Author's note: Just a few words… I really liked the idea of introducing their budding relationship in this way- it seems right to me. haha. This is my first time writing Pepperony, so let me know how I'm doing. ;D All right. Happy reading, haha.
Pepper Potts would have preferred a quiet evening to herself. Nevertheless, she had an obligation to her job, and that included making sure Tony Stark found his way home after the music stopped and they no longer served drinks. She could understand her boss' need for entertainment, particularly after revealing the fact that he was Ironman. Tony loved attention, practically lived in the spotlight. There were times when Pepper wished that weren't the case, as "drunk Tony" could be quite the handful.
Luckily, he fallen deeply asleep in the back seat of the dark blue Mercedes they'd taken to the party. He still wore his suit and sunglasses, though the stylish Foster Grants had been pushed sideways to the top of his head. Pepper sat beside him, occasionally glancing over to make sure he hadn't completely crumpled to the floor. She pursed her lips and sighed.
"How much did he drink, Happy?"
"A lot," the bodyguard laughed as he turned the car.
Pepper shook her head, looking back toward the sleeping Tony. He looked so peaceful, in spite of the fact she knew he'd been bounding all over the hotel like a hyperactive child, full of crazy bravado and energy. He slid sideways in the seat and cracked his forehead on the window pane.
Pepper giggled. "Oh, Tony…"
Without even really thinking, she gently smoothed back his dark hair with her fingers. He murmured something and she smirked.
"We're almost home."
For some reason, the words struck her as odd. Pepper pulled her hand away from him and straightened up. Why had she said 'we?' There was no reason for her to think it was her home as well, even though she spent more time there than any other place, including her own apartment. She looked back at Tony.
What is it about you?
He didn't look particularly attractive in that moment, slumped sideways in the seat, shirt untucked, tie loosened and hair mussed. But Pepper found herself staring just the same…
"See if you can wake him up," Happy suddenly said.
Pepper jumped at the sound of his voice, automatically angry at herself for letting her thoughts wander so far.
"We'll be at the house soon. I'd prefer to take him in conscious."
She nodded, remembering the last time- they'd ended up leaving him in the car all night, still in the driveway. She gripped Tony's shoulder and gently shook him.
He frowned in his sleep and stirred. Pepper leaned closer.
He suddenly jerked awake, looking around wildly for a moment before realizing where he was. His dark, tired eyes settled on her and she fixed him with a small smile.
He grimaced. "Hey…"
With a sigh, Tony leaned back against the leather seats, rubbing his eyes. The sunglasses fell from his head into his lap and he yawned. When he turned to speak to her, Pepper could see a red splotch on his forehead from the window. She held back a laugh as he asked,
"When did we leave?"
"About two minutes after you decided to take a nap in the lobby of the hotel."
Tony smirked. "It was comfortable."
Pepper doubtfully arched an eyebrow. She could see he was already drifting back to sleep and grabbed for his arm.
"Not yet," she cautioned him, "Don't fall asleep yet!"
Tony scowled with his eyes closed. "What a weird thing to say…"
His head lolled to the side. Pepper pursed her lips.
The car suddenly swerved hard to the right, tires screeching. Pepper cried out and flew to the other side of the seat. Unfortunately, Tony fell right on top of her. He was completely asleep, even as Happy leaned on the horn, wrestling the Mercedes back into the lane.
"What happened?" Pepper gasped, struggling wriggle free from her boss' weight.
"Some jackass cut me off," Happy huffed, "How's Tony?"
Pepper pushed on his chest and managed to heave him back upright. She winced after feeling a twinge in her leg where his elbow had hit her.
"Oh," she sighed, "He's fine."
Her cheeks were red in embarrassment, and she mentally cursed herself again.
Get a hold of yourself, Potts. For God's sake.
She was relieved when Happy finally pulled into the long winding driveway of Tony's cliffside home. The lights popped on inside, signaling Jarvis had somehow anticipated their arrival. Pepper leaned back over the sleeping Tony and shook him again.
"Hey…Tony. You're home."
His eyes opened briefly and she thought he nodded, but couldn't be sure. Heaving a sigh, Pepper moved to open her side door and stepped out on to the driveway. She took in a calming breath of the cool salty air and circled around the Mercedes to where Happy now stood. He crossed his arms.
"Maybe we should just leave him."
Pepper smirked, moving a strand of strawberry blonde hair from her eyes. Happy read the look on her face and shook his head.
"All right. But it was your idea."
