Fear the Calmest Person in the Room

July 18, 2014:

Jericho, Pepper and Illyana all meet in a Starbucks.

Starbucks

Typical coffee house decor, complete with hipster music.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The freezer is stocked with ice cream, the 'fridge with food and Jericho has decided it's time to be out. He cannot be cooped up even in the relative comfort of his new favorite safe house any longer and he doesn't for once, actually have any work to do. So it is that he ends up just talking a walk and ending up in the general vicinity of Stark Tower. At the moment he's actually standing near an intersection, long sleeved tee and jeans perhaps standing out a bit among the business suited pedestrians that frequent the area. Jericho's never been a huge fan of the shirt and tie and only wears it when he must blend. Hrm. There's a pizza place on the left and a deli on the right. Hrmmmmmmmmmmm….

*

Amongst the pedestrian traffic is one Pepper Potts. She walks briskly with her phone to one ear — just like the vast majority of the other work-attired people — and is headed for Stark Tower. No real surprise there. What might be a surprise is that despite her usual ability to somewhat deftly make her way through and along with the rest of the throngs of humanity out and about, this time someone manages to shoulder-check her as she's passing by a particular casually dressed man and she yelps in surprise, her phone flying out of her hand and her shoulder bag hitting the sidewalk and scattering its contents. And she apparently carried a LOT of stuff.

*

You know what you can count on at just about every corner in any downtown? A Starbucks. Today, Illyana's trying to keep herself busy with her usual standby hobby. People watching. She's sitting at one of the outdoor tables in her usual boots along with jeans and a black T-shirt. There's a cup of coffee on the table in front of her and a half-eaten scone. It's the sudden explosion of activity that draws Illyana's attention over towards Stark Tower. And a very familiar profile.

*

Jericho turns at the… rather oddly familiar yelp. "Pepper?"

That's a Pepper alright. What on earth? You know, walk to the deli aside - oh yes, that's the one they had lunch at that one day - Jericho had never considered that Pepper would walk anywhere. She's Tony freakin' Stark's assistant. She certainly doesn't have to walk. But here she is at any rate. He kneels down, glaring at the back of the man who hit her. Rude. Then again, typical New York.

"Here, let me help." He picks up Pepper's phone and starts gathering some of the many, many things that have spilled out of her bag. What does she even need all these things for?

*

Pepper Potts starts trying to collect her bag's spilled contents as well when she registers Jericho there and helping. "Oh, hi. Thank you so much." She doesn't toss a glare after the rude man, mostly because she's more concerned with getting all of her random stuff — especially the important looking things like her wallet — picked up and stowed back in her bag.

"How have you been, Jericho? Out here rescuing inobservant damsels in mundane distress?"

*

Illyana picks up her cup, sipping at it lightly as she watches Jericho help Pepper with her Massive Amount of Schtuff. She doesn't get up herself however, inwardly chiding herself. She told herself she was going to stay away from Jericho. At least for a while. And yet here he is! She doesn't just teleport out, however. She sits there. And watches the pair through the stream of people that move like sideways rain. Of little consequence or importance to her.

*

"I've been well enough." Jeri nods as he returns a really fairly significant amount of small items to Pepper, along with her phone. His definition of 'well enough' is… probably a bit different from most folks. "And no, actually I was trying to decide on something to eat and/or drink."

Once everything is gathered Jeri rises and scans about. "Still working on that part actually. Maybe I just need a coffee or something. What are you doing out here, if I may ask?"

*

Pepper Potts accepts all of her schtuff back, dropping it all into her bag to resort and put away properly later. She straightens up as well, and offers the younger man a smile. "Well, I was on my way back, but I haven't had lunch yet. Maybe it's best if I don't skip a meal. The coffee shop over actually makes decent sandwiches." She, of course, gestures toward where Illyana and her coffee and scone await.

*

Of course given that Illyana is watching the pair of them, she can easily see Pepper's gesture in her direction and siiiighs. Of course they're coming this way. It's just her luck. Of course, she still doesn't *leave*. Instead she puts her cup down so she can pull another piece of her scone off. Given how paranoid that Jericho is, she's started her mental stopwatch to see when he notices her.

*

"Mmmm. Iced coffee or tea or something and a sandwich sounds good. Wonder if they have pannini's…" Just because Jericho laundered enough money from dead hitmen to set up some safe houses doesn't mean he can be a profligate spender. So coffee house sandwiches may well be the order of the day. He gestures to Pepper in a 'shall we' kind of motion and begins to cross the street when the light turns. He's about half way across when he sees a very familiar looking long bob in blonde…

"Can't be…" He murmurs very quietly, though not so quietly that he can't be heard.

