Pairing: Pepper Potts/Tony Stark, Pepper Potts/OMC
Fic Title: for today or the rest of my life
Rating/Warning(s): NC-17 / Sex
Why This Must Be Read: Because if you love Pepper Potts you have to read this piece. A new man comes into Pepper's life and Tony is not exactly thrilled at the prospect and finds himself getting involved in his assistant's love life. The author does a wonderful job of not demonizing any of the people in this story and her characterizations are just spot-on.
Tony notices something's changed three and a half weeks later. He might have noticed sooner if he wasn't the focus of his own orbit. True to his nature, he latches onto the idea that Pepper has extra-curricular plans like a South American horned frog to its prey. Argument ensues.
"What's so important about Saturday? Saturday's what – it's gym and smoothie day?"
"There's nothing important about Saturday. If you need me on Saturday I will be here on Saturday."
"You just said: 'I'd rather not work on Saturday.'"
"Because Saturday is—can we stop saying Saturday? My schedule is a blank slate on which to etch the whims of Mr. Tony Stark."
Tony pauses and then concedes.
"Okay. You have Saturday off. It's official. Clear my schedule."
Pepper has cultivated long practice with patience under trying circumstances. Right now, Tony is working on a 1970 Barracuda 426 convertible he's rebuilding from scrap, hands busy, eyes on his work, but he doesn't need to show his tells for her to read him.
"Mr. Stark, stalking is subject to a penalty of imprisonment up to one year in the state of California," she reminds him politely.
Tony leans under the hood but his muffled voice carries.
"Stalking is only a crime if the plaintiff reasonably fears for his or her safety."
There's nothing troubling about that statement.
"Why do you know that? I know that because Happy and I share responsibility for your safety, but why do you know that?"
"What are you doing Saturday?"
"Going to the beach with the man I'm dating."
Tony's still tooling around under the hood, but raises his voice a little louder and enunciates more clearly.
"I think we should schedule that interview the New York Times has been asking for for Saturday."
Pepper exhales her mounting frustration. She never expected him to take this well.
"Unfortunately Saturday will be a bad day for you because you've committed to an empty schedule."
Tony climbs out from under the hood and shoots her a penetrating stare.
"What do you need a boyfriend for?"
This, Pepper can field.
"I've heard rumors they're traditionally a source of affection and support and may also serve as a trusted source for sex free of venereal diseases."
Tony tosses down his grease rag and makes a face at the engine block.
"I don't like him."
"You haven't met him," Pepper reminds him.
Tony straightens up and rubs his palms against his jeans, leaving black smears on the faded blue denim.
"It's been awhile since I've gone to the beach. You may have to buy me a new swimsuit."
"You're not invited," Pepper corrects.
Tony looks baffled, so unwilling to as to be unable to comprehend a world without himself at its center.
"Then how will I know if I like him?"
Pepper maintains a smile.
"It's not important whether or not you like him."
Tony's brow knits. His gaze travels from Pepper to the car and back to Pepper.
"I don't get to be the judge of that?"
"No, actually. Will you be needing anything else or may I go back upstairs?"
Tony takes a step into her personal space, intensity written into his features – an intensity that sets the two-beat pace of Pepper's heart racing.
"Are we breaking up?"
Pepper would have preferred they didn't have to do this.
"We're not dating."
"So, you're breaking up with me," Tony reasons slowly. His eyes search Pepper's face and the bare skin revealed above the collar of her suit. Pepper tells herself to stay strong.
"We have never been, nor are we now dating."
Tony's still, his dark eyes inscrutable. He breaks away suddenly and returns to his project car.
"That will be all, Ms. Potts."
Pepper's smile is suddenly more difficult to maintain, but smile she does, and she returns upstairs to her work.
Once upon a time, being in the close company of Tony Stark meant nothing more than lint rolled designer suits, a two hour beauty regime – skin exfoliated, strawberry blonde hair ironed smooth and make-up flawless, but natural and subtle – making business contacts with the rich, the world famous, and the powerful and keeping on Tony's back so he made at least one appointment out of ten and confined his tantrums to his crib.
Now, Tony's a fanatic – a pop culture messiah chasing a vision of Utopia revealed to him in his forty days in the desert. He runs at twelve gigajoules a second like the arc reactor in his chest, driven by a religious fervor to save life after life, to drive out the demons of war mongering and greed, to end world hunger, to give sight to the blind and mobility to the lame and to rid the world of disease.
Pepper's long-standing affection for her billionaire playboy has deepened into love for the passionate crusader he's become, but she's not willing to be his Magdalene because at some point in her childhood someone spoiled the end of that story.
Day after week, Tony doesn't let it go: "How's the other Ms. Potts?" and "We should set up a scoreboard and compare sex lives."
It's difficult to discern to what extent he's walking around the house with his shirt thrown over his shoulder and his jeans hanging low on his naked hips more often than before, because that behavior isn't new or unusual. Pepper's seen him in all states of dress and undress and every state of arousal. The allure of Tony Stark is not, for Pepper Potts, any illusion of mystique.
Pepper visually and aesthetically appreciates that Tony's working out more but reminds him, when he asks her to spot him on the bench in an effort to show himself off, that while she's in shape she is no substitute for a robot built to transport loads upwards of a metric ton.
She ignores the long looks Tony casts towards her when she's ignoring his long looks.
Pepper gives Blair her honesty because she has to. There's no concealing Tony's many and often public faults or his ego or his obsessive and possessiveness.