He called the next afternoon. He wanted to call the moment he got up in the morning, when he got to the office, when he got the message she sent him. He was keen, overly so for reasons he as unsure about, but he had years of practise when it came to dampening down desire, emotions, anything that was outside of his remit as the professional and the gentlemen. So he managed to wait until after lunch before calling Pepper to arrange another date.
She sounded as keen as he felt but he didn't comment on it.
"Ms Potts," he said, warm but formal. It helped to keep him focused.
"Having a good day?" she asked.
It was a little white lie, his day had been pretty atrocious thanks to Stark's little stunt at his press conference but he kept that from her. No point in annoying her.
"Mine's been awful," she said. "The press conference really screwed everything up."
He kept hold of his amusement. Barely.
"So, would you like to have dinner again?" he asked.
"Sure, I'm free on Wednesday or Thursday."
"Stark got you busy the rest of the week?"
"The company in general. There's a lot to do when your billionaire boss is also a superhero," she said. "Though don't tell him I called him a super hero."
"Very unlikely Ms. Potts."
"And stop calling me Ms. Potts."
"Sorry, it's the work suit."
She laughed at that and he smiled, his insides squirming a little.
"Wednesday?" he asked. He couldn't wait 'til Thursday.
"That would be great. Want me to choose a venue this time? Though I can't really cook."
"We'll go anywhere you like," he said.
They picked a time and Pepper said she she'd think about a place and, before they hung up, she spoke again.
"I'm glad you called."
His day just got brighter and brighter.
She was on the phone when he picked her up, chattering quickly and cupping the mouthpiece to whisper an apology as she let him into her apartment. He followed her inside, looking around briefly but his focus on a barefoot Pepper Potts in a little black dress. He stood in one spot as she wandered about the room, talking to who she could only assume was Stark, seemingly without purpose until a black pair of heels were pulled from behind a chair. She grinned at him and dropped own into an armchair
He watched her struggle to put the shoes on before dropping to his knees before her to slip them onto her feet. She squeaked when his hand slid around her ankle, almost dropping her blackberry. She quickly apologised and explained to squeak to her boss, but let him continue to fasten up her shoes.
"I'm about to have dinner," she said, getting his attention. "No I don't need any company thank you Mr. Stark."
He grinned, fastening the other shoe and running his hands around her ankle and calf in a caress as she tried to end the conversation with her boss. She gasped at the feel of his palms on her leg but managed to hang up without further incident on the phone.
They were quiet for a moment, and she smiled.
"Are you going to stand up now?" she asked.
He felt the heat on his cheeks as he blushed, but she didn't comment, only took his hand as he rose.
"Ready to go?" he asked, letting go of her hand.
It was their second date and something had changed dramatically with the act of putting on her shoes and the simple caress around her ankle. It had created a tension he didn't think they were ready for yet. He wanted to apologise but he wasn't sure what for, so he stayed quiet through dinner as they ate.
"Phil?" she asked, reaching across to tap his hand. He'd drifted off while eating.
"Fine," he said, with a smile, "I'm sorry about before."
"Before?" she asked, the confusion scrunching her face up and making her look adorable.
"When I put your shoes on."
"Why are you apologising for that?"
"I felt your legs up."
She chuckled, sitting back and stretching her legs out to tangle with his.
"I kinda liked it," she said, with a grin her cheeks blushed red. "Don't you like my legs?"
"Of course," he said, with a smile.
"Then you don't need to apologise," she said. "Idiot."
"I don't think it's very nice to insult your date Ms. Potts."
She smiled again, rubbing her bare calf against his with a cheeky grin that he adored. He adored her, and wanted to tell her so but held back. Second date, it felt to soon to be so open with her, but he wanted to.
He drove her home, he wasn't really a drinker and told Pepper as much when she questioned his single glass of wine. Red tonight, to go with his meal. They chatted in the car again, Pepper more animated than before and he assumed first date nerves had dampened her down a little before. It had certainly done the same to him, and they laughed together this time, and louder too as he drove the black SUV.
They pulled up at her apartment and he ran out to open the door for her again as on their last date. Perfect gentleman, his mother would be proud and he knew Pepper would continue to appreciate it. She beamed at him, and they walked up to her door and he went to say goodnight when her phone rang.
"Mr. Stark?" she said, polite as ever, mouthing another apology to him. So close, Phil thought to himself. Close to what he wasn't sure, but he was annoyed all the same as Pepper unlocked her door and chatted to Tony.
"I'm at home."
He tuned into the conversation again when her tone went a little defensive.
"I just got back, I went out to get some dinner," she continued, "listen, Tony, can I call you back when I've gotten back inside my apartment?"
Phil smiled, her voice was strong, and she was trying hard not to let her annoyance be heard.
"Thank you." She hung up and slipped her phone back into her pocket again. "Sorry Phil."
"It's okay Pepper," he said.
"I had a great time."
"Me too, I'll call you again."
He leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek, but she smiled at him, cupping his cheek to move his face so she could kiss him on the lips. They were connected for mere seconds, before she pulled away, smiling still.