Disclaimers and thanks in Part One.
The response to this fic has completely stunned me. I am touched and happy that so many people seem to have enjoyed it so much.
This is where this fic really earns its strong T rating, folks. Enjoy!
Eight of Eight: Second Sunday
Tony was a cuddler. The fact had surprised me momentarily – after all, I'd been escorting his companions from his empty bed for years – before I simply shoved it in beside the other information I'd gathered in Paris: he was skilled, tender, sweet, big, inventive, masterful, exceedingly vocal, and particularly enamored with my hair.
And if the new information didn't exactly fit neatly, what did it matter when, in my last moment of lucid thought, I realized that Tony had redecorated his bedroom and that he'd done it for me; while he was catching his breath as I tightened around him; when he called me Pepper and Virginia and, once, Ginny; when his eyes had widened comically as I showed him how strong and dexterous years of typing had made my hands; as he was making very sure the arc reactor didn't hurt me.
When he was so completely and undeniably present.
What difference did it make when he'd settled his body around mine and his eyes had drifted closed?
As he cuddled.
As I fell asleep.
As I slept without dreaming.
When I finally pulled myself out of satiated and exhausted unconsciousness, he was still clinging to me: nuzzling against my shoulder, one heavy arm banded across my midsection and pulling me half on top of him, the other somehow wedged against my back, both of his legs squeezing one of mine. Every time I took a deep breath, I could feel the arc reactor nudge the rise of my breast and his hand tighten on the skin over my spine.
I had expected to wake up with him plastered on the other side of the bed – or gone, sleeping in one of the guest rooms; instead, he was all around me; octopus-like.
I tried shifting, both out of a sense of experimentation and out of necessity – it was morning and there were certain things I needed to attend to – and he yanked me closer and made an odd, protesting noise against the skin of my neck.
I poked at his arm. "Tony, I need to get up."
"Five more minutes, Potts," he said mushily. "The meeting can wait."
"We don't have a meeting," I grunted and began the process of wriggling myself out from under his arms and legs. It took far longer than I ever would have expected.
I also didn't expect to feel bereft by the mere action of removing my body from against his.
"Cancel it," he mumbled, snuffling and frowning. "I don't wanna…" He dwindled back into rhythmic breathing.
I shook my head fondly, covered him up and pressed a kiss into the unholy mess of dark curls and waves.
Ten very cleansing minutes later I returned to the bed to find Tony sitting up in bed, sheet and blanket fallen completely away from his extraordinary anatomy.
"Ginny, ca-," he began as he stretched in an alarmingly alluring fashion.
"No," I said.
"No what? I didn't even get to finish asking."
"No to Ginny."
"You liked it last night."
"I was a little distracted last night," I corrected. "Try again."
I shook my head definitively.
"Are you serious?"
"It could be worse," he said. "I could call you Iron Girl."
"Not if you want to continue breathing."
"Duly noted. Virginia."
"Yes, but not today."
"Thank God. Pepper, would you please get back into our bed?"
I caved instantly; within seconds I was kissing the neck of a very sleep-rumpled and gorgeous part-time superhero.
"You're not going to quit, are you?"
"Uhuh," I murmured. "I was thinking of moving somewhat lower."
"Quit working for me," he clarified.
Startled, I stopped exploring his skin and looked up at him. He looked nervous.
"Why would I quit?"
"Because, Miss Potts, I've been actively seducing you for the past week."
"I'm okay with that."
"And you're sleeping with your boss."
I choked out a laugh. I had come to terms with that so easily – thought about it and accepted it almost instantaneously - that I was surprised that it bothered him at all.
"Tony, our relationship has been much more than boss and employee for a long time."
"But I still sign your checks."
"No, the computer in Payroll signs my checks. Rita Dempsey runs the computer. The Board approves my salary. Your name is on my checks, that's as far as your involvement goes."
"So you're not going to quit."
"I've invested way too much time and effort into you to quit now." I traced the edge of his chest plate with a nail. "I trust that you'll behave appropriately and won't take advantage of our altered relationship."