"It's easier this way," she assured him.
"He's not even awake."
To their surprise, one of the tinted windows suddenly slid down, revealing Tony, who snored loudly. His sunglasses were clenched in one hand. Happy chuckled.
"Just get him out of there," Pepper sighed.
Happy pushed Tony back through the window and popped open the door. Pepper gasped as she watched her boss fall forward and nearly hit his head on the pavement. The bodyguard caught him just in time.
"I told you," he growled, heaving Tony to his feet, "It's not as easy as it looks."
Pepper shut the door and took his other arm, slinging it across her shoulders. Together, she and Happy guided Tony up to the front door. He babbled incoherently as they walked. Happy managed to open the door, leaving Pepper to shuffle inside the entrance hall. He moved to shut the door behind them, but she said,
"I can take it from here, Happy."
He looked at her crookedly. "Are you sure?"
Tony tottered, but she wrapped her other arm around him and he stayed on his feet. She looked back at Happy and nodded.
"I'm sure. Take the rest of the night off-you definitely deserve it."
"Whatever you say, Miss Potts."
She smiled at him, trying to ignore the fact Tony had stepped on her foot. The bodyguard affectionately squeezed her shoulder and smirked.
Tony dropped his head heavily on to her shoulder and she winced. "Good night, Happy."
He headed out the door and it closed with a soft snap behind him. Pepper puffed her bangs from her eyes and began to walk Tony through the house. She kicked off her pumps and he snorted awake at the sudden movement.
"Potts," he said, confusedly.
"Let's get you upstairs."
"Well…wait. I need-I need to tell you something," Tony muttered, attempting to walk but only making more work for Pepper. "I was supposed…to say something earlier, but…"
"That's okay, Tony; you can always tell me tomorrow."
She had finally hauled him into the living room, where Jarvis greeted them with the time, temperature and moon phase. Pepper shushed him; Tony's head jerked up at the sound of the computer's voice.
"Hey, Jarvis-suit me up!" he demanded.
"I'm sorry, sir, but that is quite impossible at the moment."
Pepper waved for silence. "Jarvis, be quiet! Tony-" He stumbled and she managed to catch him. "Tony, use your legs, please."
She wrestled him over to the staircase leading up to the second floor, rolling her eyes as he giggled into her shoulder.
"Shall I dim the lights, Ms. Potts?" Jarvis asked.
"Yes, thank you," she said, frowning as Tony refused to place his foot on the steps. "And shut down for the night. Keep all the security systems on, the usual- OUCH!"
Tony had crushed her bare foot once again and she let go of him to rub away the pain. He heavily slumped to the polished stairs and blinked, sunglasses clattering to the floor. The lights dimmed as requested and Pepper heaved a frustrated sigh. She could see the white of Tony's smile in the semi-darkness and chewed thoughtfully on her lip
Why me? Am I really this stupid?
She could have let Happy do all of this, but hadn't. She'd elected to take care of Tony that night and she was going to see it through, regardless of whatever insane reason she'd taken on the burden in the first place.
You know exactly why. You know, but you won't admit to the fact that you actually wanted to be alone with him.
Pepper massaged her temples and tried to blot out all the ridiculous thoughts.
Oh, I need help.
She shook her head, knowing thinking too much would only make her job more difficult. Tony looked up as she came to stand beside him, arms akimbo.
"I want a cup of coffee," he announced, swaying slightly.
Pepper fixed him with an incredulous look. "It's almost two in the morning- I'm not getting you coffee."
"Fine. Tea's okay, too."
He grabbed her wrist and pulled her closer, so that she sat beside him on the staircase. She could see he was awake now, more lucid than he normally was after a party.
"I did the right thing, didn't I?
He still had her by the wrist. His grip was gentle, though he didn't give the impression of wanting to let go.
"If you're talking about trying to wedge a giant slice of cheesecake in your mouth, than no," Pepper replied, referring to the eating contest he'd struck up with Happy, one of the many bizarre things he'd done that night. "I'm surprised you lost, let alone lived."
Tony shook his head and scooted closer to her on his elbows. His mussed hair tickled her forearm. She looked away from him, surprised he no longer smelled like a walking martini.
"That's not what I mean. I'm talking about Ironman. Do you think I did the right thing, telling everyone?"
Pepper frowned, finally turning to face him. Tony was never doubtful about himself unless there was something he was confused about, which was rare in itself. He smirked.
"I don't want you to think I'm only after the fame."
