surprise, as one of the R&D guys just stuck his head on the door and called for her. "Mr. Stark is asking for his coffee."

Oh, darn.

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Forced to travel alone, because of Tony's missions, Pepper was standing the day after that R&D meeting, six blocks from the Eiffel Tower. She was suppose to arrive at France, get some signatures, two meetings, and twodozen boxes of french chocolate from a specialty store for Tony and head home. And as effective as she was, having already finished the errants, she could notget a darn pilot to actually start the engine and leave the cold country. She'll be latefor her day at that expensive Malibu spa Tony had paid for (even when he wasn't aware he had). She was a t a small cafe, having warm cocoa and some toast whatever with hazelnut cream. It was utterly delicious. People about her walked in their normal tranquility, and some didn't have as much coverings beyond coats and gloves, snow falling outside filtered the golden sun rays of the dimmed sun.

It was a beautiful french day, in beautiful France.

Even then Pepper just wanted to go home. Tony had alreadycalled he was on his way home, and probably would be there before her, he was strangely unharmed and very eager to eat something. "What do you say, Potts? Should I drop by and have lunch with you, in the Tour Eiffel, while sitting on the metal bars. What say you?" Of course the answer had been a clear non, and that inspired the two dozen of french chocolate request from Tony. Taking her warm drink from the small table, Pepper sipped it happily, feeling the warmth spreading through her entire body.

"MademoisellePotts?" Asked a tall man, her driver in country, leaning closer to Ppper.

"Yeah?"

"Mousierhas a package." Pepper turned, another UPS carrier. He smiled handed her the tray and box and she signed. This time it was pepper who wished the man merry christmas, and soon she on the back of the expensive Limo Tony had ordered for her and on her way to the airport. "PIlot, called, weather now fine to fly." Had said the driver as they went away from the Eiffel tower.

Pepper was peeling the box too quickly to even notice they were exiting one of the most beautiful countries in the whole wide world. The box was plain this time, a brown cardboard box. Inside a little treasure; stained glass with their little hens wearing french hats and walking up a hill. Beneath it a note was folded and upon liftingthe delicate glass, pepper read. Three little french hens indeed.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

By the fourth day, Pepper was just arriving to her apartment, stained glass in box in hand, and tired looked over her precious bed. One can never really tell how precious a bed was until it wasn't properly used; thing she wanted to do right now. Properly lay down and sleep for the next twelve hours at least. She dropped her bags, placed the box of glass near by (with the pendant and scarf) and dropped unceremoniously so on bed. Her eyes shut, on their own, and she was snuggling against the pillows when her phone rang. It was Tony's ringtone, but it wasn't the ring tone she'd put for him, oh no! It was that stupid Iron Man song. She hated that ring tone.

"Tony Stark next time you mess around with my phone I'll kill you."

Silence. "Well I love you too sweetypie, bad trip?"

"Too tired to talk. Or think, or anything that involves my brain."

"Too bad, because I'm having a slight difficulty with one of this kitchen appliancesand need you asap."

Silence. Long silence. "You are that tired, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"I'll call and have it delivered, try catch some sleep ok?"

"yeah..."

"Ok, and remember underwear first pjssecond."

"I'm hanging up."

"Yeah, loveyou." And he hung up. That part got her awake for a long time, until her brain, already fried because of jet lax realized that he'd probably said that because he was down at his workshop and unable to think straight. So she took a deep breath, and continued snuggling against her pillow, covered with that coat she'd gotten for France and wearing her high heels. She was asleep in two seconds and a half.

And what woke her up wasn't the door kid's upstairs jumping about and making doors bang loudly. Nor her hunger or that awful need for a shower.

What woke her up was the calling of birds.

"On the fifth day of Christmas," Her brain recited without having to read the card stuck to the cage hanging with mistletoeand ribbons a few feet from her bed, on the window actually. "My true lovesent to me four calling birds." They were beautiful, singing and flying aboutthe cage in perfect harmony. Pepper was forced to smile, even in her groggy state, and dropped her body to bed again. Hmm, now how to keep this birds withoutkilling them because of work? "I just hope I don't have to keep six geese a-laying." She murmured against her pillow before getting up for a much deserved bubble bath.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

"Yes, Jimmy, I know he's insane." Said Pepper to Jim Rhodes as she entered the house with breakfast and coffee dangling from one hand, and handbag and laptop handing from the other. "I'll see if I can get him to attend, alright?" And she was forced to hand up because of her load.

"Good morningMiss Potts." Said Jarvis softly, light up up her usual workspace, the living room.

