This fic was inspired by JaneTurenne's sublime Holmes/Watson fic, One Week.
I don't own the characters, just the situation(s) I put them in.
As always, love and devotion to miss steph (my own long-suffering beta) and my fellow RDJ addicts at Writers Anonymous.
~*~The Wager by outtabreath~*~
One of Eight: Sunday
"Why are you working on Sunday, Potts?"
I glanced up at Tony as he stood in the doorway to my mansion office, staring at me blearily and appraisingly; he was actually awake and dressed – in sweatpants and a t-shirt with ridiculously messy hair, but, still, actually dressed – on a Sunday morning.
It was rather impressive. And more than a little disarming.
"Because that's what I get paid to do," I pointed out, tearing my eyes away from where the waistband of his pants didn't quite meet the hem of his shirt. "We leave for Paris on Friday and I have things to attend to."
"You could attend to me," he offered, stretching obscenely before shuffling his bare feet over to a chair so he could plop his shapely ass in it. "It'd be more fun than dealing with the French."
"I'm your assistant," I pointed out. Again.
"Right, so how about you assist me in my bedroom for a while?"
I thought about how much I needed another cup of coffee before I dealt with him, then dismissed the notion. He was here and somewhat engaged – if I were to leave him to his own devices while I got more caffeine, I'd most likely never regain his attention.
"I'm sure you could find numerous people willing to help you there," I said briskly. "I'd like to focus on your non-bedroom activities."
"Jacuzzi?" he asked, yawning and scratching his fingers through his hair.
I was unable to understand how it made him look even sexier.
"No, thank you," I said politely. "I want to go over what you need to do to do this week: First, you have the people from Hew-."
"I want to go over what you need to do to do this week," he interrupted.
I was well into the second syllable before I realized he'd spoken. "Pardon?"
"So polite," he grinned. "I said that I wanted to go over what I needed you to do this week."
I frowned at him. "Tony, I tell you what you need to do, not the other way around."
"Oh, I'm well aware of that, Pepper – but I need to discuss a very important matter with you. A very important and delicate matter."
My mind started to boggle as I ran through the possibilities: He'd gotten married while he was drunk; he'd married Rhodey while he was drunk; one of his numerous conquests had made him a daddy; one of the bots had made him a daddy; he'd finally starred in a movie with Jenna Jameson like he'd been threatening to for years; he'd taken out an immensely old and important monument while in the suit.
I steeled myself. Whatever it was, I could spin it. Then I'd proceed to make his life miserable for the next six months. Ten if it was porn-related.
"What is it, Tony?" I asked in my very best assistant's voice. My fingers poised over the keyboard, ready to take notes.
"People have noticed, Pepper," he began.
"What? That you fly around in a big metal suit?" I asked. "That would be because you told them you fly around in a big metal suit."
"No," he said, very seriously. "That you can't stop devouring me with your eyes."
I blinked at him stupidly. I was good at hiding it, I knew I was. Which meant he was fishing. He was being Tony.
"Are you drunk?" I demanded; oftentimes, outright attack was the best policy.
"It's nine AM," he said, sounding horribly wounded.
"On Sunday," I clarified. "Are you still drunk?"
"No. Promise. I haven't had a drop in a week. Ten days. Five."
I could've asked Jarvis, of course, but that would've been cheating; instead, I stood and leaned towards him, balancing my weight on my desk, and took a deep breath; I could smell Skittles and Red Bull and coffee – why weren't all of his brain cells blown to bits yet? – but no thick and sour alcohol smell.
Granted, he'd never really used pharmaceuticals or similar with any real focus – alcohol and women were his drugs of choice – but I needed to dismiss all possibilities.
Because I did not devour him with my eyes – not so anyone would notice, at any rate.
He scoffed. "I need to be ready to fly into danger at a moment's notice, Pepper. Do you really think I'd impair myself like that?"
I narrowed my eyes and admitted that no, the new Tony wouldn't do that.
There was only one other explanation.
I sat down and pulled up file that contained the mental status exam I'd found the second week I worked for him. It wasn't surprising that I needed it, just that it'd taken so long.
"What's your name?" I asked, pitching my voice soothingly; I didn't want to excite any psychotic processes.
"I'm not crazy."
"That has yet to be established," I said. "Who's the President?"
"I don't think I'm Jesus, George Washington or Hugh Hefner - though I'd love to be him for a day, but only if that day was in the 60's. Not now. I don't want to wear a diaper – and I know that I'm on the planet Earth. You're Pepper, my indefatigable assistant, and I'm Tony Stark, inventor and part-time superhero. And I have a proposition for you."
And I got it. He was trying to flirt with his usual Jericho-missile-like subtlety.
"I'm not sleeping with you, Tony," I said, more out of habit than any actual thought.
He chuckled. "Actually, I was thinking the exact opposite. For the next week you can't touch me or kiss me."
