|Pepper is (hisonething) wrote in avengers_logs,|
@ 2018-04-14 19:27:00
|Entry tags:||-complete, pepper potts, tony stark|
Who: Pepper Potts and Tony Stark
What: Pepper is back in town
Rating/Warnings: Yellow for Tony
After helping Shuri get everything shipped over from Wakanda and set up in her own lab, it was safe to say that Tony was face deep in a tech-sharing wonderland. Shuri was helping him upgrade the next Iron Man suit by leaps and bounds. As a futurist, this was the kind of thing that made him truly happy.
It was also the sort of coping mechanism that Tony used when his personal life was in ruins around him. He logged lab time after Afghanistan. He logged just as much lab time as he did destructively partying or race car racing during the Palladium poisoning scare. He facerolled into it with Bruce to create Ultron, and puttered around in a empty headquarters after Cap and everyone else left, including Pepper.
And now that Pepper was gone, again, Tony was logging lab time between the upstate HQ where Hulk was, and shuffling around for an hour or two in the corporate complex in the city. It took time to get back in and out of Pepper not being there. She didn't harass him to eat, or drink water, or shower, or rest...or bicker with him for the sake of there not being too much quiet. He went home to the penthouse, and there wasn't the sound of the shows she liked watching, or tapping on a keyboard, or taking a phone call. It was quiet. So Tony stopped going home. Just like he stopped going into her office, where all those spinny kinetic torture devices were on her desk.
He hated quiet. Everything around him was bustle and noise and talking and music. Lots of music. It was the clinking of tools or the typing of keys. It was perpetual motion. Tony liked motion and moving forward, even if he imagined that he would be doing that with Pepper.
No such luck. Maybe someday.
Today, he was at the corporate complex, sitting at a desk in his personal lab space on the twenty-first floor. His fingers were tapping away at some last lines of coding, music blaring. Van Halen's 1984. 'Hot For Teacher'.
Don't hate. Appreciate.
Pepper had left. There were a thousand and more reasons for her to leave Tony, but only one that finally had pushed her to it. He wouldn’t keep his promise to retire. He hadn’t even stepped back. No, instead he’d pushed those stupid accords and alienated himself from everyone who cared about it. Tony carried his guilt around like a security blanket. Pepper had tried to wean him from it. It had worked for a while, but then the Ultron incident had pushed him right back into it. There had been no stopping him so Pepper had told him enough was enough, packed her things and moved back to Los Angeles where she ran Stark Industries.
The universe hated her, apparently. She had been brokering a deal of mutual information exchange with a tech company in Japan. Pepper had offered to fly to Japan to meet with them, but nope. They not only insisted on coming to the states, but they wanted to meet in New York City. They wanted the whole tourist package. Ellis Island. Time Square. A Broadway show...which wasn’t so bad since she enjoyed Hamilton enough to see it for a fifth time. But it meant she would have to go to the east coast corporate office...where Tony was.
There was no help for it. If she wanted the deal she would go to New York.
Pepper had been kept apprised of Tony’s behavior and what he was doing. She told herself it was for professional reasons. She never could lie to herself very well, but she was trying! The plan was to just get it over with so she could focus on business. So she appeared in the doorway of Tony’s office, her hair up behind her head, her pencil skirt corporate chic impeccable. One look at her told her all she needed to know.
“You look like hell, Tony.”
Tony swiveled the chair around to get a good look at Pepper, blearily blinking a few times as though he was seeing some figment of his imagination. Or maybe focusing his eyes on something other than coding on a brightly lit screen. Once it registered that Pepper was really there and she was real - he checked because he made a sarcastic show of pinching himself on the arm - he smiled up at her. Sure, he was still bearing some scrapes and bruises from piggybacking during the Hulk rampage. The smile was still instantly charming and brightly illuminated thanks to the fact his goatee was being filled in by a five o'clock shadow.
"Not true! I look scruffy cute. Like a pound puppy."
A perpetual pound puppy that no one wanted to adopt, because the puppy liked being in the dog house too much. Everything about Tony Stark spelled Trouble (see that capital T?), but he was trying to get himself on track. Somewhat. He was doing right by the kid, at least. Not by himself, with the state of his hair looking like he'd rolled off a desk he was taking a nap on, hit the floor face-first, and started working in whatever he was wearing, yesterday.
