1964-06-03 - The End of the Night
Summary: Pepper checks in on Tony after a long night at a gala. They end up having the most honest conversation they've had in a long time.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
pepper tony 

The night was long, one of the biggest galas in Mahattan for the highest level corporate who's-who around. Everyone was networking, almost everyone was drinking. Pepper had taken a spin on the dance floor with half a dozen CEOs, charmed every last one, but had been slightly distracted the whole night. She knew Tony was there. She saw slips of him at the bar, with some other woman, or women. It wasn't her business, but she did her best to keep an eye on him. And as he didn't stop drinking at the end of the night, she was watching him closer.

By the time almost 1 am rolls around and half the party is pouring out, Pepper is genuinely worried. So, she's gone looking for him. She's in a brilliant green dress tonight, sleeveless, the bodice presenting her assets quite nicely, hugging all the way down to skin tight around her hips then a slit all the way up her thigh. With her red hair? She's stunning. She also has that look of business and worry in her eyes as she ducks out onto the back patio, the last place she saw Tony going. "…Tony? Are you here?" She almost hopes to just find him making out with some harlot, but sober and sane. THat would be more easy.


It was a long night, filled with dinner, dancing, drinks, laughter and lots and lots and lots of money passing hands. Such galas bring in millions of dollars plus corporate sponsorship, which in itself is worth more than mere coinage. Tony's attendance is, of course, expected, and with two youngish beautiful models on his arms, his presence was quite noticable. The drinking at such events always starts early, then progresses through dinner, through auctions, through negotiations, and when dancing was to begin, Tony went through the motions, but no more than just that. When eyes were upon him, of course everything was played up; he's a bachelor playboy, and there are simply expectations.

And Pepper was there.

She danced with everyone, or mostly everyone, and all Tony could do was watch. The dress was beautiful on her; showed every curve with no little elegance. The way she tipped her glass to drink, her laughter..

By the end of the evening, Tony's made his excuses, his 'goodbyes', and did what he has always been able to do; disappear before the end, and leaving his dates to be driven home by his chauffeur. Tony would find a different way home. For all his reputation, it's been a very rare thing for him to actually bring anyone up to the Penthouse.

And now?

Tony's in the back garden, the privacy walls around the property doing its job. He's seated by a fountain on a marble bench, settled forward, empty glass by his side, his elbows on his legs, his head down, eyes closed. The voice really isn't heard, or if it is, he's not responding.


While he's not responding, Pepper would know that outline anywhere. Even after all these months, she knows his shadow. She knows HIM, through and through. She knew he'd leave before the models and let them find their own way. It used to be her job to help them find their way. She knew he'd have too much to drink and either be sick or maybe even forget the other half of the night. She knew he'd make a lot of promises. She knew he'd be alone by the end of it all. She knew Tony Stark.

So, seeing that silouhette in the dim moonlight of the back garden is enough to draw her. The quiet sound of her high heels and breath on the air as she approaches him. Her scent follows a heartbeat later, faintly brought on by the evening wind. She comes straight up to his side, not even certain if he's really awake. Ever so gently, she kneels at his side, her dress pooling out behind her as she goes down, knees baring themselves to the night.

"Hey…Tony. Let's… get you home, alright?" She whispers gently, fingertips coming up to his cheek. Trying to rouse him gently, if he's half passed out. Maybe he's just deep in thought.


The *splish* of the water in the fountain does mask sounds, even moreso when one really isn't listening for those familiar sounds. Long gone. There is, at the very least, long breaths taken that shows that he is, indeed, alive, and there's enough movement that would indicate he's not asleep. Just.. resting.


It's her scent in the breeze, the softness of her voice, the sound of concern; is he dreaming? Startling, Tony pulls his head up and stares blearily at the vision, and blinks against it. There's a moment before he shakes his head. "I'm.. I'm good. Waiting on Happy.. I'm meeting him…" and sitting up, there's a little bit of a wobble as he gestures behind him, by a small gate, "There." He pauses before, "What time is it?"


