A/N: Here is an update. I am now off to enjoy my birthday.
DISCLAIMER: This show and all the characters do not belong to me. Unless someone got them as a birthday present. Then they're mine.
Pepper was startled out of her sleep that morning by a harsh ringing sound. She blinked her bleary eyes, trying to form a coherent thought in her foggy mind. What was that?
She groped around on the bedside table until she encountered the annoying ringing object. Her cell phone. Of course. The fog in her mind instantly cleared up as she read the caller ID- Tony. The hurt and anger boiled up inside her again. She threw the phone down onto her bed as hard as possible.
"Argh! Stop calling!" she yelled at the phone, which rang once more before shutting up.
Pepper's renewed anger stuck with her as she walked to school, creating a cloud over her mind. In a few short minutes, she'd enter the school, where Tony would inevitably be waiting for her. She really didn't want to see him right now.
Instead of spending the few minutes before homeroom hanging by Tony and Rhodey's lockers, as per normal, she walked right past them with only a "Morning Rhodey" as she passed. Tony, she noticed, looked up at her pleadingly and began to make a move towards her, only to be held back by Rhodey and a glare from her. And to make her mood worsen, she noticed Whitney was hanging around the locker.
"Wow, someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed today." she heard the blonde say. She had to quell the urge to turn around and throttle the heiress.
Luckily, Gene showed up just as she was about to give up and let the urge free. "Morning Potts." he said, coming up beside her. She muttered something that Gene would hopefully take for a greeting, not feeling like giving a full response. "Still in a bad mood, I see."
"You're very observant."
"I'll admit, it's one of my better traits." He boasted.
Pepper punched him lightly on the arm. "You're so modest."
The two of them walked to class together, unaware of the grey eyes that followed them.
Her first test of willpower came in second period. The absence of Rhodey, who had a spare, mixed with the fact she was one of the last to arrive, left the last available seat right beside Tony. Pepper let out a sigh of aggravation and placed her stuff down beside him, trying not to look at him more than necessary.
However, she caught a glimpse of Tony looked eager, probably because of the chance to talk to her. "Pepper…" he started.
Pepper glared at him and moved her seat over. Seconds later, she moved her books over as well. She heard Tony shift his seat over as well. "Pepper, listen."
She didn't move at all, just faced forward and looked at the board. She felt his fingers on his arm and looked at him through the corner of her eye. "Pepper, please listen to me?" he asked.
The teacher entering the room stopped her from having to respond to him, and she was glad for it. She had felt her willpower breaking and her anger softening and had almost turned to hear him out. But now the opportunity was lost and her anger was still intact. She faced forward, giving the teacher her complete attention.
Her efforts to not speak to Tony were undone as she caught her after class. As she stood by her locker, grabbing the books she'd need for the next class, she heard someone come up behind her. She didn't even have to look up to know it was Tony.
"Pepper, I'm so sorry about yesterday. It totally slipped my mind."
Pepper didn't even look at him. "Sure it did." and Whitney helped it slip.
"Look, d'you want me to make it up to you? How about we make up for it after school?"
Now Pepper looked at him from across the door of her locker "No. That's ok. It's obvious that time with your girlfriend is more important than helping your friends." Pepper's voice rose angrily as she alluded to Whitney, but she lowered it and finished coldly, "I found someone else. Your duties are officially ended."
With that, she slammed her locker shut and walked away, not even looking back.
Her first class after lunch was Geography. The second she got into the classroom, she saw she had several places to sit. Pepper assessed her options.
Tony was sitting alone, since Rhodey didn't share this class either. But if she sat with him again, willingly, this time, it might give him the impression that she was starting to forgive him, which she certainly wasn't. Tony must have felt her staring, since he looked up at her hopefully. She scowled and looked away.
Her second option was Gene. He was sitting up with Happy, as normal, but she could probably convince Happy to move. It sure beat the third option-sitting alone. If she did that, Tony would probably join her. Some small part of her had to admit, it would be a nice gestu---No! Bad Pepper! Stay mad!
She marched over to Gene's desk. He and Happy looked up as she approached. "Happy, do you mind if I sit here today?" she asked, putting on her best smile.
Her eyes flicked over to Tony briefly. He was watching this, Pepper realized with an almost gleeful feeling.
Happy looked momentarily confused, and Pepper worried he was going to ask question she wouldn't be able to answer without awkwardness and embarrassment. But then a grin spread across his face and he looked back and forth between her and Gene. He elbowed Gene in the test, chuckling. "Sure, I'll move." he said between laughs, still elbowing Gene.
Oh. Well. She hadn't expected this reaction. At least he hadn't asked anything, though.
"If you're going to move," Gene ground out. "Please do so."
Happy, still laughing, grabbed his stuff and left. Pepper slipped into his empty seat.
"You don't want to sit beside Tony, I take it?" Gene asked by way of greeting.
"Nope. That might give him the impression that I'm forgiving him." She replied. "What, you don't want me here?"
"No, I do. Better you than Happy. Trying to converse with him is like trying to converse with a wall."
"Really? I always thought that it was easier to speak with the wall." Pepper joked.
Gene gave a little chuckle at her remark.
"Is it just me, or does Happy now think we're dating?" she asked, pointing to Happy. He had taken the seat beside Tony and was watching her and Gene with an almost childlike interest.
Gene rolled his eyes. "Who knows what goes on in his brain?"
