Pepper's past is something mentioned even less than Tony's parents. Whereas Tony's past is a gaping hole in conversations with him sometimes, it seems like Virginia appeared fully formed at Tony's side, was rechristened Pepper, and never had anything to look back at.
In some ways, that's the truth. Pepper doesn't look back. She listens back sometimes, when too many people call her Virginia in a day. She goes home to Tony's workshop and changes his classic rock to the old crooners her mom used to love like Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelley. He doesn't ask, not even the very first time she cut off the rock and roll and turned it into something smoother. Instead, he tries to sing along and has JARVIS order their favorite take out. He took her at her word when she said he was all she had, too.
It wasn't always so easy for them. In the beginning, it hadn't been the weapons manufacturing that bothered her, even though it really should have been. No, she was bothered by the alcohol. It was much more expensive than what her father used to drink, but she knew the effects all too well. So Pepper waited. She reworked her resume, waited for the fists, and prepared to resign. She would not be her mother. She would not be the victim.
Tony wasn't like that. He drank and he drank until she wondered how he was still alive, but he never once even motioned to hit her. The resume got buried on a jump drive and Pepper forgot about it.
Three years before Afghanistan, for her Christmas present, Tony made her acting head of the Maria Stark Foundation and said he wanted one of the target groups of their distributed aide to be battered women. Anyone else would have been pissed at receiving more work for their present. Pepper saw the gesture for exactly what it was, and that was the day she fell in love with her employer.
Virginia Potts was a nineteen-year-old sophomore away at university when she received the phone call that her father had finally killed her mother and himself. She donated her father's body to a medical institute, cremated her mother's, and never looked back. She wished sometimes that her father had raised his hand once to her and not her mother. She liked to delude herself that watching her child be hurt would have lit a fire in Elaine Potts and forced her out from under her abusive spouse.
She'll never know if that could have been the case, so Pepper looks forward. She visits the women's shelters as many times a year as she can. She finds new friends in the Avengers, loves Tony, and most importantly, trusts him not to make her a victim.