"Pepper, what time is Maria Hill's interview?" Tony rubbed his hands excitedly.
Pepper peered at him from behind a thick folder she was reading. "Why on earth are you interested in any interview, Tony? You usually just ignore the resumes I forward to you."
"I usually trust your judgment on our candidates. I don't want to bother my inventive brain for such trivialities that are better handled by lesser brains."
"Thanks, Tony. Your praise always means so much to me. If you don't mind, this lesser mind has a lot of things to catch up on before my two o'clock meeting. You know, lesser mind, needs more time to read to digest. Hush, hush!" She made a gesture like chasing the chickens away.
He just realized what he said. "What? No, no, that's not what I meant, Pepper. I swear, you're more capable than me. I just meant I wanted my mind to fully focus on new inventions rather than boring interviews."
"Yes, just let the lesser mind handle the interview. I get it."
Tony waved both hands in front of him wildly. "You know what I meant, Pepper. You're really smart and you always know what I want. You know I don't think you as less capable than me. It's the other way around, actually. Stark Industries would have collapsed ten years ago if not for your help. You're the best CEO, friend, girlfriend a guy could ask for. Happy now?"
Pepper wanted to act stern but looking at Tony's frantic expression, she took pity. She allowed a small smile. "Oh, you want Happy right now? You just missed him, he was just picking up some businessmen for my two o'clock."
"No, no, I don't mean Happy as the person. I was referring to happy as the adjective, as the opposite of sad. Stop that sly smile. Now I know you were just teasing me." Tony folded both his arms in front of his chest and pouted.
"Oh, did the lesser mind offend the inventive mind now? I'm so sorry. Since your brain is so advanced, you shouldn't be so petty with the lesser beings."
"Pepper, please stop. I made a mistake mentioning a lesser brain, OK. I'm sorry, I'm apologizing. Je m'excuserai. Me estoy disculpando. Sto scusando. Watashi wa shazai shite imasu. What other languages do you want me to speak? I can actually ask Jarvis to do it for me. JARVIS, what are the Chinese and Korean for I'm apologizing? I'll never get the tones right."
"That would be Wǒ dàoqiàn for Chinese and Naneun sagwa hago for Korean, sir!"
"Thanks, JARVIS. What more do you want, Pepper? Swahili? Hebrew? Latin? JARVIS!"
"You don't need to translate that, JARVIS. I get what Tony meant."
"Very well, ma'am."
"Stop wasting my time, Tony. I'm serious about the two o'clock meeting."
"But, Pepper, I really want to interview Maria Hill."
She raised one elegant eyebrow. "Why is the sudden interest in Maria Hill? You usually pretended that she didn't exist when you went to SHIELD's meetings. Unless there is something going on between you two …"
"No, no, nothing likes that. You're the only one for me now. Any SHIELD agent is too scary for me, especially the female ones. Have you met Natasha? Of course you have. I've had enough close encounters of the SHIELD kind to last me a few lifetimes."
"That pun is so lame, Tony."
"But it made you smile."
"Unfortunately, it did. My standards must be slipping. So why do you want to interview Maria Hill? Don't you trust me? Do you think I can't detect HYDRA?"
"Hill in HYDRA? You must be joking, Pepper. She's more of a by-the-book kind of agent than Fury ever was. There's no way she's HYDRA!"
"If you think people who go by the books can't be HYDRA, you need to move to another realm, Tony." She looked at the excited gleam in Tony's eyes and quickly amended. "OK, scratch that, I know you've been itching to go to visit Thor in Asgard. So, no, don't go to another realm. But I happen to know that she is not HYDRA from my own sources, so there, problem solved. Can you go away now? I really need to prepare for the meeting."
"No, no, I want to interview her not because I think she might be HYDRA I think such a high ranking official like the deputy director of SHIELD requires the full respect from Tony Stark, the chairman of Stark Industry, a member of the Avengers Initiative and the coolest, most modern, sexiest Avenger to boot."
"You just want to show off to Maria that you're going to be her new boss, don't you?"
Tony put his right hand over his heart. "You mock me, Pepper. How could you?" He then grinned. "You know me so well. As I said, best girlfriend ever. Since when are you in first name basis with her?"
"Tony, you know the interview is just for formality, right? I've decided to accept her as I know her well."
"Does she know that?"
"Will whatever I do or say in interview affect her chances?"
"Knowing everyone just tolerates you and I won't blame them if they want to kill you on the spot, no."
"So there's no harm in me attending. Otherwise I can be here all day until two o'clock."
Pepper massaged the bridge of her nose. "I guess so. If she decides to kill you on the spot, I might actually help her clean up your body. The interview will be at half past three here."
"Thanks, Pepper, you're the best." He rose and kissed her on both cheeks.
When he walked to the door, he turned back and asked, "Do you think I should wear an eye patch like Fury? Or should I just bring a life decoy model of Fury? I guess wearing the eye patch myself is easier."
"You know, to make her feel at home like in SHIELD."
"Bye, Pepper. See you at half past three."
From force of habit, Pepper let the apprehension of what Tony would do this time slide and focused back on reading her paper. However, she really couldn't assuage her horror for the upcoming interview. Poor Maria!