1964-07-25 - You Know Me So Well
Summary: Tony calls Pepper to see if he can rekindle any bad ideas.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
pepper tony 

It's late, and after trying Pepper's home number, Tony, slouched in a chair at his office with a glass of scotch in one hand, dials her office. This is going to be fun, trying to figure out where they're at without letting on he's got no idea.

The phone rings twice, then is auto-patched through to another line (the most modern of technology!) since Pepper's secretary is long gone for the day. One more ring and then the woman picks up, her slightly husky voice showing just the edges of wear for the day. "Virginia Potts speaking." It's clear she expects business, even if it's almost nine at night and no male executives would DARE be in the office this late.

"You're never going to be Virginia," comes Tony's familiar voice. "Surprise." There's a smidgeon of enthusiasm in his voice and the clink of a glass on his desk, the creaking of a chair as he shifts his weight. His voice is weary, too. "They've got you working late over there. Do they let you go home?"

Depending on how much attention Tony is *actually* paying, he'll hear the faintest intake of breath at the sound of his voice. It's a gasp of surprise and faint hope. The exhale that follows is one of a woman trying not to let her emotions get the best of her but just hearing his voice means a bit too much to the long estranged Pepper Potts. She draws another, slower breath in and then clears her throat, starting as smoothly as possible, "I'm an executive. I make my own hours. Not much to go home to anyway so… might as well work."

"Really?" Tony says, and there's a small uplift in his voice. "You strike me as a cat person. I figured you'd have at least one by now. Or two, or three, four… I hear they're arrogant, self-centered, and stupid. You should be able to handle them fine. It would give you something to go home to. I was thinking of making a dog."

Another, slight sigh comes over the phone and the sound of her shifting in the background. A heavy mug on wooden desk top, probably a coffee cup, not a tumbler. "No cats. Tony. You…did not call to talk about animals. Can I help you, or did you just decide you missed my voice?" Pepper's tone is trying not to be bitter but it's definitely slipping in around the edges.

Tony is quiet for a moment, then he says, "I thought you might want to know I'm back in town, so you can get your restraining orders lined up or whatever it is you want depending on what doghouse I'm in." He pours a little more scotch, glass clinking against glass. "I know I just disappeared."

The silence hangs heavy. Just the faint sound of her breath across the line as Pepper tries to consider how to answer. There is a faint sound of her body moving in the background, pacing perhaps, as she carries the heavy phone. "…We had a date." That's finally the only thing she can bring herself to say. There is the crackle of heartache behind those words.

Silence on the line. He doesn't even breathe for a moment. Finally, he says, "That's the doghouse I'm in. Fair enough." Despite him trying, the playful cadence of his voice falters. "I wouldn't have ditched you if I hadn't been called away like I was."

A little chuff of a laugh escapes her throat. "… Called away? I called your secretary, Tony. You just left. No… note. No phone call. Nothing. This wasn't business. You just… had to get out of here. I know you. You had to run." Pepper's tone is a touch more angry now, trying to keep her breath even and her heart out of it, but she's hurt.

"It wasn't from you," Tony says. A swallow, probably of scotch. "Also, I did do business, so technically…" But he doesn't even try to float that line any further. There's a sigh, and he says, "I had to get away. I couldn't breathe."

"Partially, because we had a date." Pepper states flatly, knowing his patterns by now. Her jaw tightens, the tension clear across the phone, though Pepper is trying so hard to keep it together.

"I felt like an idiot," Tony says, "for standing you up. But I was already in Berlin. It was too late, and I figured you wouldn't have had much to say to me."

The moment he mentions Berlin, some of that ice breaks in Pepper's tone. She knows him. She knows him too well. She breathes out faintly, sinking back down into the creaking leather chair she has. "You went to Berlin… God…Tony… Why?"

She does know him well. Maybe that's why he called. Someone who might hang up on him, scream at him, tell him to go to hell — but she would know. And she's done none of those things. Letting out a breath, he says, "The thing about being in Hell is there's nowhere lower to sink."

