Hide-n-Seek

April 15, 2018:

Pepper stops in for some meetings at the Triskelion. There she finds Rocket and Groot. Considering how long it's been since they last spoke, there's some catching up to do.

Triskelion

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tony Stark

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Pepper Potts enters the Triskelion with her teal shoulderbag in hand and promptly approaches the reception desk. She doesn't come to the SHIELD HQ herself very often, but that doesn't mean she's unfamiliar with the building's layout. Her heels click decisively against the floor and the expansive room's acoustics (or lack thereof) echo the sound along with the footfalls and voices of everyone coming and going from this gargantuan building.

She stops and waits her turn to speak with the guards at the reception desk, pulling her StarkPhone from her bag to check something on the screen and efficiently tap in a reply of some sort.

One voice certainly stands out, but then that's probably because it's well above conversational levels. It's probably also familiar to Pepper for the few times she's heard it. One of the guards seems to sigh, looking like they're trying very hard to ignore it.

"If it's out in the open then clearly it was for public use! Don't go blaming me just 'cuz I decided to relocate it. Hardly anyone used the thing anyway! -and don't give me that look, I haven't seen one person put their coffee cup on that table ever!"

Rocket storms out of a room, presumably a break room, just a ways down the hall, turning on his heel as he shoves a bag of chips from the vending machine into a pocket. "By the way, your coffee sucks!" He turns again, making to head down the hall when he pauses again. "Oh, crap. Almost forgot why I came here- Hey! You didn't see Groot by any chance, did you? Ughk, that little turd, I'm gonna install a tracker on 'im when I find him…"

Normally, the raccoonoid alien is shadowed by a taller, tree-like presence who goes by the name of Groot. But as previously stated, said 'little turd' is nowhere to be found.

Where Groot is at this exact time has yet to be determined, but he is certainly getting underfoot somewhere.

Pepper is distracted from whatever is on her phone by the voice that carries over everything else — helps that it's easily recognizable — and she turns toward the source. She can't help but smile a bit to herself at seeing Rocket, and she steps away from the reception desk to greet the outspoken alien. She's running a good bit early for her appointment, she's got a bit of time to say hello.

"Good afternoon," she tells Rocket. "I take it your tall friend is off getting into trouble?" Tucking away her phone, she pulls a fancy glass water bottle out of her bag instead.

Rocket had been about to turn again when Pepper speaks up, his head swiveling towards the reception area. He blinks, then starts on over. "Oh, heya Pepper." At her question he almost grimaces. "Always," he replies, snorting. "He can get into trouble just by breathing."

As he speaks he casts a not so surreptitious look around in case he might spy Groot around. "I'm guessin' you ain't seen him either, then. Oh. Met your boss the other day. Or is it the other way around."

Inside of another room, a cabinet door pops open. There may have been a giggle heard, but just as someone steps in to check for supplies, the cabinet shuts by itself. Groot leaves the poor employee wondering if he's being visited by ghosts or if he's met his coffee quota for the day.

Later, down the hall, tiny footsteps skitter along. Running and skidding, hopping and trotting, Groot passes and weaves in between more legs than he can count.

"I am Groot!"

His voice, which really should be deeper than what it is now, rings out like he hasn't a care in the world. As soon as he turns the next corner, the tree spots Rocket, speeding up to meet him and Pepper. "I am Groot," he pipes up, arms raised up and outward in a child-like manner. Small arms. Small Groot.

Obviously, something is different here.

At Rocket's comment about Tony, Pepper can only chuckle. "I think which way around depends on which moment. Honestly, I'm surprised you two didn't either hate each other on sight or got along so well you went into an inventing frenzy that exploded half the eastern seaboard."

That's just about when she hears those three words, just said in a higher pitched voice than she would have expected. She looks around, then is startled to see Groot looking… like a little sprout and not a full-size tree. And, then she proves that gestures evoke an almost instinctual response as the outstretched arms have her reaching to pick Groot up like the small human child he now resembles.

"Groot, hello. You're looking rambunctious today."

"I'm still deciding," Rocket says in response to Tony. It had been a bit of an unusual circumstance that they'd crossed paths, after all. His ears perk at the sound of tiny footsteps, and he turns just as Groot comes running along to join them, scowling then.

"Excuse you? Who found who- I was lookin' for you! And we were not playing a game!" he grumbles, watching as Pepper picks him up. A fuzzy brow quirks. Rambunctious, eh?

