1964-03-13 - A Case of the Mondays
Summary: Pepper and Bruce speak Monday after the attempted assassination. She deals with such shock as she always does — by diving head first into work.
Related: http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/log:1964-03-12-death-awaits-her
Theme Song: None
pepper batman 


The police alerted Bruce to the assassination attempt on his CFO at around five in the morning. Alfred took the call, of course, along with the requisite notes, explaining his Master was, of course, deep asleep, implying blame could be placed on a few up and coming models looking for a 'leg up'.

Which wasn't strictly true. But he did intend to make Bruce sleep at least a couple of hours before he made his way in.

So, at nine o'clock, Bruce Wayne arrives at the office, his eyes hidden behind a pair of sunglasses, looking ill-rested but handsome, his tie loose as Alfred opens the door for him and then goes to park the car and wait until his Master is finished with business.

He knocks on the door to Pepper's office, knowing she's already at work, "Pepper, it's Bruce Wayne," he calls.

*

Risking sleeping through her first day in the actual office? It wasn't a risk Pepper was willing to take. So, after a few hours at the precinct, reporting all the details of the skirmish at her apartment, then a brief stop at the ER to confirm that the goose-egg on her head wasn't that severe a concussion, she simply went home, showered, put on another suit, a heavier layer of make up, and drove into the office. She'd have to power through on coffee and moxie this morning.

So, she's been in office about two hours when Bruce's knock comes. She has two ledgers open in front of her as well as several personnel files, trying to decide exactly whom they could trust to fill Whitestone's position. Other than the regular Monday morning business, which wouldn't really start rolling in until after the stock market opened, Pepper's full focus has been on this matter. She's on her second cup of coffee and looks physically quite put together beneath her Jackie O-styled navy suit and tightly pinned hair. Make up hides most of the exhaustion. Most. "Yes, of course, come in…" She looks up from the papers, giving him her best attempt of a game smile.

*

Bruce comes inside, closing the door behind him, "I came as soon as I heard. Well, maybe not as soon, but close on the heels," he says. "How are you doing? The police said you got knocked around a bit by this…this hooligan," he says. "You didn't have to come in, no one would've thought less," he says.

He isn't precisely sure of the proper protocol, not being a natural hugger by nature and unsure if a simple handshake is sufficiently social. Oddly, for all he studied human behavior, it was these little rituals that often confused him the most, being so far outside his normal realm of interest. It made him awkward which, oddly enough, helped with his ruse. Bruce Wayne, in social situations, often seemed clumsy - endearing and deflecting at the same time. "Is there anything I can do?"

*

Either Pepper is quite accustomed to being in dangerous situations, is so tired she can't process anything other than working, or is still in shock. In truth, it's probably a combination of all three, but she seems far more calm about the matter than Bruce is. The worry and odd care in his voice pulls a bit more of a smile from her and she fully sets down the file she was working on, standing up from behind her desk and doing her best to look more awake than she felt. "Fine. I'm fine. It's a minor concussion, that's all, nothing to be done for it but some asprin if I need." She admits with a casual wave, like she chipped a nail, or something.

"And *I* would have thought less of me if I didn't come in. We still have work to do. Lots more than before, even. Though…" Pepper frowns a bit more, "I wish they hadn't called you. I've had it in hand. She reassures him quietly, really doing her best to seem as if she has eveyrthing put together. She hovers on the edge of touching him without really doing so, almost feeding off his awkwardness. "Nothing to be done but give blessing on Whitestone's replacement. I'm thinking Carlisle. He seems loyal and has taken actions with clearly the company's interest and nothing more in mind."

*

Batman takes a seat carefully, "I was called because one of my most important employees was nearly murdered. Some people at the police department still don't mind going the extra mile for some of the old families. Perhaps it's a little unfair, but I've made my piece with my unfair advantages," he says with a slight smile.

"Um, Carlisle's a good man. Goes back to my father's days running the company, when he was working in the mailroom. Came up the hard way," he says. "Just the kind of person I'd like to see put forward," he says.

"Are you really sure you're all right? Maybe you'd like to use one of my apartments in the city? They have excellent security," he says.

*

As he sits, Pepper remains standing. "Coffee? Would you like some coffee? You look like you slept barely longer than I did…" There are still some habits of Pepper's which are a secretary. The boss is in office now. It's her job to bring them both coffee. So, she walks over to the little set up in the corner of her office, pouring a good cup from the silver pot that was brought into her before. She also tops off her own cup, bringing it back to him on a little tray with milk and sugar. She'll have to learn how he takes it in the future.

