15495/Last Minute Arrangements
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|Last Minute Arrangements|
|Date of Scene:||18 August 2023|
|Location:||Bunker - Stark Tower|
|Synopsis:||Pepper finds Tony in The Bunker to discuss final arrangements for the Stark Cybersecurity Gala.|
|Cast of Characters:||Pepper Potts, Iron Man
- Pepper Potts has posed:
Descending the wide stairway, the soft clink of Pepper's heels echoes in the muted stillness. Stark Tower's luxury fades as The Bunker's industrial aura looms ahead. The heavy door's weapon-impervious glass glints, reflecting the ambient glow of the electronic console's flashing lights.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Potts," JARVIS's pleasant voice announces her arrival, both a pleasant greeting and an 'alert' to Tony.
"Good afternoon, JARVIS," Pepper answers warmly.
Unlike the night before, instead of a cocktail dress, Pepper is once more in her practical if elegant business attire -- a skirt suit that reaches her knees and a pair of designer pumps, her red hair pulled up into a ponytail. She carries a tablet in her hands, as usual.
Inside, the hum of machinery is punctuated by the distant whirring of tools. The air carries the faint metallic scent, merging with the aroma of solder from the production table. On the back wall, the impressive lineage of Iron Man suits stands tall, their metallic surfaces catching the room's dim light.
"Tony," Pepper's voice cuts through the ambient noise, "the Stark Cybersecurity Gala is this weekend. I've slotted a few minutes for your remarks on cybersecurity, and I need to talk to..."
She pauses, then, looking around. He wasn't where she expected him to be. She hadn't bothered to ask JARVIS where he was -- he'd been spending all his time in The Bunker recently. But was he here at all?
The night before, she and Tony had eaten dinner together in this very lab. They'd gone over paperwork, discussed Tony's new modifications, Pepper gave a few of her own troubleshooting ideas (as was usual), and they'd let the matter of her previous engagement drop entirely. She'd cancelled the 'date' she had scheduled to stay with him instead. She'd said she'd been running late anyway (the implication being that it was more polite to cancel, anyway) even though she wasn't, but the only way to know that would have been to look at her schedule.
- Iron Man has posed:
Suits. It's such an overloaded term when brought up around one Tony Stark. In most contexts these days one would think that the term refers to a suit ( or suits ) of armor - be it Iron Man armor or War Machine. In others, though, it's the clothes he almost always is seen in public in when it's not a multi-billion dollar piece of technology.
Not to say his choice in clothing isn't expensive - such as today - a custom designed and fit Armani assembly with colors chosen very specifically to pick out his eyes and even the color of his hair.
A suit that's been utterly ruined, given it's stained state, as Tony makes his appearance - walking up a set of stairs that lead down into the floor; a set of stairs that wasn't there last night. A set of stairs that seems to be 'zipping' closed behind him as he climbs, walling off whatever it is in the room below.
Tony's wiping his hands off on a towel, a very grease and grime stained towel, that he drops to the floor as he reaches the top step - and a little low slung robot darts out in a whirling sound of air as it skates across the floor like an autonomic hockey puck the size of a dinner platter to 'catch ' the towel before it hits the floor and then disappears under a cabinet on the other side of the room.
"Pepper! C-Sec gala _this_ weekend? "
"JARVIS - when's the next run of the Mark VIII going to be complete? I know we just started the decon on yesterday's failure.."
"Mr Stark, the fabrication run on that iteration is scheduled for completion at the same time as Miss Potts has you scheduled to be speaking to the gala."
Tony passes by a tabletop that has a Stark-Fujikawa espresso machine on it which had started brewing a drink the moment Pepper walked down the stairs, quite silent for such a machine, and he picks up the tall double walled clear glass 'mug' with it's heady aroma of dark esspresso, foamed milk, and the hints of hazelnet and caramel - a mug that he offers to Pepper without comment as his non-stop approach brings him in front of her. "Mornin'. " He says, simply, in a one of a kind suit that he's likely never worn before, and is utterly ruined with it's white shirt and dark charcoal grey slacks marred in grease, soot, and .. who knows what else.
- Pepper Potts has posed:
Pepper's sharp green eyes track the man that climbs up out of the floor in a suit -- albeit ruined -- that originally cost more than some people's cars. It was a change from the casual attire he usually worked in, which was enough to bring a quizzical little lift of one eyebrow, but those were questions she could ask later. Part of her job, for better or worse, was being able to damage control whatever Tony Start decided to do without consulting anyone.