And up he goes, suddenly taller than Rocket again. It's a temporary state, but it surprises and delights him. "I am Groot!" he replies, laughing as his legs kick and swing lazily for a bit. He then lets himself dangle in Pepper's grasp, glancing upward if not completely upside-down at the redheaded woman.

Still, he's in one of his better moods. For Pepper's sake, the smile hasn't dropped off and shows no signs of doing so in short order. "I am Groot?"

Pepper smiles at the cheerful little sprout and sets him back down gently. "Good to see you again too, Groot. And I've been well. Busy, but that's normal for me. How have you both been?" She steps over to a nearby little seating area and settles into a chair so she's not towering over either alien, setting her bag on the floor against her leg as she does so.

The raccoonoid rolls his eyes at Groot, running a hand over his face at the apparent explanation. "Okay, look, it ain't hide-n-seek if no one else knows you're playin'."

He watches as Pepper starts over towards a waiting area, following along since he no longer has Groot to look around for at the moment. Fishing out the bag of chips he'd gotten a short while ago, he opens it and stuffs a chip into his mouth before offering the rest to the tree tyke.

"…eh. Been better, been worse," he says around chip-crunching, hesitating for a brief moment as his eye flicks towards Pepper's bag as she places it on the floor. "You?"

Groot pouts at Rocket, his cheeks barely puffing as his feet find the floor again. Hide-n-Seek is hiding and seeking out people, right? Right?? That's what he was doing, so that means he wins by default.

As they go over to the chairs, Groot bounces along, running over to climb the closest chair. He makes himself comfortable, immediately reaching for the chips offered so he can grab an armful. At this point he's not even paying attention, not recalling anything within the past week in his current state of contentment.

"Oh, always busy. But, I knew that that would be the case when I took this job so I'm by no means complaining. I'm actually here to speak with someone from R&D about the newest generation of combat body armor that SI has been working on. Normally that's for someone from our Development group to do, but she's out on maternity leave, and I couldn't tear Tony away to do this meeting himself. So…" She shrugs slightly.

Glancing over at Groot with that armful of chips, she pulls her glass water bottle out again and hesitates before offering it to Groot. Dipping her hand back into her bag, she produces a bendy straw still wrapped in paper and drops that into the bottle.

"Here you go," she tells the sprout as she sets the water where he can reach it easily.

At least Groot can't get into any trouble if he's sitting there busy with eating. Rocket nods a thanks at Pepper for her thoughtful sharing of her water. Hopefully the tinier Guardian doesn't dribble or backwash.

"Combat armor eh? Sounds like fun." He'd mostly be interested in the firepower equipped on the thing, of course. Reaching over at Groot to grab another handful of chips to stuff into his mouth, he glances at Pepper's bag again as he crunches, still trying to figure out if he'd just imagined the brief glow from the logo or not. Or he could be looking at it because it's shiny, but as far as such things go, the better bet is that shiny is paired with explosive.

Good thing Pepper has gone on ahead with setting down her water bottle with a straw. Two steps ahead. This could have gone the 'If You Give A Mouse A Cookie' route fast.

"I amf Grfootph," Groot says to the lady, bits of chip flying from his mouth. There isn't a guarantee on not backwashing, nor can he be neat about slurping up the water without letting it dribble over him. Not that it's a problem; water is refreshing, especially after a salty snack.

-

"I'll have to take your word for that," Pepper tells Rocket honestly. All I really know about it is that it's meant to replace the normal Kevlar and ceramic plate setups that people are using now, and the plan is to start offering it to local police departments through the Maria Stark Foundation after it's been proven effective by SHIELD."

At Groot's slightly messy words, she smiles and nods. "You are most welcome, Groot." Growing sprouts needs good nutrition, and it's just a lucky thing that Pepper happened to fill that bottle with a high-quality mineral water instead of a plain filtered water.

"That's disgusting," Rocket mutters to Groot. Sure, he talks plenty himself with his mouth full, but mushy half-eaten chips and water coming down like some sewage run-off is never a pretty picture from anyone, no matter how cute and tiny they are. He digs around his pocket until he pulls out a napkin, crumpled and from some pizza place they'd gone to some night before. He turns and dabs at Groot's messy mouth.

"So SHIELD's yer test puppies or somethin'?" Guinea pigs, Rocket. The term you're looking for is guinea pigs.

The smile is short-lived when Rocket goes in to clean Groot up. He's met with mild Groot yelping, somewhat temperamental now that he's being bothered in the middle of snacking.

