Who:Tony Stark, Howard Stark, and Pepper Potts What: A business meeting? When: Monday Rating: green
Having arranged for a meeting at Pep's office, Tony was pretty sure that his dad was going to like Pepper. Sure, it might be a whole other era, but Howard Stark had worked with Peggy Carter, so he couldn't have been clinging onto that whole 'women were just secretary or nurses' era too much. Or, at least, he hoped not.
He was standing just inside Pep's office's doors, waiting for his dad to show up. Sure, he'd sent a car to pick up Howard. Sure, he'd taken several sneaky peeks over his shoulder to make sure Pepper wasn't trying to climb out a window. Because being romantically involved with him was grounds for an escape attempt, and he was still wondering when she was going to change her mind. Maybe she needed another elaborate gift. Or he could cook her something. He still owed her some stew, with about a whole bottle of wine poured in it.
In the meantime, Pepper was still there. His dad was still showing up. And he kept hoping things would go astoundingly right, when everything else lately had been going astoundingly wrong.
Pepper, for her part, was trying not to pace. She was nervous about meeting Tony’s dad. Not because he was his dad--because he wasn’t yet, which was a whole new level of confusing--but because he was one of the most astute businessmen in history, having built a fortune from nothing. She was intimidated, even though she knew she was fully capable of doing her job. She wasn’t sure what was going to happen in this meeting so she hadn’t been able to prepare anything. She was going to have to wing it, and unlike Tony, she really didn’t like that.
Howard was used to cars coming for him, but of course it made him miss Jarvis. He swallowed down the sentimentality, however, and watched out the window as the limo cruised through Manhattan. It had definitely changed. Bigger, taller, faster, more crowded. But it was still there, and there were still parts of it that had stayed the same, and for that he was grateful. There was just enough familiarity to keep him grounded. Otherwise he might feel like he’d fallen asleep and ended up on another planet.
He was deposited at a building that he his name on the door in big bold letters: another thing that he’d experienced many times before. He stepped inside and conversed briefly with the security guard who had his name on a list. He was directed to appropriate elevator. He was escorted to a spacious corner office at the end of a carpeted corridor. When he got there, he knocked. He didn’t want to come across as rude to his kid’s girlfriend, at the very least.
Tony opened the door and smiled. It was a somewhat tense smile, because he honestly didn't know how this was going to go either. But he was great at winging it. This would be fine. No problem. It's ok.
"Hi!" Tony said, holding the door open wider for Howard to come in. He glanced back at Pepper. "Look honey, he's here. Howard? Pepper Potts. Pepper? Howard Stark."
Pepper looked up, startled, and smiled as she made her way to the door. Her eyes widened when she saw Howard. He was even more handsome than the pictures she’d seen, and it was a little disconcerting. “Mr. Stark. Welcome. Please, come in.” She held out her hand to shake.
Howard stepped into the office and accepted her hand. “Miss Potts. I hope you’ll call me Howard,” he said, smiling at her. It would be completely inappropriate to turn on too much charm, but he could only dial it down so much in front of a beautiful woman.
Pepper was flustered. That was the only word for it. Never mind how completely inappropriate it was to find your boyfriend’s father handsome, said boyfriend was standing right there. “Only if you’ll call me Pepper. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Would you like something to drink? Coffee? Tea?” Luckily she could do business meetings on autopilot (though she never did), so the social niceties came naturally.
“Just a glass of water would be great. Thank you, Pepper,” he said. “Tony’s been singing your praises,” he said, shooting the other man a sidelong smirk before turning his attention back to her. “I have to say, there weren’t nearly enough beautiful women running companies back where I came from. Or is that when I came from? The time travel thing is still pretty disorienting.”
Tony had been smirking back at Howard, before his head cocked to one side and his eyebrows raised way up. He looked over at Pepper and adopted a bit of a WTF smile, the same way he did when people put their arms around him in public for photographs. The only thing missing was his fake 'oh this is terrible' laugh akin to what he gave Justin Hammer at Monaco, because was his dad...did he just tell Pepper...was that even...why did that seem slightly schmoozy?
He was left wondering if he was this schmoozy. Usually it was a well-aimed pick up line with heavily laden sarcasm. Tony shrugged at Pepper from behind Howard's back, and made a 'roll with it' hand motion.
"It's when," Tony said. "Definitely when. Who's getting water? We might need a lot of water. Should I get water?"
To cool his dad's jets with.
Pepper was blushing. She couldn’t help it. Howard was charming and handsome, and she told herself he probably treated all women this way. He was probably terribly sexist and condescending. “I’ll get the water,” she said quickly, turning to a small fridge against the wall. She pulled out two bottles, one for her and one for Howard, because Tony generally didn’t believe in drinking water unless it was in the form of ice in his drink. “Shall we all have a seat?”
Howard accepted the bottle. “Thanks. After you,” he said politely, waiting for Pepper to take a seat. He followed her lead and took a seat across from her. “I’ve heard a little about the size and scope of Stark Industries these days, but I’m obviously a few years out of date on the details. I gotta be honest with you,” he said, leaning in a little. “I wasn’t really thinking about where it would all end up in the 21st century.” Of course he’d wanted to build a legacy. And security. An empire big enough to weather any storm that came its way. But at the time he didn’t have anyone else to be building it for other than himself.
