Far from Ordinary
By Elizabeth Bathory
The sun shone brightly into the ceiling to floor all white office making it almost hurt someone's eyes that was not used to it. Everything in the room was white, right down to every little paper clip on Gabriel's desk. Gabriel was the man in charge. He handed out the assignments. It was a difficult job to manipulate human relationships on Earth and since he only answered to one above him, Gabriel had to be careful in whom he chose for a particular job. It was as he was shuffling a few papers on his desk and waiting for his four o'clock that he seriously questioned his judgment on this assignment.
At exactly one minute before four, a sharp knock was sounded on his door and it opened to reveal O'Reilly and Jackson – his so called specialists in difficult romantic situations. O'Reilly was a woman in her mid thirties who had a little bit of a Bonnie Parker tendency when it came to fashion and a propensity for large weapons. Jackson was a tall black man in his late forties who seemed to mellow out O'Reilly's more abrupt tendencies.
"You asked to see us, sir?" Jackson asked as he pulled out the chair for O'Reilly and then took his own seat.
Gabriel slid a file folder across the table. "I am almost hesitant to give you two another assignment like this after what happened last time.
"We were very successful with that one. Robert and Celine just had like their third kid last year." O'Reilly piped in.
"Yes…but I don't want to have to be bringing anyone back from the dead this time." Gabriel countered as he gestured for them to open the folder. "This case though may be infinitely harder than Robert and Celine. Those two were total opposites who didn't even know the other existed. These two know each other almost intimately and deeply care for one another but keep denying the fact that they are in love with each other."
"Can you give us a bit of a back story here that may not be in the notes?" Jackson asked as he perused the dossier.
"He is Anthony Edward Stark, a billionaire industrialist and former playboy turned super hero after a period of imprisonment in Afghanistan. She is Virginia Potts, his personal assistant for more than a decade and keeps his business and him in line. These two people belong together and they see it but they keep denying it."
The folder emitted a bright white light as it was opened. O'Reilly and Jackson looked at each other and shrugged. This was going to be harder.
"Jeopardy, Jackson. It's always the best solution." O'Reilly stated.
"I was afraid you were going to say that."
Outside the main convention hall of Kansas State University College of Engineering was a parking lot full of cars that once carried thousands of visitors to the annual Inventor's Convention and showcase. Inside the hall the latest technology in everything from agriculture, to medicine, to computers, to toys were laid out for everyone to get a sneak peak of and for potential investors to investigate.
According to the information in the folder, Anthony Stark and Virginia Potts were scheduled to be here. Now they just had to find them.
"What kind of car are they driving?" Jackson asked as he scanned the parking lot for something that looked like it belonged to a billionaire.
"The folder says that they were supposed to have a Lexus at the rental place at the airport but it was unavailable so they ended up with a Chevy Aveo sedan," O'Reilly read. "In green…seaweed green." She added with a smirk.
Once he had the description, it did not take long to find the car in question. "There it is, right by the front door." Jackson pointed out.
O'Reilly smiled as she got out a few tools and popped the trunk of the Aveo and got to work on it, messing around with it in the vilest of ways.
"According to the notes we have, this man has several degrees from MIT, including mechanical engineering. You don't think that he'll be able to fix this?" Jackson asked.
O'Reilly pulled something up out of the engine, looked at it, dropped it on the ground a few times, shook it up and shoved it back in. "Not after I'm done with this." She said with a smirk before they made their quick exit.
It was nearly five in the afternoon when Tony Stark and Pepper Potts finally emerged out of the expo. For Tony, the Inventors' Expo was like Christmas for him. He got to scope out all the new toys and investment opportunities with out all the hassle of checks and balances from the Board. He was riding high on cloud nine until he came out and remembered the seaweed green piece of shit he was stuck driving.
"Remind me why I can't sue that rental place again?" Tony asked as he was getting into the car.
"Because they gave you this one for free because of their mistake," Pepper reminded him as she put her purse in the backseat and got in the passenger side of the car. "You can't sue for something you didn't pay for."
"I think even that could be challenged." Tony chimed in as he peeled out of the parking lot.
