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Watch the Queen Conquer

Chapter Text

One of Pepper’s secret pleasures was the sound her high heels made on the marble flooring of Stark Industries and the way everyone seemed to snap to attention at the noise. She was a tall woman, made taller by her shoes, and she towered over most of her workers, forcing them to look up when speaking to her.

She particularly adored that part.

With a poise she had (unintentionally, of course) overheard was on par with royalty, Pepper would arrive at her office at seven-fifteen sharp, immediately attended to by Chloe Sunri. Her new assistant was not quite as skilled as Natalie, or Natasha as she now knew her, but she was professional and well-mannered. The younger woman had been trained into her rigid schedule a while back, as complex as it was, and thus was proved very capable. She was discreet yet sociable when necessary, able to bear the long silences of Pepper’s work hours with just as much ease and efficiency as tiresome hours-long conferences.

“Your drink, Ms. Potts,” Chloe murmured lowly, setting down the fine porcelain mug by the thirty-year-old Wisteria bonsai that sat on the far left side of her desk. The miniature tree was a gift from some rather grateful Japanese investors; she had kept their business from going bankrupt with a deft investment move that increased both their profits tenfold and secured a trade with some difficult funders. She was currently looking through another investment proposal with the same company and two others but the conditions of their agreement were too large for such an unsure venture. Rubbing her temple, she unwound the cunning linguistics to get to the base issues of the contract and found it not to her liking. She'd have to draw up another contract that firmly outlined all the specific points she was willing to negotiate.

“Thank you,” the CEO replied politely and reached out without a glance to gently grasp the delicate handle, bringing the steaming liquid to her lips. After a sip, she paused, having expected her usual cappuccino. “Mint tea. Are you trying to suggest something, Miss Sunri?”

Mortified, Chloe turned back to face her desk and faltered out quickly, “Oh, I, I just thought that since it was your third cup of the day and you seem stressed, so maybe you wanted to try- I’m sorry, I should have asked, I won’t do it again.”

Setting the cup down, Pepper stood with her small bag in hand. “It’s lunch time and I haven’t had a break all day. I think Giorgio’s would do nicely. Let me treat you, Chloe.”

The woman’s mouth moved noiselessly for a moment, and then she smiled luminously, “Oh, sure, of course, Ms. Potts.”

“Off the clock, it’s Pepper,” she admonished, mood lifting as the familiar rhythm of her heels began again.

A short car drive later found them at a quaint Italian bistro, sampling the freshly-made bread and wine as they waited on their meal. Chloe was the shy sort, not the same kind of self-assured quiet as Natasha, but Pepper found her new assistant endearing. Hopefully with time, the younger woman would learn from observation that power doesn’t only come from brute strength, but also from intelligence and confidence. Or at least that was what she was trying to get across.

Warm sunlight filtered through the French double doors they were seated by, a soft breeze from the ocean brought in the scent of salt and heated sand.

“I love Malibu this time of year,” Chloe sighed suddenly, seeming to lose her self-consciousness for a moment.

A sly smile crept onto Pepper’s face; she hid it with a sip of her drink. She didn’t get much chance to truly befriend normal people on a regular basis and she desperately needed another female who understood her situation to confide in. The friendship/bonding outing was going so smoothly it seemed too easy.

An explosion rocked a building a few stores down from the restaurant, she could see a cloud of red flame and black smoke from her elevated, iron-wrought chair.

Of course.

She took another deep pull of her wine before dealing with the situation.

Drawing out her cell, she quickly typed out a message to the police and connected to Stark Tower. She set her glass down, straightening her utensils while she spoke, “Jarvis, there was an explosion nearby, it’s location and details would be much appreciated.”

“Right away, Miss Potts,” Jarvis replied smoothly, already trasmitting to her personal cell.

Information flooded her cell’s screen and she absorbed it readily, quickly coming to the conclusion that the disturbance was not the work of aliens, terrorists, or super-powered assassins. Just an average bank robbery and it would be amusingly cliché if it hadn’t disturbed her luncheon.

It had to be dealt with if she was ever going to get any peace. She tapped her touch screen and began typing in her security code to Tony’s suit hanger, selecting one of his newer models. “Jarvis, engage Mark 9 and deploy it to this area. There appears to be a problem and I would like it taken care of.”

“Certainly, and is there anything else you would require?” He queried lightly and as she watched her cell, she could see the flight path of the suit as it rapidly approached.

She twisted her mouth to one side in consideration. “Oh, yes, perhaps you could keep it discreet?”

“Always, Miss Potts.”  She could hear the wryly grin in his voice and her beau’s bad influence. The AI had picked up Tony’s flashy style and from time to time it showed.

“I’m sure,” she said, not sounding the least bit convinced and then added fondly, “Goodbye, Jarvis.”

“Goodbye and please do enjoy the rest of you luncheon, Miss Potts. I will handle the rest.” Her phone went dark and she returned to face her companion, almost having forgotten she was there.  “Now, where was I?”

Chloe’s eyes were wide, her hand limply holding onto the same bit of bread she had ripped off minutes ago. Pepper didn’t turn back around, but she heard the familiar sound of repulsers and beam blasts behind her. She smiled mildly.

“Right. Malibu. Lovely this time of year.”