In the best case scenario, he was just trying to put on a professional front for any cameras that happened to catch him walking around.
In the worst case scenario, he had called an impromptu press conference without running it by her for messaging first. If that was the case, she'd get to spend the next week on the phone putting out fires in addition to everything else already on her calendar.
All off that is sidelined, though, as she comes to an abrupt halt.
"...you're not coming?"
Disappointment. Anger. She had no right to tell her boss what to do or where to be, but after so many years together it was hard not to take times like these at least a little personally. Especially after she gave up the only chance she's had in years to, just for one night, be something other than Tony Stark's assistant.
"Tony, do you understand how much time I've invested in establishing the new foundation? Lining up donors, partnering with universities.. not to even /mention/ the planning for the gala itself, which I told you about a month--"
She's not screaming. She still has control of that rage, but there's danger in both her eyes and her tone.
...Right up until he's standing in front of her, holding that mug out to her, and offering that simple greeting. The words die in her throat, and instead she takes a breath and lets it out in a little, defeated huff.
She'd never let him see the way his suave charisma affected her like it did other women. It wasn't that she was immune to it. She simply wasn't shallow enough to fawn over him because he was rich, handsome, smart, and charming. The part of Tony Stark's charm that she struggled to resist were these moments -- quiet and unassuming. Sweet. Adorable, almost. He could be /so/ innocent when he let down those walls, and it always stole her breath when she saw it, even just for a moment.
"-- thank you."
Because yes, she takes the cup, shoving her frustration back down with the rest of her emotions. It was still Friday. She could find a speaker or two... someone from R&D. Someone from IT. They weren't Tony Stark, but she'd make it work. She always did.
Lifting that cup to her nose, she takes a small sniff and lifts her eyes to him again.
"You remembered? Or that was just the flavor that came with the machine?"
A very small, very strained grin actually quirks at the corner of her lips when she takes a sip.
- Iron Man has posed:
"JARVIS, what if you drop the scale model QuinnJet next gen fabrication work? Can you deliver the Mark VIII sooner? I really want it before the conference. "
"I really want a _powered_ suit before the conference."
"Just to be clear - un powered suits are a non-starter here."
"Yes, Mr. Stark. If we delay the QuinnJet by 3 days, 3 hours and 21 minutes... which will miss the commitment date to SHIELD by 2 days, ..."
"Do it. " Tony interrupts, quirks one of those damned near goofy smiles of his at Pepper. "I can make it, but only if you wear that dress again from last night."
He glances down, looks at his suit.. frowns - as if he's no idea how either he ended up in the suit, or it ended up in the condition it's in. "Looks like I need to visit Venice again before the Gala."
He looks up again, "The coffee? Of course I remembered! No strawberries!"
- Pepper Potts has posed:
Board straight, posture perfect, and as elegant as always, Pepper Potts simply stares at the man in front of her. You know the one -- lips slightly parted, eyes boring into Tony's soul like she was sort of vacantly waiting for the punchline.
And then there's the comment about the dress.. as if it was nothing. She'd brushed off the way he'd gawked at her the night before, writing it off as him finally seeing her outside of her natural habitat. He'd have had the same reaction if she'd walked in wearing a gorilla costume.
Today, though, it gets a reaction -- a draw back of her neck and a blink of surprise as if he'd just sprouted a second head. All while still staring. Speechless.
Green eyes dip to his suit and back up again when he mentions going to Venice... before tomorrow night. As if he didn't have a hundred other suits in his closet.
Pepper was /about/ to say something about /that/, her lips finally moving a little, when he mentions strawberries and something inside her... breaks.
Not something big, but certainly something.
Her smile falters and her throat tightens as she finally closes her mouth and swallows, nodding. In some ways, she lived for these little moments of his humanity, when he reminded her that he was paying attention to her, too.
There was a time, after she'd been wrist-deep digging into his chest cavity, when he'd told her he didn't have anyone but her. It hadn't been easy or immediate, but later, she'd admitted that he was all she had, too.
And that was still true.
Her words are sheepish, and she drops her eyes to the mug she holds. It felt so stupid to be so appreciative of being handed a cup of coffee, but it wasn't only that. It was him remembering she was allergic to strawberries, not fighting her about coming to the gala that she'd put so much effort into, and then... the comment about the dress that made a little heat crawl up into her neck. She'd been keyed up for a fight, but now she felt a little ridiculous.
