Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own the Avengers. Only my OC is mine. Also, the villain in this chapter, and what happens to him, was actually in a comic book (albeit I changed a few things), so that idea isn't mine either.
Enjoy! Oh, and Bruce isn't in this chapter but will appear soon.
Chapter 1. Method Acting
She was finally leaving work. It was 3am and she had been here for twenty hours straight, evident by the scientific articles and coffee cup rings on her desk. She slung her worn, dark brown leather messenger bag over her shoulder and headed to the elevator. The hallway was quiet; normally, it was only the late-night cleaning crew and her on the thirty-ninth floor at this hour.
Although she had walked down this hallway many times before, an eerie feeling struck her. She tried to remember if she shut-off the lights, shut down her computer, and took her cellphone and/or keys with her. After mentally checking off each one, and patting her front pockets for her cell phone and keys, she realized that something else was causing her uneasiness. Well, uneasiness wasn't exactly the right word to describe this feeling which made her feel that this wasn't quite the same hallway that she had been in numerous times before.
The ping of the elevator arriving eased her out of her thoughts, though the feeling remained. She decided against taking the elevator, preferring the stairs despite being so high up. She reasoned that it was probably her tiredness, which had sunk into every fiber of her being that caused her ominous feeling. A little exercise might shake it off.
She, that is Stephanie Berlin, was currently heading down one of the numerous staircases in the main laboratory of Pyper Industries, the current world's leading expert in military technology.
At last, she reached the lobby. Despite a current heat wave which had engulfed New York for the past three days, a cool gust of air hit her face as she exited the building. Her brain processed this information, but it failed to register due to its focus on the greater anomaly before her. Despite it being three in the morning, the outside resembled mid-afternoon; sunlight, instead of darkness, surrounded her when she walked out the door.
Get a grip, Berlin, She scolded herself, again attributing what she was experiencing due to her lack of sleep. She had no time to further think about it since a woman about two feet in front of her was about to get crushed by a car that was falling down. Running towards her, Stephanie was able to pull her out of the way just in time. The woman fell on top of her with an 'oof'.
"Are you all right?" Stephanie asked in a slightly wheezy voice since the woman was now laying on top of her diaphragm.
"Yes, I think so," the woman shakily replied while cautiously lifting herself off of Stephanie and offering a hand to help her up. "Thank you."
Stephanie looked up at the woman, accepting her hand. "You're Gwyneth Paltrow!…I…Wow…This is…Are you filming another movie?" This must be why it looks as if it was sunny outside; they're filming a daytime scene at night in order to avoid a crowd of on-lookers.
Gwyneth just stared at Stephanie looking confused. "I think you have me mistaken for someone else. My name is Pepper Potts."
Stephanie was puzzled for a second then said, "You don't break character for a minute, eh? You dyed your hair red again –you must be here filming the next Iron Man movie."
"What?" The Gwyneth's face sank deeper into confusion. "My hair is naturally red."
"Right, sure." Stephanie replied, still convinced that Gwyneth was trying to remain in character. Maybe it was some weird actor quirk of remaining in character at all times.
Gwyneth, or Pepper, was about to say something when the sound of multiple cars backfiring filled the air. Wait, Stephanie realized, those were gunshots. She turned to pull Gwyneth/Pepper into the lobby of Pyper Ind. to take shelter when she realized that it was no longer there. In the place where the building should have been, a Starbucks was now there. I know that Starbucks spring up fast, but there is no way that a Starbucks could have replaced Pyper Ind. within three minutes, Stephanie was thinking when another round of gunshots rang out.
With her survival reflexes kicking-in, Stephanie pulled down Gwyneth/Pepper behind a nearby car. "If this is part of the movie that you're filming, it would be a really good time to know." she whispered to Gwyneth /Pepper.
"For the last time why do you keep mentioning a movie? I'm not an actress; I'm Tony Stark's secretar-" Gwyneth/Pepper was saying before Stephanie cut her off.