"And I… I've had a complicated year. Almost being killed…" Pepper sighs, a bittersweet smile tugging at her lips, "It doesn't have the bite it once did. And even if there is a part of me that would very much like to… Scream. To run somewhere safe — to someone safe — I don't have that. Working helps. It keeps my mind off things." She sits down with her own coffee, a smile lighting at her featuees once more. "So. Carlisle it is, then. I'll call him up this afternoon to do an interview and make the offer if he doesn't treat a new female boss like utter shite."

*

Batman takes the coffee, taking a liberal amount of cream and sugar. He actually prefers it black, but Bruce Wayne wouldn't and so Bruce Wayne lightens up the darkness until he's practically drinking a warm, caffeinated milkshake.

"It's not the sort of thing I want you getting used to," he says. "I hope there's no more…it's shocking to me that such a thing, such a person, could be here, right under my own nose. I never would've imagined Murray could…I never liked the man, but he never seemed…" he seems unable to pull himself together about it from the shock.

At mention of his appearance, he grins, "I had something of a late night. They leave nightclubs open after hours if you pay the doorman enough, you know," he says. "I'm so very glad you enjoy working. It makes me feel less guilty about my leaving so much of it for you."

*

The woman watches him doctor his coffee quite precisely, but he doesn't seem to drink it as eagerly as someone who has made it to such a sweet level. An interesting note, but nothing her brain makes anything of. She just takes another deep drink of her own coffee and folds shut the other personnel file she was looking at. Carlisle seems to be her decision now. "He's been embezzling, you know? I thought I saw it in the books already, but he was pretty good at hiding it. The… the person who saved my life, some… strange vigilante in a black cloak? He brought this…"

Pepper lays down the other file across from him, a copy of everything Batman brought her. Yes, the police have the originals, but Pepper wasn't walking out of there without her own personal copy. "Has the proof. Whitestone knew he wasn't long for the company. Thought if I disappeared, he'd get the job and be able to cover his tracks. Desperation does strange things to people. It's fine. I'm not hurt." She gives him one last, reassuring smile. One of these days she'll actually believe all this madness is fine.

*

He looks at the files as if he's never seen them before, flipping slowly through the pages, "He knew he had fooled me, but couldn't hide from you," he says, "While I"m sorry it came out this way, this is why I hired you - because you can find this kind of stuff that's been getting past me," he says.

Of course, it hadn't gotten past him at all, but, again, it wouldn't due for Bruce Wayne to be catching crooks. He couldn't be that sharp, that aware. He had to be just a bit dim, a bit lost, a bit vapid. Sometimes more than a bit.

"I'm not entirely at ease with vigilantes getting involved. Captain America is one thing, but it just seems like there are more and more all the time," he says, shaking his head. "Even if it did come out in our favor this time. I guess we should probably hire a few extra accountants to sweep the books. It shouldn't all be on you, you have enough on your plate as it is. Maybe just hire an outside firm on a temp contract?"

*

A slightly unhappy sound comes from Pepper's throat as he mentions hiring an outside firm. "I don't trust outsiders. Not that I trust all the insiders right now, but… Give me a week? I'm in office now, settling in. I've already been over every ledger you gave me twice and I've found at least for people who need a touch closer investigating. If I can get access to people's offices after hours I know that's… Not a comfortable question, but everything on this property should be company property anyway. I'll be able to confirm a few things and clean house. But the last thing we need is more outsiders right now." Pepper's habits of falling back to talking almost purely about business when she's scared, it's all coming back with a vengence. Not that he'd know those habits. If nothing else, it just seems like she's company focused and completely calm about an assassin in her apartment.

"As for the… man… It did work out in our favor. He probably saved my life. Like these vigilantes or not, I can't complain right now. I'm just glad it's over." And truly she could hope it was over. SHe takes another, deeper drink of her coffee.

*

Bruce steeples his fingers, "I trust your judgment, that's what I hired you for, after all," he says. "I just don't want you working yourself into the ground, especially in the first week. I understand you want to do well, but I don't expect you to drive yourself crazy," he says. He only puts those kinds of expectations on himself or people he trains.

