Plus One

August 23, 2018:

Tony does something stupid. While getting himself out of one doghouse, he promptly walks into another by asking Emma Frost something he knows better than to ask.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Rachel Summers

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

A Private Villa on the
AMALFI COAST, ITALY

A few miles from Sorrento, an estate sprawls across a cliff overlooking the ocean, witness to the breathtaking orange and rose sunset as the sky sets itself ablaze in the sun’s farewell throes. The light sets an enormous infinity pool into hues of crimson and marigold on the enormous stone terrace, the water dancing and sparkling under a warm breeze.

They arrived a couple of days ago, quietly, per the terms of the arrangement. No PR antics, no reporters. Just a quiet arrival. A quiet, indulgent retreat. Or, for Tony Stark, a time of penance.

And now, the other half of ‘they’ is lounging on a luxuriously cushioned chaise to enjoy the extravagant scenery and sip her obnoxiously expensive wine. It’s white and chilled in a bucket beside her, and the bottle is more than half gone. She wears a gauzy kaftan with sleeves that are longer than her hem, and they too dance on the breeze as they hang off the seat. She quietly ruminates and enjoys the quiet of a locale where the surrounding homes have also been rented out to afford her an extra measure of privacy. The lack of minds intruding upon the space—people and their legion-many thoughts—is welcomed.

Emma Frost is more than half-drunk on a rooftop balcony above the pool terrace, the warmth of the sun and the sparkle of her drink affording her some aid in that regard, although she’s the tasteful variety of the state where few might note her as such. This is particularly true as she lies so very still, half-bared arms draped along the chair’s arms and eyes closed behind midnight black shades.

If all penance is like this please. Please, let me do more.

Those would be Tony Stark’s thoughts on the subject as the man wonders from the interior of the villa towards the balcony. No shoes, who needs them, the linen slacks he wears completely comfortable in this kind of environment. Button up shirt hanging open as the inventor strolls towards the horrible light of the daystar. He also has his shades of course, though her’s are custom pieces and not quite the designer brand as hers. Uplinks to a dozen satellites, news feeds and links to his AIs. It is all there.

And at the moment all on mute.

Since there was a semi-serious threat about bringing work into this weekend that he chose to take mostly seriously.

As seriously as he takes just about anything.

“So, are you slightly less mad at me now?” Comes the amused question from him. His voice threaded with a lazy contentment. “Like I said, entire town.” His empty wine glass dangles from his fingers as he pads easily forwards.

“Mm. I’m still coming to a verdict,” Emma offers, not deigning to look in Tony’s direction. She can feel him well enough in the psychic air, that push of awareness against her own where once there was only empty air. “Unless you have further evidence that you would like the jury to consider.”

She sips again from her cup, and then lifts the mostly-empty bottle of pinot grigio from that bucket. She points the mouth of the bottle lazily in his empty glass’s direction. “But the opinion might be swaying in your favor, Mister Stark.”

A pause follows, and then a smirk of her carmine-stained lips as she allows her head to loll a few degrees in his direction and her glasses are gently moved a little towards the tip of her nose. “Maybe. Possibly.” Dryly, she adds, “It’s a very small town.”

The exclusive, costly ones often are.

“It is a very small town with one of the best views all along this coast,” Stark replies towards her with a smirk. “I had JARVIS look though thousands of views to find one.” A beatpause. “It is good to know when to delegate.”

Stark is good at that kind of delegation.

“Is it now, though? Don’t worry. Give me five minutes and I’ll tip it back the other way. I am nothing if not predictable that way.” He adds with a smile as he crosses over towards the woman, shifting the glass in his hand so she can either pour, or hand him the bottle.

It is Emma, it is hard to figure out which way her mood will go at times.

She pours, upending the bottle languidly to drain the last of it into his cup before setting it beside the bucket.

Hard to tell indeed.

“It is a lovely view,” she agrees, slipping her sunglasses back up and turning her features out once more towards the ocean to enjoy it. One of her slender arms curls upwards, lazily draping itself overtop her head as she stretches out her spine in the pose.

“What were you doing in there, anyway? Not working, I hope.”

“Of course not,” Stark replies with a smirk. “I was just making a little message for someone. In case I got tied up here. Which is still I hope a possibility.” The inventor smirks towards her as he raises the now full glass to his lips to take an easy sip.

“You always did have good tastes when it came to horrible vices,” He adds as he savors the drink, that amusement still on his face before he angles an appreciative look back towards her.

