"Sir, Miss Robbins is on her way." Tony groaned.
He felt like he had only just closed his eyes but a quick glance at the clock told him that it had been six hours. He got up, careful not to wake Pepper. He really needed to shower and change clothes before she got here. Which reminded him, the others probably didn't have a change of clothes with them. This was a problem. Natasha might fit in a dress from Pepper, and Clint may manage with some of his clothes but he was afraid that both Steve and Bruce would find his clothes uncomfortable. He supposed that they could wear the clothes they had brought from the hellicarrier, but those weren't exactly clean. New York was a bit dusty today.
"Sir I have received information that an order of fresh clothes is made and on its way to the tower." Tony chuckled softly. Of course, he should've known.
"That's great JARVIS, can you make sure it gets delivered to the right rooms?" he asked as he got in his shower, glad with the comforting feeling of hot water against his skin.
"Of course sir." Minutes later JARVIS interrupted his shower yet again.
"Sir miss Robbins has sent you a proposal for the Avenger tower project as well as what appears to be called the Avengers foundation." This surprised Tony.
"What?" he tapped a panel on the wall to look at the email on a hologram.
"Avengers foundation, a good will organization that would use the profit from a special line of Avengers merchandize to fund projects such as the repair of New York, but also finance projects of 'every day avengers' around the world," JARVIS summarized as Tony read the plans and ideas and chuckled. Merchandize would be made of course, he already had seen a fair deal of Iron man costumes and the like in the past two years. He didn't doubt that the others would be given the same treatment and this way it would help a cause. He observed her logo design, he liked it. He pulled out the model of his tower, removed the STARK and replaced it with the brand new avengers symbol. He would never admit it, but he liked it better this way.
"She wishes for you to talk this over with Miss Potts." JARVIS said as Tony got into something comfortable yet presentable. He had guests after all.
"Talk with me about what?" Pepper asked from the bed. Tony tossed her the file, in true Pepper fashion she was immediately back to a business woman. She nodded and smiled as she read the ideas Alexis had drafted. Meanwhile Tony was reading about her suggestions for the tower. And by god he was liking it. She only used the top 35 floors, leaving the remaining 55 for him to do with as he pleased. If he didn't watch out everyone would want to move in permanently.
Gymnasium, shooting range, state of the art battle training area.
Twenty floors living area (you never know) including one for himself.
A work shop, a lab (this one on top of the candy land that would be moved to the not Avenger part of the tower) and a virtual reality floor she called 'the dream room'.
There were two floors written down as common living area, one with a kitchen and dining room and one with the living room. There was a floor that would serve as public area (in case of a party and such). There was also a floor that was right at the bottom of the avenger part of the tower that would serve as a lobby. There were two landing platforms and the floor directly underneath each of them would be used to store and or repair aircrafts.
Then right under that was the conference room and HQ. A place for debriefing and coordinating future missions. There also was a medic floor and last but not least a movie theatre.
She wrote that if he agreed he could go nuts with tricking out the tower with all types of gadgets and that she would take care of the furniture, paint and all that fun stuff. Except for his floor, he'd have to deal with that himself (with Pepper's help of course). Which he didn't mind at all, but she knew that. He was pulled out of his study of the file by a chuckling Pepper. Wait, when had she gotten in and out of the shower? Damn, missed opportunity.
"Of course you'd like an excuse to see your face on all types of stuff. But I like the good will idea," she smiled. "Yeah, I do too. I have to run it by the others of course. By the way, the whole team is here, except for Thor. Sorry I didn't have time to mention that earlier." Pepper smiled, letting him know it was alright and gave him a hug. "I'd like very much to meet them," she muttered in his chest.
"I can't wait to see the look on their faces when you tell them your plan on making them into a brand," she chuckled. "Oh, no. I can't take credit. It was Alexis' idea," he corrected her. Pepper frowned confusedly.
"I think you've met her before. At that press conference, she was with Phil…" He looked away as he remembered the brave idiot. Pepper tightened her embrace in comfort, but he could see that she was distracted.