"Good morningJarvis, had a good night sleep."

"Relatively calm, ma'am. Shall I call Mr. Starkfor breakfast?"

"He's awake?"

"No, but he specifically asked to be awakened as soon as breakfast arrived."

"Thatis so sweet of him." She said sarcastically. Pepper dropped her load, pulled a small bag from her hand bag and moved to the partridge nearthe peartree. It had already gone through the pear, and as Pepper neared it looked at her expectantly. She hoped Tony had fed it, but not really trusting him with such complicated tasks, Pepper pulled some bird feed from that small bag she had and fed the small animal. It was grateful to her, and ate happily. "hey, there little fellow." Behind her, without saying a word, Tony walked pass her, towards the kitchen and disappearedon it's dark depths without realizing Pepper and breakfast were on the livign room... Pepper turned, eyebrow arched, and remained quiet. When Tony was freshly awake he tended to do this sort of stupid things; specially if he hadn't had coffee. So she quickly picked up the cardboard tray and moved to the kitchen.

Tony had sat down, picking yesterday's newspaper, and was sorting through the articles. There were some iron man sightings, and expeculations, something about his lack of public appearances this holiday season, and the stock market... Pepper just snickered as he pretended not having heard her arrive.

"Good morning, Mr. Stark."

"Miss Potts." And she proceeded to place the tall coffee before Stark, who just grabbed it and suck on it greedily. Pepper placed breakfast before him too, eggs and hash and bacon and everygood thing from a nearby restaurant. He almost chocked. "Are you giving me bad news?" He said looking up at him.

"What? NO! Of course not! Why would you say that?"

"Well you usually bring food from this place when you have something bad to tell me so..."

Pepper just arched and eyebrow. "I was in a good mood. That's all."

"Mm." At first he was cautious to dig through the meal, the way she kept staring at him and all, and sipped his coffee as she sat across from him, setting her own food before her and preparing her coffee just as sweet as she liked. She stirred the brew and used salt and pepper on her eggs. When he took a bite, she grinned.

"I have you!"

"Ahhcome on!"

"You have a board of directors meeting that was called while I was at Paris." She pulled out a thick folder as he whinedand frowned. "Here's the briefing."

"You aren't coming with me?"

"I went to Paris for you, so I get the rest of the day off. I'll be working till 12, then I'll be going to my Christmas presentdate. The one you gave me." He just stared at her, briefing in one hand, with narrowed eyes. "It was a very nice gift, thank you Mr. Stark."

"Is is backless and silk?"

"No."

"Then my taste has waned."

"It's a day at my favoritespa, sir." She said finally taking a bite of the heavenly blueberry bagel.

Feeling so relaxed, and taking the masseuse advise of heading straight home from the spa, Pepper touched the skin of her arms and rubbed her legs together. Silky, warm, perfect. THere were no kink in her neck, her back was separated from her neck, and her legs were jelly. It was true, really; she had no idea how she pressed the pedals to get home from the spa all the way through the highway. Tony was already home, she'd made sure he got dinner and a movie to keep busy (she send pizza over, and bought him a testosteronefilled film) and could relax on her own with a glass of wine and any musician that tempted her taste while eying her collection. Still a little dizzy, Pepper looked down at her clock, 7:30. It was still early she could go back to the mansion and just finish some work.

Nah, forget it. She had been instructed not to ruin her experience with work or any stressful situations. Fishing for her keys Pepper smiled, Tony would have to just fend for himself for the rest of the evening then. Opening the gate to her apartment, Pepper looked up at her stairs with a deep sigh. They sure looked dark.

So when the little glint of metal shone in her direction, followed by several more 'pings' she jumped. Literally jumped as all of her senses invaded her brain with fear. She took a step back and almost lost them.

Five golden rings with decor in red, gold, green, silver, and copper rolled around her high heel clad feet and rounded until they came to a halt. She quickly closed her gate and leaned to pick up the little treasures. She looked around quickly, trying to find who had send this jewels towards her; but she found no one. When she got to her door there was a note attached to the handle.

There was someone wooing her, and doing an damn awesome job at it.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Pepper, even to everyone and her own surprise, had been selected by the children at the day care center within Stark Industries as the special guest to their small Christmas party. Considering that there were over 250 children there, along with a couple hundred other workers, the party was everything but small. Tony, as requested by the director of the small school, joined Pepper as escort (and so the children would also drool at having Iron Man at their party) and play Saint Nick and hand out gifts.

Well he had had those gift bought why not hand them, right?