"You look...." His eyes skimmed downward and then right back up again. 'Good' came to mind. 'Sexy as ever' was a close second. His mouth opened and he blurted out, "....very professional today. Gotta meeting?"
That's right. Keeping it casual and totally professional. High five for himself. And he started nodding like there was some serious mental high fiving going on.
Pepper watched him go through all of that. With the state he was in she could read him like a book. She knew exactly what he had wanted to say. One ginger brow quirked upward, but her lips remained in that mew of disapproval. At least he had the good sense to not let what he’d been thinking come out his mouth.
And he looked good...even if he did look worse than she’d ever seen him.
That thought kept Pepper right where she was in the doorway. “A bunch of them, actually.” She tried for cold indifference and could hear the edge of failure in her tone. Damn it! “The information exchange deal will be finalized here. They insisted.”
"Neat. Who's they, and they better not try to lure you into a strip club. Just say no."
Because if they did try to pull that crap on Pepper, Iron Man was going to give them a big iron punch to the face. All of the faces. Because for a moment, he swore there was that sort of tone to Pepper's voice like she was aiming for aloof and missed it by a mile. That's when his smile hit a nice mixture of cocky and megawatt cutesy.
"So you decided to check in on me before the meeting, Potts?" he hinted, without any subtlety. A fact he proved when he throw out both arms to his side and spun himself around in the chair, for one full rotation. He abruptly stopped when he was facing her again. "Still alive! Woo. Anyway. How've you been?"
Pepper just sighed. Fortunately, the businessmen did just want the tour. Still, there was nothing to gain by feeding into Tony’s brand of humor so she ignored it. “They are the best Japanese coding company. You still don’t read your email, do you.” More statement. Less question.
Damn it. There was a smile. He knew how effective it could be on her...the bastard. Pepper mustered up her resolve. It showed by how her shoulders stiffened. “Barely,” she said. “You look like you haven’t slept in days, and haven’t showered longer.” She wrinkled her nose for effect.
“I’m fine.” The answer was clipped.
"Yeah? Well I'm fine too. Aging. Fine. Like wine. Or cheese."
Some of which was stinky, so he wasn't about to do a sniff test on himself. Except he just did by tipping his chin down, pinching his t-shirt, and cautiously sniffing himself. There was a slight hint of a cheese and wine platter going on, as far as being fermented went. Tony reminded himself not to make any more food references, so they could both forget about what he just said. Including threats to Japanese businessmen, that Tony had hung out with in Tokyo gentlemens 'clubs' with, and gotten rubbernecked on too much sake. Those guys were hedonists when they were off the clock. At least Pepper was capable of killing people with her high heels, which was....the world's sexiest thought, actually.
His eyes glazed over a little while he stared up at her from where he was sitting.
"You look fine," he said, agreeing with her in more ways than one. First, obviously, she looked like she was doing fine. Second, more obviously, damn Pepper. So fine. And hot. And he swore he wasn't turned on, but he was a little turned on by Business Pepper. His very broken up with profoundly significant other, that he would propulsor punch businessmen in the face for.
"You look like you're doing great," he covered up, coughed to clear his throat, and slowly rotated the chair back to the computer, because he was Tony Stark and he didn't beg his exes to come back. Even when he felt like compulsively asking them to come back. Like right then. Time to change the subject. "You said something about email? Is it regular email or special email or secret email?"
Because there was a difference. And because he wanted to find out if she remembered anything about time being broken and him being an ass because of it.
Pepper could tell that Tony’s mind was doing its best impression of a yip yip dog chasing its tail. It was rare when it wasn’t racing. She had managed to center and calm him, but it hadn’t been enough. Now he was worse than ever judging by the little tells he had that only she could pick up on from years of looking for them. God, he was a mess and it was all her fault. Shit. This was not fair!
“I am,” she agreed with a tight nod. “Business is going well back in L.A. Which you would know if you checked your email once in a while.” She gestured toward his computer since she had sent numerous emails warning him she was coming.