Despite the fact that she's now reassured herself that he is alive and not a complete mess, though he's not looking his best and his eyes are more bleary than she's seen them in a while, Pepper doesn't disappear. She remains kneeling there, knees delicately together, red hair caught by the cool wind of the night. She has to be freezing in those totally bare shoulders, but she doesn't mention it. Diamonds sparkle upon her throat, ever so delicate, like a dusting of stars across her collarbones. Her fingertips don't leave his cheek.

"It's almost 1 am… Happy might have come and gone, Tony. I… I have my driver here. I can get you home." She whispers, but her pale eyes are searching his, looking for just how drunk he is. The wobble gets her other hand to his shoulder, offering steadiness. She'd catch him if he fell. She was there.


Tony looks at her, her face, the way her hair falls to frame her face, the diamonds.. and he turns away and makes to stand. At the same time, he's offering a hand to her, shaking his head, "No.. don't. Just.. stand up. I don't need that.."

Tony turns his eyes upwards, trying to focus on something other than the vision. Trying to think of something to say, and he's coming up with absolutely nothing. Nothing, in his mind, that could make any difference. Still…

"It's cold." Tony shrugs out of his tux jacket, revealing his starched white shirt, and turns to put it over her shoulders. "You should have your driver take you home. I'll.. I'll take my chances with Happy." He won't let him down, right? He tries for a smile and it fails half-way, "'Sides, you're right to be done with me. You're .. you're right."


As he stands, Pepper is almost immediately on her feet, hands coming out to try and help catch him in case he tips over. Apparently, Pepper thought he was more drunk than he actually is, or he's really better at hiding it than she thought he was. Still, she's protectively standing, both hands on his shoulders now. So close they can touch and her perfume completely fills the air around them. Something delicate and French. Hand blended to her scent.

"It's not so bad. I've been dancing all night, it…feels good. And Happy… " Pepper sighs, "I'm pretty sure I saw him taking your dates home. Who knows when he'll be back. But it was better than them causing a scene…" They're all used to cleaning up around him as needed. It used to be a careful dance between her and Happy, these things. "…where's Carol?" He's trying to push her away, but she's not going right now. Her expression is set and worried.


Tony knows the scent, it's forever set in his brain, and right now, it's just.. difficult. He doesn't want to be here, doesn't want to be this close, and the only way he could begin to distance himself would be to do something that he simply can't bring himself to do. Hurt her once again.

The jacket is .. refused, and instead of putting it back on, Tony throws it to the side. Done. Rejected. "Good," is murmured. "He'll be back, then.." It has always been a well choreographed dance; when he had everything.

"Wha- Oh." Tony drops his hands into his pockets now, and he twists around to look back at his seat. The jacket sits there alone, and instead, he takes a step forward to the fountain. "I ended it with her. Schedules. Never around, either of us. She deserves better. Some stability. I'm not that guy."


As she realizes just what he's about to do with the jacket, and catches that trace of hurt — rejection — in his eyes, Pepper's hand naturally comes up and grasps the jacket. Just like Pepper, her mind realizing what he needs a second before things spiral too bad. She was cold too, after all. She gently wraps it around her shoulders and something pinches in her chest. It smelled like him. His warmth was around her. She'd missed this. She hugs the jacket gently, for just a heartbeat or two, before letting her fingertips return to his forearms.

"Ended it? Oh…Tony. You… you deserve good too. I know you don't always realize it. But you… do…" Pepper breathes out so softly, her heart breaking just to watch him. One of her hands leaves his arm, fingertips coming up to cup his cheek, if he lets her. Just touching that faint scruff there. "And…I never wanted to be done with you either. I'm not… done with you. I miss you."


Tony watches the water moving through, reaching the apex of the arch before it falls into the pool, and the cycle goes on and on.. out of the corner of his eye, he's caught that Pepper's taken up his offer, and the jacket is set on her shoulders. All he wanted to do was to be the one to put it there. To pretend that he was.. someone. Someone who could possibly take care of someone else.

This is Tony Stark, however. Iron Man not withstanding, he's got the reputation for being rather self-serving, selfish.. egotistical.. and those are his good points.

