Story: Tickle
Author: saichick
Challenge: Pepperony 100
Theme: 017 Rough
Rating: PG-13

Timeline: between IM1 and IM2

Preview: Pepper finds herself fantasizing about Tony's goatee. A fluffy Pepperony one-shot.

It was the slight scratchiness against her ear that alerted her to the fact Tony was looking over her shoulder at her laptop. Instinctively, she reached up to brush away the irritant and ended up running her hand along his cheek and down his chin like a lovers caress. She momentarily paused, frozen in place. Little jolts of electricity shot through her body as her hand registered the contrast between his soft cheek and the short, light, prickly hairs of his goatee.

"Oh," she exclaimed, pulling away her hand. "Tony, I didn't realize you were there!"

"Mmmm…" he murmured beside her ear. "Just looking at those figures you pulled up. Didn't mean to startle you."

The gentle tickle of his beard against her ear as his earthy baritone rumbled his words was distracting. She paused, waiting for him to finish looking and go back to whatever it was he had been doing, but he did not move.

"Don't mind me," he murmured, his goatee pleasantly itching against her ear in synch with the sound of his voice. "Just keep on doing what you were doing."

"Y-yes, Mr. Stark," she replied, trying to regain her composure so he wouldn't know his proximity was doing strange things to her internal defenses. A traitorous flush rose up and spread throughout her body and cheeks. She pulled up the next set of data and pretended to be focused on her work.

"Are these figures from last quarter, or this quarter?" he asked, peering intently at the screen from his perch behind her.

"This quarter, I think," Pepper practically stammered as the subtle scent of his after shave wafted over to her nostrils and made her gasp. Every time he spoke, the warm timber of his voice and gentle tickle of his rough goatee sent pleasant little thrills throughout her entire body. His warm breath moved against the side of her neck as he stood there, silently, studying the spreadsheets on her screen.

"Would you like me to, um, print these out for you?" she asked, the slight quiver in her voice betraying her attempts to maintain her professional demeanor.

"No, that's okay," he said, not moving. His goatee just barely caressed her ear as he spoke, just enough that the sensation had her totally distracted. "No need to kill any forests. Just pull them up and I'll look them over with you."

"Y-yes, Mr. Stark," she stammered, her heart racing. "What data do you want to look at next?" My god? Didn't he realize what he was doing to her?

"Compare the profit margins on the Intellicrops division between this quarter and the same quarter last year," he quietly requested, still next to her ear. "I want to see how eliminating the round-up gene from the corn seed has affected profits."

As he spoke, he leaned forward just a little to hit one of the function buttons on her computer with one hand. It was a good thing she was sitting down, Pepper thought, as the light scratchiness of his goatee brushing her cheek as he performed the slight movement forward and then back made her weak in the knees. He placed one hand on her shoulder for balance as he straightened back up and his hand remained there, radiating warmth down to her collarbone. Despite her best effort to concentrate, Pepper found herself wondering what it would be like to kiss her handsome boss and feel the roughness of his goatee against her mouth, her cheeks, her lips.

"Now can you do the same thing for the medical research division?" he murmured, his rough goatee just barely rubbing against her delicate earlobe like a kitten nibbling on the teat of its mother cat.

As Pepper pulled up the requested data, she found her thoughts migrating to a markedly inappropriate direction. What would it feel like to feel the roughness of his beard press against her neck as he made love to her? As he kissed down her throat down to her breasts. Down her abdomen? Down to…..

She jumped as he reached diagonally across her to grab a pencil she had sitting on the table and his goatee brushed against the bottom of her jaw bone and his curly, dark hair caressed her cheekbone. She inhaled the subtle pheromones of … male … something earthy and primal … underlying the sophisticated scent of his expensive aftershave.

"Ooops," he said, "sorry about that. Just getting a pencil." He immediately moved back into his favored perch next to her right ear where he could easily see what she was looking at. The same perch that sent thrills shooting through her body as his goatee tickled her ear.

It took every ounce of strength Pepper had to not turn her chair around, run her fingers through his dark hair, and pull him in for a kiss so she could feel his rough goatee scratch across her mouth. She wondered what it would be like to have that goatee tickle against the most intimate parts of her body as he made love to her.

Part of her wondered if he was doing this deliberately to break down her guard. He had, after all, been dropping not-too-subtle hints ever since his "I am Iron Man" announcement that he wanted more from her, but she was afraid of becoming just another notch on his bedpost. Tony had a dismal track record with women. She steeled her resolve and rolled her desk chair just a little to the left in order to extricate herself from the tantalizing position, turning to face him so he couldn't simply move with her and resume his distracting perch.

"Why don't you pull up a chair, Tony," she asked, smiling sweetly.

"No, that's okay," he said, standing up and straightening out his suit lapels. "I got what I wanted. Thank you, Miss Potts."

"You're welcome, Mr. Stark."