Pepper's uncertain which is more amazing, that Tony has realized decades of scientific blueballs through the creation of a working cold fusion device or that he didn't finish what he'd started on his birthday and reduce the house to a smoking crater in the Malibu cliffside. Looking at the circular device, propped as it is on filing cabinets and motorcycle seats and stacks of books, Pepper thinks that it's probably best to NEVER mention this to the Board of Directors. The last thing they need is a bunch of doomsday prophesiers picketing the front gates while Tony tinkers with his own miniature CERN model.

Tony had taken her silence pretty well at first, but she's aware that he's growing just a tad withdrawn at her continued reluctance to speak. However, he's well and truly struck her completely speechless, something that hasn't happened very often in their long association, at least not past that first year. If she thought she could control herself, she'd praise his ingenuity and leave it at that, because this really IS beyond genius. But she's also wavering between berating him for his carelessness – the chemical closet is sliced neatly in half and there are SCORCH MARKS on the wall above it.

Standing here is like coming back down the basement and finding him laid out on a chair and expecting her to perform something very much like heart surgery based solely on the fact that her hands are small. Standing here is a reminder that as unreal as their lives have gotten in the last year – in less than a year – that it's still just potentially the tip of the iceberg.

She's his anchor to the real world, and Pepper has always taken that responsibility seriously, but this is…

"This is…something else," she finally murmurs.

Tony cocks his head, eyes a little…shrouded. "That almost sounds like a bad thing."

That's a PERFECT observation, since Pepper hasn't actually decided if it's a good or bad thing yet, but she doesn't know how to admit it without sparking an avalanche that will turn the evening into a disaster. So she shakes her head and restates the truth in a way he'll be more open to hearing, as she's been doing for years. "Just…complicated. It's a lot to absorb at once."

"I guess I can sympathize with that." Tony reminds himself not everyone is as comfortable with being as casual with the laws of physics as he is, and that it's been a long week, and to not hope that a kiss – okay, a couple of kisses – and a tentative understanding might make her a little more open to the concept of fawning adoration.

"I can't believe you assembled this all in twenty-four hours," she finally murmurs.

He snorts. "What can I say? SHIELD essentially saw fit to 'ground' me here in the basement until I'd learned my lesson -"

"GROUND YOU?" Okay, so it's not as if Pepper hasn't had the exact same urge in the past, but that's different. And the difference is that as far as she's concerned, she's the only one who's allowed to bully Tony into anything.

"Complete with skulking agent who tried to look scary while threatening to beat on my ass." Her reaction breathes some new life into Tony so that he almost sounds cheerful as he says it. The sparkle in her eyes is the dangerous kind, and for once he's not on the receiving end.

He only hopes he gets to watch whenever she decides to let Fury have a piece of her mind.

Pepper shakes her head, muttering a whole lot of stuff under his breath that he pretends not to hear. She looks around the garage one last time, as if to reassure herself that it's mostly in one piece, then her eyes focus on the rooms he's set up for them.

"So, are you going to show me around?"

There's honest interest in her voice now which helps to soothe over his disappointment in her reaction to the generator a little more. Clearly there ARE things he can do that she doesn't disapprove of outright.

"In a bit," he replies as he takes her hand and leads her over to the kitchen area. "I don't know about you, but I'm hungry. Shop assembly always leaves me starving."

She nods, as the mere mention of food is enough to set her stomach rumbling, then she frowns a little. "Crap, I was supposed to pick out something from the -"

"Don't worry. I just improvised a little on dinner when Jarvis told me you'd fallen asleep."

"Improvised?" With Tony that might be the scariest word in history.

"Yes, assuming you can handle a temporary migration back to the sixties and seventies. I figured dinner could be a bit unconventional…" He leads her over to the - living area? - she'd only half noticed he's set up.

Pepper takes the seat he offers her on the couch, the skirt of her dress floating and falling softly around her as she settles in, wondering what he could possibly mean. However, when Tony lifts the domed lids on the table, she has to laugh in delight at the revealed impromptu fondue pots. There's the traditional pot of melted cheese sitting right next to a container of lightly steaming marinara sauce. There's cubes of cold roast chicken, steak, and boiled shrimp that probably came from a deli, and piles of bread. There's even an attempt to appear healthy; several smaller dishes of asparagus spears and triangles of artichoke, apple slices, cremini mushrooms, and even a bit of broccoli are all also there for the taking.