Yep, hot mess mode had been fully activated, and that dial was cranked to eleven. Ever since Pepper left, Tony had either been holed up - fretting - or in crisis reaction mode - fretting - and trying to fix everything. Between cat naps and social media crawls.
At the mention of email, Tony turned around and opened up his business email to find....five-hundred-and-thirty-two unread emails that made his eyes look like they were about to pop out of their sockets. At the top of that list was one from Pepper that were emails marked 'stock update' and another had the word 'visit' in the subject lines.
It was a good thing that his back was turned, because Tony put one arm down and started drumming his fingers over until he could palm his phone, and drummed his fingers back toward him, dragging the phone the whole way. He proceeded to make a lot of HMM and MMHM noises like he was reading emails as he clicked them open with his right hand, even though he was ordering approximately fifty dozen roses for Pepper's office with his left thumb. Because turning her office into a jungle of roses was as romantic as giant bunnies or floral unicorns bearing champagne were. Or so Tony believed.
Having never had a serious relationship with anyone other than Pepper, he had no concept other than overboard to go with.
"Yeah, you have been busy," he said, while mashing his thumb down on the 'pay' button on the phone screen. "Hey, the company's doing great. Sustainable all the things. We're working on a concept for a spaceheater-slash-fan that runs on replaceable, recyclable reactors. Things that people who might not have access to electricity can use. It has voice tech that lets people know it's been tipped over or if a fire's started. R and D is still working out the kinks on that. The prototype kind of caught fire, but it let us know how to fix it."
So he didn't seem like he was rambling about a random thing that was on his mind (which it was, and now the heaters were gone again), he asked Pepper, "So how have things been in L.A.?"
Pepper let out a slow breath as Tony rambled. It was almost like normal Tony. Almost. There was still an edge of manic in his voice and movements. It made the soft and squishy part of her want to hug him into sensibility. That part of her didn’t remember the constant worry and the hurt when he wouldn’t leave well enough alone.
“Things are fine,” she said in that tone that said he missed the point. “Of course if you actually read the emails I send you with updates you would know exactly how things were in L.A.” Exasperated she lifted her hand only to let it drop immediately. “This is exactly like it was before...us. You didn’t learn a damn thing.”
"Ok, whoa." Tony forgot his phone on the top of the desk, as well as the fact that he was opening emails and he fumbled around enough to delete whatever it was, right before he whirled the chair around again. "Nope. That's not true. You took off. You don't get to say I didn't learn a damn thing, because I was trying. You could've....there's the texting...you could've....texted."
He grabbed his phone and held it up to show her where texting happened. On phones. See it? He's wagging it around and now it's making a little swooping flying motion until it was placed back down on the desk.
"You know I hate email, it's a waste of time. Texting is better. There's....there's emojis and that automatically makes it better than....what's this?" He pointed at an email update. "I have learned things, like....the stock's bounced back after the Hulk attack. Yay! Right? And...and there's....a board meeting, and you've got a date, and then R and D wanted to approve this whole thing where...."
If Tony Stark's brain came complete with soundbytes, there would be the sound of a record needle screeching across the record, leaving a big long scratch on it. He did a double take that made his head twitch, before leaning in to squint read it again.
"You've got a date?" He sounded astonished. Somewhere under that astonishment was an undercurrent of hurt, that he was trying to cover up. He turned his head to look at Pepper. "With who? And how? And when?"
Most important was WHY?! but Tony was leaving that out.
“Oh, here we go with placing all of the blame on me.” Pepper was beginning to lose her patience. She hadn’t come here to fight, but apparently that was where it was headed. “Sure. Fine. Whatever, Tony. I’m the bad guy because I-...” They were talking over each other, something they had always done even before they’d started being them. It amazed and scared people.
“I left because no matter what we talked about you always brought it back to this!” Pepper stomped a heeled foot as she point at the ground. “I am sick to death of-....”
You could almost feel the tension thicken in the space between her and Tony. Pepper had hoped that he would have read that particular email before she got to the east coast. “Yes, I have a date,” she answered as if delivering a stock report. “You don’t know him. He asked. Tonight after my meeting with the Japanese.”
