Budget Week: Development Division
February 14, 2017
Tony wasn’t even looking at her, instead digging though the mini fridge in the conference room and muttering about the deplorable state of her sparkling water variety. Darcy pinched the bridge of her nose and pushed out a breath. When she opened her eyes again, her tablet still showed the same spreadsheet.
And in the expense column: $100,000,000.
It was the only line item.
She considered laughing at him. Laughing and then telling him to go back and redo his budget. She considered calling Pepper and asking her to make Tony fall in line. She considered having Friday check Tony’s files on the off chance he might have at least done some rough drafts – hell, even notes or research, on a legitimate budget. She considered locking the door and going through the whole thing, one fucking paperclip at a time if necessary, until Tony begged for mercy and actually took the process seriously. Darcy checked the time. Four hours until she was supposed to leave the office – five until she had told Steve she would be leaving the office, just to give herself some cushion. She needed to ask herself the same question she had in eleventh grade English: was her time better spent tutoring Kolby Venton on iambic pentameter or just doing the group assignment herself?
Except replace Kolby Venton, pleasantly adorable dummy, with Tony Stark, mildly abrasive genius, and iambic pentameter with funding for the weapons, toys, and armor that would keep her boyfriend and the rest of his team safe. Not to mention the world. And instead of risking detention, she would be risking Tony always dumping this sort of thing off on her.
Basically the same situation.
“What are the chances that you are going to redo this on your own?”
Tony stood and shrugged, opening a bottle of Ferrarelle. “Slim to none? I’m giving the money for this circus, and if I go over budget? Who cares, I’ll just pay for it myself or donate more. If the team needs something, they need it and no budget or spreadsheet is going to make that decision for us.” He mimed turning to an imaginary third party, “Oh, you want more bullets, Siberian Sergeant? No can do, not in the budget.” Turning to his other side with fake sympathy, “Stateside Steve, I know you’d like some non-lethal measures, but the line item was expended second quarter – so you’ll just have to accept blood on your hands until next quarter.” He did a passable imitation of Natasha, even brushing back imaginary hair, “My cover requires I enter a drinking contest with a brigade of Irish footballers. I need a prosthetic liver. Teper’.” Tony mimed adjusting his breasts, then shooting someone. In a more normal voice he continued, “You want to be the one to tell Nat no on that? You going to be responsible for the failure of the strongest Russian liquor constitution to ever defect being drown in an unnecessary tragedy of poor-quality whiskey? I know I don’t. I want to give the team what they need. I want to support them. That means I can’t be fettered by unrealistic boundaries and arbitrary limitations. I can’t be tied down, Lewis. I need to go where my genius takes me. I’m a free spirit, a free thinker, a free-”
“-radical?” Darcy suggested.
“Funny.” He looked more amused than Darcy felt.
“So, basically, you don’t want to do this, so you aren’t going to?”
“On the nose. Got it in one. I knew there was a reason I hired you, Lewis.”
“I could make you,” Darcy stated evenly, just to judge his reaction.
He nodded in concession. “Probably. But is this the hill you want to die on?”
It really, really wasn’t.
“Can Friday keep track of your expenses and any overages by line item and send me monthly updates?”
“Of course, Ms. Lewis,” Friday responded.
“And you’ll sign off on what I give you, no arguments – and no shenanigans with the Board of Directors? Including Dr. Pym?”
Tony made a face at the mention of Hank Pym, but nodded slowly.
“And you personally, not SI, will cover anything you spend above and beyond approved amounts?”
“Don’t worry, the lawyers are already drawing up the correct paperwork to donate Clint’s new submarine to Yinsen.”
For a brief second, Darcy was almost sidetracked with the notion of what it must be like to serve on Tony’s personal legal team.
Buy this submarine and give it away.
Find out how I can keep all llamas five hundred yards or more away from me.
Apologize to Cher. She’ll know why.
“You will show up to the annual Board meeting – in clean clothes – and look attentive. You will bring up issues to me before you call press conferences on Avengers matters. No more than three passive aggressive gift baskets will be sent to Tommy in any one year. And there will be no office parties with clowns, professional dancers, or Disney executives.”
Tony was grinning and holding out his hand to shake. Darcy was immediately suspicious. He had given in too easily, she was certain. There was a loophole in there somewhere that he was going to exploit, and she was going to regret it. Desperately, desperately regret it. All the regret. Like, a liter of Southern Comfort kind of regret. Spring break on the Texas Gulf kind of regret. Dating Brenden kind of regret.
Okay. Probably not that bad. Tony wasn’t a sadist or anything.
“I’ll take care of this year – but future years are subject to negotiation.”
Tony looked slightly less excited, but was still smiling. “Agreed.”
“You know,” Darcy said as she put her hand in his and felt her fate seal like the ominous closing of a submarine hatch, “this is how Mephistopheles got his start.”