"Omelettes are overrated," Pepper says very seriously as Tony takes a seat next to her. "This is really fantastic, Tony." She has her suspicions about the tray he leaves covered, so reminds herself to leave room for dessert if she's right.

His grin is boyish. "Thanks, though the real truth is, I just like the chance to play with my food without being yelled at." He waggles his brow, then produces a small box of small metal skewers. "Though I have to admit a fondue pot cooks far, far better than the hotspot on a communications satellite dish or a Bunsen burner."

She snorts, "You've actually cooked on a satellite dish?"

"Hot dogs and s'mores. Back when Rhodes and I were at MIT."

Pepper accepts a skewer and quickly dips a mushroom into the marinara sauce. "How did that turn out for you? Was any of it edible?"

"Depends on your definition of edible," he replies easily. "Hunger, sauce, yadda yadda yadda."

The sauce is hot. Pepper breathes through her teeth as she tries to muffle her laughter. After she's swallowed her mouthful, she grins. "Does that mean you weren't eager to repeat the experiment?"

"I was a little worried about my...er...boys also getting fried. "

"Most cooks realize that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette," Pepper says mock seriously.

"Not MY eggs," he shoots back equally glib.

"I'm surprised you didn't have an automatic pizza delivery system in place for that sort of thing."

"They'd only deliver to the front door of the building. Why do you think I was inspired to build Dummy?" At the sound of his name, the robot comes rolling over, fire extinguisher in...claw, clearly anxious to put out the votive candles underneath the pots.

"Back off, Einstein," Tony warns, skewering his own piece of chicken carefully.

The robot shifts, almost fretfully, before beginning to retreat with an unhappy little chirrup.

"So..." Pepper ventures carefully as she watches it leave. "Are he and Butterfingers gonna be staying upstairs tonight?"

"Uhh..." Her question clearly surprises him. "I hadn't thought about it. I know you're probably eager to get this place shipshape again, but I'm not sure they're worth much as far as disaster restoration goes."

She blushes. "I was thinking more for, I don't know, privacy?"

"Privacy?" Tony blinks, obviously trying to work out her meaning. When he finally catches her drift, he can't help but laugh. Pepper is just so...adorable. Not that he'd be caught dead using that word, but that doesn't make it any less true. "The panels are smart glass, Pepper. Entirely opaque on this side. It's not as if they're going to be able to watch us."

"The walls may be opaque," Pepper murmurs as she twiddles with her fork. "But they're also ceiling-less. And I've seen their typical reaction to you when you start yelling. Besides," she murmurs. "Making out in front of Dummy would feel like making out in front of a three year old or something..."

"Try a two year old. One with a severe learning disorder," Tony scoffs. She's still blushing and he's drawn to the heat, shifting closer to her on the couch. "Seriously, Potts? It bugs you that much? 'Cause I mean, if the buckets of bolts are going to flip your modesty switch, I'll shut them down for the night. But still… really?"

Pepper can't help but notice that Tony sounds incredulous, and it just makes her blush more. "It's your fault," she mutters. "You're the one who made them so interactive. It'd just be...weird...if I knew they were down here, Tony."

Personally, Tony didn't see it. Though...Dummy did pick up the STRANGEST things sometimes…like that fire extinguisher he carried around like a security blanket. "Don't worry about," he finally says as he dunks a prawn into the marinara and offers it to her. "I usually put them offline to charge at night anyway. Keeps them from getting into too much trouble."

"Thank you." She leans forward, accepting the bit of food readily. "This place looks good," she offers, sweeping her gaze around the makeshift sitting area again, this time with a more critical eye. "Is this table new?"

"Nah...had Dummy pull it out of the sub basement. I think my mother found it in France."

"Really?"

"Yeah, she dragged me there almost every summer. Said the French were the only people in the world with taste in both clothing AND food. Well, except for the Italians of course. We used to visit the French Riviera most years during summer break."

"Is that how you became fluent in French? Yearly visits?" Pepper dips a cube of bread in the cheese and offers it to him in return.

