1. Pepper Potts can run in high heels.
OK, this one isn't news to anyone who's seen the footage from any of the attacks, explosions, incidences, or many, many etceterated times when Tony's inventions and Tony's personality mix inappropriately with some other element from the rest of the world. Running in high heels is something that Tony's assistant, and Tony's girlfriend, and Tony's sort-of boss need to master early and practice often, because Tony's way of dealing with the world does not leave a lot of room for graceful exits unless one is prepared to blast them open oneself.
What's surprising is that Pepper does practice, and often. A month after she hired on as Tony's PA, he blew his lab for the first time--well, the first time in her experience--and somewhere on the way to the fire trucks, ambulances, evacuation meeting points and the horde of reporters who turned up, Pepper put a hurried foot down wrong and turned her ankle. The sprain wasn't bad and she was able to play the injury off as part of the whole episode, but she deeply resented the stiff boot-brace she'd had to wear as her ankle healed. She'd spent a big chunk of her hazard pay on a treadmill for her tiny apartment and convinced a couple of the R&D guys to replace the belt and rollers with something more heavy-duty, and even now, as Stark's CEO, she does not wear a pair of shoes out until she's taken them for a run on her treadmill.
Natasha happened to interrupt this post-shopping ritual one day after they'd done a day out in Malibu with Jane Foster and Darcy. Pepper never upped her speed past about six mph--no need to be careless, after all--but the sight of her friend motoring along in sensible black workout wear and a pair of purple satin Manolos made even the ex-Russian assassin pause in the doorway.
"That is..." Nat searched for the right words as Pepper ticked her speed down to a sedate walk and reached for her hand towel. The treadmill in the Tower suite is an in-floor model and sturdy enough for pumps and for Tony to test any of his repulsor footwear. Pepper flushed and tried to laugh off being caught out.
"...A waste of a pair of perfectly good pumps?" She already had mental notes on where she'd be placing the instep cushions, heel pads, and catspaw for the soles; even if she wouldn't ever need to run in them, there was no need for high fashion to be uncomfortable.
"I was going to say, a remarkably clever idea," Nat finished. "Not many women would think to train in their pumps, but then..."
" 'Running for your life from renegade robots, aliens and rival CEOs' isn't in a lot of peoples' job descriptions," Pepper concluded.
2. Pepper Potts is determined to be good at sudoku.
There aren't many mental games one can play with Tony Stark and beat him. He collects pop-culture trivia and historical references like other people collect odd coins or creepy dolls, and numbers don't just speak to him, they sing little songs and full arias in his brain. Pepper is not interested in beating him at the Sunday Times crossword or word scramble--in fact, she learned a long time ago that directly competing with Tony in anything was not going to work out in her favor. Going over, around, under, and breezing past him: that was the way she got things done at Stark, her modus operandi as his PA and as CEO. All she wants is to be able to complete a sudoku herself, without having to pause long enough for Tony to notice that she's stuck and then coming over to rattle off the correct sequence of numbers for her next square.
They don't get a lot of time to just sit and relax together, mostly because Tony doesn't relax and Pepper doesn't relax by sitting still. There are moments, however, every couple weeks, where he will get a paper or proposal or plan to read and she will be content to recline on a couch with his head in her lap and her dollar-store paperback collection of sudoku puzzles and a pen (always a pen: doing the puzzles in pencil, while allowing her to go back and adjust her mistakes, means that she's allowing herself to make mistakes even before she's begun. She must believe that she'll get the numbers right the first time. Second-guessing a decision before she makes it is not how a good CEO runs a Fortune-50 company). Concentrating on the middle square, she comes across a line where she's written the number 2 twice and in her frustration, makes a second mistake in sighing to herself. Tony notices.
