Future Old Ones Playing At Work.
Callia got a text message to go to the office's post center, heading down there very confused. "I didn't order anything," she said when they pointed at a large package.
"It says it's yours and it's postmarked London."
"Huh." She walked over to look at it. "I can't carry that." They smiled. She got wise and called an adult. "Bucky, can I have a tiny bit of help?" she asked when he answered his phone. "Like two minutes? Someone sent me something huge from London. The post center in building 3. Thanks." She hung up and stuffed her phone back in her pocket. The shorts were getting a bit tight but she'd manage to keep them for another few months since she had just finished a growth spurt. He walked in and looked oddly at the box. She shrugged. "I didn't order anything."
He picked it up. "Not too heavy but it rattles a tiny bit." He took her back to the apartment, letting it down on the coffee table. "Anything else, mini genius?"
She grinned. "Not unless you want to teach me how to make proper chocolate milk for Stepmom when he gets home. The office is really driving him nuts."
"I'll make him some with brandy later so he can sleep." She grinned. He left her alone to open whatever it was. If it had been sent here, it was scanned for drugs, explosives, and weapons. So it was probably safe.
She pulled out a box cutter to open it then tucked it carefully back where her father stashed it. She opened it and looked. On top was a beautiful red dress. All scarlet lace, one long sleeve and the other shoulder bare. The under-lace fabric was the same deep scarlet color and left a hemline and bustline two inches free of fabric. It was also in a larger size than she currently was. She pulled it up to hold against herself, looking in the mirror across the room.
"I'd look great if it was my size. Maybe it's meant for Diana?" She carefully folded it and put it aside. Underneath was a sparkly deep blue one-shoulder party dress. Same tight, figure conforming style but no sleeve and it had sequins all over. She blinked at the boots underneath that dress. They were shiny black leather, looked like they would fit you tightly. They were highlighted by silver buttons all the way up. She held them against her leg and shook her head. If she grew to be Diana's size they'd hit her mid-thigh.
At her current projected height, they'd hit near her panty line. The top was lined with a cuff of fake fur to make it comfortable. She put it aside, finding a long black dress. One-shoulder strap, the main torso part down to a few inches past her pantyline had an underdress of black with slight sequins that shone through the lace's pattern. The lace continued to a floor length, slit skirt. "Wow." She carefully put it aside and came to a few other things. Like a cute hat. And a few familiar looking jewelry boxes. Those blue boxes meant they were *real* jewelry, not play stuff. One had a 'woven' blue stone and bronze strands, about six lines wide. It merged in a bronze center holder that held another blue stone. "That's really weird. I don't even know what that is."
"That's iolite," JARVIS said quietly.
"Okay. Does it have a meaning?"
"It's said that vikings used to use very thin slices to navigate by," the AI said. "Some New Age sites say it relates back to inner vision and business success."
"Huh," she said. "This is getting really freaky."
"Yes, it is. Should I tell your father?"
"You know what, can you tell Auntie Dawn? I think this is a bit bigger than Daddy." She found the next one, a pretty strand of rubies in a single row of marquis-cut shaped stones with tiny silver beads between them. Then a larger marquis-cut stone as a pendant. "Yeah, I want Auntie Natasha."
"She's here but your aunt is off-compound for the moment. I'll get them for you, Callia. Is there a letter?"
She looked. "I'm not sure I want to touch the rest to see how big it is."
"Hmm. Well, sit there for a moment." He switched to the sparring gym. "Excuse me, Agent Romanoff? Callia would like some help in her suite."
"What was in the box?" Bucky asked, backing off from beating Stark.
"Many things that we both believe will make her father lose his temper but she was probably correct that it may take some searching capabilities."
"What was sent to my clone?" Tony asked, leaning on the boxing ring's ropes.
"Some very pretty outfits for when she's older, and some jewelry. She just opened a ruby necklace worth approximate twelve-hundred dollars, US."
"EXCUSE ME?" Tony demanded, storming that way.
"We can help," Natasha agreed, following. "Stark, let me. Get me some gloves so we can preserve any remaining fingerprints," she said as she walked in. He took a calming breath before he fully lost it. He knew it wasn't Callia's doing but still! This was not right!
"I was getting freaked out at the sexy party clothes," Callia complained. "Then I opened jewelry and even I know that's not normal guy behavior. Medical kit gloves are behind you, Auntie 'Tasha."
She pulled some on and came over to look at things. "Interesting. Why are they all one-shoulder dresses?"
Callia shrugged. "No idea but apparently he thinks I'd look hot in it. I looked further down and there's a cuff bracelet with a tiny laser built into it." She pointed. "It's in watermelon Tourmaline, which is said to promote creativity and inspiration."
Stark looked at her. "Are you okay?" he asked quietly.
"I'm *SO* creeped out," she admitted, staring at him. "That's why I asked for Auntie. She can find them so you can both kick their asses. Even if they're sneaky." He hugged her. "But yeah, creeped out is just one of the things babbling in my head at me that someone's a creepy stalker sort or a pervert."