"Yeah...six weeks every year of just Mom and I. It was great for the most part. We'd go to museums or shows or such during the day and I got to chat up the girls on the beach every evening."

"Your dad didn't come too?"

"He was too busy most of the time to join us except for maybe the last week. When he did show up it was GREAT though. He taught me chess – he used to give advice on my blue prints…"

A slight wrinkle forms in Pepper's brow. A week isn't a very long time, after all. However, she dips a slice of apple in the cheese and stays silent because she wants to hear more. Tony rarely talks about his early life with anyone.

Tony shrugs. "Not much more to say than that really. We lived in separate worlds so much of the time. I always thought once I graduated, left school, there'd be more time to get to know him. I mean he wanted me to tail him at the office for a couple of months after I left MIT...but I got a chance to travel with some school mates and Mom thought I needed a chance to 'spread my wings' a bit first before, as she put it, the family business swallowed me whole."

Tony's staring absently into the mid-distance, his thoughts far away now. Pepper hadn't meant to arouse the melancholy feeling that seemed to have gripped him, but memories had a funny way of taking on a life of their own.

To bring him back to the present, Pepper deliberately allows her next chunk of bread to fall into the pot with a softly murmured, "Oops..." though she does modulate her tone enough to ensure he'll hear it.

He looks down then back up, reaching over to kiss her gently in response. "Tradition, Ms. Potts," he informs her softly as he pulls away. "Guy to your left and all that..."

"I notice you oh-so-conveniently placed yourself on my left," Pepper murmurs, as if her actions hadn't been engineered to get just this response. "I think you may be attempting to take advantage of me, Mr. Stark."

"Me? NEVER..." He nudges the piece of broccoli she's just speared with a single fingertip. It clings in place stubbornly; he pouts. "Foiled by green stuff. Always knew vegetables were out to get me."

Pepper bumps her fork against the wall of the bowl as she withdraws her hand, efficiently causing the floret to drop back inside. "Oops." This time she meets Tony's eyes with a soft smile.

He smirks. "Okay, there YOU were obviously trying to put the moves on ME..."

"Are you sure?" Pepper leans in slowly. "Perhaps we should test that theory." Her lips press against his with agonizing softness before she pulls away. "I'm quickly losing interest in dinner. How about you?"

Tony considers a moment, before rapidly stuffing several more chunks of dipless meat into his mouth. "There's chocolate," he informs her, his words muddled by the speed with which he chews.

"You're going to upset your stomach if you eat too fast," Pepper tells him, most of her playfulness gone. "Take your time. I think I can be persuaded to linger over chocolate." And with that, she eagerly removes the dome from the last tray. She nearly moans at the sight of the small pot of melted chocolate, surrounded by chilled bowls of orange wedges, pineapple, cherries, and granny smiths. There's dried slices of mango, papaya, and banana as well as pretzel sticks and tiny, cream filled puff pastries.

Not a strawberry in sight, she notices wryly.

"We might have to bring this with us," she says without thinking as she spears a section of orange and plunges it into the chocolate.

The comment is enough to make Tony start coughing, loudly. Pepper gets up and comes back with two bottles of water one of which she opens and hands to him wordlessly before turning her attention back to her nearly guilt free chocolate.

Tony finally manages words. "You and chocolate in the same bed, Potts. I don't know, but I have a suspicion there wouldn't be room for three."

"I'm not that bad." This time Pepper dips a piece of mango into the chocolate, and nearly moans as she bites into it.

Tony just quirks and eyebrow and looks at her knowingly.

"Oh, just finish your own meal," Pepper grumbles under her breath. She really doesn't mind the teasing, but it's true that he does need to eat. If she lingers over something herself, then it's more likely that he'll eat until he's satisfied as well.

Tony nods and resumes eating eagerly, though this time it's clearly for efficiency of purpose and not just outright speed. "My appetite's really improving," he admits after a moment. "Probably because stuff isn't tasting so funny."

"I can imagine that might help." Pepper takes a sip of her own water before trying one of the pretzels; she wonders if Tony included them because he wanted to be teased.

To test him, Pepper dips one end of the pretzel into the chocolate before bringing it to her mouth. She catches Tony's eye briefly before starting suck the chocolate off.

