Lunch Interrupted

June 26, 2014:

Pepper Potts and Dana Hunt are having lunch when Jericho interrupts with some awkward news.

Mama Rosita's

More authentic than being in country, and the food's absolutely delicious too.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

It's the weekend, so Pepper isn't dressed in her usual business shark attire. Instead, her casualish jeans and button-up blouse paired with flats and her ubiquitous shoulder bag (currently hooked over the back of the chair she's in) make her seem far more approachable. She's seated and having a cheerful lunch with a younger-looking woman, both of them actually a bit out of place in the VERY authentically Mexican restaurant. The entirety of the restaurant's interior is painted a rich kelly green, with bunting made from pieces of thin, brightly-colored paper cut into fanciful lacelike designs strung across every spare bit of wall. The tables are all rustic-seeming wooden affairs with elaborately carved and painted images on their surfaces and clear plexiglass to make using them actually feasible, the chair equal juxtapositions of rustic and ornate. The music, though, that's the icing on the cake. Known by most as Norteno, the polka-like melodies and almost catcall like 'gritos' are quite … distinctive.

*

Jericho Trent has spent the past several hours trying to figure out where exactly the hell Pepper Potts would be on her day off. Tracking her without hacking Stark systems - which is a no no for a variety of reasons - has proven rather difficult. Frustrating, in fact. So it was really rather understandable that he felt silly when it occurred to him that maybe all he needed to do was ask Jarvis where she'd gone. The… entity had seemed rather omnipresent in past dealings with her.

Now some fifteen minutes after having done that he's strolling up toward Mama Rosita's in what passes for casual himself, which is to say a long sleeved tee, jeans and well broken in tan army boots, topped off with a faded brown baseball cap. He's dark enough that if one doesn't notice the middle eastern cast to his features he may just be a regular or local… and at the moment he's doing his 'uninteresting' trick, emoting like part of the scenery.

*

Dana laughs lightly at Pepper's story. "In my experience, the people you least want to see always turn up in the place you least expect to see them." At least, Pepper doesn't have to deal with Dana's relatives in that regard. Usually.

She reaches for her drink and accidentally knocks it over as a «shadow» goes rushing through the table, causing her to snatch back her hand in honest reaction. "Aw, c'mon!" she complains, shoving her chair back out of the way of the liquid even as she reaches for a napkin to mop it up. She glances to Pepper, a grimace on her face. "Sorry," she says, trying to stem the flow. "Sorry…"

*

Pepper Potts doesn't notice Aspect approaching as she also reaches with a few napkins to help stem the spilled drink. "No, totally okay, Dana. No need to apologize."

She leans a little to look at the cheerful woman at the counter, and gets a nod in response and a quick rescue with more napkins and a fresh beverage. Once things were settled back down, she resumes her story.

"But, yeah. And then, to make things even more amusing, the young man I'd asked JARVIS to locate for me? He was there too, in the next steam room over. It was honestly kind of silly."

*

This place is… really authentic. And the food smells good too. It's all he can do not to see if he can snag a table and order some flautas. Mmmm, he loves flautas. And flan. Flan too. However he's here on business so he sticks to the program. Now where is… There's a clink in the room as a glass spills that draws his eye. Ah! There she is. With a… friend. Well that may be a bit awkward. Maybe he can get a private word in. Weaving his way over he approaches as unobtrusively as possible until he's within discreet earshot.

"Ahem. Miss Potts?"

*

Dana blinks as Pepper continues the story. And she laughs. It's the image in her head of Pepper, hair plastered to her, in a Dolce suit with Jimmy Chus on her feet, stumbling from steamroom to steamroom… It's just so… classy. So, incongruous.

She's about to respond further, when they're interrupted by fellow in the long t-shirt and the worn boots. Beside her, invisible though it is, a shaggy white dog only she can see raises its head and stares at the man. Dana turns and cants her own head lightly to regard him. Automatically, her eyes flit around the outside of his form, rather than to his face directly, as she can't help but take in her aura. It's strong, certainly. And layered. But if it, and Rex's reaction, gives her pause, she'll still concede she's seen far worse than what he offers. So, she merely grows serious and faintly curious at the intrusion.

*

Pepper Potts blinks and looks up and seems surprised, though pleasantly so, at the young man's approach.

"Speak of the devil. Jericho, hello. Please join us. Dana, this is Jericho, the young man from the story I was just relating. Jericho, this is Dana, a friend of mine." She intentionally doesn't share the anyone's last names, figuring they'll do so if they deem it okay.

"I was just telling her about our chance meeting in the Maida Vale Spa a few days ago."