"There was a girl, but I didn't think she was with him. Too casual and she was watching you more than following the conversation. I remember her because she seemed pleased with your announcement while everyone else was too shocked to know if they should be happy or horrified." Tony chuckled. "Yeah she tends to stand out. Did you see her on the news?"
Pepper nodded, still thoughtful. "Part of it, didn't make the connection. She's a bit young isn't she?" Tony just shrugged.
"A little. But she's not to be underestimated. When I met her she'd only just started working with SHIELD for a few months and she seemed to already have a reputation. Didn't put up with any of Fury's attitude. You'll like her," he said while planting a kiss on her lips.
"So, what's that?" She asked reaching for the other one.
"Avenger tower." Tony declared.
"She's going to rearrange my baby?" she asked displeased. Oh, dear.
"Only if we let her. It's just some ideas. But it would be nice to have an HQ for the team," he said, trying to sound like he wasn't already sold on the idea. And not sure if he should tell her that it was his idea in the first place.
"Yesterday you didn't qualify and now you are going to house them?" Pepper remarked.
"The living spaces aren't meant to be permanent homes for anyone. But more a place to crash.
Which reminds me, she kind of blew a fuse when talking to Fury. She isn't sure whether or not she can still use her apartment so she'll crash in one of the rooms here for a bit." Pepper nodded.
"In the end it's your building. You can do what you want with it."
Tony frowned. "Are you mad at me?" he asked apprehensively.
"No," she said too quickly. She sighed, realizing how she sounded and smiled apologetic.
"I'm just a bit tense with everything that happened." Tony nodded understandingly.
"I get that. It's crazy for me too. You know, maybe you and her should have a chat later. You work too hard, having a friend to vent to might be just what you need," he suggested.
Pepper nodded, getting ready to leave, which made Tony step in in alarm.
"Woah, no not so fast. You are going to meet the team and then meet Alexis and then you can go back to being a super awesome, ass kicking, business woman. Deal?" Pepper was about to decline but then she remembered how nice meeting Tony's new friends had sounded five minutes ago.
"Okay, lets meet them," she agreed and they got in the elevator.
When they arrived back on the 'living room floor' they found the Avengers gathered all dressed in new clothes. When they noticed the pair entering they all turned to them, Steve standing up for the lady entering the room. A habit he might never get rid of, not that Pepper minded the gentlemanly greeting she received.
"Mrs. Potts, I have heard a lot about you. It's a pleasure to meet you," he greeted politely as he took her extended hand to shake it.
"Captain Rogers I presume. It's quite an honor," she smiled charmed.
"Okay old man, you're making me look bad. Cut it out." Steve looked utterly confused.
Tony turned Pepper away from the soldier, but not before she shot the man a reassuring smile.
"Okay, so you've met the capsicle, you remember agent Romanov." Pepper gave the attractive female spy a polite nod in greeting. She hadn't forgotten how effectively agent Romanov had manipulated everyone last time she saw her. She wasn't going to let her guard down quite so easily this time. Natasha took note of the CEO's guarded attitude and made a mental reminder to get back in miss Pott's good graces. The key to Stark's trust was having hers.
Tony either didn't notice the temperature drop surrounding his girlfriend, or he chose to ignore it and continued introducing everyone. "The guy next to her is Katnis." Clint rolled his eyes.
"Clint Barton, my condolences. I can't imagine what you did to deserve that idiot," he smiled as he shook her hand. Pepper giggled at Tony's annoyed huff. She liked this agent much better. He had a very kind face and his friendly and relaxed way of speaking made it hard to remember that this man was most likely just as deadly as the redhead next to him.
"And lastly my new science buddy, Dr. Bruce Banner. You might also know him as the incredible Hulk. I owe my life to him!" Bruce blushed and shook Peppers hand shyly.
"Nice to meet you," he said softly.
"It's a pleasure meeting you dr. Banner. And thank you," she replied earnestly.
"So!" Tony concluded as he clapped his hands together. "Who's hungry?"
