Rhodey had packed up his things and headed to the Crowne Plaza the next day where Happy was waiting outside. He checked in and then the two headed up to Rhodey's room to put his things away before going to see Tony and Pepper. When Rhodey and Happy arrived, Tony was the one who answered the door. He was dressed much more casual than the day before. He was just in a pair of jeans and a black tank top. Rhodey and Happy followed Tony to where Pepper was. She was in the mini dining room just sitting and looking at the table. She had a pair of jean shorts on and a pink tee shirt with her hair down. When she heard the door open and footsteps come her way she looked up and gave a small smile. Tony sat down in a chair beside her while Rhodey and Happy sat across from them.
"Well Platypus," Tony began and cleared his throat. "I would like to… to um…."
Pepper flashed him a look and Tony sighed. "I was a jackass yesterday."
Rhodey nodded and gave a small smile.
"You're forgiven Tony."
Tony gave a smile back and nodded. Pepper and Tony knew Rhodey (And Happy even if he didn't show it) had many questions about their relationship. Between Tony and Pepper, they agreed not to directly answer how long it's been, but would answer other questions.
"We know you both have questions." Pepper said. Rhodey gave out a little chuckle and looked away then back.
"Only a couple," he answered. Pepper nodded for him to proceed. "When did it start?"
Tony and Pepper looked at each other and she smiled. Tony took her hand under the table and laced their fingers together before looking back at their friends.
"A bit after Afghanistan," Pepper answered. She turned to Tony and ran a hand through his hair. "He was different, not as much of a…"
"Playboy?" Rhodey asked.
"Not just that, but it was part of it."
Rhodey smiled. It was about time they stopped beating around the bush. He watched the looks the couple shared and he knew they were serious. Tony was serious. Before anymore questions could be asked, Happy's stomach made it known. They all laughed and Happy blushed a bit before laughing with them.
"I didn't have breakfast this morning." He said. Pepper then realized she and Tony hadn't either.
"We could go out for lunch," Rhodey suggested. "I here Café Du Monde has good beignets."
Pepper gave a small smile thinking back to the last encounter she had there. That certainly wouldn't happen this time.
"I'm in!" Tony said and stood up.
"That's not exactly lunch food." Pepper said while standing up. Tony shrugged.
"We're on vacation, think of it as a late breakfast… kind of."
Pepper laughed and Tony took her hand. Rhodey and Happy stood up and headed to the door to wait while Tony and Pepper grabbed their sunglasses. Tony came back and looked at Happy, who was still in his professional clothing. He shook his head.
"You are going to bake in that. Go change." Tony ordered. Happy nodded and headed to his room to change. Tony then did a body glare at Rhodey. He was in jeans and a shirt.
"You are going to bake in that shirt." Tony said like he did to Happy. Rhodey rolled his eyes and then went back to his room to throw on a tee shirt.
"Do I pass your approval?" Pepper asked with a sweet smile on her face. Tony released her hand to cross his arms and stroke his goatee. Pepper giggled, as he looked her up and down. He shrugged and brought her close. Her hands went to his chest while his went to her hips. He bent down and kissed her. She slides one hand up to his neck, tangling her fingers in his hair and pulling him deeper into the kiss. Tony's hands slide up her back, one ending up on her lower back and the other on the upper part. It wasn't until an uncomfortable cough broke them out of their little land and they found they were making out in front of an open door. Happy and Rhodey were standing there with their eyebrows raised.
"You guys look like two seals fighting over a grape."
"Oh come on Pepper, you can't play fetch with a cat!"
"I think fish are a nice pet."
"Oh please, a fish is worse! You should have a platypus like Phineas and Ferb, Platypus!"
"That's funny, real funny."
"What about a hamster?"
"No way, those things are crapping machines."
"I still think cats are the best."
Tony sighed. Dogs were clearly the best pets. You know, man's best friend! The four of them were standing in line at Café Du Monde. The press was ordered by nearby police to stay out of the area so instead the press stood across the street taking long distance photos. Tony was holding Pepper's hand as she leant back against his chest. Happy and Rhodey stood in front of them.
"Hamsters aren't that bad. They are small enough." Happy commented. Tony just shook his head.
"I had a hamster when I was five and it was like every afternoon I was cleaning it's crap."
Pepper looked up at Tony.
"As opposed to dogs who use the toilet?"
Rhodey laughed as Tony's smile fell. "She got you there buddy."
"See, just give a cat the litter box and have it scented and you're good for a couple of days." Pepper said.
"What would you name this cat?" Tony asked. Pepper shrugged.
"It would all depend on the colour and gender. I like white kittens so… possibly…"
"Salt!" Tony piped up with the smile returning to his face. "That way you would be Salt and Pepper! Perfect match!"
Pepper just rolled her eyes with a smile.
"As lovely as that sounds, I'm going to have to say no."
Tony pouted. Rhodey and Happy just laughed along with Pepper. Soon they approached the window. Tony, Happy, and Pepper ordered while Rhodey got them a table… if he could. He managed to get one in the middle. The others came over with their food and sat down. Happy to the left of Tony and Pepper on the right, who was next to Rhodey. They continued to talk about pet names among other topics. Tony began getting an idea when he saw how Pepper's face lit up at the thought of having a kitten. The only question was whether he would put the plan to action here or in Malibu.