Not more than ten minutes on the road, Tony's good mood was shot down just a bit further down the crapper. The original plan was to land in the land of many cows in the morning, go to the expo, get back on the plane and be back in Los Angeles by that night. A wrench got thrown into that plan when the road they were driving on back to the airport where Tony's private jet was parked got detoured down some tiny little dirt country road due to recent tornado activity. Now it wasn't the dirt road directly that caused the foulness in Tony's mood. It was what happened to the car.
They had made it about half an hour down this shitty little road only seeing one sign for a town called Bluff City, five miles – population 80 – and more cows than people. Not one hundred yards after the sign, the car made a quick sputtering noise and all of a sudden died right where it was.
"What the hell?" Tony muttered as he tried to restart the car with absolutely no success. After the third try, he yanked the keys out of the ignition and tossed them to Pepper as he popped the hood and got out of the car.
"See I was right about this piece of seaweed colored shit," Tony spat back angrily. "American name made with freaking Korean parts." He spat as he waved away the smoke from the engine.
Pepper had to do her level best not to laugh at Tony. Yes, he had complained about the car when they got it and he was proven right about it but it was quite funny to watch him swear at the smoking engine that he himself had probably killed by seeing if the car could go above eighty. "Anything I can do to help?" she called out the window.
"Yes…damn it…" Tony said as he simultaneously burnt his hand on the overheated engine and hit his head on the raised hood. "Toss me a flashlight."
"Are you alright?" Pepper asked with stifled laughter as she passed the small flashlight to Tony.
Tony didn't say anything. He just shot her a very dark look before he went back to work on the car.
After several more minutes of colorful swearing and a lot of banging, Tony back away from the car and slammed the hood shut. "Shit!" he spat angrily as he pulled out his cell phone. He held it up for a few seconds, trying to find a signal before tossing it on the driver's seat. "Pepper, give me your CrackBerry for a minute."
"What for?" she asked as she almost reluctantly handed over her BlackBerry.
"I have to call a goddamn tow truck for this piece of shit and my damn phone won't get a signal," Tony ground out as he tried again. "And apparently neither does yours. Figures, we have to be in the one place in the entire country that does not get a cell tower. How close did that sign say we were?"
"It was five miles to the next town," Pepper sighed, now wishing that she had chosen better shoes to wear.
"Well, let's hope it has a garage because I am not walking any further than an hour for something that belongs in a junk yard." Tony stated as he handed Pepper her bag and started walking down the road.
Just as Tony had predicted, an hour later down a rocky dirt road they entered the town limits of Bluff City, a city with only one real street down the middle of a half square mile town. Down one side of the street was a general store, police station, bank and the post office. The other side had a small motel with a diner, the garage, and a feed store.
"Oh my god…this isn't a town…it's a movie set." Tony whispered to Pepper.
"According to the sign, it's a town." Pepper laughed despite the fact that her feet were killing her.
Tony muttered something under his breath before walking down to the tiny little garage with Pepper following behind as best as she could until the heel of her shoe broke off and she was slowed down a bit.
A tiny bell rang as Tony flung open the garage door and went up to the desk where a kid no more that eighteen was working. "I need a tow truck." Tony demanded.
The mechanic put down his comic book and looked at the person in front of him in a black t-shirt and jeans and the redhead coming in behind him in a skirt and broken high heels. "Well…the truck is kinda out at the moment. Where's your car at?"
"Five miles down the damn road." Tony said as he smacked the keys down on the counter. "And as far as I'm concerned, you can keep it or call the rental place to get it because I'm done with it." Tony spat. "You got a phone I can use?"
"The only public phone in town is in the post office…"
As soon as Tony heard that, he was out the door before the kid could finish and crossing the street only to get smacked in the face yet again.
"Closed for holiday until Tuesday!" Tony screamed out as he leaned back against the wall of the building. "I can't freaking believe this. Pepper? How much would it cost me to buy the damned town and get the postmaster here myself to open the door?"
"Less than what it would cost to bail you out of jail for bribing a government official." Pepper sighed as she watched Tony slide down to the ground. She wasn't laughing any more.
Tony closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall of the post office in frustration. "Got any ideas on what we do now because I am most certainly out of them?" he asked in a somewhat defeated tone.
