The cameras were everywhere; that was the first thing Pepper had to get used to when she was alone in the compound.

They were discreet of course, and Tony had given her the command code so that she could direct Jarvis to turn any of them off or on, as needed. She appreciated that—the option of making sure her privacy was still up to her was damned nice.

And it was good to be able to give that back to Tony, if not his “dates,” as well. The last thing she needed was seeing him enjoying himself in a way she couldn’t, week after week. Bad enough to hear some of it once in a while, but visuals—

No, just—


Then after Afghanistan, and the suit, and Obadiah and lord, everything, the equilibrium of the status quo had started to change. Tony had changed; not completely, but in certain aspects, and Pepper still wasn’t entirely sure if she liked it or not. Tony was more driven, almost haggard at times. Clearly whatever had happened to him in those three months had opened his eyes to the shallowness of eighty percent of his life.

And he was changing it.

Pepper wasn’t sure she could deal with that either. It had been hard enough before to get him fed and dressed and to appointments on time; now that he had far more noble reasons to be late didn’t make it a damn bit easier.

He’d given up most of the parties—still stopped in to a few of them mostly for show. He still raced around the canyon roads like a madman in his cars, and made outrageous statements to the press.

But he’d given up the women.

And Pepper noticed.

Tony didn’t say anything about it; she wasn’t going to ask. If he was giving them up because he was too busy, that was fine with her, but deep down, Pepper knew that wasn’t the reason.

No, the reason was wrapped up in two little sentences they’d swapped in more desperate, honest times, when the naked truth hung between them.

“You’re all I’ve got.”

“You’re all I’ve got too, Tony.”

So she waited, feeling hope rise within her, tempered constantly by fear, and the two reactions fluttered in her stomach a lot these days. Hope that Tony meant it; that he’d chosen to be a better man, a man loyal to her. Fear that at any moment it would be gone through frustration, or worse yet a bullet or bomb.

And holding back was so engrained in her that despite all her calm efficiency, Pepper Potts found herself caught in a little inertial field of melancholy, longing for and never getting, her heart’s desire.

*** *** ***

The cameras were everywhere; he’d wanted it that way because the world was full of people with agendas, and he didn’t have the time to waste with delays. Originally they were there to keep him safe, Tony knew. Now they were to keep her safe.

God he loved her. Loved everything about her: her little girl voice, her blushes, her sparks of defiance and petite hands. Pepper was his own emotional arc reactor: a steady beautiful source of strength; quiet and reliable; elementally amazing.

And sexy, even though she didn’t seem to know that.

Very sexy. Demurely sexy, which was a lot harder to pull off than the flash and tease of the supermodels and glamour girls who seemed to gravitate to Stark parties. Pepper had vulnerability too, and that was a damned rare quality in his world of titanium, chrome and glass.

So the cameras helped. Sometimes he looked up at the monitors after murmuring a quiet word to Jarvis and just watched her at unexpected moments. Watched her organizing his wardrobe. Conferring with the landscapers. Making herself a scrambled egg for lunch in the enormous sterile kitchen.

Little moments of tenderness to remind himself that despite the outward armor, he was still human underneath it, and as such, hungry for contact.

She was letting him in, gradually. It was hard to be patient, but Tony knew he hadn’t gotten where he was by needlessly rushing. He hoped she’d noticed his changes; if anyone would, Pepper would. And maybe, just maybe she’d understand how he was trying to make up for lost time; for the many thoughtless hurts through the last few years.

But it was difficult. Not the celibacy per se—that was actually easy, once he’d realized that despite closing his eyes and pretending, no other woman out there would ever be Pepper. No, the difficult part—the hard part was waiting patiently for her to see.

She’d been the only thing he’d seen when he climbed out of that plane and back into civilization. Just Pepper, standing there, her hands twisting around in front of her, the shadows under her eyes.

All he wanted to do was wrap himself around her and feel her hug him back with that slender strength of hers. Take her back to the compound and make love to her until they cried and fell asleep.

Not possible though, not with Happy and Rhody and the whole of Stark Industries all there, waiting for him to pick up the thread of his old life.

But he knew he could change. That it was easier to do with Pepper beside him and in his thoughts.

In his thoughts, always.