After eating, the continued to stroll down the street (press on the opposite side of the street) and stopped in stores every now and then. They stopped in one store where there was a huge display of masks. Pepper held a pink one up to her face while Rhodey took a blue one and Tony of course took a red one. Happy snapped a photo of them together, Pepper in between the two gentlemen. Tony told Pepper to pick out her favourite and she chose the pink one she posed for. Tony paid for his and Pepper's while Rhodey and Happy, who picked a green one, paid for theirs. They continued down the street, stopping in stores and looking around, for a little while longer. Pepper held onto Tony's muscular arm and had his hand in hers as they walked down the street. They made it for about three hours before a member of the press jumped in their face. Tony deflected Pepper from the camera while Happy moved and stood in the way of the camera and the couple. It was then they decided to turn around and go back to the car and head for the hotel. When they got back to the hotel, Rhodey left for a bit to make some phone calls and Happy decided to give Tony and Pepper some alone time.
"All I'm saying Tony is that we are in Louisiana and the food you want to have is Dominos?" Pepper asked as they walked into their room. Tony deposited their bags on a table before joining Pepper on the couch.
"I can't control what my stomach wants!" Tony teased. Pepper just shook her head and smiled.
"You sound like a pregnant woman when you say that."
Tony thought about the sentence, but then pushed it aside and took out his phone.
"Come on Potts!" He whined. "I say four large pizzas. One with pepperony, one with veggies, one meat lover, and one regular cheese."
Pepper shrugged and sat back on the couch so she was leaning on the arm. "I don't care what we order, I'm just pointing out how you can have any southern food and you choose pizza."
Tony smiled and had Jarvis order the pizzas. As Tony ordered, Pepper took the masks and headed into the bedroom to put them in her bag. She then crawled onto the bed and put her head down on the pillow. She closed her eyes, but then felt someone's presence in the room.
"Tired already?" Tony asked. He was standing at the foot of the bed looking down at her. "It's only four o'clock."
Pepper just closed her eyes again and smiled. She felt Tony hop onto the bed and lay beside her. She opened her eyes and turned her head to see Tony propped up on his arm looking back at her. Tony took her hand and just held it. Pepper gave a small smile and turned so she was on her elbow and looked at him. Pepper then moved so she was laying on him and her head resting on his chest. Tony held her and combed his hand through her hair. They didn't realize how long they had been lying there. It wasn't until Rhodey and Happy knocked on the door yelling they had the pizzas. Pepper reluctantly got up and off of Tony to answer the door. Tony stayed where he was for a brief second, still caught up in their moment. It was the smell of pizza the snapped him out of it.
Pepper lay there that night unable to fall asleep. She wasn't quite sure why. Her mind was spinning with thoughts and worries. Tomorrow was the day they would head back to Malibu and face the world. She never expected the week to go like this. For one, she thought it would remain an act. Then when it all came to the surface there was something different in the air between them and when she heard what Tony said to her father captured her heart. It was certainly not the Tony Stark she knew in Malibu. Granted, the Tony in Malibu after Afghanistan had a piece of her heart, but this Tony had her whole heart. She knew when they went back women would still throw themselves at him, he'd be invited to parties, and the parties would mostly have women. Maybe that is what she worried about. She worried about him hurting her. Judging by their conversation last night, she knew he didn't want to hurt her, but that didn't stop her worrying. She didn't let her worry show though because she knew it would… well Tony would start to worry. Maybe it was that she felt he needed to prove himself in their world as well as he did here. She feared if they ever got to the physical side of their relationship, she would wake up alone. Just like the other women she had to escort out of the house. She just hoped the side of Tony she's seen this week will stay when they are back in Malibu. She doesn't expect it completely, but she hopes for parts.
Like when he just takes her hand and holds it. Or the way he looks at her with his brown eyes. She has to admit she's never seen him look at any woman like that, which gives her hope. She turns and looks at Tony, who is fast asleep next to her. She moves a bit and takes his hand in hers before resting her head on her pillow and closing her eyes.
She thought Tony was asleep, but he wasn't.
He was as much awake as Pepper only with his eyes closed. Like Pepper, his head was jammed with worries and thoughts. He worried about hurting her when they return home. He never expected this week to go the way it did, but once he said everything to her father he knew how much he loved Pepper. It was true; how it was her voice he would try to remember when he sat in that cave. It was her face he tried imagining there with him. The sounds of her heels clicking through his garage instead the sound of heavy male footsteps. She was different than the other women and the difference can be summed up in one word. Love. He is in love with Virginia Potts. He has never cared about someone so much in his life. He thought about their moments together this week. In her room, dancing in her, swimming, the way she held onto his arm as they walked through the crowds, and then tonight just holding her hand and looking into her beautiful eyes. He felt his playboys slowly fading out and being replaced with his love for her. Never in his life had he turned down a drink or the chance to party all night. It all changed when Pepper and he kissed softly on that plane ride and when he felt her kiss back. He silently made a promise to himself that things would be different when they returned home. He knew she still worried slightly and he wanted that worry to go. He then felt her slip her hand in his and turn towards him. Once she settled, he opened his eyes a bit and found hers were closed. He moved a bit and wrapped his arm under her while his other hand still held hers. She curled into his side and Tony closed his eyes. Sleep soon overpowered them both.
