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To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: Help a guy out

Dearest darlingest Rhodeykins,

Here's the deal: I need an assistant. Yes, I know it's my own fault that I keep firing them. Yes, I understand that my tendency to keep firing assistants is indicative of my deeper emotional issues blah blah blah spare me the lecture. The thing is, though, that I keep firing them because they keep not being good at their jobs, and I've kind of assumed that was on them for the last ten or twelve of them who've come through here, but I'm starting to wonder if maybe I'm not being clear enough in the job descriptions I'm telling HR to put out.

SO, since you are the sanest and most level-headed guy I know, and since you make a point of reminding me of that every time I see you, here's your chance to prove it! Please edit the attached advertisement for content and clarity.

Kiss kiss,
Tony

Attached: Help wanted.rtf
Up-and-came billionaire seeks marginally competent person to manage his business and social life, remove him from awkward interpersonal interactions, and not scream at him. Requirements of job include NOT being terrible at it, NOT treating said billionaire like he is the worst thing that has ever happened to humanity because HE ISN'T and THIS JOB ISN'T EVEN THAT HARD, MAYBE PEOPLE SHOULD TRY BUILDING THE THINGS I BUILD SOMETIMES, and a working understanding of Microsoft Office, because setting things on fire matters more when you understand their ins and outs. Please send resumes to humanresources@stark.com.


To: stark@stark.com
From: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
Subject: Re: Help a guy out

What is wrong with you?


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: Re: Re: Help a guy out

Dear Captain Rhodes,

That is not what I'd call constructive criticism. You didn't even take the time to format your email with the trappings of polite society, which even I can manage.

Sincerely,
Tony Stark

P.S. See? I am totally more together than you are.


To: stark@stark.com
From: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
Subject: You will never be more together than I am, Tony.

If you are ever more together than I am, it will be because I have died.

You do not get polite email trappings because you are not a polite person. If this in question, allow me to remind you of:

-Cuba
-Cuba the second time
-My mother's birthday party (they're still not over that, just for the record)
-Every single interaction you and I have ever had and
-Your original email.

My constructive criticism is construct yourself a vague semblance of common sense and try again. If that doesn't work, please consider the possibility that you are beyond help. If THAT doesn't work, try not actively talking down the difficulty of dealing with you in the ad. You're setting yourself up for disappointment.

-R


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: How'd you get so rude and reckless?

Don't you be so crude and feckless. You been drinking brew for breakfast?

Ten ways I could become more together than you without requiring YOUR DEATH, what the hell, Rhodey:

1. Technology
2-10. Also technology. I'm me.

Attached please find an edited version of the ad, taking into account your (LIMITED and UNHELPFUL) suggestions.

Your family loves me, don't lie,
Tony

Attached: kindly untwist your panties rhodes.rtf
Eccentric but lovable billionaire seeks human being to do stuff. Must not be an asshole. Please send resumes to humanresources@stark.com.


To: stark@stark.com
From: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
Subject: Don't bring The Clash into this.

And we all know which of one of us is likely to be drinking brew for breakfast, Tony. Don't project, it's embarrassing.

It would be easier to be helpful if you were trying. If you're going to distract me from handling the distribution of YOUR weapons to the United States Armed Forces, please at least give me something workable. Also, "eccentric" isn't the word you were looking for. The one you're after starts with "i," ends with "sane," and there's another "n" in there somewhere, too.

My family refers to you as "Him" with an implied capital letter and not in a good way,
Rhodes


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: The Clash has BEEN BROUGHT.

Blah blah blah yes your handling of my weapons is very important, blah blah blah your big military job impresses me so much I may faint, yep I fainted, I am now continuing this email post-fainting spell, blah blah blah blah wind beneath my wings blah blah blah. Don't you know this crap already? Aren't I supposed to be the one with the ego that needs constant feeding? Speaking of which: who's your favorite technological wunderkind, c'mon, baby, tell it to me straight.

There's no such thing as being referred to as Him with an implied capital letter in a bad way. All press is good press. You know your family thinks I'm the best thing since sliced bread; why else would they keep inviting me to Thanksgiving?

T

Attached: rudie can't fail.rtf
Billionaire, described by friends as "a word that starts with 'i,' ends with 'sane,' and also includes another 'n,'" seeks warm body to revive him after manly military prowess of Air Force Captain James L. Rhodes drops him to the ground in an aggressive swoon. Those cautious with the use of smelling salts need not apply. Please send resumes to humanresources@stark.com.


To: stark@stark.com
From: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
Subject: Your standing Thanksgiving invite produces gossip for the rest of the year.

And Bill Gates is my favorite technological wunderkind. What now, Stark?

-R


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: GASP


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: BETRAYAL


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: HOW COULD YOU


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: JARVIS IS TAKING YOU OFF THE GUEST LIST

THE NEXT TIME YOU TRY TO COME TO THE HOUSE HE WILL TELL YOU TO GO PAL UP TO BILL GATES INSTEAD YOU ARE A TERRIBLE TREACHEROUS FRIEND AND YOUR TREACHERY APPALLS AND DISHEARTENS ME


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT


To: stark@stark.com
From: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
Subject: Please. You'd never get JARVIS to lock me out.

