A/n: So I finally decided to face my fears and write an Iron Man piece. Why? Because it's a fantastic series, that's why.
Admittedly, I first heard of/fell in love with Iron Man when I read the Civil War series, and at that point I didn't know who the redhead dating Happy Hogan was. But then I saw the movie and... well, you can guess the rest. Anyway, I thought the movie was super cool (saw it twice) and RDJ did a fantastic job portraying my favorite "likable asshole".
This story is... I don't know. An experiment. Part one is disposable, so you can skim through it if you like--I only put it in there because I like the recurring theme. Part II was much more fun, and hopefully you'll like it too!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Part I: The Interview
The trouble with interviewing Tony Stark is not getting him to dinner, this much I learned first hand.
After this whole "Iron Man" incident came about, it became nearly impossible to get an interview with the now super famous Tony Stark—and when I say super famous, it's no joke, not a play on words. If the guy hadn't already been Mr. "I'm on the cover of every magazine", he sure was now. At any rate, I was one of the few reporters with a boss desperate enough to personally track down Mr. Stark's PA and beg for an interview. At first he got the usual "I'll call you back" just like everyone else, but after a week of persistence, he finally got the OK; apparently Iron Man thought it was about time to open up to the press—from what I'd heard, he absolutely loved the publicity. Not to say that I couldn't blame him.
So when my boss approached me three days ago with the news that I would be giving the interview at 7:30 sharp at El Cisne, I was only moderately surprised—not enough to have to sit down, but surprised enough so that I didn't point out the doughnut crumbs dangling from his mustache.
"I've been told to keep this interview strictly secret," said Chuck quietly, licking his lips nervously. A bit of crumb fell down his button-up shirt. "If the public finds out that he's making an appearance in public, the both of you'll be swamped."
The next three days were spent rigorously preparing everything from my questions to the shade of lipstick to suit my dress. Everything needed to be flawless, right down to the six pens I was to carry in my purse.
And yet, somehow, I couldn't help but feel desperately unprepared as I stood outside the restaurant in my fancy dress, clutching at my purse and looking at the clock tower across the way every few seconds. Finally, at exactly 7:29 PM (Gosh, I could not stop looking at the clock!), a limousine pulled up to the curb and stopped just outside the doors. Seeing as this was one of the more exquisite places to eat outside of Malibu, the presence of the long, black car wasn't much to think about. The man who opened the door and helped himself out of the limo, however, was hardly ordinary.
He was shorter than I'd recalled seeing on TV, I noticed with a slight smirk. His tux, hair, even his sunglasses, were all impeccably new and clean. When he closed the door with a quick instruction relay to the driver and turned to me, I felt my stomach twist; it was as if I were giving my very first interview, talking to the first famous person I'd ever seen, and I'd talked to my share of them.
I stuck out my hand almost mechanically. "It's a pleasure, Mr. Stark. We're honored to have this opportunity—"
"You know, it's funny," he cut across pleasantly, removing his sunglasses with a swift gesture to get a better look. My hand fell to my side, unacknowledged. "When my PA told me your name, I was sure you'd be one of those drab women who wear those gray suits—but I admit, I'm pleasantly surprised!"
Stark offered his arm. "Let's go inside, shall we?" Nodding after a slight pause, I placed a hand on his arm and allowed him to guide us through the sparklingly-lit doors of the restaurant. "They've got a famous martini that I'm sure you'll love."
I couldn't stop but notice on our way in that a number of people had stopped in place—in some cases, in the middle of the road, where they were promptly startled by honking cars—to watch in surprise Iron Man's first public appearance. Upon casting a sideways glance at him, though, I only saw a small smirk twitching in the corners of his mouth. Another woman stopped just a few feet away from us—a pretty blonde with an almost scandalized look on her face. I stared back, blinking brunette from my eyes.
"You bet I will."
The place wasn't the topmost notch, but it was nicer than any place I'd ever eaten before, and enough to warrant concern over who would be paying my dinner bill. We'd been tucked into an intimate corner of El Cisne with more "yes, sir, of course, sir," than I'd ever heard. Just by watching Mr. Stark's motions, from the way he addressed the waiters to the way the owners personally welcomed him, it was hard to believe that he didn't own the place.