Another long breath, Pepper then drinking it in to speak, but she doesn't find words for a heartbeat or two. But then she does speak, "This isn't a thing we should talk about on the phone and you shouldn't be alone."

Another clink of glass on glass. "I worked so hard to get this way," he says. "Anyway, is that an invitation? Because even I'll admit I shouldn't be driving tonight."

A sigh, slightly annoyed again but Pepper is bad at hiding her heart from Tony and, more so, it's worried. "I can go there. I'm not doing anything else today, after all…That is, if you are really back home."

"I'm in the office," Tony says, "but now that I think about it, I should go home. I've kind of stranded myself here." He pauses, then adds, "It's not to late to rethink that cat."

"I already got a stray cat. It's name is Tony. Call Jarvis, have him send your car to pick you up. I'll see you at home." Click. Not his home. Home. After all, it *was* her home for about six months. She had her own pink room and everything. But it hadn't been her home in a long time. Still… A breath, killing the light, and she's out the door.

What can Tony do but finish his scotch and call Jarvis? He's not going to stand Pepper up a second time. When Pepper gets home, Tony is in the lounge poured into a couch in his shirt-sleeves and slacks, his shoes still on. His hair is a mess, though, and he looks like he's had way too many. There's music playing quietly from speakers in the wall. Tonight's a night for maudlin jazz.

Pepper has been working all day. She doesn't look like a woman that has slept well in some time either, but that is life. She hides most of it under make up, but this late in the day some of that has come off even. Still, her hair is as red and vibrant as ever. Any of the weight she lost over her course with vigor has returned to her beautiful, hour glass dancer's shape, not that sickly gaunt look she had. SHe's in a red suit today, the skirt just BARELY long enough to be appropriate and the jacket bespoke fitted to all her curves. She walks in with a bottle of… sparkling *water*. Something he needs. "…Tony?" SHe calls gently through the room, her high heels clicking like a quiet heartbeat on the marble floor.

"In here," he calls, though Jarvis is more coherent when he says, "Hello, Miss Potts. Mr. Stark is in the lounge." Tony looks over from the couch when Pepper arrives there, and he's quiet a she just looks at her. Finally, he says, "I don't think I'll ever get over how beautiful you are."

Tossled from the day. Tired. A slight run in her stockings and as much annoyance on her face as there is worry — and he's still calling her beautiful. Pepper looks over Tony for several quiet heartbeats, before stepping down out of her high heels and abandoning them on the edge of the marble foyer, so she can step into the carpeted area. She crosses smoothly to his side, setting the water down in front of him. "Drink. Water. Your favourite fizzy brand… the fancy one." She remembered. Some nights it was the ONLY thing she could convince him to drink.

"If you're going to punish me," Tony says, "I'd rather you just yell and call me names." He's about to turn his nose up at it, but it is the fancy kind. He shoves himself up to sit and says, "Fine, but you're killing an innocent hangover." As a peace offering, he takes the bottle and endures a drink of something that isn't scotch.

"It's the fancy kind. The kind that you said you'd ONLY drink that whole week you refused water and I had to go to VERMONT to find it." Pepper must keep it stocked now, just for these purposes. After all this time? She still does. She then shifts out of her jacket, leaving her just in that short skirt, run stockings and silk camisole. Her arms are long and bare, silk soft as always. She always looked so touchable when she had the proper amount of weight on her. SHe sinks down into the couch next to him. "I'm not punishing you. I.. am… checking up on you. You're too damn good at punishing yourself."

"Yeah, but I drank it," Tony says, like that justifies the whole shebang. He takes another drink, then looks over at her, his gaze lingering. Not a leer, not this time. It's just hard not to think about how soft and touchable she is when she's right there. "At least you know you're no match for the competition." he says. He presses the water bottle to his forehead. Ugh, he's really overdone it tonight. "I've been a Grade A ass, Pepper."