"I can..." Her mind was spinning faster than her thoughts could keep up, distracted. She always got that little pause, starting and stopping, when she was doing her Doctor Strange impersonation and trying to look at too many realities at once. "..I can call your tailor here in town. I'm sure they can arrange something by tomorrow." Ever the pragmatist, she wasn't about to let flight delays get in the way of him showing up if she could help it.
- Iron Man has posed:
It is not something that many people get direct insight into, at least not in such a way as it's obvious, but Tony .. well, Tony's mind works differently. He appears distracted, or jumps ahead in conversations, or sometimes appears to try and have several with the same person at the same time.
What they don't get? Nine times out of ten he's already _had_ the conversation that's going on in his head, at least twice, as he internally 'games out' the discussion. Doesn't mean he's always right, by far, but .. well he _is_ a genius.
"So you're wearing the dress then. Good. It'll match the suit that Franko's put together." Tony says almost absently, flashing another smile at Pepper - this one far less goofy and quite a bit more .. pleased. His stride is a confident one as he begins to take off the ruined shirt, having shed the jacket somewhere else entirely it'd appear, his destination is a section of the bunker wall that begins to slide open as he approaches it: A wash room; a fresh set of 'street' clothes hanging on a hangar against the wall; the sounds of a shower starting up audible a few moments later.
Franko _is_ the local tailor, does an incredible job, but sometimes one does just need the unlabeled but obviously custom designer suit.
The ever present robot arm on wheels picks up a box off a far workbench, a black jewelry case box in fact, about the size for a typical necklace - and scoots over in Peppers direction just as Tony strips off his shirt and the undershirt beneath - letting both drop to the floor to be caught by that same low slung robot.
"You should wear that too." He says, just a she steps into the washroom and a glass door slides shut - opaque at the right places, cutting off the sound.
Tony's voice, however, comes from the same speakers JARVIS uses: "If you like it, of course."
It's a rather intricate platinum affair with far too damned many diamonds, and a few sapphires towards the center that seem to all catch the light just right to look almost ARC reactor light like.
- Pepper Potts has posed:
"Wait, that's not.." But Tony was already walking off.
Pepper hadn't even fully processed the implications of that, yet. On one hand, she bought this /really/ nice dress to wear for an occasion that never happened and would never happen. Wouldn't it be nice for it to have a use besides hanging in the back of her closet? She wasn't poor by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn't like she had Tony's money to just throw at clothes she'd only wear once. Or.. never.
On the other hand, Tony was being very... Tony. Wearing something, especially a dress he'd had that much of a reaction to, just because he wanted her to set a dangerous precedent. She liked being respected by her peers. She appreciated that everyone around her knew she had the job of 'essentially' second-in-command of Stark Industries because she was qualified for it. Not because she was sleeping with her boss.
So, yes, after spending an evening with Tony, begrudging the fact that she had no personal life outside of work, she suddenly found herself mentally retreating from that attention coming from Tony.
It wasn't the same, coming from him. It was messier, more significant. She had real feelings for Tony, and she didn't like them being played with.
But then there's the jewelry box being scooted over.. and Tony's voice through the speakers.
Her heels click hesitantly as she steps closer, taking another sip of her espresso before she sets it down, along with her tablet, and picks up the box. A few tense seconds tick by before she opens it, the jewels instantly catching the light in an absolutely dazzling display.
"Tony, it's... gorgeous. This must have cost a fortune. Why did you...?" Buy this? She didn't really want to know, and she realized it as soon as she started to ask, letting the question just fade away.
- Iron Man has posed:
"So you'll wear it then, and the dress, good. " Tony says, as if confirming .. well just about anything else he believes is a fact.
There's quiet for a couple of minutes then, cleanup and shower all too likely occurring in the other room.
"Miss Potts. Mr Stark's choice to reschedule the QuinJet is going to raise some concerns with the board, SHIELD has their most recent contracts hinging on their delivery. Mr Stark and I spoke about this earlier but he was quite insistent." JARVIS says, presumably not echoing his voice into the shower where Stark's at. "I'm only telling you because I'm certain that there will be .. pushback and he's had you handling the communications with the Board."
"JARVIS, what's the status on the drone schematic verification? Has the Tokyo office completed their field test of the environmental sensor suite? " Tony's voice can be heard a moment later, followed by the sound of the glass door opening once more as he walks out of the room - jeans, t-shirt, and bare feet, looking far less worse for wear than a few minutes ago.
