In the Year Of

One of the generally accepted truths of working for Anthony Edward Stark, Pepper thought, was that he generally didn’t do things on a small scale. Often that was a pain, but now and then--as in the now right now—it was a lot of fun.

She sat next to him on the upholstered sofa in the penthouse suite, looking out over the bay and towards Kowloon, where the sky was periodically alight with pinwheels and stars and blazing sparkles of green, white and red. Every time another round of fireworks went skyward Pepper smiled, delighted with the garden of glittery glints in the night.

“I,” Tony announced, “Am a tiger.”

“I,” Pepper replied, “Am not surprised.”

“It’s true, year of the tiger,” he warmed to the topic, looking over at her. “Makes me a dynamic leader, charismatic charmer and all-around stud. Ask anyone in this city.”

“Since I don’t speak Chinese, I’ll go with the official description,” Pepper murmured, and tapped on her BlackBerry. “Ah yes—Tony the Tiger. Care to hear your characteristics?”

“Throw them accolades at me,” Tony murmured, leaning back on the sofa.

“Hmmmm. Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous. Can also be restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish.”

He winced a little. “Okay, yes, but I’m getting better—So what are you, Potts? I’m thinking year of dah Wabbit . . . cute, fluffy, sweeeeet little tail . . .”

“No, I’m a bitch,” Pepper told him, just to see him do a double take.

Tony laughed, his teeth very white in the semi-darkness of the suite. “Now, now, Pepper, mustn’t be so hard on yourself.”

“Year of the Dog,” she sighed. “Not the best sign for a woman, you have to admit.”

“Yeah, that could be rough,” Tony admitted, his smile twisting. “Neither dog nor bitch fit you in the slightest. Characteristics, please.”

“Honest, intelligent, straightforward, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amicable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, in a word, dogged,” Pepper told him, and added softly, “can also be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, quarrelsome.”

“Nailed you. All but the lazy and cold parts, anyway,” Tony smirked. “Speaking of nailing you---”

“I’m a dog; I bite,” she warned him, a twinkle in her eye as he slipped an arm around her shoulders.

“That’s okay, I’m a tiger; I claw and growl and generally get my way because I’m bigger and meaner than you.”

“Whereas I just nip at your heels and herd you around.”

“Precisely. And that’s what makes us soooo compatible,” he murmured, brushing his mouth against hers. “Want to make some fireworks of our own?”

“Woof,” Pepper whispered softly, her arms going around him.


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