That might have been true about the water. The only person he drank water for was Pepper, but he was giving her an incredulous look because she didn't get him water and even bicker with him to drink it. She didn't even wait for him to pull her chair out for her, so he started hustling for nothing. That hustle to catch up turned into what he hoped looked like a casual stroll, until he could pull out a chair for himself and sit down.
"I filled him in on the holdings," Tony chimed in to Pepper, trying to squash down every ounce of weirded out within him. At least he was sitting still. "Like where the businesses were, labs, stuff like that."
Pepper nodded at tony and smiled in what she hoped was a non-suspicious way. “Great, Tony. Thank you.” She slid a glossy folder over to Howard. “This is last year's revenue stream, profit and loss statement, and projected growth over the next five years. We have quite a few ideas for diversification, as you can see. The current political climate isn’t very favorable for many of our projects but we have fallback plans.” She looked up at Howard, then forced herself to look back at Tony.
Howard was pleasantly surprised to get such a full analysis of the state of the business. Considering that his involvement ceased some time ago from their point of view, it was pretty open-minded of them. He opened the folder and looked over the numbers, letting out a low whistle. “Even guessing at the rate of inflation from 1949 dollars, this is… substantial.” Howard was used to making money. Maybe he would have done as well. Maybe even better. But that didn’t make it any less impressive. He looked up at Pepper again. Beautiful as she was, she was definitely one of those women that wasn’t hiding her intelligence behind a lot of vapid posturing. He glanced at Tony for a moment, and then back at her, then he smiled. “Tell me what the political climate has to do with it,” he said. He was interested in that statement, because he hadn’t scratched the surface of 21st century politics yet.
Pepper inhaled a deep breath. “Well that could take hours. Suffice it to say that the current administration is not very progressive when it comes to the environment or clean, renewable energy. But political climates change, and we are confident we can weather the storm. People are going to need energy, regardless of who is president, and sooner or later that will become evident.” She glanced at Tony. “Tony of course comes up with new ideas faster than anyone else can write them down. I’m sure he has a better idea of what’s going on, R and D wise, than I do. Tony? You want to take over?” She felt guilty for a reason she couldn’t quite name. She’d done nothing wrong except find Tony’s father attractive. Of course he was attractive. He’d produced Tony. Who she loved with all her heart.
Tony was watching her when she glanced over. He sat up a little straighter and gave her a not-so-discreet thumbs up to let her know she was rocking everything as usual. Like a professional badass. Something which he was definitely not good at. Tony wasn't welcome at most board meetings, even back when Stane was running things. After Stane was gone, the board members still thought he was too flippant and confrontational. But if it was tech talk, then Tony was ready to face dive into everything and he had tons of ideas.
"We're still working the clean energy sector," he started saying, "even if the political climate is crappy for that. But we've also got the bio-crops for drought stricken regions and clean water systems. There's some plantations for bio-friendly and sustainable resources. Prosthetics. Scanning and imaging systems for medical systems. Lots of applications for that. I'd love to send some scanners to Mars someday to look for mineral resources. We've got a few satellites, and those are always fun to develop. The Stark phones, watches, and holographic glasses. Then there's all of the robotic fabrication and assembly equipment I made for the suits. A ton of manufacturing applications for the robotics. And there's the voice-activated advanced language operating systems. The interactive op systems are intuitive and proving useful for people who can't move well or talk on their own. I feel like I'm forgetting something, but that covers a lot of the basics."
Pepper now couldn’t take her eyes from Tony. She felt that familiar flutter in her stomach that she always got when he was being particularly competent. She was so proud of him. He was holding it together remarkably well in the weirdest of circumstances. She smiled encouragingly at him but didn’t interrupt. This was Tony’s element and there was no one better at it.
Howard didn’t notice that Pepper was gazing adoringly at her boyfriend, because he was doing his best not to look like he was making ridiculous heart eyes at his only child. The very word ‘robotics’ always made him a little misty, after all. Of course a lot of what Tony had mentioned would be tax write offs, but doing good in the world had a different type of profitability than numbers on a balance sheet.
“I’d love to see some of the actual projects, and maybe prototypes if you have some ready to be shown off.” Howard was a big fan of money, but his passion was actually inventing things. If he invented things that he could sell, that was a happy circumstance, but that wasn’t his raison d'être.
Tony was making ridiculous heart eyes at Pepper and just happened to chance a glance at Howard. He quickly did a double take and was left staring at his father like he wasn't sure if what he was seeing was real. His father looked strangely overjoyed, at him, which was an expression that Tony hadn't seen on older Howard's face. Ever.
"Sure. We can hit the lab and I can show you some of the prototypes. And the suit. Haven't forgotten." Before they did that, though, Tony held up one hand a little like they should slow their roll a little bit. He hated elephants in the room, and they all needed to be on the same page as far as how to move forward with someone from nineteen-forty-whatever ending up in twenty-eighteen. "We should talk about how we're gonna handle the fact that you're back. Without alerting the press that the timeline's been punched in the junk. And also, this is the company you founded. I didn't do that. It's what you left for us to build on. You need lab access, a place to live, and a chunk of the profit. How do we do this?"
