Who would win in a fight?
"Thanks for being willing to answer my questions. First question, Thor and Hulk were in a fight. Who would win?"
"Does Thor have his hammer? If he is, there may be 50-50 chance."
"Well, I give you three options."
"Three, but there are only two parties... Wait, do you mean YOU will be the winner? I think the answer is Iron Man."
"Maria, I think you're not as straight laced as I thought. I'm impressed."
Pepper's migraine was now fully blossoming. She felt like putting her palm on her face but she opted for massaging her temples. "Really, Tony? That's your answer. How egocentric are you?" Looking at Tony's expression, she quickly said, "Please don't answer that. Do we still need to go on with this circus?"
"Come on, Pep. This's fun. Look at Maria, she seems to be excited."
Pepper looked at Maria's face. Her eyes indeed gleamed with determination. "That's OK, Pepper. Since I'll be working here, I want everyone to accept me due to my merits, not some connection. I really don't mind answering Mr Stark's questions."
Pepper thought she saw a mischief glint in her eyes but it was gone soon then she looked as professional as ever. Must have been a play of the light.
"Who is the best looking Avenger?"
Pepper interrupted, "What has it got to do with her job?"
Maria looked Tony straight in the eyes and replied, "I'd like to say Natasha but I have a feeling you may have some perverted thought with that response. Therefore, I'd say Tony Stark."
Pepper winced and closed her eyes.
Tony beamed. "I'm impressed, you're really bright. I can see why you were appointed as the Deputy Director so soon."
Pepper opened her eyes and punched Tony's in the shoulder not-too-lightly. "Really, Tony?"
"Pep, be professional, we're in the middle of an interview here. What will Maria think of us if we fight in front of her?"
Pepper stole a glance at Maria. She looked as impassive as ever, too impassive for her liking. She realized both of them were mad and she was right in the middle of it. At least Natasha would give veiled threats to Tony. Maria was totally different. She was still an unknown factor, unpredictable. Tony must be an idiot to antagonize her. Who is she kidding? Tony had always been an idiot, ironically when he was actually a genius. If she didn't stop this madness, Tony might need to leave in several body bags. Then she shrugged, besides the mess on the carpet, perhaps that was not a bad thing. Maria may even have some tips how to get rid of bodies easily. That may come in handy. But she didn't really want to get rid of a lot of people. Only Tony. Oh God, what have I been thinking? These two people made me contemplate murder.
Maria merely shrugged and waved her right hand dismissively "That's OK, if you want to have arguments, please do. I'm used to it as I often fought with Directory Fury myself."
Tony looked like an awestruck fanboy. "Did you? I didn't know. You're officially my hero."
Pepper rolled her eyes. "Tony, does it mean we can finish the interview now?"
"No, no, Pepper. I have prepared a few questions during the ten minutes of my workshop time. Do you know how important my workshop time is?"
Unfortunately, Pepper knew it too well. He couldn't even spare time to eat or sleep so these questions must be a big deal for him. "OK then, you can continue the interview but please wrap it up soon as I have another meeting in half an hour."
"Maria, before I forget, can I look at your resume?"
Pepper quickly replied, "Tony, I forwarded her resume to your inbox today."
"But I haven't seen it since I prepare for this interview." Pepper translated it in her brain as Tony shopping for Fury's garb this afternoon. He looked at Maria, "Do you have an extra resume?"
Maria smiled brightly, too brightly which Pepper found disconcerting. "Sure, Mr Stark." She took her resume from her handbag and gave it to Tony.
Tony glanced and looked dismayed. "What the hell? Why are all of the lines redacted?"
Maria replied sweetly. "Not all are redacted, there's still some information in there."
Tony gesticulated wildly. "But the only non-redacted information is you name, contact address and your school information. I can get all this info myself in under three minutes. I really want to know what you did in SHIELD."
"Do you mean besides fighting with Fury or learning 127 ways to kill people with a paper clip?" She picked up a paper clip not too subtly."What more do you want to know? I really have sent the full resume to Pepper."
Pepper agreed, "Yes, she did give me the non-redacted resume."
"Why couldn't you give me the same version as Pepper's?" whined Tony.
"Because I intended to go for a one-on-one interview with Pepper, I didn't expect you would be here. If you want to read the full version, you can just retrieve the one she forwarded to you."
Tony didn't think of that."But, why did you carry a redacted resume then?"
"It's more like my calling card when I go to apply for some jobs offline. Do you think the CIA or NSA would accept an email containing my resume and believe it's mine? I need to go there personally and leave those resumes."
Pepper couldn't fault that line of thinking. It was unconventional. But again she didn't know enough of the recruitment process for SHIELD, CIA, NSA and the other three-letter government organizations. Running Stark Industries seemed to be much simpler than the art of applying for those jobs.
Tony pouted. "OK, you win this round. Should we go for the next questions?"
Maria answered, "Sure. As long as Pepper still has some free time."
Pepper allowed herself a small smile. "Be my guest, as long as you wrap it up within half an hour." Tony had finally met his match. Maria was scarier than Natasha. Natasha's threat was obvious. However, Maria would appear to agree with whatever her challenger said, then she would strike back very subtly which people would miss if they didn't pay attention. She hoped Tony was smart enough to notice this trait of Maria. She secretly wished she had popcorn with her.
"Batman and Sherlock Holmes were in a fight. Who would win?"
Maria gave him a "What's wrong with you? Why your questions are always about who would win?" look. "Which Batman? Bale, Kilmer, Clooney, Keaton, or should I go back further? Or do you want the comic Batman? Which Sherlock? Cumberbatch, the guy who looked like you, or Sherlock from older movies or books?" Realization dawned on her. "Let me guess, the Sherlock who looked like you wins."
