1964-02-01 - Two Ships Passing In The Day
Summary: Tony and Pepper have a chance meeting.
Related: The Vigor stuff
Theme Song: None
pepper tony 


While it snowed yesterday, today has slightly warmed up and the wind isn't bad, so people aren't quite rushing in and out of buildings the way they were earlier in the week. Pepper's awake, between meetings, and making a run downtown to drop off a few documents for her new boss. She's got a heavy briefcase in her hand, locked and sealed, and her somewhat too slender frame is well warmly protected beneath an elegant, ankle-length, cream wool coat. Her waving red hair is down, slightly buffetted against what wind there is, dancing against cheeks and shoulders. She's walking with that clipped, proper step of someone who has a goal, but isn't in a horrible hurry. Much like a dozen other business people about this early afternoon.

*

Without a Senior Assistant, Tony's been able to delegate responsibility some, but he's had to take over some of the daily business himself…which he hates. He's about the Big Picture, not the tiny details, at least when it comes to Stark Industries. However, his team -is- trying to pick up the slack while he goes about interviewing for a replacement and they aren't left unrewarded. Despite the snow that's hanging around and the craziness of the continuing repairs to the building, young Stark himself has gone out to a nearby cafe to pick up some treats for those in his office. He's balancing half a dozen fresh coffees on a tray and carrying a large paper bag full of decadent pastries. He seems to be in a good mood today; maybe someone restocked his mini-bar.

*

It's just one of those moments where one simply *cannot* avoid looking at a person. They are on the same street, going opposite ways, but it means they are walking straight at each other. By the time Pepper realizes this might be awkward and he may not wish to speak to her, they've already met eyes. She can't just pretend she didn't see him. So, a slightly awkward smile paints itself across the redhead's lips as they continue walking and she gives a slight nod to him as they are just about to pass. "Mr. Stark." She greets simply. Maybe he will leave it at that and they will go on their days.

*

He'd know that bright hair anywhere…and that no-nonsense gait. Tony slows as Pepper approaches him, moving in the opposite direction, and he stops at the greeting. "Really? It's going to be like this now?" He looks her up and down, from the bright hair down to the bottom of the long, cream-colored coat, "You look terrible. Are you eating at all?" He's never been one to be subtle.

*

Well, apparently they *weren't* going to leave it at that. Pepper stops in her tracks, closing her eyes a heartbeat or two, just to brace and center herself for whatever discussion this might be. And the emotions that come with it. How much she misses him, misses the job. She can't let that leak through onto her face, so she tries to pack all of those emotions in a little box and then turns around, giving him a faint smile, "I… didn't really think you'd care to speak to me. Generally ex-bosses don't care to interact with people they've let go. And yes, I'm eating. I look just *fine*. I… am fine, Mr. Stark."

*

"Let go? Is that what you think happened? You walked out on me, Pepper. You can color it all you want, but that's what happened." And she knows it. He knows she knows it. Tony adjusts the tray of coffees even as he looks at Pepper, "You look gaunt. Maybe you don't see it, but I do." Again, being honest. "You moved out of the hotel room."

*

Blue eyes flicker from his handsome gaze to the ground a moment, not entirely able to hide the shame over it all. It's still shameful, the situation she's in, even if she doesn't consider it entirely her fault. She takes in a shaking breath and forces herself to look back up to him, "You gave me a choice which was no choice at all. I… couldn't just… quit that stuff. I tried. It almost killed me. I… I have it under control. People are looking into a cure. But until they figure it out, I… It's the only way I stay functional. I can't just stop it. So you gave me no choice at all. I had to go. And considering the hotel was a part of working… well… I wasn't just going to assume I could stay on. I found a roommate. She got me another position. I'm fine."

*

Tony just shakes his head, "You are trying to explain this sort of thing to the -wrong- person, Pepper…" as Tony told Xavier, he knows full well about the addictive personality and how it thinks. "I'm sorry that you feel that way and I'm sorry you have to paint me as the villain in order to justify it to yourself." There's a sad little sigh then, "I like to think I'm your friend and as your friend, I just couldn't just sit back and watch you destroy yourself. But if you won't admit things are bad, then…I'm sorry. I really am. I hope you're able to get rid of this before it kills you. I'd be pretty sad if that happened." There's a brief pause before he offers, "I've been having a hard time replacing you." Again, honesty.

