1963-06-15 - Paladin, Pepper and Posh Parties
Summary: Pepper meets the Paladin at a Gala which Tony is missing. She's handed a mysterious envelop with Chinese characters in it by the drunk stranger.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
paladin pepper 

The Waldorf Astoria is primarily two things. First and foremost… it's huge. It has almost 1500 rooms and stands tall in New York's skyline. But the other thing it possesses in spades is style. The marquee and the decor outside are gold and marble. Inside the great sweeping hall there are tiles all over the floor in an elaborate mural from the turn of the century. Tall columns dominate the walkways inside that hall and the experience one has upon visiting there is amazing.

A valet helps people with their cars. A doorman holds the door. A concierge stands at his podium nearby and towards the guest desk there are various beautiful women all waiting to see to checkins. Each employee is polite, each one smiles whenever anyone gets within ten feet and greets them, by name if possible. And tonight, with the multiple functions going on in the various ballrooms and gathering halls, the place is staggeringly busy.

Over in the corner of the waiting area people talk animatedly, smoking and gesturing with their cigarettes as they chat. The bar is hopping with laughter heard from inside. And down the main hallways people gathered for several functions. There's a Bar Mitzvah going on, an anniversary party, a work function… and a charity dinner of some kind. Yet one thing in common amongst all those disparate people. They're all dressed to the nines.


And tonight starts a pattern that Pepper Potts is going to be intimiately familiar with over her time with Stark Industries, but she's still new, and this is the first time she's ever been stood up for a date. Especially a date that is BOTH WORK AND PERSONAL. Dressed to the nines indeed — Every inch of Pepper's perfect, perky frame is on display in some way now. She's wearing an evening gown that fits like a second skin — it's a pale champange color of beads and starts just above her perfect breasts (there are no straps) before hugging down to her tiny waist and flaring out to a slightly fuller skirt. A pair of matching heels give her a few extra inches of height and show off her shapely calves. She's swept her red hair up off her neck, leaving all that decollatage bare and creamy. She looks like a dream. A dream that is standing near the stage, waiting for Stark to give his opening address, and there is no Stark to be found.

So, with a sigh, she steps up onto that little stage and gives a light laugh into the microphone with a warm smile for the room, "Good evening everyone. The Stark Foundation could not be happier to have you here. My name is Virginia Potts, and I'm Mr. Stark's executive assistant. An emergency has kept him at the office tonight, but he'd like you to know you are helping over 500 young, brilliant minds go onto higher education with the scholarships you are funding tonight. The silent auction is in the back and if you have any questions, the staff will be willing to help. Thank you again for your generous donations." With that, and some awkward applause, Pepper quickly slips back off the stage. She's now beelining it for the bar.


The crowd is a demure one for the most part. A good chunk of them are people who don't often get dressed up, the scholars, the co-workers, the foundation winners. But then there are the people there to make their donations, to see and be seen at a Stark function. Needless to say, those two groups don't really mix. So each side of the room has a low rumble of conversation, but there's definitely tension there, and no life of the party has emerged.

The young woman that makes her way to the bar might or might not be aware of that divide, or perhaps that goes a bit beyond her job description. But concern for the function going off without a hitch probably was abandoned the moment people realized Stark was a no-show. At least one fellow, however, is having a good time.

Dressed in a tuxedo that hugs the contours of his form and is terribly flattering, all things considered, is a man who stands at the open bar and is speaking openly to the tender.

"No, look. First you put in the ice. Then the vodka. Then the Galliano. And _finally_ the orange juice. Shake it up, orange slice. Present. Got it?"

"I believe so, sir."

"Excellent, a little less juice a little more vodka this time."


Pepper is aware. She's aware of almost everything. The thing that has gotten her fired from other jobs, hated by half the secreatrial pool at Stark Industries, and landed her firmly as Stark's personal secretary, is how she's not missed a thing. Pepper is too smart for her own could. She could be half running the business, much like she put together this charity night. So, she's been able to read the room since she stepped in. Fortunately, she also sat the room that way, the donors in far more prominent positions than the academics. Hopefully it keeps things calm.

Then she listens to the man who is currently taking up the bartender's time with a mixing lesson and a deeper smirk crosses her perfectly red lips. "You sound like Tony. The man is a bartender, I think he knows how to make a drink." Oh, also, mouthy. Pepper is definitely a little too mouthy to be the perfect, societially acceptable secretary. She then looks up to the bartender and sighs, "But, while you are at it, make it two." Yes, she needs a drink or five. She reaches for her side when she realize there is no where on this body glove of a dress to store cigarettes. "…Don't suppose you have a smoke?" She asks the tuxedo clad man.