Of Pepper's question - there's no answer - maybe even because Tony knows she doesn't want one.
- Pepper Potts has posed:
There's no response to that... question? It wasn't really a question, was it?
Pepper spends another few seconds looking over the necklace, running her fingers over the gemstones.
When she first came to work for Tony, she was just as much of a career-motivated woman as she was now -- proud of her own accomplishments and confident in her own abilities. She was strong, independent, and she had the courage of her convictions.
She earned the position she had because she'd impressed Tony time after time, not because it had been handed to her. Not because she was pretty or knew the right people. Tony trusted her with the keys to his entire empire for whatever his own reasons were, but she was certain that among them was her unimpeachable integrity and loyalty -- even in the face of her own death.
Most desk jobs never expected you to put your life on the line. Tony had never asked it, either, but she had anyway. For him. And she would again.
"Thank you, JARVIS," she says, her moment of reflection broken as she closes the box again and sets it on top of her tablet to be taken with her when she leaves. Whatever had fractured a moment ago, those minutes of quiet seem to have given her the time she'd needed to collect herself. "Please reach out to the SHIELD team handling the contact and tell them I'd like a meeting with them this afternoon. Once that's scheduled, inform the board I'll be providing an update immediately after."
She's barely gotten the words out of her mouth when Tony's emerging from the shower, launching into his own set of queries, and a little smile tugged at her lips. Whatever else could be said about them, they worked well together.
"That looks more comfortable," she muses, eyes flicking own to the glowing circle shining through his T-Shirt and back up again.
"I see where you drew the inspiration from." One finger lightly taps the top of the jewelry box, her eyes warm and playful. "You may have questionable taste in women, but you have excellent taste in jewelry." A beat, then. "Would you like me to have something delivered for you for lunch, or are you going to take care of it?"
- Iron Man has posed:
What it might take some time for her to realize, if she does, is that there's a purpose to that necklace beyond the obvious.. and it's not even the amazingly potential creepy/protective things he _could_ have done with it. No. No - it's that there are exactly 120 diamonds, or sapphires, in that necklace cut with a total of 116 facets in a globular fashion, which multiplied out equals her age, in days.
"What can I say - I've work to do if I'm playing hookie tomorrow to take you to a gala. " He flashes a smile at her, padding past her on bare feet, tugging a pair of AR glasses out of his back pocket as he lifts his hands and begins waving them around the room like he's a conductor for an invisible orchestra.
It's not hard to tell that his attention is shifting away, even beyond that, as various pieces of machinery start to come to life with deep low thrumms of power.
"Lunch is hours away still.."
"No, Jarvis, it's the alternate harmonic - yes - that wave."
"Pepper - don't let SHIELD push you around - they can wait on the QuinJet."
"Seriously? No - not like that - " hand twists in an awkward fashion , then he stabs a finger into the air at something else " like _that_ "
"Don't make plans for dinner tomorrow."
- Pepper Potts has posed:
"Oh, you're taking /me/ to the gala that /I/ planned?" Pepper quips, folding her arms over her stomach, even as that comfortably amused smile tugs at her lips. "I was under the impression that I was taking you. But at this point, I'm just glad you're going."
By the time she had first walked through the door of the lab, she was already braced for a fight. She'd fully expected Tony to bail, making some excuse about how he just couldn't get away because some MacGuffin needed his attention. The fact that he'd blown through every single assumption -- from doing lab work in a suit, to complimenting her dress (and even remembering she was wearing a dress), to volunteering to go, to having a necklace picked out for her...
It wasn't lost on her that the necklace had already been there waiting for her. Not only did he remember the gala, he had enough forethought to acquire this necklace from wherever he'd acquired it (maybe she'd figure that out when she made a point to return it to his collection after the event and found out that it had been specifically ordered).
It had all been more than a little unbalancing at first, but Pepper's quick on her feet. In just those few minutes, she seemed have that easy, warm demeanor back in place.
/Lunch is hours away still.../
"Yes, but I'm not coming back up here to ask you."
/Don't let SHIELD push you around.../
"I wasn't planning on it." It's a little catty, but it's also very pointed. He'd put her in charge of handling the contact. If there was a hiccup, she'd handle it.
/Don't make plans for dinner tomorrow./
There's a couple of seconds of silence as Pepper takes a few heartbeats to figure out exactly how to respond to that. When she does speak, her voice is soft without being patronizing.
"Tony, I shouldn't have to tell you that I'll always be accessible if you need me, but I'm allowed to have plans."