"So you're not going to quit and you're going to continue sleeping with me."
"I don't see us getting much sleep for a while, but, yes."
He turned his head and pecked my lips. I leaned forward to extend the pressure, but he angled his body away from mine, a serious look on his face.
"What?" I demanded.
"I want to talk about the rules," he said.
"Rules for what?" I asked, completely unable to follow his train of thought.
"This. Us. Our altered relationship."
"There are going to be rules?"
"Guidelines. For me."
"Guidelines," I echoed. "For you."
"Yes, and here they are: I'm probably going to piss you off ninety-five percent of the time, I'm still going to hate the boring meetings you want me to go to, and I'm going to bring you flowers when I feel like it – which may be a lot."
I stared at him.
"So the guidelines are things you're already doing."
"With flowers," I repeated.
"So, are they acceptable?"
"Sure," I replied.
He smiled gently and swept an errant curl behind my ear. "There are more."
"I'm going to try very hard not to spend days in the shop, I'm never going to cheat on you and I'm going to keep flirting outrageously with you every chance I get."
I gazed at him in amazement. He had put thought into this; however, he was making promises I wasn't entirely sure he was going to be able to keep.
"Those are a lot of guidelines, Tony, and you're not really good with rules," I said gently, trying to communicate my trepidation.
"I will be with these," he said and it sounded like a vow.
"About you? Yes."
I proceeded to kiss him senseless for several pleasant moments before he pulled away from my lips.
"I thought we'd stay here today," he suggested.
"By here you mean?" I prompted, my lips grazing the hollow of his throat.
"Here, here, Pepper. In bed."
"Uh uh. You owe me shoes. Chanel opens at noon." I craned my head back to look at a clock. "Which gives us twenty minutes for this."
"I need at least twenty-one," he murmured into the curve of my shoulder.
"Well you shouldn't have wasted so much time talking then," I teased.
He rolled us over and grinned down at me. "I don't work well under pressure, Potts. You know that."
He looked at me for a long moment, then insinuated his hands around my torso - his thumbs at the bottom of my breasts - and his lips against mine. He kissed me, bossily, masterfully. I opened my mouth to him, grabbed him closer. Clung to him.
He broke off the kiss long before I was ready for him to.
"What? Why?" I complained.
"I have something for you," he said, crawling off of me, sliding his skin along mine more than was strictly necessary. "Wait here."
"You'll like it."
"We've only got fifteen minutes!"
"We'll have plenty of time. I promise," he grinned, then spun and strode away – every etched muscle moving in perfect unison.
We only had ten minutes left by the time he finally returned, his face clean, his hair somewhat tamed and looking indecently good.
"Here." He plopped back on the bed and handed me a familiar black and white box. It was a testament to the staggering beauty of his body that I hadn't even noticed he was carrying it.
"My shoes," I whispered.
"My shoes," I said, louder. "When did you get them?"
"The last time we were here." He sounded sheepish.
I looked from the box to his face and back again. "You threw the bet," I said. "You never intended on winning."
"No, I knew that you'd win. You're you, Potts. I'm me. It was a foregone conclusion."
I decided not to tell him how many times I'd almost lost the bet. It was better that way.
I looked down at the box in my lap and replayed Tony's earlier statement. "You've had my shoes for a month," I said, tearing the box open to make sure that they were in one piece.
Tony was not known for taking care of his shoes. Or clothes. Or house. Or cars. Or himself.
"Where did you keep them?" I demanded even as I pulled them out of the box and examined them. Every flower and bead was in place and accounted for.
"In a hermetically sealed vault in my bomb shelter. Jarvis constantly monitored the CO2 and oxygen levels and adjusted them automatically as needed."
"No. They're shoes, Pepper, not original, still-in-the-box Stars Wars figures."
I wrinkled my nose at him and continued to examine my shoes.
"You could've just bought them," he said. "You could've bought dozens of pairs."
"I'm an accountant," I reminded him.
He shook his head helplessly.
