Genre: General, Humor
Characters: Pepper, Tony
Time Frame: Movieverse
Summary: She always tells herself that she'll quit tomorrow.
Notes: Nothing really to say about this one, except that I've seen Iron Man at the dollar show like ten times now, and the muse just will not leave me alone. I'm sure y'all know how that goes . . .
Day one at her position at Stark Industries her her questioning her own sanity, her boss' sanity, and the wisdom of going through a whole day without caffeine. She had thought that she had kicked her coffee addiction ages ago - she really did. Yet, that was before she had met Tony Stark. And really, God must put men like him on Earth for the express purpose of sitting back and laughing while the rest of the human race tried to deal with them.
And Pepper Potts tells herself that she will not stand it any longer.
She's already ready to quit.
Day two at her position at Stark Industries, made her understand just why Tony went through so many PA's in so little time. It was a very special woman who could handle a twenty eight hour work day in a ten day week and still make it out mentally stable. Pepper thought she was doing good making it through the intense task of coordinating meetings and interviews while lining up calls, clients, and complaints, and juggling the really really important people who went through her to get to Tony. (All done in twelve different time zones and while wearing six inch heels, thank-you-very-much.) As soon as she managed to handle this, day three, four, five, six, and seven were spent with her getting to know Tony's more personal preferences. She missed the fine print of her job description that said, yes she would be picking up laundry and indulging her boss's odd penchant for cheeseburgers throughout the work week, but hey, she tells herself that she'll go with it.
She thinks she handles these tasks rather well. (If one can count on her not chucking her much valued coffee mug at Tony Stark's head as her doing rather well, that is.) This aside, at least she made it through a whole week – and that put her into a category that few could fit into.
She tells herself she'll just quit on Monday.
Monday comes and goes. As does Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Saturday holds a dinner party for a charitable organization. She's in a dress that would have no doubt cost the total of her accumulated wages and then some - had Tony not insisted on getting it for her. The thought was sweet until she realized that the dress was backless, strapless, and way to form fitting for her taste. But after repeated questions of just-what-is-keeping-it-up-anyway? she gave in and slipped into the pathetic excuse for a gown. After all, she had stopped worrying about her peace of mind and sanity the week before. Things just seemed to work out better that way.
She passed the dress off to Tony's rather infamous tendencies to be a flirt – something that she has so far seen no proof of. That is, until she actually got to the dinner. Between gawking over the plates - thirty thousand a piece! – and admiring the well dressed patrons, she noticed Tony out of the corner of her eye. He had two girls on his arm, and two more trailing behind him. Many more than two were eying him speculatively around the room. She did a double take when she recognized the girl on his left arm as the cover model for this month's Victoria Secret catalog. She hoped that her mortification didn't show on her face. No luck, of course, he sees her, and he knows. That smirk on his face was just too male to say otherwise.
Tomorrow morning has her ordering a cab for Miss Victoria Secret, and after none to kindly shoving the girl's laundered dress to her before sitting down to type her resignation.
She sauntered into Tony's office with it, and put it on the desk without preamble. Tony glanced at it, then at her. He didn't seem mildly concerned. "So, you're quiting?"
"A pity. You were good while you lasted."
"Thank-you, Mr. Stark." As if that would make her reconsider.
He leaned back in his chair with that same relaxed grace that he seemed to handle everything with. She resisted the urge to tap her heals against the floor, but her fingers still managed to bump against the file folder in her hand in something approaching a rhythm.
He noticed, of course he noticed. While smirking he said, "It's okay though. Some people just aren't cut out for this line of work."
Her fingers stopped their movement as she looked crossly at him. He picked up a pen and went to sign the form, everything still so slow and casual. "Perhaps it is the work, and not the people, Mr. Stark."
He raised an eyebrow. She wondered briefly how many before her have actually stopped to give his lines back to him. Not many, said the slightly pleased expression pulling at the corners of his lips. "Yes, I've heard that before – just with more volume and much more profanity. Thanks for being so graceful about it."
She bristled, for some reason annoyed, but not exactly sure how to voice it - which was something new for her. He was still looking at her with a half teasing, half challenging glint in his eyes and she scowled.
"There's two weeks for you to find a replacement. I'll fulfill my commitment through then." And with that she turned on her heel and left.