The only way that Tony could describe his current feeling, was that it was the wormhole opening up and aliens coming through, and he was about to fly a nuke up there, and Pepper wasn't answering her phone. And after Jarvis puttered out, it was a whole lot of uncomfortable silence in the dead of space, and he was utterly and completely alone. And that, right there, was what made him start to panic a little bit, as he stared at the screen while his mouth ran, the tension so thick that he could cut it with lasers.
"Oh nuh uh! No one said anything about bad guys, because bad guys're my thing and...oh my god WHAT, Pepper?" Tony was saying over the top of her talking. This was a joke. It had to be. A sick joke, because they were supposed to be together. There he went, whirling around in the chair, facing her as he stood up and gestured between them with both hands. Here and there. Her and him. Together but temporarily not. "We were on a break! Sure, it was of the broke up variety, but....I haven't screened this guy, I...I don't know who it is....what if he's a terrorist...what if...he could be a serial killer? That could be a thing. You don't know. You probably haven't done a background check on him either!"
Tony's hands went to the sides of his head so he could make a little explosion gesture with his fingers. Yep. Mind blown.
"It hasn't even been a month since you left. You can't go on a date," he implored, staring at her with wide, blinking eyes. It was the stare of someone who was shell shocked. "Unless it's with me. And then sure, I'll take you out and I'm not a terrorist or a serial killer, so you're safe and it's sexy."
He smiled at her, and it was cocky and self assured on the outside. It was anything but, on the inside.
“Well, it isn’t as if you are apologizing to me for anything.” Brows the same color as her hair came down sharply as she crossed her arms over her chest. On most people it would be considered a defensive posture. On Pepper it was the prelude to a chewing out. “So I must be the bad guy in our situation and you know what? I’ll own it.”
Pepper sighed as she shook her head, a hand held up in a Stop position toward Tony. “Don’t. Just...don’t. I am pretty sure I am a decent judge of character, and only paranoid people run background checks on a date.” Besides. She knew him, but she wasn’t going to tell Tony that.
Then her brows shot straight up for his declaration. “Oh, I can do whatever I want, and I am not going on a date with you.” And with that, she turned sharply on a heel to stride away before Tony got a head of steam with his ridiculous plans.
"What? I did not, you're not, I didn't mean...oh no, no no no noononononono," Tony said, in hot pursuit. He jogged to catch up to her, even if leaving lab space felt like he was visiting another planet entirely. Which was unsettling. And probably how they ended up this way. Fine, he left if there was a major catastrophe that was dangerous, but that was because he was still an adrenaline junkie at heart, and thought he could do everything.
Except hold onto the woman he loved and been in love with for years, obviously.
"Ok, wait. Will you, could you...hit the brakes," Tony knew he was in full word vomit mode but the thought of Pepper being with someone else was dousing him in the world's worst cologne: Desperation. "I get that you're mad at me. I'm a mess. I still love you. Messily. No, wait! I love you in a very clean and concise way. So ditch this...whoever he is, he sucks...and let me make it all up to you. We'll get away. Nice romantic weekend. Venice. No yoga retreats. I got us kicked out of the last one anyway. I should not have pointed that out. Ok, strike that. Venice. You and me in a boat. Art stuff. Us stuff. No CEOing and no Iron Manning anything. What'd you say?"
He smiled and it was a Tony Stark megawatt smile if ever there was one, even if his eyes were big, brown, and hopeful. He resembled a lost puppy hoping to get adopted from an animal shelter.
Pepper had known he’d come after her. Had she manipulated that on purpose? Of course she did! There were a variety of reasons why, and a handful of them were vying for first position...not least of which was Tony essentially chasing her. It felt good, and she would only admit that to herself, thank you.
With another exasperated sigh, Pepper slowed to a stop. The look she gave Tony was very much an impatient Mom look, but she at least let him finish his proposal. Pepper looked at that adorkable expression...one that was very disarming...and let him hang there for a few moments, until finally…
Pepper started walking away again.
Tony was standing there, staring at the spot where Pepper once was with that smile still frozen on his face. In his mind, he was shuffling around priorities in a rapid fire process that could rival a hail of automatic gunfire. Because his list of 'World Ending Doomsday Scenarios' now included 'Pepper dumping me for someone else.' That was a problem that he couldn't find a fix for. One that he was having a bit of an internalized freak out over, which meant he needed to reboot his brain before Pepper walked away.