Pepper and Tony were surrounded by children from the minute they got there, through the greetings, usual snack time, study time and then lunch, down to the time where Tony actually announced he would start handing out gifts. The children went berserk upon hearing this and screams of joy, laughter and that whining that came with being pinpointed by Iron Man to receive a particular gift... Well Pepper was tired, but enjoying the children so much.... Probably it was because she coudln't bare one herself.

Tony took her hand, and pulled her to the pile of gifts he'd brought along with Happy and quicly started to call child by child by name, and hand them over.

Thirty minutes later they were standing over a sea of foil paper, ribbons and broken boxes.

"It's a good thing we recycle, right Pep?"

"Yes, considering how all of this would probably end up in your house, it's a good idea we recycle." Tony gave her a weir stare and turned to check if that Christmas paper really did end up in his house as one of the teachers neared Pepper.

"Miss Potts?"

"Yes?" She asked with a smile to the chubby dark haired teacher, Melissa her name was.

"This arrived a few days for you. It's for you."

With a frown, Pepper took the gift. It was wrapped in a paper with lots of Santa hats, she smiled as the woman left and Pepper quickly peeled the wrappings and revealed six small books, all of them old looking, as if torn from someones childhood box of memories, and restored to become her sixth gift. Six volumes of Mother Goose rhymes. Pepper couldn't help but smile, as she kept the tears at bay. Between the small volumes three notes were stuck:

In the sixth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Six geese a-laying

"Miss Potts what's dat?" Asked a small child, no older than four, and standing right in front of Pepper. Pepper smiled, and crouched down to look at the child closer; green eyes, golden locks, red dress... She was beautiful.

"A few nursery rhymes? Do you want to hear them?"

And like bees to the honey at least fifty children surrounded Pepper. Fifteen minutes into her reading, They were all dropped on their little cots, asleep.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Even if it was a weekend day, Pepper Potts was having a very busy day. Only trying to keep Tony in time for one last meeting andthen getting him to get a haircut for tonight's gala was proving more difficult than usual. He'd awaken in one of those moods, complaining and murmuring at every instant.

"I don't like pickles, why did you order them iwthpickles." He whined as she handed him the cheeseburgers he'd asked for. Pepper wasn't sure if said items had pickles on them or not, usually they didn't, and Tony did like pickles he was just been a picky bastard today. "There's too much ice in my soda, and I wanted sprite." He murmured as he sipped the soda, Pepper just took a deep breath and tried to remain calm

"Just eat, Tony, please. We are lateas it is already." She said as she dug through her salad trying to find the bits of actual meat they had heated and dumped into it. She wasn't too hungry, but she knew that if she skipped lunch she'll probably spend hours before even remembering there was food in the world. Tony ate his cheeseburger quiet after that, pretending otbe a scolded child, and turning to the playground outside. "And no, you are not going out there by yourself. Last time you got my car full of those plastic balls and it was hellish to clean them up at the parking lot, only coming with an explanation is still proving wrong for my nerves."

And he smiled, unwrapping his second cheeseburger. Then Tony looked down...

"This one also has pickles, you should have told them to get the pickles out."

"I tried to but they were too busy oglingyour ass to listen, alright?" She spatted at him, anger winning over the nice image of herself in a bathtub surrounded by bubbles. Tony just looked down, and ate his meal. Pepper took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and counted to ten in Chinese(that was quite the accomplishment because she didn't know howo to speak Chinese). "I'm sorry Tony." She said and started to dig around for more meat."

"Irp's Orpay." He said, though a mouth fullof soda and burger. Pepper had to smile at that. "So," He resumed after swallowing. "Are yougoing to the gala tonight?"

"Why yes, I am. Someone has to keep you in track until before you give that speech."

"Ah, the speech. I have been working on something and it isn't working. Would you write it for me?"

"Only if you give me a day off and away from you."

"I'll go back to the draft board then." And he unwrapped his last cheeseburger. "Would you go with me?"

"To the draft board, sorry butno. I already have a date with your Christmastree and that little thing called e-mail..."

"No I meant the gala, would you be my date?"

"What? No respectable airhead could make it there with you?" He glared at her as Pepper tried to keep her lips from smiling.

"Actually they all wanted to come, but seeing how is ChristmasI thought I should datesomeone with brains as a gift and have a decent conversation after we had some drinks and a dance."

"I thought you enjoyed those conversations. They were mainly about you."

