AUTHOR'S NOTE: Okay, so I'm having so much fun with my Pepperony fics I've decided to post another one I've been working on. I've only got outlines done on this one, so don't expect as fast as updates as I've done with my other story, "Precious", okay? LOL I'll get that story done, and then concentrate on wrapping this one up as well, cause I do like to keep these things bumping along. I'm posting this because of the kind encouragement from seaandshe and fan1o1, so this is all your fault, guys. ;)
This story is set before the end of IM2 ie. Pepper and Tony aren't together, but Iron Man is definitely on the scene. I think Pepper is the most important relationship in Tony's world, because she requires more of him than anyone else. She makes him lift his game and examine himself more deeply, something Tony has studiously avoided for his entire life really.
Hopefully you'll find romance, angst, adventure, comedy and just an all round good time with this fic as we watch Pepper and Tony work out their relationship and deal with outside forces which threaten it.
Have fun with it, guys, and I'll post the second chapter soon, promise...
PS. Satis is Latin for enough, just so you know. :D
Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why a great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what he loves.
(French Mathematician, Philosopher and Physicist, 1623-1662)
Pepper Potts picked up yet another scattered piece of paper from the floor, aware of the noise of jet thrusters being fired behind her but not turning and acknowledging the presence of the owner of them. The machinery of the newcomer clinked and whirred as it walked towards her. Pepper continued to ignore them and the person who was making them.
"Bit of a mess Ms Potts. Your standards are dropping it seems."
"A prerequisite for doing this job," muttered Pepper under her breath as she stood up, papers in hand now and turned towards her desk, trying to sort things out there now.
"What was that?" asked Tony Stark as his Iron Man mask neatly popped back and his face was now visible.
Pepper didn't reply, knowing full well that the suit had advance capacities for picking up audio from over two miles away so Tony's question was just a part of their usual back and forth banter. A dance she knew well, too well it seemed to her tonight. The thing with dancing was you did all of this movement, exerted all of this energy but in the end you find yourself exactly where you started. Pepper straightened up then and turned around; casting a disapproving look on what remained of the window to her office and the fires that were burning in the city below.
"I see you've applied your usual finesse to the situation," she said coolly.
Tony looked back over his shoulder at the bright, burning lights and then back at her, a boyish grin on his face. "What can I say?" he said happily. "Call me enthusiastic."
"Is that the word you want me to use when I'm fielding the dozens of calls from irate city officials, citizen groups and newspapers tomorrow?" asked Pepper sweetly.
"Sure," agreed Tony blithely, "just try and work in magnificent there as well if you can, along with gorgeous, brilliant, and courageous. All of those would be good too."
Pepper turned her back on him and went back to tidying up her desk. The desk, along with her office, that had been turned upside down by the series of sonic blasts Iron Man had used to subdue the latest threat to public safety. The question was who was going to protect the public from Tony Stark's laissez-faire attitude towards consequences of his actions?
"Oh and humble," said Tony, managing to click his fingers in that iron suit of his as he watched her tidy. "Don't forget humble. I want you to work up that angle big time."
Pepper heard the whirl of his suit as he undoubtedly cocked his head as he watched her.
"What's the matter, Pepper?" he asked her curiously. "Your back looks angry."
Pepper turned around and looked at him then, her displeasure obvious on her face.
"And your front looks even angrier," said Tony slowly, "or gassy. I can never tell those two apart when it comes to your expressions."
"There are a lot of things you are clueless about Tony," said Pepper tightly.
"Okay," said Tony slowly, "you're mad, but it can't be at me, right?"
Pepper folded her arms in front of herself and simply raised an eyebrow at him.
"Really, me?" asked Tony, his eyes widening in a good facsimile of surprise. "But how can that be, Pepper? I'm adorable, ask anyone, ask Rhodey." Tony grimaced then and put up a finger. "Actually, if you are going to ask Rhodey, then just make sure to do it before he sees what happened to his car in that last little flyby of mine," said Tony ruefully. "After that he might be the littlest bit peeved with me."
"Tony you destroyed half the city tonight," said Pepper curtly.
"You're exaggerating," said Tony with a dismissive wave of his hand. "A couple of streets and they weren't even nice streets either. I'll build them new ones."
"You think throwing money at something will just fix it?" asked Pepper, her lips pressing together angrily.
"That has been my experience to date, yes," said Tony evenly, nodding his head.
"You didn't need to get involved, Tony," said Pepper with the smallest waver in her voice. "The police had it, but no, you just had to go in there, guns blazing, showing off your toy and your ego, risking your life!"
"I'm in a metal suit," pointed out Tony reasonably. "One that I built myself, and you're forgetting something very important, Pepper."
"Really?" said Pepper, pursing her lips, "do tell, Tony."
"You're forgetting that I'm a doyen of this suit," said Tony with the same confidence he applied to everything he did in life. "A veritable virtuoso, an ironic icon of iron suits."
"You're on fire," said Pepper flatly.
"Exactly," said Tony in satisfaction. "I'm indeed on fire, Pepper. No one can touch me."
"That's because you're on fire," she said dryly, pointing to a point on the back of Tony's left arm.