The plane was scheduled to arrive the next morning. Pepper and Tony (yes Tony, too) woke up early and packed their things. Happy came knocking at the door to take their things down to the car. Rhodey was already waiting down in the lobby with his belongings. Tony and Pepper came down to the lobby and were holding hands as if they had been doing it for years. Rhodey still couldn't get over the image of them together. He was happy for them of course; it would just take time seeing them in this role.
"Ready to go platypus?" Tony asked as they approached Rhodey. Rhodey just shook his head and headed outside. To no surprise, the press was still out there. Rhodey cleared a pathway for Tony and Pepper, but the same reporter who jumped them yesterday got in Pepper's face.
"Miss. Potts can you confirm…" the reporter began when Pepper felt an arm wrap around her waist and pull away from the reporter. She and Tony got into the back seats while Rhodey rode shot gun.
"Is the press this bad outside my house, Happy?"
Happy shook his head. "If not worse."
"I suggest you make a press conference Tony." Rhodey said. Pepper nodded in agreement.
"I'll organize one when we get home."
The drive to the airport was about forty-five minutes long. Pepper was looking out the window until she felt something hit her shoulder. She looked and saw Tony had fallen asleep on her. She smiled softly and moved a bit so they were both more comfortable. He looked so peaceful. It was certainly better than him falling asleep on her smelling of booze. When they got to the airport, Happy and Rhodey got out of the car to grab luggage while Pepper woke Tony. She shook him gently before leaning down and kissing him with a smile. She felt him stir and respond within moments of their lips meeting. When she pulled away she saw he was looking up at her with a smile.
"I like waking up like that." He said. Pepper just chuckled and unbuckled to get out of the car. She frowned when she saw Tony didn't do the same. She went over to his side to open the door, but Rhodey got to it first. Tony fixed his jacket and stepped out of the car. They headed over to the plane and Pepper bit her tongue when she saw the young flight attendants waving at Tony. She looked to see if he would wave back, but he didn't. They boarded the plane and took their usual seats. Tony across from Pepper and Rhodey across from Happy. As the doors closed and the engines started Pepper watched Tony shift around in his seat. It wasn't until they were in the air that he stopped shifting. He unbuckled his seatbelt and excused himself to go to the bathroom. The flight attendants came over and asked if they wanted anything, but Pepper declined. She looked at Tony's seat and saw he had left his jacket in a heap. She looked away, but then she swore she saw the jacket move. She frowned and watched to see if it would again and it did! Pepper unbuckled and moved to Tony's jacket. She was going to touch it when it moved again and she snapped her hand back. It was then a little white head popped out from under the sleeve and Pepper gave a small gasp slash screech. She got onto her knees so she was eye level with the white kitten that popped out of Tony's jacket. It had a gold and red collar on with a little model arc reactor as a charm. Pepper picked up the kitten, who purred in her arms. She smiled down at the kitten and then heard a faint laugh from behind her. She turned around and saw Tony standing there with a smirk.
"How did you… I mean the charm… and…." Pepper asked. Tony smiled and approached her.
"I can't tell you all my magic tricks Potts."
Pepper put the kitten down in her seat and turned to Tony. She took his face in her hands and kissed him passionately. Tony wrapped his arms around her and brought her closer.
"Eww PDA…" Rhodey said teasingly. Happy chuckled and looked down at a magazine. Tony shot him a look and Pepper laughed. Tony pulled Pepper over to the couch and they sat down. The kitten jumped from the chair and followed Pepper. Pepper picked up the kitten and was going to hold her when the kitten jumped out of her arms and landed on Tony's chest. Tony frowned.
"What the hell?"
The kitten put her front paws on Tony's chest and stared at the blue light coming out from underneath his shirt. Pepper laughed.
"Looks like she is attracted to the glow of the arc reactor."
Tony looked down at the kitten and mumbled, "Not who I was hoping it would attract."
Pepper smiled and moved the kitten off of Tony and put her on the ground. Pepper then moved so she was laying on top of Tony. The beat of his heart was making her drift off to sleep. She whispered,
"I guess Salt is an okay name."
Tony made a fist in the air and smiled.
"I told you it is perfect!"
Pepper smiled and said softly, "It's the only name I hear in my head when I look at her."
Tony kissed the top of Pepper's head and was going to respond, but he saw her eyes were shut. She had fallen asleep. Tony just kissed her head once more before turning to look out the window. Soon they would be back in Malibu and in the real world. He knew the press would be waiting and the company would have questions as well. He also knew he had to find a way to fix the reactor from killing him if he could. He looked down at he again and he knew in his heart they would make it until the day he dies.
Because she is the reason he has a heart.