October 22, 2016
Pepper slid into the back of the town car and pulled the door shut behind her. Maria was in the front seat with Happy – they each had a sickeningly sugary frosted doughnut in hand.
“You want one, Pep?” Maria held out the box. There was a powdered raspberry bismark that was calling to her.
“Definitely, I just need to make a call first. You go ahead and navigate with Happy. I’ll be done by the time we get to the spa.” Happy met Pepper’s eyes in the rearview mirror, and she saw his wince. Maria didn’t seem to notice anything was wrong, too involved with her next pastry choice. Happy put up the divider and Pepper pulled her phone from the Birkin bag on the seat next to her.
The line rang long enough that Pepper could feel her temper slipping. She finally hung up and dialed a new number.
“Ms. Potts,” Friday answered promptly. “How may I be of assistance?”
“Put me through to him, please.”
“Sir has requested a communications lock down for the foreseeable-”
“One moment, Ms. Potts.”
A tone sounded, and then she could hear Rhodey in the background. His words were difficult to make out, muffled by something, but his tone was clear. He was irritated with Tony. Get in line.
There was a short silence. “Pep, my love, where are you? Don’t you have a thing, now? I’m sure you have a thing. Isn’t there one? I know I do. Have a thing. I could talk to you all day, of course. How are you? How’s your thing? Good. Good. Going good here too. Just me and Rhodey-”
Rhodey’s voice came through loudly, “Don’t bring me into this.”
Tony continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “-hanging out. Getting work done. Nothing, nothing serious. At all. You know, just-”
“Tony.” He stopped talking so quickly she swore she could hear his brain shorting out. “What did we agree?”
“That I wouldn’t go into space anymore without giving you a five minute warning?” He offered tentatively.
“About the specialist?”
“That I would see her twice a week – three times if I had more than one panic attack in a day?”
She could feel her skin tightening, warming with annoyance. “My specialist, Tony.”
“Oh. OH. Oh, yeah, that. Well you are doing all the initial meetings – of course. Of course. I’m just doing research. Background checks. Just the boring. Background. Stuff. And things. With computers. That I do. Which I did do for Lewis. Did I tell you, Pep? Lewis is back from DC this weekend and I’m going to show her the new offices. Do you think I should get her something? Like a plant, or a decanter? Maybe a vase, vah-zzzz? Which is it? I’m never sure. What do people give for new offices? I mean, I got you that lace set from-”
“Tony. Did you cancel research time for Dr. Vivas?”
“Cancel is a strong word. Preempt. Supplant. Or buy-out? No, preempt is better. I just had some equations that I really needed crunched and-”
“Stark Industries has computers for your use, Tony and-” Pepper bit off her own reply. No matter how many years she was with him, he could still sidetrack her if he put his mind to it. She breathed slowly before speaking again. “Tony, I am going to say this just once. It is my uterus.” Rhodey made a choked sound but Pepper plowed on. “We are not going to bribe, blackmail, or coerce anyone into working with us. I will pick someone that I feel comfortable with, and then we will move forward together. If you contact Dr. Vivas again – through any means – before I explicitly give you permission, we will have words. You and I. Words.”
“Okay. I hear that you are upset, and I understand what behavior you are looking for.”
Pepper had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. She was immensely grateful that Tony was finally taking his therapy seriously. But sometimes he was such a smartass about it. “SI will be providing her with any computing time she has lost – free of charge.”
“Regardless of her agreement to work with us.”
There was a sigh. “Yes, dear.”
“And get Darcy a plant. Nothing too excessive.”
“Aw, Pep, were would the fun be in that?”