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 I'll be there if you're the toast of the town, babe, @TONY STARK
It had been a little too long since Pepper had been able to enjoy a night out. After the scare with Tony's health (that still wasn't a hundred percent out of the woods as of yet, mind you), a nine month pregnancy and seven months worth of maternity leave, the fanciest nights Pepper and Tony had had were in sweats at home with a glass of wine and the knowledge that Rowan was either with the Jarvis' for the evening, or with Bruce and Natasha.

Pepper had never really been one to take pride in spending absurd amounts of money on dresses, hair stylists, make up artists... She was as natural as they came, as there had never been a day in her life that she had wanted to cake her face in so much make up that she was unrecognizable. Nights out were exactly that: nights out. Nights to socialize. To remember what it felt like to have her body back after her pregnancy, and to converse with other adults about things other than baby formulas and Baby Einsteins.

And then there was the fact that there wouldn't have even been so much as a consideration to invite the Starks to any of the S.S.R.'s events had it not been for Tony. All of the times that Pepper had caught him working on his first suit and all of the times she had witnessed (or heard) his progress backfiring. The bruises from his test runs and trials in his old lab. And his underground garage. And the roof...

She hadn't exactly been his biggest supporter in the very beginning. Anything that put his health and well-being at risk was something Pepper typically lobbied against, but after seeing the progress he had made, the obstacles he had overcome and the good he had done? As much as she hated to support a hobby that was as dangerous as it was successful, she was proud.

There was little chance of Tony ever working under the S.S.R's wing; he had a hard time working for anyone other than himself, after all... but even Pepper could see that little bit of joy he seemed to have when he was faced with a bit of a challenge. Upping the S.S.R.'s tech team by tweaking Natasha's new uniform, for example. It gave him something to work on that would help with the greater good all while keeping him out of harm's way.

Most people had been keeping their eyes on the clock as it was New Year's Eve. The closer it ticked to midnight, the closer everyone was to their midnight kiss that some had likely been planning for some time now. First kisses, friendly kisses, last kisses... One of the many benefits of being married was knowing who her kiss would be. After more than enough years spent either standing on the sidelines wishing she had someone to kiss or kissing the least memorable people imaginable, it was a nice feeling to know some things were for certain with someone that actually deserved her midnights.

It was an added bonus to not have to witness Tony kissing girl other than her, too, but that went without saying.

As invested as she had been in a playful banter with the assistant director about what it would take for them to convince Tony to sign a contract with the Strategic Scientific Reserve, she was politely excusing herself as she, too, had been keeping tabs on the minutes that ticked closer to midnight.

Tony, too, had been pulled into conversations of his own. Pepper's hand on his shoulder as she approached him from behind was meant to alert him to her presence rather than startle him as she leaned in to whisper into his ear. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but can I steal you away?"

you'd be good to me, i'd be so good to you
Kayleigh CST She/Her 27 Offline Action 9 years
Married to Virginia "Pepper" Potts

1214 words.
tag: pepper/geoff
song: duet - penny and sparrow
As cliche as the utterance might be… what a year.

Tony, as Tony is wont to do, was standing in the absolute center of the action—disrupting the natural flow of the ballroom and otherwise inconveniencing the men and women who might want to dance or socialize—without shame. He had a gaggle of geese—pardon, a gaggle of various SSR and SI lackeys—hanging on his every word and gesture; this, too was a concept of which he absorbed readily, because Tony Stark was the kind of man that attracted people: with his knowledge, with his power, with his influence, and, sometimes most of all, with his money. For Tony, this was the status quo. For his admirers and enviers, too, this was the norm. But whereas one or two (or six or ten) of his adhoc audience might be vying for his attention, or his input, or even a flippant, semi-distracted response, his focus was not on them, no. No, this inventor only had eyes for one person, and those hyper-intelligent eyes focused not on the people in front of him, but rather turned frequently in the direction of his object of affection, as though to make sure she hadn’t, say, abruptly vanished, or suddenly gone up in a puff of smoke.

What a strange, demanding, and unusual year this had been.

Tony had come so very near to death this year, perhaps nearer than he had ever consciously gone. It was not an experience he had enjoyed, but like all crises, it had wrought a change in him. Granted, Tony’s ratio of average days to days containing brushes with death was uncommonly skewed more so towards the latter category than the first; despite this, and despite the fact he frequently insisted to his personal-assistant-turned-best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned wife (and coincidentally, the same person he couldn’t keep his gaze off of tonight) it wasn’t intentional, there was no doubt that Tony had a bit of a deathwish. But nobody, no matter how much of a masochistic tendency they might have, wants to precede their last days with any sort of suffering—if not for themselves, then for those they loved… and that was, perhaps, what made this year so significant.

It wasn’t about the pain. He’d had plenty of that. A surgery in a cave, fogged by drug-soaked rags and the sensation of burning up from within; being unable to breathe or move even as the mechanism keeping him from bleeding out on the inside was yanked from his chest; abuse and beatings, sprinkled with torture and psychological manipulation, strewn throughout his short life with an unfair proliferation. He was a goddamn expert in pain. They were old friends; that shit didn’t scare him anymore.

Pepper didn’t know pain like that, though. Rowan—his son—didn’t know what it meant to hurt that badly. That wasn’t to say his wife’s life had been free of tragedy, because it hadn’t been, but that ever-multiplying, ever-learning bundle of cells they’d brought into this world together (even as unintentionally as it was) deserved a headstart in normalcy… and facts were, for a long time, Tony hadn’t been sure he’d be able to grant that.