*

Pepper Potts nods and copies the 'shall we' gesture then walks alongside Jericho as the start across the street. She hears the man's reaction to something and looks at him questioningly, but is polite enough to not actually outright ask him if everything's okay. He probably thinks he said that quietly enough to not be heard over the general street noises.

*

Illyana's lips curve upwards in a slow smirk as Jericho spots her, and she gives a shrug with her arms coming up to the side and palms turned upwards in a helpless gesture. One heavy boot kicks out one of the chairs at her table even though he's a fair distance away in mute invitation.

*

Jericho nods and his lips quirk up in the same kind of helpless half smile. Coincidence? What'cha gonna do?

"Care to meet a good friend of mine, Pepper?" Jericho says as they make the corner and he adjusts course to cross the stream of people going to and fro.

"Hey there Illyana." The hacker waves as he pushes open the door, pausing for Pepper and then moving for the counter to grab a sandwich and order. "Be right over."

*

Pepper Potts can't help but notice that exchange and chuckles softly. "Sure." Once they step into the establishment proper, she offers Illyana a sincere and friendly smile.

"Hello… Illyana, was it? I'm Pepper." She offers the blonde her hand as she introduces herself.

*

Illyana doesn't stand as Pepper comes over, though she does reach out to accept the offered hand, nodding that the redhead got her name correctly.

"Pepper? Oh, I am so sorry. School must have been hell." Illyana doesn't have any real discernable accent, very Generic United States, but her tone holds her amusement and maybe even the slight sense of mocking. Her eyes are an icy blue, cold with an emptiness in them that can make even strong men shudder. There should be something there. Warmth. Friendliness? There should be something more… human to find. Instead, it's a chill wasteland set in a pretty face.

*

Jericho comes over once his drink is ordered and sandwich is acquired and takes a seat at the table. He doesn't seem to be visibly bothered by the absence of human spark - for lack of a better word - in Illyana's eyes, but then Pepper's met one of his other friends and there's quite a lot that doesn't visibly bother Jericho.

"People watching?" He asks Illyana in a 'what are the odds?' kind of tone, watching the blonde and the redhead interact. He never honestly thought these two would ever get introduced but then… he never figured Pepper and Parti would either. Shows you how much he knows about fate's sense of humor.

*

Pepper Potts shakes Illyana's hand and her friendly expression does falter ever so briefly at the … something lacking from the younger-looking woman's eyes, but then Jericho's back and she takes the distraction for the unintentional rescue that it is.

"Oh, well, that's a nickname, long story. And less stodgy sounding than Virginia." She turns to glance toward the barista at the counter, and all it takes is a single nod to convey to the apron-clad employee that she'll have her 'usual'.

*

Illyana hitches a shoulder at Jericho. "I figured I'd try one of my other hobbies. Looks like I shouldn't have bothered." Her tone is dry, leaning back in her chair again as she crosses one leg over the other again. Looking back to Pepper she nods.

"OK, I can buy that. Though with Virginia you could always get Ginny. Virgi though? Eh. Not so hot."

*

Jericho snorts and shakes his head in mild, amused incredulity. "I was just out for a walk, getting something to eat." Speaking of, he unpacks his sandwich. Mmmmm. Turkey and swiss on rye. Nom. One big bite of it disappears and it's a moment before he can say anything politely again.

"Pepper though, does seem unusual." He comments, noting her look over to the barista. Why does he get the feeling she has a standing order at every eatery and coffee house for six blocks in any direction?

*

Pepper Potts claims another seat at the table, her bag resting in her lap. "Ginny? Maybe when I was eight. Not now, especially not after the Harry Potter books, and /really/ especially not when my hair is redder and my freckles are showing." She will never, ever, EVER be caught wearing Gryffindor colors, even if they are really close to Iron Man's red and gold.

She smiles at Jericho and pulls one of the few things that didn't tumble out of her bag a bit ago — a tablet computer. Tapping the screen awake, she reveals a picture of Peppermint Patty from Peanuts is the lock screen wallpaper.

"That is almost exactly what I looked like when I was thirteen. It took me five years to get over that nickname and haircut and get people to just call me Pepper."

*

Illyana leans forward, looking at the picture and then back at Pepper with brows raised. "You looked like a guy?" The blonde teases Pepper. "Well, glad to see you grew outta that."

She leans back again and tilts a head over at Jericho. "So how do you know our favorite reprobate?"

*

Apparently Jeri's in a playful mood. Maybe it's because he's been hanging around Illyana. Or maybe it's because he's not half naked in a spa with Partisan simultaneously teasing him and weirding him out by getting a manicure.

