Exponts? What was an expont? And what was Jarvis doing letting a little girl in his workshop? It was DANGEROUS in here. He shot a glower up at the roof - he’d have to get in there and program some protocols. Mostly dealing with anything other than him and Pepper and Rhodey getting into the workshop.
Speaking of Pepper. The little girl reminded him a lot of her. ‘Ginny’, she’d said her names was. She looked like a Ginny - but then, every time he heard the name he thought of a certain feisty young wizarding girl who fought in a great wizarding war. (Shoosh, nobody knew about his addiction to classical literature or to Harry Potter and he wasn’t about to admit it to anyone, either.)
“Well, Ginny. My name is Tony. The man in the Roof shouldn’t have let you in here. Jarvis ….” the word was accusatory and scolding, but not aimed at her. his eyes were toward the roof this ‘man’ inhabited.
“I’m sorry, sir. Her DNA mapping matches Miss Potts’. As you know, you have granted her access to all but two levels. “
“Wait wait wait.. so. This is Pepper? “
“I believe so, sir. “
Tony took a deep breath and turned his eyes back to the little girl, who looked like maybe she wanted to simply disappear. So, another one of those magic spells that messed with things. He’d been on the receiving end of one or two of those. “Alright.. alright, obviously I need to put in some more specific protocols. Remind me later.”
“Of course, sir.”
Tony rubbed his fingers in gentle little circles on his temples. He’d have to keep her safe, and within eyesight, because the last few times something had happened, she’d been kidnapped. He’d never seen her as a toddler before… she’d always been rescued and re-aged by the time he’d bumped into her. He knew her… but she still terrified him.
He.. just.. wasn’t good with kids. “Listen, Ginny. Why don’t we go upstairs and watch some TV? Do you like Sesame Street? or Dora? Or how about Little Einsteins? “ Don’t judge. He still watched children’s shows on a regular basis - but he had to admit Little Einstiens was one of his favorite.
As he talked to the man in the woof, Ginny could get the impression that he didn’t want her here, didn’t want to be near her. Her countenance fell, and she shrunk a little into herself, glancing back towards the door she came in through. Perhaps this Jawvis was wrong and put her on the wrong floor after all. For a moment, she had felt like she could trust him more than anyone else she’d met so far, more than even her daddy, but she was wrong.
He spoke though, but instead of sending her away as she expected, he invited her to go ‘watch some teevee’, whatever that was. A huge smile lightened her face and she stood straight. She didn’t know anything that he was talking about, but she was excited to go watch whatever he wanted to. She didn’t want to look ‘ig-nornt’ like her teacher called her once, so she pretended like she knew what he was talking about, nodding at whatever he said last like a bobblehead. “Okay!” She said, confusion in her eyes but agreeing anyway. She stepped forward and curled her hand in his pant leg, comforting herself with his strange familiarity. She didn’t feel lost anymore, as strange as it sounded.
He sat down next to her, gently reaching out to take her hand in his big, calloused fingers. “That’s his name, sweetheart. He chose it, not me. ” He gave her a quick once-over, noting that it was just a little scratch. “.. he likes it. What are you doing in here, sweetie? This isn’t a safe place for kids.” He’d save panicking at having a 5 year old in his presence for after she was done bleeding.
“Why he chose that?” She looked over at the machine. “Or it chose for him.” She blinked and watched him look at her finger. “My booboo is gone?” She asked him, face lightening a little. She looked up at him with big eyes. “Man in woof of little woom.” She pointed where the elevator was in the direction of.
“He send me to diffwent wooms. Darce and I made cookies.” She said, excitedly. “And Fil got me cwofes.” She looked down and tugged at the shirt on her. “Cause mine was too big.” She made a motion towards the ground like the shirt had been. “And we pwayed numba games!” She crowed, grinning. “I leaned bout esponts.” She couldn’t pronounce the word exponents. “Then man in woof sent me hewe.” She glanced up at the man again. “I’m Ginny. Who is you?” She asked, playing with the hem of her shirt, her hand feeling a lot better.
Dummy tilted his head as he felt a tiny fleshy body bump up against him in the shadows. His hydraulics whirred in askance and his video head turned to scan the little girl hiding beneath his massive armature. His fingers splayed wide, and he reached down, gingerly taking her pants waistband in his claw and lifting. He rolled forward, presenting his discovery to Tony.Tony glanced up at the sound of something falling to the ground, but Dummy was in that corner so he wasn’t surprised and he didn’t pay too much attention to it. Not until he saw the armature coming out of the shadows, with a small child dangling from his hand by her pants. “w.. what? ” He noticed she was bleeding- and so his surprise was quickly pushed aside to make room for concern that she was bleeding. “Hey, kiddo… how’d you get in here? YOU… medkit, you don’t mind. Chop chop. Dummy.. put her down over here. GENTLY…. gently.”
She wanted to scream, she could’ve screamed, why didn’t she scream? She was being picked up by something far beyond her comprehension, it was moving by itself? She was shivering, whimpering as it carried her to the man. She held her hand to her chest, eyes wide when it put her down.