That was, in part, what made this year so grueling. The other side of that coin rested with the part of Tony who had sworn he would never let himself develop roots, lest he become the man his father was—so, of course, he found his reasons for living, and, by proxy, potential reasons for dying. That, so far, was playing out to its foreseeable end, too. Pepper hadn’t asked Tony in depth about things discussed during his capture, and Tony hadn’t offered. The chaos of his return (and Rowan’s arrival) had resulted in it getting swept it under the rug long before anyone was in the right mindset to return to the fundamental question: what had happened? History, really, repeating itself: Division had tried to sink their teeth into Tony just as they had with Howard, utilizing the well-being of his wife and child as the stick in a carrotless situation. And despite a spectacular escape (and the destruction he and the others had wrought before taking their leave), Tony knew there would always be someone, somewhere, with a vendetta, an assumption, or a hedged bet trying to rob him of all he had gained.

He was too muddled up inside to sort out the rights and wrongs, or the guilt, when it came to himself and the balancing of his life’s acts against the world’s, but Pepper… Rowan. They didn’t deserve that. They didn’t deserve any of this. Least of all him—and that wasn’t the ego talking. The Starks were as notorious for their destructive and selfish tendencies as they were for the ideas that had altered the course of history. Though he did not and could not consciously recognize just how bad he could be for those around him, loving Tony was rather like consigning oneself to a lifetime of heartache… as this year had so callously proved.

But they had survived. He was living—on borrowed time and a complex regiment of medications and serums, to be fair—and he had survived. There were lives… people who depending on him, and whom he didn’t want to let down. In spite of his habitual self-sabotage, he wanted to do right by them… and that was the crucial transmutation he’d gone through this year, the vital change Tony Stark needed to endure to become the next version of himself on the way to a better man.

It had been a grueling, awful, painful, tiring year… but every second had been worth it.

Someone had finally commanded Tony’s attention (a feat in its own right) when Pepper approached him; as soon as her hand was touching his shoulder, he was already turning away from the person in question, thought processes forgotten and questions neglected for the sake of his wife. He didn’t bother to bid farewell, other than a wave of his hand, to the group he’d been spending time with; instead, he slid an arm around Pepper’s waist and moved away with her, making it clear where his priorities lay—but that’s what you get when an unconventional person has an unconventional life (and has unconventional manners, but shhh, some days he was working on that… sometimes).

You can steal, thieve, purloin, pilfer, kidnap, abscond with... ” Their cheeks brushed together as he planted a kiss on her jaw, the crush of people keeping him nice and close to Pepper (well, giving him a good excuse to be—he’d be doing that anyway). “Anytime. Although, you say ‘steal’, I say ‘rescue’...

Brown eyes, twinkling, met blue. “Who were you talking to? Should I have actually been the one engaging in a rescue mission?” True to his usual attention span, Tony hopped from topic to topic like a game; he usually expected everyone else to keep up, though Pepper could usually rein him in where others couldn’t… or, failing that, keep up with the busy city center station that serviced Tony’s dozen-plus trains of thought. “Is it almost midnight? My phone’s in my back pocket, but I’d rather keep my arms around you.
There hadn't been so much as a single doubt that Tony wouldn't welcome her small interruption. It was almost amusing to Pepper to know just how many people wondered if their marriage was as cold and seemingly negligent as they all presumed Tony to be based on the persona he had displayed in past years. Well, the persona the media had clung to, believing it to be the man behind the charm.

Some of their moments were caught by the camera of a paparazzi or reporter; hand-holding in the streets, kisses on cheeks... In the beginning, there had been mild confusion and immense bewilderment that such affection could be shown by a man that had been interested in far too many women.

There may have been a slight coldness towards Pepper back when she had been his personal assistant, but it was one that she had braved for years, knowing just how few people he had actually allowed to see the warmer side of his personality. The one that loved and wanted to be loved. The one that craved affection, much like any other human craved. Things had changed drastically between the two since those days.

The strawberry blonde smiled an apologetic smile to the group that Tony had been entertaining as his attention jumped away from their conversations. His arm slipping around her waist and her smile turning its attention to him.

Pepper leaned her jaw into his lips as he placed a kiss against it, never at all minding the public displays of affection Tony was always so willing to offer her. The way she saw it, they had waited ten years to even begin dancing around the truth of their feelings for each other, so they had ten years of catching up to do. Besides, two people in love deserved to be able to show the world that much, within reason.

"It didn't look like you needed much rescuing..." Everyone even remotely involved with Tony had surely been desperate to keep him intrigued and entertained with whatever conversation had been at hand, after all. An amused smile finding her lips as her blue eyes watched him jumping from topic to topic, much as he always did. Noting each thing he asked or brought up as she let his mind wander the way it often needed to.

"I was just talking to Agent Coulson, or rather he was talking at me. Asking my advice on how to recruit you..." The smile that lingered on her lips turned into a bit of a smirk; she knew Tony well enough to know he wouldn't ever become part of the S.S.R.'s payroll, but it amused her to no end to watch them scrambling to find a way to change his mind. "Phil seems to think that everyone has a price and that it's just about finding yours..."

There didn't seem to be too many people interested in counting down the time until midnight until it crept closer to the final stretch. Off to one side of the room, there seemed to be a few counting down the first half of the last minute until midnight which would have answered Tony's question, but Pepper knew there was a slim chance he was paying attention to much else around them.

"There's about... seven seconds until? Six... five..." There wasn't much effort needed to press herself closer to the man that she had married, given just how close he had already ensured the two were. Her lips seeking his out perhaps a couple of seconds before the clock actually struck midnight, but Pepper didn't really give a damn. Given just how many years she had gone through wishing she were the girl kissing him on New Year's, it shouldn't have been much of a surprise that she wasn't overly eager to wait until exactly midnight to kiss the man she loved.

you'd be good to me, i'd be so good to you
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