"…Yes. You have. To me. To yourself. Probably to half a dozen other women. The question is what you want to do about it now." Pepper is different than the slightly nervous, all too eager to please secretary he hired years ago. Becoming an executive, actually being able to use her mind to it's full capacity? It's let her blossom. It means she's not there to just stroke his hair and tell him it's alright. But, she's still Pepper. She is still *there*, loyally next to him, worry in her eyes and one hand reaching out to gently rest against the edge of his knee to try and soften the blow of her words.

Tony holds up a finger and says, "One in particular. Aside from you." His brow furrows as he says, "When did you get so smart?" He sighs quietly. "I have no idea what I'm doing. I came back, so clearly I want something. Maybe to make amends with the people still talking to me."

Other than the faint touch on his knee, Pepper doesn't dare reach closer to him. She knows if she does, it'll be all over. She just watches that finger, a slight brow arching. "…And who is that one?" Already, in her head, she's planning on how to help him. He knows that look, he got it a dozen times when she was cleaning up other women for him, after they dated… The reason they broke up. It's still those same blue eyes. "… And I was always this smart, you just didn't see it."

"You mean things even happen if I don't notice them?" Tony asks, pretending to be aghast. He takes another swig of water. He grimaces, but he must like this kind if he's still drinking. "I was dating someone named Carol. Broke up with her because I wasn't good for dating. Then I asked you out." He shakes his head. "It's like I see the big red button and just have to hit it."

There is no surprise in Pepper's features as he says that, just some grim acceptance. "Yeah…you…You do owe her apology. Hell, maybe you two will hit it off again. She was good for you. She doesn't drink." Pepper offers softly, not quite meeting his eyes, not letting those tidbits of jealousy show through. After all, she did ACCEPT his offer of a date. Even if he stood her up.

Tony shakes his head and says, "I think I burned that bridge and poured scotch on the flame." He shoots a glance Pepper's way when not drinking is mentioned. "The other way to look at that is how bad I am for her. I just feel bad for letting a good woman down. And I'm so good at it. I've perfected my technique."

"I guess." Pepper's blue eyes rise to him as he looks her sideways like that. She says nothing else, just locking gaze with him, all that heartache and quiet exhaustion in her face. A woman who clearly wants to reach out, to take more, but has been burned so many times now she doesn't know how. Her fingertips just trace a slow, familiar circle on his knee.

Tony looks at her in silence for a time. This is where he would make a move if he weren't so torn open and raw from the past several weeks, aching from the audacity of the mistakes he's made. It's been impressive, even for him. Finally, he looks down and says, "You work too hard." Pot, kettle. He shifts a little and adds, "I'm going to hug you." It's all the warning he gives before he wraps his arms around her shoulders. There's alcohol on his breath still and faded cigarette smoke clinging to his clothes. "I'm sorry."

The hug warning is not something Pepper expected. She was just about to smirk and defend her work ethic when that almost comes out of no where and she's got no defenses. So, suddenly, he's hugging her. Pepper doesn't stop him, though she does stiffen for a heartbeat or two before her body just leans into it. He smells like Tony. Booze, cigarette, cologne, his familiar sweat. *Tony*. Pepper breathes deep, wrapping her soft arms about him, tugging him a bit tigether to lean into her chest, so they can half curl up on the couch together. "…Oh… Tony. I… I know you are. You always are." She smells like vanilla, roses and coffee. Pepper.

Tony curls up with her, and he closes his eyes, pressing his lips to her hair. The scent of her is so familiar and comforting, and just… he melts against her. "This time I'm really sorry," he says with a lame little laugh. Then he sighs, and he just holds her. "I have no idea why you put up with me."

Pepper shifts just enough that her arms can remain comfortably around him as he curls up a bit closer against her. This is how they are staying now. Not just a hug, a longer cuddle. Something close and needing, something that reminds her just how much she's ached for him alone. She's missed him, for all the misery. She exhales slowly against his neck, trying to organize her thoughts through the mist of being pressed against him. "…I…don't know either. But… I love you, Tony. I always have. Even if we never work, I…I do love you. I'll always will. ANd I'll always be here to pick you up when it gets a mess."

