Title: Five Times Tony Stark Proposed and One He Didn't
Fandom: Iron Man I & II
Characters/Pairing: Tony Stark/Pepper Potts, James Rhodes, Happy Hogan
Category: Humor, Angst, Romance, Drama
Rating: NC-17, eventually
Word count: 2,390
Summary: The fifth time Tony Stark proposed it was a retcon, romantic gesture thing.
Spoilers/Timeline: This one takes place after the second movie.
Disclaimer: All characters (Tony Stark, Pepper Potts blah blah etc.) and situations belong to Marvel Comics, Disney, etc. I'm not them. Also, Star Wars. Wtf?
Beta: Many thanks to infinitlight for taking a look at this for me. I was having a definite case of the new fandom jitters and her help and opinion was greatly appreciated. As was her fixing of all my commas. Commas hate me.
Author's Note: Early post, woo! I didn't think anyone would mind. Y'all don't mind right? Lol. Have a good weekend, y'all. I certainly will be. :D
If there was one thing Pepper Potts had learned from Tony Stark, it was never let them see you sweat. Never admit that sweating was even a possibility. She had learned well.
Currently Pepper was also about five hours late for a meeting of the Stark Industries board of directors. Which was about five hours later than she had ever, in her life, been for a meeting when it didn't involve struggling to cajole and strong-arm Tony into attending himself.
The deep breath that Pepper took the moment before she opened the conference room door was noticeable to no one else. Her stride didn't break. There was no momentary hesitation, and she certainly didn't straighten her spine or lift her head. No, Pepper had been prepared for battle from the moment she had stepped off the plane.
It wasn't her fault that some wannabe terrorist with pretensions of super-villainy had attacked Stark Towers in Manhattan that morning, operating on the assumption that Tony was in residence. He, in fact, had not been. It had only been an unexpected drop in by Rhodey and War Machine that had insured that her lateness was temporary and not permanent.
It left Pepper in no mood to take any of the board of director's usual crap. While Stark Industries had weathered some tough times, under Pepper's direction the ship had righted. Clean energy was far more morally acceptable than weapons manufacturing, and while they weren't quite making money hand over first yet, they soon would be.
There was also the fact that Pepper hadn't seen Tony in over two weeks. Her first glimpse of him as she opened the door with no attempt to stifle the sounds of her entry, revealed him leaning casually back in his chair, as if he hadn't a care in the world. The tension in his shoulders and the intensity of his eyes told Pepper a different story. And he looked like he had lost weight. Again.
"Ladies. Gentlemen. Members of the board. It's very good to be here this afternoon." Pepper hand brushed Tony's shoulder as she stepped behind him, her fingers brushing the bare skin of his neck. She saw his minute shiver out of the corner of her eye. Pepper was fairly certain she was the only one who would have noticed. She didn't remove her full attention from the board. They deserved no less and her relationship with Tony was for no one's public consumption.
"Yes, yes, but it would have been better this morning. When this meeting was scheduled, Miss Potts."
From Tony that form of address would have been an endearment. Coming from Alexander Barrington III it was a reminder that he viewed her as nothing more than Tony's personal assistant, with every unsavory 50's sexist connotation the title had deserved in Alexander Barrington III's heyday.
"I was unavoidably detained." Pepper would not apologize. Would not.
"It's like my name's not even on the side of the building." Tony glanced up at Pepper. "My name is still on the side of the building, right, Potts?"
Pepper's lips quirked into what Tony would know was a smile, the faintest twitch of the corner of her mouth. "Yes, Mr. Stark. Several of them actually."
"Excellent." He spun back to the board. "I just don't understand why you don't love me anymore, honey." Tony held a hand out, mock-imploring. "Is it something I've said?"
"In point of fact, Mr. Stark while you still own a controlling amount of Stark Industries, you are no longer CEO of Stark Industries and it is one of Miss Potts duties to meet with us and answer our questions."
