15492/Pepper's Hot Date
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|Pepper's Hot Date|
|Date of Scene:||17 August 2023|
|Location:||Bunker - Stark Tower|
|Synopsis:||Pepper Potts waits for Tony to get back safely from an experimental flight in one of his new suit designs so she can go on a date, but as usual, she lets her concern for Tony get in the way of her own needs.|
|Cast of Characters:||Pepper Potts, Iron Man
- Pepper Potts has posed:
Pepper's heels clicked on the cold, polished floor of Tony's lab as she moved purposefully through the vast space. The soft lighting from the overhead fixtures reflected off her sleek dress, hinting at her plans for the evening. Her red hair was elegantly styled, and her makeup was flawlessly done. No one would guess that she was here, just moments before a special night out, to drop off a pile of urgent paperwork for Tony Stark.
"Jarvis," she said, speaking to the AI, "remind Tony that he needs to review these by Monday." The files in her hand detailed a congressional investigation into Stark Industries' security protocols and an unsolicited request from the U.S. Army for access to the Hulk Buster tech.
"Of course, Miss Potts. I'll ensure Mr. Stark gets the message," Jarvis replied.
Pepper paused to scribble some last-minute notes onto a tablet she intended to leave on Tony's workbench.
"How far is he away?"
She looked down at the slender, elegant watch around her wrist. It wasn't /just/ a watch, but most of the time the flawless digital face made it look that way.
"I have to leave in..."
Even as she spoke, the sound of machinery drew her attention to the entrance of the lab. Tony walked in, looking frustrated and quite disheveled. The latest iteration of the Iron Man suit -- the Mark VIII -- had clearly seen better days. Scorch marks and dents marred its surface, suggesting it hadn't held up well during the day's tests.
"Tony," she sighed softly, "thank God."
After the conversation she had with him in free-fall earlier, there was no way she was leaving until she was sure he made it back in one piece.
- Iron Man has posed:
Frustrated and disheveled is about right and the Mark VIII armor, which by all rights should have disassembled itself into some very tiny pieces when being stowed, is far more a collection of charred metal and hyper alloys than anything one might recognize as -suit- any longer.
There's two more little bits of oddities that accompany the billionaire into the bunker: He's wearing one of the Mark VIII's boots still, and it's scratched and dented to h*ll and beyond; and there's a suit of the Mark VII armor stomping along behind him in the hall, carrying what looks like some all metal armored .. coffin.
As the VII moves to stow the 'coffin' in a space that lowers out of the ceiling before it simply falls apart into component parts that then repulsor jet their own way off towards storage, Tony walks over to one of the workbenches and drops into a chair that JARVIS moves into place to catch him just in time. "JARVIS - we talked about this, the flexion on those couplings needed to handle the better than 140 degree angle that the last one did with four orders of magnintude more tensile strength at the attachment points.."
He stops talking, clearly mid rant, pauses..blinks..
"Pepper..is there a 'thing' I'm missing? JARVIS you didn't tell me there was a 'thing'..." He says, turning around in the chair as another arm rolls across the room and starts to reach for the boot stuck on Tony's foot.
He kicks it away, "Not now... Pepper.. that dress...."
And again he trails off...
"No Mr. Stark, you have nothing on your calendar for this _evening_..." JARVIS replies, just the faintest stress on that last word.
- Pepper Potts has posed:
Anyone that happened to be watching the interaction like a fly on the wall might have found the entire thing an unfathomable oddity.
On one hand, there was Pepper Potts standing in what amounted to a /very/ fancy mechanic's shop. To the initiated, she might seem out of place on any given day in her designer suites, but tonight she was made up for an evening on the town in a dress that must have cost a fortune. It was eye catching in all the right ways, and if the designer knew how close she was wearing to heavy machinery, he'd probably have fainted.
On the other hand, there was Tony Stark... which, even to the uninitiated, often said quite enough all on its own. The man that truly needed no introduction, especially as he clomped in wearing one boot from the suit that was likely stowed in that secure locker his battle-bot butler was carrying.
In that moment, the two of them could not have looked any more different. They might have come from different worlds, and anyone would be forgiven for mistaking Pepper for the sophisticated billionaire instead of the eccentric Tony Stark.
And yet, the oddest thing of all, is that Pepper shows no hesitance. There's no flicker of surprise or worrying tells when the coffin is brought forth by the six-and-a-half-foot-tall autonomous Iron Man suit. She doesn't shift out of the way, doesn't make herself smaller, doesn't worry about where she's standing. She merely exists in the space the same way that Tony does. As if it's home.