"Well I'm a changed man, and who says we can't talkaboutme?" Pepper took a biteof her greens and shookher head. "Well think about it. I could pick you up at seven, have dinner and be home by 8:30 to the encore presentation of It's a wonderful life." Shethrew a napkin towards him. "That is if you don't have a datealready."

That touched pepper. "nN, I don't have a date yet."

"Then it's settled. We'llgo together."

"No I didn't..."

"Butyou don't have a date." He stated, making her turn in surprise. "I dont' have a date, it's perfect. We can even start some rumors for E!Channel and all those magazines." And Pepper would have probably snapped back at him,b ut she was too busy noticing an UPS truck parking close by the door. The driver seemed to be checking some of the cargo, then taking his tray up and as Pepper watched, closed the back door, both the doro so the truck and hurried to the restaurtant. Where he moved to buy, apparently, some lunch. Pepper just took a deep breath and turned to Tony, smiling.

"Finish your lunch." She said as disappointment washed over her.

"You expecting a package Potts?"

"Hmm?" She said over her soda, trying to figure out why she was so eager to receive her seventh gift. Only to know that Tony had not send them... (why on Earth would he do such a thing?) Besides she checked his credit card statements, he had made no purchases of anything relating to any of her gifts. Besides he was her boss, nothing beyond that, a good friend, good to always be able to talk to... and the general love of her life. Sighingshe smiled at him. "No, I was just... curious that's all."

"If you are curious about bald fat men in brown uniforms... WellI didn't know you as well as I thought."

To her disappointment, when she was about to leave home to the expecting Tony downstairs, Pepper had not received any gifts. Sure that receiving seven swans swimming was a bit too much to ask, if you took it literally that way, but the little gesture of someone actually caring enough to send her this gifts... Well it had warmed her heart. And yes, she couldn't wait for the next day to see how whoever was sending this gifts would twist that little carol and trully make her day. And yes she waited impatiently for Christmas to find out who it was.

And if it was Happy as she had come to believe, there was only one thing to do: wallow in chocolate.

"Perfect, Pepper, simple perfect." Greeted Tony as she exited her building wearing that green dress and coat she'd so carefully selected for the evening. "The perfect date for Tony Stark."

"Is that suppose to be a compliment for me or yourself."

"Mm, I"m notsure, why don't we discuss it on our way to the gala, shall we?" They did discuss it, and even had a shotof tequila to calm her nerves; she was about to step into the red carpet with Tony Stark, not as the ever suffering assistant (description thanks to Vanity Fair's Christine) butas his date. "Slow down Potts, you'll be drunk before we even get there." but she couldn't really help it.

"Ahrg!" She exclaimed, setting her shotglass down. "Ok, let's do this."

"Alrighty!" He downed his own shot, forsook his lemon and hissed through his teeth. "One, two..." And he opened the door of the limo, his face changing to that stare she so well knew, that lovely serious expression he showed only in this events. And even when she'd seen it hundreds of times, millions even, she was amazed at how easily it came to him. Pepper couldn'tstop staring at him, and in her world everything became slow and beautiful. Flashes lasted minutes, and his profile was perfect against the white light. He was the king of the world, exiting his carriage to greet the mere peasants that feed of the light he granted. All must bow to and for...

"Tony Stark!" He turned to Pepper, extending his hand as a gentleman should. And for one night, she was that little lily that would bloom and be by his side. No matter if she got that gift or not, not matter if she'll wither and die and be only Pepper Potts in the morning, ever suffering perfect assistant, she was the one by his side tonight. Letthe world comment on how his hand wraps protectively around her waist, about how their hands mingle and lock together, or how he seems a bit more cheerful than usual. Let them, they would never understand anything. Because Pepper Potts was in love with her boss and it didn't matter.

Soon they were away from the hungry crowd of vultures, and Pepper let a tight breath escape her. She chuckled as Tony turned to her. "You did that pretty well."

"I was absolutelyterrified." She answered truthfully, laughing still. "I have no recollection of what I did."

"You did fine, you were great." And they walked pass a small Japanese garden, where a large pond glittered with Christmaslights here and there. Pepper smiled and turned suddenly, seeing a swan moving about the water, and then another and another.

Seven swans were swimming on the pond, fishing about it, lighted by Christmas colors.

"Pepper?" Askedsuddenly Tony, touching her elbow. "Is everything alright?"

Her Blackberry came alive, and she quickly fished for it inside the small purse she'd brought. Tony watched in silence as she pressed several buttons and read the message from an unknown sender.