"Aaaaaaaand now all I can think of is you calling some guy 'Chuck'." When and if Jericho ever meets Pepper's boss, he might be in serious danger of being called Chuck with no warning and for no discernable reason. His drink is called out and he briefly leaves the table to go get it, returning to sip it and take another bite of his sandwich as he listens.

*

Pepper Potts turns to look at Illyana in mock-offense, then laughs at Jericho's comment about 'Chuck'. "I was very glad to grow out of that also. Oh, I met Jericho through a very … unusual friend of his. Likely a memver of the NRA, very unhealthy cigarette habit." She doesn't know that the Partisan no longer looks like a dark-haired young woman.

*

"With a foul mouth?" Illyana asks in that sarcastic manner, looking over at Jericho. "Yeah, I've met that one. It was not love at first sight." Illyana picks up her cup again, sipping at her coffee while she watches Jericho for his reaction. Of course, she waited until he was taking one of those big ol' bites.

*

The laugh catches him swallowing and causes Jericho to have a moment of rather spastic movement in his seat while he clears his airway again. "Heh. Yes, you could say that. I seem to recall spending a fair bit of time fixing up the place after that one. It's just as well neither of you two needed as much fixing up. Though Parti-Girl seems to just 'take out a new lease' whenever that kind of thing happens." Which it has, twice in the slightly under three months he's known her. He's got no idea if that's the usual pace or not, but getting used to a new Parti every few weeks is quite an adjustment.

"I'm pretty sure, Illyana, that I'm not Pepper's favorite reprobate though…" Yes, Jeri knows of Tony's reputation. You'd have to live under a rock to not know it. "Though I probably need a bit less looking after." The last bit is added with a grin and he eyes Illyana with mock severity for a long moment 'chastising' her for making him laugh whilst eating before tossing Pepper a 'this is normal' grin and taking another bite.

*

Pepper Potts nods to Illyana then smiles up at the barista who brings her a panini pretty much identical to Jericho's and an honest to god ceramic up with earl grey tea already steeping in the steaming hot water. His nearly choking on his food draws almost immediate concern, but he seems to be okay so she doesn't move to try and help him. It takes her a moment to get what he means by the 'favorite reprobate' comment and she narrows her eyes at him mock-angrily. "Hm. You do see a bit less prone to making poor life decisions." She leans back in her chair a bit, looking Jericho up and down as if trying to decide something.

"… nope. Sorry, not trading one reprobate for another."

*

"What, does that mean he's all mine?" Illyana asks in that dry manner that makes it seem like she's scoffing at everyone. Most people find it rather offputting. Of course, this has her smirking over at Jericho given their recent conversation. "What is today, anyway?" She asks, apropo of nothing.

"Lucky you." Jericho is not at all above giving it back to Illyana, as has been seen. "It's Friday, the Seventeeth."

*

Jericho doesn't bat an eye at the question… oddly. Pepper gets a grin. "Well… honestly you're probably better off with that one. I tend to come with a fair bit of 'people strongly disapprove of me.' To the point of shooting at me." He finishes off his sandwich before Illyana can use it to ambush him again.

"No idea why." He adds, mildly.

*

Pepper Potts gives Jericho a look like 'please'. "Somehow that doesn't sound all that unusual to me. At least it sounds like you don't have your own Board of Directors for me to have to deal with at the same time." She starts to eat her own sandwich, setting the paper filter from her tea aside. Go ahead, Illyana, /try/ to make her choke.

*

"Eh, he doesn't have to bring that to the party. I've got all the 'staff' I need to deal with." Illyana says dryly. "I'm going to make him deal with them sometime and take a day off." OK, so she's likely joking but the mental image of Jericho trying to herd the cats that are her demons *is* damned amusing.

*

"You do that. I'll redecorate your office." Jericho grins. "Something with rainbows and unicorns, I should think." Okay, Illyana doesn't have an office - she has a throne room - and the decor shifts to what she wants it to be, or expects it to be, but that image is equally amusing. The thing is, if Jericho could give her the day off without things going to hell in a hand basket (quite a trick when you're already there), he might offer.

"No, Pepper, I don't have a board. I have a Partisan. Wanna take bets on which is more of a handful?"

*

Pepper Potts actually smiles at Jericho. "Sure. How much do you want to bet?" She takes a sip of her tea, all but oozing smugness. She's already met Partisan once, and she suspects that one woman — no matter how weapon-happy she might be — is nothing compared to a whole gaggle of closed-minded old men and women who refuse to see any business dealings as more than dollar signs leaving and arriving. "I'll even play fair, nothing monetary."