"I don't deserve you," Tony says quietly. He strokes her arm lightly with the pad of his thumb, a reflexive thing for him. She's soft as silk and he's only flesh and blood. He turns his head to rest his brow against hers, his lips so close. "I'm a train wreck, and I'll hurt you every time, but every time you're the one I want more than anyone else. Even if it's just this. Us, here. I've loved you for so long."

The words she's been dying to hear for months, the words that she knows are just going to break her more. Pepper's eyes press tightly shut, half burying herself in his throat, her soft frame tightening against him even as she fights strange stinging behind her eyes. She just presses there so hard, her chest and throat tight, breathing nothing but his scent. "…I know you are. I… know I should leave. Walk out. But… God, I miss you, Tony. I miss this. I keep wanting to make it work but…you have to work for it too. We both do."

Tony hugs her closer, curling his fingers in her gorgeous hair. He rests his cheek against it, closing his eyes. "If you walk out I won't blame you," he says. "I won't even be mad." He takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly. No, he'd be crushed, but he'd understand. "If you stay, I swear I won't… I just want to hold you. I just want you here with me."

Ever so gently, Pepper tries to tug him off the couch. She sighs against his cheek, turning her head and pressing the smallest of kisses to the edge of his mouth. It's not his full mouth, but the touch of it. "I…I'm not leaving. We'll talk more when you are sober. Make some decisions. But, I'm not leaving. Let's get you into bed, at least… I'll come. We can both sleep. We both need it." Pepper gingerly whispers, guiding him off the couch, back towards that back hallway she remembers so well.

Tony grins stupidly at the kiss, small as it is, "I still got it," he says as he's hauled to his feet. He drapes an arm around Pepper's shoulders. "Right, we'll talk in the morning, when I feel like I've been dragged backwards through a plane engine." He makes his way toward the bedroom with her, and this he remembers. "If you can put up with me then, we might just have something here."

"How many years have I been putting up with you now…?" Pepper asks gently, a slight smirk across her red lips. She gives his ribs a gentle squeeze, his arms around her shoulders, and keeps walking him back to the master bedroom. Once inside, she gently deposits him on the edge of the bed before beginning to neatly remove her tailored skirt, stockings, garters… Anything that could get drunkenly messed up. She then goes to the drawer where he used to keep his sleep shirts and shorts. A pair of shorts is pulled out for him, tossed in his direction. She steals a long shirt for herself. "Change. You'll be more miserable if you sleep in your clothes."

Tony watches her. Of course he watches her. He promised not to start anything, but he never said he wouldn't look. He kicks off his shoes and fumbles with the buttons of his shirt. "Okay, but you can't look, I'm not that kind of guy," he says. With a straight face. He then finishes changing whether she looks or doesn't. He's still in good shape, but a little on the thin side. Too many late nights with more booze than food.

She looks, but only a peek, once he's turned around. Just enough to see how much his ribs are showing. Pepper doesn't like what she sees. The redhead frowns a touch deeper, but doesn't push it right now. A good night's sleep and breakfast will be a step in the right direction. "You are always that kind of guy, Tony. You love it when people look." Pepper states flatly, a faint smirk crossing her full mouth. SHe then pulls the last few pins out of her hair and steps over to the same side of the bed she always used to take, his long shirt coming down to her mid thighs, at least. It's a night gown on her. She climbs into bed, not seductive at all, just stretching out in a way that leaves one arm open for him to curl into, should he wish. "…SLeep. Just…sleep, late as you can. I'll go in late tomorrow. They can handle it."

Tony grins over his shoulder. "Hey, what about turning over a new fig leaf?" Like that'll ever happen. He pulls on the shorts, then crawls into bed with a similar lack of seduction. This moment's respite from misery has reminded him of just how exhausted he is. "That place will fall down around your ears without you," he murmurs, already on the way to dreamland. Before long, his breathing evens out.

Pepper was about to say something else, but then she realizes just how deep his breath has gotten already. A faint smile crosses her lips, fingertips coming up to comb lazily through his hair. "..Sweet dreams, Tony…" She whispers, ignoring the screaming in her head of what a poor choice this is. Right now, it felt too good. She'll follow him to sleep within ten minutes.

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