The tension was high in the room, and one of the most deadly people in the world was smiling at Tony. Things were about to get really, really bad.
Tony leaned back against his suit and grinned, his billionaire playboy philanthropist smile, all razzle and a little bit of dazzle. “Oh, you know me.” He flipped his hand sideways, taking in the whole tower and everything else. “I like to fuck everyone.”
He leaned forward before she could attack, which was a miracle in and of itself. She was holding back. Why was she holding back?
Hopefully, the same reason he was.
“And,” he added, in an entirely different voice, one he normally reserved for Pepper and other deadly serious situations, “I always keep my word. Including to my crew, Agent Romanoff. I seem to recall saying that the Avengers are the most important thing in my life — aside from Pepper, because you know she wouldn’t stand for being second to saving the world or anything.” He raised his eyebrows at her. Her move.
She rolled back on her heels, her hands settling at her sides. “You’re saying you’d be in a crew with a Shenera Osera.”
“No.” Tony shook his head, caught her eye, and smirked. “That would be crazy if, say, I was a Shenera Endra.” He flipped his hand negligently. “I’m an Avenger. You’re an Avenger. That makes us crew. The rest is just details.”
Deliberately, Tony threw off the most casual salute he had ever managed — it barely made it within a mile of his face — and turned back to the suit. “Could you pass me the welder?”
She was up against him before he’d finished the sentence. “You don’t like having things handed to you.” Her breath was warm on the back of his neck. In terms of stupid ways to die — well, he’d come up with worse.
“Crew, remember? Besides, Dum-E’s scared of you. You’re very intimidating.”
Natasha handed Tony the spot welder. Her hand lingered there, and her eyes lingered on his.
There were reasons he didn’t like being handed things. Tony held the eye contact. This was important.
“Tony? Tony, I know you’re in there. You’ve been avoiding your mail all week.”
Pepper had the world’s worst timing, or perhaps the world’s best. The door slid open and Pepper came around the corner, something waving in her hand.
Before Tony had had a chance to even think about moving, Romanoff was five feet away, leaning against Dum-E like he wasn’t terrified of her and studying her nails. “What did Tony do this time?”
Pepper was, of course, brilliant. She studied the two of them for a heartbeat, decided it was nothing she had to worry about, and looked directly at Tony, still shaking the letter. Proper paper, folded, he noted, with a wax seal. “Do you know what this is?”
Tony raised his eyebrows. “Heavy rag paper, looks like, someone still using the outdated system of the US Postal Service – unless they sent it by Pony Express? The Post Office machines can’t handle wax seals. They didn’t consult Stark Industries on those. That was a Hammer design.”
Pepper didn’t listen. She had quite a bit of skill not listening to Tony. “This,” she hissed, her voice soft, “Is a letter from ‘the Council,’ demanding you explain your actions. Tony, who — or what — is the Council?”
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