"Oh but this isn't just a drink," The man says, "It's a work of art." He watches as the bartender mixes it up and then he accepts the orange fizzy glass. He holds it daintily in one hand and seems to gauge it with a quirked eyebrow, as if considering the various merits and flaws of its delivery. He then turns towards her and sips it. He hmms afterwards, lips smacking faintly as if trying to gauge the particular flavor and the composition. He gives a slow nod, "I think this might be a winner."

Facing the redhead fully he extends it to her in a polite offering, letting her have a sip should she agree, but taking another sip himself if she declines. "I need to think up a name for it. What's yours? You could become famous, known the world wide as the inspiration to this startling new alcoholic concoction. Wouldn't _that_ show Stark?"


"I just said…" Pepper starts, having given her name on the stage — was anyone listening? No, probably not. She should be used to that by now. She gives him a pretty, neutral sort of smile that she gives a LOT in business when it's not wise to actually say what she's been thinking. "Pepper. My name is Pepper Potts. And I suspect that drink is rather too sweet to be a Pepper." But she will accept a sip of it because she needs SOMETHING and there are no cigarettes around. So, she takes a good drink before nodding and handing it back. "I'm more fond of Monet, but it will do." She deadpans quietly. The bartender is given a side-eye from the those baby blues. He better be making her something.

"Very little shows Tony Stark, to be honest, so I wouldn't get your hopes up." The tone of her voice is that one might use for a beloved but mischevious pet — he's driving her up the wall but she's going to put up with it anyway.


The man has a grin that seems almost like it belongs on the face of a teenager, sort of amused at the state of the matter and unrepentant in indulging in it. He takes another sip of his drink while the tender starts to work on her own. "You're right, Pepper would be deceptive." He leans against the bar, one elbow supporting his weight as he holds the drink with both hands, occasionally sipping through the straw. Definitely not a bit of scotch, and definitely not something that most fellows would seem alright drinking. But for him, he doesn't seem to care… and to his credit he carries it.

"And Virginia… not really a southern drink? Something California maybe." He sets the drink aside with a glassy clink and then adds, "I'll probably just name it after my friend Harvey."

"So go to a lot of these work functions?" He looks her up and down and says, "If so I may have to get a real job if this is what they're like."


He DID pay attention. Interesting. The fact that he's caught her first name, when she didn't give it recently but only in the speech, does draw a slight hint of surprise from her. Most of these rich folks could really care less. Of course, she looks like another one of them in that gown of her's, but there is something in her actions which is less refined and more practical, a middle class girl.

"I… really just started with Stark Industries about a month ago. But yes, they like their parties. Well, when Tony shows up. Generally this isn't really… work. Work is 9-6… or 7… or 10… Depending on the projects. And stuck in the offices, not here. What's your job… and your name? I didn't catch either?" If he didn't have a real job and could wear that tux, well… he's got something going on in life.


"Call me Paul," The tall brown-haired man tells her easily enough as his blue eyes meet hers and his somewhat sardonic smile remains in place there at the corner of his mouth. "I'm in corporate acquisitions. I like to keep my hand in when I can," He gestures with a slight lift of his head towards the stage where she addressed the crowd from, then looks back towards her. "I stopped by the office the other day, no Stark. Saw there was this to-do going on, figured I'd come on by. And now here I am, talking with the beautiful Ms. Potts."

He shakes his head with a smile as he slides a packet of cigarettes from his pocket and lightly taps it against his palm once, causing a butt to slip into his hand. He offers it to her with a cock of an eyebrow, and should she accept he'll go about lighting the two cigarettes with a quick wrist flick of a lighter. Once that's done he takes a drag on it and then adds with a smile, "See, this is why I don't like to use telephones. The personal touch, always so much better." And as he says that he lightly rests a hand upon her arm for a brief moment at the word 'touch', then draws it back.


Well, she's certainly been touched more invasive ways before — it's the job of a perky secretary to be touched sometimes. Or so it seems. Still, that brush on her arm gets a slight arch of her brow and she says nothing to it, preferring to focus on the actual meat of their discussion. "Alright, Paul. And… why did you come by the offices? I don't think Stark Industries is interested in being acquired. We are doing quite well and the Stark men generally take it as a point of pride that they run the show." Pepper explains gently, already quite expert at putting off the worst of business decisions.

She does accept the cigarette, leaning forward to accept the light as well and take a few good, deep breaths of the smoke. Well, that was more relaxing.


"Well, you see, Pepper." He pauses and then asks, "May I call you Pepper?" He then continues on. "well, you see, Pepper, I have discovered I have something called a Karmic Debt." The way Paul pronounces it she can almost hear the capital letters. He flips the lighter back into his pocket, the movement a well-practiced gesture that leaves the object visible for only a bare moment. "I was in New Delhi on a business trip. Have you ever been? Amazing place. Don't go into the river though. Not safe."

He takes a drag on the cigarette and blows the smoke out of the corner of his mouth away from her. "You can buy almost anything there, a lot like Thailand when you think about it. But I found this interesting bit of information while I was there. During that little scuffle the Indians had with the Chinese. Apparently a platoon of Indian regular army raided a bunker and got a hold of this filing cabinet. All sorts of goodies there."