I was there when you programmed him, Tony. His secondary voice recognition software is based on my voice. Do you not remember the afternoon where you made me say "antidisestablishmentarianism" over and over again until my voice started cracking? (For the record, I still don't believe that there was even one legitimate reason for that. At all.)

So, applying your brand of logic to this conflict: blah blah blah Bill Gates obviously inferior blah blah blah Paul McCartney lyrics blah blah blah staggered by your genius blah blah blah strong masculine thighs blah blah blah. That's how it works, right?

Any chance you're going to leave me alone and let me get work done?


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: Strong masculine thighs.

Well, NOW there's not


To: stark@stark.com
From: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
Subject: This is a military email address, Tony.

Your shenanigans are not something I have any interest in documenting on this account. And don't send me emails with subject lines like that; if someone had been reading over my shoulder, that could have been decidedly awkward.


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: HUGE…rooster.

YOU STARTED IT, RHODES.

God, I feel like I've been waiting to say that to you my entire life.

Seriously, though, there are two paths to buying my silence. One of them is writing this ad for me, and the other one involves your getting your ass over here for some Adult Fun. Guess which one I'm counting on.

You know you want me,
Tony


To: stark@stark.com
From: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
Subject: I don't know why I talk to you.

Just tell HR to put your old copy out.


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: Does that mean I'll see you later?


To: stark@stark.com
From: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
Subject: Yes.

God help me.


"Mr. Stark?"

She's tall and leggy, a redhead, wearing cheap heels but, in Tony's opinion, working them. So she passes the aesthetics test, at least. The fact that he has an aesthetics test at all is something Human Resources calls "A lawsuit waiting to happen," and Rhodey calls, "Predictable, which actually makes it more disgusting, what is wrong with you," but Tony figures he's probably fine. It's not like he mentions it to journalists, or to the people he's actually judging (most of the time). It's only logic, after all--if Tony's going to have to spend hours of his life looking at another person, that person might as well be so attractive he could cry.

"You," he says, without looking at her. That's the ego test, and the redhead doesn't move as U scoots over from the other side of the workshop with Tony's smoothie, which is a pass. Huh. People usually fail that one. Tony raises his eyebrows, smiles at the woman, says, "So, which one are you? The one with the crazy resume, or the one with the ridiculous name?"

"Pepper Potts," says Pepper, holding out her hand. "I prefer to think of it as 'whimsical.'"

Tony narrows his eyes as he shakes, gestures her into a chair and then sits down across from her, his fingers steepled. "I'm not really a whimsical kind of guy."

"I assure you, Mr. Stark, my name is the first and only whimsical thing about me," Pepper says. Then she raises a single eyebrow, passing the sass test without even trying, and adds, "Although, to be entirely fair, what I've heard about you would indicate that whimsy is, in fact, your forte."

"You can't believe everything you read, Ms. Potts."

"It would never even occur to me to do so," Pepper says smoothly. "On the other hand, I was approached by a distinguished military officer shortly after filing my resume with your Human Resources Department. Captain Rhodes seemed to be of the impression that my history with wild animals might prove helpful in my work with you; I can't imagine why."

"You worked with wild animals?" Tony says, blinking at her. He fumbles around looking for her resume, remembers that he has no idea where the resumes are because he doesn't have an assistant, which is why he's interviewing for an assistant, which is why-- "Wait, Rhodey did what?"

"Captain Rhodes also printed me out a copy of your drafts of the advertisement for this position," Pepper says. A slight smile curls the edges of her mouth, and Tony stares at her, gobsmacked. "He advised me to tell you that I am his entire shortlist for the position, and preemptively left a message with me, to be retrieved at your earliest convenience. Would now be a good time?"

"Uh," Tony says.

"Excellent," Pepper says. "In its entirety, that message is: 'Anthony Edward Stark, so help me god, if you don't hire this girl and stop sending me inane emails in the middle of my workday, I will do a disservice to the nation by killing you. Come on, man, help a guy out.' Would you like me to send a reply?"

"I," Tony says.

"Additionally," Pepper says, smiling pleasantly at him as she stands up, "as I have already informed Captain Rhodes, neither of you will ever refer to me as a 'girl' again. I've already spoken with Human Resources about my salary, benefits and vacation package, and that information will be in your inbox for review and signature within the hour. If there's anything therein you'd like to discuss, please don't hesitate to let me know. According to your schedule, you have a dinner meeting with Justin Hammer tonight at--"

"Ugh, not Hammer," Tony says, automatic. "Cancel that, I hate him, who booked that? You can't do a dinner meeting with Hammer, he's a human appetite killer."

"So noted," Pepper says, without batting an eyelash. She reaches out to shake his hand, still smiling. "I'll also take the liberty of canceling your other interviews for this position. I look forward to working with you, Mr. Stark."

Tony's not too proud to admit that watching her walk away distracts him from the pertinent facts. Amongst other things, this is why she's already at the door when he calls out, "Wait! How do you have my--"

The door clicks shut, and Tony says, "Schedule?" to his empty workshop.


To: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
From: stark@stark.com
Subject: Goddamn.

How'd you do that?


To: stark@stark.com
From: james.rhodes@us.af.mil
Subject: Magic.

You owe me.