*

"I…I thought we were friends too. I never…ever told you to stop drinking, or anything, or I'd go away. I *never* gave you that kind of ultimatium. What was I supposed to do, Tony? Stay and drive myself sick? Crazy? You gave me a choice. I… I did what I had to do to remain functional. You'd have had to replace me anyway, even if I stayed and tried to quit. It wouldn't have worked. I tried already. I failed. It almost killed me. I'm not exaggerating. I'm being honest. So… what choice did I have?" Pepper asks, honestly, some glimmering moisture behind her pale eyes as she stares up to him, still so raw about this herself but having tried to press back those feelings for weeks now.

*

"Yet I stopped drinking," for a while, at least. Because even if she didn't voice it, Tony knew she disapproved. "I could have gotten you doctors. I could have gotten you help. But instead of staying so I could do that, you up and left me, Pepper. You up and left so you could keep on taking that stuff. We could have fought it together."

*

"I *was* fighting it. I *am*. I have doctors. SHIELD has been working on this for almost two months now. They'll find an answer eventually. It's not like I'm just… ignoring it. I am getting help. That just… wasn't enough for you. You wanted me to quit *now*. I couldn't do that. So… I did what I had to do. I can handle life on my own. Yes… I… I miss the work. Working for you was the best job of my life. But… I want to still be alive to live it. So… I did what I had to do." Pepper states simply. She then sighs, shaking her head slowly, "I… should go."

*

"Tell yourself whatever you want, Pepper, but you know damn well that's not what I said and you know damn well that I would have helped you." Tony shakes his head and also prepares to move on, "But tell yourself whatever you need to so you can write me off. I'm sorry that you feel like I'm the villain in your story."

*

"You said I quit that stuff or I leave the job. That was it. That was the choice you gave me. I told you I was getting help and it wasn't enough. That is what you *said*. I wouldn't have just walked out if I felt there was a choice!" Pepper doesn't exactly yell, but the tension raises in her voice now.

*

"Your exact words when I asked if you wanted to get off of the stuff were: 'I don't know. Yes, mentally, if we had a way to do it which wouldn't kill me, yes. I acknowledge it's not healthy. But they don't right now. SHIELD knows. Their doctors are looking into treatments but there hasn't been anything yet. So, until they figure out something, I take enough to function. To stay sane. And it'suseful, sometimes. Having those powers.'" Tony repeats the statement word for word. Sometimes being a Genius with an Eidetic memory comes in useful.

*

The redhead stares hard at him as he repeats her words back to her, but it certainly sounds like her. Sadly, she doesn't have an eidetic memory like that, or a recording, so all she can do is go on what he says. "…Yes. That's all true. That was all true then and it's true now. I told you I was getting help and you still laid down the law… I don't even *care* about those words. I just want to function and keep working. So… I am." Pepper breathes out, tears still glimmering behind her eyes which she won't let herself fully cry. Not in front of him.

*

Tony shakes his head, "Where in that statement was there anything about getting help? 'SHIELD is working on it'? 'I like having these powers?' 'I don't know if I want to get off the stuff?' Maybe you thought it, but I can't read people's minds, Pepper." Unlike certain friends of his. "If you would have asked me to help, I would have, but those words told me you didn't want it."

*

A slow shake of her head, "…I'm sorry I wasn't more clear. SHIELD is… is helping. There just isn't a cure yet. So… we carry on. That's all I can do, Tony, and it didn't seem like that was enough for you. So, I left. If you want to put this on me, that's fine. It's my fault. Hate me. It's fine. I… I'm done." Pepper shakes her head again, finally beginning to move past him once more. She can't keep the tears back any longer, so walking on seems the wisest idea.

*

"I don't hate you," is offered as Pepper walks past. "I just hope I don't read your Obituary in the paper." He watches her continue for a moment before he likewise moves on with another shake of his head.

*

"You won't. I'm fine, Tony. This is all under control." Pepper states flatly, as they completely pass, but she continues walking on unless he'd physically stop her now, a tear cutting it's way down her cheek in the chill winter air. Somehow, it feels like it's gotten colder out now.

*

Pepper's a grown woman and she's made her choice. Tony is the bad guy and he's not sure that there's anything he can do to change her mind about it. "When you're ready, you know you always have a place here." Meaning Stark Industries. "And your apartment back…without roommates." That's really all he can do.

*

The woman is about to say something more, something about not needing charity and the like, but her voice is still caught in her throat. Pepper shouldn't keep going back. It just made things worse. So she faintly shakes her head and keeps walking on so she can finish her delivery.

*

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