Really, it's VERY good chocolate. It'd be a waste to eat it too quickly even if she weren't interesting in torturing Tony.

Tony groans softly, but keeps on working on his cheese covered broccoli. Once the bite is finished he clears his throat, "Make sure you leave SOME of that for ME."

"I don't know... It might be too rich for you. The chocolate I mean." She can tell by the glint in his eyes that neither of them are actually talking about the chocolate.

He raises a brow at that. "You're honestly questioning my...dessert...proclivities?"

"Well...you are recuperating." Pepper meets his eyes innocently as she bites down with a sharp crack. "Sweet and salty," she murmurs, just because she likes the flush crawling up Tony's neck from under his collar.

"We both know that recuperating's not the same as sick, Pep."

"Yes. But I also don't think you've ever had chocolate that's quite THIS good." Pepper leans in towards him just the tiniest bit, aware that his eyes follow her in, just darting down to her cleavage for a moment. "I wouldn't want to overwhelm you."

His eyes narrow slightly at her insinuation, but he plays along without protest. "Really? Here, let me taste..." He bends enough for his lips to brush across hers.

Pepper parts her lips eagerly, pulling him in to a slow, tenuous kiss, allowing him to sample both the chocolate on her lips and a taste of the metaphorical chocolate she's going to make damn sure he never takes for granted.

When they finally break the kiss they're both a little breathless.

"Dummy. Butterfingers. Upstairs. You're helping Jarvis with perimeter guard tonight…" The instruction is a near whisper but the robots go nonetheless

Once they enter the elevator Tony reaches forward to cover the fondue pots, then pushes himself up before extending a hand down to help her rise again.

"Come, Mon Chere…have a tour of Chez Stark."

Pepper shivers agreeably, though she does spare one last glance back for the chocolate. At least it'll reheat. Then his hand is folded comfortably around hers, and Pepper forgets about any other heat than the kind softly radiating between them.

She allows herself to be led toward the new partition, more than a little curious what she'll see. "And here, Mademoiselle, is the 'sitting room' - you'll note the change in flooring, as cement is unfit for our fair Belle's bare feet..."

Pepper's about to roll her eyes – as much at Tony's bad accent as at his exaggeration - when he pulls back the first partition door and she's greeted by an office space of sorts, complete with a small water fountain on the desk.

"You know, it makes sense now why you always settled down to work in the living room instead of claiming one of the rooms for an office. It must have been the sound of running water. I don't have any aquariums, but the living room had the waterfall." He gestures towards the desk. "It was the best I could do on short notice. PART of the best I could do," he acknowledges. "I figure it might help you keep your temper when people keep expecting you to have answers that you couldn't possibly be responsible for."

"Thank you." She's a little thrown by both the observation and resulting thoughtfulness. He only shrugs by gesturing her to the door for the larger of the rooms.

"And here, we have my lady's boudoir," Tony comments as he comes up behind Pepper who's stopped in the doorway. Across from her, playing along the smart glass panels, is an aquarium. Tony snaps and points, and the scene projects itself off the wall and into the room, holographic fish swirling and darting all around her as she steps further into the space. Once again Pepper finds she's unable to speak, but she certainly knows whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

"Tony, this is..." A turtle swims overhead. "AMAZING..."

The smile that draws from Tony is every bit as stunning. "I'm glad you approve." His arms wrap around her from behind for a moment as his head turns and his lips press against her right cheek. "Just beware Jarvis helped, and with his sense of humor, some of these may randomly speak..."

Pepper shakes her head, still a little too in awe to speak. Instead she turns and wraps her arms around Tony' shoulders and just hugs him. He holds her readily, posture loose and content.

Jarvis, whether or not he programmed any surprises into the aquarium program, seems to take a bit of pity on them, Tony thinks afterward. That's the only explanation he can come up with for why a soft rendition of "Beyond the Sea" starts playing.

They both start swaying, dancing mostly on instinct. Pepper tucks her face into Tony's neck and sighs deeply before taking another long breath in. He smells clean, like expensive soap and shampoo, but not like he'd put on any cologne. It's a simple version of Tony, not the pressed and polished Tony. It's her version of Tony, not that she doesn't like pressed and polished, but that's the one she has to share with the world.