I could feel my eyes goggling despite my best efforts to prevent it as I pointed out, "I never kiss you, Tony."
Almost kisses on moonlight rooftops did not count.
"Then it won't be a problem," he grinned.
"What color is the sky?" I asked, glancing back at my list of questions.
"Blue," he murmured, meeting and catching my eyes before blinking and leaning back in his chair, hands clasped behind his head. "Anyway, I'll make it worth your while."
"Make what worth my while?"
"You keeping your lips and hands to yourself for the next seven days, Potts. Please try to keep up."
"Tony," I said, more than a little exasperated. I knew he had an angle, Tony always had an angle, but I couldn't quite figure it out.
"I'm not sure you can entirely resist me, Pepper, and I think we need to reestablish the boundaries between us," he said, and I almost believed him. "So, I'm offering you a bet."
"I don't bet," I said automatically.
"You haven't heard the terms."
I tilted my head and I could see his eyes follow a strand of hair as it fell from my ponytail. It was weird.
He was definitely up to something.
"Shoes," he said, finally meeting my eyes once more. "The ones you were mentally molesting when we were in Paris last month."
"The Chanel floral pumps?" I breathed, feeling woozy. Those were the most beautiful shoes I'd ever seen.
I knew listening to him further was stupid, probably the most stupid thing I'd ever done – the most unprofessional and unethical thing ever. But. Tony made my life difficult on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis and those shoes were unbelievable.
There were organza camellias on them.
I glanced at him. "And what do you get if I," I swallowed and tried to pretend I was choking back a laugh and not just choking, "can't resist you?"
"You mean besides the kissing and/or touching?"
I nodded sharply.
"I get to cancel one meeting a week for the next four weeks."
"From a predetermined list," I said quickly; I may have been crazy for contemplating his wager, but I hadn't completely lost all reason.
"Two from a pre-determined list and two of my own choosing," he countered
I stared at him evenly. "And what if you touch me. Or kiss me?"
He grinned. "Don't worry about that, Pep."
I ignored the sharp pain in my chest and shook my head. "You'll try to cheat, so you need to keep your hands and lips to yourself, too."
He sat up very straight and grinned. "And if I do, I get my two freebies."
"Terms," I said. "If I can't keep my hands to myself," I rolled my eyes, "you get your four cancelled meetings: two from a list of my choosing, two of your own. If you can't keep your hands to yourself, I get my shoes."
"And lips," he said brightly. "We're keeping our lips to ourselves, too."
"And lips," I said, very pointedly not looking at his. "And if we both behave and there is no untoward physical contact before next Sunday?"
"Saturday," he said. "Seven days is Saturday."
"Then I'll get you those shoes and I'll know that you don't devour me with your eyes," he said.
"Like people say I do."
He nodded gravely. "Like many people say you do."
I thought it over for a minute. I'd spent many years indulging Tony's ill-conceived ideas: Iron Man, the new generation of sex toys he was sure would revolutionize the industry, his desire to buy an island for his secret lair (why a secret lair, Tony? You opened your big mouth and everybody knows you're a superhero), and his suspicions that the bots and Jarvis were plotting to take over the mansion.
His latest ill-conceived idea wasn't even in the same league.
We'd spent years not kissing each other.
What did a week – even one that we were marking – matter?
Besides, there were black Chanel platform pumps with beaded organza camellias and a Louis heel to be had out of the deal.
"Okay," I said, my mouth watering at the thought of the shoes.
He stood in one fluid motion and started to walk around the corner of my desk. I jumped to my feet out of pure preservation – Tony was quite good at leaning – and watched him warily.
"So, do we have an accord?" he asked.
"You watch Pirates of the Caribbean way too much," I pointed out.
"That's not possible," he said, sticking his hand out towards me.
I looked askance at it. No touching meant no hand shaking.
He followed my thinking and grinned wryly. "God you're suspicious, Potts. We have a bet and we need to shake on it. The clock starts as soon as we do."
I met his hand, completely unprepared for the jolt it engendered in my stomach; his eyes widened briefly and his hand tightened around mine.
We stood for a long moment, hands clasped, looking at each other, then he began to slowly move my hand towards his lips. I watched frozen and breathless as he mouthed each knuckle gently.
I huffed – querulously, I prayed and hoped fervently - and he looked at me from beneath lowered lashes. "I just wanted to know what I was missing out on."
"I'll need that hand back," I said, keeping my voice steady.
"In a sec," he said before gently pressing his teeth into the pad of my thumb, then pressing a tender kiss to the tingling skin.
"I want to be able to manipulate my mouse so I can look at pictures of my shoes," I said, trying very hard not to let my voice betray the fact that every single one of my hormones was carbonated.
He smoldered at me for a moment, then announced, "You're kind of cocky, Potts. I like it."
I smiled more calmly than I felt, said, "I have great faith in my abilities," and, with herculean effort, slid my hand from his and began the week.