A dry martini (with a few more olives than I would have liked, but I made no objection) and some brief small-talk later ("So, Miss Gray, are you married?" "How long have you been a reporter?"), Mr. Stark leaned his elbow very casually on the table and took a short breath.
"So, what do you want to know? Keep in mind that a lot of this information is confidential—super secret and stuff, the company would cry if I gave it away—but really, I'm ready to spill all that I can without being sued."
Taken aback by his unexpected forwardness, I pulled the notebook and pen from my purse and set them between us on the table, then looked up at him curiously.
"Well, even though the public's dying to know why you became Iron Man—I
mean, a billionaire like you should have no motive for becoming a so-called superhero—I actually have a question of my own, Mr. Stark," I began, looking up
Oh God his eyes are so blue don't look startled please don't look startled
at his handsome face. Pause for effect. I continued, "Do you…really have that—arc thing on your chest?"
His eyebrows shot up so fast that I was sure they were going to fly right off his face. Nevertheless, he laughed it off and picked up his fork. Mr. Stark rapped it against the center of his chest, from where came a muffled but very distinct tink, tink! My jaw dropped.
"My God!" I exclaimed, all formalities forgotten. My salad fork fell from my hand and dropped to its plate with a clatter. "It sounds like a lot more than a piece of metal glued to your chest!"
Mr. Stark grinned and finished off his drink with a flourish. "That's because it is. I won't bore you with technical mumbo-jumbo, but it's a lot more than just a surface attachment. Actually—" he laughed now, reflectively. I sipped my drink and listened. "Pepper—Miss Pots, my PA, I should say—had to reach into it once because my own hand wouldn't fit."
"Wow, that's amazing."
"I could show you, if you'd like."
"I—" For the second time, I had been trapped with a comment. But instead of answering, I took a noncommittal swig from my drink and blinked a few times.
Luckily, our food arrived a moment later. Mr. Stark dropped the comment to begin the meal. I took the opportunity to move on to other questions, from how he became Iron Man to when he decided to go public. Most of the answers were brief or confidential, although on a few circumstances I wondered if he was still too stricken by his time in captivity to want to speak of it. To avoid more awkward moments, I dove into a few more drinks, most of which were incredibly expensive, at least for a reporter living from paycheck to paycheck. In other words, a mostly successful interview—especially for the first.
But as I realized before, the trouble with interviewing Tony Stark isn't getting him to dinner, oh no; it's getting out untouched, in both meanings of the word. And that's a lot harder than it might look, especially once booze enters the mix.
"This is all very interesting and all, but I'm stuffed." Setting his utensils down on either side of his plate, he took a drink and looked expectantly in my direction. "Let's continue this chat at my place, shall we?"
I faltered, heart fluttering, torn. "Mr. Stark—"
"Call me Tony," he cut in. I shifted in my chair as his hand found mine from across the table. "I insist."
"Mr. St—Tony, I mean. Do you really think it's appropriate—?"
"I really, really do."
Unfortunately, Tony Stark is just as charming as he is brilliant, and twice as handsome. So it wasn't long before he was escorting the pair of us out of the building and into the limo that was waiting by the curb, and it seemed like even less time until he was guiding me up the path of his Malibu mansion. I had had four drinks—maybe five, tops—but even one is enough to keep me from walking steady in my heels; I tripped slightly sideways up his steps, but he merely laughed and steadied my wayward frame with one arm. My brain spun.
The key was a fingerprint scanner. Talk about fancy. The guy was a billionaire, after all.
"Welcome home, Sir."
Blinking furiously, I spun around, half dazed at the magnificent house that had unfolded before me. Even more confusing than the general hugeness of the place was the bodiless voice that didn't give me time to breathe before pointing a red beam of light between my eyes. I gasped.
"Jarvis—" Tony began, though it appeared the house was on a mission because it disregarded its inventor.
"Performing mandatory survey, as previously required. Gender: female. Five foot-six, 135 pounds. Natural hair color: blonde."
"Blood-Alcohol level illegal, Cup size: 36-C. Rating six of ten, as compared to your usual standards, sir."
