It was getting close to midnight when Pepper finally made it back to her penthouse apartment. Happy dropped her off at the entrance of her building; the man was an angel, truly. Pepper had never liked driving and she could use every minute to work either way. She often felt guilty about keeping him working late though, especially since she could see the excitement in his features when he was finally free to go visit May.
These days, she only stopped working once she crossed the doorstep into her apartment. This was her safe space; the one place where work couldn’t touch her. Well, unless FRIDAY alerted her Tony needed her for something, but Tony never bothered her during the night unless it was an emergency.
“FRIDAY, evening mode, please,” she let out a huge sigh, shaking the stress from the day out of her bones. Pepper Potts was the definition of working under pressure. The calm behind the storm.
She only ever showed her stress and frustration in front of Tony, who had undoubtedly seen her in her worst times and she him in his. He had been an easy outlet when she had first taken over most of the SI responsibilities. Basically running the company, while still finding the time to deal with Tony’s bullshit. Especially after Afghanistan.
She was practiced. Knew how the company worked and after almost ten years of being official CEO, she had her routine down squat. Not many people would understand the importance of relying on other people. She, herself, had mastered the skill of commandeering the assistants and interns to maximum benefit – it helped that she had a good eye for picking out the right ones from the applications. This left her with time to deal with the important business aspects (or in Tony’s case, time to party and hook up or work on his own projects).
Over the years, she had made a name for herself as a ruthless but kind businesswoman, someone not easily messed with. She had dealt with Tony Stark; she could deal with meager men like the CEO of Revo Tech Incorporated. That horrible little bastard.
It took another minute and pouring a glass of red to finally be able to fully destress. Standing at her kitchen island overlooking Central Park, she glanced at her watch. Her favorite pasta place would be closed by now. However, Pepper didn’t feel as tired as she usually did at this hour.
The kitchen was dark, only lit by the city lights coming from the huge windows, but she didn’t mind. She liked the dark, always helped stave away possible headaches and migraines. She searched through her fridge, glad to find some vegetables to go with the pasta sauce.
“FRIDAY, can you play some music please?”
“Of course, Miss Potts, the usual playlist?”
“Yes, thank you.” Grabbing a wooden plank and a knife, she started cutting vegetables with Bon Jovi playing in the background. Tony would certainly make fun of her music choices, but she liked it; it reminded her of her college days.
It had been a while since she’d had the time to cook. Most days she’d eat something at work or order in if she got home early, but it had been a busy day and there hadn’t been the time to eat. The stocks – even though the Avengers had officially become separate from SI – still dipped every time an Avengers mission went south. Usually that wouldn’t be a cause of concern, as it always righted itself in the end, but big investors didn’t always see it that way, which meant phone calls. All. Day. Long. Just to reassure some pathetic idiots.
She yelped out in pain as she pulled her finger back and dropped the knife. A white, hot sting rang through her hand. Idiot. She turned around in search for a cloth to stop the bleeding threatening to spoil her very expensive suit. As she wrapped a towel around the cut, still cursing under her breath, FRIDAY alerted her of an incoming call from Tony.
“Pepper?” Tony’s voice echoed through her speakers, worry clear in his tone, “FRIDAY said you were hurt.”
“I’m fine, Tony,” she gritted through her teeth, pulling the towel back in morbid fascination as she took in the severity of the cut. “I just cut myself while cooking.”
“You were cooking?” Tony’s voice took on an amused glint before there was a voice in the background, undoubtedly Stephen scolding him, because the next moment he was serious again. “Is it deep? Does Stephen need to portal you to the medbay?”
“No, I said I’m fine.” Pepper sighed, already moving over to grab her coat and purse again. For this exact reason she had chosen a place close to a hospital. Not that she had expected to have to use it, more like it was a habit; always make sure to get the most perks out of your real estate. “Metro General is right around the corner; I’ll just walk over.”
“Alright, Pep, if you’re sure.” He sounded resigned, but Pepper really didn’t want to wake up one of the compound doctors. “According to Stephen, doctor Palmer should be working tonight, so ask for her. He says explicitly to not let any of the other hacks touch your hands.”
Pepper rather not have Dr. Palmer know how stupid she’d been, but whatever, maybe if she was lucky, she would be busy anyway. “Thanks, Tony, Stephen. I’m heading out now. Talk to you later.”
