1964-05-14 - What's in a name?
Summary: Tony 'comes across' Pepper in a watering hole for those that swim in the rarified ponds that is Big Business, The Carnegie.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
tony pepper 

It's a bit early for proper executives to have brunch on a Sunday. Not yet noon, most of them are either sleeping off the drinking from last night, or at church with their families. Pepper has no family, nor much of a drinking habit, so she's come out to actually have a quiet brunch in the private abode of the Carnegie Club. There is still a little unhappiness over the fact that they let WOMEN in here — executives or not — but Miss Lex Luthor has firmly stopped them from doing anything about it. Still, she hasn't exactly made friends here either.

She's sitting alone at one of the little side snugs, a plate of airy, light egg whites at her side and some fresh biscuits with jam. The coffee has long ago gone cold, but she doesn't seem to be paying much attention to the food. The Wall Street Journal is open in front of her, her daily study material since becoming CFO of Wayne Enterprises. She needs to keep up. She's in a bespoke suit, the fine lines fitting her hourglass frame entirely perfectly, especially in the deep forest green that compliments her red hair well. She looks distantly lovely. Untouchable. Some sort of queen in a business tower.


It's true, there were a lot of grumblings about ladies entering what had been exclusively a Gentleman's club. While it didn't have a charter stating that the fairer sex was to be discouraged, there was that unwritten, unspoken understanding that this was an island, a haven for male CEOs to simply find some relaxation, far and away from the prying eyes of press and over-exhuberant secretaries. What is probably not widely known is that Tony, too, had a hand in Pepper's 'admittance' to the club, and not only Miss Luthor. While the lady exec might have actively pulled strings, Tony was in the background. He, too, has a great deal of clout here.

It's why they stock 'his' brand of scotch.

On this fine Sunday, spring in the air and whatnot, the CEO of Stark Industries enters the establishment, sunglasses on. It's several steps into the room itself before he deigns to actually take them off in the slightly dimmed room. The first destination is to the bar where he doesn't even have to ask for 'his' drink. It's poured, neat, three fingers, and set atop. He does receive a greeting, however, from the bartender.

"Morning, Mr. Stark."

"Morning, David.. pretty small crowd today. Everyone out doing their thing for mothers, I guess."

"Yes sir, probably."

It's not more than a minute or two before Tony takes the first swallow of his drink, smiles tightly at the bartender, and begins to make his way around tables.

He sees her.. yes, absolutely he does.


It's hard NOT to notice Tony Stark. Even back to drinking (or possibly *because he's back to drinking) the CEO is a little larger and a little louder than life. Pepper's pale eyes flicker up from the paper in her hands, studying him as he comes across the room, she fairly certain she remains unnoticed in her little alcove. Better that way. They hadn't really spoken in months. Still, she watches him, a touch of strain and worry crossing her gaze as she sees the bartender pour a drink and hand it to Tony. Well, that answers *that* question. It's not her business.

She takes a breath and sinks just a bit deeper in her seat, conspicuously dipping below the edge of her paper and perhaps totally hiding behind it. She's small enough. Of course, the stacked beehive that her perfect hair has been sculpted into isn't all that easily hidden, but she's trying. Besides, she's not actually doing anything to draw attention. There is no reason Tony would look in this direction. Once her paper is adjusted, she finally remembers her cold coffee and reaches out to take a good gulp of it before elegantly setting it aside again. Nothing to see here.


Tony avoids going to the cemetery to visit his mother's graveside; too much opportunity for paparazzi to catch what really should be kept private. But, he's lost that right to privacy, hasn't he? When he was born, really. Since then….

He's taking his time, and as the Journal is set as that barrier, it does afford him the opportunity to pull up a chair, perhaps unseen but certainly not unsensed, right? Tony sets the glass down, now more than half gone, as he settles in across the way from her. "Dow is going to finish strong." It's not insider information, right? "Tomorrow. Don't worry if you see a few fluctuations. It'll all come out right."


No, it's impossible to miss him as he comes over and dares pull up a chair across from her. Pepper isn't one to pretend things that are right in front of her face aren't there. It was easy when he was across the room. Now… The red head sighs, lowering the paper and looking at him across the table. "Of course it will. Unless the President says or does something idiotic, we're coming off a holiday weekend, everyone is in a good mood, summer's on the way and people are getting out more. They're spending more. 'tis the season. I think I'm rather more aware of this than even you right now, Tony." She's a CFO. She's an intelligent woman. Market trends and insider information is the name of her game these days, really.

