Disclaimers: All standard apply

Notes: For 'It's Always Been''s 7th challenge

Sometimes a Fantasy

"What are your fantasies?"

"Fantasies," Pepper repeats, as if the word is unfamiliar.

"Yeah," Tony slips behind her where she stands, bracing her with his arms. He drops a kiss onto her shoulder, only barely covered by the thin strap of her camisole. She can feel his smile against her skin. "If you tell me, then I can do them."

"For you?" she clarifies. Pepper ticks off on her fingers: "Being responsible. Telling time. Learning that alcohol is not a food group."

"Funny."

"I am completely serious." She reaches back to pat his cheek.

Tony growls. "What I meant was, what are some fantasies that get you through the cold, lonely nights I'm not here?"

The fact is, Tony is usually not here, in her penthouse apartment. He seems to have no interest that she can discern in the parts of her life that are unrelated to him. Their relationship exists on his terms, generally in his spaces. So much of her life as a whole exists in his spaces that he may not even realize that she has a life outside of him. Pepper has learned he hasn't been serious about another person since his days at MIT. And since Tony was only a teenager when he was in college, he's still feeling his way through an adult relationship. She doesn't mind, exactly. Pepper likes having space. Having a place of her own that she can retreat to when she needs to spend a little time away from Tony is a blessing. But the nights that she elects not to sleep over with him are lonely.

"Those," Pepper declares, twisting to face him. "All those ones that I just said."

"Okay," he huffs. "Maybe you need an example."

The implication that she did not understand his request riles her. Pepper understood. She's just not interested. "As majority shareholder, you are my boss at work, Mr. Stark. Not on my off-time and not in my imagination. You aren't going to change my fantasy life just because it doesn't suit your tastes."

"What I'm hearing is that you want to role play with formality."

She sighs. "Of course it is."

"Sounds fun," he purrs.

"What we already do is fun," Pepper says. "I'm very satisfied." She had considered stroking his ego to be a good move when the sentence left her mouth, but once it has and she processes what she said, Pepper begins to wonder if perhaps Tony's endgame isn't what she assumed it was, "...Are you," she asks cautiously, "..not?" He's more experienced than she is, of course. Pepper is no prude, but Tony's past promiscuity dwarfed any reasonable expectations about human sexual behavior. She is sure that he has done acts she could not even imagine.

"What?" He is thankfully aghast. "No! That's not what I'm driving at at all!"

She sighs, relieved. "Okay."

He settles one large hand on her hip, holding on to her. "You always say we need to communicate more. This is me communicating." With his other hand, Tony waves at the air between them. "We're talking. About your thoughts. Feeling. Etcetera." His voice and his head both drop, the former in pitch, the latter to her shoulder. He growls into her neck, "What do you think about when you're alone? What do you need from me?"

She snorts when his beard tickles her. "That's not entirely what I meant by communicating. But it's a start."

"Yeah?" He sounds terribly pleased.

Pepper pulls back and forces his head upright so that they can look each other in the eye. She smiles and rubs his arms as she says, "Fantasies are private...intimate...you are being entirely self-serving with this, but you still want to know about a dark little corner of my mind, one that's so far only been mine. It's definitely a start."

"Progress!" He declares. "Yes, this is me making progress."

"Exactly," she agrees. This line of thought was far superior to strawberries. "So." Pepper smirks. "You first."

Tony's smile disappears. "What?"

"What's one of your fantasies?" Pepper asks.

"...Will you do it?"

"Maybe," Pepper offers, uncertain. His pause worries her. "It's not weird, is it?"

He's suddenly very distant. It never ceases to amaze - or vex her - how easily he can disengage from everything and everyone around him. "Okay, yeah, I don't think you're ready for my fantasies."

"Tony."

He shrugs her concern, and her hands, away. "Forget it."

"This was your game," Pepper insists. "If you want to know me, I get to know you, too." He may be more experienced at seduction than she is, but Pepper is not without her own weapons. She knows how to inflame him and she is more than capable of being ruthless. Stroking his pecs, she asks in a whisper, "What do you think about when you're all alone?" She's glad she's barefoot; he feels more in control, more secure when he's the tallest person in the room. "When you're missing me?"

He gapes. "Pepper, I..."

She hasn't won yet, so she finishes his sentence for him. "Don't limit your fantasies to when you're alone?"