Seven swans a-swimming

Tears invaded her, but she sniffled and covered her mouth in surprise.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

"Who'ssending you gifts?" Asked Tony casually during lunch. He was staring at her, utterly interested in theanswer, and finally shattering her dreams of actually been him. Pepper just looked at him for a second, before smiling and continuing reading her messages. "Pepper; who's sending you gifts?" She didn't answer. "Aw, come on Potts, you have a boyfriend or something?"

"No, I don't have a boyfriend."

"Then who's sending gifts?" He asked again, scratching his chin and leaning on her chair to read her messages. Pepper just moved thechair, to keep him away from her private correspondence and smiled.

"I don't know."

"You mean you are receivinggifts from a stranger? And you are happy with that?"

"It's better than nothing, Mr. Stark." She started, still eying the reports from the accounting department.

"You are the only person I heard who gota stalker and is happy about it. You are nuts. Well you work forme, that's an irrelevant factor."

"I am not nuts! At least notas much as you." Silence. "So what if I'm getting gifts by an anonymous sender, what do you care?"

Tony went on humming the theme from Psycho. "But really Potts, aren't you at least a bit scared? Whoever is sending this messages knows your every move, every plan. Hell he's even got your private number."

"I know. I think it's Jarvis."

"Jarvis?" Tony took a moment to think about it, and still could not comment.

"Scary I know. But it's better this way, that means I'll get you grounded whenever I need you to attend an important meeting." Tony seemed terrified by the idea. "Like the one you are having in less than five minutes, so chop chop, Mr. Stark! To the elevator."

"Ok, but when you find out your anonymoussender is a serial killer don't come crying to me, alright?"

"Bet on it." And she pushed him out the door.

Really, Tony had this unique way of ruining her fun and breaking her heart all in one swift blow.

So if it really wasn't Tony who was it. It couldn't be Rhodey, the man was already interested in a hair stylist from Los Angeles and they've met. Happy was (well) happily married. And Jarvis was a computer for crying out loud it didn't count. Maybe it was that guy from Accounting. Wait, which one? The tall blue eyes or the nerdy thin straw for a man..?

"Pepper?"

"Yes!" She jumped as her name was called and turned to see Tony standing on the door to the kitchen. She had been thinking so hard on who was the culprit of her gifts that she hadn't heard him come in.

"Are you ok?"

"Yeah, fine." She said dismissing the thought of a serial killer as Tony-talk.

"Then come see this." And he exited the room. He seemed so serious about whatever he was going to show him, that Pepper followed worriedly. They walked in silence towards the front door. Pepper could see happy outside, standing next to the carand looking down, Tony turned sharply towards pepper, and he pointed to the ground. "That. It's for you." His voice was so harsh she just frowned and then looked down. A cratewith eight huge bottles of milk was there, each wrapped with red, gold, green bows. "What is this?"

"Eight maids a-milking." She answered simply.

Silence.

"Then we won't be worryingaboutmilk for the coffee for a while, huh?" He said softly.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

It was cold.

Malibu wasn't suppose to be this cold, even during winter. Wrapping her scarf closer to the two doves around her neck, Pepper shuddered inside the Bentley.

"Happy turn on the heater, our lovely Pepper is loosing her freckles by the second." The driver answered in the affirmative and blessed warm irradiated from the walls of the expensive car. "So, ballet, huh? When was the last night I attended such a thing?"

"I can honestly say I do notknow, sir." She answered quickly, lips buried against the silk of her scarf. He stared at her for a second and then turned.

"I think... No I know; the last ballet I saw was with my mother." Pepper turned to Tony, who seemed to delve into memory for a second, before his heart (even surrounded by metal) realized it was too painful a thing to remember and resurfaced with one of those Tony Stark smirks that worked on the rest of the world, but notPepper Potts. She let it slide, only because it was something so painful, and smiled at him. He wore his tux, while Pepper was on her way home. "Areyou sure you don't want to come?"

"Yes, but please promise me you'll behave?" Tony narrowed his eyes, pulled the white scarf closer around his own neck, and smiled. She knew that smile. "Tony."

"It'll be fine, little or close to no damage control, ok?" And the door opened so he could leave her. Before she could said a thing he was going into the crowd and vanishing.

"Great..." She murmured, dropping her blackberry over the files she held. The ex-boxer moved the car again. "Home, Hap. I'm tired."

"The mansion or your apartment,miss Potts?" She thought for a second, when had the mansion become home? Well since Afghanistan, of course. And then decided.