Even though the last word was hers, she couldn't help but feel like she came away from the encounter missing something.
Two weeks pass.
Tony doesn't find anyone.
Somewhere through the next few months she stops asking.
The threats are nice though, even when he says that there is nothing stopping her from leaving, and points at the open door. Sometimes she thinks that it's entertaining for him, after all, he always seemed to stretch the morning report on until she threatened to leave at least three times
She has no idea why she stays.
A year into her position at Stark Industries, and she finds that she's actually enjoying her job. She enjoys the odd hours, and impossible schedules, and odd tasks that Tony is always coming up with. She has a frequent buyer card at Burger King – never mind that they don't have frequent buyer cards, she's there enough to know management by name, and that counts for something.
The whores who are paraded by on Tony's arm will never be an enjoyable part of her job. (Even through there is a small part of her that enjoys the morning after.) She just loves the look on their faces when she tells them that Tony's gone, and that the cab is waiting. She finds herself adept at taking out the trash, and soon the faces seem to blur together until there is just one nameless mass loitering around in her mind's eye.
She wonders why she cares, anyway. It's not like she'll have this job much longer. She seriously thinks that she'll still quit somewhere down the line.
Sometimes she wonders who she's fooling.
Three years into her job at Stark Industries, and she swears that someone must be playing one big practical joke on her. She sees the headlines, she hears the personal report from James himself. But still . . . She can't bring herself to actually adjust to the fact that he isn't there anymore.
Now that he's gone (she refuses to use words like missing or dead), she finds herself drowning in the monotony of a normal day's work. The nine to five work days are dull and unfulfilling, and oftentimes spent with her gazing at her pager longingly – even after everyone seemed to give up hope about bringing her boss home again. She never did (save the days that were worse than most and therefore not worth her remembering), and when she finally stood on the landing pad and looked up . . .
She had been shocked by the force of her own reaction. A smile that was in no way professional threatened to break onto her face while she very well went weak at her knees. Funny, how her ideas on her own strength seemed to fade away when actually faced with the tangible reality of him.
She could have sworn that he was happy to see her too. He was smiling and cheeky, and so so familiar. Even with his arm in a sling and a dozen cuts and bruises littering his face, he still exuded strength. There was something different about him. Something peaceful and sure that hadn't been there before. She couldn't put her finger on it, and while deliberating she cocked her head slightly at the faint humming noise emitting from his chest.
On the way back he asked for a cheeseburger, and the familiar request made tears threaten to resurface as she let herself give way to a dozen suppressed emotions (things like relief and thank you so very much, dear God).
All of this paled in comparison to the knowledge that he missed her too.
The evening after Tony's return, she finds herself standing awkwardly in the lab with him. The robotic aids twirled and twittered about Tony, and for a minute she suspected that they were actually happy to see him. JARVIS greeted Tony overhead as he brought the systems back to life.
It was so familiar, an everyday occurrence. She wonders why this time it effects her so.
He's watching her out of the corner of his eye. There's something different about him – softer yet harder at the same time. She finds herself both dreading and curious about this change by turns. The swell of emotion leaves her confused and awkward in it's wake.
She tapped her fingers against the folder she was holding. She refused to click her heals.
At length he spoke. "So, what do you have there?"
She shrugged. "A list of everyone who contacted you while you were gone. It's grown considerably now that you're actually back. But your work is piling up, nonetheless."
He made a face. Somehow she knows he will always be the most at home tinkering in a lab. "A way to welcome me back," he muttered as he took the folder from her.
She fought the urge to smile. She did roll her eyes though. "You were missed," she informed him. "I couldn't help that."
He was regarding her thoughtfully. "You missed me?" he asked, a smirk in his eye.
"Yes. I missed the mad cheeseburger runs, the crazy hours, and you calling me at four o'clock in the morning because you couldn't choose a tie to go with your suit."
His eyes were sparkling. "You know you love it."
This time the roll of her eyes was more defined. As was the toss of her head. "Yes, I love it so much that I'll -"
"You'll quit tomorrow?" he finished. And there he was again, meeting her somewhere in the middle in that crazy way only he can manage.
And she went with it. "Precisely."
He smiled and shook his head, obviously not believing her.
Hey, that didn't make it any less true.