They’re Manly Tights: They’ve Gone to Plaid
January 17, 2017
Pepper Potts tapped against her tablet, pretending to read emails while Maria did homework. They each had a cup of cocoa and studiously ignored Tony who was attempting to create a new smoothie recipe in the kitchen. Pepper checked the time: t-minus seven minutes. Maria grinned, clearly excited, but then covered it with a scowl.
“What kind of masochist assigns this much homework over a weekend?”
Tony piped in from the kitchen, “You’ll be caught up in no time, Junior. And then we can do some real damage.” He blanched and threw a wince at Pepper. She gave him points for getting his encouragement half-right. It was progress. Boundaries had always been difficult for Tony – either far too much distance, or absolutely none at all. The way he had walked the line with Maria was wonderful to see, but Pepper had hope that his next comeuppance would teach an important lesson.
A message pinged on her tablet from Friday.
Dr. Vivas has entered the building and is on her way up.
Well. That will be interesting. Evie’s flight from LA had been canceled due to weather and Pepper had assumed she would wait to fly to New York on Saturday. Having an audience was not part of the original plan, but Pepper was nothing if not quick on her feet. Or quick on her Vetrina dining chair, as the case was. She leaned over Maria, as if checking her work, and whispered,
“Dr. Vivas is here. Run interference, please.”
The elevator dinged and Tony’s head emerged from deep in a cabinet. “Friday? Are we expecting someone?”
“Dr. Vivas has arrived, Boss.”
“Thank God!” Maria announced loudly.
Evie stepped off the elevator, her carry-on luggage in tow, and blinked in surprise as she was accosted by a pre-teen.
“I need help with my Spanish grammar, Doc, or I can’t join the rest of my grade next quarter. You’re good at this, right? Sentarse y ser genial.”
Pepper gave credit where it was due, Evie only blinked and rolled her suitcase to the table. “I’m afraid I haven’t done anything formal since my professional terminology class in medical school, but I will do my best. How are you finding your other classes, Maria?”
“Oh, you know. Sucky, but not completely abominable.”
Pepper raised an eyebrow, but didn’t correct the language. ‘Suck’ was a considerable step up from other words Maria had used, and was still prone to spit out when upset. Evie sat and engaged in a quiet discussion regarding gendered verbs and Pepper calmly sipped her lemon water and pretended to work on her tablet until she received another message from Friday.
Ms. Lewis has entered the lobby.
Anticipation flooded her muscles and Pepper had to consciously breathe and regulate her temperature. Tony popped the lid on the blender – something suspiciously orange and gloppy – and started it up. The elevator pinged and Darcy stalked out – mid-rant.
“-defend him! I asked him straight out – and he said nothing. Nothing!”
Natasha followed with less gesticulating and a much calmer tone of voice. “Darcy, I understand that you are upset, but Steve is not the sort of man who would-”
“How would you know? How would anyone know? Just because he had me fooled – had us all fooled with that Boy Scout yes ma’am shit – doesn’t mean he isn’t the same horn dog scum as ninety percent of the male population. I am not doing this, Natasha. So you can just save it!”
Tony had finally noticed the entrance of the two woman and hurriedly cut the power to his smoothie.
“Lewis. Natalie. What brings your violent tirade to my-”
Darcy slapped a piece of paper on the vetrazzo island. “My resignation. I’ll finish up the month from the upstate facility, with Jane. But I can’t do this, Tony.”
Tony’s eyes were wide, his skin a little pale. Pepper had a brief moment of doubt, worried for his emotional stability, but quashed it. It was important, with the team so fresh and being so careful around each other, that he be reminded of his place. Which was not as the puppeteer behind the scenes. People were important, especially people who were helping Tony rebuild his life, his psyche, his purpose. He needed to learn to respect that.
“Now, Lewis, hold up. You know I can’t accept that. What’s the problem? No problem I can’t fix. I have all the monies, remember? Like Scrooge McDuck over here.”
“It isn’t money, Tony,” Darcy bit off. She looked mad enough to punch someone.
“Darcy believes that Steve intended to…pressure her by moving in upstairs.” Natasha remained calm and unaffected – as one expected of a former Russian spy and current deadly assassin. Tony’s eyes widened further.