Tony was about to ask everyone for their order when they heard something land on the platform that was intended for Tony. They all took a defensive stance, until they realized who it was.
"Thor!?" Tony exclaimed in surprise as the blond man stepped inside with a broad grin.
"Heimdall let me know that lady Alexis wishes for me to be here. Loki has been locked away and preparations are being made for a celebration in honor of our victory. With the Teseract on Asgard we managed to repair the bridge. The Allfather wishes to take the opportunity to invite you all to the feast!"
The team exchanged glances. They were invited for a party in Asgard?
"We can go there?" Steve asked astonished. Thor nodded smiling broadly.
"Yes, I can take you. It is to begin tomorrow and you are of course welcome to stay as long or short as you wish. I am afraid you can not bring an honorable guest of your own." Thor said this last part while looking at Pepper, waiting to be introduced.
"Oh, of course. Pepper, this is Thor Odinson. Prince of an alien race on which Norse mythology was based. Thor, this is miss Pepper Pots. CEO of Stark Industries and my girlfriend," Tony said.
"Nice to meet you," Pepper said trying not to show how strange this felt.
"It is a pleasure Lady Pots," Thor said in a gentle tone as he kissed her hand.
Pepper blushed slightly. Quiet surprised at the onslaught of charming men in the room.
"Enough with making me look bad already!" Tony exclaimed annoyed at Pepper's blush.
"I apologize friend Tony. I wish not to embarrass you," Thor said sincerely.
"Don't apologize Thor, he makes himself look bad," Clint grinned. Steve tried to hide a smirk.
"Clint is right Tony. It's not their fault they were raised to treat a lady properly," Pepper teased.
Tony just huffed. Mostly mock annoyed.
He didn't really take offense. He treated women right.
Okay he hadn't always been very respectful towards his flings in the past. But he had always made sure they had breakfast, clean clothes and a ride home.
That was better than taking them to a hotel and leaving them there once he was done. He knew for a fact that there were other
And just because he didn't act as if he was about to meet the queen of England every time he saw a female enter the room, didn't mean he was a caveman.
With a final shrug he ended the subject.
"So, Alexis should be caught up on recent events. She is on her way here, what do we do in the mean time?" Natasha asked, getting everyone back on track.
"Well she had an idea I want to run by you guys before letting Pepper do her thing with it." Pepper quirked an eyebrow. "My thing?" Tony turned to her.
"Yeah, go nuts. Creative freedom on the Avengers foundation is all yours… If you want. I don't want to add more work, but you seem to like the charity events so I thought…" he was starting to regret bringing it up until he saw how Pepper was beaming.
"So I get to choose the projects we fund?" Tony nodded relieved that she was happy with it.
"Foundation?" Clint asked pulling them back to the conversation.
"Yeah. There is going to be merchandize made about us, whether we want it or not. Costumes, party supplies, board games, posters, action figures and anything you can imagine. So Alexis suggested that we make our own Avengers brand and profits could go to 'every day avengers'. Schools in the middle east, hospitals in warzones, all those kind of things," Tony explained.
"That sounds like a great idea," Steve smiled. "If it's going to happen anyway I'd prefer it to benefit the greater good rather than a 'suit'." The group laughed, except Thor who hadn't heard the interview in person. "I do not understand," he admitted.
"Alexis has talked to the people of the world about what happened and suits is what she called rich people who complain while they have no right to do so," Bruce summarized.
"I have heard trough Heimdall of lady Alexis's quest to defend us. I am most grateful," he said.
"We all are. So in exchange we'll listen to her as she yells at us for picking fights with each other," Tony said. Thor bowed his head in shame.
"I have acted most shameful by choosing to fight you Tony. And you, friend Steven, you wished for us to make peace yet I attacked. I shall face her wrath, for I know that I have deserved it," he vowed.
"Sir," Jarvis' voice interrupted them. Causing Steve to jump a little, as he was still getting used to the disembodied voice, and Thor to look around in confusion, hammer slightly raised as though he expected an attack. Tony noticed and realized that Thor might not have experience with this type of technology, despite being from an advanced race.
