Disclaimer: Iron Man and all other characters, plotlines, etc. you see here belong to Marvel Comics and whoever else. I'm just playing in their oh-so-tasty sandbox for a bit.

Right, so, this is a challenge I issued to myself--write an Iron-Man one-shot after the following Jack Sparrow quote…and Tony started talking to me this past Saturday morning, in that delicious way of his…)

Note: I'm just toying with this idea. I know what happened in the movie, I know that he went to Gulmira almost right after he saw the pictures, I'm just writing this story for fun. Enjoy!

What She Doesn't Know

Yeah…Pepper's pretty much going to hurt me, I thought as I surveyed the smashed wreck that used to be my grand piano.

Pretty much going to hurt me. Wasn't that the story of Pepper's years as my assistant?

Ah, well.

Sheesh, you know, she and Jarvis both had this thing where they took every possible opportunity to say 'I told you so' when I screwed up. I could almost hear Pepper saying it about this, among the countless other times I'd heard her say it. She didn't always say 'I told you so' exactly, but if not, then it was some variant. I told you she was a gold-digger. I told you not to do that. I told you that tie clashed with that suit. So on, and so forth. To top it all off, she was always right. She did tell me.

Oh, but what would she come up with for this? 'I told you to listen to Jarvis'? 'I told you you were going to get hurt'?

But then…she didn't exactly have to know what'd happened. She didn't have to know I flew the new Mark suit before letting Jarvis run his damned terabytes of calculations. She didn't have to know I used up way too much power trying to touch the moon, froze at high altitude, and crashed through my own roof.

And forget the piano. Yeah. Forget that. The Cobra, that was an absolute disaster. Pepper wouldn't understand that, though. She was a woman. A masterpiece of a car wasn't something she'd feel the need to clean up.

…clean up. Uh-oh. The Cobra, I could manage somehow…the piano, though. I couldn't take care of that alone. Hell, I couldn't take care of it if she helped me. They didn't make garbage bags that big.

Someone would have to see it. Damn.

So what could I tell her? Too much fun with the flight stabilizer?...no, no, that wouldn't explain the car. Paratrooper fell through the roof?...no…a paratrooper wouldn't have enough momentum…

"Ha!" I said aloud. I had it. Grinning, I casually propped myself against a wall near what was left of the piano. Yeah. Yeah, this was it. She'd be able to tell it was a lie, but what was life if I didn't get a chance to mess with Potts? Life wasn't life without that sort of opportunity.

Just thought I'd point that out for the folks at home.

Click. Click. Click. Click. There were those lovely little heels my money had paid for, bearing my equally lovely assistant—lovely assistant, what was I, a magician?—ever-closer. Had my money paid for the weapons to be used in my own brutal murder?

I didn't wanna think about that.

"Okay, we've got a ten…" Pepper looked up from her clipboard at me…and that's when she saw it. Her eyes roved over the hole in the roof first, then the practically split in half piano. Slowly, she looked as if she was forgetting how to speak. "Thirty," she whispered incredulously.

Ten thirty? I wondered. Oh yeah. Even though I'd gone to the party of mine I hadn't even known about last night to resurface for the public, she was still making appointments under the delusion that I wanted to keep them.

Pepper's eyes finally came back to me, and I could see her scrutinize me for any sign of injury. Nope, Potts. No cuts here, kiddo…'sides the Cobra down in the garage, but that's all internal. "Good morning," I said cheerfully.

"Good morning?" she squeaked back at me. "What…who…" Unable to find a fitting question, she just shrugged her shoulders and looked at me with her jaw agape.

Ah, yes. This would be great. Like one of those cheesy credit card commercials, even. Repairing the damage to your Shelby Cobra? Five thousand dollars. Replacing your grand piano? Twenty thousand. Explaining how both got damaged in the first place to your shell-shocked assistant? Priceless. There are some things money can't buy.

Screw everything else.

"Oh. Yeah." I glanced over my shoulder like the piano had only, I don't know, been painted bright red or something on a whim of mine. "That." Like I didn't have a new skylight illuminating my mutilated pile of wood, strings, and ivory keys. "Well, you know, the military's been experimenting with teleportation."

"Teleportation?" Pepper raised a skeptical eyebrow.

"Yeah," I said, scratching my head. I could've been an actor. I think she was actually going for it. "And somehow Rhodey managed to sneak in and use the stuff. Seeing as it was April Fool's, guess he thought he'd pull one over on me. But, uh, as you can see…the military hasn't exactly worked out a couple of kinks, and…instead of magically appearing in my bedroom at one o'clock in the morning…" I tossed another glance to the trashed piano. "Well. You see what happened to the piano. I was nothing more than an almost innocent bystander."

"Rhodey, huh?" Pepper asked, finally pulling herself together and joining me near the piano.

"Uh-huh," I said. Uh-oh. She didn't look like she was buying it anymore. I knew I shouldn't have brought Rhodey into it.

Stepping up the set of stairs that led to the piano, Pepper just happened to look down through the hole I'd created in the floor over the garage. I winced. Damn. She'd be seeing the car right about now.


"Uh-huh?" I moaned, opening one eye.

"Why does the Cobra have…are those arm and leg imprints?" Face cold and questioning, Pepper rounded back on me and shoe me that cold, hard look from up the stairs.

What power was it that Ghost Rider character had in the comics? A penance stare? Well, that sure as hell felt like what Pepper was giving me right now. A penance stare. So calculating, so stony, she saw last night's screw-up by just looking in my eyes…and I felt it tenfold. "Uh…"

She put a hand to her head, her fingers covering one eye. "Do I even want to know what you did to the Cobra and the piano?"

I shook my head, and she covered both eyes. "Please promise me you're not working with weapons again."

"I've told you—" Ah, the convincing actor was back. "I'm done with weapons."

Little did or would she ever know, that little half-lie hurt me. Having a conscience was sort of a new experience for me. Damn, I thought, I've really gotta stop lying to her one of these days. But what she doesn't know won't hurt her…I hope.

Huh. That went places I never expected. I do so love these conversations Tony and I have in my spare time. Reviews are appreciated!—MJ-Skywalker