Title: Tony and Pepper Go To Target
Author: *hangshead* A.j.
They end up in Target because it's 6:45 in the morning and she's been driving or physically exerting herself for almost two straight hours and it's the only Starbucks within throwing distance. And if there's one thing Pepper Potts refuses to do it's cope with Anthony "I am Iron Man" Stark without at least one espresso pumping through her veins. So, while it's Starbucks, at least it's not gas station coffee.
"Later. Hi." Eyes more than a little glassy, Pepper smiles at the yawning girl in the green apron behind the counter. "Venti double-shot soy latte."
"No, seriously, Pepper-"
She knows he shuts up more out of surprise than anything else.
"Cash or card?" The teenager's voice is squeaky and loud in the unnatural early-morning quiet of the store. Around them, people in red polo shirts are restocking and neatening everything left undone from the night before. It feels like most of them are shooting looks in their direction. She lets it go, figuring that it isn't every day someone shows up in a skin-tight black jumpsuit to bug someone ordering coffee. Well, probably not.
Pepper sighs and holds out her AmEx before glaring at her boss. "I'm not buying you coffee. In fact, you will be upping my salary to cover all the coffee you will be buying me for the next ten years. Mr. Stark."
"You know, technically, being as I am your boss, I'm already buying all of your coffee for you. Ergo-"
He pauses, his brand new self-preservation instincts apparently picking up on the sudden drop in temperature emanating from his assistant. Considering that the glare she is currently giving him outcharts the one she'd shot him immediately after that one press conference they refuse to ever talk about, it seems fairly unlikely that continuing that sentence will get him coffee. Or out of Arizona. "Right. I'll be over at one of the tables. Over there. Away from here."
"Mmmm." Pepper accepts her card back from the newly terrified counter clerk and kept her hand out for the receipt. "You do that, Mr. Stark."
"Just a Tall?"
"I have the keys."
"Right. Over there."
She gets roughly thirty-five seconds of uninterrupted caffeine-filled bliss before reality and her boss's case of ADD rear their ugly heads.
"I'm bored. Can we go?"
"No." She's never been overly fond of Starbucks' coffee. It's always been a little too bitter for her taste, but it's hot and here, and here is not twenty miles due west, in the middle of a desert. She closes her eyes and tries to recapture the moment.
It doesn't work.
"Why? I mean, I don't get coffee, and you can sit down and drink that just as well in the van as you can here."
"Yes, but HERE is not moving, nor is it enclosed. The van is both of those things."
"Pepper-" Seriously, the man had never grown past the mental age of four. "We have things to do! Places to be! That aren't... Target. Do we own Target?"
Four hours ago, she'd been comfortably asleep in her obscenely expensive space-aged bed. There might have been dreams of that long weekend with George Clooney she kept meaning to have. And massage oil. Yeah, there'd been massage oil. There'd also been a definite lack of her boss.
Three hours and forty-five minutes ago, her emergency emergency line - the one she'd forced on Mr. Stark immediately after the third time the flight stabilizers had gotten 'a little wacky' during a test - had gone off.
Luckily, he hadn't been in Mexico this time. She's pretty sure those border guards are still laughing.
"Only you would ask that. No, we don't own Target. And sir, I say this with the utmost respect due you-"
"This doesn't sound good."
"-but I want you to go away."
That made him blink. "What? Really? No swearing?"
"Yes." Her voice and eyes are flat. Knowing that she'll regret it in half an hour, but desperately needing ten minutes to herself, she points out at the wider store. "Go. And for the love of all that's holy, take a cart so I don't have to round up all the stuff you're going to break after you've done it."
Tony straightens up and does his best to look dignified. The smirk and the wide streak of grease across his face completely ruin the effect. "I'm not a child, you know."
"Then prove it and take a cart. And I don't swear!"
She finds him, unsurprisingly, in the toy aisle underneath an Iron Man display. He's got four different plastic replica's of his suit - proceeds going directly to aide and reconstruction work in Afghanistan - disassembled and seems to be in the process of wiring them together.