Pepper suppressed a giggle. It seemed Maria had predicted what Tony thought. She didn't realize that Tony did look like Robert Downey Jr. She also didn't realize that Maria was that knowledgeable about Batman. She guessed it went with her territory as a SHIELD agent to know about superheroes. For Sherlock Holmes, perhaps she was just a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle?
Tony looked equally in awe. "Now, now, you just said that to make me happy. Can you give me the reasons to convince me though?"
"I admit I haven't watched older movies for Batman or Sherlock. For newer Batman movies, I think the decent movies were by Keaton and Bale. However, I couldn't remember much about Keaton's Batman. I think Bane was awesome but I hated The Dark Knight Rising. Batman spent half of his time being beaten by the bad guys and Catwoman was the one who actually got things done." Tony's jaw dropped at her answer. She continued, "As for modern adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, both Cumberbatch and Robert Downer Jr. are great. I just find that Robert Downer Jr.'s version is more well-versed in fighting than Cumberbatch's."
Tony bounced at his seat. "Wow, you're really awesome, Maria. You convinced me although I did agree with your answer in the first place."
Pepper wonder how Maria could be so well-versed in these topics. She could ask her next time in private. "Tony, you seem to really like Maria. Do you think we can finish now?"
"One more question, Pepper, then I'm done. I just don't want this question to go to waste."
Tony asked, "Who do you think will get the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones?"
Pepper said, "Tony, enough with your nerdy questions and your obsession with Game of Thrones." She looked at Maria. "You don't have to answer this. Sorry, he has been so obsessed with the show. I've told him not everyone is into it."
Maria offered her a smile, a genuine one this time. "That's OK, as a matter of fact, most of SHIELD, including Fury and I, watched Game of Thrones. It's full of intrigues so we could learn a thing or two. I mean we're busy saving the world but we need some occasional downtime. I also often have the same question myself. Shall I say the answer is one of the Starks? Arya Stark perhaps?"
Tony said, "You're saying that just because of the family name. Don't worry, I don't really associate the Starks with my Stark, Who do you think will win?"
Maria contemplated her answer. "Well, since every candidate has an equal chance because George R.R. Martin is unpredictable like that. Who knows if the current candidate will get killed off …" Both Tony and Pepper shuddered at the mention of the deaths. " … or there may be a new candidate. To be honest, it's really hard to tell. I'm rooting for Daenerys because, you know, dragons."
Tony grinned widely. "Cool, I'm rooting for her, too, for the same reason."
Pepper rolled her eyes. "Tony rooted for her because of the dragons and also, pardon me, her cleavage."
Maria hid her smile with a cough.
Tony defended, "Come on, boobs like that shouldn't go to waste. Besides, she had a lot of people on her side who were willing to die for her."
Maria added. "If there's any consolation, a few SHIELD employees and I intended to bring in George R.R. Martin for questioning. As in questioning who will get the Iron Throne as the suspense is killing us. Yes, we were crazy like that. Thankfully, Fury put a stop to the madness."
Tony looked like he might kiss Maria's hands. "Wow, you're really really awesome. If it were up to me, you would get the job on the spot. But Pepper spoiled all the fun as she needed to think it over."
Pepper finally allowed herself to relax. Tony finally accepted Maria. If she recruited Maria, she would be on her side and that would help her deal with Tony. "You know what, Tony? I thought it over while you conducted the interview." She airquoted the word interview. "I decided that Maria's qualifications are enough for her applied position." She leaned forward and shook Maria's hand. "Welcome to Stark Industries, Maria!"
Maria seemed genuinely surprised by the news. "Well, that's a first," Pepper thought.
"Thanks, Pepper, I'm happy to join the team, too."
Tony stood up and hugged Maria. "Welcome to the coolest company on earth with the coolest, handsomest Avenger." Both Maria and Pepper rolled their eyes. "I didn't know you were as nerdy as me. You're welcome to our Avengers weekly nerdy discussion, which is so boring. Only Clint and I are interested in nerdy stuff and Clint is often away on assignments. The rest apparently think real life stuff is more interesting than nerdy stuff." It was Tony's turn to roll his eyes.
"Thanks for the invite, Mr. Stark."
"Please call me Tony."
"Thanks, Tony. I'm sure I'll enjoy it. When do I start work?"
Pepper smiled. "How about tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow is fine. It's not as if my agenda is full. By the way, I need to do something first." She picked up Tony's Iron Man suitcase.
"What are you doing?" Tony yelled.
"I just need to do this." She showed the case to Tony and Pepper. She drew a paper clip from the latch.
"What did you do?" Tony asked.
"Ah, I was worried that the interview might not go so well. Given your reputation, I might have strangled you. I knew you brought the Iron Man suit in case you had to protect yourself from me. I couldn't have that. So I jammed your case with a paper clip so it couldn't be opened. I planned to remove it after the interview was over. But since I got accepted, I removed it in front of you to show my good will."
Tony blushed. "You knew me too well. I like you. You're scary, but you've got style. What if there was an urgent Avengers business when the suitcase was jammed?"
Maria looked at him indignantly. "Of course, I would remove it if it were to happen without your notice."
Pepper finally snapped. She laughed and laughed. Both of them looked at her in concern.
"Are you OK?" Tony asked.
"I'm fine. I haven't had a good laugh for a while. I was worried that Tony might upset you, Maria, but you seemed to handle him well, too well." She laughed again. Tomorrow onward would be interesting with Maria on board. She was sure there would be conflicts between Tony and Maria or even the rest of the Avengers despite how the interview went relatively well but tomorrow was another day!
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