Fandom: Iron Man/Marvel
Spoilers: Slight spoilers for the first IM film, but nothing major
Word Count: 1,747
Summary: “You are to do anything and everything Tony Stark requires” – that had been her only real directive.
Note: Early (very early) Pepper Potts learning her job at Stark Industries. Because Pepper has always been a BAMF. Huge heaps of thanks to lizook12 for beta and support/encouragement, and title help - and to bobsessive for the request of the use of Tony's full name.
Pepper’s first experience with Tony Stark is not all that uncommon, at least that's what James Rhodes tells her when she looks more than a little confused at the fact that she has to reschedule a meeting at two in the afternoon and more than a little confused when opening the door to the master bedroom reveals a completely naked and dead to the world boss.
“Let’s face it, this is not the worst thing you’re going to see him doing,” Rhodes says almost too casually before he leaves, closing the door quietly, and Pepper’s first week is spent learning how to use her best authoritative voice and finding out that she’s better at bullshitting than she thinks. While her mind runs away with hardly what I signed up for (in the midst of discarding another empty liquor bottle) she realizes that there isn’t really much of a reason to beat herself up. Because the truth was, aside from a four second meeting with the man and a lot of cryptic paperwork from the board, she really had no idea what she expected.
“You are to do anything and everything Tony Stark requires” – that had been her only real directive, and Pepper remembers thinking that while she wasn’t exactly sure how she had landed this in the first place, it might be easier than she initially thought.
(She bites back a laugh, continues to thumb through numbers on her phone.)
She considers that most people in her position would have taken the job based on the reputation of her boss, and perhaps that’s why Tony’s revolving door of PAs mirrored his revolving door of one-night stands. In that respect, Pepper felt somewhat confident about the fact that she had no intention of cozying up unless it was to save him from some overbearing female (and the chances of that needing to happen were slim to none.) The only intention Pepper had was to make sure that Tony showed up for his meetings, fulfilled his corporate responsibilities, and when he couldn’t, make sure that outside of his immediate circle, inquiring minds were none the wiser.
(It’s been frustratingly easy so far, but she doesn’t expect it to last.)
She gets up slowly and begins to amble downstairs, one hand gripping the bannister, hesitating just before reaching the door with fingers poised above the electronic keypad. Tony’s at his work table, where he always is (where she always expects him to be), back turned with shoulders hunched and she can tell from the rigid stance of his body that whatever he’s doing is requiring any and all of his attention. Pepper unconsciously shifts her weight, still not entirely comfortable with this abrupt invasion of personal space despite the fact that she knows she’s probably (definitely) the only one with real authority in the matter. And even though she’s been in and around his bedroom more times than she can count - even though she’s taken his dirty boxers to the laundry and has more than once walked in on him just barely clothed – Tony in his lab was another story. Tony in his lab was sacred. It was the basis of all of his work, all of his accomplishments, all of his failures, and all of the things that made him Tony Stark. It was his home in a way the rest of the Malibu mansion could never be.
“You have a meeting at headquarters in an hour, Mr. Stark. Should I ready your car?”
“You should ready your phone to call and cancel,” comes the immediate response and after a beat, he looks up.
“Wait, I have a meeting?”
He hasn’t turned but she doesn’t have to think hard to imagine the raised eyebrows, surprised look and slight crinkling of lines etched into his forehead. Pepper fights the urge to roll her eyes, finding herself surprised at how easily she’s learned to quell that need in his presence.
“Yes. In an hour.” She repeats the words firmly, keeping her voice level even as he starts to talk over her.
“Mmm, yeah, that’s not gonna work. Gotta finish this prototype.”
“Tony, this is the board.” She pauses, struggling to find her footing against his passive-aggressive demeanor. “You can’t just cancel on the board.” He flinches slightly at that statement, but still doesn’t turn.
She should be angry. She should be furious. She should march forward, smack him on the back of his head with the edge her three inch heel and read him the riot act about how it’s no secret that no one has been able to keep this job without losing their sanity. Instead, she watches his hands, the way they move at the speed of something outrageous. She watches his fingers, the way they twitch back and forth against metal fobs. She watches his arms, stock still and at the same time jerking slightly, muscles of his bicep tensing and relaxing as he works. She realizes that she’s never actually seen Anthony Edward Stark sit still, and at the same time, she realizes that she’ll never understand how it’s possible for him to carry on a normal exchange without ever losing his concentration.