"Let me see," he says, reaching for the book, and Pepper's used to this so she holds it out to the side, out of his reach. He drops his tablet, twisting over her to try to get the book, and a brief wrestling match ensues, both of them giggling and poking at ribs and armpits and Pepper losing her pen down the couch cushions before managing to distract him with a long, lingering kiss from on top, where she's got him pinned down to the sofa with her legs clamped around his waist and one arm. His other hand comes up, fingers sifting through her loosened hair to hold the back of her head as his lips play against hers, and she smiles into his mouth and catches her breath in anticipation.
Tony's eyes snap open when she pulls back for breath and she knows in that second that he got a look at the pages after all. "Your third square, in the upper right, that 2 should have been a 4. Just switch 'em around and you'll be set."
"I didn't ask for help," Pepper groans, running her own hands through her hair in an attempt to reorder it a bit, sitting up, the moment gone.
"No need, babe. I'm always here for you," Tony grins and wiggles beneath her, so she does some shifting and leaning until he's retrieved his tablet and is reabsorbed in his article and she's found her pen again and resolutely flipped to a new page of puzzles, determined to finish this next one by herself.
3. Pepper Potts can cook--when she has the time to do so.
For the first time in three weeks, Bruce is alone in the lab: Tony is off to Malibu to oversee some of the offshore retrieval from his former clifftop lab, and Jane Foster has been recalled to Tromso to follow up on a piece of research. It's 1230 am when he drains the last of his tea; a glance at the computer model on his desktop tells him the data will be compiling for another fifteen minutes, making this the perfect time to hit the bathroom and brew up another pot before moving on. As he pads down the hall towards the Avengers common room, he hears soft jazz and the clanking of pans on the stovetop and figures Barton is frying something, as is his usual habit when he's on downtime from his SHIELD assignments; he is therefore almost as startled as Pepper Potts when he walks into the kitchen and finds her rooting around in their freezer. He manages to not drop his teapot, though, while she, unfortunately, bangs her head on the top of the freezer.
"Jeez, Pepper, I'm sorry. I thought you were Clint," he says, setting the teapot on the counter so he can go help mop up the water she's spilled. "What are you doing down here, anyway?"
"Oh, we don't actually have a kitchen on our floors, just Tony's collection of wet-bars and souped-up toaster ovens," she explains a little sheepishly, and Bruce peers over her shoulder to see a neat platoon of ingredients laid out on the counter behind her. Sugar, shortening, flour, a bowl of cherries...
"Are you...do you actually cook?"
"Sure," she replies, sweeping her bangs off her forehead. "My mom was the pastry chef at my aunt's restaurant for years. I just had a craving for her cherry turnovers, and there just happened to be a grant proposal i have no interest in reviewing before tomorrow morning."
"Cherry turnovers trump a good night's sleep, huh?"
"I don't sleep well when Tony's not here, not after the whole Tennessee adventure."
"I don't imagine there's much sleep to be had when he is here," Bruce observes, and is delighted to see her crinkle her nose at him and blush.
"I hope you're referring to the weird hours he keeps, and not trying to make an innuendo, Dr Banner," Pepper scolds, and Bruce laughs. He doesn't laugh with many people, but their shared Tony-sitting in the last few months has made him comfortable around Pepper. She's sealed the deal on a couple of occasions when, upon encountering the Other Guy and Tony playing in the Hulk-proofed training center, she utterly fails to panic, scream, faint, or do any of the other annoying things people tend to do around him.
Waiting for his water to boil, and then for his tea to steep (oolong with mint, honey and lavender), Bruce keeps Pepper company as she makes her turnovers, cutting the shortening into the flour and salt with practiced ease and whipping the cherries into a candied, syrupy mound of temptation that Bruce has to swipe a fingertip through, resigning himself to a swift rap across the knuckles with a wooden spoon. She cleans her dishes as they bake, putting everything back in time to concoct a sweet icing and hand-whipping a pot of cream.
"I get the feeling you've done this before," Bruce observes, blowing on his pastry to cool it. He almost doesn't want to bite into it, it's so pretty: the icing drizzled with precision across each golden pastry wedge, little hints of cherry syrup weeping out of the crimped edges, a perfect cloud of cream dolloped on top. He does take a bite, though, and is rewarded with a wash of buttery, sweet-cherry heaven as the warm pastry melts in his mouth.