Pepper took a step forward, towering in her heels, and leaned over the table bracing herself on both arms. "And it does make it so much more uncomfortable for you to attempt to force Mr. Stark out when he's actually present." The way that two of the older members of the board let their gaze slide down from her face to her chest didn't escape Pepper's notice.
"Now that's just mean."
Pepper wanted to laugh. She had found upon her promotion to CEO that when Tony was on her side, when she wasn't the one who had to clean up his messes, his unique brand of creating chaos and pissing people off was a joy to watch. He was the noise, energy and explosion that everyone wanted to dismiss and ignore. Pepper was the steel fist encased in a kid glove that came in behind him to ram the changes through while everyone was still distracted.
"Miss Potts, I think you can agree this company would be much better off without Mr. Stark's...reputation hanging over us."
"His reputation as an upstanding member of the community, who gives more to charitable organizations than this board makes in total - in a year, who has revolutionized the future of clean energy and made the world a safer place by striving to right the damage done by reckless policies that killed hundreds of innocent people and were once condoned by this very board? I can't think of anything that might be a better asset for this company. Having Mr. Stark as the face of Stark Industries makes me proud to be its CEO." Her voice was never once raised above her normal speaking tone.
Pepper felt warm fingers on her calf and was grateful that there was a large, imposing table between she and Tony and the rest of the board. There was no way they could see Tony's fingers stroking up and down the inside of her calf, just below her knee. It wasn't a sensual touch exactly, more of an acknowledgement of her defense. Coming from Tony however, it wasn't a completely platonic gesture. It never was.
"Your feelings about your job and this company are irrelevant. What is relevant is the way that Mr. Stark's hobby as Iron Man is making this company a target for unsavory elements who wish to attack him on a personal level. Construction had barely been completed on Stark Tower when it was severely damaged by the Chittauri attack."
"They attacked the whole damn Earth. It's not my fault that psycho demi-god thought my tower was the coolest one around," Tony shot back. "What do you want me to do? Be less awesome? It doesn't work that way, boys and girls."
"Someone has to be held responsible for the damages that were incurred."
"And he was. Shipped him all the way back home to his planet."
"Yes, but is he insured? Can he be tried in a court of law and be forced to pay for the damages that his actions incurred?"
Pepper straightened. "You're as insane as Loki, if you're going to try to make Mr. Stark responsible for the damages done by Loki. Especially when Mr. Stark was one of the only reasons that Loki was stopped - and it was not without great personal cost."
"What of that personal cost?" Tony was pinned with a demanding look. "If you had died, Mr. Stark, what would have become of your stake in the company? It is beyond irresponsible to leave the future of Stark Industries and all the people that it employs in jeopardy simply because of your recklessness. It would be better for all concerned if you would simply step away and let-"
"Let the adults take care of business?" Tony suggested, pushing his chair back from the table and rising. He met the eyes of every single board member in turn as he slowly rebuttoned his suit jacket. "Tried that. Ended up selling arms to terrorists and having my heart ripped out. Not gonna do it again." Tony laid a hand at the small of Pepper's back. "I gave you Pepper. Be happy with that."
"Or what, Mr. Stark?"
"Or I'll disband this board. I don't need you - or this company. What I do - who I am - is more than Stark Industries and if you can't get behind what we're trying to do, then we'll do it without you."
"You can't do that!"
"You're insane, Stark!"
"You bastard! Stane was right."
"You won't get away with this."
"Quiet." Pepper's voice was barely louder than usual but it cut through the chorus of angry voices with ease. "Mr. Stark can and Mr. Stark will. Furthermore I will do everything in my power to personally guarantee that no other project that you work on will ever succeed if you insist on continuing down this path." It was no idle comment. Pepper might have started out as just Tony's personal assistant but she had proven her worth and her ability to make someone rue the day that they had crossed her on more than one occasion. Working for Tony Stark was like going into a melee with only a sword and no shield. She had learned how to wield it quickly and with the most deadly intent.