"The mansion. I'll get some paperwork done before going to bed." She sniffled, and could honestly say she was coming down with the flu. And the flue in the mist of christmas wasn't such a good idea. She leaned back on the car's comfy seat, and looked outside her window, the city moved before her in a blur of cold darkness, until Happy stopped before a red light. As if in cue a fountainstarted; green water, blue water, red water, yellow, pink, beige, purple and brown danced in a show that lasted one full minute, before the Bently was forced to move again.

"Mm." Produced Happy. "That fountain looks like ladies dancing."

And her blackberry came alive. Pepper didn't have to look down to know this little show had been reserved only for her. A warm feeling spread inside of her chest, and for some reason she flushed all over.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

She did wake up in the mist of winter with the flu.

Tony ordered Jarvis to cancel all of her appointments, and then forced some medicine down her troath and ordered her to sleep. And althoughunwillingly she dropped on bed and forgot the world for seven good hours. She wasn't feeling any better, butshe was hungry and restless on bed. "Tony?" SHe asked, her throat hurting. When she got no answer she tried again, and finally got up. At the end of all things she'll probably end up feeding him something. Coughing because it was too cold, and her lungs felt constricted, Pepper moved through the hallway, down the stairs, (both stairs) and got down to the workshop.

Everything was dark. There was no Tony in sight.

"Jarvis?" She asked, absentmindedly, wondering where her troublesome boss could have gone to.

"Mr. Stark is currently on the sofa, miss Potts, taking a much deserved nap." Funny, she hadn't seen him there. Going back up, Pepper saw Tony on the couch, wrapped in a warm throw and on his side. Her laptop was close by, charging and on sleep mode, there where three folders marked: to do, done, to archive, and a pile of papers as tall as the mug of some unknown brew he'd already drank. Her Blackberrywas on the sofa's high end, and her usual back up disks were sprawled about. He was trying to get some of her work done, and that made Pepper smile. Considering how her way of working was so different from his, and that she did not delete any e-mails she got, Tony must have been working in quite the starngest world.

Specially without the headset for the Blackberry. Touching the messy strands of ebony hair, Pepper just smiled. He sniffled in dreams and turned, somehow leaning onto her touch, and her heart gave a leap. But when he didn't wake, Pepper just continued staring at her lovely boss.

Wait, lovely? That medicine he feed her must have expired or something. Ah, screw it! If he got to stare at her legs and ass all day long she could take a few minutes to stare at his beautiful face... Not that beautiful really did him any justice, more like manly or...

Must have expired indeed.

Her computer beeped alive, and Pepper turned to see her inbox updating.

One new message.

Huh? That's new, just one? She turned around and touched the inbox pop up. A video file was there, darkness for it had not yet downloaded, and right on top of it a small verse:

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, ten lords a-leaping

Exited, not really expecting to get her gift in such drab day, Pepper clicked on the add on.

The video loaded quickly, and presented the image of ten dolphins, all of them synchronised to perfection, leaping again and again from water. It lasted two good minutes, and by the end of it, Pepper was smiling like a little girl. Even biting her lips.

"Whatare you doing up?"

The gasp that escaped her made her turn, and Tony was staring at her. Her hand was still on him, most accurately over his metal heart.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Pouring some milk from her true love into her coffee, Pepper yawned and wondered when this weather would improve. Mind you improve, not leave, she never really missed the sun, with her pale complexion and fragile skin it was better to have winter skin than a lobster red tan. Outside it was snowing again, and although a rare occurrence (yet again), Pepper had no time to enjoy the view. So wrapping her new scarf around her thin neck, the PA moved quietly throughthe house. "I'm justsaying Pepper, aren't you a bit worried aboutthis stalker?"

"No, notone bit." Usually she would be the one worryabout things, but with this thing, that would end in just two days, with that cataclysmic finally of finding outwhich geek at accounting was wasting his life savings just to make her happy, didn't worry Pepper. Tony on the other hand seemed too worry about it. She set her coffee down, and sniffled (cold not having yet left her); Tony on the other hand just wiggled his naked toes and stole her coffee. She would complain, but before her were the other gifts, including Daisy, the calling birds, the doves, hens, rings, a picture of the swans, an empty bottle of milk, on her computer the dolphins...

"You could put up a zoo with this bunch of animals."

"I find them very beautiful, thank you very much." He just grunted an unintelligent reply and sipped her coffee, before return it to her. "Besides they are my gifts, hit the my."

"Yeah, but, what when this guy finally shows up?"

"I'll say thank you for all the gifts, the thought was very appreciatedand then decline his offer for dinner, lunch or a happily ever after. Simple."