Externally, he blinked a couple of times. That was followed by an abrupt twitch from the shoulders up to his head, and jogged to catch up again.
"Is that a hundred percent hard pass no, or like a driving-a-hard-bargain no?" he asked, walking side by side with Pep, while side-eyeing her. There was a lot of sides going on. "Look, I'm out of the lab. You know I'm crazy insane in love with you and...ok, ignore the crazy and insane parts, forget I said that. So you're not into Venice anymore. Fine. But! You know, whoever this guy is, you're not gonna have as much...."
Tony stopped talking as he realized what the next word would have been: Fun. Not as much fun as he was. Including such things as flying through a space sphincter with a nuke, fighting aliens, sleeping four to six hours a night (six if he was lucky) so he could hole up in a garage or lab, fight Hydra minions, get their house blown up by terrorists with them in it, creating world destroying doombots, and pretty much guillotining the planet's premiere (and only) superhero team while asking to get shot at.
"...interest in someone who's boring and, you know, not me," Tony quickly amended, making it a point to stare straight forward with widened eyes and to absolutely not look at Pepper. They were heading toward an elevator, and he was fully intending to slip on board before the doors closed. If she was aiming for hot pursuit, it looked like he was going to hit the afterburners and not think twice about any eventual burnout.
“I would say there’s a twelve percent chance there’s a yes in there somewhere.” That “joke” would never get old and would never go away. Before, Pepper had used it as an in joke between them. Now it was a weapon.
Her heels clicked against the marble floor in a hurried rhythm that seemed to punctuate her mood...as if that weren’t obvious. They came to an abrupt stop when they reached the elevator bay. Pepper’s well manicured finger pressed the button in rapid sequence as if pressing it more and faster would get the elevator there sooner.
“Maybe I want boring for once,” she insisted as she watched the digital display over the elevator doors tick away the floors very, very slowly. “Maybe it would be nice to have predictable instead of wondering when and how the person I care about is going to die.”
Tony was left pointing at Pepper's button punchy finger, a dead giveaway that she was trying to get away from him as fast as possible. He lobbed an offended stare over at her, and forgot to stop pointing. In fact, he used his pointy finger to press the button for her, because look, he could do that too. That'll show her!
"Is there a eighty-eight percent chance that you'll ever let the twelve-percent thing drop?" he asked, a little sarcastically. By that point, he was eyeing what floor the elevator was on and there were five floors to go before the door opened. "I'm not dying either. I'm not going anywhere. I'm doing...stuff...that doesn't involve me croaking. I'm...I've...fought all sorts of stuff and made it out just fine. I fought Sharknado and won. That's predictable, because of course I'm gonna win. You can predict that I'm gonna win. See? I'm predictable that way. You could be bored with that."
Tony glanced at the elevator's floor indicator as though he was making sure a ticking time bomb was still ticking. Not going boom.
"Maybe I want to protect you, just as much as anything and anyone else. Or more. I'm greedy that way. And that's why I do stupid stuff sometimes," he admitted, just as the elevator doors opened. He slapped a hand against one side so it wouldn't shut, so Pepper could walk in first. If there were people in there, he didn't bother to notice. He was too focused on Pepper to give a rat's ass about anything else. "Don't do this. I can give you one good reason why you shouldn't."
Another thing about Tony that Pepper was well versed in ignoring was his childishness. Once upon a time it had been cute. The shine on it had worn off long ago. Now it had worn thin. So the button pushing bit just made her sigh.
“So long as you put on that suit and do the Iron Man thing you can’t promise you won’t be hurt or worse.” Pepper tightened her lips as she glanced a Tony then hit below the belt. “Look at what happened to James.” Rhodes would never walk without assistance again.
When the doors finally opened Pepper stepped inside then turned around to push the button for the lobby...except Tony had the doors open. She sighed again then shifted her weight over one hip, a hand planting itself there. “What reason is that?” This she had to hear.
Rhodey was still a sore point, so Tony hid a wince. There was still that one good reason and Tony let the words tumble out of his mouth without a second thought or an ounce of hesitation.