Tony said his goodbye, before Pepper stepped out into the hallway and was out on the street in a second. Luckily it was late enough that any reporters that would have been lurking had already left. It was a perk of having a routine; you could only sit outside an apartment so many nights without anything happening before you gave up. Still, she had her hood up as she walked around the block, hand, still wrapped in the towel, clutched against her chest. God this was so stupid.
Luckily nothing happened before she made it to the hospital – there was a reason she was usually always with at least one security guard – and as she stepped into the quiet emergency room, she glanced around.
She was relieved to find the place was almost completely empty at this hour and most lights were dimmed. It was a stark contrast to the last time she’d been here. A nurse was sitting behind the desk, looking tired as she filled in some forms.
“Hello,” Pepper took off her hood as the nurse looked up at her.
“What can I help you with, dear,” the elderly woman asked, kind smile on her face despite the late hour and the undoubtedly horrible people coming through here on a regular basis.
Pepper smiled back regrettably as she showed her hand. “I cut myself. According to a doctor friend of mine, it needs stitches.”
The nurse – Anneliese, her nametag said – winced in sympathy, nodding her head. “I’ll just go get the doctor on call. You can take a seat on the bed over there.”
Nodding gratefully, but still feeling horribly embarrassed, she sat down as told, dropping her bag next to her with a sigh. Out of habit, she grabbed her phone from her pocket. It was empty for once, except for an inquiry on how she was doing from Tony. She sent a conformation that she had in fact reached the hospital without any further accidents.
“Miss Potts?” A surprised voice made her look up, straight into Christine Palmer’s face.
“Hey, doctor Palmer.” She tried not to wince, but she could still feel a blush creeping up her cheeks. Christine looked incredibly put together for this hour, hair pulled away from her face and eyes without bags.
Christine recovered from her shock, doctor mode kicking in as she turned to grab some stitching kits. “Twice in one month?” She smiled. “Can’t get enough of me, can you?”
Pepper chuckled but could feel her blush intensify. Christine smiled as she glanced her way before focusing on preparing the local anesthetics and Pepper noticed the adorable dimples framing her lips made her look incredibly pretty.
The doctor patched up her hand with minor pain, handing her some painkillers for the night and sending her back on her way quickly enough. Once Pepper was lying in bed though, her mind stayed on the other woman and the delicate touches of her hands.
One of her least favorite tasks as CEO is attending all the different events, she had to be present for. It made her want to call Tony and apologize for all the times she’d bitched at him for ditching.
She politely declined a lot of invitations, but she had to show her face at least a few times. She was starting to regret this particular choice though.
Since Stark Industries had started working on advancements in the medical department, they had started working together with different New York hospitals. Every few months those hospitals would host charity events or Christmas parties, and of course Stark Industries was always invited. This particular event wasn’t bad in any way; that is, it was just as boring and filled with men as every other event was.
There was the element of disappointment though. When she had reviewed the invitations, she had gotten over the last few months, this one had stood out solely for its ties to the medical world.
It wasn’t at Metro General, yet she couldn’t deny the hope blossoming that she might be there. Doctor Palmer was a well-respected member of the community after all. She had read up on the work she had done and even the slimmest chance she might be there to talk to instead of having to engage with slimy jerks, gave it a leg-up over other events.
Now though, she was starting to regret not dragging Tony along. Stephen surely would know to keep these idiots entertained and she could have snuck out along with them. He was a master of getting out of these things after all, and though Tony had taught her many things about leading a company – and how not to lead a company – that had been the one thing she had never been able to figure out. After all, most of the time he’d been hiding his escape from her.
At least her dress was comfortable. Her shoes? Not so much. She could feel the straps of her black sandals digging into her swollen feet, her legs getting tired from standing up on heels all day. She had babysat Sophia earlier and though she of course didn’t regret spending time with the little girl, it had involved a lot of walking around. Next time she swore she was going to wear flats. At least that’s what she told herself every time.
Pepper jumped as she glanced at the woman that had managed to sneak up on her. She had succeeded in slipping away for a second and was in fact hiding in an alcove away from the masses. If she didn’t get a moment to herself, she was going to start killing people soon.
As soon as she recognized her though, she grinned at doctor Palmer.
“How are you so silent in those heels?”
Christine smiled back at her, tugging invisible hair behind her ear as her dimples edged into her face. “Years of practice from sneaking out.”
Turning to put her weight against the wall and to get a better look at the doctor, she smirked at her in surprised suspicion.