She caught the joke and smiled. "You already have that."
Tony flashed her that toothy grin once again and shrugged. His elbow slipped on the step and he nearly cracked his chin on the way down. Pepper grabbed him by the arm and stood up.
"Let's go," she said, "Upstairs."
"No coffee, huh?"
Pepper guided him into his room and cautiously let go of him, praying he wouldn't fall over before he reached the bed. Strangely, Tony seemed to have gained most of his coordination back; he wobbled only slightly as she pulled the suit jacket from his shoulders. Something fell from the pockets and thudded on to the floor. Pepper gasped in disgust.
"Olives? Why did you-I-" She paused to search the pockets further and found a handful of them. "How many did you have?"
Tony turned lazily and frowned. "How many are there?"
Pepper shook her head in dismay, walking into his bathroom to chuck the olives in the garbage.
This is the man you work for. This is the man you think you love.
She squeezed her eyes shut as if that would get the thoughts to stop, and came back into the bedroom to find Tony fiddling confusedly with his tie. Pepper went over to help him untie the knot and he finally gave up, watching her.
"….Thanks," he said.
Pepper smirked as she moved the last of the light blue silk through her fingers.
"Where would you be without me?"
"Facedown on the blackjack table," Tony answered, quite truthfully.
Pepper allowed herself a laugh, wrapping the tie around her fingers. She remembered buying it for him awhile ago and wondered why he still had it.
"You look pretty tonight," he told her, as if he'd just realized it.
She had to shake her head; she was wearing her normal attire of a pencil skirt and a dark blue blouse- which she usually wore to Tony's spontaneous parties. It helped her feel comfortable when talking to all the scantily clad guests. Tony usually made fun of her for wearing such an outfit.
"And that has nothing to do with the fact you're drunk and I'm standing in you room?"
"I'm not drunk," he said.
Pepper just stared at him. Even as she dismissed his comment, she felt warmth in her cheeks all the same. Tony grabbed her hand and shrugged.
"Well…maybe a little."
She held back a laugh, refusing to look up at him; she tried to ignore the sudden pounding of her heart.
"You really need to go to sleep," she advised him, "before you do something else incredibly stupid tonight."
Pepper fixed him with a quick smile. Tony returned the gesture. He swayed slightly where he stood and she was scared for a moment that he'd fall backward. She almost laughed, turning to head from the room. She had barely taken three steps when Tony said,
"I love you."
She froze. "What?"
Tony ambled over to her and she finally looked up at him. His dark eyes were tired, but oddly wide, like a child's.
Oh my god. He meant it.
Pepper let out a nervous laugh, trying to ignore the sudden swirl of panicked thoughts.
"You really need some sleep, Tony."
And I need a really strong drink right about now.
He leaned closer still. "Pepper, I'm serious."
He's drunk- Big time.
She had to laugh again. "No, you're just…Tony, you drank like ten martinis…" she pressed a hand to his chest and gently pushed him toward the bed. "Good night."
"I really do, Potts," he told her, nodding his head a bit too fast, "I love you…Like…like fireworks, baby."
She frowned. Oh, boy.
"Yeah, y'know- everyone 'ooh's and 'ahh's when they see them and they're gorgeous when they light up. Nobody can look away- it's spectacular."
She grinned uncontrollably. There was the charm.
"Tony, you're very sweet," Pepper began. He leaned in close to her and she leaned away, giggling. "But you need to go to sleep."
He seemed very intent on doing something. She wasn't sure what it was-people didn't kiss like this. His eyes suddenly closed and his lips puckered slightly as if he wanted to kiss her, but he fell forward too quickly. His head slumped over her shoulder. Pepper yelped slightly and caught him, knees buckling.
Within seconds he was asleep again. She blinked in disbelief.
Story of my life. The man only tells me he loves me when he's had twelve martinis.
Pepper smiled again and walked-albeit with some difficulty- forward, setting Tony down on to his bed. He frowned slightly but hardly stirred. She slipped his shoes off and covered him halfway with a sheet. Standing over him, Pepper watched him sleep for a moment, shaking her head.
"All right," she sighed, "You've earned it."
Gently, she leaned down and pressed a single kiss to his forehead. Pepper straightened up and stroked his messy, curly hair.
"Good night, Tony."
She lingered a moment longer before finally turning to depart. The door closed behind her, leaving him in shadows. Her footsteps padded away and silence finally filled the house.
In the darkness, Tony Stark grinned to himself before finally falling asleep.