Sleep Is For The Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

June 09, 2018:

Tony's been working even more odd hours than usual, and Pepper catches him proverbially red-handed.

Stark Tower

Characters

NPCs: JARVIS, Dunce the AI drone

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Stark Tower has been surprisingly quiet, contained, even complacent in the past months. Ever since the death of a SHIELD agent the usual shenanigans associated with its owner seem to have been put on hold. Perhaps death has sobered Tony Stark up. Perhaps its forced him to confront his own mortality. Perhaps he has been forced to grow up….

…or perhaps he’s just too busy on a new idea to get into any major trouble. Or two busy on major trouble to get involved in any OTHER major trouble.

It's hard to tell with him.

The strange thing for those that do know the man though is that not all his work has been in the Tower itself. Oh he still puts in hours upon hours in the labs he practically lives in. The blacked out R&D labs near the top of the tower still hold his interest and still /occasionally/ explode as he gets something wrong. Pepper has had to order a lot of new roof tiles lately. However no new suits have churned out in the fabrication floors and good portions of his time has been spent lately off site. Somewhere else. Building something else. Something that leaves him exhausted when he comes back, and not in a good way.

Such is the case now, creeping back in in the wee hours of the morning. Feet dragging slightly and eyes ever so slightly unfocused. The man seems to be a shadow of himself…or he’s just trying to be quiet so JARVIS doesn’t alert anyone to his sneaking in like this.

Again. It’s hard to say.


Tony’s off-site trips have not gone unnoticed, though with the occasional R&D explosion still occurring and yearly performance evaluations in full swing this time of year, Pepper has been letting it slide perhaps a bit more than is usual.

Tonight that will most likely change.

Sitting cross-legged in her office chair at an ungodly hour for almost everyone, she’s wearing completely casual clothing including yoga pants and a baggy faded green shirt that has silk screened on the front, “Don’t Panic” in friendly letters. Her phone is apparently the reason she’s here at this hour, if the foreign language coming from it and the translation appearing in the air above her desk are any indication.

There’s also the remnants of a modest-sized pizza on the small conference table, and a pair of tennis shoes up against the back of the couch in the far corner of her office.

The phone call seems to be wrapping up, and Pepper bids the other callers farewell in at least two languages before tapping the phone off and leaning back to stretch… and freezing when she sees movement out in the hallway. She frowns, then reaches over to tap at something behind her desk before standing and walking toward the door to see who’s out there. Usually, the security guards doing a walk-around call out a greeting before they get within her line of sight so as to not startle her.

A small drone floats up from behind her desk and follows.


Right. He’s made it past the lobby. Past the guards. Past all the troubles and the problems and now he’s in the home stretch! He’s home free! He’s….

Stark rounds the corner just as Pepper steps out of the door and he freezes for a moment. “I’m totally busted aren’t I?” He finally says after a moment of deer-in-the-headlights looking towards Pepper.

“Dunce! You were supposed to warn me!” He calls out as the little drone burbles its way out the door behind Pepper.

Dunce burbles louder and points dramatically towards Pepper.

“A bit late now! I’m so making you a bigger hat.”

The drone hands his manipulator arms down dejectedly.


“Don’t scold him, Tony. He’s been keeping me company while I was on a conference call with Manila.” Pepper then gets a better look at Tony. “You look nearly as bad as the end of a week-long bender in the R&D labs. When did you eat last?”

She walks right up to Tony with the intention of dragging him into her office to possibly eat something and maybe even explain what he’s been moonlighting on so much lately.

“And when did you last get more than four hours of sleep at a stretch?”


“What were you talking about to people in Manila?” Stark replies with a smirk as he shoves his hands into his pockets. “As for sleep, bah you know that is totally optional for me. I mean come on. If I slept on a normal schedule how would I ever get anything done. Speaking of that do you have any of that not-coffee stuff lying around?”

He stalks to walk around her, spinning to keep her in view. Walking backwards now. “And food? I’m sure I had something. I mean if I didn’t I’d have fallen over waaay before now. So I’m fine. Really. I’m pretty sure I’m fine.”

He’s not fine.


Pepper watches Tony with the suspicious look of one who knows his deflection techniques. “JARVIS, when did Tony eat last?” Yes, she went there. But even so, she follows him back into her office expecting him to trip over his own feet at any second.

“I have some leftover pizza you’re welcome to. But don’t complain if it’s got more vegetables than you care for on it.” She steps around him to her credenza where she starts fixing some of her ‘not-coffee stuff’, and doesn’t bother to tell him that she’s making a decaf version. What he doesn’t know will maybe help him get some sleep.


“Why do you have to ruin perfectly good pizza with healthy things. The mysteries you get up too I’ll never understand.” Stark calls out as he dances a few more steps back and spins then to swipe a piece. Because of course his complaining isn’t going to stop him from swiping pie.

“Ah Miss Potts, yes…it sees the last time Mister Stark ate was…” And Tony defiantly stuffs a bite in his mouth and chews. “..right now.” For a moment Stark looks triumphant. “But before that it has been at least twelve hours.”

Defeated.