"How can you not under-? They're frivolous, Tony."
"It means not serious in att-."
"I know what it means, I just don't understand what it means in context to you."
"I can't wear these to work. I don't have a social life…."
He cleared his throat.
"Didn't have a social life. I couldn't justify buying them."
"You need to be better to yourself," he said.
I tipped my head and regarded him steadily, doubt filling my eyes.
"I'll teach you how." He clapped his hands together. "God, I'm going to be such a good influence on you."
"That's a frightening thought," I grinned.
"It shouldn't be," he huffed, pressing his hand on top of mine; together our hands slid along the leather and organza.
"I like Courtship Tony," I whispered.
"Sounds like an action figure," he grumbled, smiling.
My Tony, I thought. Wholly and only my Tony.
I put the shoes back in the box so I could grab his head and could pull him into a deep kiss; seconds later, I commenced trying to push him back onto the bed. He pushed me back upright. I pushed harder, deepening the kiss even more and reaching for important body parts. He took me by my forearms and carefully pushed me off of his body.
I blinked at him; he looked pointedly at the box.
"Don't you want to try them on?"
"Now?" We were naked and on a bed and…oh.
I took out the shoes, sighing a little as my fingers slid across the beading.
"May I?" Tony was holding his hand out towards me.
I gingerly handed him the left. His hands, calloused and big and warm, circled my ankle, guiding my foot to his knee; he slid the shoe on with all of the delicacy of a neurosurgeon.
It was incredibly sexy.
"The other one," he prompted; I surfaced from my hormonal haze and handed him the right. He ran his fingers gently across the arch of my foot, then slid the shoe on, circling his fingers around my ankle when he was done.
His head snapped up, eyes blazing. "How do they feel?"
"Good," I stammered.
"So, let's see." His tone was brisk and entirely at odds with his heated expression.
I got out of bed; they fit perfectly and felt wonderful.
Tony let out a low groan; I looked at him. He was staring fixedly at me, his eyes blown black with arousal.
"The shoes are as much for you as they are for me, aren't they?" I demanded.
I tapped my foot and stared him down.
"Maybe I've looked at them and thought about you modeling them for me."
I quirked an eyebrow.
"While naked," he admitted.
"And now I am."
"You most certainly are."
I smiled warmly and leaned forward. He took the hint and kissed me - so thoroughly that my head started to spin and my knees went watery. Then he put his clever hands on my skin.
I was ten seconds away from losing my mind entirely; I needed to secure the shoes before we went any further.
I pulled away from his busy lips and hands - taking myself a safe distance from him so I could balance on one leg and bend the other back and up. I was reaching for my left shoe when Tony cleared his throat. I stopped in mid-motion and stared at him silently.
"As completely unbelievable as it is watching you do that, I was thinking…," he dwindled, his eyes heating.
Understanding jolted through me – my Tony was kinky.
Then again, I was pretty sure he always had been.
"You want me to leave them on," I finished, dropping my foot back to the floor. "You want me to leave my brand new shoes on." My tone was designed to communicate the gravity of what he was asking of me.
His eyes widened and he practically panted out his, "Yeah."
My tone, obviously, had not been eloquent enough.
"I love these shoes, Tony."
"I do, too."
"I want them in one piece."
"They will be," he promised.
"You're completely turned on right now, aren't you?"
"God, yes. I don't think you understand what you and your shoes do to me."
All thought, every bit of judgment evaporated before the force of his voice, his eyes, his complete Tony-ness.
"Okay." I started to walk back towards the bed.
"Can you?" He twirled his hand around.
For several seconds, I merely stared at him – trying to decipher his sign language. When comprehension came it bolted through my system like lightning.
"I get it. You want me to walk around in them. You want me to pretend to make calls and send emails on my BlackBerry and yell at you about meetings while I'm wearing them."
His eyes raked over me – toes to head and toes again; my body tensed to pounce – then his gaze - adoring, incendiary - met mine and I began to fall, drown, fly all over again.
"To start, Miss Potts," he said, low and deep. "To start."