I was frozen in place with indignity and mingled horror. Tony, on the other hand, was staring at the ceiling as if the computer was bolted down there, his hands propped on his waist in a most skeptical pose.
"Jarvis, don't make me unplug you."
"My apologies, Sir."
I turned to Tony Stark, wide-eyed and a little more than overwhelmed at having been just examined by his computer system.
"I think I'm going to need a few more drinks."
Part II: Desperate (?)
The familiar rhythmic thunk of his feet on the stairs prompted as little as a twitch from Pepper Pots, as did her boss's arrival in the kitchen, where he spent very little of his time. Leaning against the doorframe, the aforementioned boss crossed his arms and surveyed the black-clad woman through curious eyes.
"Someone's here a little early—does that mean I screwed something up?" observed an interested Tony Stark. His eyes scanned what he could see of his PA, who sat mostly hidden behind the latest edition of Wow! Magazine. "Hey, is that me?"
Pepper turned a page distractedly in the magazine, dropping it below her eyes just long enough to confirm that he hadn't bothered changing from the clothes he had evidently passed out in the night before. His dark hair was tousled almost comically to one side, the arc reactor glowing through his black T-shirt.
"I'm not early; you slept in this morning. Yes, you are on the cover of this magazine, and did you have a visitor last night? Because you look scruffier than usual."
Ignoring her quip, he sat down across the small circular table and leaned most of his weight across it in order to get a better look at the glossy magazine cover. While it was by no means the best of snapshots, he'd definitely seen worse ones, and they had captured his confident side well enough (as if it could be ignored, he thought with a small smirk). The cover featured him walking at an angle towards the camera, jaw strong and one flank of Stark Industries visible against a cloudless sky. Tony pressed his hands against the table and leaned in closer still, until his actual face was barely two inches from the confident one on the cover.
"Ooh, I look good. And look!" He raised a finger and pointed at the figure trailing behind magazine Tony: a pretty but rather stressed-looking woman carrying a heavy suitcase in either hand. "It's you!" Tony tutted, then added in with false condescension, "But Miss Pots, I don't think they captured your stunning looks in this one—"
Pepper lowered the magazine and found herself nose-to-nose with a grinning Tony Stark, whose finger was still raised where her image had been a moment before. Her soft eyes met his brilliantly blue ones, the arched eyebrow and slight frown on her face just as impressive as his half-lidded grin. Their unblinking connection passed after a brief stare-down, at which point Pepper lifted the magazine between them like one would raise a curtain.
"Do you remember the interview you gave a few weeks ago?" she asked airily, flipping another page.
"Only because it's the only interview I've given since the press conference—and also because that reporter was the only one I've taken home since before Afghanistan. Brunette, am I right?"
"Oh good, you do remember," she replied pleasantly, but with an edge he didn't miss. "I was afraid you were too drunk to remember. I'm surprised she remembered enough to write this article; she must have taken some pretty good notes."
"I find it hard to forget when I take a girl home and she's so drunk she throws up all over my—"
"Well now it's published," added Pepper hastily, dropping the rush in her voice as soon as she was sure he wasn't going to go on with his anecdote. "And… I'm not sure you're going to like it."
Tony helped himself to her chocolate muffin, casually calling over his shoulder for Jarvis to whip up a cup of coffee. Once it slid across the counter towards him, he picked it up and turned to his PA, asking, "Does it make me look like a manwhore? That I don't mind."
She merely shook her head—her hair was up this morning in a tight bun, which only made the matter seem all the more serious to him—and read aloud, "Tony Stark: Man of Iron, or Yearning Celebrity Heart? I was fortunate enough to receive the only interview to date with Tony Stark, the brilliant weapons manufacturer, playboy, and now superhero. In this event I managed to uncover that there is more than what his red and gold exterior suggests, and got more personal than any reporter has ever dared to write before. I'm Katherine Gray, and this is 'The Real Tony Stark'."