"Is that a threat, Miss Potts?"
"No, an assurance." Pepper didn't give them a chance to continue. "But that's irrelevant. This discussion - and this meeting - is over."
"You can't dismiss our concerns that easily."
"I've addressed all of your concerns," Pepper countered. "As ridiculous and cowardly as they may have been. There's nothing more to say here."
"And if we don't feel satisfied?"
"Then you're free to leave the Stark Industries board."
"If we decide to take action against Mr. Stark instead?"
"The world will find out just how unruly your own affairs are - each of you." Pepper smiled at Barrington. "How is your wife, sir? Do you think you'll still be a respected member of the community once everyone discovers that you haven't spoken to her in six months. The cancer isn't even in remission."
Barrington blanched. The rest of the board was silent.
"Don't cross me. You have no idea what I'm capable of."
"Ladies and gentlemen, Pepper Potts." Tony, at his most antagonizing finest.
Pepper felt like kissing him; she just might do that once they were alone. A lot.
"Well that was fun."
"If that's really your idea of fun, then I should take you out more," Tony said wryly, tugging at his tie and dropping into the seat he had vacated earlier. He swiveled around until he could stare up at Pepper.
"You should, but that's not the point. You get off on explosions; I prefer more bloodless confrontations."
"I'm not sure about that," Tony said, using his feet to scoot the office chair closer to Pepper. He stopped when he was close enough that she was standing between his outstretched legs. "But are you implying that's what gets you off?"
Pepper rolled her eyes. "I would say that's the worst line that you've used on me, but it's not even in the top five."
Tony continued like she hadn't even spoken. "Because I was hoping I was what got you off."
"You're not always there," Pepper pointed out ruthlessly. "I haven't even seen you for two weeks."
"Are you saying I'm not what you imagine? That you don't think about my hands, my voice, my massive-"
"Ego? No. That's always been your least attractive feature." If only she wasn't lying about that. She wasn't, at least not completely. It was. In small doses. But Tony would never, ever know that, and unfortunately he never did anything in small doses.
"I'm wounded." Tony let his hands rest on her hips for a moment and then slid them down to the curve of her ass. "Comfort me?"
It was the pleading, puppy dog quality of his gaze that made Pepper laugh and let him pull her down to his lap. Even if she didn't really buy the puppy dog look and hadn't for years. It didn't matter. He had missed her and she had missed him just as much.
Tony wrapped his arms around her and Pepper sank into his embrace. She breathed him in as he pushed his nose against her neck, nuzzling against sensitive skin with his goatee. Her breath caught and she tightened her arm around his neck. There was nothing else like the solid strength of his arms around her. Pepper let one hand drift down to his chest to rest over the arc reactor. Its faint hum beneath her fingers was a familiar reassurance. She really had missed him so much. She didn't want to have to let him go.
"Missed you." Tony was the one to verbalize the thought. "Let's get out of here. Head back to the Tower. I haven't had a chance to say a proper hello." He dipped his head to capture her lips with his. None of his desire was hidden or repressed in it.
"Just one thing."
Tony jerked back to look at her. "Wait, isn't that my line?"
"Not this time, Stark. I beat you to it."
He covered her hand - the one that rest over his heart - with his, and realized that she was trembling faintly.
"I don't even get a minute to think about it?"
"I was sort of hoping you were a sure thing."
"I think I'm insulted."
"Tony." The quaver had migrated to Pepper's voice. For all her bold talk, Tony realized that Pepper wasn't so sure at all.
Tony nodded. "Damn right, Potts. You're not getting rid of me that easily. But don't think that means you can get away with not getting me the prettiest ring money can buy. I'm not a cheap date, you know."
Pepper didn't reply; she just laughed throwing her arms around him again and burying her face in his shoulder. Her laughter hitched into a sob.
There was no way in hell she was letting him go now.