A Golden Snow Ball

Characters: Bruce Wayne Pepper Potts Sofia Strange
Rated: PG-13
Summary: A Holiday party in the Swiss Alps wherein business, races, chocolate and the holidays are discussed under the stars where weather seems not to touch. A surprisingly enjoyable break in the boredom for Pepper, Bruce and Sofia.
OOC Date: Thu, Nov 23, 2017 5:01 pm.
IC Date: Thu Nov 23 17:00:25 2017
Where: Gruyerz Castle, Swiss Alps

The location is Gruyerz Castle in the Swiss Alps, a secluded and exclusive location. The castle dates back to the 9th century, but has been rigorously updated, preserving historical accuracy while maintaining the luxury and comfort necessary for those who use it as a playground. The massive chalet serves as a tourist attraction and museum by day, but, at night, it serves a different purpose entirely. Rooms are opened that the public is never allowed to see. The cars outside go from tour busses and economic hybrids to luxury sedans, SUVs and limousines. The helicopter pad on the roof sees a great deal of nighttime use.

The gathering this evening is exclusive indeed, the Neige Doree' ball (Snow of Gold). The visitors almost all boast fortunes in the 10 digit range or, at the very least, work at a high level for those who do. The women are draped in fur and jewels, their gowns custom made from Paris and Milan. The men have tuxedos, the standard uniform of the class, Armani being the prevailing designer of choice. The light cast by the chandeliers glitters on platinum and diamond watches, strings of pearls, earrings costly as the net worth of a few small nations. These truly are the elite among the elite.

Bruce Wayne, of course, belongs.

The Gotham billionaire wears his tuxedo well, broad-shouldered and handsome, his dark hair swept back a bit. He's just escaped from a long and relatively tepid discussion with a cluster of Germans, his tongue a bit strained from the glottal stops of that particular language. He feigns a sip of wine, setting the glass aside for some waiter to dispose of. He's been seen to take nearly a half dozen glasses tonight, enough to give the perception of being lightly toasted, even if he's never actually touched a drop. His eyes flick through the gathering, scanning for his companion and partner, knowing she's likely playing her part elsewhere.

It is a place of intrigue and politics and scandal and debauchery and extravagant, extravagant wealth. It is a place where laws do not apply. At least, not the usual laws.

Truth be told, Pepper is VERY American, that is, castles and this sort of turn-over in the evening to what Europeans would call 'upper class' simply isn't something with which she's familiar. The shmoozing, the drinking, dining, talks about things of great import in a manner that would suggest the topic is trifling, however? She can do that with ease… and dressed in a long green silken dress, single shouldered with bright crystal designs upon the bodice and along the waist, Pepper keeps hold of a single champagne flute. She's got her head quirked to the side slightly, her mouth just partly open in attention to the conversation before her.. the accents of German making English a little more difficult to follow. After a few moments, the redhead nods her agreement to the speaker, her free hand coming around to cradle that flute, and finally she is able to break away, scanning the room briefly before heading towards a table; a moment for herself.

Teleportation was much easier than private jet. Quicker too! However, appearances had to be kept up and while a helicopter was an option, it simply wrecked ones hair when departing the blasted thing so… Private jet it was. Then a limo. A car ride in the white and gold gown that Sofia had been coaxed into was… interesting. Half the ride was spent messing with the skirts just so she could sit comfortably. And then she had to get out of the car! At least she managed to make it look graceful even if it was a pain in the ass.

The gown itself, however, was magnificent. A beautiful gold and white thing with with a full skirt, the bodice of which appeared sleeveless when, in truth, the material over her chest and arms was flesh toned and so sheer it made it look as if the gold pattern from her skirt laid over the skin of her arms themselves. Of course, the jewels that draped from her neck, ears, wrist and hair were equally as beautiful and rare. Sofia didn't even want to guess at the price tag of everything she wore tonight.

As if feeling the eyes searching for her, the bright pools of cerulean blue lift from the man lingering just a little to close to Sofia only to land on Bruce. Amusement, hidden from most, lights in them before she turns back to the blonde man who is trying desperately to sound smooth with the mispronounced French he's speaking. Sofia of course, smiles sweetly and gives a smooth and fluent reply before giggling and patting his hand then excusing herself, adding a bit of extra sway to her hips.

The champagne flute in her hand is nothing more than a prop, really, as she makes her way across the floor and towards the table Pepper stands at, a slight tick of her head made for Bruce to follow her.

Bruce had a certain degree of affection for Sofia's reluctant embrace of the opulence of their lifestyle. Bruce recognized that he had a privileged life, but he no longer thought of that as special. The jewels, the baubles, the trappings of power, they meant nothing to him. Fine paintings had never held him when he cried, bereaved and lost and spattered in blood. Gold coins never helped him sleep at night. Just different kinds of costumes, as far as he was concerned, roles being played, slots being filled.