Shooting a glance over the top of her magazine at his expressionless, muffin-filled face and noting that he had stopped mid-chew, Pepper informed him, "Most of it is just a rant on how your entire corporation is just a cover up for your lonely heart, but there were a few highlights I found shareworthy. Like here—" Pepper flipped the page forward and read with a scrutinizing tone that he was all too familiar with:
"Upon asking whether or not he actually had an arc reactor, he knocked on it with his fork and replied, 'It's not like a real heart, but it'll do for now'. He went on to explain that on several occasions he had needed mechanical help from his assistant, the famous Pepper Pots. 'It can be a hassle… she once had to stick her hand in my chest in order to pull a faulty wire—that was an experience I'm not likely to forget.' Aside from the question of whether or not his self-inflicting experiments are even legal, the metaphor behind the circumstances is romantic, even tragically so. What woman would argue against the fact that Tony Stark is the most profitable bachelor, and that she wouldn't dive for him if granted the opportunity? And yet, for Miss Pots, touching the cold heart of a billionaire only applies to a glowing blue pacemaker."
Pepper gave an annoyed sigh. "As if I didn't already have enough to deal with, now I'm the desperate PA who can't keep her hands off her boss. Oh, but wait, here's my favorite part."
She cleared her throat. Tony took a drink from his coffee mug, but recoiled when it burned his tongue. Pepper didn't see this gesture through the pages of her magazine.
"I found myself granted the opportunity to continue the interview in a way
I had not been expecting—"
"Like hell she wasn't," Tony spat sourly.
"Shh, this is the best part!" Pepper chastised, shushing him quickly away with a wave of one hand. When she spoke next, she read every word just long enough to make Tony feel rather uncomfortable. "His kiss is passionless, first frantic and then full of longing for something more. You probably think that a billionaire would take his time with these sorts of things, but with Tony Stark there is no messing around." Pepper pressed the open magazine down onto the table with her palms and looked at him across the table. "Mr. Stark, I believe you may have picked the wrong reporter this time around."
"Are you looking for a raise, Miss Pots? Because you continue to supply me with these brilliant observations—"
"Tell me, are your kisses really—" She glanced down at the magazine again, "—frantic and full of longing for something more?"
"Why don't you come over here and find out for yourself?"
Pepper was grinning now at his expense, unaware at just how annoyed the attack on his manliness had made him. His comments were only half as serious as they sounded—he was a fairly carefree guy by nature—but in truth, he had a feeling that the article would come back to haunt him. Hell, it might actually affect his love life, which had already been changed as of late; it was amazing how being trapped in a cave for three months could change a man. Most of the time he didn't even want to bring anyone home, never mind actually getting around to it. Tony watched as Pepper, shaking her head at the article as she did so, closed the magazine and rose to her heel-clad feet. She could probably feel his eyes watching her curiously as she journeyed to the counter with her empty coffee cup and plate (equally as empty now, thanks to Mr. Stark), but viewing was harmless. Besides, he wasn't watching with hunger or greed, so who was to say he wasn't perfectly entitled to admire the way she moved in that dress?
Somewhere in his silent reflection—dark, mostly, since that article was still ringing in his head. What did that reporter know, anyway? She had been too wasted at the time, he was certain. Dumb bitch—Pepper had begun to inform him about the forthcoming events. Most of it didn't matter much to him either way, they both knew that, but he nevertheless allowed her to continue her speech.
"…and by that time the imports will have arrived, so Jason Matthews if going to pick them up with the truck—"
She stopped abruptly when she turned around and saw that he had indeed been paying no attention to her ramble, the look on his face both troubled and vacant. She could hardly blame him, since she had a feeling this wasn't what he had been expecting to wake up to.
"Did you hear a word I just said?"
Tony suddenly seemed to come to life, grabbing his coffee cup mechanically and drinking finishing it off in one long gulp. "Canadian imports, right," he replied, a little too quickly.
"Tony…" Pepper sighed. She rested her hands backwards against the counter and leaned her weight on them. "Don't think too much about that stupid article. Everyone who knows you knows that you're not desperate."
He stood up now, taking his mug along with him as he did so, and strode over beside her at the counter. "No harm done, Pepper, I'm over it already. Bad publicity is better than no publicity, right?"
He had sounded almost mechanical in his response, and she was no more certain than he. Pepper let out a small sigh.
"Maybe not in your case, Mr. Stark. You get enough as it is—" she broke off with a small grunt of effort as she turned around, opened one of the taller cabinets, and began fishing around with one hand, "Quite frankly, I don't want to be the one sorting all your mail."