"Mr. Stark?" The last half-hour has done wonders for her professionalism. Well, the last half-hour, another cup of coffee, and a scone, but she isn't going to mention the last two to her personal trainer.
"Pepper! This place is excellent. I didn't know we'd released the newest version yet. This one's powersource is so much better and built in. Why didn't you tell me about it?"
She snorts and stares down into the cart parked behind him. Inside is a frying pan, an open set of miniature tools, and most of the lingerie department. It's a rather full cart.
"You never asked. Why do you have a frying pan in here?"
"You know, Ms. Potts," he grunts, putting his back into loosening a stubborn screw. "You understand and dismiss the tools and the panties, but not the frying pan?"
She shrugs and folds herself down to sit next to him, bringing the remaining tools with her. She offers a smaller Philips head to replace the one he is using to strip that same screw. "I've never seen you cook."
His smirk is devilishly glorious, full of lust and secret kinky things that will likely keep her blushing for days. "I could take that in very dirty ways."
She raises an eyebrow only to snicker a few moments later when he taps an ungrounded wire.
"What are you even doing?"
He sucks on a finger and shrugs. "No idea. You seem to be feeling better. Less likely to leave me by the side of the road, at any rate."
Pepper shrugs again and fiddles with the blue plastic of the tool kit. "You caught me early and worried me. You know how I get without sufficient time to process. You mock me for it on a regular basis."
"Ah." He looks down at the yellow and red plastic surrounding him like so much odd trash. When he finally glances up again, it's with that expression that keeps popping up these days. The dark-eyed intense look that oozes sincerity. It is the expression that Pepper still doesn't know quite what to do with. "I'm sorry, by the way. I didn't mean to scare you."
She nods, taking it for what it is. Well, trying to. "I get worried when you hurt yourself. It makes me cranky."
No 'I won't do it again'. One thing she could always say about him is that he didn't lie. Not directly.
"Okay," she says and smiles. "Are you going to tell me why you want to buy that many sets of bras and panties?"
He grins, setting down his screwdriver. "Nah. Thought it'd be a surprise."
On the floor, the four Iron Man action figures starts a slow, but recognizable can-can.
Their cashier really doesn't know what to make of them. Or the contents of the cart.
"Um." The young woman - who could easily be the poster-child for a 1980's hairband - is holding up the frying pan and one of the uglier print bra's. "Do you need help out to the car?"
Pepper smiles and shakes her head, completely ignoring Tony. Her boss has discovered the candy section. She's already mentally rescheduling everything after 11am. "I think we can manage."
"Are you sure we don't own Target? CAN we own Target? This is the best."
"I'm very sure you don't own Target, Mr. Stark, and considering the hit we took several months ago - which I'm sure you remember - no, I don't think you can actually buy Target outright. Miss?"
The clerk hasn't moved and has started openly staring the man behind her. Pepper has no clue what he's doing, but there's clicking involved, so it's either mints or some of the boxed chocolates. It takes the poor girl a second to refocus. She blushes and goes back to scanning bra barcodes, although still shooting glances at Pepper and Tony.
"Sorry, ma'am. I'll be done in a minute."
The final total is roughly equal to Pepper's last rent check, but between the both of them, they manage to get the cart and all its discounted glory back to the truck with a minimum of fuss. Admittedly, this is them, so a minimum of fuss boils down to three minor arguments and about fifteen minutes of banter.
"You know," Pepper drifts to a stop next to the wide back doors of the retrieval truck. Tony is driving the cart and it is a mental image she is going to keep sacred because there is never going to be anything funnier than her boss wandering around in a ripped up flight suit pushing a Target cart. "I think you actually are going to be good for my resume."
"Well, I'd hope so, seeing as I'm your boss. Wait, why are you thinking about your resume? You have a job."
"Mmm." Pepper sticks her face into the ident lock, letting the retina and fingerprint scanners do their work. "But now I can get so many more jobs. Like trucker."
Tony's laugh is loud across the parking lot. "I'm glad I can help you live your dreams here, Ms. Potts."
Pepper smirks and allows herself a quick ass oogle as he jumps up into the truck with the first batch of bags. "Yeah," she says. "Something like that."