Pepper stepped up beside Tony, linking their arms solidly, and looked out over the crowded reception. Her smile was, just possibly, a little more fixed than usual, but under the circumstances, she thought that was understandable.
“We’re in a room full of spies, aren’t we?” she murmured, sotto voce. Tony, still scanning the crowd, actually answered out of the corner of his own fixed grin.
“Yup,” he murmured, resting his hand almost instinctively over hers where it curled over his arm, a protective little squeeze that she wasn’t sure he realised he was making, that warmed her heart all the more for it. “Look for the ones that look like habitual suit-wearers, I think.”
Pepper grinned, a little, as they moved down the stairs and onto the main floor. “Tony. Two thirds of this crowd are socialites and business people, and the other third are spies. I’m pretty sure they’re all habitual suit-wearers.”
He flashed her a grin, real and pleased and right, and she tried not to feel stupidly proud. “I’d put the numbers more around 60:40,” he nodded, spinning her casually into his arms as they moved to the dance floor. Pepper, unlike their first such dance together, kept up. “But you do have a point.”
“I usually do,” she responded, tartly, with a smile to leaven the sting. Moving with him, swaying confidently close, flicking her eyes casually, curiously, over the crowd. “Hmm. What do you think, Mr Stark. Are we betting?”
He almost stumbled. Almost tripped himself in surprise, his eyes swinging back from the people around them to blink down at her in shock, and delighted surprise. “Why, Ms Potts!” he exclaimed quietly, faking outrage. “What a shocking thing to suggest!”
She grinned, clipping his ankle a little, just to make a point. “Well,” she murmured, leaning in close just to feel the slight speeding of his breathing, to brush her cheek against his and scan the crowd at his back. “Admit it. It’s not the worst thing you’ve caught me suggesting.”
Tony laughed. Quick and startled, and contrived to hug her close, just for a second. She knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he made it look daring, suggestive, to those around them. Made it look seductive, and not the hard, delighted burst of friendship it felt to her. “I’ve ruined you utterly, haven’t I,” he whispered, rough and warm. “Utterly disgraceful, Ms Potts.”
“Mmm,” she murmured, in his ear, deliberately ignoring the faint flutter of her heart. “Half an hour’s personal time, not spent in the lab, on the gentleman with the Armani two couples back.”
He grinned, spinning her lightly, casting a two second look back. “No bet,” he shot back. “Where are they getting their stealth-tech from? That lapel camera looks like it came out of the Cold War, for crying out loud!”
She chuckled, lightly. “Yes. And it goes horribly with the cut of his suit, to boot. Hmm.” Casting around quickly, catching sight of … Oh. Well. My my. “The pair of gentleman next to the marble basin in the back.” She grinned, very faintly. “I think Ralph Lauren is Agent Hill’s style, don’t you?”
Tony was silent for a long, long second. And when he did answer, his voice had dropped a couple of registers, and his hand had tightened, just a little, on her back. “I think we have some Armani that might fit you, you know,” he rasped, mouth brushing gently at her ear. “At home.”
She grinned, low and fierce. “Spot me eight non-SHIELD agents or higher, and make it Giorgio, and I think we might have a bet, Mr Stark.”
Tony laughed, spinning her again. Not to scan the crowd, this time. Just to watch her. Just to catch her eyes with his, dark and crinkling at the edges, and grin. “And what about you, Ms Potts?” he asked, sly and light. “What do you get if you win?”
Pepper bit her lip, feeling her eyes sparkle. “How about we discuss that when I do,” she suggested, tucking herself back into him with a small smile. “But, Tony?” She waited, until he looked back at her, until those crinkly eyes were watching her again, before tipping her mouth, just a little, and brushing the softest of kisses across his. “I think I win regardless, don’t you?” she whispered, into the soft shuttering of his eyes, and the tiny, helpless smile at the corner of his lips.
“Yeah,” he breathed, soft and reverent. “Oh yeah.” He shook his head, recovering his grin with aplomb. “You know what, Ms Potts? I’m beginning to think we should get SHIELD to send us on these James Bond outings more often.”
Pepper laughed. “Mmm,” she agreed. “Just remember, Mr Stark. Since I’ll be wearing the suit … I guess that’ll make you the Bond girl, won’t it?”
Tony shrugged, cheerfully. “I’ve been worse things,” he said, his eyes still soft. “And for a lot less of a prize.”
… Yes. She supposed he had, at that.