Thankfully, that all dies down when the furry Guardian brings up 'test puppies.' "I am Groot," Groot says between dabs. He wants to see test puppies.

"Well, not entirely. Most of the functional tests are already complete. I just know that SHIELD can give the armor the real world extreme end of the spectrum use that will prove the armor is more than adequate for, say, a New York City SWAT team." Pepper can't help but smile at Rocket's cleaning Groot up like a parent would a typically messy toddler. She reaches into her bag again and offers Rocket a nearly empty pack of wet towelettes to help with the cleanup if needed.

"I don't think SHIELD uses actual puppies for testing, Groot. I agree that it would be cruel. However, I do know of a place that has lots of puppies right now, all waiting for their chance at a new home. Maybe you'd want to go by sometime and visit them?"

Currently looking at the dirtied napkin as though it was its fault in the first place that Groot got himself all gooey, Rocket glances around for a waste bin or something. In the end he tosses it behind a nearby potted plant. Gotta give the janitors something to do.

When he looks back at Pepper he finds himself being offered more cleaning thingies. He's not quite sure what to think, but he tugs one out and offers it to Groot.

"I didn't mean literally-" the raccoonoid starts, eyeing Groot just as Pepper begins to mention real puppies. Squinting over at her, he smirks. "You offerin' to babysit?"

Letting the rest of the chip crumbs drop over his lap and onto the chair, Groot makes the grabbing motion for the moist towelette. See, he can wipe his own face, no big deal. In fact, he just lets it drape over his head like a veil as he peers out from under it.

But he brightens, clapping his hands together because who doesn't want to see real live puppies? "I am Groot!"

Pepper smiles at Rocket as she lets Groot claim a towelette from the package. "I have a day off coming up, it shouldn't be a problem." She looks at Groot then. "There will be some rules, though, Groot. And I will expect them to be followed. If you don't, I can promise I will not consider taking you to see puppies again. Ever."

Rocket seems surprised that Pepper actually is willing to take that up. Well, he's not going to argue against it either! He looks down at Groot, nodding. "You heard the lady. You gotta behave. None of this runnin' off looking for cupcakes or hanging off of street lamps," he says, folding his arms.

Although hyped for this meeting with puppies, Groot pauses, shrinking a little when he's addressed directly about rules and such. And then he gets double-teamed.

Not cool, but it helps put some weight into the unspoken consequences of not following them.

Frowning, the little sprout sighs. "I am Groot," he promises, tugging at the sides of his towelette.

Pepper nods, accepting Groot's promise. "Then we'll be fine." She glances at her wristwatch. "And, I need to get going or I'll be late for my meeting. See you both when it's done?"

She offers Rocket a smile and Groot a gentle pat on the back before hefting her bag and walking back to the reception desk.

Continuing to fix Groot with a look that says 'I don't believe you for one moment but I'll give you a chance anyway since it won't be me watching you,' Rocket then nods at Pepper.

"All right. See ya around," he says, waving vaguely. "-oh hey, you want your…water back?"

Groot smiles. That smile is carried over to his furry friend, but it is definitely clashing with the expression he receives from the raccoonoid. "I am Groot," he repeats. He'll honestly try to be on his best behavior, but who knows how long that will last.

As Pepper gets up to leave, Groot accepts the pat in passing and waves. He also takes another slurp of water just as Rocket asks about the fate of the glass water bottle.

Pepper Potts looks back at the pair as the guards at the reception desk page the agent she's supposed to meet. "Hang on to it for me, return it to me when we go to visit the puppies. Okay?" She turns back as aforementioned agent appears, then smiles at Rocket and Groot again. "Have a good afternoon, both of you."

Fair enough. Groot doesn't look like he's going to surrender the bottle any time soon anyway. "Okay then," Rocket shrugs, watching as Pepper's agent arrives. He grins toothily at the guards who he's caught sneaking them wary looks.

"C'mon Groot. Let's go see if they got any Twinkies left in the vending machine."

Finishing off another noisy slurp, Groot smacks his lips. He looks so refreshed now.

Big eyes blink, then light up at the mention of twinkies. "I am Groot," he cheers, wiggling with anticipation for their next raid. He's all over that.

Pepper chuckles and shakes her head, then follows the agent deeper into the Triskelion, making a mental note to schedule a slot of volunteer time with one of the local puppy rescues. She's not expecting Rocket to join them, but Groot alone will be a handful.

And if she knew they were planning to raid a vending machine, she might go back and scold them. But she isn't. So she doesn't.

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