“Now, Lewis. That’s…I’m sure Don’t Tread On Me didn’t know that you were-”
“Didn’t know?” Darcy’s voice reached a pitch that would make dogs howl. “Didn’t know? Are you seriously going to tell me that the world’s most famous tactician didn’t know where he was moving? Are you fucking kidding me Tony? I know you’re trying to help him out, for the team, and that’s great. But I can’t work like this – I trusted him. I trusted in what he stood for. And Steve-” Her voice broke and her teeth snapped shut with an audible clack. Darcy turned her back to Tony, ostensibly to collect herself. She faced the little table where Pepper, Evie, and Maria were sitting.
“Lewis, just let me call him. You two should probably talk about this. Friday?”
“To hell with talking,” Darcy growled. “He had his chance, and his silence spoke volumes!”
“Friday, get Rogers over here, stat. And maybe order in some supper – for everyone. Yeah. That’s what we need, a nice, quiet sit-down with-”
“No, Tony. No sit down. I’m sorry, but you’ll be fine without me. I am sure you’ll find someone else to run Yinsen and help you with the Avengers. But it can’t be me. I really liked him and he-” Darcy pressed her mouth over her hand and leaned over the island. Her shoulders were shaking. Pepper cut her eyes to Evie. The doctor’s mouth was hanging open. Maria looked like she needed popcorn. “I just – I have to go, Tony.” Darcy spoke into the counter. “Most of my stuff is still packed. I’ll arrange to move it as soon as I know where I’ll end up. If Jane decides to stay-”
“I did it,” Tony blurted. His face was ashen, the whites of his eyes showing all around. “I thought if you and he – and it’s safer, with civilians nearer to one of the team or – and you seemed to like him…but it can be fixed. I’ll fix it. You want a new place? Your own brownstone? Maybe a 2-bedroom corner apartment in the Tower?” Darcy hadn’t moved, her whole body still trembling, and Tony’s concessions picked up speed. “Or somewhere else. Anywhere in Manhattan, you name it. I’ll get you a private car to bring you to work. It’s not his fault. It’s mine. He’s completely innocent…in this. Dependable. Stalwart. Honorable. Practically immaculately conceived. Maybe even unimpeachable. Definitely impregnable. But…I didn’t say that…that is, he’s what you thought. I’ll fix it Lewis, just tell me-”
Darcy’s peal of laughter interrupted him. She held out a fist, and Natasha lightly bumped it.
Tony’s mouth gaped open. “What?”
“I know Steve didn’t know.” Darcy flopped onto a bar stool and wiped at her eyes. “Of course it was you. You meddle more than a yenta. More than an Italian grandmother with an unwed thirty-something grandson. More than Stalin in commodities markets. More than Don Pedro in-”
“Are you fucking with me?” Tony’s mouth was still open.
“Yes, Tony. Obviously. I am fucking with you. Which you deserve. One hundred percent.” Her eyes narrowed. “It is not nice to arrange other people’s lives, Tony, even if you mean well.”
“So. You’re not…” His hand flopped ineffectually.
“That depends. Do you have any more plans to stick your nose into my sexual relations?”
“Ew.” Tony wrinkled his nose, and color was slowly coming back into his cheeks. “Don’t talk about my face and your whatnot in the same sentence.”
“Don’t interfere in my love life,” she countered.
“Is your professional life still fair game?”
“Only if you want to see your balls up close and personal.”
“Fair. Want a smoothie?”
Natasha sashayed over to the table, bringing with her another glass and the pitcher of lemon water. Pepper let out a breath. This was what Tony needed. To have his fears challenged in a controlled environment, and to have people in his life who would push back. Support him, befriend him, be loyal to him, but still hold their own.
“That depends. Did you add fish oil to this one?”
Tony and Darcy devolved into good-natured bickering and creative name calling. Natasha poured herself a drink and filled Pepper’s glass. Maria turned, disappointed, back to her homework. She had obviously expected more excitement.
“Ready to take Tony up on that permanent position in New York yet?” Pepper smirked at Evie, who finally closed her mouth.
Evie answered coolly, “It’s cheaper than cable.”
* Sentarse y ser genial – Sit down and be cool.