"That's Jarvis. He is a computer program and my right hand man. Most trustworthy guy you'll ever meet," Tony explained to the Thunderer. "What's new Jarvis?" he then asked.
"Miss Robbins has left her apartment and is on her way here. And a car has stopped in front of the building to drop of an extra guest invited by miss Robbins." This confused the team members.
"Okay," Tony said trying to figure out who it could be. There was a minute or so of silent anticipation. Then the elevator opened …
"Jane!" Thor's elated face and boisterous greeting said it all.
Everyone expected a heartfelt reunion as even those who hadn't read Thor's file could see the feelings the two had for one another in an instant.
However no one had time to respectfully divert their gaze before a resounding 'smack' echoed through the room. Thor stood shocked, a hand on his cheek as he was trying to figure out what had just happened. "Where were you? It's been a year!" The woman named Jane Foster scolded him.
"I apologize, but the bifrost was destroyed I had no way to return before now," he said softly.
"Oh, well. I suppose that's a reasonable excuse… But the battle? Why didn't you visit me? Why did I have to fly all the way to New York on my own accord and then be practically kidnapped by someone who said that Alexis invited me to avengers tower to see you again?" she asked, considerably calmer than a few moments ago.
"I had to deliver Loki home so he could face justice and lock the tesseract away so it wouldn't harm anyone ever again. And I only just returned. I can't stay forever either. If it was just the party in celebration of our victory today that waited me at home, I'd gladly remain here. But now that the bifrost is restored it is most likely that I have to return to battle soon. The nine realms have been left to fend for themselves for a year. And some have fallen to chaos. I must restore peace, as prince of Asgard it is my duty. I did not want to see you again only to turn around and bid you goodbye."
The other avengers were keeping themselves as quiet and invisible as possible while also trying not to listen. The pair had clearly forgotten that they had an audience.
"Oh, I…" Jane muttered blushing from the intensity of his words and gaze. She wanted to avert her eyes but found that she couldn't as Thor was holding her face with one hand while using the other to hold her close.
"I also did not know what I would say if I saw you again. And I still don't. But I know…" words were lost to him. This got more and more awkward for the audience with every passing minute.
"You do?" she whispered as their lips were an inch apart, eyes slowly closing.
"I," no one would ever hear what Thor knew. And they made sure not to see him conveying his intentions trough actions. They gave the pair a couple of moments but then Tony started to fear that they had really forgotten that they weren't alone.
"Stop making me look bad!" he repeated his line from earlier, starting to think it would become a running joke in this company.
The two released each other blushing as red as Thor's cape. Steve was glad Tony had stepped in.
He hadn't dared to interrupt, but he had to admit that it was probably best that that bubble was burst before things got out of hand.
"Miss Foster, my name is Steve Rogers. It is a pleasure to meet you," Steve introduced himself hoping that if he pretended that nothing had happened it would ease her embarrassment.
She was still blushing, but seemed more at ease.
It was quite strange to see the one and only Captain America and even more so to see him in civilian clothing. Dark jeans, brown deck shoes and a grey shirt with a brown leather jacket.
He still looked very intimidating, tall and muscular a he was. But his charming smile helped her relax.
"Well it is an honor to meet you Captain Rogers. Sir. Quite exciting to be honest. I can't wait to see the look on Darcy's face," she giggled at the thought. She found it interesting to see that that remark made the famous Captain America blush. It made him less imposing. More like the small kid from Brooklyn he once was.
She turned to the two assassins she only recognized from the newscast.
"Jane this is the archer, sir Barton." The man shook her hand with a friendly smile that made him seem a lot less deadly than he had when sitting on a roof taking out aliens with a bow and arrow. The washed jeans and western vest also helped making him look more like an ordinary man.
"And lady Romanov." The redheaded woman smiled, but her eyes remained cool and in control.
It was unsettling. Jane tried to find comfort in her clothing but the skinny jeans and military vest only made her look more deadly. The sneakers were not enough to calm Jane's nerves.
"Natasha," the woman said. Nope voice didn't help either.
