A/N: Props to Cincoflex for the prompt.


"Potts."

"Yes?"

"Did you... did you just lick my neck?"


(Thirty seconds earlier)


Pepper dropped a stack of travel authority forms the size of a phone book onto the desk in front of Tony.

"All of them?" he groaned.

"Did you go to all of these places?" she countered reasonably. As usual, she was standing behind him, poised over his shoulder to make sure he didn't miss a single one of her little sticky "SIGN HERE" arrows. "If so, then yes. If not, I'd like to know what you were doing this whole time."

He cocked his head to the side and grinned up at her. "Top secret superhero stuff."

"Mm-hmm." She looked patently unimpressed.

It was Tony's first day back in the office after a three-week tour promoting the Expo. He couldn't remember precisely where he'd been anymore. He was exhausted, and jet-lagged, and not particularly in the mood to sign an entire brick of paperwork.

It had been a hard three weeks—not least of all because Pepper had stayed behind to hold down the fort at Stark Industries. He hadn't realized how much he was actually going to miss her until he woke up one morning in Tokyo in a suite that felt strangely empty. It wasn't just the little things she did, like looking after his clothes or arranging his meals or ushering him on to all of his appointments; it was her warmth, her positive energy, her light. Her constant presence had become his keystone, the background noise of his life; without her, it was just too quiet in his head.

He loosened his tie and flicked open the top and collar buttons of his shirt. "I get a drink after this," he observed, squaring his shoulders. He would beat the stack of forms or he would die trying.

He was reaching for his fountain pen when he felt the very unexpected, but not unwelcome, sensation of something warm and soft and decidedly wet brushing against the back of his neck, travelling slowly along the join between his neck and shoulder.

He froze, trying to take stock of what could possibly be happening—which was difficult, given that the majority of his body's bloodflow had suddenly been redirected in a more southerly direction. The office was silent, so absolutely silent that he could actually hear the wetness of the object—a tongue, in point of fact—being dragged across his skin, producing an experience that was both obscene and exquisite.

He tried to speak, to inquire as to the precise nature of what was going on behind him, but all he was able to get out was a string of unrelated consonants. Then—just as he had decided to stop all this fussing and just go with it, tipping his head down and sideways to allow better access—it ceased altogether, as abruptly as it had begun.

He waited for an apology, an explanation—something, anything.

Pepper leaned over him, placing one hand on his shoulder to steady herself. Without a word, she plucked the fountain pen from its stand and nestled it between his fingers.

"Ngh." He wondered whether he might actually be having a stroke. (Or whether Pepper might give him one, if he asked very nicely.)

Pepper helpfully pointed to a box on the first page, tapping it with a manicured fingernail. "It starts with a 'T,'" she murmured, her breath hot and moist in his ear. (She was wrong, anyhow—he usually signed his full name on official documents, but that was entirely immaterial at this point.)

"Potts," he gasped.

"Yes?" She strolled over to the sideboard, clinked ice into a glass. She looked entirely unconcerned.

"Did you..." he couldn't quite believe he was saying it. "Did you just lick my neck?"

"Did I what?" she inquired absently, pouring him a generous ration of scotch. She was wearing a chocolate-brown suit, and her hair was carefully molded into a neat twist at the base of her skull. Her movements were steady, relaxed, professional. There was absolutely nothing coquettish or playful about her.

He wondered whether he could be experiencing some sort of psychotic break. He had been working pretty hard lately.

He reached up and ran his fingers experimentally along the ridge of trapezius muscle. The skin was damp. And hot.

"You licked my neck," he reiterated, with more certainty this time.

A tiny crease appeared in her brow. "Why would I do that?" She set the drink on the blotter, then eased into the chair opposite him, looking puzzled.

"I don't know, you did it!"

She blinked at him. "Are you going to sign those?" she asked plaintively. "I have a lot I want to get done today, and I can't finish your expense reports until I get the travel authorities submitted. You're supposed to do them before you travel."

"My neck is still wet, Pepper!"

"I'm not surprised—you're sweating like crazy. And you're all flushed." She reached across the desk and touched the back of her hand to his forehead, his cheeks. "You might be coming down with something. I'll call Happy to take you home, okay?"

"No—don't do that. I guess I'm just... tired." He was sweating, and shaking. He even felt a little feverish.

Pepper watched him, blue eyes brimming with concern. "Do you need anything?" she asked, her knuckles grazing his jawline as her hand fell away.

He needed her to do it again—which, since she clearly hadn't done it in the first place, was probably not likely to happen. Failing that, what he needed was about ten minutes of uninterrupted private time.

He shook his head. "I'll be fine. Thanks. I'll just... I'll work my way through this and give you a buzz when I'm done." He reached for the scotch as Pepper stood up and walked towards the door.

She turned in the doorway, paused, and said, "It's nice to have you back, Tony."

He smiled, and saluted her with his glass. "It's nice to be had."

Pepper gently closed the door behind her and walked slowly down the long hallway, smiling, and licking the salt from her lips.