Stark glowers at a wall. “Traitor!” He calls out, brandishing the pizza for only a moment before he goes back to eating.

And no, he isn’t paying attention to decaf tea.


Pepper brews the tea extra strong to conceal its lack of caffeine, and pours a tall insulated mug’s worth. “Thank you, JARVIS. Sit down while you eat, please. I don’t want to have to explain to 911 that you cracked your skull while dancing with pizza in your hands.” Though, really, it would be a tame one for Tony.

And almost as if to reinforce her admonishment, she sets the mug of tea on the table before pouring the rest for herself and adding a little more water to dilute it back to something closer to drinkable.

“So, are you going to tell me what it is you’ve been doing at all hours, Tony? Or do I have to find out when someone files an injunction against you?” she asks while settling into a chair at the table and picking a stray mushroom off of the pizza’s serving platter.


Stark doesn’t answer at first. In fact he doesn’t say anything really. He just noms on the pizza. Which is a slightly odd sign. That he doesn’t say anything, that he doesn’t just start chattering on and on about nothing. No he just eats in mostly silence.

Then he flops down in a chair and drags that mug over as he takes a long pull. There isn’t even a reaction to the fact that it’s decaf.

“No one is gonna file an injunction on me,” He finally says. “Trust me on that one. If they do they’ll have to deal with Fury and no one wants to deal with Fury. Hell I don’t want to deal with Fury. But….” He waves a hand, nearly flinging pizza everywhere as he does it. “…here we are. But no…I’m just helping him out with something. It's just…taking a lot of time. Trying to make sure he doesn’t screw things up more than he already has.”


Tony’s worse than vague explanation has Pepper raising her eyebrows and making a mental note to call Fury first thing Monday morning to find out what’s going on. But in the meantime…

“JARVIS, when was the last time Tony slept for more than four hours without interruption?” Yup. She’s still pestering. After taking a sip of her tea she stands again and retrieves her phone from her desk.

Tapping a message into her phone to FRIDAY, she returns to her seat at the table and snags a bit of onion to nibble on. “Is this job for Fury at least something that doesn’t require you to be awake twenty two hours of each day?”


“If there were 27 hours in the day there wouldn’t be enough to get everything done. So sleeping is completely optional. Like usual. I’m just glad that my collar projects are pretty much done at this point.” He mutters slowly. “Ohhh that’s a thought.” The man adds as he sits up slightly. “Maybe I can develop a time dilation system! Give me a few more hours in the day that’ll be perfect!”

JARVIS pauses for a moment at the question before his voice cuts in again. “Judging from his state, Miss Potts. I will hypothesize that it has been some time. Possibly at least two days.”

“Hey! Stop helping!” Tony protests. “I’ve totally slept in the last two days! At least…” He pauses. Thinks. Holds up three fingers. “This many hours. At /least/.”


Well, that explains Tony’s current behavior. So hopefully food will make him sleepy and she can convince him to rest for ‘just a moment’. It’s worked in the past, and she’s had an idea that might actually encourage a longer rest break for the inventor.

Tapping another message into her phone, she sips at her tea and not-so-subtly pushes the pizza’s tray toward Tony. “I’m not sure a time dilation system would be the best idea. I mean, the concept proved to be a disaster against replicants.”


He doesn’t even notice her trick with the pizza. At least he doesn’t notice her doing it. He notices the pizza, and a hand quickly snaps out to capture a piece to start to munch on. At least he isn’t talking with his mouth full.

“Eh I wouldn’t do that because time travel of any kind is a pain in the ass,” Stark mutters darkly. “So many rules, and potential paradox. And possibly breaking the entire timeline and the time stream. Then there is the whole meeting yourself, or what happens when you go back in time and destroy a butterfly accidently and suddenly when you come back to your time everything has been taken over by skrulls.”

A pause.

“Don’t look at me like that it totally could happen.” He says as he points one finger at her around the bulk of his mug.

A pause again.

“And yes, if I could do it without stopping for the next week then yes I woul—-LMDs!” He finally shouts as he shoots to his feet. “I could program an LMD to do part of the work. Just upload a full personality matrix of myself so he would have the best skills in the world and then…”

“AHEM,” JARVIS cuts in. “Sir, remember when you asked me to interrupt when you had a really bad idea? Well I’m interrupting.”

“Who asked you?” Stark mutters as he bites into his pizza viciously.

“…you did, sir.”


Pepper stays seated and listens to Tony’s rambling, taking a sip of her own tea innocently when he dismisses the time dilation idea on his own. She opens her mouth to protest when he blurts out about LMDs, but can’t get a word in edgewise. At least not before JARVIS shuts him down.

“Thank you, JARVIS. Please sit back down, Tony. You still have food in your hands.”

She watches him rather pointedly as if waiting for him to comply before she continues, though her eyes do flick down to her phone as if to check for something. She doesn’t seem to see what she was hoping to find.

“Tony. Sit down. Please.”


Tony does sit back down as he gestures wildly with a pizza piece. “Everyone is against me! All I’m doing is trying to rewrite the laws of nature using some kind of bizarre alien technology! That’s all! Anyone could do it!”

