Hi everyone! Since I'm about to finish a long-running story, rather than go into withdrawal, I've decided to write a new and hopefully long-ish fic about Tony and Pepper. It's all from Tony's POV, unlike "Nightlight" and "Daylight," but "Love and the Man of Iron" will contain the same sorts of lovely moments between the two of them. (I'll try to follow the movies as closely as possible, but I reserve the right to make up some fun scenes of my own. :))

FYI, the title of this fic is sort of a joke (which you have probably heard before): it refers to the fact that Robert Downey Jr. has played both Tony Stark and Sherlock Holmes, and in one Sherlock Holmes novel, Watson refers to Holmes as "the man of iron." (Chapter 12 of "Hound of the Baskervilles"—check it out!) So, yeah—for a while I've known that if I ever did a longer TonyXPepper fic, this is what I'd have to call it. :) In this first chapter, Tony returns from Afghanistan and finds himself thinking about what his life needs to become, and why he thought about Pepper so much while he was gone. (Also, I plan to try and update every other week, but we'll see how that goes.) See you again soon!

Disclaimer: I own no part of the Marvel Universe...only my lustful thoughts for Tony Stark are my own...:)


It was strange to be back, after being away for so long. Tony didn't say much to Rhodey on the flight home—what was there to say? Things had been completely different when he'd left-he'd been completely different-and now he had a hole in his chest with an arc reactor inside, and he knew that the only way he'd ever get a decent night's sleep again was if he quit making weapons, and other than Rhodey, who the hell would have really missed him if he'd died? Obie, sure, but much as Tony thought of him as a second father, Tony had to admit that with Obie, what they had was as much about business as genuine affection. Pepper was different though.

He hadn't thought about her much at first. At first, it was hard to think about much of anything, other than the car battery that was keeping him alive. But then he'd been eating with Yinsin one day, and he'd wondered what she'd done on her birthday. He'd wondered, while they built the suit, what she was thinking while they looked for him, because as much as he annoyed her, Tony was sure that Pepper would actually miss him if he never came back. Which was nice, if a little strange.

She could do better than him, find a boss who'd pay her just as much without giving her nearly as much aggravation, but for years, she'd stuck by him. Tony didn't like the idea of her worrying about him, because he already owed her too much. How could you repay a person like Pepper? Not in any monetary sense, but for the fact that she was nice to him when she didn't have to be, got rid of girls for him, handled every detail of his life with almost unnerving good cheer.

Pepper was happy with her life, Tony decided, which was one of many sort of surprising things he'd decided in the cave, but she wasn't happy in spite of him. He hoped that maybe, for some weird reason, working for him actually made her happy, which was strange, because before all this, before the arc reactor, how often had he been happy? Actually happy, and not drunk, or determined to distract himself with girls or parties or working on his cars.

What was I trying to distract myself from anyway? he wondered on the flight home. That I can never live up to the guy my dad was? That in spite of what our PR firm says, we're not actually making the world a better place?

Pepper probably did make the world a better place though; how many charitable foundations had she, in his name, given huge sums of money to, and how many charities had Stark Industries started or sponsored since she'd started working for him? Probably lots. Maybe, just maybe, all of Pepper's hard work had intentionally improved more lives than he'd unintentionally destroyed through his complacency, his indifference or just plain ignorance of consequences.

I'm supposed to be a genius, but it doesn't take an IQ like mine to figure out that if you make things that explode, you're hurting at least as many people as you're helping, he thought grimly. Why was that not obvious before?

Looking back, Tony was pleasantly surprised that he'd had the sense to hire Pepper when he did. He'd known that he needed a personal assistant, and he'd interviewed several attractive candidates who could have kept track of his schedule and who would have slept with him, but even as young and as relatively stupid as he'd been at the time, Tony had known that he didn't need that. What he needed was a personal assistant who would be honest with him, who he could trust, and who would keep things professional. (He always tried to keep business separate from his notorious personal life, but several of those PA candidates had tempted him to break that rule.)

Somehow he'd known within thirty seconds of meeting Pepper that she was the only person for the job. Sure, she was pretty, but when she looked him in the eye, he didn't see an ulterior motive-attraction to most of the PA candidates had been a mutual thing, after all. Pepper, clearly, hadn't seen being his PA as a stepping stone to a better job, or as a way to get close to him for business or financial or personal reasons. She'd answered his cursory questions about education (she was smarter than the other candidates) and work experience (she'd been a secretary, but she'd have been promoted already if not for the fact that she questioned some decisions made by her boss, who did in fact sound like a bit of an asshole—Tony, who could be a bit of an ass himself, had an eye for that sort of thing).

"So, Miss Potts," Tony had said at the end of the interview. "Last question. Why should I hire you?"

"Well, I think the type of work experience I've described in my resume make me very qualified to—"

"Not—not the reason that sounds nice," Tony had said, waving his hand. "What is the honest reason that I should hire you?"

Pepper had given him an appraising look, and then she'd smiled very slightly, obviously realizing that whatever she said next would determine whether or not she got the job. "Honestly? From everything I know about you, Mr. Stark, which admittedly isn't much, your life is a mess, and you need someone to manage it. I can do that."

Tony had smiled a rare, genuine smile at that. (He hadn't been CEO for very long at that point, and sincerity had seemed like weakness of character to his younger and stupider self.)

"Okay, You're hired. Welcome aboard, Ms. Potts." And she'd been managing his life, with the patience of a saint, ever since.

As they landed, Tony knew that he had to get ready for what was coming next. Obie wasn't going to be happy, the board wasn't going to be happy...but Pepper might be happy if he tried to start doing the right thing for a change. Maybe he'd even be happy too-he'd been kind of a selfish jerk for thirty-plus years, but hey, better to try and change late in the game than not at all. Maybe the thing in his chest, horrible as it had seemed at first, was the beginning of something better, or at least a sign that if given the choice between dying and evolving, he'd evolve. Was he the kind of guy who could evolve into a decent human being? Stranger things had happened...