"Well, Stark's name came up. As it is wont to do. And so I made the buy, and was going to pass off the bit to him, the little bit that concerns him. Something to do with the Cantonese? The Mandarin people? Something like that."

That having been said he pulls a white envelope from his coat pocket and sets it down on the bar, resting two fingers on it in some casual act of ownership. "But since he's not here… I cooould, perhaps be convinced to turn it over to you."


The redhead watches him through slightly narrowed eyes as he goes on about karmic debt and things in places she's never travelled. Pepper looks like she might be tryig to figure out if he's crazy or not. Her brows just loft higher as he starts speaking about 'the Cantonese'. Her smirk deepens. "Cantonese and Mandarin are not people, they are both languages spoken in China, with the majority of Cantonese being spoken in Hong Kong and Kowloon." Definitely too smart for her own good. Still, then Tony's name is there and she is a bit more concerned.

"…Look, Paul — May I call you Paul?" She continues on, "I am going to need a little bit more than a fancy, half drunk story about an old war and a random artifact you found before I'm willing to shell out any money to protect my boss' name. Though, this is the most creative extortion scheme I've seen in a long time."


"Well, not /that/ old. Think it was what… last year?" Paul looks to the side as if delving into long lost memories, but then he comes back and looks towards her. "Oh no, I don't want any money. Crazy as it may seem." The man in the tuxedo spreads his hands to the sides, cigarette trailing smoke as he gestures, the tendril wending its way upwards. "I was more considering if you were wanting to deal with the crazy. You could take it to your boss, tell him to look _really_ closely at it. And if he gets something from it, hey great. If not, then I've still discharged my Karmic Debt."

And as he says that last bit he takes his fingers off the envelope and leaves it there on the bar. "Or can just let it sit here and see where fate takes it. Wouldn't be the first time I've trusted myself to such." But a moment of reflection seems to take him and he confides as if for some reason feeling he has to, "Though, to be entirely fair, Pepper. If Stark's representative wasn't as staggeringly beautiful as you, I would have been tempted to shake them down for some coin."


No money? Pepper blinks, now just more paranoid and confused than she was before. Her lips tug into a quiet frown, studying him for several heartbeats, from envelop, to the handsome man, back to the envelope. She wasn't certain how to deal with this, really. Clearly, he'd thrown her off by a brand new situation. "I…I mean, if you really think something… might be of concern, it doesn't hurt to take it to him. This is all just a bit… Strange." She admits softly, reaching her free hand up to scoop up the envelope. SHe balances the cigarette betwee her lips so she can use her other hand to gently open it and see what is inside.

"Now you're just flattering me. I look very much like every other secretary out there. But… thank you." She gives him a half smile after a heartbeat or two.


"Oh no," Paul shakes his head as he slips the cigarette back between his lips, sliding his hands into his pockets as he pushes off of the bar. "You definitely do not, Ms. Potts." He shakes his head and smiles ruefully as he pointedly looks at her from head to toe and back again. "If other secretaries looked like you I might actually try and work for a living."

He shakes his head as he finally meets her eyes again and his smile is terribly pleased, as if he were looking at a work of art and appreciating it fully.

Inside that envelope, however, is simply a small slip of paper folded in thirds with a water stain in one corner. The text is in Chinese characters, typed apparently somehow and with a firm enough typewriter that she can feel the texture of the symbols on the other side of the paper.

But then the man in the tuxedo takes another drag on his cigarette and ashes it in the tray at hand. "If Stark's as smart as everyone says he is maybe that'll be useful. Then again, hey, what do I know?" He starts to step away from the bar, brushing a hand over his tuxedo jacket with a sweeping gesture.


"…I… don't think Tony reads Chinese…" Pepper murmurs, only half heartedly. He was smart. He'd figure it out. But she seems completely bewildered by what is in that envelope and what any of it means. She carefully runs her delicate fingertips down the back of the paper, tracing those raised characters carefully. She then folds it again and slips it delicately back into the envelope for safe keeping. If nothing else, it'd be an amusing drunk story for Tony to tell.

Then Paul is starting to move away, sweeping and smooth, and her eyes widen just a bit. "Ah… well, thank you, Paul. I… don't suppose you have a way for me to contact you? If Mr. Stark needs more information, that is?" She asks gently, not wanting to quite let him get away until she knows that.


"None that I'd like him to have." Paul says off-handedly, seemingly comfortable with his inaccessibility. But then he pauses and looks towards her, that cocksure smile on his lips as he tells her, "Though you… I think I might look you up later, Ms. Potts. Unless you wouldn't like to see more of me." He starts to walk backwards into the crowd, smiling as he moves. "But for now… who knows what life holds for us?"


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