A deep breath is taken, and he lets it out slowly, nodding, "I need someone who is around. Not… galavanting around the world. She needs a partner, and I can't give her that. Call me old-fashioned, but I kinda liked what my parents had. At least from the point of view of a six-year-old, anyway." Tony shrugs again, and when she touches his cheek, he turns to look at her, shaking his head, "Pepper.. don't. I.. I spent a long time being mad at you because you chose something else over what you had. Over me. Then, I couldn't even help you. You wouldn't let me, and instead, it was someone else. Someone else. Barnes. Murdock.. and don't tell me I'm wrong. He's blind but I'm not. Wayne. And you know what? That's okay. I get it. That's why I'm just going back to work. Doing what I do best. Working. Inventing. Making money and trying to make the world just a little bit safer. But it's okay. I've got a direction to go. I.. I just really hoped that you'd have been by my side."


Something goes a bit harder in her eyes, as she hears that mingling jealous and touch of self pity in his voice. And how much he wanted. Pepper knows him well enough to know this is more open than he's been in ages, even if all those other, weirdly selfish emotions are mingling through. Her fingertips don't leave his cheek, even as he tells her not to. She's holding on for the moment. Her other hand drops from his forearm to his hand. Just wanting to hold it. To keep him close.

"For one… I barely know Murdock. I met him once. Barnes didn't help me. He locked me in a room and tried to make me sweat the shit out and I thought I was going to die. Wayne just offered me a job when I thought I'd ruined my career… he bothered to see just how good I am at what I do and took a chance, that's it. It was Bobbi who got me off the stuff after a… a lot of experiments. It was awful. I was a wreck. I didn't want you seeing me like that either. You… you had a right to ask me to leave. But…" Pepper shakes her head softly, "That's over now. It's past us."

She steps a bit closer, if he allows, taking a deeper breath of his scent now, her fragile frame half drowning in his tux coat. "…I wanted to be by your side too, Tony. I… dreamt every night about it…for a long time. But I'm more than a secretary. I… could be by your side in so much more. Work… life…"


"Every day, it's not you I see in that office, so no. It's not past. But.." and Tony looks down, feeling her fingers against his cheek. Finally, one hand rises to take hold of that hand, but instead of removing it, he simply has a hold of it. "If I asked you to dinner and didn't offer you a job, would you accept it? It'd be a hell of a title. 'Tony Stark's girlfriend'." He can't help the sarcasm. "You'd be getting a whole lot of press. That was one thing Carol was a little funny about. The press."

Tony shakes his head, and holds her hand in front of his face, wanting to kiss the palm of her hand. "Pepper, I don't know how to begin to answer that. Yes.. you are so deep under my skin, I couldn't forget you even if they gave me a lobotomy. I want you with me, I want you by my side.. and I don't know how to do that." He shakes his head, "I don't know how."


That offer was a surprise. Pepper stares up at him, eyes going a bit wider, trying to process how just being his girlfriend would work. She had been before, but she was working for him. It was almost expected. Now, if she remained in her current position, he was right. The press would be insane. The accusations of corporate collusion. But Pepper doesn't say no. She just watches him, her throat tightening at the feel of his hand across her's. "…I don't care about the title… not when business hours are over. I care about YOU. And… Yes. I think dinner would be… nice. If you don't mind dating a CFO. We'll both get a lot of press and a lot of hate for it." Pepper admits with a wry smile.

Then he says he doesn't know how to do that and Pepper grows serious. Her hand around his tightens, but she's got her work face on. The honest, straight up, laying it all on the line face. "…You make me your vice president. If you want me there… day and night, you offer me that. And then I'll always be there, no matter what. Because I am more than a secretary and I… couldn't go back to being your secretary. I… could be your girlfriend. I miss that. I could be your VP. I could be both. But… I can't pretend I'm just a bright girl from the secretary pool who you fell a little bit hard for."


In all fairness, Tony doesn't date all his secretaries; that's not part of their job description. A good number of CEOs use the secretarial pool as a matchmaking pool, but that wasn't his speed, nor was it Howard's before him. He gives her a long look before, "The press would go nuts regardless. They're always looking for something. So, it's a matter of what we want to know. You're my girlfriend, but you work for Wayne. Or, you leave Wayne for a 'better job' back at Stark Industries and then are found dating me."

