Pepper Potts is late. Pepper is always late. Late for date night because there's a call from Korea and she really has to take it. Late to work because Iron Man is bleeding on her couch. Late to meet people she doesn't want to see because CEOs always have reasonable reasons to be late.
But Pepper Potts is not late like this. Not the kind of late where you count extra days on the calendar and hallucinate imaginary cramps. Not the kind of late where you stay up at night, debating what you will do and feeling guilty for already knowing the answer. That kind of late is for other women -- women who are not careful and methodical in their planning, women who do not take their birth control religiously, women who are not CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Women who are not Pepper Potts.
"I'm late," she blurts. Date night is half over; there are cubes of cheese and slices of salami on the tray in front of them, the wine is good and indecently expensive and old -- and fuck, she shouldn't be drinking it.
Tony frowns and says, "So you got here ten minutes late. Big deal. Ten minutes is barely late in Pepper time."
Pepper clenches her fingers around the glass of wine she's no longer supposed to drink. "Not that kind of late, Tony."
"But that happens, right?" Tony says, still implacable. "You've been under a lot of stress, back and forth to New York and DC, setting up the lease for Potts Tower... You need a day off. You need a week off. Switzerland is nice this time of year, or Vanuatu..."
"No, Tony." Pepper forces herself to breathe in and out slowly. "I am not stressed out. I do not need a vacation."
"All right," Tony says. "You need to be pee on a stick. I'll get you a stick to pee on."
"What?" Pepper is mad, suddenly very mad. "I tell you I could be pregnant, and all you have to say is go pee on a stick?"
"You're angry," Tony says. It's maddening, the way he states the obvious.
"Yeah, good call. I'm angry. This is the most terrified I have been in my entire life, and you act like it's no big deal."
"So you're mad because you're frightened and I'm not?"
Pepper clenches the wine glass tighter, and Tony pulls it gently from her hand. "You're going to break that," he says.
Pepper breathes out slowly. "Yes, I am frightened." She does not like talking about her feelings, hates it in fact. "I moved in here two weeks ago, we just figured our relationship out, you're Iron Man, and I'm the CEO of Stark Industries." She hears her voice going shrill with panic and forces herself to slow down. "I like our life, Tony. I don't want it to change."
Tony's hands are firm on her shoulders. "We'll figure this out, Pepper. We always figure things out. But first let's see if there is something to figure out, okay?"
"Okay," she says.
They hold hands in the car on the way to the drug store. She feels calm until Tony starts talking. That happens a lot actually -- she's calm, and then Tony's talking, and then the whole universe is about to explode.
"We could have baby," he starts. She looks at him out of the corner of her eye, horrified but he continues, oblivious. "Baby Iron Man. We could name him Ignatius."
"You named our baby. We've been living together two weeks, and you know the name of our baby. And it's Ignatius." Oh god, she doesn't know which of these things is worse.
"You don't like it?" Tony asks. "Ignatius Vladimir, Vladimir Ignatius. It has a nice ring to it."
Pepper buries her face in her hand. "Don't talk. I beg you, please don't talk."
"Phew," she says.
"Phew," he echoes.
She looks up at him questioningly. "For awhile, you sounded like you wanted me to be pregnant."
"No." His fingers twine through hers. "For the record, I am actually pretty relieved that you're not. But if you were, we would have figured it out. You can figure out anything, Pepper, and I will figure out anything I have to in order to be with you."
"That's one of the better things you've ever said to me, actually. File it away for future use." She smiles, but on the inside she's shaky. What she has to say next is big, big enough to have broken up a relationship before. "The thing is, Tony, I don't ever want to figure out a baby. Stark Industries is the only baby I ever want to have."
"Okay," Tony says. He doesn't look happy or disappointed, just...okay.
"That's all?" Pepper asks. "I tell you I'll never have a baby, you'll never be a father, and it's okay?"
"Yeah. Whatever you want is okay. You want to have a baby, we'll have a baby. It will be terrifying, actually, and require a frightening quantity of mature adult discussion, but we would do it. And if you won't want to have a baby, it's okay. What I owe you is exactly the life you want to have."
"That is also one of the better things you have ever said to me, and I will remember it and hold it over your head the next time you set the living room on fire with your thruster pack." She feels dizzy, her knees a little weak. Tony does that to her a lot actually, every time he's perfect and she doesn't expect it.
"I have one other request," she says. "Actually, no, not a request. Demand."
"You demand to have sex with me, right here, right now," Tony says, and Pepper narrows her eyes. Tony blanches. "Alternatively, you would like to state your non-sexual demand in clear and explicit terms which I will listen to carefully and then obey."
"In the extremely unlikely event that you and I have a baby, you will have no say in the name. None whatsoever."
"Wise decision," he says. "It's a deal."