"…Now, can I help you? Or did you just come over here to talk down to me like everyone else in this club?" She gives him a polite, forced sort of smile that is made for business board rooms and political negotiations. It doesn't reach her eyes. But, her eyes are exhausted enough that they don't really look like eyes which have smiled for a long while.


"This holiday only does a little bump and you know it. I'm talking a straight, consistent rise."

Tony falls quiet for a few beats before he shifts in his seat, and his tones take a theatrically cavalier sound as he starts again, "So, when are you coming back to work? I mean, playing in the minor leagues is fine for a laugh, but really, where's the challenge?" He's not far from his glass, and he lifts it to finish what's left in the glass, and when it's gone, the glass is back to the table with a *thunk*. "Gotta say, though, reading the papers is at least curing my insomnia. Puts me right out. Should have tried it sooner."


"You've been talking to Bartaletta. He runs his mouth too much and the consistent rise might come from the seasonal flunctuation, but wait and see what JP Morgan does late in the week. If they schedule a press conference, then buy before that happens. If you're looking for tips." Pepper states with a quiet, insider sort of smile. Women can get information too, in their own unique ways. Especially women as beautiful as her.

Then he asks about work and she just blinks. She cannot stop a small laugh from escaping her lips. Not totally amused, more shocked, but she folds her paper shut and sets it aside, leaning forward on the table. Her fingertips fold around the mug of coffee in front of her, but she's not actually drinking again. "Tony. I'm a CFO. Have you actually been paying attention? You think I'm going to leave being a *CFO* to go back to being a secretary? Hell, making me leave might have been the best thing in the world for me, honestly. I should thank you for that. It showed me I could be so, so much more."


"No, I'm talking about Stark Industries going in a different direction." Tony sounds the words in a soft huff as if he simply couldn't make himself understood in any other way. "At least funding, anyway." Of course he's keeping his voice down, leaning forward, his hand flat on the table. "Jeez.. work with me here. Bartaletta is an ass who thinks the future is in the yen. Seriously." Tony scrunches his face briefly, just to underscore the scorn just heaped upon their erstwhile 'colleague'.

"Now.. I know.. titles are a thing. But honestly, the responsibility of a CFO at somewhere like.. where you're at is nowhere near what you do… would be doing if you came back to work."


"I'm working! Tony, god… I have work. I'm at work. I'm valued there. Bruce respects me, lets me take the company in directions I want and as I see fit. I'm treated like an equal, not a secretary. Yes, it's a fight. People still roll their eyes at a female CFO. But it's a fight I'm WINNING. Not just for myself, but any other woman who ever has dreams of setting foot in a club like this. It's not about a title, but titles sure as hell help. It's about a career and the fact I'm actually damn good at what I do and I'm way better than being a secretary. I'm…glad I finally got to see that."

There is passion in her face, as she gives her little speech. Pepper means it. While she might look exhausted, lonely, somehow distant for it all, she clearly believes in what she is doing. She always was an incredibly sharp business woman, and no one can deny the fact that Wayne Enterprises stock has gone up 20 points (well, 30, including the recovery from the initial dip that happened when a female CEO was announced) under her care. Her pale eyes challenge him to tell her otherwise, to say she's not worth what she's doing. She sets her jaw in that most redhead, stubborn way possible.


Tony listens, which is probably not 'usual' for him, and his expression doesn't change in the face of the challenge. If anything, there's a ghost of a smile and he lifts a single shoulder. "At the end of the day, it's still Bruce's company. You're making him money." Of course, the same could be said for him, but in his mind? Of course it's different!

"It'll never be anything more than a diversion. I mean, really." Speaking of diversions, Tony takes hold of the empty glass and raises it in the air, leaning backwards, "One more, please," before he's setting his attention back to his former secretary. "He's giving you that freedom because he knows you're better than that. It's a move of desperation on his part."


