[Just Stick to the Cards]
Rocky is still sprawled among the rumpled sheets of Tony's bed when Pepper gets in that morning. Pepper likes these mornings best, because if Rocky hasn't followed Tony down into the shop, he'll generally stay with her for the day. Pepper's not sure what to make of the fact that Rocky has stayed in the bed every morning for the last two weeks.
"Hey you," she says, tweaking one of Rocky's ears as she sits on the edge of the bed. "Up. Come on." As irritated as she'd been with Tony for all but dumping the puppy on her in the first place, she's become rather fond of the drooling behemoth. She rubs his belly when he rolls onto his back: it's part of the routine. When she stands he heaves himself up too, and clambers off the bed. He's still puppy-ungainly at six months, even though he's now seventy-two pounds and almost tall enough to lay his head on the kitchen counters from standing all four feet on the floor.
The routine continues with a short trip outside, and then they have breakfast together. Rocky demolishes a bowl of ridiculously expensive organic raw food diet that Pepper special orders from a chi-chi L.A. dog spa while Pepper has a bagel and a pear sliced into neat chunks, and skims through her Google alerts for any Tony-ignited publicity fires she will have to put out.
"Looks like a quiet day for once," she says to Rocky when she's finished scrolling through the list. Rocky snuffles emphatically into his bowl, and Pepper sighs. "Yes, I don't really believe that either."
They've been settled in the living room for almost two hours, Pepper idly flicking through the news channels as she works, Rocky napping at her feet, when Tony charges up the stairs. "You two look comfortable."
Pepper ignores him, and he turns his attention to Rocky. "Hey, doofus. Come here."
Rocky flicks one eye open, regarding Tony for about ten second before cracking his jaw wide in a massive yawn and rolling over.
Rocky doesn't. Rocky shows no sign he's even heard Tony. Pepper surreptitiously rubs his belly with the top of her foot and tries very hard not to openly gloat.
"What did you do to my dog, Potts?"
She gives up the pretense of studying her screen and meets Tony's glare head-on. "What?"
"Don't think I haven't noticed he's been spending all his time with you. Are you bribing him? What is it? Drugs? Women? You hiding bacon under your skirt?"
"Oh for god's sake. You're being ridiculous," Pepper says. "Maybe he just likes it up here because it's quieter. And," she adds, "no one expects him to fetch beer."
"Yeah, well, that was a bust. But I'll keep the music down."
"Mmmhmm." She doesn't even try to pretend like she buys that. "He's comfortable."
"Well, he can be comfortable downstairs. So can you. Come work downstairs."
Pepper stabs the delete key, quickly resolving three problems. If only this one were so simply removed. "I like working up here."
"With my dog." Tony's blown right past irritation and crashed head-on into indignation. "You like my dog better. My dog likes you better!"
Pepper masterfully restrains the impulse to tell Tony that he looks just like Rocky does when someone takes away his rawhide chew. "Rocky."
Rocky's head pops up when she says his name, and he lays it on her knee. Ignoring Tony's "What a little suck up," Pepper scratches Rocky behind the ears. "Go. Go to Tony."
He whines a little, but obeys almost instantly, trotting over to Tony. "Better?" Pepper says as Rocky butts his head demandingly against Tony's hand.
"Unbelievable." Tony's staring down at the dog. "You over-fed traitor. Go," and Tony points down the stairs.
Pepper thinks Tony's head might explode when Rocky pauses and glances back at Pepper. She makes a little shooing motion with her fingers, and he vanishes down the stairs.
As Tony follows him Pepper hears, "Next time I'm getting a damn Aibo."