(2016-12-08) Ladies' Secrets
Ladies' Secrets
Summary: Natasha discovers Pepper's secret, that she's not from this place. Pepper let's Natasha know that she knows Nat's as well. Compacts are made.
Date: 2016-12-08
Related: None
NPCs: None
Scene Runner: NA
Social/Plot: Social

Natalie Rushman has been working at Stark Industries since mid summer. The capable redheaded business woman came in with a Master's in Business and Finance from Harvard Business School under her belt and immediately fit into the environment. Always on time and never leaving early, she found herself moved from the business office directly to a position as an assistant to Pepper. There she did as before, working tirelessly to help Pepper succeed even in spite of Tony's oft injected chaos and frenetic flights of fancy.

Natalie enters the office, bagel and coffee in hand. Or, well, bagel in teeth, coffee and ID badge swiping the reader on the way in. Slipping into the office she skillfully sets everything down without dropping or spilling. It's Miracle Thursday, clearly.

It's been a bit of a strange week. Pepper hasn't taken many personal meetings, though she seems to have been handling almost ALL of Tony's work, even though he's still the public face of the company. It's like she's just decided to take over almost EVERYTHING behind the scenes. That also means she's been hiding in her office a *lot*. Better to take a meeting over the phone or video conference than in person. She's been ducking people all week but, eventually, she can't duck her own assistant forever. "…Miss Rushman, good morning." Pepper's voice offers in her direction with a half smile, knowing Natalie's been waiting and asking. Hopefully she's caught up enough that she can hide the differences from the woman. Her hair is a bit shorter, a touch more strawberry blonde. She looks somehow thinner. Older. But maybe it's just been a crazy week and she decided for a new dye job?

Black Widow enters and offers up a paper sack. "Good morning, Ms. Potts. I brought you a bagel." Just the way Pepper likes it. Or at least the way "real" Pepper likes it. "Also, coffee." She moves over and sets them on the corner of Pepper's desk. Just where she's always been asked to place them. She doesn't react to Pepper but she's studying the woman just the same. Carefully. It's her job to study without looking as if she isn't. "I'll have the reports ready for your Nine O'Clock presentation in about ten minutes."

A slightly arched brow and Pepper takes a heartbeat or two in order to study this woman. Not Natasha. Natalie. They hadn't gone that far in this place. She isn't near so subtle with her study as the other redhead is, but then she's never been trained in espionage. She does give a slightly warmer smile and reaches over for the bagel, letting a touch of relief cross her features. "…thank you. I do suppose eating is… Not the worst choice at the moment. And…" Then her eyes flicker down to the calendar open on her computer, studying exactly which presentation that might be and what reports those are. She doesn't have everything memorized yet. "The reports are perfect. That gives me plenty of time. Easier to handle it than bother Tony… he's stuck in the bunker this week." A fond roll of her eyes with the 'You know how it is' look to her gaze and a slightly too-game smile.

Natalie Rushman nods. "Alright, Ms. Potts." She offers a smile but it falters a moment at the mention of Tony in the bunker. That is decidedly not normal or justified to her knowledge this week. It does not fit standard behavior for a man of unpredictably non-standard behaviors. She recovers quickly. "Oh… alright. Well. if you need anything… I'll be finishing up the reports.." She offers a smile and returns to her desk, settling there, mind racing a million miles an hour over the possible implications of this new information.

"…What… are your impressions of the 9 o'clock crowd? Any advice?" That is also a slightly non-Pepper question to ask, as she often knows this business inside out and upside down. Better than the CEO, better than most the other managers. But today she's seemingly slightly off her game and so she dares as that of her assistant. She also actually remembers to take a bite of that bagel, stomach screaming at her as she's neglected it far too much as of late.

Black Widow hesitates. "…. the Blackmore account? They're going to try and stonewall us on Project 161. They've been murmuring for weeks about cost overruns and how it's going to require more funding. Except they forget that they signed a contract to complete it for the agreed on price. They haven't got a leg to stand on and are going to try and hide that and hope you don't call them on it." She sits back a minute. "Are you feeling okay Ms. Potts? It's been a busy week but you seem.. I don't. Maybe a little off today?"

"Fine! Fine." Pepper is really not a great liar. Not to someone who knows what to look for, at least. And knows her. Pepper's smile comes a bit too fast, too, and doesn't reach her eyes. But she is trying, shoulders square and frame doing it's best to look a bit more energetic than she's feeling. "Just…haven't been sleeping well. It happens." That is not actually a lie, but the reasons are probably far different than she's implying. "And yes, that's right. How could I forget they were doing their best to renig on all of that. Of course I'll call them on it."

Natalie Rushman watches for a moment and stands up. "Ms. Potts… " She picks up the folder on the 9 o'clock meeting and holds it out to Pepper. Should her boss take it and look through the folder?


The meeting is not on the Blackmore account at all. It's about the new DOD contract for another three dozen of Stark's top shelf drone designs. The meeting with a half dozen generals of two star rank or higher.