Tony groans a little in reply at the gesture, hands tightening minusculely as he shifts to pull her a little closer. Her head pulls back and her hands wind up instinctively in his hair as she lifts her chin and kisses him again.

It's Tony's turn to sigh into the caress – both that of her hands and her lips. Pepper tastes like oranges and chocolate and something he can't name. She's warm and flexible in his arms as they slowly move around the room.

Both their eyes are more than half closed, which means they both nearly stumble when they eventually bump into the foot of the bed.

"Oooomph. Sorry. I didn't mean to do that. Well, okay, I did mean to kiss you but I didn't mean to almost..." Tony's chuckle cuts Pepper off before she can descend into wholesale nervous babbling again. Before she can as much as blink he's pivoted them both easily until they land with a mutual thump atop the comforter.

Tony strokes a hand along the line of Pepper's halter top, following it from neck to bodice. She sucks in a shaky breath, but doesn't look away. "This dress looks great on you, Pep." Tony means it, and so refrains from mentioning that it might look better on the floor. This has all been about not rushing her, and he's really not in a hurry to get her naked…yet. He wants to take the time to just look at her, especially in the dancing lights of the fish still flowing around them and the blue-white glow of his reactor.

The way her eyes crinkle at the corner though, is pretty good indication that she probably KNOWS what he's NOT saying. Her hand pushes on his shoulder gently, pushing him onto his back. "You don't look too bad yourself," she says, swinging a leg over his hips to straddle him. Her full skirt flares out with the motion, then settles over her legs lightly, pooling on his stomach as her fingers stroke softly over his burgundy shirt.

"I try. In fact most days I'm VERY trying." She rolls her eyes at the pun before leaning down again kiss in retaliation. He continues to let her lead, though he makes no effort to hide the growing bulge beneath his pants fly when her hips start rocking instinctively against his.

Pepper leans down, bracing her hands on the mattress to either side of Tony's head. "Well, at least I'm going to have a much more effective way of making you pay for it," she murmurs into his ear.

"Promises, promises," he whispers back hoarsely.

Pepper smiles as she starts kissing the exposed line of his neck. His skin is warm, just a little salty, and dry against her lips. Just another little reminder that his health has been on the fritz. 'Tony, Tony, Tony,' she thinks to herself with a mental shake of her head. And she can't even point out that this is what happens when he tries to go one week without her because he's been sick longer than a week, and it's not as if she's done much better.

Besides, its time to start appreciating the cure instead of obsessing over the disease. Most of her attention for the past couple of days has been on the bruises painted over his ribs and back, her concern outweighing her curiosity over the new reactor.

She nibbles the outer curve of his earlobe as her hands find the waist of his pants and work his shirt free. "I want to see it," she murmurs, meaning the new reactor but not really specifying.

He chuckles, the sound shaking both of them slightly, as his hands make their way to the hem of her dress, playing with the skin just beneath. "I should probably tell you not on the first date...but as we both know, I'm easy."

"I meant your reactor, genius," she replies, though her tone is affectionate. "You changed the housing on the suit." She knows she doesn't pay a lot of attention to Tony's...extra curricular activities, mainly to reduce her own stress levels, but the triangular shape on his chest had instantly snagged her attention. In a good way. It looked less like he had a target painted over his heart.

"Ahhhh. Help yourself, then," he drawls, laying back and hooking his hands behind his head easily.

Pepper kisses him quickly, a bit of reassurance that he has most of her attention still, then returns to her mission. With his shirt out of her way, she can trace the rim of the implant with her fingertips. She knows he's gone through a few generations of reactor in the last six months, but he'd never made her stick her hand inside of him again...something she appreciates.

The room is dark and the reactor is bright, but Pepper thinks she can make out of a few details if she squints. "Why a triangle instead of a circle?" she asks softly, glancing up at his face with eyes that are dazzled.

"Art imitating life? Starkonium is roughly triangular in its structure...plus as it turns out in a lot of cultures, a triangle is the sign for the masculine and a circle the feminine."

She snorts. "I like it." The reactor itself was still a circle - she doubted even Tony would carve himself a new space to fit a triangle - but she liked the new representation on the suit.