*

Ehehehehe… ah yes. Partisan's spa day. "Hello Dana." He says with a slight bow. "Pleased to meet you. And are you sure you don't mind, Miss Potts?"

He sits down anyway, deliberately not too near anyone. Not trying to offend or get touchy feely here after all.

"That was… quite a coincidence, I have to admit. Though maybe it's just that your tech support has a sense of humor. Anyway I'm glad I found you here."

*

Dana gives Jericho a light nod and a smile of greeting. "Jericho," she says by way of greeting. "Nice to meet you, too."

She says little more, however, leaning back, instead, and reaching for her replaced drink. Apparently he has business to conduct with Pepper. Even on the weekend, the woman doesn't catch a break. Nevertheless, Dana's gaze is brought back to the young man, studying the strangeness in his aura. It's a faint echo of something she's seen in another's aura, which she finds curious.

*

Pepper Potts can't see auras, but she can tell that Jericho is here with a purpose. "Oh, true. I can very much see JARVIS pulling that kind of stunt, though I'm not sure if he would actually be amused by it. I get the feeling he would be." He's Tony's creation, after all.

"So, would you like something to eat while we're here? Their flautas are amazing." If a bit too spicy for Pepper's taste.

*

"Actually…" He was about to say no but… "I do happen to love flautas. Don't get much of a chance to stop and sniff the authentic Mexican food anymore. If it's not an imposition."

His gaze shifts over a moment to Dana’s. "Um… something in my teeth?"

He seems a bit on edge though he was when he walked up so it's probably not either Pepper or Dana doing it.

*

"No," Dana says smoothly. She's been caught staring so often she no longer even has the wherewithal to look properly abashed. Instead, she gives an easy smile and says, "You just have very interesting features."

For all that she likely couldn't accurately describe his face if she tried. It's not like that's what she was looking at, anyway.

*

Awkward levels, increasing to twenty percent. Pepper glances from Rune to Jericho, possibly figuring out a few things here. Either way, she aims to distract.

"So, I was just telling Dana about your friend insisting I buy that property from her… say, do you know how many acres it covers? I kind of forgot to ask."

*

Jericho chuckles. "I'll take that as a compliment. It's better than bland, which is usually what I get called."

Which is, granted, usually because he's making an effort to be bland. He's not now though, not anymore.

"Um, Miss Potts I need to tell you something related to our mutual friend. Would you prefer to do that in private or…?"

He leaves it hanging. Dana seems nice enough but he doesn't know her… and can't read her aura. He blinks at Pepper's question. He actually doesn't know. Yet. And a few moments later he does. Experimental cyberware is fun sometimes.

"Just shy of a thousand acres above ground with underground galleries and so on. Deepest shaft is… one and a half miles deep."

*

Dana looks swiftly between the two. Beside her, Rex shifts restlessly, for all that he's still unseen. "I can step away, if you need," she offers. "I don't want to intrude."

*

Pepper Potts looks at Jericho for a considering moment, though more to try and gauge whether or not Dana deserves to get dragged into the whole mess on that side of the fence when she's already got enough of her own mess to deal with.

"Is it something good or something bad?" And of course, that's when their food arrives. She takes advantage of the interruption though to pull her phone from her bag to set on the table. JARVIS might want to hear this, after all.

*

"Well bad… though more for me than you. Just something you might want to be aware of. I don't mind saying it in front of Miss Dana here if you don't though. I just didn't know private you like to keep things. Believe it or not, you're easier to look up for your business acumen than anything else." He digs into a Flauta with a fork and offers Dana an apologetic smile. "Sorry to crash your lunch date, Miss."

*

Dana shakes her head lightly. "Nothing to apologize for," she says, looking at the man's face properly now. "I've had far worse interruptions." Nevertheless, her head cants and she glances to Pepper.
*

Pepper Potts nods to Jericho, then. "What's going on with your friend?"

Again, she hesitates to say Partisan's name in Dana's presence, for fear of dragging her over that 'fence'. She smiles to the photographer in gratitude, and makes a mental note to stop by a butcher's and get a good tenderloin for Thorn… um, Dana's dog. She can't remember his name because of that stupid Lost Boys movie.

*

"Well some people came in town who are mmmmm, upset with her. And they decided to make that known by taking up the issue with me."

They'd tried to kill him actually. Two men, and a pack of dogs. Good tactic. He got the slightest bit lucky though and they hadn't counted on some of his more unusual proclivities.

"So far as we can tell I'm her only associate that they know of, but I wanted to warn you so you could take precautions if you felt them necessary."