“Where did you sneak out to,” she asked her. There was an edge of teasing in the air whenever she spoke to the doctor that Pepper hadn’t felt in years. It was exhilarating.
The doctor shrugged as she glanced around the room absentmindedly. Pepper noted that the green of her dress matched her eyes. She had looked very pretty with her hair up in the hospital, but this time it was done with more care. There were little braids leading back into a bun. Pepper guessed a lot of bobby pins were used.
The updo suited her, framing her face and showing off her neck.
“Mostly just your average high school house parties. My parents were pretty strict.”
Pepper smiled mostly to herself as she thought back to high school. “I was usually the girl throwing the house parties.”
“Really?” Christine asked, looking at Pepper in intrigue, mischievous glint in her eyes. “Why does that not surprise me?”
Pepper hummed in nostalgia, “Yeah, my parents were out of town a lot. And I threatened everyone so they wouldn’t break anything. Never got caught.”
Pepper could see Christine smiling. “So, you were an only child?”
“No, actually,” Pepper grinned, “I’m just the baby of the family. My older brother and sister were already off to college.” She looked around the room again, the suits were still mingling, standing around the room in little hordes, probably measuring each other’s dicks. The music was a little too loud, making everyone raise their voice to be able to be understood. “God, I would kill for a glass of red wine right about now.”
“Why don’t you get one,” Christine asked, “I’m sure they have it at the bar.”
“I don’t drink at these things.” Pepper grimaced. “Can’t risk it.”
Christine looked around as in thought, before she smirked as she looked back at Pepper. It immediately changed her features, the mischief changing her smile from angelic to full on devilish. It intrigued Pepper and sent a wave of butterflies through her stomach. She should be too old for that, right?
“You okay to ditch?” Christine asked. “Promise you don’t even have to leave the building yet.”
Pepper pondered her options. She should really stay, right? Can’t risk Tony calling her a hypocrite. Yet, the offer was intriguing, and the press wouldn’t even have to know.
“Sure,” she smiled at Christine. The other woman grabbed her wrist as she looked around to see if anyone was watching, then turned back to Pepper.
“Pretend we’re having a normal discussion as we casually make our way to the door.” They did just that, cleverly avoiding anyone that looked like they might want to start a conversation with the infamous Pepper Potts. When they stepped into the empty hallway, she sighed in relief at the silence.
She picked up the hem of her dress as she followed Christine through the empty hallways of the building. It was a fancy place meant for these kinds of things, with old wooden floors and walls. Walking around in the dark, felt like walking through a haunted mansion, yet she felt giddy and excited as she glanced at the doctor.
They ended up on the roof somehow, the open sky looking down on them. There were lounges spread around the edge, a glass railing protecting them from a four-story drop. There was a bar at the other side of the roof, and fairy lights were strung around the pillars that were spread around the room. They were dark now, the place lit solely from the lights of the city.
“How do you know about this place,” Pepper asked in awe. They had a marvelous view of Central Park and Pepper sighed as she saw her own building in the distance. Now though, she couldn’t really miss it anymore.
“Don’t tell Stephen I told you this,” Christine answered from further away than Pepper would have expected. She turned to find her behind the bar, pulling out a bottle of red wine. “But we used to hide away here during events.”
Pepper smiled, leaning down to finally take off the horrendous contraptions on her feet. “It is beautiful.”
Christine hummed as she walked back over to the CEO, handing her a glass of wine. Pepper took a grateful sip. “Oh, this is good.”
“Yeah, don’t say we doctors don’t have standards,” Christine grinned as she took a sip herself.
“So, you and Stephen,” Pepper asked as she moved to sit on one of the couches in the corner, delicately draping the skirt of her dress over her legs, the orange lights lighting her face in an orange glow. “How did that go?”
Christine sat next to her, humming in thought. “There was love there at some point,” she answered, looking out over the park. The dim lights accentuated her delicate features, highlighting the small array of freckles on her cheeks. “I can’t say it ever went away, it just changed. Stephen was a peculiar person before his accident. He kind of lived in his own world, I think.”
Pepper turned to look at the woman next to her, her leg crossing over on the couch, knee brushing against Christine’s thigh. Maybe it was the wine that made her cheeks turn red. She turned to smile back at Pepper, and Pepper’s eyes widened at how close they were all of a sudden. A smile crept its way onto her lips.
Christine had gone completely still, staring up at Pepper with a reserved expression. Her lips were pressed together, and her eyes were locked on Pepper’s, searching the CEO’s features.