He grins. Drops his hand as if to scratch his chest for a moment before aborting the move. "It still feels normal sort of...I mean I get phantom sensation sometimes."

"Pain?" She winces.

"Uh uh. My sternum just used to get really ITCHY."

Pepper's lips tighten, but she nods and doesn't say anything scolding, for which he's grateful. He'd like to rest in her approval for at least a few seconds.

Then she shifts her body down and over so that she's lying along his side, and he kind of misses the heat of her body. Or he does until she turns his head with one gentle hand and starts kissing him again, her fingers sliding through his hair over and over, almost stroking or petting him.

His head drops to one side as he lets out a low sound.

Pepper raises an eyebrow in bemusement. "Are you actually PURRING?"

"All geniuses purr, I'm surprised you didn't know that. Don't stop." It's been so long since he's felt any kind of real pleasure, not to mention the lazy warmth currently flooding his body. He can't tell if it's that absence that makes her touch feel so damn good or if it's just because she's Pepper, and he honestly doesn't care enough to work it out at the moment. That it IS is more than enough to satisfy him. "Wait. Take off your dress and THEN don't stop." That's better. He does have a reputation to uphold after all.

She giggles before rolling over. "Smooth, Stark. Give me a hand with the zipper?"

"I'll give you a whole round of applause once it's down." He wastes no time finding the tiny zipper and slo-o-o-wly pulling it down before his hands slide under the loosened fabric and along bare skin. She's warm and soft and smooth and creamy white in the dancing blue light of the holographic aquarium.

Tony can't help himself; he curls into her back, face pressing into the nape of her neck as he breathes her in and starts pushing fabric out of his way so he can touch more of that addictively soft skin. He leaves the lingerie where it is because after her fuss about moods he wants to see what she's picked out for him, for them, for tonight, but everything else must go.

Pepper, thankfully, reacts to the move with nothing more than a hungry little shiver. She raises up just enough to help him slither the fabric past her hips and then down over her legs, finally lying in a haphazard pile near her feet.

Her toes are curled slightly, the nails a softly shining pink. Something about that makes him grin as he shifts into a sitting position to reach, almost instinctively, to cradle one of her ankles. Her foot jerks a little - ticklish perhaps?- as he runs a light touch up the instep, but she groans in what can only be approval as his thumb presses hard into the sole.

He looks up – perhaps to tease her about the possibility of a foot fetish, it's hard to say – but his eyes catch on the pretty blue bows decorating her white panties, and DAMN that works for him. Her bra, when he manages to raise his eyes, has the same decorations right where the straps attach to suspiciously scant cups.

He unconsciously wets his lips as he slides his fingers along her instep.

She whimpers openly.

"Something wrong?"

"Just you're unfairly good at that."

"I've always been good with my hands," he murmurs, completely distracted. He wonders if those bows will come undone if he tugs on them or if they're purely decorative. He wonders if she wears things like this on a regular basis or if this is special date night gear.

If it's the former it's going to play havoc with his sanity.

His hands caress her ankles softly before traveling again past her calves then up the inside of her legs. She shivers at the contact, which he keeps feather light till he reaches the space where thighs meet groin muscle where his thumbs dig in deeply. He watches her pelvic muscles tense, hips lifting off the bed just slightly.

She smells like...like Pepper times ten. There's no better description for it really,

"I thought the plan was for me to get out of my dress and then get back to petting you."

"Plans change," Tony replies, taking note of the slight tremble in Pepper's voice. And honestly, it's only luck that it's not in his as well. He does want to go back to lying in Pepper's arms while she strokes him, but he also wants to TOUCH.

"Besides you're DISTRACTING," he chides her softly. "I mean just LOOK at you..." He brushes his fingers across the fabric over her core - hears the whimper she tries to bite back.

He wants to hear that sound again, needs to hear it fully and not muffled. Without a second thought he slides his palm between her thighs so that he's cupping her fully and is rewarded when that little whimper falls out of an open mouth.

Pepper's lips purse – once she finds her self control - then she manages a order. "PATIENCE, Tony."

"Can't. Nonbeliever. It'd be total blasphemy." But he's supposed to be trying for her. So he compromises. He doesn't push his hand under the satin of her panties but he does start pressing kisses into the soft plane of muscle and skin that stretches between her hips.