At least, until Tony's thoughts derail -- that familiar 'hiccup' of him slipping gears from whatever his mind was fixed on to something in the present. She could feel his focus narrow in on her, and she collected the clutch she'd set on the corner of the table.
"No, Tony, you're not missing anything," she says patiently. "But I set a tablet on your desk with some things for you to review. There's the follow up memos from the congressional investigation," the one that was launched right after one of his suits was stolen and used during an attempted bank robbery, "and the contract with the Army for the Hulk Blaster needs your signature. Jarvis has the details."
She was patient in her explanation, but she was also clearly preparing to leave.
- Iron Man has posed:
The remains of the VIII in all it's twisted glory are promptly deposited on one of the several central work tables - if a mechanic and an engineer from the future imagined a place to .. build the armor of the future, well that'd be it. A few parts fall off the main body of the suit, clanging to the floor, one piece catching and odd hop and heading right for Pepper.
The VII armor turns, a hand lifting and just the briefest flash of a repulsor flicks light out at the errant bit of metal and knocks it off it's current trajectory ( Pepper ) and onto a new one ( a waste basket sized hole that just opens up in the floor ).
Tony doesn't appear to be paying any attention to that, or Jarvis, when the AI says - "Mr. Stark, the mid flight recovery torpedo is loaded back in its bay, commencing a cleaning and sterilization cycle now."
"If we don't have anything tonight why are you dressed up? There was that meeting I know I'm late for.. it wasn't for some matching wardrobe/press conference thing was it? I mean.. " He gets up, the boot clanks on the floor again with a heavy metal thunk and starts to make his way over towards her.
Step, thunk, step, thunk..
A hand lifts and runs through his hair, smearing a dark bit of .. something across his forehead. "I haven't eaten yet... want some Thai? Jarvis - that seafood place in Bangkok, the River prawns? Send a Mark VI .. I'm sure Pepper'd love the Phuket Lobster..."
"Mr. Stark ... "
"Did you order yet, Jarvis? Lobster sound good, Pepper?"
Step, clunk.. and then he's standing in front of her, clearly a mess, but clearly entirely uninjured, totally uninterested in the congressional investigation documents, what the Army wants, or even - at the moment, the terrible failure of the suit on the table that's worth more than many people earn in their lifetimes.
One of the robot arms moves towards Tony, holding out a white shop cloth, starting to reach for the man's face...
- Pepper Potts has posed:
Okay.. /that/ Pepper flinches over. Just a little. But, come on. When a rocket comes flying at your face, it's hard not to have the instinct to move out of the way. She trusts that Tony isn't going to let her get hurt in the lab while he's there, but some of that trust has to be mutual. Tony has to be able to trust that Pepper isn't going to just stand there and be stupid if imminent death is hurtling towards her.
So, after a brief intermission during which Pepper actually took a step backwards with a disparaging purse of her lips, her focus was once more on Tony, blinking once to catch back up to the conversation they were having.
/There was that meeting I know I'm late for../
"I took care of it..."
/I'm sure Pepper'd love the Phuket Lobster.../
"Tony..." Said at /exactly/ the same time Jarvis said 'Mr. Stark,' but with more irritation than the AI. Tony's focus might have been zeroed in on her dress, but he was back in his own head again.
/Lobster sound good, Pepper?/
"Tony, I can't tonight. I.. have a date."
Said in exactly the same way she might tell her teenage son -- simultaneously frustrated that he won't stop begging for her attention so she can enjoy one guilt-free evening to herself and heartbroken that she's forced to admit that she's human... that couldn't just be whatever Tony needed her to be at any moment like one of his prototype suits.
Tony could likely count the number of times she'd been too busy for him on one hand, and not many, if any, of those had ever included the word 'date.' There wasn't a lot of room in Pepper's life for another man, and finding one that wasn't intimidated by the fact that she was at Tony Stark's beckon call 24/7 must have been like finding a needle in a haystack. It wasn't that Pepper couldn't have found a one-night-stand if she'd wanted one, but she'd never been a shallow, meaningless sex kind of woman.
- Iron Man has posed:
Tony is an .. eccentric man, if not quite in the typical absent minded professor fashion. There's ways that his genius makes itself known and it's almost certain that Pepper's seen more of them than just about anyone else alive at the moment. It's _not_ hard for her to recognize what that four letter word does to his train of thought.