"Because I love you, and I think you still love me." He leaned in gave Pepper an intense staring at, dead serious and not a hint of childishness in it. "Or I hope you do. That's why I don't want you to..."
He looked at a couple of interns who were nervously clutching their notepads, doing a tennis match stare from Pepper to Tony and back again.
"....do that thing you were going to do," he said quickly, focusing back on Pepper. "Do that thing with me instead."
Not that the cover up version sounded any better, but it was better than saying, 'Break off your boring date and have a hot date night with me.' Tony was trying hard not to make it look like he was holding his breath, before he shook his head and looked over at the interns.
"I think Miss Potts and I need to have a business meeting. It's boring and unsexy," he assured them. "Can you, maybe, uhh...catch the next elevator? Ride? Somewhere?"
The interns ran after Tony stepped aside to let them out. Then he slipped in and tried to stand still at Pepper's side. And just to make sure she didn't escape, he lunged forward to push the 'close door' button. Then stepped back like it was totally casual.
"Don't go on a date with someone else," he murmured. "Please. Do not. Do the thing."
Pepper hadn’t missed the interns in the elevator. They were obviously lost if they were in this section of the building. She felt bad that they were now stuck in the middle of this “conversation” between her and Tony, but there wasn’t any help for it. And leave it to Tony to make it super awkward by throwing the love word around. She gave him a disgusted glare.
The interns were given a slight nod from her when Tony suggested they catch the next elevator. She wasn’t surprised at all when Tony hopped in with her. He was wearing her down. Pepper felt her resolve crumbling. She knew better than to fight it so she turned a sharp look to Tony with her whole body involved.
“Fine,” she said then lifted a finger to hold off his happy dance. “But no Venice. Nothing ridiculously over the top. Dinner. And that’s it.” She eyed him. “Anything after that depends on a number of factors.”
Those poor lost interns were now nowhere near where they should have been. If Tony had half his mind devoted to interns being lost, instead of his whole mind focused on Pepper, he would have accused them of being spies or ninjas or spy ninjas. Instead, he was in an elevator with Pepper and that look of disgust was sexy as hell, especially when it was followed up by a sharp look.
He got half of a step into the happy dance before he froze in place, blinking wide-eyed at her finger. That was followed by blinking wide-eyed at her face. There was the hint of a smile pulling at his lips when he asked, "Do I get to know what the factors are, or are you gonna leave me guessing? And can I get over the top with the dinner rez or is that a no-no too?"
Geez. She knew that look too. Tony had just gotten his way. Again! And he was feeling smug. Pepper crossed her arms again. “Give it half the thought you put into those suits and you’ll figure them out.”
As if she hadn’t given in enough…
“Fine.” That finger came back out. “So long as it’s in New York. I still have meetings.”
Tony pointed a finger back the same way, trying not to look too smug. It was a little smug. Maybe two percent smug...and ninety-eight internalized anxiety that he wouldn't mess it up somehow. Again.
"Ok, so. If it has to be here, then...yeah, ok." He appeared to have ideas brewing. Are they good ideas? That's questionable. But he's also out of a lab environment, not hover-moding around a caged Hulk, and not fussing with revamping suit ideas for the 32,893,823 time. So this was an improvement. He tried to fold his arms casually over himself and lean against the wall of the elevator, closer to her. It really just made him look like he was hugging himself. "What time's good for you, honey?"
Pepper sighed as she looked up at the descending numbers. Why did Tony’s lab have to be near the top of the building?! And she swore he had some kind of device that slowed the elevator down. He was already up to something which would only encourage him. Pepper was regretting this already.
“Don’t,” she warned him as she slid a glance at him. “We are not back together.” And she was going to have to cancel her date. Shit.
There was, in fact, a way to slow or stop the elevators, as a security measure. Tony hadn't touched that. Yet. That was a last ditch effort, which would probably involve a lot of unsexy begging and bickering. At the same time.
On second thought, maybe not so unsexy? Bantering and bickering with Pepper was almost like a super romantic cha-cha that Tony was all too happy to dance to. At least he was, when she wasn't pointing out that they weren't together. Shit.
"Sure we're not. Have I told you how beautiful you are when you're being stern at me?" He didn't miss a beat, and even managed to look innocent. "Because you are."