*

Illyana's lips part, like she's about to say something. The smirk's already there. But then she seems to catch herself, teeth closing down on the tip of her tongue as she brings her coffee up to hold with both hands before her. Conveniently hiding the lower half of her face. Given they're engaged with each other, the almost-interruption should be easy to overlook.

*

As observant as he is, Jericho doesn't notice everything. Right away, anyway. "I'm not even sure what I'd bet, to be honest." He laughs. "You even have a better hacker than I. And more scruples than to be making regular use of his talents too. Honestly though, Parti-Girl's a pistol. I'm sorta surprised you two get along as well as you do. Helps, I think, that you're cut from the same cloth." A pause. "Well, the same general weave of linen, anyway."

Illyana's sudden silence registers with him. The woman can banter with anyone, even if it is almost all vaguely mocking. He doesn't say anything or try to call attention to it, but she does get a questioning, knit browed glance.

*

Pepper Potts totally misses that Illyana's abruptly hiding behind her coffee. "The same cut of linen? I'm not entirely sure about that, but…" She shrugs and dismisses that thought. "All right, then, let's make the bet about food. If you win, I cook one meal for you. If I win, you cook one meal for me. Sound fair?" She seems just a bit too confident about this whole thing.

*

"You might want to have him cook at your place." Illyana says, though the words come a bit slower. Like she's making sure to think about what she says first. Which she usually doesn't. "Last I saw, his kitchen was something of a mess." That, admittedly, would be because a demon tried *its* hand at cooking…

*

"Fair point." Jericho chuckles, nodding to Illyana and knowing exactly why she's saying that. Also, there's no reason to expose Pepper to danger by bringing her around any of his safe houses on the off chance they're being watched.

"Also your faith in my ability to cook is touching." He can, of course, but it's not gourmet. So long as it's not too fancy though, he can usually handle it just fine.

"Well alright, bargain struck, Pepper. How shall we resolve this?" He takes a sip of his iced chai tea as he waits for the response, eyes cutting over to Illyana briefly to make sure she's doing at least relatively okay.

*

Pepper Potts considers for a moment. "I'll spend a day helping Partisan with whatever it is you normally help her with for a day, and you will present a proposal to the board of directors for me. Now, we should each be there for the other's 'trial' just in case things go completely off the rails, but once each of us starts, the other cannot offer to help. Sound fair enough?"

*

"If Partisan likes her, I think you're in hot water, Jericho." Illyana comments. "She'll like, I dunno. Feed her to death or something. Unlike the sharks she's gonna feed you to." The blonde seems content to let them banter back and forth and just lob in comments here and there. Given that people *watching* and not people *interacting* is her hobby, that makes some sense.

*

Jericho taps his chin thoughtfully, flashing Illyana a grin as she points out that this may well go badly for him. "Alright. Fair enough, but I reserve the right to not let you blow yourself up if Partisan happens to insist on having you de-lint C-4." He shakes his head, knowing Illyana will get that one. "Don't ask. I think we may need a neutral party to judge this." Now a smirk forms on the hacker's face and he fixes his blonde friend with a look. "What do you say. Might be entertaining enough to be distracting, mmm?"

*

Pepper Potts nods. "And I reserve the right to stop the board meeting if they start eating you alive." She looks at Illyana again and this time studies her calculatingly. "I like the idea of a neutral party. Observing only, not so much as a twitch of assistance for either of us. What do you say?""
Illyana's brows go up as she links betwen the pair of them. "MMmmmhmmm. And what do I get out of this?" She asks, smirking back at them. Because yes, it will undoubtably be entertaining. But like they could stop her from watching if she felt like it. "Oh, let them try." She says of the board eating Jericho alive. "I'm told he's tough and stringy."

*

"And I don't brown well, and taste horrible with spices." Jericho grins to both women. "Alright Pepper, we'll get this set up. Much as I'd like to just spring you on Parti to see her reaction, it's probably not best to surprise her. Oh, or you. She's a redhead now. I'd say cute, but it's Partisan and applying such words to her violates one of the fundamental laws of her nature." Also she'd hurt him. That's important too.

"And Illyana… hrm, I mean you're welcome to drop in when you feel like it, as you always are. It occurs to me that I don't actually have a way to contact you that isn't a phone. And your reception gets spotty sometimes."

*

"As for what you get out of it… the entertainment of watching me squirm in front of people who are twice my age and several dozen times over my net worth? Who use words like 'synergising' in normal conversation?" That's gotta be worth something, he figures. As for Pepper, well Parti isn't likely to make her uncomfortable and he long ago learned to stop underestimating people.