Pepper took one last look at Tony and Happy. While Happy looked gleeful at her and Gene together, Tony looked downright unpleased about it. That idea made her stomach do a happy little turn. Finally, she was getting revenge.
With a giant grin on her face, she looked away from Tony to open the textbook in front of her.
Tony used to dislike how Pepper's constant blathering gave him a headache. But he found her angry silence to be disconcerting, scary. He disliked it even more. But there was no chance to make up with her, since she had been avoiding him all day. During Drama, when he sat beside her, she hadn't even looked at him. She had just moved all her stuff over. And during geography, she had avoided him and sat with Gene instead. And to top it all off, when he had tried to apologized, she had blown off his apology and told him she had a new tutor. Those had been the only words she'd said to him all day.
He now stood beside Rhodey's locker, watching Pepper from across the hall. Whitney was nowhere in sight for the moment- she had said something about taking an important call and left him to talk with Rhodey.
"I don't get it. Why won't she talk to us?"
"Speak for yourself. She's talking to me." Rhodey replied
"Ok, fine. Why isn't she speaking to me?"
Rhodey snorted and rolled his eyes (it was becoming a habit). "Possibly 'cause you ditched her on something that was important to her? I understand that that can make someone mad. "
"But I apologized! Or I tried to. And now, not only will she not speak to me, she's hanging out with Gene. Gene, Rhodey."
"Yes, I've heard that. You wouldn't stop talking about it last night."
"No, you don't get it! She walked right by me in Geography and sat beside him. I got stuck sitting beside Happy!"
"It couldn't have been that bad."
"Oh, but it was. And to top it all off, she's got a new tutor!"
"Yeah, she told me."
Rhodey interrupted. "Before you say anything else-she probably got a tutor who would be trustworthy and wouldn't ditch her before a test. And yes, I agree with her choice, no offence."
Tony grumbled something, and continued to silently watch Pepper. He noted with some distaste that Gene was now coming up to speak to her."Who do you think it is?" he finally asked, taking a sip of water.
Rhodey sighed. "For a genius, you can be incredibly dim. Who do you think it is?"
Tony choked on his water. "Gene? Not only is she hanging out with him, she's getting him to tutor her? Why?"
"I just stated the reasons. Use your amazing memory to recall them."
Tony grumbled something that Rhodey didn't catch, but he assumed it was something bad about Gene. "Oh, here comes your girlfriend." He commented, watching Whitney strut down the hall towards them. "I'll be going now."
He turned and walked away, leaving Tony to wait for Whitney. When she reached him, she pecked him on the cheek. "I'm back!" she declared. "Shall we go?"
"Yeah, let's." Tony replied in a distracted voice. His eyes were still focused on Pepper, who had just walked away with Gene. Whitney gave him a strange look, but latched herself onto his arm anyways, practically dragging him out of the school.
It felt strange, standing by her locker alone after school. She hadn't done that for a while. But, Pepper decided, it was worth it just to snub Tony. Except for that one little not-quite-conversation they'd had that morning, she had done pretty well ignoring him.
That greeting could only belong to one person. Pepper turned around to see Gene coming towards her.
"Gene! I thought you would've gone home already."
Gene leaned against her locker, arms crossed. "No. My driver called to say he would be late."
"Wow, to have your problems." She muttered. "Oh, my driver is going to be late! That means I have to wait an extra few minutes in this dingy old school before being whisked away in a luxury limo!" she dramatically brought her hand to her forehead and pretended to faint.
"Sure, be sarcastic to the guy who was just about to offer you a ride home."
Pepper snapped out of her dramatic moment as her jaw nearly hit the floor. "You were going to offer me a ride home? Any reason why?"
Gene shrugged. "It looks a little cold to be walking." He said. Then a smirk crossed his face and he nodded towards the other end of the hall. Pepper turned her head to see Tony leaning against Rhodey's locker, watching the two of them. "Plus, it would be a great way to piss off Stark some more."
Pepper matched Gene's smirk. "Have I ever mentioned that I like the way you think?"
"Not that I can recall." Gene answered as the two left the building.
Gene's limo was waiting for them at the curb of the school. The driver had already gotten out and was holding the door open, waiting for someone to climb in. Gene ushered Pepper in before him, something Pepper found incredibly nice.
She settled into the luxurious leather seats as the car pulled away from the school. Just as she was about to make herself completely comfortable, something caught her eye. Whitney and Tony walking together, slightly ahead of the car. An idea popped into Pepper's brain as she glared at the blonde, and she began rolling down her window. Gene looked at her in confusion.
As the limo passed the couple, Pepper caught Whitney's eye and gave her a devilish smirk, mouthing "I'm in a limo" to her. The shocked anger on Whitney's face, and the surprise on Tony's face, made Pepper snicker. As the window rolled back up, the snickers turned into full-on laughs. This eventually turned into her convulsing on the seat, trying to catch her breath.
Gene looked at the redhead beside him, a tiny bit afraid. Why did he always make friends with the weird ones?
A/N: IchibanSinger321, that last part was for you! It was too good an idea to pass up. Hope you enjoyed it.
Hm…looks like Pepper and Gene are getting a bit closer, doesn't it. I apologize if Gene seems a little out of character, but like I said, it's hard when you don't know much about a character. I wanted to give the 2 of them a bit more interaction on this chapter, but I decided against it. I'm sorry! There will be more in upcoming chapters, I promise!
If y'all noticed it, there is an update for "Tangled Web". Finally, eh? Go read and review both! Make my day!