Howard was touched that Tony wanted to include him. He built the company, yes, but in twenty eighteen he’d lived an entire life and left it to his son, the way you were supposed to do it. However, if he really was stuck there for good, he had a whole other life to lead. “Hey, I don’t mind taking an assumed name, but I’m not very good at being incognito, usually. As far as a place to live… what are my options? Are any of the places I used to live still in the family, so to speak?” He had a sweet penthouse on the Upper East Side, a brownstone downtown, not to mention a couple of mansions just outside the city in Westchester and off in the Hamptons. Howard had always been pretty liberal with his creature comforts.
Finally, something she could help with. Pepper had been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the two Stark men and their large… brains. She picked up her tablet and opened an app. “Let’s see. There’s a house in the Hamptons, of course. It’s closed up at the moment, obviously. A mansion in Westchester… it needs some work though. If you want to be in the city, though…” She smiled as she looked over the description. “I think the duplex in the Village would suit you, Howard.” She handed over the tablet to show him the pictures and description.
Howard accepted the tablet. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it was a touch sensitive screen, after watching Pepper us it, and that the photos were accessible by navigating with the arrows on either side. All the same, he was a rocket scientist, anyway. He looked over the photos. It looked nice. A little chilly compared to the opulence he was used to surrounding himself with, but completely adequate. “Looks great,” he said, handing the tablet back to her. “It’s barely recognizable, but I remember the general layout.”
He knew there was more to discuss, and he didn’t hesitate to broach it. “If I’ve got a place to live, and lab access, I don’t need much else. Maybe the easiest thing to do would be to put me on the payroll.”
"Sounds good to me," was Tony's reply. "Fake name on the payroll. Just dodge any photographers, all right? Or the planet's going to pitch a bitch that Howard Stark, national treasure, has a modern day doppelganger."
Pepper made a note on the tablet. “Okay. I’ll set you up with bank accounts, credit cards, all that. I’ll get you the keys later today, is that all right?” She looked up at Howard again, relaxing a little as it seemed the two men weren’t going to be at each other’s throats for the time being. “I can get you badge access for the labs right now.”
“Anytime. My schedule is wide open. All I have to do is read 70 years of world history and technological advancement on the internet. But first, I really want to see some of this lab.” He wasn’t as concerned about the money. He could always make money somehow, and it didn’t seem like he was going to have to go panhandling any time soon. He looked to Pepper and then back at his son. His grown son who was older than him. Yeah, it was still weird, but they were going to get past it. He just needed Tony to be a little more comfortable around him to be able to get a straight answer out of him eventually.
That might be a hard path to traverse. Tony spent the majority of his time burying his face in a plethora of projects. It was therapeutic for him. Speaking of burying his face in things, Tony suddenly looked up from his phone, where he had been momentarily engrossed with checking a particular piece of coding in the network's Franken-Friday. He'd been keeping an ear on the conversation, so when there was a pause, he looked from Howard to Pepper, promptly put the phone away and stood up.
"Let's go to the lab. And Pep, I'm gonna show him the Iron Man suits. And probably the Spider-kid suit too. Not that it got used, but...eh." Tony shrugged. He seemed like this was all one hundred percent perfectly normal, because no way did he want to have another embarrassing panic attack for the next...forever. That'd be nice. Especially when there was work to do. "Playland awaits. You comin' with, Pep?"
Pepper looked from Tony to Howard, judging the situation. It seemed as if they’d come to a sort of understanding that they weren’t going to talk about anything significant, just tech. It was a start anyway, and knowing how avoidant Tony was, it would probably last a while. “No, you boys go and play,” she said with an indulgent smile. “Some of us have actual work to do.” Truthfully, she’d be a third wheel anyway, and not know most of what they were talking about. Maybe they’d bond. “Stop by later and I’ll have the apartment keys for you.”
"You know you can invade my lab any time you want, Miss Potts." Tony moved over to Pepper's side and gave her a quick kiss. If it wasn't quick then he might not stop, and that would be weird as hell in front of young dad. "I'll try not to blow anything up. No promises."
Howard knew it was weird, but he felt pleased that Tony had Pepper. He didn’t know this man, and it would be years and years before he was even the age that he had kids. But in some universe, this was his kid. This was the person he was responsible for bringing into the world. This was the person he’d somehow passed all kinds of neuroses onto. Seeing him happy was gratifying in some way that he didn’t completely understand.
He waited for the tender moment to play out, standing and waiting to go to the lab. He couldn’t wait to see the suit.
Tony didn't hesitate any further, because the prospect of hitting the lab and showing Howard as much as he could was overwhelming. I really was like Christmas morning.
"Right this way. I'll show you the suits first," he said, opening the door so they could hightail it before Pepper started the business side of things. "And those holographic display models. You're gonna love mapping out ideas on those things."
And then the Starks were gone, with the door closing behind them.