Fandom: Iron Man/Marvel
Word Count: 1,262
Summary: Pepper bought the shirt because it was cute or because he lost a bet, depending on who you ask.
Note: Wish fulfillment re: a prompt concerning Pepper's "I've lost an electron" shirt that she wears in bed in IM3. Belated birthday gift for Jules, my lovely TD life partner. Fluff!
Pepper bought the shirt because it was cute or because he lost a bet, depending on who you ask, and Rhodey still can’t figure it out because they refuse to tell him, and Tony for some reason finds this hysterical.
“You two are worse than the government,” he complains after three glasses of whiskey and a playful game of 20 questions and then later, much later, when he’s left for the night and they’re both in bed, naked and pressed up against each other with hands wrapped around arc reactors and shoulder blades, Pepper will wonder out loud why he cares so much and Tony will bring up some song and dance about a lost bet at MIT which will then cause Pepper to think about how Tony just compared their kind-of-new-but-not-really-more-like-sor
(And so maybe she sometimes feels a little out of her league and maybe sometimes she wonders what she did to deserve all of this but then Tony falls asleep with his head on her arm and everything just fits and that’s all it takes for Pepper Potts not to give a damn about her own insecurities.)
Really, she debated the whole thing for a while, not because it was a money issue or a too many clothes issue but because it was a “how far does this mean we’ve gone” issue, buying a cutesy science shirt because her boyfriend was that kind of guy. When Natasha stops by one day to review the latest S.H.I.E.L.D. briefings, Pepper corners her and asks for an opinion because, well, Natasha couldn’t wear leather pants all the time and there’s that whole thing with Clint and, okay, anyone who can soften up Natasha Romanov gets some points in Pepper’s book. The redhead smirks, kind of smiles, but in the end isn’t a whole lot of help which is frustrating because, well, it’s not that Pepper doesn’t have other friends she can talk to but the conversation is a bit awkward for people she only sees every so often.
“So, I’m thinking of buying this shirt because it would be cute, but the thing is, my boyfriend tends to be kind of clueless to the whole thing and I don’t want to come off looking like an idiot, especially because we’re still a little tentative about this whole relationship thing and oh, by the way, yeah, he actually used to be my boss but that’s besides the point…”
(Not like it’s all out there anyway in papers and gossip columns but there’s a fine line between what the public thinks and what actually goes on within the walls of Stark Tower and Pepper intends to keep it that way.)
She’s in the middle of fixing his tie for a press conference would stop when one day, out of the blue, he comments that she should wear more casual clothes around the house. When she quirks an eyebrow, he shrugs and continues to stay silent as her hands smooth down the shoulders of his suit jacket.
“I just mean, you know, we’re living together now…it’s not like you have to impress me anymore.”
The whole thing makes her smile but Pepper also thinks that it might be a backhanded way of asking her to stop wearing heels when she doesn’t have to, especially since she already considers her clothing choices decently casual.
In any case, she decides to buy the shirt that night when they get home.
And of course, Tony doesn’t notice.
Pepper would find herself complaining about this more, to Rhodey or Natasha or whoever else wants to listen. But the thing is, you don’t work with someone for years without picking up on some key things, like the fact that Tony is sarcastic but never crude, glib but never entirely flippant, brilliant but never observant.
She folds the shirt carefully and places it in the bottom drawer and tries not to care about what he does or doesn’t see when it’s in front of his face because that’s Tony Stark, and she knows this, and anyway, if she started picking apart every one of his flaws she would never make it through the morning, much less the day.
According to Pepper, the first time he noticed was when she was standing in the kitchen yelling at the coffee maker.
According to Tony, the first time he noticed was when he walked in on her getting ready for bed.
“Oh, please.” She rolls her eyes and shoves a mug across the counter. “The only truth to that statement is that you were staring at my chest.”
Tony grins. “Perks of sharing a household, Pep.”
She’s reading R&D contracts and making notes with a highlighter while he drinks his coffee, and mentions that she should buy the whole set and aren’t there pajama pants or something because maybe he can get matching ones and they can have slumber parties.
She kicks him under the table in response.
As it turns out, it actually happens when she’s in the workshop (and Tony can count on the fingers of one hand the nights that Pepper actually comes down to do more than pass off a piece of paper, though lately that number has been growing), perched on the rolling table barefoot and loose haired.
“When did you get that?”
She thinks she would have almost missed his double take if she hadn’t happened to catch his eye at the moment he straightened up, brow furrowed, the right corner of his mouth lifting slightly. She raises an eyebrow and he uses the resulting silence to gesture unceremoniously towards her body.
“Did you buy that because of me?”
Pepper smirks, crossing and uncrossing her legs over the surface of cool metal. “Maybe. Maybe I bought it because I like Bruce and he’s better at science than you are.” She watches his face scrunch slightly at her words, the lines on his forehead becoming increasingly more prominent before his face drops into the start of a frown.
She smacks his arm and rolls her eyes, sliding off the table. “Seriously about the shirt. Not about Bruce.” Tony huffs into a half-grin, one hand fingering the loose fabric, and she runs a hand down his arm.
“You know, I was wondering how long it would take you to notice,” she continues quietly, and when he pulls back she can see a hint of concern streaking across his eyes.
“Please don’t tell me you and Rhodey made a bet about this, I can’t stand to live something else down for another 10 years.” There’s an agitated tone buried underneath the sarcasm of his response and Pepper bites at her bottom lip, suppressing a smile.
“I wouldn’t worry about that. Although I think it could qualify as very nice early birthday gift.” She steps closer, wrapping her hands around his body, and Tony shrugs slightly.
“If my memory serves me correctly, you’ve been buying yourself birthday gifts on Stark Industries’ salary for years. I just hope this investment was worth it.”
Pepper steps closer as two fingers slide under her shirt, moving across the curve of her spine, and closes her eyes at the feel of his skin against hers.
“Oh, it was worth it,” She leans in, his voice muffled as he lets his lips press against the side of his scalp. “It was very worth it, Mr. Stark.”