It was time, Tony thought firmly, to really show her that.

*** *** ***

Pepper tried to focus her attention on the recent interview Tony had given to The Wall Street Journal, skimming it to make sure the reporter hadn’t deviated from any of the notes and quotes from last week’s lunch, but when a small window blinked in the upper right corner of the screen, she blinked back, a moment, irritated.

It showed the garage, and Tony, rising up from his worktable. She sighed, appreciating for a moment the lean lines of his frame as he stretched, arms over his head, sleeveless tee shirt rising to show his flat stomach and innie belly button.

Pepper smirked. “Jarvis, um, are you trying to tell me something here?

The central computer didn’t answer, and Pepper looked up, frowning. It wasn’t like Tony to put Jarvis on silence; he liked chatting with his AI major domo. She was about to rise when the little image caught her eye again.

Oh. Tony was taking his tee shirt off.

She paused, watching as he reached back over his shoulders, clawing the material up and over his head, the swipe of cloth making his hair messy as it did so. Pepper smiled at the sight; neat or not, Tony always seemed to have great hair no matter what his situation. With only a little guilt, she tapped a key and brought the window up to full-size on her screen.

Nice, she thought gently. Great shoulders, fantastic arms, strong chest. Even the arc reactor looked right to her now; a vital part of him, no more singularly noticeable than glasses on someone else. Pepper kept watching as Tony raked a hand through his hair, not helping the tousled look at all. He tossed the shirt aside and stretched again; she could hear him humming softly.

I should close the window, Pepper chided herself, and give him his privacy.

Regretfully, she tapped the keyboard.

Nothing happened. The full-sized window stayed open, and in it, Tony rolled his head from shoulder to shoulder, one hand lightly stroking his abdomen. Pepper felt a frisson of panic, and tapped the keyboard again. “Jarvis?”

Still no answer.

*** *** ***

Tony shifted a half-turn from the camera, fighting his own sense of wariness. Setting this up had seemed so easy in theory; close Jarvis down, put the video link on an override and let Pepper see for herself. Now that it was happening though—

A lit-tle harder to concentrate, Tony realized. The thought of Pepper watching him had him hard already, and while getting out of his shirt had been easy, the jeans were going to be a bit more difficult. He forced himself to relax, lightly kicking off his loafers, glad that he’d had the ‘bots sweep the floor first so he wouldn’t end up hopping on one foot.

Casually he undid his jeans and looked towards the shower meaningfully. Not that he was acting, precisely---after all, this was supposed to be spontaneous, and natural. A moment of relaxation the way he’d done before time after time, right down to the same fantasy.

Pepper, Tony thought hungrily, and pushed his jeans down.

Before Afghanistan and the suit, he’d been a boxers man; since then, the practicalities of commando had proven more useful, especially after shredding several pairs in the process of suit fittings. The suit itself had a padded cup and lining making underwear unnecessary.

He leaned one hand on the table, kicking the jeans off and feeling a bit proud of himself for the shape he kept himself in—even if this little attempt at seduction proved to be a fiasco, at least Pepper could see him for exactly what he looked like, Tony reasoned.

Reactor and all, as it were.

He took a deep breath and thought again of Pepper, feeling the surge of heat that her image brought. Imagining her hands on him, those lovely cool fingers on his heated flesh. Instantly his cock throbbed, and Tony’s mouth quirked. I got it bad. Not exactly a newsflash.

The shower was four feet away, set into the alcove, and originally a chemical rinse station, but he’d modified it years ago. It had a frosted glass door, but Tony had no intention of obstructing the view, not today. He slowly walked over, feeling the coolness of the garage air on his bare skin now. It was a well-known sensation, and Tony was glad he’d thought to set the thermostat a bit higher. Goosebumps: not sexy, he snickered to himself as he reached out and turned on the water.

*** *** ***

Pepper couldn’t move. The shirt . . . that had been okay. Cute, even, because she’d seen Tony shirtless before. But the jeans . . . him taking OFF his jeans had made her pulse jump even as her fingers frantically jabbed the keyboard, trying to close the window, shut the laptop off, just ANYTHING to stop her from seeing what she was seeing.