Pepper’s eyelids fluttered as she turned to place her glass on the little table next to them, leaning against the back of the couch as soon as her hands were free. She was still looking at Christine, who was following her every movement.
Pepper sighed under her breath as Christine started to smile and copied her movements, leaning against the back of the couch as well, supporting her head with her hand as she looked at the CEO. The dimples were back along with a soft sparkle in her eyes.
“Are you not going to ask about me and Tony,” Pepper asked, smile teasing as she stared up at the doctor.
“Should I,” Christine asked, raising an eyebrow. Pepper reveled in the confidence the other woman was portraying, something she hadn’t quiet seen on her before. At least not like this. “I think I much rather ask about your life now.”
“Not much to tell, really,” Pepper shrugged. “Being CEO is a lot of work. But I don’t doubt you understand. Head of trauma? Don’t think you have a lot of time for yourself either.”
“Touché. So, miss house party, how about you tell me more about that?”
As she looked at Christine, taking in her flushed appearance and the twinkle in her eyes, Pepper decided to take a page out of Tony’s book. “How about we don’t talk at all?”
She held her breath as she noticed the flush on the doctor deepen and she couldn’t help but smile at the pleased twist of her lips. Pepper leaned forward slightly, heart speeding up as Christine looked down at her and copied her movements.
Pepper’s eyes fell from Christine’s eyes to her lips, licking her own slightly as she was close enough to feel the doctor’s breath on her mouth.
“Wait,” Pepper cringed, feeling like she could slap herself as Christine immediately moved back, glancing around in embarrassment. She quickly continued, not wanting this awkward moment to last longer than it had to. “You haven’t eaten strawberry today by any chance, have you?”
Christine looked back at her in amusement, the shame fading away as realization washed over her. Perks of being with a doctor, Pepper guessed. “No, I haven’t.”
“Great,” Pepper reaching out to Christine, cupping her cheek with one hand and her hip with the other as their lips met, a soft question as they moved against each other.
Pepper smiled in satisfaction as Christine was the one who hungrily deepened the kiss, mouth tasting like wine and the expensive lip gloss she was wearing. The other woman felt warm against her, waking up a storm inside her chest as they shared their breaths.
Christine moved the wide skirt of her dress so she could straddle her lap. She pushed her further into the back of the couch, hands splayed over Pepper’s neck as she leaned down to kiss the CEO, taking control as their tongues twisted together. Pepper moved her hands up her thighs, the soft fabric crinkling with her movements.
When Christine pulled back, Pepper couldn’t help but follow, chasing her lips with her own. She stopped to look up at the doctor as she smiled at her. Christine licked her lips, cheeks flushed, and pupils blown wide, hands still around Pepper’s neck. “Maybe we should take this back to your place.”
Pepper bit her lip as she grinned up at the doctor, nodding in agreement as Christine stood up, pulling the CEO up with her. Pepper slipped back into her shoes and this time, instead of pulling her along at the wrist, Christine took Pepper’s hand, linking their fingers together as they made their way downstairs.
There was still press waiting outside, and Pepper smiled fondly as she noticed the bashful look on Christine’s face. She was already looking forward to seeing the pictures in gossip magazines, talking about the two Gal Pals TM.
Happy gave her a knowing look from the rearview mirror, but she just rolled her eyes at him and smiled as they drove the few blocks to her building.
As soon as the door to her apartment had closed behind them, Pepper turned to crowd Christine against the wall, capturing her lips against hers. She reveled in the surprised yelp she managed to pull from the doctor and the eager hands that immediately started trailing the curve of her body.
Christine’s manicured nails explored Pepper’s back until they found the zipper of her dress, pulling it down carefully. The dress pooled around her feet, and Christine moved to cup her naked breasts, making Pepper gasp and move into her touch. Christine moved onto her neck at once, nipping and biting into the delicate flesh.
She kicked off her shoes, putting her at the same height as the doctor and pulled her away from the wall, turning her around so she could place a kiss to the back of her exposed neck as she zipped down her dress in turn.
When both dresses were lying on the floor, Pepper pulled Christine in the direction of the bedroom, the doctor losing her shoes on the way.
She stopped in front of her bed, pulling Christine in for another kiss as her hands moved to unclip her bra. It was pretty, but Pepper guessed what was underneath was even prettier. Christine’s arms moved to link around her neck, pulling Pepper impossibly close, naked skin moving against each other.
