velvetfiction: (plotbunny)
[personal profile] velvetfiction
Title: Observation (The Many Faces Remix)
Author: [personal profile] velvetmouse
Fandom: Highlander/Iron Man crossover
Summary: Pepper gets paid to notice things. That doesn't mean she wouldn't do it anyway.
Characters: Pepper Potts, Tony Stark, Methos, Richie Ryan
Rating: G
Word Count: 1248
Warning: none
Original Story: Champagne by [ profile] lferion
Notes: Many thanks to E. and C. for looking this over when I threw it at them with no warning!


Pepper Potts was paid to notice things. Well, that was one of the things she was paid for anyway. She was also paid to look pretty, keep Tony from trying to be in three places at once, and to smooth over any international incidents that might come up. But noticing things was right up there on the list as well. She was Tony's eyes and ears, and occasionally his voice.

Tonight she was stuck behind the table displaying the various gift and service packages that Stark Industries was offering for the silent auction. But that didn't mean she couldn't still notice things. This was one of the charity events of the season, and the only one in New York that Tony was attending in person. That alone was enough to draw flocks of socialites to her table. She kept one eye on the table, absently answering questions, and another on Tony, who was prowling around the room, leaving a trail of devastation with a few well-placed smiles.

During one of the periodic lulls, when no one was trying to occupy her attention, and Tony was safely in a conversation with the president of the Museum of Modern Art, a trio of elegantly attired gentlemen at the entryway caught her eye. There was nothing overly remarkable about them. The tallest had a commanding presence, but was soon swept away by one of the committee members. Pepper absently made a note to find out his name and why Gretchen Van Khiel greeted him so enthusiastically.

That left the other two, an oddly mismatched pair, to fend for themselves. The younger man was like a puppy with a new collar; all arms and legs and not quite comfortable in the tuxedo, but still wanting to show it off. He did not so much move as bounce, although he had obviously been coached on the proper etiquette of these things. He was slightly familiar, but that should not have been enough to hold her attention in a room full of people she had met or seen before.

The other man was of indeterminate age, and Pepper found herself trying not to stare. It wasn't that he stood out in any one way, but a hundred little things seemed to draw her eye. The cut of his tuxedo was slightly different, not at all out of date, but somehow evocative of a more genteel era. She was sure that somewhere in the coat check was a top hat and opera cape. The cane he leaned upon was elegant, but worn, and spoke of obvious use. As he and the young puppy passed by her table she heard the cane's sound on the polished ballroom floor - not the hollow tap she was expecting, but a more solid thunk. A sword-cane, then. But even that should not have been enough to pique her interest so thoroughly. There was simply an aura of age and power about him that could not be denied.

As they mixed and mingled with the flow of people, Pepper tore her attention away from the unlikely duo. She smiled pleasantly at the older woman wearing a pair of earrings that probably were worth more than most people made in a lifetime, who stopped at her table. With a quirk of her lips and a flip of her hair, Pepper doubled the bid for one of the packages they were offering. Tony would be pleased. If that bid held - and she thought it likely it would - it would give him access to one of the Hinklemen's mansions, which was something he had been jonesing after for a couple years now.

There was another lull and Pepper found her eyes being drawn towards a quiet corner of the hall. There, she saw the young puppy and his companion again, quietly sipping flutes of the ever-abundant champagne. Then, just when her attention started to wander back to the rest of the room, a slight movement caught her eye. It was nothing big, just the older of the two men taking a sip of his champagne. But what happened next captivated Pepper completely.

He took a drink and then a deep breath and then he changed.

It was nothing dramatic, there were no flashy pyrotechnics or fancy costuming. It was far more profound. He seemed to age before her eyes and his weight shifted, indicating a pronounced limp. He turned inward more, and the sense of his presence changed. He stared into his glass, apparently lost in thought, until his young companion touched his elbow. They exchanged words and his entire demeanor changed. He seemed to be reassuring his friend with a gentle smile and then he said something that caused the other to laugh. Finally, he began making his slow, stately way amongst the tables, thoughtfully considering many of the objects and services that had been put up for auction.

Pepper was at once disturbed and intrigued. She had seen many facades before, the false faces and brittle smiles concealing any hope of learning someone's true thoughts and feelings. But never before had she seen one so complete, so profound. It was as if whoever that man was when he walked in the door was replaced entirely by someone else.

She made a few discrete inquiries and quickly had a name to put to the oddly malleable face - Dr. Matthew Talhaern-Strange, of the Talhaern Trust. That put a different complexion on things. She had worked with the Talhaern Trust on several occasions, laughing when she learned that the name meant "Iron-brow" in Welsh. Iron-brow and Iron Man teaming up. Only now it didn't seem so funny.

"Tony!" The enthusiastic shout brought Pepper out of her musings and she tensed as she saw her boss set-upon by the young puppy from earlier. She eased out from behind her table, ready to swoop in at a moment's notice. But she relaxed when she saw Tony greet the young man warmly, and words like "win" and "Formula 1" and "bike trials" floated through the air towards her. The puppy must be part of the bike circuit, no wonder he looked familiar.

The name "Talhaern" snapped Pepper back to the conversation and she drifted close enough that she could hear the young puppy offering to introduce Tony.

"Tony, this is Dr. Matthew Talhaern-Strange." The man in question gave a little half-bow that Pepper thought was not so much intentionally archaic as it was borne of instincts forged when such a greeting was common place.

"A pleasure to meet you, Dr. Talhaern." Tony's voice was even and polite, holding just the right amount of respect and interest.

"Matthew, this is Anthony Edward Stark, of Stark Industries. You know, the guy with Iron Man as his bodyguard," the young puppy continued, and Pepper had to bite her lip to keep from laughing at such an introduction.

Whether or not Talhaern knew of her boss's dual-life, he gave no indication, merely saying, "A pleasure indeed," with another tip of his head. The conversation then moved into light, socially acceptable topics, both men proceeding as if they hadn't a care in the world.

But for Pepper, who was so accustomed to her boss's presence that she sometimes forgot how commanding he could be, the two men were fairly radiating power. Iron-brow meets Iron Man indeed.

She didn't fully understand what had happened, only that it was somehow monumentally important, on levels she couldn't even begin to comprehend. And so she would do what she always did: watch, listen and notice.

And try to keep Tony out of any international incidents.


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