"Oh," said Tony in surprise, swatting at the small outburst of flames. He looked back at Pepper and gave her a rueful smile, the one that she always found it hard to stay mad at. "That was awkwardly timed," he announced, sounding anything but concerned by that fact. He looked at her then, dark eyes losing some of their teasing at long last. "Worried about me were you, Potts?" he asked her huskily.
It was meant to be more teasing but as always there was something underneath his question that hinted at more than what Tony was showing her. Sometimes Pepper thought he did all of these crazy things just to get her attention, to have her look at him with one of her disapproving looks. Like the boy who pulls the pig tails of the girl he likes in school rather than telling her how he feels. Other times though, particularly when she was watching Tony go off with his latest roll in the hay, Pepper was even more sure it was as always, all about him and his massive ego. He just liked the thought that she was thinking about him, just like he loved the thought of everyone in the world thinking about him. Iron Man was just a means to an end. Deep down Pepper knew she was being uncharitable to Tony in that moment but she wasn't in the mood to be kind to him right then.
"I don't want to do this tonight, Tony," she said, turning back to her desk just as more papers and files fell on the floor.
"Here," he offered, bending down to pick up the fallen papers, "let me."
"NO!" said Pepper sharply, her eyes widening at the business card that had fallen out with the rest of the papers. She hastily bent down to scoop them up before Tony saw it but she was too late.
"What's that?" asked Tony, eyeing the card she was trying to hide from him.
"Nothing," said Pepper quickly, moving the card behind her back.
"Pepper," said Tony, looking at her with his own look of censure now.
"Fine," said Pepper, realising how silly she was being and handing the card to him.
"Alex Linden," Tony read the card. "Do we know him?"
"It isn't important," said Pepper, going to take the card from him. "And yes, you've met him."
"Isn't he that short, dumpy guy with the lisp?" asked Tony, looking down at the card in his metallic hand.
"Actually Alex is tall and blonde," said Pepper sharply. "And he's the head curator of the London museum. We met him at one of your parties last year."
"Don't remember the guy," said Tony dismissively. "What are you doing with his card? Thinking of acquiring some more art for my collection?"
"Actually Alex saw the collection I've been amassing for you over the years and was very impressed," said Pepper coolly, "and he offered me a job."
"A job?" repeated Tony in surprise.
"Yes," said Pepper, unable to help the little smile that came to her lips at the memory, "he wants me to be the new curator of modern art at the London museum."
"Congratulations," said Tony with a nod of his head. "He must have been disappointed when you turned him down."
"I didn't turn him down," said Pepper, straightening her shoulders.
"It's not like you to string people along, Pepper," Tony commented slowly.
"That's because I'm not," said Pepper quietly. "I'm considering the offer."
"It's going to be quite the challenge to do both jobs," said Tony, looking at her steadily.
"Doing both jobs would be impossible," said Pepper simply.
Tony didn't miss a beat. "Then, no."
"No?" repeated Pepper in confusion.
"No, you can't take the curator job," said Tony as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"I wasn't asking your permission, Tony," said Pepper with a frown. "It's my life."
"I'm not sure what that has to do with anything," observed Tony straight faced.
"What it has to do is that you don't get to tell me no."
"Is this money, is that what this is about?"
"You're not my father and you don't get to tell me what I can and can't do."
"Because if it is money, then that is easily fixed."
"How can you think that this is about money, Tony?"
"Fine, it's not money then what is it about?"
"It's about the fact that you have to ask that question. You just drive me crazy!"
"I'm no good at guessing games, I'm better at poker, why don't we play a few hands and sort this out? Just to take the edge off, I think it should be strip poker, what do you say, Potts?"
Pepper stopped, giving up talking over the top of each other. It was their way but lately their way just frustrated her and she didn't know how much more she could take. Pepper put out her hand. "Can I have the card back, please?"
"Only if you promise to throw it away," said Tony, holding it out of her reach.
"Fine I'll throw it away," said Pepper calmly.
"You're just saying that," said Tony with a scowl. "I want your word, Pepper."
"Well, like a great many things when it comes to me Tony, you just can't have it," said Pepper snippily. She knew she was being mean to him but couldn't help herself. No one else probably would have noticed but she'd watched Iron Man's battle in the night sky just then and she'd seen how close he'd come to not pulling out of one particularly hard barrel dive with a missile on his tail and she was sure her heart stopped for a full minute while the scene played out. Iron Man scared her to death sometimes and Tony was even worse.
"You can't have it," said Tony with a quirk of his lips, still holding it out of her reach, mimicking her words.
"I don't need it," said Pepper with a shrug. "I have Alex on my PDA."
Pepper went to reach for it and show Tony, just to annoy him like he was annoying her. As she did, her hand got caught on some of the shards of glass lying all over the room and on her desk from the shattered window, courtesy of Iron Man's antics. She gave a little gasp of pain as the sharpness sliced through her unprotected flesh. Pepper jerked her hand away, holding it to her chest whilst wrapping her other hand around it.
"Did you cut yourself?" asked Tony immediately concerned. His suit hissed as he took an instinctive step towards her, reaching for Pepper's hand. "Show me."