She murmurs in contentment, at least for a moment. Then she seems to change her mind, sitting up part way. "Shelve the Lothario act for now and lose the trousers, Tony."

Tony shakes his head against her belly, not because he doesn't WANT to get a move on with the getting naked part of the evening, but because when weighed against losing contact with her skin, it's a six of one/half dozen of the other kind of prospect. And then when he DOES manage to peel himself away long enough to climb out of his trousers, Pepper rewards him by scooting out of range so he can't immediately collapse back on top of her.

He scowls a little, "Hey, no going shy on me..."

A slow smile spreads across Pepper's face. She stretches languorously, legs extending, chest arching, arms reaching before her body falls into a more relaxed position and she pats the mattress beside her as she turns to lay on one hip.

"Just encouraging you to slow down and check out the 'scenery..."

"Life time devoted tourist," he murmurs, hand stroking up her flank possessively.

"Promises, promises." She whispers his earlier words back to him without meeting his eyes, and her hands reach out for him before he can ask what she means or take offense - because he's pretty sure he already knows. But her hands are gentle and caress muscles far more used to absorbing massive amounts of kinetic energy, and his brain points out distantly that if she's here then she's willing to take more of a risk than her words indicate.

And so he does what has come naturally so many time before: choosing once again to simply let her lead. He slides of the bed with effortless grace and reaches for the clasp on his pants.

Pepper watches silently, her eyes sliding from his hands to his face to his belt as the pants come off. One eyebrow raises ever so slightly when the boxer briefs are revealed, but she doesn't say anything. Even when his hands hover, indecisively, over the waist band she merely shrugs, leaving the decision to bare all to him. She, after all, is still partially dressed - though Tony's not sure how much longer he can put up with the way those bows are taunting him.

It makes the decision to step out of the last bit of fabric easy.

He steadies himself with one hand on the end of the mattress as he undresses, aware his general balance may still be a little iffy. Funny but he's never been so self conscious about not looking like an idiot before.

He's pictured this coming together before, of course, multiple times. But he'd always assumed he'd be coming to it as the proverbial sculpted sex god, not with this still healing body. He covers that nervousness with a smile as he lets the boxers drop to the floor beside the bed.

Pepper's eyes linger on his bruises, but not overwhelmingly. She also makes a THOUROUGH inventory of the rest of him, and he doesn't miss the way she starts tracing quick little - dare he say impatient? - circles on her hip as she glances over the erection she's brought to life.

Finally her hand reaches out, one finger beckoning him meaningfully.

He comes back quickly - really, those bows need further investigation - scooting close enough to feel the heat coming off her but not so close that they're pressed up against each other. As eager as he is to touch, he also wants to find out what Pepper's going to do.

"I like the bows," he informs her. "They suit you."

"They seemed suitably festive," Pepper replies with an utterly feminine smile. She reaches up and toys with one of the bows on her bra. "Functional too."

Tony's hands twitch; as tempted as he's been to touch, she's just thrown him into hyperdrive. Once he manages to pull his eyes away from her hands – and her breasts, they're just too close to kid around now – he glances up to her face. Pepper Potts is SMIRKING. Not only that but there's definitely a cunning twinkle in her eye.

"You're seducing me," he accuses, frankly just a little bit shocked. After all, their relationship to this point has been defined by the way he tempted her into inappropriate behavior…and the way she resisted.

"Is it working?"

"Ohhhhhh yeah," he reassures her fervently.

Pepper slowly pulls one end of the ribbon free. She keeps pulling and pulling, and Tony keeps watching until the ribbon has come free entirely and she's dangling it in front of his face.

She raises one eyebrow as if to ask, "Well?"

He reaches down to remove its twin readily, delighting in the way the warm skin beneath his hands shivers just the slightest bit at the touch.

Pepper smiles, not a coy smile but a genuine one, and catches hold of the other side of the ribbon. She tugs gently, pulling his hand towards her, arching her chest towards him once she's gotten him within range.

It takes him less than ten seconds to find and free her bra clasp. He supposes he should take more time to appreciate it's intent to tease both of them, but the truth is he can all but feel the hastening end of his patience.