Tony was grimacing by the time she finished the sentence, and then turned other. "Really?"

"Unless he's Bruce Wayne, then I'll just drop at his feet and kiss his shoes, probably accepting the offer of dinner, lunch and the happily ever after."

With the reply Tony was utterly annoyed. "Haha." Silence. "I've never pictured you beeing theone kissing a guy's shoes, on the contrary. I always pictured you having all those men after you kissing your feet."

"Hence I wearhigh heels." Questioning silence. "To keep the drool off my toes." Nodding aproval. "Besides no one has ever done such thoughtful thing for me."

"Whatdo you mean?"

"One gift, exactly like that carol says, on each day twelve days before Christmas. You must admit that it's very thoughtful, very detailed. I just... Haven't had something like this without been involved in the planningfor a very long time." And Tony was silent, he didn't lookat her, didn't even acknowledge the words (at least no visibly), until she smiled and turned away from him. Pepper just cleared (or attempted to) her sore throat. "Anyway, that's the way I see it."

"Yeah, yeah." And he got up. "Look why don't you stay in? with the cold and stuff you'll probably need to rest. Make yourself at home."

"Where are you...?"

"Downstairs, let Jarvis know if you need something."

"I always do."

"And keep my schedule clear."

"Would that be all, Mr. Stark?"

"That'llbe all miss Potts." And he disappeared down the stairs. Pepper wondered through the next three and a half hours why he seemed so sad on her behalf.

"It's Christmas Eve. What are you doing tonight?" Asked Tony's voice, as it usually did at 4:35 for the last three years, over the inter-come. The quiet music she was listening to was considerably lowered, but still there. She had asked Jarvis a few hours ago to put on some music, and it had suggested a new station with only Christmas carols sounding all day long. In the mood of Christmas, Pepper agreed to listen. So far she had no complains.

"Probably sitting before a warm fire, with a book and just try and recover."

"Ah, shit, you've got a cold, right right." He said with genuine surprise as he remembers just why she's still at his house so latein such a day. Without much family in this coast, Pepper is usually going home around three on ChristmasEve, probably to a book , a bottle of Chardonnay and in other years, to wait till some angry bar owner demands she picks up Tony for the rest of the night. The last one was during late (or early) hours, when she was usually asleep because of both the Chardonnayand the book. "I was thinking about dinner, would you care to join me?"

Considering the current condition in which she was, Pepper didn't find it a bit funny to be asked out, and so she sniffled. "I will have to decline, sir. Even you suggested I stay in, because of the coldand stuff."

"Aw come on, let's not let that cold of your ruin our evening." Funny, that our evening warmed her heart. He went on suggesting a small meal in a restaurant he knew a few miles down the road, where they had a killer eggnog. And his words slowly continued to warm her tired body. Or probably she was having a fever, she wasn't sure. Why couldn't Tony ever come up with the idea to give all those gifts? Why did some stranger had to come up with this idea and woo her away from Tony? Pepper wanted him to realize how deeply in love she was with him, but unable to even let him know that, Pepper just pressed her lips together and remembered; he's your boss, he's your playboy boss, he's your Iron Man, playboy boss... Stomping her mental feet, Pepper smiled.

"I am too sick to leave, Mr. Stark. I would rather stay in."

"Then we'll order something, and watch A Christmas Carol. I'll join you in ten minutes just... give me a break." And he was gone, probably to take a shower or change just to join her... Although strange, it was sweet. It was then, only then, when the station returned to full volume.

"And now a special request. For Pepper, from her anonymous sender. On the eleventh day of Christams, my true love sent to me eleven piper piping the "little drummer boy" hope you enjoy it Pepper." Said the announcer as said song started, amazingly enough, in pipes. Pepper's hair stood on it's end as the song mixed with her heartbeat and she felt familiar tears stinging her eyes.

For some reason, she hoped Jarvis had recorded said beautiful song.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

It couldn't be Tony. Pepper who was now physically better, but emotionally ill, walked about Tony's mansion, yawning and wearing her pjs (as was required during this particular morning) and walked throughout the mansion in silence. The Christmas tree still lighted the living room, and a restless Daisy waited to be feed in one of the far corners of said room. Pepper greeted the little bird, and pleased it by hading one of it's favorite meals. Another pear.

