I own nothing! Enjoy.
That's all it had been. Three simple months is all it took for Pepper to become Tony Stark's right hand woman. She was there with coffee, with the latest news (about him), with the latest stock figures for Stark Industries, with his plans and meetings and his toothbrush. Pepper had quietly become indispensible to Mr. Stark – a fact that was splashed across the tabloids but, for the most part, ignored by Pepper Potts herself. She took her days in stride, managing and being the epitome of punctual and prepared with her less than predictable boss.
But that day – that day, Mr. Stark took Pepper Potts completely by surprise.
She stood in the kitchen, listening to the coffee brew while she rescheduled Tony's afternoon meeting with marketing for the morning.
"Perfection," came his voice from the door. Tony wandered in, grabbing a mug and pouring some coffee before it had finished. His hair was tousled and his dark eyes seemed especially tired.
"Coffee's not done yet," Pepper said, not looking up from her phone.
"Don't care." He dumped in sugar. "Where's the –"
"In the pantry door, right side." She looked up from her Blackberry to see Tony emerging from the pantry with creamer in hand. "Did you even go to sleep last night?" she asked.
"Don't need to."
Pepper gave him a stern look but said nothing. He had been preoccupied by a project for the last three weeks and Pepper knew better than to mother him about it. She watched him sip his coffee, his eyes closed, one hand rubbing a temple. Pepper frowned – she suspected he hadn't eaten in hours, and that he had slept even less.
"I'll cancel your meeting with marketing this morning," she said resignedly, peeved that she had pointlessly rescheduled it at all. She looked up from her phone temporarily and found Tony's dark stare on her. "What?"
"Why are you cancelling?"
"Because you look like hell."
"You mean hellishly handsome?"
"No, I mean you look like you haven't slept in days. I'm giving you the morning to sleep. Otherwise you'll become even less willing to cooperate with me and your schedule."
"You have a point."
"Bed," Pepper said, snatching his coffee from him and putting it aside.
"Only if you'll come with."
"Mr. Stark." Pepper was blushing, always caught off guard by the easy flirting of Tony Stark.
"Ms. Potts," he said, and abruptly stopped the banter, looking at her seriously. "Come with me."
Pepper knew he was done with the joking – his tone had grown more serious. "What-"
But Tony had disappeared out of the kitchen already and Pepper clicked behind him to catch up, then wondered vaguely what was smeared across the back of his arms. When he came to an abrupt halt at the top of the stairs that led to his workshop, Pepper nearly collided with him. She looked up and found him staring again – she felt herself grow warm.
"Mr. Stark what are we doing?"
"I'm the only one allowed in the lab."
"Yes, I know."
"It's stupid. You know, in case I die, someone should have access to my brilliance," he continued, grinning.
"Are you planning on dying soon?" Her tone was light and joking – she wondered when it had become okay to talk like this to him. "That would case me a huge headache."
"I'll give you warning. For now," he said, turning and heading down the stairs. She followed after a momentary pause at the top, never having gone down before, usually opting to use Jarvis as the messenger instead. It was his sanctuary, and Pepper suspected that he went down there specifically to avoid everyone else. She reached the bottom and gazed through the glass walls, amazed by the size and the clutter. And the cars….
"Jarvis, initiate new allowance for access."
"What?" Pepper said, whirling on him, eyes wide.
"Initiated, sir," Jarvis' cool voice replied. "Please press your forefinger to the pad, Miss Potts." A rectangle appeared on the glass near the door, outlined in a faint blue glow.
"I don't think-"
"Time's a wasting, Potts." Tony grabbed her right hand and extended her pointer finger. His hand, rough and big, was gentle on hers, a fact that Pepper was not at all prepared for. Had she ever touched him like this before?
Shut up, you sound like a thirteen year old.
Tony pressed her finger to cool glass, where it glowed slightly. When he pulled her hand away the white fingerprint stayed for a moment before vanishing.
"Enter a four digit access code, Ms. Potts," Jarvis commanded.
Instead of listening to the AI Pepper turned to Tony.
"Why are you doing this?"
"So that you can borrow my soldering iron."
"I trust you."
Pepper faltered, wondered if using his first name was too personal. Uncertainty crept into her voice. "I…I've only worked for you for a few months."
"Which is a few months more than my previous assistants."
"I'm not. Am I kidding Jarvis?"
"The previous record for your position was two weeks, Ms. Potts."
Pepper felt her eyebrows rise; she could pretty well guess why the other women had left. She remembered her first few days quite well, between Tony's over-the-top flirting and casual touching before Pepper had put a foot down on all that business. She was not a toy, she had told him sternly, and since then he hadn't tried anything quite that forward again.
"See?" Tony said, shrugging. "Pepper what's the big deal? It's not like I'm asking you to give me heart surgery. It's just four numbers. And shiny cars."
A moment passed in which Pepper weighed her options and finally gave up. "Fine," she said, and paused for a fraction of a moment before entering a number.
"Thank you," Jarvis said. "Access granted."
The door slid unlocked with a gentle click and Tony walked through. Pepper followed slowly behind, letting her gaze wander. Her legs moved her first toward the line of cars. She let her hand graze the hood of each one as she passed, the metal cool to the touch. On the wall behind her were sketches of schematics and designs, drawn in pen and graphite, neat scribbles written in the margins. She turned from the wall and found Tony watching her intently.
"Don't steal my designs," he said finally.
Pepper could only bring herself to smile shyly. She was in one of the most brilliant engineer's design basement. She was fairly certain she had just been given access to things worth millions, to the literal, real-life translation of genius. But what made Pepper smile was that it was Tony's most private space – Tony, whose eyes were boring into her, whose soft grin lit his face and made her want to laugh.
"Thank you Mr. Stark."
"Anytime, Ms. Potts."
Pepper hastily found something to say, afraid of the impending silence that suddenly seemed thicker in the workshop than it ever did in the back of the car. "Will that be all, Mr. Stark?"
"Can you bring my coffee down for me?" Tony asked, sitting down at his computer. "I need to see what your legs look like coming down the stairs."
"No, you're supposed to be sleeping," Pepper replied, dismissing his side comment. "Bed. Now."
"Tuck me in?" Tony leaned back, his hands clasped behind his head. His smile was dangerous. "I can see your legs that way, too."
"Mr. Stark. Now. Or I'll make you attend the finance meeting tomorrow morning."
"You play dirty," he replied, forfeiting and standing up.
"It seems to be the only way to get you to listen to me," Pepper said, a sigh creeping in at the end.
As Tony passed her on his way to the stairs, he leaned in close enough for her to feel his breath on her neck.
"I like it," he said, grinning. "Wake me in two hours."
She watched his form bound up the stairs and demurely pushed her bangs from her face. Even Pepper Potts couldn't keep the soft smile from gracing her lips.