Pepper's sigh is shaky and ends on a soft moan as his hands find and cover her breasts. Her fingers press into his shoulders and her legs - covered in ridiculously silky skin - shift against his as she arches into him again.

One thumb shifts enough to gently circle around one areole, eyes on her face to watch her reaction.

"That's nice." Somehow she turns the words into both an encouragement and a challenge.

His eyes narrow a little before his fingers tweak the nipples a little more firmly.

"Ooohh...better than nice." Pepper's eyes fall shut and she takes a deep breath between parted lips.

"Good to know." His nails gently rake down her sides and across her belly.

She acts without warning, one hand trapping his against her belly the other hooking behind his neck to pull him close enough to kiss. There's nothing tentative about her mouth, her lips are soft and eager.

He lets her lead, content to simply enjoy her passion. They end up with her once again straddling his hips eventually. The teasing rock of flesh against flesh is almost as unbearable as it is sweet.

He can't help the way he murmurs her name, can't help the way his body strains towards hers, certainly can't help the way his hands zero in on the hot, slick juncture of her body where he so desperately wants to be.

He thinks he might actually moan. Knows for sure that if he did, then her moan covers it completely.

When her hands encircle his warmth he surprises both of them by actually GROWLING deeply. Pepper lets out a little giggle, but doesn't lighten her grip.

"Pepper, oh god, careful -" He's been hungry for her all day and honestly his self-control right now isn't what it's renowned to be. And he'd really like this to be more than a heavy petting session.

"Don't want to," she replies, hand moving a little more rapidly.

"I'm gonna..." He half protests half whines.

"Go ahead. After you can make it up to me." He can hear the smirk in her voice as she leans down.

He'd argue, if he had the mental resources left. In fact he gives up on just about everything but breathing. This particular version of Pepper strong-arming him into her way of thinking is scarily effective.

The thought makes him groan; that's really sexy.

Orgasm comes quickly - embarrassingly so. It's not the longest or the strongest he's ever had, but he's astounded by the emotional rush of contentment that follows - the warmth of her body and the smell of the crook of her neck where he buries his face.

He can hear Pepper chuckling softly, but can't find enough energy to care. As long as she keeps holding him close she can do whatever the hell she wants.

"I love you." The words are absolutely sincere, even if they do come out a little abruptly.

"I'm sure," she replies, and there's still laughter in her voice. Clearly she's attributing his words to his orgasm and nothing more.

He manages to pull back enough to lift her chin and kiss her fiercely nonetheless. She purrs and relaxes her body into his, her fingers starting to stroke through his hair once more almost absentmindedly.

"You said something about my returning the favor?" he says when he finally pulls back, grinning gently.

"When you're up for it." Pepper shifts slightly, so that she's no longer resting on top of him but is instead pressed against his side. "Though that reminds me, I did want to warn you about something."

He raises an eyebrow at that questioningly.

"Should you wake up before I do - which is probably unlikely - I'll need you to keep it down. You can go work on the cars, or the suit, but I'll strangle you if your deafening rock music is what wakes me up tomorrow." He can feel the smile on her face when she presses a kiss against his shoulder.

He chuckles. "Guess tomorrow I'll have to update Chez Stark with better soundproofing. Wait..." The…personal history…that may have spurred her offer occurs to him abruptly. "Are you giving me permission to hide from you?" He doesn't know if he's insulted or amazed by her foresight. Not that he has any intention of hiding, but incase the morning brings surprises…

Pepper snorts. "Hide? You could try. It wouldn't get you far. I just...wanted to let you know that I'm not going to be offended if you wake up and need to move. You get antsy after breaking your, um, dry spells."

"Antsy?" He all but squawks in amusement at the descriptor. "What am I...like three?"

"Thirty eight going on seventeen, thank God," she informs him faux sweetly.

He pounces her quite effectively in retaliation.

"Mmmm..." Pepper stretches under him slowly, hands raking through his hair with enough pressure from her nails to make him shiver.

"Noooooooooowwwwwwwwwwww," he says, rising up on his arms above her, "Where were we?"

"Reciprocation?" The way her foot is rubbing up and down along his calf asks for something a hell of a lot dirtier than mere reciprocation. Not that he has any interest in arguing.

"Yeah that works for me."