"Oh, another small thing. A young man named Richard Grayson, whom I sponsored after he was orphaned, has returned to New York. He may be making use of one of the corporate apartments himself. He has a separate trust fund that shouldn't be affected by the corporation, but let me know if he makes any requests of the company so I can sign off on them."

*

"Bruce…" Pepper starts, exhaling a slow sigh and going silent a heartbeat or two as she considers the best way to phrase these words, "If… if I don't work, I'm going to think about what happened. It will creep in the back of my head and make me wonder who else is on the street. Who else wants me dead. Where I should or shouldn't go. It'll drive me insane. If I work? If I just sit here and drown myself in all of this? My brain doesn't have time to start asking those questions." Pepper gives him a pale but honest smile, these words baring a bit of her soul, a great show of trust to him, but she thinks it's worth taking that risk. "So, I'm going to work. And it will be fine." While he didn't hug her, she does reach across to pat his hand for just a moment. There. That was a safe touch.

Then he's moving on to business and she is more than happy to take up a different topic. "Richard Grayson? I'd love to meet him some night. That's totally fine. I'll let you know. Would…would you like me to see if there would be a good place for him to work? He wouldn't have to be full time, but if he's young and just back in the city, it might be good to get his feet under him. I don't know how capable he is, but if you sponsored him, he can't be completely useless."

*

Bruce pats his hand on top of hers, taking the cue to show more compassion. "Then you are free to work. But it makes me think we should have at least a sauna put in here at the office. Everyone needs to be able to take time to relax,' he says.

As to Dick, he shakes his head, "I doubt he'd take a job from me even if I offered it with a blue ribbon wrapped around it," he says. "He wants to be his own man, as much as he can. The trust fund is his, free and clear, as far as I'm concerned. If he asks for something, of course, I'd be pleased to accomodate. But I suspect he wants to prove he's his own man. As much to himself as to me. And yes, he's a very talented fellow. A bit stubborn, but I'm guilty of it as much myself."

*

There is a lot to be said for human touch and, as Bruce actually dares to show a bit more compassion, something tightens in Pepper's chest. She swallows back tightly and gives him a weak hint of a laugh at the sauna thing, "I wouldn't complain…" She rasps out. Apparently, tears are closer behind her eyes than she'd care to admit. Going back to discussing Richard is rather a relief, her hand withdrawn to back around her coffee. She allows a half understanding smile to cross her lips. "Understood, then. I will let you know his expenses, but I shan't push anything else. Every young man needs a chance to stand on his own."

*

Bruce smiles, "So he keeps telling me," he says. He also knows of a few extra bits of construction he can fit in with the installation of the sauna. He has contractors that he trusts for their discretion. Overpaying certainly has its privileges," he says.

He sees the emotion and manages a smile for her, "We'll get through this thing, Pepper. Once we get the corruption taken care of, things will hopefully get more straightforward."

*

The last thing she wanted was for him to catch her feeling these things, but it seems he can be somewhat perceptive for all of his social awkwardness. Pepper shakes her head, waving it off with a too casual motion, "Oh, I'm not worried. I know. Truly, I do know, Bruce. We both knew it'd be somewhat rough the first few months. That won't last. And I doubt anyone else will be nearly so… violent as Mr. Whitestone decided to be. Most people are good people. I'll be fine." Pepper reassures him firmly, giving him her most game, reassuring smile. She's a decent actress when she wants to be.

"But, you probably have some work to do, and I know I have plenty. I'll arrange that interview with Carlisle as soon as I can and get you the list of offices I need access to before the end of the day. Is that acceptable?" Still the slight tone of a secretary, but she's willing to take command, "OH!… Oh. God. I almost forgot. I had lunch with Alexandra Luthor and Warren Worthington yesterday, at the Carnegie Club. There's a government avation project that we may all work on together. I'l waiting for particulars, but I think it would be good for us, if you are amenable."

*

Bruce had been about to rise from his chair and leave her to her work before the last bit. That really did take him off guard, something he isn't accustomed to and there's a flash in his eyes of it, that steel that he keeps carefully guarded. He doesn't like being surprised.

Still, he gets the reins on himself fairly quickly, "That's definitely an intriguing possibility. When it gets to the stage of paperwork and blueprints, send them my way? I've always had kind of a hobbyist's interest in flying, although I never seem to put in the time at the airfield to get my license," he says. "Is this a military project?"