Smooooooooth. If Tony could get away with backpatting himself, he would. And maybe even show up for an awards ceremony in his honor. For once.
“Don’t,” she warned him again. “The whole overly cute thing is one of those factors that would kill any chance for a second date.” Mainly because she was kind of a sucker for it and he knew it. Pepper wasn’t going to make it easy for him. Not this time. Nope. No way. She hoped.
Then, impatiently, she reached forward to rapidly push the floor button even though that worked about as well as the summon button had. “No games.”
Tony was smiling at her, wildly, as he watched her punch that button. And he wasn't checking the view out at all. Nope. Not at all. He hoped she wouldn't notice. Since he's not stopping. In fact, he was leaning in. Why would he dare? What is he possibly up to? What could it BE?
"You think I'm cute," he whispered next to her ear, like he just learned of the world's greatest conspiracy. That he should let her know about. Just in case she didn't.
That almost made her lose control entirely. As it was, her lips gave that twitch that meant she was repressing a smile...and not doing well at it. She kept her eyes firmly on the digital numbers above the doors.
“No, I don’t.”
"You said overly cute things, so you think I'm cute," Tony said, in the kind of tone that many a young boy used right before they stuck gum in the hair of the girl they liked. Tony, at least, having the benefit of middle-age, knew that you shouldn't stick gum in the hair of the girl you liked. Because that was dumb and would make Pepper mad...der, that she was already. "It's ok. I think you're cute too."
He was grinning. Right. Next. To. Pepper's. Face.
“You said beautiful.” Pepper turned her face to look at him. She knew it was a bad idea, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. It might as well be her decision.
And there were those eyes. Regardless of how much he tried to hide what he was really feeling or thinking, Pepper knew all you had to do was look into his eyes.
"Yep, I said that. You're beautiful and cute. That's a fact," Tony said, slipping an arm around her waist, pulling her close. His eyes were crinkled at the corners, amused and focused on her and only her, which was a nice change of pace to Work Zombie Tony. Which was an actual thing.
His gaze flicked down toward her mouth, which he was leaning in toward, their lips almost touching, so close, just one little bump would cause a collision that the universe couldn't possibly tear apart and....
The elevator came to a stop and the doors opened, revealing at least ten people waiting to get in. Half of which coughed to clear their throats because awkward situation was awkward.
"Wow! I'm so glad that thing you thought was there isn't in your eye anymore," Tony grumbled, raising his hand up to give her a little pat on the back. "You should get that checked out....before....macular degeneration sets in. Because I mean, holy shit. No one wants that."
Tony practically tap danced two steps back and faked surprise at seeing all the people there.
"Hi! This was...medical emergency. Meeting. With Miss Potts. CEO. Of this company. Don't worry! She's ok. False alarm. With her eye."
No one looked convinced.
Then what she had expected...and dreaded...happened. She was in Tony’s arms. She would swear later that her hands came to rest on his chest of their own volition. Her lips were in league with her hands since they parted without her say so. He was a hard breath away from her. All she had to do was close the distance and her resolve would be entirely gone.
And then the world came crashing back. Tony went into his dog and pony show as if anyone was going to buy that. Pepper gave him a disgruntled look before she raised a brow at the crowd outside the elevator doors. Their coughs were now in awkward hopes that she didn’t know any of their names. She walked out of the elevator with that confident step that twitched her hips just right in that pencil skirt.
“Eight o’clock, Tony,” finally answering the when question.
"Okey dokey," Tony replied just loud enough for Pepper to hear, while stepping aside to let everyone in. When everyone stared at him, because he was closest to the floor buttons, he helplessly flapped his hands toward the panel.
"I've already touched a button today. It's someone else's turn. Punch a button. I'm in no hurry. Just going for an elevator ride. Go for it."
He stood back and folded his arms over his chest, because no way did he want to admit that he had already touched a button more than once, and hell only knew how many other people were touching those buttons.
And once more, Tony contemplated building a lysol fogger bomb for spaces like this. Which he would build, right after he figured out how the hell to pull off a romantic date night and making a mental note to find out if Pepper remembered anything about the timeline going apeshit.