*

As Jericho speaks, Dana's gaze slowly shifts from him to Pepper. Finally, she arches her brow in subtle question to the other woman.

"Have you considered asking Mr. Stark for your own armor?" she asks softly, now.

*

Pepper Potts ohs softly to Jericho, clearly concerned by this. Dana's question, though genuinely sets her back in surprise. "What? Me? No, that's just… no. I couldn't fly the thing." Of course, knowing JARVIS (the traitor), he's probably sharing all of this with Tony in real time.

*

Jeri could certainly not be happy to know that. It means Stark is getting an introduction to the complicated life of a particular hacker who knows his go to girl. Iron Man visit to follow. Jeri could do without the Iron Man visit, really.

"I don't mean to alarm you and there's really nothing to suggest they know you've even met our friend. In fact they don't know what she looks like… now."

He doesn't go into details. How do you explain that your current tied-for-closest-friend is a man devouring werewolf capable of assuming the shape of the last person she ate.

"They just connected me to her because I've worked with her so extensively."

*

"They say flying's easy," Dana notes casually. "It's the landing that's hard."

Not that she'd know, right? Erm… Of course not. Still, she's beginning to put two and two together. This man, with his complex aura and the scent of a killer hanging about him, is dangerous. He keeps dangerous friends. And now he's, perhaps, managed to get Pepper in the middle of something dangerous.

Not that Dana has room to talk. (Thanks, Mab.)

No, Mr. Stark won't be pleased at all by that. And Dana is now seriously considering what additional protection she can extend to this woman who is already clever enough to weave metals into her clothes to thwart the Fae.

*

Pepper Potts nods slowly to Jericho, though she spares an amused glance for Dana. "That's the trick. I have yet to master throwing myself at the ground and missing."

She's thinking quickly despite the quip, then adds in a lower voice, "Would it help if you and your friend both … disappeared?"

Because, really, if anyone short of SHIELD could forge completely new IDs for people, it would be Stark.

*

"I'd love to, Miss Potts but… it's not quite that simple. If they can't find us they'll start hitting civilian targets. High profile ones: stadiums, subways, high rises, you get the idea. So we're gonna have to be kind of proactive about this. Which is part of why I'm here. I doubt they know you even know her but… I'd hate if something happened to you and I could have prevented it by saying something."

*

"You lead a very interesting life, Jericho," Dana says dryly, now. "Who are these guys anyway?" Not that she expects an answer. But, still… She can't help but ask.

*

Pepper Potts can only nod, as Dana asked the question she was just thinking.

"If I can't help you hide, maybe I can help you get to them before they get to you." She's nearly finished her meal — carne guisada with the usual sides.

*

Jeri's got quite an appetite for a guy whose suffered two near lethal hits in the last week. He just only told them about one. The other's related to his own problems, not the Partisan's.

"Kaibilies." He holds up a hand as he puts the last bite of flauta into his mouth. "Guatemalan special forces, well ex-special forces. Very clever, very highly trained, very ruthless."

He'd really rather not explain why foreign ex SF operators are in New York trying to kill him to get to his friend.

"Which is part of the reason I've not gone to the authorities… well, other than I don't trust that it wouldn't get back to them somehow. If you have resources that might help locate them… that'd be very good."

*

Guatemalan? Dana blinks. She glances again to Pepper, that same question in her eyes: Who is this guy?

"So, I heard of this new anti-ballistic fabric they're making into business suits, these days…" she comments idly, poking at the remains of her own meal. She glances to Jericho, then, her expression growing serious.

"Where was the last place you saw these guys? Did anyone die?" Odd question? Maybe. But, not, perhaps, when you're the daughter of a death god.

*

Pepper Potts looks at Dana a bit concernedly, but then she seems to remember something and just nods at the younger woman's seemingly odd questions. And she lets the restaurant's server clear away her plate. Pass on the flan, thanks. The texture. Ick.

*

Jericho waits until the plates are cleared and the server gone. "They found me. Two of 'em and six dogs at an open air produce market on the east side of Queens. After hours."

If Dana, or Pepper knows what that means, fair enough. If not… probably best not explaining it.

"They're dead now. The other option being me being dead now."

Actually the other option was him being killed on the internet. Very publicly. And messily. It's clearly not something he enjoys thinking about by the way his face twists.

Jericho's head cants. Dana has reacted to this better than your average civilian… and the question 'Who are you' is clear in his eyes, though he doesn't ask.

*

There are an awful lot of produce markets in Queens. Even 'after hours' ones. But, Dana's a journalist — photojournalist, sure, but it still involves investigation. She nods to the man and glances to Pepper. The fact is, with blood on the ground, Dana can probably find their compatriots. And, if she can't, Rex certainly can.