“You have any idea how distracting you are at the moment? I’m pretty sure there was something I was going to ask to make you frown at me, but it is slowly slipping my mind.”

“Tied up? Well, you’re a little out of luck. I left all of the scarves at home.”

Her entire expression is nothing but teasing there, Emma’s demeanor entirely relaxed as she arches her back a little to angle a look up at her companion. Well, it was. Because there was that other thing he said, and she debates internally whether or not to even acknowledge it.

Her smile hitches, and a small sigh sees her staring back at the fiery horizon. Her arm comes back down to rest on the chair, French-tipped fingertips languidly curled as they hang suspended in the warm Italian air. “Is this a something that is just going to come back later to annoy me?” she asks. “Because, if you’re going to let it hang over you like some nasty little storm cloud, you’d best just be out with it while you’ve still time to make up for it.”

“Just rip off the bandaid, huh?” Stark smirks at that before he moves to a different chair, letting himself sink down in it. Looking fairly relaxed for someone about to bring up something he knows she won’t like to one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet. “Fair enough.”

Still though he pauses to take a drink. His head tilts slightly to look over towards her before he takes a deep breath. “Rachel Summers,” Oh yes. Of those Summers. “Asked me to sponsor her into the Hellfire Club.” A smirk once again. “And I’m leaning towards thinking this isn’t that bad an idea.”

You might never have thought that the air could so suddenly run so cold, so suddenly, on a beautiful summer day. Emma stills and refuses to even look in his direction as the smile fades completely from view. “Well,” she offers after a long moment. “It is a relief to know that you are able to allow your bad ideas extend into all aspects of your life. It shows a certain consistency of character. Fortunately for you, my faculties are intact and I am under no obligation to allow them to extend into mine.

The blonde finally lifts her cup, and she sips deeply. “Did she really put you up to this after one dinner? How gauche. I would have thought you at least a little harder a sell.”

“If I was that easy a sell, I wouldn’t have talked to you about it first. Or if I was suicidal,” Tony points out with a touch of a smile as Emma turns from warm to her namesake in the space of a heartbeat. “I told her I’d talk to you first.” Because he does know she hates surprises. “But…hear me out at least?” A beatpause. “I’ll send you a case of this fine wine you’ve found when we get back, just for listening.”

He takes a sip of his own drink again, the man still seems mostly relaxed considering the bomb he just dropped on their fine little get away. Maybe he bought the town out just so no one else would be a ground zero for this chat.

This place is the very definition of private.

“But, hey, at least like you said. I’m consistent. That has to count for something right?”

“Not if it is a consistent stream of lunacy,” she retorts, leveling at him a withering gaze.

Emma frowns deeply, and then pulls her glass in front of her to consider it at length in the light of the dying sun. There’s a sharp, derisive snort as she brings the cup back to her.

“But I like the wine. So, you have the floor, Tony. I would advise treading upon it carefully.”

“That has to be some really excellent wine,” Stark drawls out as he catches that look from her. Most people already think he’s crazy so the stream of lunacy comment is closer to the mark than he cares for, but on he forges.

Nothing for it but to try now.

“I could tell you that it would build trust, or that something like that. Or that it would be sensible to have allies in arms reach when whatever you’re planning goes south.” A flash of a smile towards her. “Because you’re always planning something, Emma. Can’t stop, gotta keep swimming.”

He pauses to taste a touch more of his drink, smiling slightly over the rim of his glass. “So, I’ll go with the more practical reason. You know someone is going to try to do it anyway. You might as well know who and what direction they are coming from. Plus, if anyone asks you can always blame it on me.”

A flash of a grin.

“I’m after all an easy sell and all.”

Emma’s eyes narrow suspiciously as she turns her pale eyes back in Stark’s direction. “Someone is going to try what, precisely? You and I are both perfectly aware that Rachel Summers is not just someone. She is the polar opposite of discreet and a publicly known mutant in what is—if I must remind—a particularly unfortunate season for mutants.”

Her lips curl upwards into an unhappy sneer. “Whatever she wants, I don’t like it. What could she possibly hope to gain there? Absolutely not. Advise her to let it go.

X-Men are the last thing she wants intruding in her space.

“She’s also quite possibly one of the ones that has the most experience in public speaking and actions.” Stark points out after a moment. “Not very many have experience there. Since. You know they try to be secret.” A beatpause. “I mean how they think they are secret when they fly a supersonic jet all around New York I have /no/ ideas but you know what, it’s the little delusions that keep us sane.”