“Man in woof open door.” She mumbled, not sure if he was mad still, but his eyes weren’t pressed together in anger. She turned around and looked up at the machine thing. “Dummy? That not nice.” She turned back around and frowned at the man. “Not nice to call pee-ple dummy.” She would’ve crossed her arms but her hand hurt, but that didn’t stop her from giving him a disapproving look.
She woke when the first rays of light hit the tower the next morning.
She was baking.
Brownies, cookies, cakes, you name it, you could smell it in the kitchen that she was currently inhabiting. Well, you probably couldn’t smell it, because it was on the floor that her rooms were. The rooms that she only used when she was avoiding Tony for one reason or another, or just needed space, and was currently locked out to anyone that might want to come check on her.
She definitely needed space. After dinner, there was no way she could face him again without crying. Not that she hadn’t cried after dinner, after he left, because of the way he kissed her forehead after she showed him the ultrasound that showed definite visible proof that they were having twins and congratulated her the same way he did when she bought a new pair of heels.
The memory made tears drip from her eyes and she quickly wiped them away with her wrist so they wouldn’t fall in her batter. The soft classical music played quietly in the background as she worked on her famous key lime pie. She would just work with the wedding planner in her office, and hide out here until he went back to normal. He would get back to normal, to the man that she fell in love with. This was just…a phase of some sort. Something a greyface did to him. Those were the only way this sudden change towards her and everything made sense, because it didn’t. She bit back a sob at the thought of the look he gave her and stirred harder, trying to think of recipe’s she could try or invent a new pie. Anything to clear her head of the hurt.
He didn’t even go to the doctor’s with her to get the ultrasound. She glanced at the picture on the counter by the pans, and her free hand reached out and she traced a finger over the two distinctive blobs. Her babies. Plural. Jarvis had been right. They were going to have two children. She hoped for her babies sake that he returned the way she knew him rather than this new, cold and distant version that according to Jarvis was building bombs again in his workshop.
She hoped for their future he returned to her.
Tony’s proposal. Day after last para. Tony is avengersrpstark.
“That’s a load of bull, Pepper. I don’t need it as much as you do. You’ve got more than one life you’re eating for.” He frowned at her, openly disappointed with her refusal to take care of herself. He’d never had to think for anybody beside himself before - it would take him some time to get it right. All he knew for sure, now, was that it was entirely enfuriating that she wouldn’t listen to him. Another day, perhaps, it would strike him that this was exactly what he’d been doing to the people in his life. It wasn’t today.
“What kind of Pizza you want? “ He grabbed the phone and hit the speed dial, pushed the phone to his ear. He’d never bothered to find out what kind of food she liked. Over twenty years she’d worked for him. SPent nearly every day meeting his every need, and he didn’t even know what her favorite kind of pizza was. It struck him suddenly that he couldn’t remember her birthday - he knew it was soon. He didn’t know her favorite color - he thought it was red. He didn’t know her favorite … anything. He thought she liked art. He was fairly sure she liked classical music. He was almost certain she enjoyed the theatre.
And he knew her better than he knew any other person in the world, besides Rhodey. He had chosen to make her the mother of his children. He had committed his heart to her, and his life. Though, to be honest, he had done that so many years ago he could hardly count it back. She had commited her life to his the day he’d hired her as his personal assistant. He needed her. He’d needed her from that very day like lungs needed air and when he sat down to consider his life without her - he couldn’t imagine a day without her. How had he managed before her?
THe voice jarred him back to the here and now.
“Hello? “ It repeated, confused.
“Y.. yeah. Yeah. Uh.. just a second. Pepper..? “
“Yes you do.” She said patiently. “If you keeled over, I’d kill you for leaving me alone to take care of a child or children by myself. I wouldn’t know what to do with them without you.” She popped a few more berries in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. She sat up as straight as she could without slouching. “I’m trying, Tony.” She knew she kept saying it, but she wasn’t doing very well at it. She’d already agreed to the cutting of her hours and was just his Co-CEO without being PA, and because of the hours she was eating a little more than normal, but then her stomach would normally reject it. Little bits here and there didn’t make her as sick as when she tried to eat more.
She watched as he asked her a question and then seemed to space out with this look she hadn’t seen him wear in a long time. He was frowning, and his eyes looked troubled. She was going to stand to get to him when she heard the little tiny voice on the other side of the phone seem to snap him out of it. “A small Hawaiian? I wouldn’t mind some pineapple at the moment and can’t eat much, not sure if you want to grab a regular for yourself.” She took a few blueberries and tossed them down, watching him.
Tony toyed with his bottom lip, fingers flipping over it as he listened and finally nodded in agreement. ”Then I’ll drop the bomb on Monday. You have a few days to get everyone prepared for the media shockwave that’ll happen right after that - You’ll have to tell Clarice so she can help you juggle the calls. You know you’ll have to agree to interviews, right? “ He paused, once more, in his circuitous route around the workshop and noted her wobbling to a seat.