"Well, since it looks like we're going to be here for the weekend, we have a few things we need to do. We'll need to get a few more things to wear since all we have is what we have on. We'll need a place to stay and something to eat. I personally suggest shopping first since it looks as things close a little early around here."
"I want to know why the whole damn town only has one phone though." Tony stated roughly as he got up off the ground and Pepper dragged him the thirty feet to the general store.
Once inside and ignoring the look from the cashier about the fact that they were coming in a half an hour before closing time, Tony and Pepper ignored the wall of pickled vegetables and odd animal parts and cooking utensils and picked up a few quick necessities – toiletries, things to wear for the next two days and a few mind puzzle games to keep Tony occupied. Pepper had it far harder than Tony did when it came to finding clothes. She found two pairs of jeans and a pair of Keds that would fit her well enough but the best shirts she could find was small men's t-shirts.
When they walked up to pay, Tony was still itching for a fight. As the girl totaled up their purchases, Tony automatically plunked down his credit card.
"I have a question," He started. "Can I ask why the whole town has only one public phone?" Tony asked as the girl was calling in his credit card.
"Most people just use the phone in their houses." The girl simply stated. "What's so important that it can't wait a five spell to get on home?"
Tony was not happy with that answer and the sigh Pepper heard from him was proof of it. "I'm back in the nineteenth century," he muttered under his breath as he signed the slip and grabbed the bags to meet up with Pepper outside.
As soon as Pepper saw the look on Tony's face when he went up to pay, she knew a storm was coming and for this once she thought it was best to get out of the way. She ducked out the door and changed her broken Gucci heels into the sneakers she had bought, making her feet feel a great deal better and easing her mood to better deal with Tony.
Tony was still wondering how they managed to fall off the planet and end up in another dimension that should not still exist when he came out of the store. He set the bag down next to Pepper and sat down next to her on the bench, pinching the bridge of his nose to ward off the beginning of a headache.
"Tony? Why don't we check into the motel there and get something to eat? You'll feel better after that." Pepper said gently, trying to get control back over the situation.
"I'll feel better when we're back in Malibu and out of Mayberry here." Tony said as he heaved himself off the bench with an audible pop to his back before they crossed the street to the Horse and Wagon Inn.
As soon as Tony saw the motel, he got a feeling that things were going to get worse even faster. The so-called lobby looked like it was still stuck in the 40's or 50's with a log book, old punch-button cash register and the tackiest upholstery on the few chairs that existed.
"Howdy," the man behind the desk said a little too pleasantly for Tony's taste. "What can I do for you?"
"We need a room until Tuesday." Tony stated flatly.
The clerk opened his log book and flipped through a few pages. "Well, we only have one room left with the festival in town this weekend but there's a town law about renting it."
"What's the law?" Tony snapped out quickly, just about at his wits' end.
"Well… we can only rent it to man and wife because it's our honeymoon suite."
Tony had to think quickly. "Well, that's not a problem. My wife and I," he said as he quickly took Pepper's hand to bring her forward. "Were just out here on business and we had car trouble."
"That's a shame to hear but I am sure that Sam over at the garage there will fix it up just so for you in no time."
"How much per night?" Tony asked, especially when he saw the sign that said no credit cards accepted.
"Twelve fifty, sir."
"Twelve fifty?" Tony repeated in shock at first until his tired brain kicked in. "Twelve dollars and fifty cents a night?"
"Yes, I know that sounds a might steep but a few years ago we had to raise the rates to keep up with town growth."
Tony had to try not to laugh. He was used to spending 25,000 a night for a hotel room. He fished out his wallet and opened it up and pulled out a 50 and set down on the counter.
Pepper watched the clerk's reaction when he saw the fifty dollar bill and she thought that he was going to pass out dead away on it.
"Just sign the ledger here and I'll get you your key," the man stammered out as he handed Tony his change.
Tony picked up the pen and signed the book – Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Carbonell.
Pepper saw what he had signed and gave him a questioning look.
"What?" Tony asked at the look he was getting.
"What is that?" Pepper whispered. "You never use that."
Tony pulled Pepper back away from the counter. She was right, he never did use the alias he had created for himself a while back but he had his reasons now. "Let me have a little fun here, Ms. Potts. It's obvious they don't have a clue on who I am so why do I even have to bother with my real name."