“Having one around that is public and can behave how…well…the people in the Club think they should behave wouldn’t be too bad. Besides, most of the people there aren't discreet. Least of all me. She’ll fit right in.”

He pauses though at the sneer and the advice. His mind turning on the other question of that, the rhetorical one.

“You want my opinion…who am I kidding I’m just giving my opinion…anyway, she wants reassurance. That something at that Club isn’t going to bite her in the ass.” His eyes slant towards her. “Luv, I have no idea what happened between you and them. Don’t care to pry,” If she wants to discuss it someday it’s fine, but everyone has their secrets. “But giving up a membership to what equates to a giant booze fest every so often isn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things. Especially when it might net a less awkward working environment later.”

Even if it is only slightly less awkward.

He pauses again.

“And full disclosure? I kinda need their help on this whole Killian problem. They have more on the ground information than either of us do on the subject right now. And if I don’t end this mess soon, it's only going to get worse.”

A pause.

“At least consider it?” A smirk. “I’d owe ya a favor after all.”

I have no idea what happened between you and them, he says. Don’t care to pry, he says.

Good, comes the inevitable reply in the unspoken way the telepath has mastered. Emma’s expression only darkens by the moment, displeasure rolling off of her in nearly palpable waves. Eventually, she sets the glass down beside her.

“I have no desire to waste any more of my life thinking about this than I have just now.” That is not to say, however, that it won't continue to devour her in private like a spreading cancer. But she doesn’t say that. “So I’ll meet you halfway,” she says, rising to her feet—feet wrapped in the black Marescot lace of Manolo Blahnik pumps with a suede-wrapped and low-profile heel— slowly to keep her inebriation from showing. Years of practice in this arena imbues the movement with a languid grace.

Squaring off against Tony where he sits despite the lesser height sans her stilettos, a height she’d chosen in deference to his as she so often does in their private arrangements, she removes her sunglasses and looks down at him with every bit of her body language betraying just how angry she is right now despite the evenness of her voice and slowness in her words’ delivery. The wind at her back sets her gauzy dress to rippling about her form and her long curled tresses forward over her shoulders and against her bronzed cheeks. “At the close of Fashion Week, I’m given to understand there will be a private afterparty. The invitations will be coming out soon. You want this on your head? Fine.” The word is delivered with the most dangerous subtext it can possess in the hands of a female.

“Bring her as your plus one. No membership required, but it will afford her access to some of the Club’s prominent members. I promise to not intervene unless absolutely necessary. I expect her to remember she is a guest, and that means discretion about its membership and what occurs at that party. We are discreet in that regard. You know the rules; make certain she does.” An eyebrow arches expectantly. “Is that sufficient? First and final offer.”

That delivery. That stance. Hell, if Tony didn’t know better, he would expect her of paying off the summer breeze just to give her that ‘Dark Queen’ vibe she is getting as she faces him. He knows she’s angry; he can read that in every terse word. That doesn’t mean he can’t take just a moment to appreciate just how good she looks when she’s angry.

He can’t help it. It is just who he is.

However, he also has been in moments like this in his life when he knows that this is not the hill to die on. So…

He raises both hands in surrender, his glass expertly shifted to not spill a drop of that wine. “Alright, I’ll tell her.” He knows when not to push further. “That is more than generous. Give her a chance and maybe it’ll work out. Besides, I’ll make sure to be there. Clear my schedule and everything. You have my word on that. Barring I don’t know. Someone blowing up my house with me in it or something. Or an alien invasion. That sort of thing.”

Slowly the arms lower, carefully, as if worried she might rip them off if he moves too fast.

“Acceptable?”

“The benefit of a plus one scenario? You’re not there? Neither is she. I recommend doing more than just telling her and dusting your hands off.” Abandoning the remainder of her glass, Emma puts her sunglasses back on. “But there. You have what you want. Do as you will with it.”

And with that, Emma simply starts to walk back inside. Because why on Earth would she lose the power in this argument by staying?

Till his dying day. Till someone puts Tony Stark in the ground. He will insist that this wasn’t an argument. It was just a discussion. Therefore, he didn’t lose.

Of course, Emma will never ask.

And no one else will ever find out.

But still. It is the principle of the thing.

“Well JARVIS,” He says as he watches Emma walk back inside, his voice low but amusement evident in his tone as he covers the smile of his with a glass. “I suppose that ruins dinner. Which is a shame since I imported some big name guy from France for it…but…”

Hopefully this’ll be for a good cause.

And hopefully Emma will calm down…

…eventually.

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