A/N: Ahh...A fic for the festive season. This story is also part of the its_always_been LiveJournal Challenge 01: the Holiday Season.
He's dressed in his best pressed suit and at the last minute he fixes his tie before he steps out the door. He shakes the feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty because for the first time in his life he's about to do something that'll change him forever. It's something that he once vowed he never would do. It wasn't because he didn't want too or need to rather, but it was something that just wasn't necessary for him. He already had everything he needed anyway.
But that was before Ironman. That was before Obadiah and Afghanistan. That was before the weapons and the miniaturized arc reactor sitting in his chest. That was before the whole Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer fiasco.
That was before he realized he loved her.
It was before he realized that she completed him. That somewhere in his little world she was the air that stirred him alive, that kept him hoping, dreaming and wishing for something better. She was that hope and that will to do better because he could and because he needed too. She was that person he trusted not with his life but with his everything. She was all he had and she was all he wanted.
She was all he ever wanted.
And for a while now, she's become that reason to come home every day. She's become that goal, that reason he stays sober and fights with every will to remain alive and unharmed. She's that voice that speaks to him in his head and keeps him focused when he's in battle with the Avengers. She was slowly becoming his world and as much as it startled him, he couldn't help but bask in its greatness. Because for the first time in his life he was happy and completely and utterly content with loving only her.
He stepped into the hotel and nodded to Happy who opened the door for him.
"I'll need all kinds of luck tonight, Hogan," he murmured softly as he buttoned his jacket.
"I don't think you need it, sir," Happy replied coolly.
"Jarvis calculated the odds of her response to be 643 to 5."
"Tell me about it."
"But I'm sure you'll do fine, sir. Christmas always brings good luck."
"I'm not so sure that the festive season will help but maybe with my good looks and charms I can woo her to give me the answer I'm searching for."
"I'm not so sure wooing her will do the trick, boss," Happy mumbled as they walked through the hotel.
"Maybe not wooing but..." he trailed off as his eyes captured hers.
She was dressed in burgundy coloured cocktail dress with a complementing green bag she held securely at her side. Her hair was almost angelic like as it fell across her shoulders in the most beautiful kind of way. He was at a loss for words as he watched her chat aimlessly with a group of gentlemen and ladies he recognized to be their co-workers.
There was just something about her and about the way she held herself that made him swoon. It's the way she sipped at her drink and swirled that red wine in its glass that made her completely and utterly sexy.
But much to his dismay an elf dressed cocktail waitress stepped in his line of view. He narrowed his eyes slightly at the woman.
"Drinks, Mr Stark?" the waitress murmured enticingly.
He grimaced and motioned to Happy.
"I'm sorry, but Mr Stark has pressing matters to attend to right now," Happy mumbled as he ushered away the waitress.
He turned his eyes back to her and she smiled endearingly to him before she pointed at the podium. He nodded and returned her smile as he breathed deeply and tried to even his heart rate as he made his way to the podium.
It was time.
"I can't believe it Hogan, I hold the controlling interest of Stark Industries and I'm Ironman but I'm as scared as a little girl in a zoo," he muttered as he swallowed the lump forming at his throat.
"You'll be fine, boss," Happy murmured. "Just like you practiced the other day."
He raised a brow and smirked, "You mean when you were pretending to be Pepper when I asked-"
"I know the atmosphere and effect wasn't correct but you got the words right nonetheless," Happy interjected quietly.
"It's just four words," he muttered, "How hard can it be right?"
"Well, you've pulled of better stunts than this before so I think you'll be fine."
"I hardly think this could even be classified a stunt, Hogan. It's more of a life changing experience sort of thing," he remarked pointedly.
"Just relax and do like you practiced," Happy said plainly as he handed him the script.
"I don't really need this," he noted as he heard the familiar address of his name on the overhead speaker.
"I know, but Pepper doesn't know about what you're planning and neither do the rest of the occupants in the room," Happy explained. "You've got to at least play the part boss."
He sighed as he nodded and touched the place in his suit where the little black velvet box sat patiently waiting to be exposed to the world. This was it. He was going to make the best of it.
"Already instructed and the floor manager as well. It's all set and ready."
He nodded and ran a stern hand through his hair.
"This is it, Happy."
Happy smiled and nodded as he muttered, "Yes it is, boss."
"You know the plan once I finish my little speech, push back the reporters and-"
"Keep them at a distance."
"I know what to do boss, you're all set."
The hall was decorated with the most elegant strings of green and red and the feeling of Christmas sprang to life almost instantly to him. He smiled and nodded briefly to the audience that clapped at his entrance. He was always one to enjoy such occasions and proceedings of addressing the public. But there's something about displaying his heart to the public that he really didn't sit well with. He knew he didn't have too and he knew he could have chosen a more less publicised place but something about the way he loved her called for something better. Something that could reach the sky and something that would show her just how much he really loved her.
He caught her eyes the instant he placed the scripted paper on the stand. She smiled warmly at him as he returned her smile. If only she knew everything he had planned.
"Welcome to Stark Industries 2010 annual Christmas party," he started. He waited until the brief of applause passed before he continued. "Normally, as most of you can attest too, in the previous years this address is normally given by the CEO of Stark Industries. But because I know better than to argue with the CEO herself, I concluded it would be wise to follow her orders and not argue."
The echoed laughter sprang in the room as he smiled warmly at her pointed glare.
"First and foremost, I want to sincerely thank all of you for attending the annual Christmas party. The best part about Christmas is that it's a time of showing our love to others. It's a time of giving and reflecting and remembering," he paused briefly as he captured her eyes, "It's also a time to show your special someone just how special you think they are."
He watched as her eyes softened at him.
"It's about finding that gift...that one perfect gift that will somehow express everything you're feeling. And let me start off by saying to the rest of us guys out there, finding that perfect gift for your lady friend is probably the most difficult thing you'll ever have to do. I know it was for me," he smiled before he continued, "You see, for me finding the perfect gift for our beautiful CEO over there is something that requires a lot of thought and a lot of research. Because let's face it, flowers and chocolates just won't do."
The laughter sprang in the room as she raised a brow at him. He unlatched the microphone from the stand and descended the steps as he continued.
"So here I was many nights ago pondering, wondering, thinking about what to get that's perfect enough and I realized that even if I gave you the world, Pepper, it wouldn't be enough..." he paused as he stopped in front of her, "It just wouldn't cut it because you're more than the world to me..." he looked at her and smiled sincerely. "You're something that lasts forever, something that can be a forever and I know listening to me say things like this is like the sky raining cats and dogs. But inside every bastard is a fool that loves and when that fool finds that one person to love, he realizes that there's nothing that could ever be that great because it's only then when he truly has it all."
He watched as a dozen expressions raced across her face. He smiled one last time at her before he knelt before her and slipped the little black velvet box from his pocket.
"Virginia Potts...Pepper, will you marry me because I want to give you my life for Christmas."
And her answer was on her face the instant he looked sincerely to her. It was in the kiss she drowned upon him as he wrapped his arms around her and laughed as the rest of the audience applauded. It was in the way she leaned back to look at him and really look at him because for once he did something right.
For her he would always do it right and it wasn't because he had to.
For her, he wanted too.
Because when he fell in love with her, he knew he'd love her forever.