Though, when she did agree to dinner, there's something behind those bloodshot eyes, "Dinner. Russian Tea Room?"


"Yes, the press will. I… can handle the press. Frankly, I'd like a dinner or two JUST with you before our lives go completely public, just to… Figure things out. But I can handle that. Anything else we'll figure out." Pepper has given her ultimatium about work. But that wasn't the same with dating.

And she owed people an apology now. Murdock and Carol, probably. But her mind isn't quite there. She looks up to him, a faint smile flickering across her lips, "…What about dinner at my penthouse. I'll cook. No one else. Something… quiet?" But dinner. She's still willing. She also hasn't let go of his hand.


For a few long heartbeats, Tony doesn't say a word, but when he does, he nods his head before he finds the words. "Yeah.. your place would be fine." He offers a ghosted smile, "I didn't know you cook." After all, not everyone does. Maria didn't. They had a cook for that. "Something quiet," is confirmed. It's almost too good, and through it all, he's waiting for that shoe to drop. And her hand? He hasn't let go of hers either. He does look over her shoulder to see headlights slowing, "Either that is for you or that's for me. Or, I'll take you up on your offer." A ride back to the Tower.


Pepper's limo. They were waiting protectively for her and now had crept around the back in attempts to find the normally very prompt Pepper Potts. It's a gorgeous white vehicle, gleaming bumpers, darkened windows. Pepper would recognize her car anywhere. She smiles a bit more to him, "Something quite then. It's a date. Wednesday. Gives us both a chance to get into the work week and settled before taking a night off." She squeezes his hand once more and then tugs him back to the edge of the garden. "Come on… that's my car. I'll get you home and call Happy. Let him know it's handled."


His limos are dark colors; black with tinted windows. Pepper's seems a stark contrast. Tony squeezes in return, and keeps her hand, following. When they get to the edge, he's going to let go; he knows paparazzi. If they want quiet, it has to be quiet. He does, however, take the moment to step in and offer a kiss to her cheek, lingering there for a breath. "I'll call Happy when I get home. I had phones installed in the cars." It'll be the strangest work week ever.

"I'm going to be out of the country tomorrow." Tony figures that it should be said, anyway. "If everything goes well, I'll be on my plane and headed home on Tuesday."


The woman pauses for that kiss, an honest to god smile blooming across her lips. Pepper turns her head, returning the kiss gently to his cheek, her nose brushing against the crest of his cheek. "I…missed you." Pepper whispers gently, not totally able to hide the aching behind her tone. This hurt her too.

Then she's pulling away enough to lead to the limo, the driver quickly opening the white door. She has a very sharp looking female chauffer who is as muscled as she is beautiful. Chauffer and body guard, probably. "Victoria, we'll be taking Mr. Stark back to his tower first. THank you." And then she settles back into the cream leather interior with him. "…You better be sure it all goes well. I'd hate for you to be late, especially if I'm cooking." She is only half teasing.


Tony has missed her, and badly. He's missed everything about her; the way she talks, her laugh, the way her nose scrunches a little as she decides exactly what she's going to say and how when wading into 'Oh Tony' territory. "I'm going to be so bad at this," comes as a prelude, "But Pep? Please don't forget that whatever I do, I'm doing it for you. For us." He chuckles breathily, and follows her out to the limo. The chauffeur… and his brows rise. "Okay…" he begins, but with a glance, that's where he ends too. Time to head in and settle in.

The limo is just as comfortable and accoutred as his own. The soft leather seats, the windows, the room in the back. He's comfortable. Once on their way, Tony keeps his voice down; "Are you kidding? And miss a dinner? Won't even be fashionably late. Promise." Promises, however, that may not be able to be kept? Iron Man is off to Madripoor once again.. or is it Latveria? "I'll bring dessert. Maybe an angelfood cake?" The ride, then, may be a touch awkward, but not really in a bad way, and by the time he's home, the scotch has worn off a little more and he's feeling… okay. Better than he had in some time.

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