*

"I don't believe so, though, with the government, any project can end up with the military, you know that. Right now it's research. Worthington Industries will be sending over the details some time this week." Pepper didn't entirely miss that flash of something behind his eyes, but it's so fast she's simply not certain exactly WHAT she saw. She tilts her head, studying his handsome features just a hint closer for a heartbeat or two. "I mean.. we could stay independent, but I figured it was a good way to get a sense of what both the other companies are up to doing. I think offering security for the venture, if nothing else, will be useful to *all* of us."

*

Bruce shakes his head, "No, no, if you see value in it, I see no reason not to go forward," he says. Business ties to Worthington and Luthor could be the first ins to get inside their corporate structure, after all. If there was corruption there - or ties to something even darker - then it would be all the easier to find. All connections are resources. Every source of information is useful.

"How did you find them? I admit, while I do my share of socializing, I haven't much crossed paths with them, beyond a polite nod at the occasional charity function."

*

A slight shrug crosses her shoulders, as if it were the most casual thing ever, "Networking. The moment you made the official announcement, I bought a membership in the Carnegie Club. It's the executives-only club down on Exchange Place. Alexandra Luthor was their first female member ever. I'll be the second. CEOs and CFOs spend most business lunches there on both the week days and weekends. I knew it'd be a valuable place to be so… I made myself present." Pepper states with a slightly more proud smile, content that she knows her job not just in numbers, but in the style and culture someone needs to make it far in the corporate game. SHe really is far more than just a pretty face who is good with math.

*

Bruce cocks his head, "Miss Luthor has a ruthless reputation. I wonder if she sees you as a colleague or a rival? AFter all, there was no question about who the top woman in corporate America was…until you came along," he says. "Lexcorp's probably a bit bigger than us, but the difference is mostly a matter of percentages," he says. And a willingness to make deals that Wayne isn't, perhaps.

*

"She said I could call her any time I needed help. She told me to call her Lex. It… made a few of the boys around less than happy. Now, whether she's doing that to try and get her fingers into me and puppet Wayne's CFO from behind the scenes, or because she genuinely cares to see another woman in business thrive? I don't know. But I'll keep eyes open for it, and I think it's worth pursuing for now." And Pepper is more aware than her pretty face might let on as well. Not as easily manipulated as she might seem in her youth or current situation. There are the eyes of a woman who could be a corporate shark, just simply isn't that cold.

*

Bruce chuckles, "See, all of that corporate shark, doublespeak, mental chess stuff? That's the reason why I was never very effective at the boardroom stuff. I'm not the total airhead that a lot of the board think I am, but I'm also not suited to playing mindgames," he says, totally playing a mindgame with the suggestion of his own incompetence.

"Better you than me. Just keep your head above water and let me know if you need any additional flotation devices. Although you seem pretty well equipped," he says before sipping his coffee.

*

Of course, it's the men in her life, the ones she cares for, who can actually manipulate her better than anyone. While she's caught a few things off about Bruce, she falls hook, line and sinker for him not being a corporate shark at all. "Well, I'm here now. You'll be able to relax soon." Pepper is just settling back in her chair, scooping up her coffee once more when he makes that flotation device comment. Pepper half chokes on her coffee, blushing up to her ears. "…I… I'm… glad you noticed… Mr. Wayne. But… we… we should really…be getting back to work." Normally she was so good at flirting! She simply didn't expect that one.

*

Bruce throws in a wink, "Another reason I'm glad not to be a shark - they have terrible eyesight. I like to enjoy the view," he says, taking another sip of his coffee.

"Well, since you seem to be woefully competent and in no need of a billionaire playboy to hold your hand while you work, I'll leave you to it. Maybe I'll stop by the club myself, I'm overdo for a few laps around the pool. The last thing I need is to start to get love handles and have it pointed out in the gossip columns. Why do they make those pictures so damn big?" he says, grinning as he goes to rise.

*

The woman is still blushing, hard, but she gives him one last smile, "I…I'm glad you enjoy. I'd ask you out to dinner and offer you more of a show, but there's no reason for us to prove rumors right. So… yes. You to swimming. I to work. Be well, Bruce." Pepper's smile does have just the edge of flirtation to it. A girl could dream, and he was handsome. But it's nothing but innocent teasing for, a moment later, she's looking back down at the ledger in front of her and preparing to fall back into a long day of distracting work.

*

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