"Pleasure," Jane said timidly. Thor was blissfully unaware of Jane's discomfort.
"And this is sir Stark." Ah, this was better. A scientist, that's her world.
"Tony, it is an honor, the Foster theory was a magnificent read," Tony said shaking her hand.
"Oh, well thank you Mr. Stark it is a wonderful compliment to get from a genius such as yourself," she stammered. "You're welcome. May I introduce you to miss Pots, CEO of the company, main reason why I haven't crashed yet and my girlfriend." Jane could not say how relieved she was to shake the hand of another normal person in this company of heroes.
"Pleasure," Pepper said with a sympathetic smile.
"And finally this is Dr. Banner." The timid man shook her hand. This was the only avenger that wasn't at all intimidating. Then again this wasn't the side of him that had been tearing up aliens.
"Bruce, pleasure to meet you," he said in a hesitant voice.
"Pleasure is mine. I believe you were friends with Dr. Selvig before SHIELD came in?" Banner shook his head. "Saying it like that makes it sound like I was kidnaped. I tried to figure out a way to protect the body from damage caused by exposure to gamma radiation. The government was about to cut my funding's, but I was sure that I had it. So I got reckless… Never get reckless."* He smiled halfheartedly. Steve stepped in.
"I was told that you were trying to replicate the serum?" Banner shook his head.
"No, well yes. I suppose I did, but not knowingly. I thought I was just working with radiation poisoning. They didn't tell me that they were trying to…" Steve smiled sympathetically.
"Even if you had found the solution, I believe it was Vita radiation that was used to stimulate growth. Not Gamma. So the government had it all wrong," he said apologetically.
"No, that's good. Though… they still try to catch me so they can figure out how to make stable Hulk soldiers." Bruce frowned in disgust. As if two of him wasn't enough.
"The government never had much sense. Not when I was created, not now. They aren't scientists."
Steve patted the doctor on the back with a kind smile.
"Sir, miss Robbins entered the elevator. She wishes to send a message up." The team turned to the elevator doors. "Let's hear it," Tony said.
"Robert Bruce Banner, just a heads up. I'm coming for you." Jane, who had had the pleasure of spending some time with Alexis on several occasions pulled Pepper a few steps out of the line of fire, the heroes were torn. Try to stop Alexis and protect both her and their ally, or letting her vent…
"Give her space guys. I'm sure it's in everyone's interest to let her through," he muttered bracing himself so he wouldn't go green no matter what.
After a moment's hesitation the team split up in two groups, stationing themselves at his sides. This way they could interfere if needed.
"JARVIS what's the damage?" Tony asked nervously.
"She seemed in good spirits when exiting the car, it seems that something caused her mood to worsen on her way to the elevator sir. Possibly the young woman who arrived with miss Foster triggered something." This is where the elevator door opened and revealed a very angry Alexis with a worried Happy and a surprised/curious/excited Darcy Lewis. Alexis dropped the luggage she'd been carrying the moment she excited the elevator and stormed towards Bruce. She raised her hand and slapped him across the face only to immediately embrace him. Needless to say that he was too shocked and confused to even worry about going green.
"You had my number! You should've called!" she sobbed in his shoulder.
"Why? Why did you have to be so stupid? You idiot!" By now everyone except Pepper and Jane understood what had her so upset.
"I… I'm sorry Alexis. I didn't- I felt like…" Bruce didn't know what to say. She would see through a lie and the truth would upset her. But it would seem like only half a word was enough.
"You're wrong. You are worth it. So stop being such a martyr and let me help you," she begged. "When I first heard about what happened to you I did some research. I know how smart you are. I know how kind and caring you can be. You aren't a monster Bruce. Don't you dare to ever think like that about yourself ever again! You had people who cared about you before the accident Bruce and they still care. Can you imagine how awful I would've felt if you had succeeded and I'd have to tell Betty and Stanley what happened? That I failed you? They would have cared, I would have cared. And now there is a team of amazing people who care about you Bruce. So don't do it ever again," she pleaded. Bruce stroked the girls back in a comforting manner.