The only thing that mattered to him was the woman in the gown. He sees her gesture and moves carefully, navigating the waters of a few well-wishers, notably a sycophant from Dubai who wants to get Bruce to invest in his hotel. Bruce will speak to him later - not because he wants to invest, but because the hotel is a money-laundering front for a cell of the terrorist organization known as Hydra. They think Bruce Wayne will make an easy money mark, more fool them.

He catches Sofia's shoulder as they arrive next to Pepper. He recognizes Virginia Potts, of course, having full dossiers on everyone attending, "I was beginning to wonder if you'd caught your dress in the car door," he teases about the train on that luxurious gown, leaning down to brush a kiss on Sofia's bare shoulder, "Pardon me, miss, I don't think we've met. Bruce Wayne," he says, offering his hand to Pepper.

It's hard to miss an entrance of someone dressed so equisitely, and softly muttered threats are sent in the direction of an absent Tony Stark. Still, there's a reason she's there, but it's not for any investigation into Hydra. It's the shift from weapons to energy that marks Stark Industries' presence here, and who better (other than the flashy CEO) to open the talks than she? Pepper can think of a few people, but…

Turning about as the pair begin their approach, Pepper smiles and waits those few seconds after the affections are given to the striking woman. She extends her hand in response to Bruce's own, and returns, "Mr. Wayne, I've read so much about your company, I feel I should know you. Virginia Potts. Stark Industries." Mr. Stark's assistant. She turns ever so slightly, ready to extend a hand to Sofia once she is able to retake hers, "Virginia Potts."

Oh, but she makes wonderful eye candy, doesn't she? Hangs so prettily from the crook of Wayne's arm.

A giggle, that annoys her to no end, comes from Sofia as her shoulder is kissed. That stupid sound makes her sound like such an air head! "I'm sure you could get me another, couldn't you?" Gods, just kill her.

Very few people, ones who know how to watch for the hidden tells, would see the intelligence in Sofia's eyes. The perception and strength that lies just under the surface, hidden by a mask of 'look, I'm so pretty! -and- I have -Bruce Wayne-!'.

Her hand extends to Pepper. She'd have to find the woman again later, out of public view, to speak with her. "Sofia Strange. A pleasure." Her champagne is brought to her lips, the liquid touches but isn't really swallowed. "That's a lovely dress! Dior?" Why does she know these things??

Bruce Wayne gives the hand a careful, measured shake and nods, "Ah, yes, Miss Potts. Your reputation precedes you, as does that of your boss. He's almost as notorious as I am," he says. "Admittedly, I'm not the playboy I was in my errant youth, but I'm sure we crossed paths a few times in the day, we just aren't likely to remember it very well," he says.

"In fact, I'm surprised he isn't here himself. Don't let any of these old Baron types get old-fashioned on you. Some of them don't believe women should vote or speak in public, but I blame that on the inbreeding," he says lightly.

He, of course, knows Sophia's worth all too well. Normally he wouldn't draw her away from her sorcerous affairs for something so vapid, but there's to be an antiquities sale this weekend and he suspects a few of the pieces may be dangerous mystical artifacts being sold as weapons under the covert guise of a simple auction. She can help him pick out the pieces to either bid on himself - or to track their buyers. Perhaps both.

"What business brings a representative of Stark to the Golden Snow? I can't imagine he lets you away from his side just for publicity's sake."

Pepper chuckles at the 'almost' portion of the sentence, the smile lightening her features, if only for the moment. "I'm sure he would say that about you as well. 'Almost'." Leaning over, she sets her flute on the table, the champagne only half gone. Straightening once again, the smile still lingers, "Oh I won't. I think that's why I'm here, actually, because they have to speak with me if they hope to get at Stark Industries. We're moving from weapons and into green energy, which, as you know, could really change the dynamics of the whole industry in Europe and Asia.." Nothing that the business news hasn't announced before. There have been Op-ed pieces written, mostly stating that Stark couldn't possibly turn everything around.. but some do remain hopeful.

Pepper takes Sofia's hand briefly, giving it a light greeting squeeze before that introduction is done. "Pleasure is mine.." There's a second, a breath before she takes that moment to look down and, "Oh, yes.. it is.. and may I say you look amazing," though there's something behind those green eyes. Sofia is much, much more than that dress and Pepper can see it. An intelligent young woman, for sure.. but pretenses are what they are, and they are in public!

"Might I ask the same from you, Mr. Wayne?"

Ask Sofia which one is a higher priority for her, her time as a the Sorcerer Supreme or her time with Bruce, whether it's helping him wear this mask, the other or none at all… And guess which answer she'd give. Her priorities are far different from what her father's were.