One might've thought it's something like what happens to small caliber bullets that hit his armor.
"Jarvis, cancel dinner, I'm sure there's a.. "
"A _date_? With whom? Jarvis, who's been harassing Pepper? Where's Happy? " He looks at Pepper, _really_ looks at her, "This isn't the first one, is it? Did J.. dam.. I... " He turns around and starts to walk back towards the chair he left, almost falls on his face because the boot doesn't move right away - recovers by caroming in a motion that might we'll've been reactions honed from being drunk off his ass a time or two - and starts to step-clunk back to the chair.
"You.." He points imperiously at the cloth wielding arm that he dodged with his abrupt turn around, "Drop that, go get that tablet...apparently I have work to do."
The robot drops the towel and pivots, sliding across the floor towards the table with the tablet.
The autonomous MK VII suit steps up and into it's storage 'closet', the transparent alumimum cover sliding across in front of it, locking it away.
"Jarvis, call Rhodey."
"Mr. Stark, Mr. Rhodes is currently asleep, he..."
"I said _call Rhodey_ Jarvis. He wanted to talk, now's the time."
The man's still animated, still _apparently_ scattered.. but he's also not looking at Pepper any longer and there's a poorly concealed ( to some ) rigidity to his expression that's clearly meant to be hiding _something_.
- Pepper Potts has posed:
It's true. Pepper Potts knew Tony Stark better than any other living human being on the planet. She was his nurse. His confidant. His business partner. His shepherd. His fixer. His mother, at times.
She ran the business when he was too distracted, ushered women out of his penthouse when he was done with them, helped him find the things he'd lost, and brought him food when he hadn't eaten.
Tony Stark was one of the best and brightest minds of their generation, and he was in a position to use that amazing brain to do amazing things. Pepper Potts had an MBA from Columbia University and, at this point, likely more time actually running the day-to-day options of a multi-billion dollar company -- Tony's company -- than he did. Yet, she'd remained his assistant. Not because she couldn't find a job that paid more, had a better title, or came with better hours.
She'd been told so many times that Tony was taking advantage of her. That Tony was a narcissist. That he didn't care about her. That she could do better, and she should take better care of herself.
Yet she remained his assistant because, after everything was said and done, Tony Stark was so much more than the sum of his parts. He was kind and sensitive in a way that most people didn't understand. He hid so much of it underneath armor -- and not all of his armor was made of metal.
Pepper stayed for /that/ man.
She loved the idea of Iron Man. She loved that Tony wanted to keep the world safe. She'd commend him for those values and dedication. But she stayed for his heart... a heart that she was watching crumble in front of her eyes at her own hands.
How many times had she swallowed her feelings while he openly slept with women that were, literally and figuratively, beneath him? How many walls had she thrown up to keep herself safe from Tony Stark over the years? How long could she live without companionship of her own?
"That's not really any of your..."
/Who's been harassing Pepper?/
"No one has been..."
/This isn't the first one, is it?/
Pepper opened her mouth and closed it again. She knew he didn't really want the answer to that question, either way. However Tony might or might not feel about her, he was possessive. He didn't like people taking his things and Pepper, for better or worse, was one of his things.
But unlike one of his suits, she couldn't just stand there and feel nothing as she watched him.
/...apparently I have work to do./
She needed this night. She needed to go /out/ and have someone look at her like... like a woman, again. But she's known -- she'd always known -- that Tony wouldn't share her. She'd never be able to have a real relationship as long as she was what she was to Tony.
/Jarvis, call Rhodey./
"Jarvis," the word comes smoothly, calmly from Pepper's lips. Her voice is gentle, unlike the sharp click of her heels against the floor as she walked back to that desk and set her clutch down. "Do not wake Colonel Rhodes at this hour. Call and order dinner for us. Tony and I have documents to go over before he can talk to Rhodey."
She slips her phone out of her purse, and with just a hint of a haunted smile, her eyes shift to Tony. "I'm late, anyway. Let me make a phone call, and you can tell me what happened today with Mark Eight while we eat."
Her tone brooked no argument, and there was no hesitation as she turned to walk out of the lab. To cancel her date and explain that things were just too busy at the moment, but he seemed like a very nice man and she'd call him if her schedule ever became 'less hectic.'
She knew it wouldn't.