Tony relaxes instantly at the joke. Smiling, he confesses, "No, I really don't."

"Okay. Let's start off easier." Tony isn't accustomed to sharing personal information. Even when he wants to be open with her, it is a struggle. She's all ready let his emotional health fall to the wayside because she was stressed or upset with him a few too many times by her reckoning. He needs to talk. If he didn't, he wouldn't have breeched the subject to begin with. He just needs a little encouragement and a little guidance. "Before we were together, when it was just you," - a ripe time for fantasies, she is sure - "...wanting me, not being able to have me..." she kisses the corner of his mouth, mumbles "How did you picture it?" against his skin. Pepper is quite pleased when he shudders. "What did you want to happen between us?"

Silence stretches out between them. He licks his lips, then, "I'm in the suit." His words sound hollow, as though he's very far away. It's an odd start.

Pepper tucks her arms around his waist. "Yeah?"

Tony squeezes his eyes shut, as though he finds it physically impossible to look at her and be vulnerable at the same time. "I'm tired, I'm sore and I need you. I spend the whole trip home thinking about you, about you waiting for me." He stops.

"Do you want to sit down?" Pepper asks quietly. Before the question is even finished, she takes him by the hand and steers him towards the sofa. Once he's down, Pepper settles herself on his lap, straddling him. They are face to face, body to body this way. She winds her arms around his shoulders. He rubs her back, until quite suddenly, he remembers that he had been in the middle of a story. His eyes are open now, locked on her face.

"I get home, remove the suit. Toss the underlining on the floor. I go straight to the bathroom to wash up, and there you are," he smiles. It's dopey and lopsided. "I'm naked - but so are you. In fact, you're in the tub, waiting for me."

Pepper grins. "Are there candles?"

He shrugs. "If you want, sure. There are candles. Dim romantic lighting, the works."

"You'd prefer brighter light?" Pepper wonders. For the bath, candles were a necessity.

"I'd rather be able to see you if you're going to be wet and naked and ready for me," Tony breathes, "but shadows can be interesting if you have them in the right spot. Anyway, I go straight to you, into the tub."

"Mm-hm." Pepper hums.

"And you wash me."

She blinks. "That's," Pepper says, startled, "..not really what I expected."

"No," he smiles, really smiles at her. "It's good. Arousing, yeah, but this is my she loves me fantasy, not a drill her like she's never had before fantasy."

Pepper's own smile blossoms. "Okay. I wash you," she shifts on his lap, hugging him tighter. "Be more specific."

Tony's brow furrows. "Uh...you've got a loofa," His eyes flutter closed. "You're sitting behind me, start with my chest."

"Right," she agrees. "I'm washing you. Then what?"

"I lean back - this is why you being behind me is important - and kiss you."

"Do I kiss you back?" Pepper asks.

He frowns as his eyes pop open. "Of course you kiss back. Why would I have a sex fantasy about being rejected?"

Impishly, Pepper teases, "So this is a /idrill her like she's never had before/i fantasy?"

"Once I turn around, we fuck." He smirks. "Like you've never had before." His fingers dance up and down her spine. "And then you tell me that you've always loved me, that I'm all you ever wanted."

"Then what happens?" She is surprised how much his story has captivated her by the end. She needs to know what happens next. Does he reciprocate? Take her to the bedroom?

But Tony cocks his head and says simply, "Then nothing happens. That's the end."

Let down and disappointed, Pepper slumps. Of course the fantasy ended soon after the part he could masturbate to was over. It did not pass by her notice that he described her as a caretaker in greater detail than as a lover. Pepper knows intricate descriptions of certain activities are not beyond him, knows Tony likes to talk dirty. But that might be the reason he skipped that part - sharing his private thoughts is much harder than sharing his body. Though she was a major character, the story was still deeply personal. By telling it, he made himself vulnerable. He had to draw a line about how much he could expose.

Still... "I think I could do that one."

Tony sits up straighter, eyes bright. "Yeah?"

"Yes," Pepper answers. "I like it. It's sweet. And honestly," she admits, "Not what I was expecting."

He bumps his nose against hers. "Your turn."

Pepper leans back. "I took my turn. I added candles."

"Cheater," Tony grumbles.

"It's not cheating," Pepper protests. "We happen to like the same things. I have a better ending in mind. You'll see."