"It's fraud, Tony." Pepper whispered.
"No, it's not. If I had to use my credit card, I would have put Stark but since I can't…why give the tabloids any more fuel for the fire than I already do. None of them would remember my mother's name." Tony corrected her.
"What fuel for the fire? I don't exactly see the Enquirer popping out from a barn here." Pepper stated as she crossed her arms in front of her.
"Aren't you the one who's always telling me to be more careful? We don't know this place and one person here who may actually have internet may figure it out and then we're front page news." Tony reminded her as he walked back up to the counter.
"Here are your keys, sir. Room number two…right near the office in case you need anything." The clerk said.
Tony took the keys and had a sudden sense that he had just walked into the Bates' Motel as he thanked the clerk and gave Pepper a signal to get moving as fast as possible.
They walked down to Room number two and put the key into the door to unlock it. As soon as the door was opened, the smell of cheap air freshener and stale air assaulted them. The pink rose wallpaper was peeling off the walls and the white paint was chipped. A queen sized bed was in the middle of the room with a bathroom just off to the right next to a small closet. The only other thing in the room was a TV on a TV stand that still had rabbit ears on it.
Pepper took one look at the room and swallowed hard. "This is going to be interesting."
Tony dropped the bag at the foot of the bed and then took Pepper's hand and nearly pulled her out. "We'll figure out interesting later. Right now, I'm hungry and that diner is still open."
Pepper had to nearly run to keep up with Tony. "I doubt it's going to close all that quickly, Tony."
"Everything else in this town does…why not this too?" Tony stated.
The hell that had once been a very fun Saturday took a small upswing at the diner. To both Tony and Pepper's delight, all the food was entirely homemade and they kept bringing it until you were about to burst. For once, Tony was enjoying southern hospitality. The three pieces of blueberry pie he had should have been proof of that. The only thing that it lacked was a liquor license and both them could have used a stiff drink at that moment.
After dinner, Pepper collapsed on to the bed and took out her BlackBerry and started playing Solitaire on it while Tony went to attack the TV.
"Tony? We do have to discuss one thing…" Pepper started off.
"What's that?" Tony said gruffly as he played with the rabbit ears to try to get a picture on the TV.
"Sleeping arrangements," Pepper stated simply. "I was thinking…"
"I am NOT sleeping on the floor." Tony stated firmly, cutting off her statement before he gave the TV a good smack.
"Then what do you suggest?"
Tony gave the rabbit ears one last twist and all of a sudden a picture came on the TV…baseball…Yankees versus Texas Rangers. Satisfied with this, Tony stripped off his t-shirt and threw it on the floor next to the bag and then flopped on the bed next to Pepper. "I suggest this." He stated as he stretched out to watch the game.
"I have a problem with this…" Pepper started to protest before Tony held up his hand.
"Stop right there," Tony warned. "It's a big bed, Pepper and from what I have heard I'm not that bad of a bedmate."
"You usually don't stay with those…."
"And if you haven't noticed, there hasn't been one of those since I came home." Tony pointed out. "Especially since what's her name was such a bitch." He added as he took the pillows out from behind him and set them between them. "But if I'm that bad, will this work?"
Pepper looked at the small, flattened thin pillows between them and sighed. "I guess so." She stated as she got off the bed and started rummaging through the bag.
"What are you doing?" Tony asked through a yawn as he looked over at her.
"I'm going to take a shower before going to bed." Pepper replied.
A smirk grazed Tony's lips first and then faded into concern. "Do me a favor…keep the door open."
"Keep the door open? I don't think so, Tony."
"I'm actually being serious this time." Tony stated in his own defense. "I didn't exactly trust Norman Bates at the desk there and I don't want anything happening to you."
Pepper was about to protest again but then realized that Tony did have a point. "Fine, but I better not catch you watching." She said before heading into the bathroom, leaving Tony to watch the baseball game.
After her shower, Pepper dried off with the nearly see-through towels and pulled on the one larger t-shirt she bought to sleep in. When she came back into the main part of the room, Pepper had to smile. Tony had fallen dead asleep while watching TV. She turned off the game and the light and crawled into the other side of the bed, hoping that Sunday would turn out better.