"For God's sake! Stop pretending to be Pepper, and let me know if this is real!"
"Of course it is!" Gwyneth/Pepper shouted back.
Stephanie's mind began to buzz as it usually did when she was excited or worked-up. Millions of calculations were swirling through her brain involving the nearest entrances to the subway and buildings that would have a basement, the distance to these buildings, and the direction of where the bullets were coming from. She glanced at the redheaded woman beside her, noticing that Gwyneth was wearing an expensive looking light pink blouse, grey pencil skirt, and nude high heels.
"Can you run in those?" Stephanie asked, gesturing to the high heels.
"Good. There's a building 500 feet to your right that I think we can make it to without getting shot. The bullets are coming from the top left, so if we-" Stephanie was explaining before she was cut off.
"What about the Grey Gargoyle?"
Stephanie had to stifle a laugh. "Grey Gargoyle? What is this some sort of comic book?"
Gwyneth/Pepper looked serious. "He'll kill us if we try to run. He was targeting me when you stepped in."
Now it was Stephanie's turn to look confused. "Targeting you?"
Stephanie peeked over the top of the car, to be met with a scene that she wasn't expecting; numerous NYPD officers were shooting at some grey thing that she saw lift up a car, with his bare hands, and throw it at the police officers. What looked to be life-size human statues were scattered around the area.
"Yes, to get revenge on Tony. Look, we don't have much time. You shoul-" but Gwyneth/Pepper was interrupted by the shadow of another car appearing over them. Stephanie reacted quickly, and pulled the possibly crazy actress underneath the truck that was nearby. The car smashed down, missing them by inches. Gwyneth/Pepper looked at her speechless.
"Where is Tony, then? Shouldn't he be here trying to save you?" Stephanie asked, feeling slightly stupid inquiring about a fictional relationship.
"He's away in Russia at the moment, so I don't think he's aware of this."
"Where are the other Avengers then? Shouldn't S.H.I.E.L.D. have sent someone?"
"How do you know about S.H.I.E.L.D.?" Gwyneth/Pepper asked.
"Yeah, yeah and I'm not suppose to know that Nick Fury is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. or that Hawkeye's real name is Clint Barton." Stephanie was becoming increasingly annoyed at Gwyneth's persistence of staying in character. "Look, we have to figure out a way to stop this goblin then since, I'm not sure about you, but I don't want to die just yet."
"Gargoyle. The Grey Gargoyle. He has super strength and can turn people into stone." Gwyneth/Pepper responded, looking apprehensively at Stephanie after she revealed knowledge of top-secret information.
"Stone, huh? Are you sure that you're not stoned?" Stephanie giggled at her own joke, partly due to her lack of sleep and partly to the absurdity of everything that was going on around her.
Gwyneth/Pepper shot her a "what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you" look, but Stephanie didn't notice -a sudden thought occurred to her.
"Wait, you said stone?" she asked.
"Yes. Why? I don't see how th-"
"How close are we to water?"
"The Hudson is a block down, but why-"
"Stay here. Be quiet. Don't move." interrupted Stephanie before she squeezed out from under the truck, leaving her messenger bag with Gwyneth/Pepper.
"HEY, YOU!" Stephanie shouted towards the figure that she could only assume was the Grey Gargoyle. He, at least Stephanie assumed that it was a human, turned toward her.
"Who are you?" he scoffed.
"Geeze, don't you recognize me? I'm Pepper Potts. You evil super villains really need to do your homework." She replied thankful that Gwyneth/Pepper kept her mouth shut. She just hoped that she wasn't ruining a film scene.
"You don't have red hair, and what about the other woman who I almost crushed with a car?"
"I dyed it -I was getting tired of all the ginger jokes. The other woman was a decoy, my personal bodyguard in fact, but she ran off guess Stark wasn't paying her enough for this." Stephanie replied, trying not to show the fear that was currently pumping adrenaline throughout her body.
She could see him more clearly now. He had bulking muscles like Captain America, but more disturbing was the fact that he looked as if he were chiseled out of stone.