She's just not sure how far involved she wants to get. But, she does owe Pepper a certain measure of protection.

She meets his gaze briefly, seeing the question, but refusing to give an immediate answer. "I may," she says more to Pepper than to Jericho, "know some 'people' who can help."

*

Pepper Potts looks from Jericho to Dana and back, concern clear on her face. When Dana says she knows some 'people' who can help, she mentally resolves to find out what are the best gifts to 'forget' about in strategic places.

"Let me know if there's anything that JARVIS or I can do. Really. Even if it's just making sure you have food and a place to sleep."

*

"I'm set for that right now, but thanks. Our mutual friend took it kind of personally. But I'll keep that in mind. I really don't want you to be any more involved in this than you have to but if it comes to it, I may take you up on that. And I do appreciate the offer, Miss Potts."

There's deliberately mild but very curious look that gets directed at Dana when she mentions knowing 'people.' Who 'people' are clearly interests him a lot. 'People' are often helpful. If also often mysterious.

*

Dana is very tight-lipped about just who her 'people' may be. So much so that she hardly acknowledges Jericho's open curiosity, except to give him a small, tight smile. "I make no promises," she says, "but, with the right incentive, they can be very helpful."

And negotiated promises of reward can be the right incentive, when they come from the right people.

*

Pepper Potts nods to Jericho with a glances at Dana. She's honestly surprised that the younger woman has even offered to try and approach her 'resources' for help in this matter, but she's just as proud of her for doing so.

"I can at least do this, Jericho." She returns her phone to her bag, then reaches to put something in her hand into the man's hand. It feels like a few sheets of paper money, crisp enough to not have been folded yet. And by the way she does so, she wants the actual denominations of the bills to remain unseen by general passersby.

*

Jericho smiles his thanks to her, not wanting to embarrass her by voicing it. But he's grateful. There's a flex of his hand and then the bills are gone. Living by doing odd jobs has a way of making one pick up varied skills. Like street magic.

"I'm just sorry you got mixed up in all this. I agree with our friend absolutely. Noble is the perfect word for you." He turns a grin to Dana. "Don't you agree?" Maybe not shark, but noble yes. In several senses of the word.

*

Dana actually grins at Jericho's sentiment. She glances to Pepper, a subtle I-told-you-so expression in her eyes. Like Jericho's friend, she's referred to the PA as a Lady, herself. It's hard to miss. "I do," she replies to the man. "I've told her as much before now, myself."

*

Pepper Potts sighs in an almost theatrical manner. "Come on, you're exaggerating. Really." She can hear her grandmother now, telling her to not let praise go to her head. When the server stops by to ask if anyone wants dessert, she simply asks for a refill of her reddish pink punch-like beverage.

*

Jericho inquires after their flan. Oh. It's caramel. One please.

"Miss Potts, I've known a fair few people who weren't trying to kill me before all this started. Let me say that it's very rare to meet someone with the poise, confidence and generosity you've displayed to me three times now for absolutely no good reason at all. I've only ever even heard of one person who might match you."

And she scares the living hell out of me, he doesn't add. Well, the Princess of Themyscria did after all tie him up and interrogate him… and punch a wall down while he was breaking someone's neck. The glance shifts to Dana, curious as to what she thinks of the matter.

*

Dana gives a small smile. "Actually, in my experience, most so called nobles… aren't. They're pompous, entitled aristocrats with very little regard for the people beneath them. But, if you look at the ideals of nobility… Pepper fits the bill, yes. I've not met her equal, in that regard."

But, then, she hasn't met the Princess of Themyscira, herself.

*

Pepper Potts looks at the two of them again. "You're both serious." She looks a little bit honestly gobsmacked by that. Maybe this is why she should avoid powered armor, if a genuine compliment can throw her for so much of a loop.

"I… thank you." She mentally resolves to NEVER, EVER let either of them see her Pinkie Pie pajama pants.

*

Pepper might not be so worried about it if he knew that Partisan had been showing Jeri a picture of a blue pony that a Google search revealed to be called 'Princess Luna' chewing on an apple with block text asking 'Thou Furious' or in modern English 'U Mad?'. Fortunately for Aspect, and Partisan, she doesn't know that.

"I'm quite serious Miss Potts." He smiles. "And that's one reason among many that I regret getting you even peripherally involved in this. I do sincerely hope nothing bad comes of it for you."

