Agent Phil Coulson was a man who knew when he was being ignored. He followed Tony Stark's line of sight and saw Virginia Potts in a backless dress and really couldn't blame him. If he wasn't a consummate professional and a perfect gentleman he'd be starting agape too. As it were he could appreciate the woman's beauty with a few glances, once he'd gotten a meeting out of Tony Stark. Fury was on his back and the man was not one you wanted to be on the wrong side of.

When Stark walked away and took Pepper onto the dance floor, he turned to watch for a moment, and thought over his current situation. He could consider his job done for the night, having tried to get a meeting out of Stark, and have a drink before heading home. Or he could cut-in, pretend it was for work, dancing and trying to get an appointment through Potts herself again.

He thought about it for a whole minute before doing neither and going home to bed.

zzzzz

Pepper Potts was a very attractive woman, and it really pushed at his decorum not to act on it when she thanked him for everything he'd done. It was made worse by the easy hold Stark obviously had over her without either of them really realising it, and the man's complete lack of professional work ethics in regard to the woman.

She was out of his league too, Phil wasn't delusional, but it didn't mean he couldn't think about it. Just not dwell on it.

He wasn't even out of the building when the call came, demanding to know why Stark hadn't stuck to the cards, why he was letting the man run riot at the press conference. He was back in the elevator before Fury hung up on him, ranting about Tony Stark and Iron Man and he quickly found Pepper at the back of the throng of reporters.

"What is he doing?" he said,coming to stand beside her. She turned to him and shrugged.

"I have no idea," she groaned.

"Maybe we should wrap this up," he told her, feeling his cell phone vibrating in his pocket once more.

She nodded in agreement, within moments Stark was being ushered off the stage.

"I'd better get back to Headquarters," he said, as they moved away from the small crowd following him, his cell phone to his ear and Fury yelling down it.

"I'm sorry Agent Coulson," she said.

"Not your fault Miss Potts," he said with a smile, "I'll be in touch."

"I hope so," she said, with a smile of her own before they parted.

zzzzz

Fury had decided to talk to Stark himself. Or rather, give the man hell for letting the world know that he was in the armour. And despite being a perfect gentlemen, and a consummate professional, he'd really been hoping he'd be the one to go give hell. For various reasons all revolving around Pepper Potts. He wanted to see her again, and liked the idea of showing Stark up in front of her.

Though he suspected she'd seen him do a lot of idiotic things and get bawled out for it by various officials. She still stuck by him and he didn't think Pepper was the type of person to stick around purely for a paycheck, however handsome it was. He suspected it was more about how handsome Stark was.

When Fury was done with Stark, Coulson was back to SI headquarters, suit perfect, shoes shined, no different to any other working day, except this working day had a gorgeous redhead in it. A passing interest was becoming a crush, a pointless one at that, and these were the reasons he kept his professionalism. His decorum.

Qualities, he was sure, Pepper would admire.

"Agent Coulson."

Her cheeks were flushed, her hair tied back perfectly, and when she shook his hand she smiled brightly.

"Miss Potts."

"Mr Stark is in a meeting that's over-running right now," she said. "Can I get you a coffee?"

"Please," he smiled back at her, and sat on the sofa she gestured to.

"I won't be a moment."

She disappeared out of the large waiting room outside Stark's office, and he sat down, but didn't relax. He never did when he was working, and couldn't in her presence.

Fool.

She came back with a tray, two mugs on it, cream and sugar, and set it down on the table in front of him. He stood when she sat down next to him, smiling at him the entire time.

"Cream and sugar?" she asked.

"No, thank you."

She nodded and handed him the black coffee, doctoring her own to her liking, and he made a note of it.

"How are things at SHIELD?" she asked, almost casually, as if he wasn't there to talk about that very issue. About the chaos Stark had just made, for himself and the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.

"Not good," he said, smiling, because he couldn't not smile at Pepper Potts. "A lot of people are unhappy Miss Potts."

"Please, call me Pepper."

"Phil," he told her, offering her his own name in return with a little burst of joy in his stomach, but able to keep his face mostly straight. Mostly.

"Phil?" she smiled. "You look like a Phil."

"I do?" he frowned. "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

"Good," she said, with a blush.

He beamed at her and was tempted to reach out and touch her somewhere. Her shoulder, arm, knees, but he kept his hands to himself, wrapped around his too-hot coffee mug.

"I was wondering, if you wanted-"

Her words were cut off by Tony Stark striding across the waiting area towards them. Coulson was on his feet immediately, mug on the tray, hand stuck out as the other man reached them.

"Agent Coulson," Stark said, shaking his hand hard.

He glanced at Pepper, who smiled shyly at him, as they marched into Starks office.

zzzzz

He nearly dropped the phone when Pepper Potts called him. She didn't have to call him, he had an assistant too, but it was her voice, shy and sweet.

"Agent Coulson?" she asked.

"Miss Potts, how can I help?" He wanted to ask, 'What's Stark done now?' but bit his tongue.

"I never, um-"

"Is everything alright?" he asked.

"Yes, fine, I wanted to ask you out to dinner earlier, but never got the chance."

"Are you asking me now?" he teased.

"I guess so."

"Dinner tonight?" he asked, rationalising it quickly in his mind. Fury was in charge of Stark now, he was no longer on Stark's case, Fury was dealing with the Avenger Initiative and Coulson was just doing some paperwork, and would soon have other assignments. Hopefully.

"Great."

Stark was his boss' problem, his boss' responsibility. All Phil had to worry about was finding something to wear to dinner, and somewhere to go.

Much harder than it sounded when he had Stark's billions to compete with.