It’s one of the reasons Pepper decides that she’s never going to hesitate to defend her boss against those who called him crazy. Tony may be irrational - wild, even, genuinely narcissistic and sometimes incredibly stupid – but also a genius.
Her crazy, narcissistic, irrational, wild and sometimes stupid genius. And even though she doesn’t want to throw him to the ground like every other assistant who has graced the floors (and bedrooms) of the premise, even though she does want to smack him more than she’ll admit to, even though a large portion of her job involves been assigned to cater to his every whim no matter how petty or outlandish the request, she feels fiercely protective of this man, whose life she was exposed to no less than three weeks ago.
“Obadiah won’t be happy.” When she finally regains control of her voice, it’s a little louder than before. “And I feel as though I should remind you that you’re already on shaky ground where he’s concerned.”
“If he’s so upset, let him come over here and yell at me. Hell, maybe he’ll bring a pizza.” He spits out the last sentence sardonically, sitting back in his chair while Pepper folds her arms in front of her chest, squeezing her eyes against what she feels is possibly (no, definitely) the beginning of a stress headache.
“Really, Tony. Can’t you take anything seriously? I don’t ask for much.”
“Careful.” He slides himself sideways, jabbing a finger at a screen that materializes seemingly out of nowhere. “With that attitude, you’ll end up as CEO and you’ll really be in trouble.”
“My greatest dream and unimaginable horror.” She drops a folder onto the desk as one hand brushes the back of his chair and he finally looks up, turning around.
“You know, I just, I don’t like being handed things.”
He doesn’t like being handed things, JARVIS interrupts, and Pepper loses her own battle with her psyche, eyes rolling upwards as she snatches the folder back and turns away sharply.
“Okay. Okay!” He throws up his hands and waits until she’s back to facing him. “Hey. Fine. Look, just move the meeting and we’ll call it even. And make sure my bed is made, I think I left it a mess last night, oh, and I know I just mentioned pizza but actually, I’m kind of craving omelets. With extra cheese.” He pauses, cocking his head to the side. “You think you can do that for me?”
I do anything and everything you require. Including taking your food orders at 3pm.
She purses her lips, her mind already swimming with numbers and names that she knows she’ll have to spend the next half an hour calling and she hates dealing with Obadiah especially when it’s about Tony’s inability to keep appointments (which it nearly always is) and did they even have eggs because now that she thinks about it, she can’t remember the grocery list very well or, for that matter, the contents of the fridge. She stops suddenly at the door, unable to help herself.
“Mr. Stark…if I can ask, why did I get the job?”
She doesn’t know why she expects his attention, given that he hasn’t actively given it to her other than at their initial meeting. Tony worked fast, Tony worked quickly, and Tony’s personality was no exception. Most times she didn’t really mind, chalked it up to the fact that this was her boss and nothing more, a boss who owed her no personal favors other than respect and courtesy – which, despite his wild antics, were things she received from him on a nearly daily basis.
“Does it matter?”
She swallows. “It matters to me. You had hundreds of qualified candidates, and I’m sure half of them had bigger racks and better hair.”
That earns a chuckle, though he still doesn’t respond. She stands against the door, pressing the toe of her heel into the ground until the awkward silence extends to her feeling incredibly ridiculous.
“You were the only one who looked at me and made me feel like I could be myself.”
Pepper feels a slight blush rising up the back of her neck at his words and blinks, readies her poker face before turning around. When she does, she finds him looking at her with rapt attention. His hands, his fingers, and everything about his body are completely still.
She realizes that this is the first time she’s gotten a good look at his eyes and that they’re softer, kinder than she thought they would be for someone who seemingly shut himself out of every social interaction that wasn’t an attractive woman or a robot. Pepper holds her gaze, not sure who’s supposed to break first (or if at this point, it even matters) but she has a distinct feeling that Tony Stark doesn’t like to lose the upper hand, no matter the situation. And if she really was to do anything and everything he required of her, she could take one for the team.
“Will that be all, Mr. Stark?” Her voice is soft, barely audible, and she thinks she sees the start of a smile flit across his features before he turns back in his chair.
“That will be all, Miss Potts.”