"I promise," he whispered, his voice steady and a small smile on his lips. No matter what, it was nice to know that you mattered to someone. Even without struggling with a green rage monster.
"Good," she sighed before releasing him and drying her tears.
"Sorry for slapping you. That wasn't nice," she muttered.
"I'd say it's alright," he promised. Knowing that warning her for triggering the other guy wouldn't help at all.
"Okay." Alexis closed her eyes and took a deep breath as if gathering herself.
She straightened her posture and opened her eyes with determination. She turned around with a smile and approached Pepper and Jane.
"Jane, it's so good to see you again. Miss Pots, we meet at last." She shook their hands with a grin.
"I must say, miss Pots, you are an inspiration to women everywhere. I do not know how you managed to put up with Tony for so long," she said with a teasing wink in said genius direction.
"I suppose one does crazy things for those she cares about," Pepper said cautiously.
"That's a fact," the young woman said with kindness that turned to confusion.
She observed the distance in Pepper's body language and eyes.
"Did I say something to offend you Miss?" she asked. A flicker of Peppers eyes caused Alexis to pale and then to burst out laughing. She pulled the confused CEO aside to speak more privately.
"No. Just no. Not if he paid me… He's not my type. I promise," she snickered.
Pepper was not convinced. She knew it took quiet something to get Tony's respect. And in the few moments he'd spoken to her about this girl it was clear that she'd done everything right. And she didn't trust that.
"Seriously. I'm 24 he's 42. Age-wise I could make a plausible claim of being his daughter. I can't kiss a man knowing that when I was conceived he was old enough to do some conceiving of his own, and that's all I want to say about it with a super soldier with enhanced hearing in the room.
I've made the mistake of underestimating his range once, never again. If you want the juicy details on my love life we'll have to have coffee together." With that she hooked their arms together and started walking back. Leaning slightly on the older woman as she whispered to her.
"And don't worry. The closest I'll come to his bedroom is dropping him of with explicit orders to get at least one cycle in before doing any more tinkering," she promised.
"It would be nice if I could pass that job of to someone else. It gets distracting when I'm working abroad you know," Pepper mused.
"You can give me all the instructions later. First things first we should get working on the avengers initiative and there is a ton of things I want to discuss with you about the tower. I understand you put a lot of work in it and I wouldn't dream of changing as much as a curtain without your approval. Then we can…" this time it was Alexis who was silenced by the stare of disapproval, from the entire team no less.
"Alexis when did you last sleep?" Steve asked with stern eyes. God, never mind knocking Hitler out, if Steve had released the force of that stare on him he would have been on his knees sobbing with guilt. "What are you talking about?" she tried jokingly.
"You can't walk straight on your own. Don't think we didn't notice that," Steve insisted.
Alexis tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as she thought back. "Uh… I think it was… Let's see I had a nap on the plane,… and after that I slept a bit in the car…" The stares didn't falter.
"Oh, you mean the full cycle thing?" she smiled sheepishly. She knew that she had to take care of her own health before trying to take care of others. But there was so much to do. The world needed clarity… But she couldn't help with any of that if she was dead on her feet.
"Yes that has been too long. I suppose I should go to bed… But can't I" as one the entire team crossed their arms. Alexis smiled, appreciative of how much they cared. Then she yawned.
"I guess I could go for some sleep now. But we're still having a talk afterwards, so don't disappear to anywhere. Tasha make sure they play nice. Tony could you give my contact information to Pepper? I'd like for her to join me and the other girls sometime… later when things have cooled down a little." With that she disappeared to find herself a room.
*In the movie 'the incredible Hulk' Blonsky says they never told Banner what he was really working on. I often see in stories that they pick up on what Coulson said in Avengers under the assumption that Bruce knew. I take this to mean that SHIELD was lied to by the military. Big shock. Just wanted to get this cleared up in the very likely case that some of you haven't memorized every last line of the hulk movie.
Sorry for the long wait. I'll try to do better in the future. Thank you all for your patience.