1963-12-18 - Dosed
Summary: Agent Coulson visits Stark Industries in order to check in with Pepper Potts. What he doesn't expect is to learn that she's become addicted to the vicious street drug, vigor.
Related: Don't Drink the Water
Theme Song: None
coulson pepper 

If Tony knew she was up here, he'd probably be yelling at her, but Pepper needed a distraction from what she wanted to do. She managed to get through Saturday, the first day she actually fought it off, and if she could get through tonight maybe she could actually convince herself she wasn't an addicted wreck. However, as the day went on, things just got worse. Well into the night and she's been fighting a cold sweat the whole evening. Her normally perky hair has fallen and slightly sticks to her forehead in that clammy sweat. She's doing her best to focus on papers when she's reread the same paragraph the whole time. Her little side office is the only light on in the Stark Building's offices this time on a Sunday night.


Agent Coulson has received a great deal of resistance from those employees seeking to keep him from finding Pepper Potts. It isn't his preferred method of operation, but at the bitter end… he pulled rank. As a Senior Agent with SHIELD, he could walk into the Oval Office if it was necessary, and this was deemed necessary.

"Miss Potts." The voice is that of a Stark Industries security guard, who walks in just ahead of Coulson as they depart the elevator. "I told him you weren't taking guests, but he insisted-"

"Yes, because it's a matter of global security," Coulson tells the guard, a bit of temper in his voice. Just a touch. He stops then, and turns to the security guard. "You do your work well, Officer Gibson. Please don't take this as an insult to you, or the organization you work…"

Suddenly, he recognizes that Pepper does not look well, and turns away from the guard to walk her way. "…with." A beat. "Miss Potts, are you not well?"


Of course, he might have tried to call her home phone, but Pepper wasn't home tonight. And the office phone? Maybe he had an old line. She was changing business cards just as they met, since the whole office had to be fixed and renovated after that attack. Pepper blinks up as the door to her little office comes open, a touch of genuine surprise, but moment she realizes who it is, she sighs to the security guard and waves it off.

"George, it's fine. You should have called up. He has permission to see me any time of the day or night, and if I'm with someone, just ask him to politely wait. No, George. Seriously. Fine. Just… let us be." Pepper's tone might be a bit more sharp than she normally is, all of her on edge with that aching headache at the base of her skull, but she's doing her best to keep her voice calm and professional. The guard looks on warily one more moment, but Pepper's pale eyes are serious enough that he just gives a little grunt of a nod and leaves the room.

Then Pepper is resetting her smile back into place, it looking a touch unnatural because her lipstick is hiding rather too much pallor there, but she is trying to look like she feels far better than she does. "I…I'm fine, Agent Coulson. Maybe just a touch of the flu. I'm sorry for George. How can I help you?" She's a halfway decent liar when it comes to work and regular people. To a trained agent? Yeah, she's lying out of her *teeth*.


With a smile, Coulson nods his head to the security guard, but wisely doesn't address him further. George Gibson was just doing his job, perhaps a little too well, but all things considered, it's better if he just goes.

Now that they have privacy, he walks into the office proper, shaking his head. "Nonsense, Officer Gibson is only doing what he's supposed to do."

Once he's closed the distance, Coulson sets his briefcase down somewhere out of the way, and turns to look toward Pepper with a pleasant smile. "I'm glad to see you made it through this past week. It's… been challenging for us all. I came to tell you that Bucky Barnes was spotted by one of my agents. We're doubling our efforts at protecting the Egyptian Ambassador now, but… I am hoping that you've finished putting together the information packet I requested?"

Interestingly, Coulson does not yet call Pepper's bluff.


The redhead gives him a slightly more understanding smile as the man across from her reassures her that George was just doing his job. Even if she had scolded the man, the look on her slightly bloodshot eyes is one of appreciation for someone who respects her employees. It says a lot to her. She doesn't argue, clearly, but gives a small nod and is happy to move on.

Then Pepper's eyes widen just a bit more as she hears news about Bucky Barnes. At once she looks worried, relieved, briefly panicked, a whole slew of emotions that she's trying to bottle up a heartbeat later and just fails horribly. She's always worn her emotions too close to her sleeve. "…How…how is he? Where was he spotted? Your agent wasn't able to bring him in?" It was an obvious question, but she had to ask. Even if all her words are rather more on edge than the sweet, professional Pepper Potts often shows herself.

Then he reminds her of the file and that alone is proof of just how off her game she is. She'd normally have already been bringing it out to give to him and she forgot she even put it together, "Oh! Yes! Yes…goodness… I had it a few days ago, I've been meaning to drop it off, I… I'm sorry, here…" She leans over, pulling out the file folder from the top drawer of her desk and then handing it to him as smooth as possible, even if she's sat back up a bit too fast and the room wavers. This must be some awful flu.