The woman listens to him in turn, but then she's always listened to him. Of course, that doesn't make the things he's saying make any more sense. She cannot hide the growing look of complete incredulity across her pale, pretty features as he goes on about making Bruce money and diversions. Red lips part, hovering on some uncertain words, trying to figure out just how to respond to that stupidity but it's really hard because (from the look in blue eyes) HE'S BEING REALLY STUPID. "…How drunk ARE YOU, Tony?!" Pepper finally huffs out, half worried but mostly exasperated.

"Are you even LISTENING to yourself? You are barely making sense. Yes, I'm making him money. Just like when I worked with you, I made YOU money. That's the JOB. Especially of a CFO. I'm still the highest paid woman in the world right now. Did you know that? Did you bother to read. The highest paid woman In. The. World. I'm sure as hell making myself a lot of money too." And she has absolutely no clue what to do with it other than live alone and drive a nice car. "I have no clue what you mean by diversion, but if it is one? It works. A million dollar diversion that challenges me every day, puts my name in papers across the whole world, and shatters a glass ceiling for a lot of other women. Diversion succeeded. I'm happy here. And there sure as hell isn't much better than CFO, so I think I'll stay."


"You were the highest paid woman in the world before, too." Of that Tony's sure. Well, pretty sure. Mostly sure, what with packages and benefits… company cars. "And right now, I haven't found anyone that's remotely capable of …" Okay, he's going to try that one again. "The right candidate for your job hasn't been located yet. HR has been working overtime."

He doesn't bother answering the question whether or not he's drunk, particularly when David brings over the glass of scotch and takes his empty away. Tony lifts it, perhaps with a little more point than before, and swallows half in the first go. "There's a lot better than a CFO for a little company. You're just not seeing it."


As he swallows half on the first go, Pepper just stares at him, a bit harder than before even. Not exactly approving, but she doesn't lecture. Her eyes do the job. Pepper then sighs and sinks back a bit deeper in the high backed leather chair she's chosen, letting her shoulders rest on the expensive cushioning behind her. She pulls her coffee into her lap, but still really hasn't taken a sip since he sat down. "Wayne Enterprises isn't a 'little company'. It's Fortune 500. No, it's not as large as SI, but it's damn close." There is no shame or hesitation in those words. She absolutely believes every one she speaks.

"Tony, you're impossible to work for and you still work in the old system. Women are secretaries and decoration, even when we half run your business. At least Bruce gives me the title. He gives me the respect for the work I do. Short of offering me CFO and more money? I'm not leaving. This conversation is over. Especially until you're sober again. I got off the Vigor. Are you ever going to be able to get off the booze?" Her time as an executive has made her sharper, perhaps a bit more cold. Confidence is a sword which cuts both ways.


"Nowhere near close." Tony takes the glass, his action deliberate once again, and he finishes it before he moves to stand up. "You don't get it."

Once he's on his feet, Tony leans against the table. "If I ask you who the most powerful man in the country is, who would you say? President? Most would. It's a great title and all.. but that's all it is. It's a face. A figurehead. Most important people are his advisors who see a hundred things and pare it down to three. Four. Titles are great, but in the end? They mean nothing."

Once the glass is finished, emptied, he leaves it on the table, and looks at her for a long moment before something flickers behind those eyes. "I glad you got off. I am." And, while it's probably not the only genuine thing he's said, at least he sounds it before he's back to 'himself'. "If I think I've got a problem, sure. Could quit tomorrow, but there's no need to. I've got it all under control." There's a pause before, "Take care, Pep. Really."

He turns now, and begins to make his way from the club, even managing to look 'not drunk' in the process. Time to go home…


Quiet blue eyes level in his direction as he comments about the President. "…Yes. That might be true. But you know what a hundred thousand girls see when they look at the news? The fact that they will never get to be President. That it's *always* a man. Or CEO, or ever get to change the world. And when I became CFO… they got to see it was possible, Tony. This isn't about power in any way, really. Or money. It's about doing what I'm *good* at doing and letting every other little girl in the world like me see it *is possible*. I won't go back in your closet, in your shadows, pretending I'm nothing but a pretty face." Pepper states simply, a bittersweet smile crossing her red mouth.

"…Please… don't drive, Tony. Just… be safe." That's the last thing Pepper calls after him, really hoping that Happy or someone else drove him over here. That's the most sad she's actually sounded this conversation, watching him go and try to walk straight to the door. Her head just shakes slowly, but she doesn't chase after him.


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