*
Dana isn't much familiar with either Pinkie Pie or Luna. No kids and she's rarely in front of a TV or even on the computer all that often. It's amazing, really, she gets as many of the pop culture references as she does, all things considered. Of course, she'd also be one of the first to suggest, if pressed, that Pepper's nobility comes from the fact she wasn't born with the silver spoon in her mouth. But, it's not necessary to say now. Thus, she simply smiles and gives a light nod, of acknowledgement, instead.

*

Pepper Potts offers Dana a return smile, then takes a sip of her refilled agua de jamaica as the server brings Jericho's flan. When the server is gone again she finally replies to the man.

"I don't regret it. Not if I can help. And really, did you both forget who I work for? I used to having to prepare for the worst."

After all, in the first weeks of Tony's three-month 'visit' to Afghanistan, she had to deal with being treated like she was next on the list to disappear into the sands. Of course, she has since learned enough to make her suspect that it was more likely Obie using his 'concern' to keep her from trying to find out what really happened.

*

"I don't think it's possible to forget that when you live in a world as connected as mine." Jericho chuckles. "Though I'm quite happy that my visit to your office the other day seems to have gone unnoticed. I sort of imagine he might react… poorly to you being in any amount of perceived danger. Not that I blame him, I suppose."

He regards Dana curiously. Pepper seems to trust her and they do seem to be friends. "Have you ever met the man, the myth, the legend?" He asks out of sheer, unbridled curiosity.

*

Dana nods in response to Jericho's question. "Yes," she admits. "I was commissioned by Scientific America to take his photograph for a spread they were doing in response to an award he won, recently." She got some great pictures that day.

*

DUH, Pepper. They both know only too well. "He does, Jericho. After all, he loses his social security number if something happens to me."

It's a long standing in-joke. As are comments about a backless teal dress. But that's neither here nor there. "He's been back and forth to Malibu a lot lately, or I would have tried to invite him to join us." Maybe. She's sometimes not sure he'd accept that kind of invitation.

*

"I see. Used to live out there, once upon a time. Er, not Malibu, it was Reseda. Slightly less… posh." A lot less posh.

"Oh, you're a photojournalist, then?" Jeri glances at Dana and smiles. "That wouldn't happen to be how the two of you met, would it?"

Yes it's chatting. It's also information gathering. He can do both and be friendly.

*

Dana nods. Her employment isn't a secret. Her name has been attached to several articles of note, and she's also noted in the more artistic world of photography as a gallery artist with a unique eye.

"It is," she says. "Miss Potts has been my primary contact at Stark." And the advocate that gave her a retainer/contract to keep her close, just in case.

*

Pepper Potts smiles and nods.

"And I don't regret a minute of it. Though my wallet /did/ whimper once at a few particularly good antique finds."

She seems to be settling again after the minor surprise from earlier. "You know, Dana, I'm planning a charity event for some time next month, and I would love it if you could be there to take photos."

She can think of a reason for Jericho to be there as well, but suspects he might not want that kind of public exposure right this moment.

*

The chuckle from Jericho lets her know that he's rather thinking the opposite, that she might not want him anywhere near a gala event after what his presence meant for the last one. He does make a good waiter though. Idly he wonders if Pepper ever put that one together. His 'bland and boring' routine is pretty effective and he's had lots of practice at it.

"Another Stark Foundation event, Miss Potts?" Hey, he's just a bit curious. "Or something a bit more personal?"

*

He wonders if Dana was maybe at the last one, she can see him look at her speculatively… no… he doesn't think so. He got facial recognition off most of the attendees at the last one. "Do you work freelance Miss Dana?" Seems likely.

*

"I do," Dana replies, choosing not to disclose her contract with Stark. And it's true enough, regardless. She still works independently, and she does both investigative and artistic work. "I have for a handful of years, now. What, exactly, is it you do, Jericho?"

What work would attract such dangerous people? She can think of several things, especially for a man with a bland face and such an odd aura.

*

Pepper Potts lets the two friendly-interrogate each other while she stands to settle the lunch bill with the lady at the counter, returning with an aluminum takeout container to put her leftovers in. Of course, the question about what Jericho does is kind of a red flag, so she tries to deflect it by offering a second leftovers container to Dana.

*

"Oh a little of this and that. Mechanic, Bartender, Piano Player, Street Magician. Whatever I can do to pay the bills."

Oh, and fight for my life with sort of alarming regularity. He doesn't mention that part. It makes most people look at him funny.

"Anyway, I think I've interrupted you two enough. It was nice meeting you Miss Dana. And nice seeing you again Miss Potts." He stands and gives both women a polite half bow. "Hopefully we'll meet again under better circumstances." Then, with a wave, he turns and blends into the crowd to make his exit.

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