"Well, I won't say this is the first time I've made these," Pepper answers wryly, cutting into her own pastry with a fork. "And yes, this is not the first time I've snuck into your guys' kitchen at midnight either," she adds, forstalling his next question. "I never really have enough time to do this as often as I'd like, and one gets tired of ordering in all the time."
"I think the next time you have time, you should let me know," Bruce presses his finger into the flaky crumbs on his plate, gathering them up; it'd be a shame to waste a single square centimeter of that turnover. "I'd be happy to help. Or at least test your product."
"Testing is helping," Pepper laughs.
4. Pepper dresses with deliberation and purpose.
Again, this is not a surprise, not on the surface, at least. Like many high-powered executives, Pepper Potts choses her wardrobe like a knight reviewing his armor: smart jackets and pencil skirts for meetings with the Board like light chain and boiled leather for regular sparring and training bouts; gowns and cocktail dresses for publicity gatherings like polished plate and scale mail for parades and tourneys; tailored pantsuits and point-toed heels when she needs to face down a recalcitrant board member or the press, like battered curiasses and high-shield pauldrons for the thundering, speeding danger of the joust.
Her clothes are tailored and altered, the practice of most celebrities and those who can afford it, to flatter her shape, maximize ease of movement and also to add surprises. Tony began gifting her with little gadgets long before they started officially seeing each other--handheld klaxon alarms that fit in the palm of her hand; nail polish that emitted a gps signal, allowing JARVIS to find her and contact her whenever Tony felt the need (even if she was at home, in the bath, at the gym, or having her teeth cleaned); a tiny little repulsor cannon, disguised as a key-fob flashlight, capable of breaking car windows or fingers when aimed at an attacker. He might forget her birthday, his own birthday, Christmas, or any other major holiday, but Tony would give her little gadget gifts year-round, so she never really minded buying her own birthday presents.
Her jackets, blazers, sweaters, pants, and gowns all have a surprising number of pockets, because a CEO carrying a purse suddenly becomes a woman playing at running a company. Pepper hates holding folios and briefcases, preferring to have her hands free, but she will put up with the necessity if it means she does not have to undermine herself by carrying a shoulder bag--and that's only if she can't tuck her tablet into her blazer's breast pocket, her slim StarkPhone into her pants pocket, a pen into her sleeve and her collection of gps trackers into the cuffs of her blouse. Pepper wears pendants that contain tiny microphones and pearl earrings that record 180* on either side of her head. There are blouses that she wears that cannot be drycleaned because the bulletproof fiber mesh they are made with will discolor when exposed to dry cleaning fluid. Her shoes are outfitted with heel and instep cushions, catspaw grips on the soles, and very occasionally, tiny steel darts in the heels. (Well, not occasionally--just the once, as a matter of fact. Tony didn't tell Pepper about the modifications he'd made to her shoes until the wireless signal in her car had sent the little barbs into the floormats and scared the bejeezus out of her, Happy, and JARVIS, who rerouted the car back to the Tower to assess the damage from a supposed attack.)
Pepper's hairpins can--but rarely do--hold poison, and JARVIS has synthesized for her a whole range of potions that range from mild sophorifics to heart-stopping paralytics. Her lipsticks and glosses are seals on her lips against casual poisons and drugs. If she is wearing bangle bracelets, they are electrified (an inspiration Tony gleaned from Jane Foster's assistant Darcy and her surprising proficiency with a taser); if she wears a beaded bracelet, it contains a specified homing and tracking device that allows certain of Tony's inventions to find and latch on to her. And when that happens, Pepper dons her overt armor, which is just as full of surprises as what she wears every day. Pepper as RESCUE feels like a revelation of all that she is, all that Tony has helped make her, and all that she's won for herself: a chance to show the world (and her Board of Directors) exactly who and what they've conjured when they decide to square off against Pepper Potts.