"I-what? Pepper, no, wait up-"
"I am afraid that will be all, Mister Stark."
The snick of her heels against polished tile beat in cadence with the frantic race his heart was winning against his brain.
"But that's, that's impossible, everything was perfectly safe and the last time I had anyone over was well over a year ago - Jarvis! Jarvis, when was - ah yes, thank you - 10 months, a year, same difference!"
She spun on her heel (ooh, risky) and planted herself before him, expression stern. The sudden stop had him flailing away, sputtering. "What the hell, Pepper, nearly mashed my face into your chest, why would you do that-"
(Let it not go unsaid that the height disparity was a sore point for him.)
"Nine months, Mister Stark. You've been rounding."
"There's an sex joke in there somewhere," he muttered.
"Oh, that's not all you'll be joking about."
"Right this way."
"Wait-waitwaitwait, she's nearly through with, that, and she tells us now ??"
He's stopped, stumbled, more like, to stand gawking at her in the middle of the corridor. People were beginning to stare.
"Well, given the looks of her, I can't say I'm surprised."
"Jarvis, who...." He trailed off faintly.
"Ah, just a moment, Jarvis. You won't need to know until the legal proceedings start."
There was a muffle of static in his earpiece he could've sworn was laughter.
"Legal proceedi-! I, Pepper!"
"Pep, Pepper they're looking , come back!" Was hissed through clenched teeth.
She kept walking.
Oh, whatever, he owned the damn building, let them stare.
He flapped his hands, mustering up the most intimidating look he could manage given his shaken state.
Faces appropriately terrified, they went back to work in a flurry of diligence. He renewed his stride with a bounce in his step, unknowing of the stifled giggles that erupted soon after. Looked like a right puppy he did, trailing after her in confusion. Never mind the scandal.
He caught up with her in a jog. "Oh, come on, I'm sorry, whatever I did, and whoever with - not that you've told me, never mind the bruised ego...Really, dear, I'm hurt."
"Well, lucky you. You won't need me to tell you." "Miss Potts, I don't like where this is going, that's your plotting voice, I am at least 12 percent sure there is an assassin right behind that door, you traitor," "Oh, not with the percentages again, and just what makes you think I'm plotting-"
"Ahem." Came a pointed cough from both their earpieces.
"As fascinating as listening to you talk over each other is, I do believe we have reached our destination. Sir, please step out of what you have designated the, ah, kissing range."
Pepper's eyebrows arched into her bangs.
He practically ran from Pepper, and when had their faces gotten so close, agh, never mind! "Jarvis, no! Haha! Ha, hah, you old fiend, uhh, Pepper, where are we again and why?"
Forcing down a smile, she put on her most professional air. "Why, to meet your little family. Here's a pen for the custody papers." And with a squawk, Tony was shoved into the room, Pepper striding in behind him. Why did she get to have the cool entrance?
Tony composed himself, practically vibrating with unanswered questions and anxiety.
"Through this set of doors, Sir," this time from the ceiling.
"I don't suppose you'll, boot me through these too, eh, Pep?"
The look she gave him had him scurrying to open the door for her, fighting down a bow.
"Mister Stark, meet your latest conquest,” a pause, “and your child." The final words settled on his shoulders like a two ton weight, and he struggled for breath as he staggered to the conference table before them. A child? He couldn't possibly take care of a kid, were the condoms defective, what the hel-
Only to have a leather chair slowly swivel to face them, Pepper's favorite pastry and a...bag of flour? Arranged ominously on the seat.
What. The. Fck.
“Yes, Mister Stark?”
“Where’s, where are…who?” He gestured vaguely, at a loss.
“Right there, of course.”
“If I may cut in, I do recall Sir having eaten the last pastry last week…”
He squawked. “Betrayal!”
“Right. Thank you, Jarvis.”
The realization dawned like the rising sun, fiery and blazing over a still sleeping world.
“Are you telling me, all this stress, was over. A. Pastry?! ”
Pepper said nothing, face stoic.
Her mouth twitched. Tony’s eye may or may not have been jumping, manic. It was that sight that finally set her off into explosive laughter, doubling over, hands on her knees.
“Right, I’ve had enough of this.” And he turned to walk out, intending to make his exit as dramatic as possible.
He tugged on the handles. Locked.
Pepper’s hand landed on his shoulder, gentle but firm.
“Okay, okay, Tony. I’m sorry.”
His hand tightened on the knob at the unspoken but.
Pepper sighed. “But. You’ve been terribly irresponsibile this week.”
She said nothing at his derisive snort, affecting a glacial tone.
“And I was rather looking forward to my...pastry.’
Tony dislodged her hold with a throw of his hands to heaven, exasperated. “Oh, come on, Pepper, it had sprinkles ! What, you leave something like that in my reach and you expect me to go for the mustard??”
“He’s got you there.”
“ Thank you, Jarvis. ”
The lights flickered as the speakers went silent.
“But what I
expect you to do, Mister Stark, is this exercise, meant to build responsilbility and good habits, for a week.” She shephereded him back to the table.
“What, eat pastries? Got that covered,” he quipped, reaching for the plate on which the sprinkled pastry sat.
He drew back suddenly, flapping and rubbing at his hand. “What- Pepper! Why’d you slap me!”
“That, is not your assignment.”
And with that, the bag of flour was suddenly in his arms.
“Effective today, that bag of flour will be your child. I have taken the liberty to seal a tracker within so as to avoid any trickery. By the end of this week, you will have them back to me. In one piece, preferably.”
“Hopefully,” came snippily from his earpiece.
Tony glared at the ceiling.
“Pepper, you can’t possibly expect me to-”
“That will be all, Mister Stark.”
And with that, she walked out, doors mysteriously unlocked.
Tony crumpled into a chair, the bag wrinkling against his suit where he was hugging it to his chest, strangely enough.
When he realized what he was doing, he flung it across the table, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. Of all things…
He was jolted out of thinking of ways to weasel out of this... thing, when the lights flickered, almost laughingly.
“Well, Sir...what are you going to name them?”