“Tony.” Pepper was not amused. She was clearly the opposite of amused. Tension was vibrating from every fiber of her bring. “Natasha. What is going on?”
When in doubt, tell the truth. It had gotten Tony through any number of situations, including “I am Iron Man.” He lifted his chin, aimed his best smile at his… whatever noun one could attach to Pepper these days, aside from “boss.”
“Pepper, I’m a fairy.”
Natasha snickered. She really should have known better. Pepper didn’t even bat an eyelash—of course she didn’t.
“First, I don’t think you can say that any more. Second, if this is about that thing with Bruce, I don’t think that’s a concern. Third, what does that have to do with this ‘Council?’ Don’t change the subject, Tony. This is a very angry-looking letter.” She shook the letter at him.
“Well, you’re, ah, a very angry-looking woman. It doesn’t always do to take things at face value, for gods’ sakes, Romanoff, stop laughing! You’re not helping!”
Romanoff smirked. “Go on, Tony. Tell her how you’re a fairy. While she’s shaking a letter from the Council. I’m sure that’s going to make everything better.”
Tactical mistake. Natasha Romanoff had made a tactical mistake. Tony took a step back as Pepper whirled on the Widow.
“Natasha! If you know what is going on, so help me God, if you have helped Tony in this nonsense…”
“Gods.” Natasha stood up a little straighter. “Tony said ‘fairy.’ The proper word is ‘gods.’“
“I don’t care if you’re sleeping with him. He sleeps with everyone, eventually.” The change in her voice, the slow drop in tone, told Tony that Pepper did really care, still.
“Technically, I rarely sleep. With anyone.” He held up a hand. “No, it’s not a technicality. And I am not entirely suicidal, and thus no, I have never gotten in bed with Agent Romanoff. That way lies madness. Further madness,” he amended.
But clarifying Romanoff’s oh-so-helpful clarification had not calmed Pepper down, although it had at least re-targeted her.
“Tony. Nat. If you do not tell me what’s going on in one minute, I…”
Tony had not been pushing Pepper past her limits for this long without learning to recognize said limits. He stepped forward, took her arms, and gave her his best apologetic face. “Pepper, I’m sorry, I really am. The truth is — the truth is, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, and I really don’t know how to prove it to you. And it’s not often I admit to not knowing something, so you can tell how serious I am. Romanoff, some backup here?”
“Perhaps this would help.” The Black Widow stepped forward — stalked, really, oh, fuck, she was on target and that target was Tony. He was going to find out really fast if he could take her in a fight or—
“Tony?” Pepper’s voice had shifted once again. This was her small-and-worried voice. “Tony? I think you should look at Nat. I…”
Tony turned. Carefully, very carefully, not letting go of Pepper and not making any sudden movements.
“Oh. Oh, is that all?” Tony found himself grinning. “She has horns. Of course she has horns, of course, nothing else would make sense.”
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