Again a /AHEM/ from JARVIS.

“Oh stuff it circuit breath, she’ll badger that out of Fury anyway!”

He takes a sip of his drink thoughtfully though as he reclaims his seat and sighs. “Anyway…yeah. I’ll be fine. Maybe I should…I don’t know….sit and read for a bit or something….isn’t that what normal people do? Read?”


Pepper’s expression goes from expectant when Tony sits back down to that shrewd and calculating calmness that usually bodes ill for Tony. She’s clearly trying to piece together to random bits of intel that he’s let slip. The expression is gone after a moment, though, hidden behind another sip of her own tea and replaced with a look of innocent acceptance when she lowers her cup again.

“That’s one thing normal people do. Another is watch TV.” She knows that some movies make Tony even more irate when they seem to lack the most basic understanding of physics, but she has the perfect solution to that: animation. Something animated and with a good but calm plotline, he’ll be asleep in seconds.

“Finish that pizza and I’m sure JARVIS or FRIDAY will put a movie on for us.”

She glances at her phone again.


“Pizza?” Tony blinks a moment before looking at the piece in his hand. “When did that get here?” Nevermind it's his third piece. Who knows since he let himself eat last. It's hard to tell really. It is hard to tell a lot of things about Tony Stark. Especially when he’s in this kind of state.

So he looks at the pizza then back at Pepper, then glares up at the lights above. Then back at Pepper. “This is a conspiracy to get me to sleep and forget about the whole LMD thing isn’t it?” He asks before seeming to think about it for a moment. “Fine then. I’m going along with it. But only because your hair smells nice. What did you use this morning? Its like lavender? Is that lavender?”


As tempting as it is to rub in the fact that Tony’s brain is working at about five percent capacity, Pepper refrains from doing so and doesn’t point out to him that he’s eaten multiple slices already.

“Not a conspiracy, Tony. Conspiracies require at least some level of secrecy.”

She glances at her phone — ah, finally — and types a reply. Then her attention is right back on Tony.

She blinks for a moment at his non-sequitur about her hair, but recovers quickly enough. “Oh, right. Yes. Lavender and mint. So, what are you working on that involves rewriting the laws of nature?” She asks this completely casually. Innocently, even.

And she’s now watching the open doorway to her office.

Where did Dunce go?


Tony leans back against the wall, tea in his hand as he snips. Peering towards her. “Fixing Phil,” A pause. “Before you say /anything/ Fury was gonna do it anyway. So if he didn’t have me helping then I’m sure he’d make an even worse mess of all this than I will. And I’m sure it’ll be a mess.”

The inventor lets his head rest back against the wall behind him. “It’s always a mess.” A pause and then softer. “…why is it always a mess.”

“I like Lavender and mint.” A longer pause. “Why do I always make a mess of it? The hell is wrong with me. Why can’t I just leave well enough alone.”


Pepper sighs internally. She makes sure whatever is left of the pizza is safely on a plate on the table, then tries to steer Tony away from that wall he’s trying to hold up and toward the couch in the opposite corner of her office. While her mind is still boggling at the implications of ‘Fixing Phil’, she forces herself to mentally set it aside. For now.

“Everyone makes a mess when they’re learning how to do something for the first time, Tony. No one has ever done what you’re doing. I think you can safely allow yourself at least a little slack. Okay?”

She glances over as Dunce arrives, carrying a small stack of folded fabric.

“Now, I want you to go in there,” Pepper indicates her washroom, “Changes clothes, wash your face and hands, and come back out here so we can watch a movie like normal people for a little while. Okay?”


“And I’m only trying to break the laws of the natural universe using a stupid machine build by aliens of all things. So yeah, I suppose this is definitely the first time.” Stark replies as he grumps into the tea he ‘stole’ from her.

It makes him feel better to think he stole it. For some strange reason.

“…if I give myself slack well…this is going to end badly. I can’t give myself slack! I can just…” He waves a vage hand. “Keep going and hope this is the right way to go! I mean I’m pretty sure it is. So I’m going to do it but…”
He shakes his head again. “But fine. Fine /mom/. I’ll go do that. I wouldn’t for anyone else but because you’re the only one that keeps this place running I will. And for no other reason. And I’m totally using your shampoo.” He rambles on. “You gonna join me?”

He doesn’t even wait for a response. He just saunters off, tugging at his shirt.

The water comes on. And stays on. And on. Annnnnnnnnnd on. And onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

Until it becomes awkward.

…and should she send Dunce in to check on him? She’ll find him passed out. Stretched out on the floor. Fully clothed and snoring loud enough to echo in the little room.


Pepper is patient for a solid hour. But then she gets concerned, and does indeed send Dunce in. And then she follows. And …

“Oh, Tony.”

Because he is still fully clothed she doesn’t hesitate to ask JARVIS to have one of the security guard head up to help her get him off of the floor and onto a more suitable sleeping surface. Like his own bed.

And she leaves her bottle of shampoo on his bathroom counter for when he wakes up and finally decides to shower. You know, without falling asleep on the floor.

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