According to Plan

Ok so this is my first Ironman fic, but I thought I'd get in the Christmas spirit :)

Pepper Potts picked up the last of the various files and folders that she had been labouring over that day and placed them gently by the front door of the mansion before returning briefly to Tony's workshop to say a last goodbye before she boarded a plane to see her family in Arizona over the Christmas weekend.

She placed her hand on the scanner at the bottom of the stairs and searched for Tony amongst the many piles of seemingly destroyed metal.

"Tony? I just came down to say goodbye… and to remind you that we have to go to a meeting early on Boxing Day, so you know, go easy on the drinking ok?"

After a moment of silence, Tony's grease covered face appeared from underneath one of his cars, "Goodbye? You're going somewhere over Christmas?"

Pepper shifted awkwardly, uneased by Tony's look, one she couldn't quite define; a mix of curiosity and… hurt?

"Yes Mr Stark, I have plans with my family, plans which I told you about a few weeks ago actually…" replied Pepper with a slight grin.

"Plans," Tony leaned against his desk and wiped his hands on a spare cloth, to get rid of some of the oil coating his hands, "I don't like it when you have plans."

It was becoming harder and harder for Pepper not to smile openly now, warmed by the familiarity of the conversation.

"Yes well, if I don't leave within the next two minutes, I will miss those plans, so goodbye Mr Stark and have a pleasant Christmas." She smiled at him briefly as she turned to head back upstairs, and as she walked away she heard Tony mutter a small "Merry Christmas." and smiled again as she approached the front door.

Taking one last glance around the mansion, she felt content that she had definitely remembered all of her things and arranged all the meetings that needed to be arranged.

I should feel happy she reasoned, having the next couple of days off relaxing away from work… away from Tony…

But the more she thought about the fact that she would actually have to relax and wouldn't be able to look after someone for the next couple of days, the more the thought seemed to scare her.

It wasn't really just a job after all, it had become much more than that; during the three months that he was… away in Afghanistan, Pepper had continued to work, she had tried to stick to whichever schedules she had been able to keep, always keeping herself busy, always working. But it was the absence of Tony that made those tasks so unbearably dull; it was during those months that Pepper realised that she needed the constant banter between herself and Tony; she needed to hear the occasional burst of song that Tony went into when he was working, she needed those rare moments when he would oh-so-subtly acknowledge how hard she was working and bring her a mug of coffee, and most of all how she so desperately needed Tony.

Sighing, she gathered up all her things and opened the door, well… tried to open the door. Putting down all of her things in a huff, she put both gloved hands on the door handle and pulled. Still nothing, the door didn't even budge. "Oh, for crying out loud." she muttered under her breath as she readied herself for another try.

"Having trouble" interrupted a cocky sounding Tony from behind her.

Pepper gasped in surprise and her hands flew off the handle, sending her flying backwards… into the laughing and open-armed Tony.

She could feel herself blushing as she attempted to regain any remaining dignity by scrambling quickly out of Tony's arms.

"The door… it's erm… stuck…" she whispered. Cursing herself for sounding so weak and pathetic, she looked up at Tony's face, expecting to see a shit-eating grin plastered across his face, so was therefore surprised when she was instead met with warm, almost understanding eyes and a friendly smile.

"Well, we'll have to make it unstuck then won't we?" he replied, mimicking her whisper.

Tony turned away from the stunned looking Pepper, and analysed the door, almost as if it were one of his treasured cars and stepped towards it casually.

After his second attempt at opening the door failed, his look of curiosity was quickly replaced with one of annoyance.

"Huh." he turned to face Pepper again. "It's stuck."

She laughed at such an obvious statement and spoke, "I know Mr Stark," she giggled despite herself "the great Tony Stark, the 'Da Vinci of our time' can't open his own front door. Huh."

Pepper didn't know where such an informal exclamation had come from and inwardly cursed herself, and when she met her boss's gaze once more, it was obvious that he didn't seem to mind.

In fact he was grinning.

"I bet Iron Man could open it."

She chuckled briefly before sobering and remembering that if she didn't leave soon, she would miss her flight, but before she could voice this concern to Tony, he had moved to stand next to the wall at the front of the house.

"Jarvis, can I take a look outside please."

The once solid, stone looking walls changed swiftly into a computerized window, and both Tony and Pepper had to close their eyes suddenly and the walls changed to a bright white.

"Outside Jarvis."

"Sir, it appears that between the hours of 4pm and 1pm there has been a considerable amount of snowfall, the door has been blocked by the snow outside sir."

"What!?" exclaimed a now angry Pepper. "Does this mean I can't get out? Tony, you could do something right? Suit up and clear the snow or something?"

He sighed and ran his hand through his hair, "I can't use the suit, I've taken it apart for upgrades… it would take a few hours for me to work on it enough for it to be safe to use again, and by that time you'll have missed your flight anyway. Sorry Peps."

Pepper rubbed the bridge of her nose in frustration and leant against the wall.

"Well those are my plans out the window." she muttered, as she reached for her bag and began rummaging through it for her trusty Blackberry.

Tony watched as she dialled in a number and held the phone to her ear, this feeling of helplessness was not boding well with him; he was used to facing problems that had a clear and straightforward answer… but his thoughts were interrupted as he heard Pepper's voice beside him; "Hey Evie… yeh I'm fine, well not totally fine… I'm snowed in… yeh I know I'm sorry…uh huh… I won't be able to see you after Christmas for a while… yeh I'll try and make time… it's not that easy… I'll call again tomorrow ok?... sorry again, say hi to everyone from me though…"

She put the phone away with a sigh and turned to an uncharacteristically quiet Tony, "I guess it's just us two then huh?" she smiled at him, but it didn't quite reach her eyes.

"Hey I'm sorry about your plans-"

"It's not your fault Tony. Just… um… pretend like I'm not here ok? I don't really know what you do at Christmas anyway…"

An awkward silence passed before Tony bent down to pick up all of Pepper's things.

"Hey, what are you-"she started to protest but Tony had already disappeared up the stairs and so she stood there for a couple of seconds in stunned silence before hearing Tony's voice call her from the top of the stairs; "You coming Potts?"

A/N Right so that's the first part of the story, I'm aiming to finish the whole thing by Boxing Day at the latest, but reviews would make me work just that little but faster :P

And Merry Christmas to everyone by the way,

Lenniiieee xx