Her anonymous sender could not be Tony. Pepper just knew that Tony wasn't as thoughtful as to actually go find her a pair of doves, or hens, or a fountain that was on her way home that could dance in nine different colors. Sure he could have gotten someone to go do that (who was usually her) but this gifts were personal. Chosen from a man in love in expectation of receiving a yes. And Tony was just too much of a narcissistto keep from saying "Yes It was Me! I got you all of that! Love me!" Problem was, who else could it be? The doves alone costa fortune, she had checked, the scarf the UPS to France another smaller fortunes... Maybe he was Bruce Wayne. Or Jarvis, as Tony has suggested.

Whowhowho? The question ran through her head in circles of confusion, but she kept it at bay for now. It was time for a little tradition. She sat on the sofa, checked all the gifts she placed there were still under the tree and then had Jarvis call Tony downstairs. It was time to open their gifts.

"Mr. Stark is not in the mansion, ma'am."

That struck her as very VERY weir. Usually upon saying the word Tony would leap either up or down the stairs. This was his favoritete tradition (he had admitted once, only once). "Where is he, Javis?"

"He left early this morning, he said an important errant had to be attended to."

"On Christmas morning? Is the suit still here?"

"He left on his Audi R8, exactly 38 minutes ago. He asked me to tell you to please wait for him." What meant this errant of his could take all day, probably.

"Great." She murmured, getting up to at least have some coffee.

It couldn't be Happy, because of his marriage unless he was batshit crazy. Nor Rhodey, the man never really wondered much about the PA. Probably one of those bad guys after Tony, to try and steal his armor. That got her thinking, in a moment of panic, but then she realized she was too intelligent to fall for that type of traps. Jarvis was the most likely option. But once again she wasn't about to ask. "Jarvis, could you please give me a weather report."

"Of course ma'am." And he resumed; temperature 58 degrees, three inches of snow expected for the day. Merry Christmas. Oh well. If that was all the emotions she would get for the rest of her life, Pepper might as well just get used to it. Tony had been thoughtful enough to leave a pot of coffee brewing, and some sugar ready for her to use. Or at least Jarvis had.

Then she heard it.

It was low, steady and had been lulling her for five minutes. Hell she even was humming along with it. The sound of drums. She frowned, turned and felt a small wrinkled movement under her hand. Under her mug, if she was more accurate. She looked down, under her empty mug, a small note in brown paper, scribbled in Tony's ineligible hand print:

On the twelve day of Christmas

My true love send to me

Twelve drummers drumming...

Oh. My. God.

Sprinting to her feet, Pepper walked out the kitchen, towards the livng room, where the sound intensified. She followed to the front door and when she opened, after daring to think in not opening the magnificently tall piece of wood, Pepper saw before her eleven (yes she counted twice,) eleven boys playing the drums. The cold didn't bother her, the wind nor the small flakes landing on her hair as she stepped out of the house, still barefoot, and towards the children, tears and smiles adorning her face. She still wore only her pjs, her messy hair... They continued to play, smiling at her, Oh Holy Night, and they backed up the sound with lyrics that sounded heavenly to her. Their teacher was a few feet away, leading them, as Pepper could do nothing but stare.

"Merry Christmas!" They said as they finished and moved to slowly gather around their teacher.

"Thank you."

"I promised them some of your world famous warm cocoa." Said a familiar voice, making her gasp and turn. Tony was doing that a lot lately, surpricing her in the weidest places. Pepper turned, trembling and with tears in her eyes to Tony, small puffs of cold air escaping her mouth. Tony stood under the porch, having stood beside the open door the whole time but not wishing to stop her from finding her last gift, wearing a tailored suit, with a tie full of Christmas drums and a scarf. His hands were on his pockets, and he stood perfectly still as Pepper studied him. "I know I might not be the perfect anonymous sender, Pepper. But would you have lunch, or dinner, or a happily ever after with me?"

God it was the corniest, sweetest most perfect thing she'd ever heard. And to considered a perfect cliche was the last bit of information Pepper needed right now. So she only followed her heart and sobbing, in happiness and delight, she extended her arms and hurried to Tony. Her hug was tight, possessive, conclusive of all those thoughts that had been haunting her for the last 12 days of Christmas. Pepper sobbed and laughed while holding tight, and Tony lifted her from the ground, arms as tightly as hers around her. He spoke a few times, but Pepper didn't listen, she didn't wanted to listen.

She wanted to be held by her true love.

"The partridge was a bit too much, I know, and the calling birds. And having you go to France just to get a stained glass with some hens was preposterous but... but..." She shut Tony up by kissing him. It's a soft kiss, not the explosive mixed emotions she expected for their first kiss. It was soft, teasing, loving, quiet. Like the snow falling around them. "But I love you."