Disclaimer: I do not own nor do I claim to own any characters or concepts related to Iron Man or the associated Marvel Universe. This is a nonprofit work of fanfiction.
In the nine hours, thirty-five minutes, and twenty-nine seconds of Tony's most recent absence - he is, she imagines, off saving the world or at the very least an extraordinarily recalcitrant kitten hiding in a tree, an assumption supported by the evidence (a, the suit is nowhere to be found, b, his cell-phone is still on - though with trademark disconcern he has thus far refused to answer, and c, Jarvis confessed as much) - Pepper:
1) has lunch with Nancy from Accounting. This is the first opportunity Pepper has had to dine out at the new (that is: new two months ago when it first opened its doors to the dining public) vegan bar. The small café is - she winces to think it - everything she had hoped it would be: calming, atmospheric, the service as impeccable as the cooking. Pepper orders a curry notta pasta and lingers over every bite.
2) reorganizes his office in hopes Tony will at last recognize the inherent superiority of order over chaos, of an easily referenced bookshelf over an uneven pile of folders threatening to slide from his desk, of dignity over calling Pepper on her cell-phone while she's at dinner with her mother because he can't find the Wellington contract, even though he knows for a fact he set it down on his desk right beside his computer and the fifteen other prospective contracts waiting to be reviewed. Yes, he checked the file cabinet, and for the record, please don't try for sarcasm, Potts, you're embarrassing yourself. Think of his reputation.
This is the tragedy of Pepper's life.
3) negotiates an afternoon appointment for Thursday at the Manhattan office with a Dr Doom. She is on the phone for no less than forty-six minutes.
"Dr Doom does not schedule appointments!" says Dr Doom. "I demand to see Mr Stark at my convenience!"
Pepper tries to inject some semblance of civility into the conversation, knowing as she does so that her efforts will be in vain, that her life is now too ridiculous to be saved.
"I'm very sorry, Mr von Doom--"
"I am Dr Doom!"
"Dr Doom," she says, with all the dignity she can muster. "But Mr Stark is not in the office at this time. He is a very busy man with a very full--"
"Pah!" says Dr Doom, his contempt audible through the static. "A paltry excuse befitting a man of such cowardice."
He settles for the 5:30PM slot and hangs up with an ominous cry of, "Your assistance will not so quickly escape my memory, but so, too, shall Dr Doom remember your defiance. Good day, Miss Potts!"
Pepper very carefully does not slam the phone.
4) takes three aspirin and a thirty minute power nap in Tony's office.
5) readjusts Tony's schedule for Tuesday morning after the six-hour mark. Outside his office the sun sets over the compound, streaking the darkening sky with hot colors: reds, oranges, gold. She tries his cell-phone; he doesn't answer. Jarvis assures her he is quite all right - simply temporarily unavailable. Perhaps if she tries the line in another hour?
"Thank you, Jarvis," she says, then hangs up.
6) leaves a message on Nick Fury's private line re: the ongoing debate re: the establishment of a base of operations for the Avengers Initiative, as yet in its infancy and still unknown to the general public. Tony has suggested his family's New England homestead, a large mansion some fifty miles outside of New York City, hidden in the hills and the trees. She leaves her cell-phone and her office numbers. Fury already has both.
7) makes the forty minute commute to her apartment, fighting with traffic and the left-over pasta she carried from the café until at last the other cars slide away into the night and she is on the long and lonely lane that winds up the hill to the apartment complex she calls home.
The sun slips beneath the horizon and the red fades to purple; the yellow fades to green fades to blue. Just beyond the thick veneer of light pollution and exhaust, the stars begin to glimmer.
8) watches an hour of television before drifting to sleep on her couch.
This story was originally posted to livejournal on 05/17/2008.