They eventually ended up on the bed, Pepper reveling in Christine’s flushed appearance, the little noises she could pull form the doctor and the stray hairs that framed her face, pulled loose from its updo. In turn, Christine’s hands were magic, trailing over her skin and paying attention to all the right places. Her tongue quickly followed and had Pepper screaming her name by the end of the night.
If this were to become a regular thing, Pepper thought as they both laid out spent on the bed, panting heavily as they smiled at each other, she was going to invest in a decent strap-on, because Christine really was too pretty not to.
Pepper moved over to kiss Christine deeply once more, tongue dancing around her mouth as she tasted herself on the doctor’s lips. The doctor followed her, pushing Pepper back into the pillow before breaking the kiss and laying down on the pillow next to her. Pepper fell asleep watching Christine’s eyelashes splayed over her cheeks, examining her soft skin in the dim light of the room.
She smiled as she noticed Christine’s eyes blinking open through the mirror. She was already showered and ready for the day, putting in her earrings the last task before going to make some coffee. Her trained biological clock meant getting up on time, but Christine had looked so peaceful that she hadn’t dared disturb her.
She watched as Christine frowned at the unfamiliar room, eyes softening as she noticed Pepper standing in front of her dresser. Her hair was a complete mess, sticking out from every which angle as her hair tie tried to desperately hold on. It made Pepper smile to see the soft blush on her cheeks as she yawned.
Turning around to face the bed, she met Christine’s look with a smile. Her leg was pulled up, arm resting on her knee as her cheek in turn lay on her arm, her head tilted up to smile sleepily at Pepper. “I should probably get ready too, huh?”
Pepper smiled, glancing at the floor bashfully before meeting her eyes once more with a teasing glint. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you like, but I do have a meeting at the compound at nine.”
“Wait.” Christine looked around frantically. “What time is it? I have to be at work by eight.”
“Don’t worry,” Pepper walked over, placing a calming hand on her shoulder that made her look u at her again, “we still have time for breakfast. We can drop you off at the hospital on our way.”
She leaned down to meet Christine’s smile in a kiss, before pulling back. “You can use the shower if you want. I’ll just go prepare some coffee.”
As she went to move away, Christine grabbed her face in her hands, pulling her in for one more kiss. Pepper cheekily licked into Christine’s mouth, before standing her ground and backing away with a smirk. Christine’s cheeks were flushed again, but she stood up herself, not showing any qualms about her body as she strut over towards the bathroom with a teasing grin.
Pepper could feel the heat rising up her neck as her eyes followed her movements, but she shook her head and walked out of the bedroom.
They had breakfast together and Pepper had to admit that it felt nice to share her space with someone again. Especially when that person was great at conversation. Not to sound like she was a total prick, but Pepper finally felt like she was equal to someone again.
After taking over the company, she had finally understood many things about Tony; including his shit dating record up until twenty ten. It was hard to find someone serious when people were so ready to take advantage of you. And when you did find someone who wouldn’t have to, they often were arrogant shitbags or trust fund idiots.
Christine was the outlier. She was fun and caring and competent at her job. She knew what she was talking about without showing off. It felt like Pepper finally had a female friend whom she liked and admired. The sex had been great too.
It was also adorable how she looked in Pepper’s clothes. Pepper had dug out one of her more casual looks for her, knowing the doctor wouldn’t need a pantsuit. And even though the jeans were a little long on her, it looked great rolled up and the comfortable sweater, one of Pepper’s favorites, fit her perfectly.
It was mainly due to practicality; Christine could hardly show up at the hospital in last night’s dress, but it also gave Pepper a wonderful excuse to see her again.
“Thank you,” Christine said as they stopped in front of the ER. She blushed slightly, tucking her hair behind her ear. “For last night I mean, and the clothes.”
“This is going to sound foolish after last night,” Pepper grimaced, but her smile was sincere as she looked at the doctor. “But do you maybe want to grab something to drink sometimes? I’d go for a coffee but I’m going to have a hard time making time during the day.”
“Of course,” Christine grinned, before her face turned into an apologetic frown. “I don’t have your number, I believe?”
“Right.” Pepper flushed, grabbing her phone out of her purse and handing it to Christine. Christine quickly typed in her number and Pepper sent her a text, so she had hers.
They stared at each other for a second, and Christine hesitated as she leaned forward before pressing a quick kiss to Pepper’s lips. “Text me later?”
“Of course.” Pepper smiled, and Christine returned the gesture before moving out of the car.