OhdearGod. Tony, stark, her mind snickered. VERY stark, according to the display, and certainly not inhibited in the least. Pepper watched him step out of his pants and wander towards the shower, and the image of his strong, naked back burned into her vision.

Mentally she upgraded his tush from nice to absolutely delicious, and felt heat rise in her face for doing so. And not just in her face, Pepper knew guiltily, oh no. She squirmed on the sofa, fighting a fresh onslaught of desire flaring through her entire body. It was a losing battle; as Tony sauntered towards the shower, the flex and shift of his ass made Pepper moan softly.

“This is wrong,” she whispered to herself. “I shouldn’t be doing this!”

The words echoed in the huge, empty living room, lost in the space around her, and Pepper bit her lips. On the screen, Tony leaned in to turn on the water, and when his hips shifted, she noticed—she couldn’t help but notice, ohLORD, that he was . . . prominent.

Suddenly ‘cocky’ seemed the appropriate adjective for Tony Stark, and Pepper felt another flush roll up her face. More than that, he was beautiful. She watched him tip his head to let the water hit the side of his neck, and the cascade splashed down along the strong lines of his arms and chest, giving them a wet sheen in the florescent light of the garage.

His eyes were closed now, and he had his head up, enjoying the spray across his body. Pepper could hear her own breathing, which was ragged as she kept watching him. Her gaze drifted from his navel, down along the thin dark line of hair leading further south, where it flared thickly between his hips into a thick, glossy thatch, framing heavy balls and a thick semi-erect shaft, now being well-soaped.

She blinked, fighting back a little moan deep in her throat. In any other situation this would be obscene, Pepper thought, but right now this is so unexpectedly beautiful that she leaned forward, hearing the splash of the shower, and the little hum Tony made as he touched himself. He could be an artist’s model, she mused, and that thought lingered for a moment before being driven from her mind by the next thing she heard.

*** *** ***

Tony closed his eyes, and for a moment enjoyed the water running over him, loosening a little of his tension. He resisted the urge to check the camera, and instead reached for the soap, taking it in one hand and lathering it gently in his palms.

He left the door open, knowing that the slope of the floor would keep the water running to the drain underfoot.

This part was familiar and easy, he knew. He’d been doing this for years, in the unself-conscious way many men had, and the cues were making him stiffen in anticipation. Lightly he ran one soapy hand across his shoulders, and let the other drift down his stomach to his erection. Turning to stop the suds from washing off too quickly, Tony lightly stroked himself, feeling a little surge of pleasure.

When he’d been sitting on the plane coming back from Afghanistan, Tony had wondered if he’d ever want sex again. For three months he’d completely forgotten the urge, or suppressed it he supposed, in favor of surviving. Only when he’d climbed into the back of the limo, and into Pepper’s warm personal space did the desire slam back into him, and he covered it by demanding food instead.

Cheeseburger be damned, he remembered with a small, sad smirk. He’d wanted Pepper right then and there.

That night, after she’d gone home Tony recalled wandering into his shower, wondering if he’d end up short-circuiting himself by stroking off, and how Pepper would handle the PR for THAT particular situation if it turned out to be the case.

Instead, he’d focused on memories of her sleek legs and firm little ass, and the sheer force of his orgasm had made the arc flutter in his chest, the lights reflecting on the wet tiles in a private lightshow as he panted and clung to the door.

Oh yeah, wanted her then, want her now, Tony thought, and let his imagination take over. His right hand shifted, gripping his thick, veiny cock. Right now—

He stroked himself. “Pep-per,” Tony murmured huskily.

So easy to slip into fantasy, imagining her blue eyes hot with passion, to mentally picture her slender body, pale and writhing under his touch, quivering under his tongue. Too easy, he grunted, and tried to slow down and enjoy the sensual imagery crossing his mind.

“Pepper,” he whispered again.

*** *** ***

She never figured out exactly how she got down the stairs and through the door; it was enough that she did, tottering her way across the garage towards him, kicking off her high heels, heart pounding so hard she could feel her pulse beating in her ears.

Pepper had no idea what she was doing.

The shock of hearing her name on his lips, the whisper of it barely louder than the hiss of the water stunned her, burned her ears, drew her forward in a stumbling, quick drive, past the worktable to where he was, and for the life of her she had no idea what to say.