Natalie stands there looking concerned as she watches Pepper.

"Yes…?" Pepper arches a brow as the woman calls her name, and she does take the folder. A neutral, business like smile in return as she sets it in front of her and then opens it. That smile falls away a heartbeat later as she realizes what is in front of her. Some of the color falls from her face a heartbeat later. She flickers green eyes from folder, back to her electronic calendar. Where did she see Blackmore? She had been so careful about checking everything with the previous Pepper's meticulous schedule.

Tomorrow, 9 am. Not today. Her mind didn't have it memorized, and she just looked to the name. She didn't double check. Sure enough, today is the DoD meeting. Matching the reports in front of her. She takes a deep breath in through her nose, trying to refocus, but she knew Natalie was sharp. She also knew Natalie wasn't Natalie, unless life here was so very different than life back home. Finally, her green eyes flicker up, straight to the darker red head, her expression far more stiff.

"Is your name actually Natasha?" The tone of her voice isn't exactly accusation. It's more defensive. Now, Pepper is playing all protection.

Natalie Rushman doesn't smile. But she revels in catching an imposter. Oh yes.

Welcome to my web said the spider to the fly…

She looks at Pepper. "My name is Natalie." It legally is. But then it is legally a dozen different names in as many countries. It isn't a lie. Entirely.

"Yours is Virginia "Pepper" Potts. Because that is who you are. But you are not the Pepper who rightfully sits in that chair." She steps back. She isn't threatening. Just shining a light into the darkness to see how many critters go scittering for the shadows.

"You're not from here. This Earth. You're one of those… displaced. Aren't you?"

The folder is carefully closed, Pepper's serious green eyes taking in the woman who looks so much like her colleague, her once friend, but she knows isn't. She takes in a slow breath through her nose. "…Yes, legally it is. But you are also called Natasha. Or the Black Widow… or several other things. Back where I'm from, at least. We… we worked together a long time. Even got to be friends." Going through several different hells together does that to people. Pepper tries to smile again, but there is a sadness behind it. Homesickness.

"And no…I'm not. But… No one can know that. The company, the world…They all need to think I'm exactly who I have always been. For the stock, for all our safety… For Stark Industries to keep doing what the world needs it to do, we have to be a steady rock. No one else has noticed. Well… Tony has…" Probably why he's hiding in the bunker, "But everyone else is more than happy to buy into the lie. I'd prefer to keep it that way."

Natalie Rushman watches. "You're a smart woman, Pepper." She walks over. "Yes. I am Natasha Romanova. And many other names. The Black Widow. I work for SHIELD. And I was placed here to keep an eye on things with the displacement of so many." She looks at Pepper. "I won't undermine the company. Or Tony. Or you." Just like Pepper won't undermine Natasha's cover story. "I'm not here to get you deported or arrested. It isn't like we can just throw you on a plane and send you home." She looks at Pepper. "But coming clean with me? That's the first step to settling in here. I can help you. I will help you. Okay?"

Another deep breath, Pepper trying to steady out the hammer of her heart against her breast bone. Having someone else know would help, not hurt, she just had to keep telling herself that. She keeps that slightly watery smile in place, sitting up straighter and folding her hands over the now ignored report on her desk. The meeting would be important, but this was more important. "I…I won't tell Tony… or the others, either. As long as you want to be Natalie Rushman, you are…" Pepper gives a faint laugh, "Hell, when you…came out back home, it was a shit day for me. I lost the best assistant I'd ever had." She gives a little wink about that.

Then her smile slightly falters again. She looks down to the folder on her desk, studying it quietly. Now that the secret is out, there are more details which are more noticable. This Pepper definitely looks a bit older. There is a weight behind her eyes that the old Pepper didn't have. "…if I could bring her back here, I would.'

Natalie Rushman looks amused, "When I came out? Interesting way to put it" she notes. But then she nods. "You may call me Nat. It will never be a lie. And our secret." She smiles. The best way to bond with anyone is to share a secret, right? She then shakes her head, "I know, Pepper. But none of us can right now." She shrugs. "We have to do the best we can. You aren't the only one to have lost friends through this. I know how it feels." She smiles wanly.

A slight tilt of her head comes in turn, "Nat then…" And the first genuine smile that Nat's gotten out of Pepper yet. It actually reaches her eyes, even if just a little. "And yes, we… carry on. Business stops for no one." With that reminder, Pepper takes one last, deep breath and then looks down to the reports before her. "I need to read all of these and actually be ready for this mess at 9. If you can sit in the room with us… that'd be helpful. Just privately message me anything I'm missing on the STark Pad. I've been having JARVIS do that too, so no one else realizes anything is wrong but… I fill in the holes as I go. If that works for you?"

Natalie Rushman smiles. "I'm here to help you Ms. Potts. If you'd like me present then I will be. We'll make sure that we come out on top. Promise." She winks.

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