*

"And, you're invited to join us for the cooked meal, regardless of who wins and who does the cooking." She looks at Jericho and adds, "We'll plan the days for both, because as much as it's bad to surprise Partisan, throwing you into the boardroom unannounced would be even worse. I'll have to draft up internship documents and everything, most likely."

*

Illyana shakes her head at the pair of them. "You two put waaaay to much thought into these things." Illyana says with a chuckle. Things like Pepper having a real life. Who has that?? "Fine, fine. As to getting ahold of me? Huh." Illyana says, looking thoughtful. "I mean, I could probably coach you through it but it'd be messy…" Getting a message through to her while she's in Limbo? Yeah, not so easy.

*

Jericho considers it for a bit and then shrugs. "Well, we'll figure something out Illyana." The way they seem to run into one another it doesn't seem like it'd be a problem. Pity he's clean forgotten about a now constantly open video feed to someone's cell.

"I'll talk it over with Parti-Girl. I'm quite sure if nothing else she'll jump at the chance to see you again." He'll have to make sure he has some appropriate clothing too. Boardrooms are places he's gone before, but usually as someone unimportant. Unimportant people are more easily ignored. Trying to get and hold attention takes a bit more thought.

The notion that Pepper might have a real life is sort of a… distant intellectual one, primarily because what he calls a 'real life' mostly consists of sneaking, fighting and a great deal of trying to not get dead. So much so that it's a bit hard to imagine not doing any of that. One of these days… maybe.

*

Cue Pepper's cluelessness. "Email should work if the phone is patchy… shouldn't it?" Because in her world, anyway, there isn't anywhere a person can go that JARVIS can't find them. "If either of you want help picking out appropriate attire, I'm always happy to help with that." Just ask Dana Hunt. Shopping is a completely different experience when Pepper's around.

*

Illyana smirks over at Pepper. "Technology doesn't like me." Kind of literally. Sometimes it gets infected by Limbo and takes on an actual life of its own. And it invariably is rabid and requires squishing. She goes through more phones that way… The offer of help for clothing gets a wrinkled nose. "Oh spit and hades, you're going to make *me* dress up? Can't I like, watch from another room or something?"

*

The idea of Illyana shopping for clothing draws a teasing grin from Jericho. He considers for a moment trying imply that maybe Illyana should go on a shopping trip the irrepressibly, generous, unflappable redhead but that might actually be a bit cruel, especially considering how rattled she's seemed lately. There's very brief moment when he sighs inwardly wishing he knew why.

"I'm sure you can get appropriate attire the usual way Illyana, if it really comes down to it. I might have to ask your advice though, Pepper. My eye for clothing tends more toward the blending in than the standing out." Mostly because doing so is capital B Bad for him in most cases.

*

Pepper Potts ahs and nods to Illyana. "I know a few people who are the same way." No, Pepper, you don't. But keep thinking that. "Well, I suppose you could, but it would be easier to get intern documents for you both than for just one of you and have the other in the building unattended." To Jericho she nods. "I had already factored that in. Presentable, but not overdone. It'll be a delicate balance." In other words, she can't take Jericho to Tony's usual tailor, that would be obvious.

*

Illyana gives a small wave of her hand. "Fine, fine." She gives a huff of amusement then. "Hell, I'm curious to see if I can make it through a full day of pseudo-work. The Dark Lords know I wouldn't make it through a real one." She comments dryly.

*

"If it were the right work, I bet'cha could. I still think you'd be really good at wrangling skips and ne'er-do-wells.." By this, of course, Jericho means bounty hunting. "Can't be worse than the folks you usually wrangle." Though on the other hand maybe the dregs of humanity isn't what she needs to see. He's quite bad enough on that front in some respects.

*

"Well then, I expect I can contact you or your, uh, tech guy, Pepper?" He doesn't want to volunteer what precisely JARVIS is, since it is apparently a matter of some delicacy. Sane people would wonder why all their friends have secrets. Jericho doesn't even think about it. "I probably shouldn't keep either of you much longer."

*

Pepper Potts smiles at Illyana and nods to Jericho, then his comment about keeping them prompts her to look at her wristwatch. "Oh, holy cow. Yeah, I really need to get back." She moves to stand, pulling a single bill from her wallet to give to the barista who has returned to take the dishes from their table, not something that is usually done. "Thank you both for a very entertaining lunch. I look forward to talking with you again soon. Jericho, you know how to reach me if anything."

*

"Nice meeting you, Pepper." Illyana says, even that friendly parting sounding slightly mocking. It would be easy to say there wasn't any evil intent in Illyana's cold blue eyes but there's always an edge to them that sane people shy away from. "Let the games begin."

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