When she reached him though, she didn’t speak. Couldn’t speak, not with the added sensory overload of Tony right in front of her, dripping wet and leaning against the wall of the shower, naked and so beautiful as he stroked himself.

Pepper gave a little sob, and without thinking about it, stepped into the shower.

He opened his eyes and for a weird, timeless moment stared at her, not shocked or embarrassed, just drinking her in as Pepper stood under the water, her Dolce & Gabbana suit getting soaked, along with her hair.

They both moved at the same time, slamming together under the water in a brutal kiss; a strange dichotomy of skin and clothing, passion and restraint. Pepper pushed against him hard, hungry to kiss him, finding Tony’s mouth softer and so much hotter than she’d imagined. His arms slid up around her, clutching her to him, soapsuds bubbling up against the wet fabric of her suit.

They kept kissing, twisting around each other, both desperate and slightly awkward. Pepper felt the hard hot planes of Tony’s body against her, particularly the iron ridge of his cock as it pressed against her belly. Frustrated, she tried to speak, but he wouldn’t let her. His hands tugged at her skirt, and Pepper gave a happy encouraging groan into his mouth and against his tongue.

Yes, please yes, she thought in a fleeting moment of clarity, and moved to help him, shifting her hands to fumble with her blouse buttons. Tony managed the bottom half of her suit, stopping every few seconds to kiss her again, his face wet, his beard scraping her cheeks, her nose, her chin. She felt him kick away the sodden material after it slid off her, and Pepper managed to wrestle her blouse off.

“Pepper—“ Tony gasped, trying to kiss, breathe and not drown all at the same time. “Ohhhhhh---“ he groaned a moment later as her hands slipped down his bare stomach and further south. “No! No, I swear I won’t be able to—ohGOD--”

*** *** ***

As an engineer, Tony Stark understood the concept of critical overload all too well, so when his image of Pepper Potts was suddenly replaced by the real thing in glorious three-dimensional, full sensory delight it was enough to get the needle well into the red, as the metaphor went.

Initially, when conceiving the idea of showing Pepper his most intimate moments, Tony had failed to consider the best case scenario, and consequently, he stood shuddering now, fighting off impending orgasm as she ground herself against him, wet, sultry and sweet.

“Pepper—“ he tried again, barely clinging to sanity at this point. The grind of her hips had him whimpering now, but she merely smiled that gentle Mona Lisa smile he knew so well as she wrapped one long leg around his.

“Don’t let me interrupt you—“ she whispered, and that was enough to evaporate the tiny last vestiges of his self-control. Tony growled, pressing her hard against the wall of the shower as he came in her hand, the eruption in thick, hot spurts. Pepper kissed him wetly, and a few moments later, shuddered herself, a soft little cry echoing off the walls.

They slid down to a huddled pile, the water continuing to rain down on them as they both sat there, spent and boneless, unable to move.

Gradually though, Tony watched Pepper lick her lower lip and glance over at him, her expression a mix of mortified amusement. He reached up along the wall, groping for the handles and turning until the water shut off to a slow, loud drip.

“I love you, Ms Potts,” he mumbled, his hair still dripping water. “A situation I think you may or may not have been aware of prior to this.”

“You’ve made an impressive presentation for your case, Mr. Stark,” Pepper noted, rolling her head back and smiling again, dimples deep. “But I’m still submitting a reimbursement voucher for the suit.”

“Noted,” Tony agreed. “Can I get a consensus on the love thing? Some indication of mutuality here, with an eye to further mergers and a long-term monogamous clause limited to the next seventy years or so?”

“I’ll have to clear my schedule,” Pepper told him as she reached over and cupped his cheek.

Tony turned his head and kissed her palm. “Hardball. That’s it, what does a billionaire have to do to win you, Potts?”

“A towel would be nice, for starters,” She replied, and leaned over to kiss him. “After that, I’m open for more negotiations.”

“Of the horizontal on silk sheets variety?”

“Mr. Stark,” Pepper told him sweetly, “My assets are yours.”

He laughed, and pulled her to him, kissing her slowly and deeply before pulling back for breath. “Let me show you just what you’re getting as your most vital acquisition, Pepper.”

Tony took her hand and laid it on the arc reactor, and kissed her again.


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