“Sit down, before you fall down. Geezus, Pepper.” He moved to help her into a seat, despositing her onto a stool. She wasn’t taking care of herself - the bags under her eyes and the sleepless nights were beginning to show. “Eat something for christ’s sake. What have you had today? Don’t tell me ‘coffee’ … it doesn’t count.” The irony of the situation, and what he said didn’t strike him right away. ’Coffee’ was his usual answer to the question of ‘what have you had to eat today.’
Tony turned to the cupboard he kept stocked mostly full of booze, and found a few granola bars and some dried blueberries. He set them both in front of her, smirking in disapproval.
She winced and nodded, sitting with his help. “Inevitable. It wouldn’t look good if I’m not accepting Interviews. I mean, I’m happy and proud I’m going to be the mother of your children, but I don’t have anything to prove to them. Just you.” She looked up at him, giving him a little half-smile. She wiped at her eyes, sighing.
“I don’t remember, I think I had a muffin. You know I kept running to the bathroom. Can’t keep anything down, and I haven’t been able to keep coffee down in days. No, I don’t think I had a muffin.” She tried to remember. “I didn’t have anything yet.” She said truthfully. She laid her head down on the counter, groaning. She saw the blueberries and reluctantly reached her hand out to grab the bag that was sideways to her vision and plucked a few out. He had her fond of the fruit since she ran out of snacks and stole a few of his one time she spent the night, years before.
She glanced at the wall, popping a few more in, hungrier than she realized. “And you? Eat something.” She murmured. “Hypocrite.” She smiled and lifted her head, blinking at him. “You need nourishment just as much as I do. Next week is going to be very stressful for the both of us. I need to tell PR the news so we can plan this carefully, but I think I’d rather wait until thursday. I don’t think I can go in the office tomorrow.” She felt lightheaded, but didn’t tell him, just keeping her head down, cheek pressed to the counter.
Tony was moving again. Putting miles of travel on the black reflective floor. “You’re the PR expert. Throw something at me. How do we do this? Press conferance? No. Baby Shower? …. proooobably not a good idea. Press release? Kind of impersonal. TV interview? I’m pretty sure I’ve got one of those coming up. Do I have one of those coming up? ”
She exhaled. “You can go for shock value, everyone would expect it. Just slip it into one of your interviews like it’s no big deal. You have aTV interview Monday next week explaining the basics of Arc Reactor technology and how it will impact society. I don’t know how you could slip it in, but you’ve slipped even more outrageous things into unrelated topics before.” She pressed her fingers into her eyes, trying to recall his schedule off the top of her head. “Then we can have a press release with just enough information to keep them happy and still have some privacy.” She needed to sit down, she had been up too long. She used the counter as a bit of a crutch to get to the other side to one of the chairs.
“Mm.” A long pause filled the air as Tony sorted the idea out in his head - pushing past a plethora of other thoughts - and then finally gave it voice. “Well. I’ve been a Media Sensation from the moment I was born, and I’ve used them to keep myself safe on more than one occasion. Paparazzi have no … sense of self preservation. If they want to make a living, they can’t. They wiggle into every part of your life in the most deviously frustrating ways.”
He was wont to pace again, but Pepper had him trapped. He wasn’t complaining. His fingers drummed on her arms, instead, beating out a stacatto that was as sporatic as his mind. Frantic one moment, slow but intense the next.
“Do you think the hunt for me would have gone on for 3 months if the Media hadn’t been involved? I’d have disappeared, Pepper, and Obadiah would have won. They’re a tool, and we should use them. Once we make the announcment, if anything happens in our lives, the world will know about it. We can try and stay private, or we can blow this thing up big and make it so that if they want to get to me, they have to do it in public. “
He leaned back against her. The warmth of her body seeped into his spine, soothing some of the nerves he was suffering. ” Of course, once I get the Dog finished, I don’t want you going anywhere without him. I need to know you’re safe.”
Stillness settled over him as the prospect of losing Pepper slowly rested on his shoulders. It only lasted a heartbeat, though, and was replaced with uncontrollable fidgeting.
“You were born a media sensation. I was born on a farm.” She pointed out, tapping his leg through the inner pocket layer. “And you’re not convincing me in any way with that bit.” She said, a small smile twisting her lips.
She laid her forehead on his shoulder, exhaling. It took her a moment to speak. “Tony…” He never brought it up, so she never mentioned it. “The press had stopped after the second month. Rhodey and I were the….were the only ones that still believed you were alive. The Press and the Federal were even convinced that you died in the explosion.” She bit the inside of her lip, eyes shut tight against his shoulder, trying not to think of the despair and emptiness she had felt while he was gone.
“And the dog will go everywhere with me, so make sure it’s not that hairy, so managements won’t complain about shedding. I’m sure Happy won’t mind the company as well.” She pressed her lips to the base of the back of his neck and pulled her hands back, knowing his fidgeting meant he needed room as usual, but enjoyed the closeness they had. She folded her arms across her chest, shivering a little at the temperature, but didn’t say anything.