"It's nothing," said Pepper a little unevenly, not exactly sure that her statement was quite correct as she clutched her hand to her chest.
"You're bleeding," said Tony insistently, concern colouring his face as he saw a thin rivet of blood run its way out of her clenched hand. "Show me, Pepper."
Iron Man's metallic hand encircled her wrist, surprisingly gentle for the power Pepper knew it was capable of. She reluctantly opened her hand and grimaced at the crimson stain pooling in the palm of her hand.
"It looks deep," said Tony unhappily.
"I'll live," said Pepper. She was finding it hard to concentrate when Tony was standing so close to her, warm brown eyes full of such concern for her. Why couldn't he just be a consistent jerk and then everything in her life would be so much easier?
"I hope so," said Tony softly, his eyes on hers again now, face barely inches from her own.
"Because you hate interviewing new staff?" offered up Pepper. She couldn't do this right now. She couldn't have Tony looking at her like that and do what she knew she had to do. It was just impossible, like the man himself.
"You know how I feel about details," said Tony with a half-smile.
"I know how you feel about a lot of things." Except me. Pepper knew Tony had a special affection for her otherwise she couldn't have kept working for him as long as she had. But in the end could she really build her whole life around a vague understanding? The question had been haunting her for some time now and until tonight Pepper had been too frightened to answer it. She withdrew her hand and moved to the other side of her desk, fetching a handkerchief from the draw.
"Let me," said Tony, watching her fumble with trying to tie the thing around her hand.
"Iron Man's hands are too big," said Pepper, not looking up as she managed to tie it at last. Pepper looked up at Tony. "He can't help me," she said quietly.
"I don't know if you know this, Pepper," said Tony with a quirk of his lips, "but I am Iron Man. There was this press conference and I kind of came out of the closet and everything."
Pepper didn't answer him, just looked back at him steadily, remembering that moment very clearly. It was the moment that their already complicated relationship had become a threesome.
"You're not doing it right, Potts," Tony chastised her. "Now you're meant to say something cool and pithy to put me in my place." He looked at her expectantly. "That's how the games played remember," he prompted her.
"I guess I've just had enough of games, Tony," said Pepper quietly, holding her injured hand to her chest. The chest that contained the heart that she could feel beating so unevenly, even as she spoke the words she'd been so afraid of giving voice to. "I don't know if I can stand here and watch you try and kill yourself every day any longer."
"What are you saying to me?" asked Tony, all amusement dropping from his face now.
"I'm saying that I think I'm done," said Pepper, trying to hold her voice steady under that dark gaze.
"For the day you mean?" prompted Tony. "You're done for the day. That's what you mean, right, Pepper?"
"For this day and all the rest," she said, suddenly not being able to look him in the eye.
"A vacation," nodded Tony thoughtfully. "Now that's a great idea, Potts. We can pop down to the South of France, do a little vineyard sightseeing, insult their cheese, you know, live life on the edge. You can rest that hand, I'll pour the wine."
"I don't need a holiday, Tony."
"Everyone needs a holiday some time, Pep," said Tony cheerfully. "Even me."
"You're entire life is a holiday Tony, one long party," said Pepper sharply. "You never stop."
"I stop when I'm with you," said Tony, looking at her intently.
"Yes, thank you for that," said Pepper, unable to help being hurt by his words. "I'm a buzz kill, I know."
"That isn't what I meant, Pepper," said Tony with a frown. "I meant I don't need-"
But Pepper was already walking out the door, her back to him.
"-to be anyone but me with you," he finished quietly to the empty room.
A sudden moment of panic came over him and he hurried to the door, watching as Pepper started down the stairs, wisely not choosing the elevator after the structural damage done to the building.
"So I'll see you tomorrow then?" he called down to her as she hurried down the stairs.
"No," called back Pepper shortly, not wanting to look up, not wanting to look back.
"Okay, good idea," agreed Tony, having to talk more loudly now as she moved further away from him. "Take a couple of days and then we can fight some more about it. That's a good plan."
Pepper didn't answer him, just kept heading determinedly down the stairs, blinking back the tears stinging her eyes. Why did this man of all men have to have her heart the way he did? The question was rhetorical because even if there was an answer it wouldn't change the fact that Pepper loved her boss, the irrepressible, impossible and maddening Anthony Stark. He was never going to change and a part of Pepper didn't want him to but she just couldn't keep going like this.
Her life was on hold, revolving around a man who spent most of his time being a twelve year old with his father's Visa card. She came to the bottom of the stairs and moved along the foyer until she was out in the cool night air, coming to a stop then. One day she was going to get a phone call or worse still, have a front row seat to the day Tony got himself killed and Pepper didn't know if she'd be able to endure that. He wouldn't listen to reason and if Pepper couldn't save Tony from himself then she wasn't sure what her role in his life really was. She looked down at her hand that was still wrapped in the white handkerchief, part of it stained red now from her wound. The wound Iron Man had inadvertently given her.
"Enough," whispered Pepper into the inky blackness, swallowing hard as she did, "enough."