Whatever the criteria of being a super villain was, intelligence was not one of them. The Grey Gargoyle believed her lie without any hesitation. "It would be better if you surrendered now. I would hate to see you suffer." He yelled to her as he stepped closer.
"You want me, you have to catch me." Stephanie shouted back before heading off towards the Hudson. She felt the street slightly shake under the heavy tread of the Grey Gargoyle running after her. As she darted between cars, narrowly avoiding tripping on debris, she was thankful that she was wearing her Converse instead of heels.
Finally, she reached the river. She didn't have to turn her head to know that the man -the thing?- was catching up to her. She glanced around, and finding that luck was with her, saw a small motorboat tied at the dock. Quickly untying the boat, she pushed off from the deck.
Once the motor was started, she tried provoking the Grey Gargoyle into following her by sticking out her tongue. Stephanie could sense how enraged he was at her childish action. He lunged toward the boat, catching its tail with his left hand. He climbed up, so that he was now standing on the opposite end of the small boat.
Shit, shit. Stephanie thought. I'm not even that far out yet.
A triumphant smile appeared on the Grey Gargoyle's stone features. "Looks like I've got you now."
I need to stall him. I need to stall him.
"So, why was it so important to get me, eh?" Stephanie asked, hoping that he would take the conversational bait. If there was anything that she had learned from watching superhero movies it was that super villains love to talk about themselves and their "ingenious" schemes.
"Don't you remember?" He sneered. "Your worthless boyfriend-"
"Worthless? I'll have you know that he is the richest man in the world. He even has more money than J.K. Rowling," Stephanie added trying to elongate the conversation in order to get as far out as possible from the shore. At least, I would assume that he is, Stephanie silently thought.
His eyes narrowed. "Stark, the bastard, screwed up my plan."
"To become rich. Doesn't he tell you anything?"
Almost there. Just a little longer. Stephanie began to discreetly scan the floor of the boat for anything that she could use as a weapon.
"We don't talk that much, mostly spend our time in the bedroom." Stephanie lied, remembering Stark's characteristic of being a playboy. Besides, who hasn't entertained the thought of sharing a bed with Robert Downey Jr.? "So, what was this ingenious scheme?"
"I was going to become a famous by turning people into stone, and then passing them off as authentic sculptures." He answered.
"No shit." Stephanie laughed at how random all of this was. She thought that what she was experiencing must be some sort of hallucination caused by her lack of sleep.
"Now," He continued, "I plan on making Stark his own personal sculpture of you with my bare hands."
"That's how you do it? You turn people into stone using your hands?" Stephanie asked, her curiosity outweighing her fear and tiredness.
"Care to see?"
I think that we're deep enough now, Stephanie thought.
"Not particularly," she answered as she picked up an oar and swung it at him in one fluid motion.
The Grey Gargoyle laughed as the oar shattered on contact with his stone body. Stephanie had expected this, and offered up a, "Hey, what's that behind you?". As the idiot turned to look behind him, she jumped into the water.
The murky water was cold, but right after she recovered from the shock of jumping in, she took a deep breath and started swimming towards the bottom of the river. The vibrations in the water signaled to her that her attacker followed. Perfect.
Even thought it was a pain at the time, she was thankful her uptight swim coach in high school made sure that everyone on the team could hold their breath for over a minute while underwater.
Stephanie trudged on towards the bottom of the river; she needed to be as close to the bottom as she could get.
After about a minute, she glanced behind her to see the stone weirdo struggling against his heavy body which was dragging him toward the bottom of the Hudson. She, knowing that gravity would take its course for him, started to head towards the surface. Her lungs were almost giving-in, if she continued to hold her breath for any longer, her brain cells would start to die, she would begin to slip out of consciousness, and would eventually drown.
Light was seeping into the water, indicating that she was close to the surface. Gasping for air, she summoned all of the strength left in her to pull herself onto the boat. She passed out from exhaustion at almost the exact instant that she flopped onto the boat's floor.