by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: I had insomnia. I thought one drabble, thirty minutes of writing, then I'll try sleeping again. 1 hour and 20 minutes of writing later... Oops?

I'm not 100% sure if Pepper is in character in this, but I really like it anyway.

Pepper Potts knew Tony Stark better than anyone else on the planet. You had to know your employer frighteningly well to be a really good executive assistant. Pepper was an excellent executive assistant; if she hadn't been, she wouldn't have lasted long enough to become Tony's friend, too.

Tony wanted the best possible people working for him, from Pepper to his department heads to his janitorial staff. And he got those people.

Tony's competitors sneered at the, in their eyes, excessive benefits Tony arranged for his people. Stark Enterprises employees had the best health and dental plans in the country. They got flexible and generous vacation time. There was on site day care. Safety training was mandatory, extensive, and regularly updated. The list went on.

But, no matter what his competitors thought, Tony didn't arrange for all that because he was a soft touch. He did it for two reasons. First, he'd run the numbers and he knew for a fact that happy workers were more productive, less error prone, more loyal workers. The expense paid for itself. Second, you only got good people by offering good terms.

Given the lengths he went to to secure good people for his company, Pepper had never understood why Tony was willing to settle for such poorly suited romantic partners. They weren't all bad people, but they were all the worst possible people for Tony to try and build a serious relationship with, and they always left him wrecked when the relationship inevitably ended.

So when she opened Tony's bedroom door (the man was constantly oversleeping; Pepper knew that dual identities took their toll, but really, he'd miss half his meetings if not for her) and saw that someone was sharing Tony's bed, her first reaction was unalloyed dismay. Overnights in his own bed almost always meant Tony was taking another stab at a serious relationship.

Then Pepper took another couple of steps toward the bed, getting ready to wake Tony (she hoped his bedmate wouldn't scream when she woke them; she hated that), and she realized that she knew Tony's companion.

It was Steve Rogers.

Pepper blinked in surprise. Then she smiled. Tony hadn't settled for awful romantic matches. He'd fallen for the best, and then he'd gone and convinced himself that he couldn't have the best. That, Pepper could understand.

It was such a relief when these things fell into place.

She started to reach for the light switch; then she paused. This was almost certainly their first overnight. Did she really want to interrupt it? Tony deserved, even needed, happiness like this, and for the first time Pepper was confident that the person he'd chosen could give it to him. She studied the entwined lovers for a moment, feeling strangely hopeful. Maybe... She checked Tony's schedule.

Nope, he really couldn't miss that meeting. Oh well. Steve had to get used to it some time.

At least, Pepper reasoned as she reached for the light switch, Steve wasn't likely to scream.