She leans into Bruce's arm, letting her eyes wonder around the area. Outward appearance makes her seem completely bored with the conversation at hand. In truth, she's sweeping the room for other reasons and while they never linger on anyone in particular, she takes stock of everyone and their positions as they mill about and stop to talk.

At the compliment, Sofi plays her part perfectly and turns her attention on Pepper gracing the woman with a proud and brilliant smile, all but preening. "Why, thank you. That's very sweet of you to say, Miss Potts. Tell me, have you seen the gardens from the veranda this evening? They're quite lovely."

And it gets all three of them a little more privacy so she can carry on a slightly intelligent conversation.

Bruce Wayne follows Sofia's lead, the two of them working well in tandem, already beginning to steer the three of them towards the veranda at her suggestion. The winter has already come here, of course, the high altitude making the frosts come early. The vines and trees are coated with a latticework of ice, dangling icicles from the limbs of the evergreen pines. There are fairy lights strung around, twinkling and merry, but the cold is sharp, servants running in to offer the three their coats before they step a foot outside.

"Oh, I have my finger in many a pie. Rhubarb, apple, custard….even the occasional bit of cheesecake," he says with a crook at the corner of his mouth. "My family's been coming to these gatherings for six generations. My great grandfather sat on this veranda when they signed the first accords to create the League of Nations, failure though it was. My grandfather helped to smuggle refugees out on the train they now use to showcase the latest of Gruyeres chocolatieres," he says.

"I was pleased to hear about Stark's shifting priorities. There are too many weapons in the world as it is. The more those of us with influence turn our minds towards peace, the better we can help keep the ship afloat for everyone," he says. His eyes flick quickly, measuring the garden, taking note of the security men hidden here and there. Always watching.

"I would love to see the gardens. It's not often that I get a chance to see hills lit with stars. New York is .." Pepper lets out an amused breath, "..bright."

Setting a wrap about her shoulders, she rolls them slightly so it settles comfortably and, more importantly, warmly. The cold of the mountains that surround them is chill, dry, but the view in the starlight is breathtaking. She takes those few steps just a bit further before she turns back around to continue in their small gathering.

She laughs softly again at the imagery of the fingers in so many pies, and is able to relax a touch more now removed from the nobility within. It's when Bruce begins that bit of geneology that her expression looks to tighten a little.. ever so slightly. She works with a man whose father made his fortune with genius and intelligence, and more than a little ability to convince others of his abilities and dreams. And now? "I see," she begins slowly, "And yes," Pepper may sound a touch guarded, or could be defensive, but nothing beyond that 'touch'. "It will be something of an uphill climb, of course. But, I have faith that he can do it. That Stark Industries can and will be able to make that shift over in global markets." Brows rise, and there's a moment of silence before, "So all this is simply a way to get away before the holidays come?"

Sofia leans into Bruce as they step out onto the veranda and it looks, for all the world, like she's murmuring something to him. In truth, is a very low powered spell to keep the veranda just warm enough that they'll be comfortable as long as the coats are worn. The bite of the wind doesn't seem to touch them anymore.

Bruce's answer to what he's doing here makes her give a small eye roll and the look he gives him is filled with a genuine affection far beyond what she displayed in the ball room. "Rhubarb pie is terrible."

Her eyes flit to Pepper and she gives the woman a truer smile, hoping to help ease the guard she can see going up. "I really is. Such a shame too. The stars are beautiful." And then it sinks in. "Wait… A train dedicated to chocolate?" Her eyes go wide. "I have to ride that before we go home… It's an official life goal now…"

Cue the smirk and a bit of a wink at Pepper before she grows serious. Still far more relaxed but serious. "I've read of Stark Industries. I have no doubt Mr. Stark can switch the company if chooses. Especially with your help."

The mention of Holidays causes Sofi's smile to slip for just a heartbeat before she recovers but leaves it to Bruce to answer, eyes flitting back to the doors. An illusion to keep people from peeking out may be in order.

"Uphill climbs are the only ones that really get you anywhere, aren't they? Climbing downhill isn't much of a challenge and usually leaves you wondering what everyone's doing up just out of reach," he says. "I'm no accountant, but I know enough by your boss' reputation - and yours - that you'll probably manage it pretty well," he says.

He reaches out to take Sofi's hand, squeezing it a bit, "We'll take the train tomorrow. I hope they still have the hazelnut squares they had when I was a boy. I almost got us in trouble by pilfering a few beyond our share off the tray. I think my father had to bribe someone," he says.

"As for holidays…I never celebrated them much, until recently. I mostly just used it an excuse to go skiing somewhere," he says. Of course, the skiing would usually be to the remote camp of some Eurasian crimelord, picking them apart and dismantling their smuggling operation in time for the New Year. But still. Skiing.

His eyes do sparkle a bit, in a genuine way, when he looks at Sofia, "Maybe we'll have to do a proper holiday this year. A big tree at the Manor. Presents and stockings and the like. Alfred would like that, I think. He's already been hanging peppermint bark and cinnamon sticks around the place. I think its his version of subtlety," he says.