"Corporate complaints?" he asked, reaching over her head and grabbing the object she had been making feeble snatches at from where she stood on her tiptoes.
She turned to him with a somewhat disgruntled look on her face, and he grinned in reply, handing her the package. Tony closed the cabinet and leaned sideways to have better eye contact with his PA.
"No," she said, "Fan mail from all the women who want to heal your 'lost soul'." Pepper tapped the blue-glowing device that lay visible beneath his shirt and added, "Most of them probably just want to get a better look at this."
Tony grinned. "Miss Pots, you know you can always look at my chest whenever you want."
"I don't recall ever sending you a letter, Mr. Stark," she replied with a slight smirk.
The billionaire's bottom lip pouched out in a phony expression of dejection, though admittedly he couldn't deny a small twinge that panged to the left of his arc reactor. Not that he had been expecting her to send a letter, of course, but he found it slightly amusing (and ironically discouraging) that the only woman he'd ever let freely "fix his lost soul" was the one who allowed herself to feel the least for him, the woman now offering him the package he'd rescued from the cabinet. His eyebrows shot up.
"Styrofoam?" asked Tony.
"Rice cakes," Pepper replied.
Tony made a face, but that didn't stop him from reaching out and taking one of the cylindrinical flat cakes. She was watching him intensely and with some amusement, as if she were a scientist watching a failing test run. And when he bit the rice cake, cringed, and handed her the rest, she laughed at his reaction.
"Tastes like Styrofoam to me," he said.
"I'm sorry Mr. Stark, but do you spend a lot of time eating Styrofoam?"
"Hey, if you work with anything long enough, you're bound to taste it." Tony shrugged. One hand found the countertop, steadying his tired frame, his eyebrows rising at his PA.
Pepper's breath fluttered in a quick exhale. While they clearly both had more to say on the matter, Pepper was hardly the type to flirt with her boss, especially in a place as crude as the kitchen—only God knew the dubious things he'd most likely done in this place. The thought was enough to make her withdraw her hand from the countertop, yet it only fueled the comment on the tip of her tongue. She took a moment to consider his words before shooting him one of those slick glances and replying, quite simply:
"We've been working together for an awfully long time."
The smirk dipped from his unshaven face, but it was back in an instant. Raising his eyebrows, Tony declared that he thought it was time he got back to work. Pepper agreed with this statement, and with one last solid look he turned away from his PA and headed off towards his workplace. Pepper's eyes followed him out the door as he went, she waiting until his feet had sounded down the staircase before she allowed herself a slight laugh.
Crossing the room to her seat once more, she sat down and picked up the open magazine. His handsome face stared back at her from the inside article, mostly serious but with the trace of humor that always seemed to be around him whenever he approached good-looking women. Pepper tore her gaze away from the image, sighing.
"Tony Stark: famous, rich, and maybe a little desperate," she laughed quietly.
Pepper laughed it off this time, as she would many times in the future, but even the sharply-dressed redhead couldn't deny that she had indeed felt something back on that party rooftop and even just a few minutes ago while Tony stole her muffin from across the table. And something, she noted with a sudden dark frown, was a whole lot more than she needed to feel for her boss.
Still, this unease didn't stop her eyes from lingering a little too long on the front cover of the magazine (although, admittedly, she determinedly avoided looking at herself in the background), nor did it stop an ironic smile from turning in her mouth.
"Maybe," she mused hesitantly, "he's not the only desperate one around here." Pepper paused thoughtfully. The thought crossed her mind that maybe she would take him for a bite to eat later and have a talk about her limits as his employer, but the ever-steadfast part of her brain reminded her that that was probably a bad idea.
After all, the trouble with interviewing Tony Stark is most definitely not getting him to dinner.
A/n: Whoo! Yay for my first story.
Now actually, this story will be a collection. If I ever feel like writing Iron Man stuff (all too likely), I'll post it here to avoid clutter and spamming the people who have me on author alert (Avatards, namely, and maybe a HP fan or two!).
Anyway, thanks so much for reading! I hope you liked it, and that I got the characters fairly close to "right".