"Well, he's injured," Coulson reports. "But, I don't think he's nearly in as bad of shape as my agent." He nods his head encouragingly. "He's… still at large, yes, but I am diverting resources to find him, don't worry." He shakes his head, then smiles warmly to Pepper. "I suspect my agent wasn't able to bring him in because I specifically requested non-lethal actions."

When she goes about presenting the information, a brighter smile appears. "No need to apologize, Pepper. We've all been through hell these past few days, and there's a great deal of rebuilding everyone needs to do." He flips through the material briefly, before reaching for his briefcase. Before securing it though, he turns back to Pepper with a heartfelt expression, and reaches out to take one of her hands in his. "Thank you for doing this."

Clammy hands.

Coulson finally goes about locking the files away in his briefcase, before turning back to face his new friend. He draws a long breath, then releases it with a sigh.

"You don't have the flu, do you?"


At the news about his agent, Pepper's brow furrows a touch more. It's genuine guilt on her ashen features, only deepening as he comments about the non-lethal actions. Her painted lips press quietly. "I…I'm sorry Agent Coulson. I didn't mean to get one of your people hurt. I… I can't say I'm sorry that you gave that order. I'm relieved. But… I never meant to put your people at more risk." This is something Pepper is willing to be honest about with him, not going to pretend she doesn't still care about Bucky. But she also feels for his people.

She gives him all the time he needs with the file, allowing him to take her hand for a brief shake. She isn't actually fast enough to avoid it right now, even if it might make her flu story a bit more weak. Blue eyes flicker away from his calm, controlled gaze as he asks her that question. She really is bad at lying, especially in situations like this. "…No, but… it… It's of no matter. It will pass. I'm fine." And ashamed. The strongest emotion bubbling beneath that sickness and need in the back of her head is shame.


With another one of his calming smiles, Coulson gently distills Pepper's concerns. "While we always regret when one of our agents are hurt on the job, it is part of the job description," he tells her. "Given the situation around Barnes disposition, apprehending him alive is not only the right thing to do, it's strategically sound."

Now, on to the matter of her illness. Coulson is clearly concerned, and he does nothing to hide it from his expression. However, he is not going to press the issue; his talents at extracting information are reserved for people classified as 'enemies', not Pepper Potts. He nods his head earnestly. "One thing I'm very good at, Pepper, is keeping secrets. It's sorta my job." A pause. "Actually, it's pretty much the top notch in what SHIELD expects of me, but that talent extends into my personal life, as well. I'll do anything I can to help."

The last part is spoken in a manner that suggests he's more than willing to let it rest.


If he had pressured her, made this more business like, or pretty much done anything except for *exactly* what he did? Pepper Potts probably would have clammed up. But the man knows just what to say. No pressure, no judgment, that nice smile and calming voice. Pepper's willpower is wore to being hair thin and, proud or not, she can't actually stop herself from just opening up. Maybe he could help. She was starting to truly fear she needed it.

"…There is… a drug, out there… Vigor, they're calling it? On the streets. Something that's… hitting mutants, apparently. God, SHIELD probably knows all of this. There was a massive fight… chaos, over by the tunnel, the other day…" Pepper is doing her very best to give the information in a low, calm voice, like she was giving some sort of business or crime scene report. It's hard to keep her heart out of it, and she can't keep the *need* out of her tone as she says the drug's name, but she's doing her best to keep control. That sweat renews itself on her forehead, pulse a fluttering bird in her throat. She needed it so. Damn. Badly.

"… bunch of the National Guard went insane with the stuff. I… was volunteering with them. Trying to get… evacuees some supplies. I guess… I… drank the same thing they did. It… it gave me powers, for a little bit, at least. My voice… It could control people. I could keep people calm. It was terrifying but… Helpful. Doesn't last long, though, then you come down off it, and…" Pepper just shakes her head, not needing to explain what the after effects feel like. SHe's a walking example right now.


Coulson looks up in what seems like afterthought when Pepper speaks again. It's hard to tell whether he actually intended to bolt, and she stopped him; or whether he was strictly portraying the possibility of his departure as a bluff to prompt her into not missing this chance to spill the beans.

Either way… he's successfully retained.

Reports were spotty during the ice creature invasion, and this one has managed not to end up in SHIELD's radar yet. For whatever reason, it's not there… maybe the National Guard didn't report it, or maybe it never made it past the field. There was a lot going on, and any number of things could have prevented the information from hitting SHIELD's intake. Either way, he is aware of the street drug, at least in a peripheral sense. What he does know is that it's incredibly addictive, and he's familiar with what addiction can do.