Pepper inclines her head at the spoken compliment, and laughs softly in the night air about the potential of riding a chocolate train, or moreso, Sofia's desire to. "It sounds lovely. I hope you enjoy it. I think Mr. Stark and I will be heading back to New York in the morning." All work, no play. "I'll have to get the address of the chocolatier and have some sent back." They'd make great Christmas presents!

The lack of celebrating holidays, well, there's a spot that Pepper can understand, and she says as much. "Holidays are quiet, filled with 'this can't wait'.. but at some point, you have to stop and see where you are." Casting green eyes away, she exhales in a soft breath and returns, "I'm sorry. That almost sounded like something I'd say to Mr. Stark around this time.." Looking towards the room again, brows rise as she catches something of a light, Stark filled-commotion, and she smiles a little lopsidedly and nods in the direction, "I may be needed soon, I think."

To hear Bruce speak so openly about his parents… Sofia very carefully controls her reaction to it, trying desperately not to beam up at him or let her breath catch. She does, however, smile at him. "I would have paid money to see that."

at the mention of the butler, Sofia does let herself beam and genuinely warm and happy laugh comes from her. "I had noticed, yes. It didn't escape me that my tea had a very distinct cinnamon flavor to it the other day or that he's replaced blueberry scones with cranberry ones." She adores the man, clearly. As much, though differently, than she does the one beside her. They're family. She'd set the world aflame for them. "I think I'd like that though, yes. And garland. The kind that looks like pine needles…"

"Nonsense! I'll bring some back. It'll give me an excuse to come visit.," Sofi offers warmly to Pepper. Hey, look! She's willingly spending money!

The bit of advice makes Sofia soften and reach out to lay a hand on Pepper's arm. "It's good advice, no matter what.' Her head tilts and she smiles. "Perhaps we can see about making it happen. For everyone." Is that a conspiratorial little smile?

Following the woman's line of sight, she chuckles softly and nods. "So I see. if you need backup or rescued…"

Bruce Wayne may never heal properly. Whatever broke inside him, all those years ago, the seams didn't line up, the wounds were never properly sewn. He'll always have scars inside, phantom pain from injuries suffered unto others. But Sofia has been a salve, no doubt. Sofia and the work he's done with his own two hands.

"Too bad, I'd hoped your presence meant I might catch your boss soon. I'll have to get in contact sometime, see if he'd take a round of golf with me. Or maybe hit the track, I know he likes cars and Wayne has a few experimental engines we're trying out around the Nascar circuit. Just a matter of getting them toned down enough to play by the rules," he says. "We could even race, although I'm sure that would be the best idea. Men of high achievement tend to be poor losers and I wouldn't want to get on his bad side," he says with a grin.

"Don't let us keep you if business calls, but it was good to make your acquaintance. If we do a larger holiday celebration, perhaps we'll send an invitation your way," he says. At Sofia's words, he nods in agreement, "Yes, we're excellent distractions if you need one. Eccentric billionaires can get away with being rude to anyone who troubles you too much," he says.

The warm thoughts of holiday scones warm and fresh from the oven gives a touch of the wistfulness to Pepper. Her butler is an Artificial Awareness, though she's no less fond of him, it does mean that unless either she or Tony call for take out, there is nothing warm and cranberry-ish coming from the Penthouse.

Pepper reaches a hand out to Sofia in that 'female bonding' gesture. "If you come visit, call and I'll have things ready for you and I may even be able to clear my schedule." Depending upon what Tony is up to, of course..

With a quick shake of her head, Pepper returns her attention firmly upon the pair once more, "I'll be fine, I assure you. This is nothing new. He just gets a little carried aw—" And there goes Tony, chatting with his head down to a rather lovely … is that a Countess?

Her words skip briefly but come back fully when answering Bruce, "I think he'd like that. He loves his cars, and I'm sure he'd jump at the opportunity to get them out and onto a track somewhere." Pepper pauses a second before, "For a friendly run on the track."

Pepper pulls at her wrap, and resettles it upon her shoulders in preparation to go back in. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Wayne. Finally, in person. Miss Strange. And I'd really like that.. a holiday celebration. Should you decide, you'll have two guests for certain." Though now, it's time for her to head back. "A pleasure, again.. thank you."

Turning about, Pepper begins her path back into the 'belly of the beast' as it were, though she keeps a watch on Tony, there's no interruption of the beginnings of his 'party tricks'..

Sofia and Bruce linger on the veranda a bit longer, speaking quietly. Eventually, the masks must be slipped back on, however, and the pair head back inside to keep up appearances until guests begin to file out as the hour grows very late. That's when the real fun can begin.

And tomorrow… A chocolate train!

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