The attentiveness steadily becomes concern. "My God," he answers, and sets the briefcase down, moving closer. While the lack of details is bothersome - how on Earth did she end up taking it, not to mention a handful of Guardsmen - the more pressing matter is the addiction. "Pepper, have you… have you seen anyone yet? Your doctor?"


If the woman was feeling more on top of her game, she might realize she just gave SHIELD a LOT more information than they had before. Not that Pepper would keep it from them, but she might have even tried to give a more thorough report. But she doesn't entirely catch the surprise on Coulson's features there. She's a bit too busy just trying to hold herself together and not look near so rough as she feels. Pepper gives a shaky sort of breath as she finishes speaking, not quite able to look up into his eyes. The shame is fierce.

"It…it's bad, Agent Coulson. I don't know how many others got hit with it. A… a lot. The whole thing was… chaos. A lot more people could have been hurt, some people were shooting guns…" Pepper shakes her head against the memory, a shiver running through her. Though the added details are just there, really, to avoid his other questions. That is far less comfortable to answer.

"…I can't… bring this to my doctor, Agent. I… I'm in business. I have a reputation to keep. I can't be… be seen as some drugged out hippie, or something. And… you *really* think my doctor is going to know how to deal with *this*?" That's where her bloodshot eyes raise to his again, expression a bit too fierce, too defensive. She is smart enough to realize this stuff isn't the run of the mill LSD or the like.


Understanding flashes across Coulson's features. "Yes, of course. That… makes perfect sense." He sighs again, and considers everything for a few moments. "I'd like to have one of my agents, Jemma Simmons, have a look at you. She's one of my scientists. Biochemical engineering."

There comes another brief pause, during which Coulson's lips form a thinly drawn line.

"Pepper, I don't want you going and looking for this stuff. I'm also not gonna ask you to promise me you won't, either. I know how this thing goes."

He reaches for the briefcase again, opening it after twisting in the combination dials to the proper places. The files are moved aside, and a secret compartment is opened. Out comes a syringe, the needle encased in a transparent cap designed to keep it sterile. It's… already loaded with something. "This is a sedative. Perfectly safe, and it will keep you asleep for eight hours." He offers it to her then, candidly. "Can you give me eight hours?"


It's hard to keep looking at him, to face someone eye to eye when they *know* her secret. The shame which comes with this thing, especially for a woman of Pepper's class and occupation, is almost overwhelming. But she's trying. Trying not to run out that door. Trying not to snap at him to go so she can leave without him knowing what she's doing. She takes in another unsteady, forcibly slow breath, listening to those words. Biochemical engineer. She knew very well the field, they had their own in this very building.

"…I… understand." It's the first thing she says, mainly towards his comment about not making her promise. She did understand. She can't hide the faint relief in her fact that he won't make her promise, because she didn't want to lie.

Then that syringe comes out and Pepper's skin crawls just a bit more. She stares at it with almost longing until his explanation, when she realizes it's *not* what she needs or wants. She hesitates even saying yes to that. She needed to go find *more* of the other thing and this would stop that. She physically shakes her head, trying to push off those thoughts. Insane, unhealthy thoughts. "…I… yes. That's fine. Now… just do it now. Put me on the couch there and lock the door behind you… I… if I leave this room, it's not to take a sedative, Agent Coulson. Just… do it." She states through slightly shallowed breaths. Even saying yes to that was a trial.


Coulson nods slowly, and with a deep sense of apology and understanding. He walks with her toward the couch, helping her to sit. "Eight hours," he tells her, before gesturing for her to roll up a sleeve. "I will be here. I promise."

The cap is removed, and the syringe is inserted carefully into a vein in her arm. Phil Coulson, after all, was an Army Ranger. He knows field medicine.

Once the deed is done, he takes great care to make sure she is comfortable. One request he does not grant, is to lock her door. Instead, he waits until she's asleep, before gathering his briefcase. He walks over toward George Gibson, pulling him aside for a moment. The two exchange quiet words, and Gibson's previously obstinate expression becomes concerned. The security guard nods his head, then turns and goes to stand guard in front of Pepper's office.

Whatever Phil said… he kept his word.


The embarrassment in her face is almost achingly deep, but she doesn't fight him on this. The embrace of a sedative will be the best sleep she's had since the whole mess started. Maybe it means she can fight it better tomorrow. Pepper steps over to the couch with him and slips out of her high heels and suit jacket, setting them both aside. She's an easy stick and, exhausted from the mess, an easier out. It's barely a handful of minutes before she's totally slumped down into the couch, dead to the world, breath more relaxed and even than it's been in days. She'll be miserable in the morning, but for now, she's found some peace. She's also oblivious to whatever he's told George.


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