"I think he meant this for when you were older," Natasha said, finding a letter. She opened it, reading over it. "Yes, he wanted you to wear it on the weekend of your eighteenth birthday when you two would meet in London during the next great Tech Expo Europe." She looked at Stark.
Tony considered it. "It is that year. We have one next year, they have theirs every five years. Yeah, one'll fall then since one's in a few years." He hugged her harder. "Anything else?"
"I see citrine and diopside," Natasha said. "Both with positive meanings. And a locket with tiny ruby pieces but no picture. The plastic holder said he'd give her one when she was seventeen so she could find him." She snapped that shut and put it into the box.
"Um, even if I like boys, I'd never go for the creepy pervert sort," Callia said. "Grandfather!" He appeared, blinking at her. "You didn't tell anyone about me, right? Because I got creepy 'we'll meet when you're of age' presents from some guy in London who may be related to tech stuff."
"No! I'd never do that, Callia. If I want you in an arranged marriage, I'll tell you and your father." Natasha held up the letter. "I have no idea who that is."
"I will by later," she said. She repacked the box, looking at the formal gown. "That may look very good on you when you're of age."
"He can have it back so he can't sue us for keeping the expensive things he sent us to woo her," Stark said quietly. "Give it back to him, kick his ass for me, then tell me who he is so I can ruin him, Natasha." He was proud of himself, he wasn't screaming at anyone.
"I can probably do that," she said with a slight smirk. "How did you get it up here?" Bucky waved a hand. "Hmm. The post center?" He nodded. "I will see what they have on it as well as he barely left a name." She carried it off. He took it from her. "I can carry that. It's not that heavy."
"I want to beat the crap out of the guy before Stevie gets him, because he won't save anyone any." She smiled because that goal fit well with her own objectives in this case. They went to take over Dawn's desk for a while to search down this person. Dawn had some sites bookmarked that may help them.
Tony looked at his little girl. "Come spar with us."
"Gladly." She let him carry her too. She was feeling a bit weird so Dad time was great! She'd even give up science for the day for it.
Pepper leaned out when she saw them taking over Dawn's desk. "What's going on?"
"Someone sent Callia presents," Bucky said. "We're finding them to have a discussion."
"Like candy? She's had a few of those from engineers who want to woo her to their college." Natasha held up the ruby necklace. "What. Is. That?" she demanded a bit too calmly. Dawn would be evacuating the nearest offices if she heard that tone of voice.
"That is just one of the things the guy sent her so she could wear them when they met the weekend of her eighteenth birthday," Bucky said.
Pepper growled a few swears. Bucky's eyes were wide and he was backing up slowly and carefully. He hadn't seen the scary side of Pepper before. "Who are they?"
"We're looking," Natasha said. "Blood pressure, Pepper. We're handling it so we can kick them around, then hand them to you three."
"I want them first."
"We'll tell you three at the same time," Natasha said.
"No, I want them now! Dawn!" she shouted. A few minutes later Dawn walked in, blinking at her. "Some *pervert* sent your eldest niece fancy jewelry."
"Wow, I didn't know humanity had devolved into that level of stupid yet." Pepper calmed down a tiny bit. "Once we find them, we'll go kick them around, Pepper. Now, calm down. Callia's on her way to the gym. Go hug her and make sure she's okay." She got up to do that, sniffling. Bucky properly escorted her to make sure she didn't rush off to kill someone. Dawn went back to her desk, looking at the box's contents. "Those boots are custom made," she said quietly. "The outfits are all minor couture." Natasha looked at her. "Probably a few thousand at the most for the formal one. The boots are probably about a grand. Want me to get someone to evaluate them for worth for the police report?"
"Please. I had not thought of that." Dawn pulled out her rolodex and called her favorite jewelry store. They agreed they could send someone over. Then Dawn called someone in the LAPD. Which got them there. Callia was a billionaire heiress with weapons design knowledge. No one was going to let her be snatched by anyone, much less by a pervert. By the time the two people got there, Natasha had a name. The man was in charge of a large tech company in Norway. They weren't a rival of Stark's but they were good in their area of interest, which was mostly jet designs and other physics-based engineering designs to solve problems.
Dawn smiled, getting the two from the parking lot. "It's at my desk," she told them. They nodded. One of the guards gave her a strange look. "Callia got sent *jewels* by someone," she mouthed. "Pepper is more livid than when she was nearly snatched by that sheik. Make sure *nothing* interrupts her and Stark calming down in the training gym." He nodded, subtly calling that in so they could arrange things around the people at the top of the company's chain. Dawn followed the officer inside. "Left, gentlemen." They went that way.
Natasha told them what she had found. The officer was a bit disgusted. The jeweler gave them a nice report and offered to buy them if Callia didn't want to keep them or they didn't send them back. Dawn smiled. "I'm pretty sure if her dad or Mom find them, they're going back with a small tactical nuke," Dawn said quietly. "Pepper nearly did magic to get this guy." The jeweler shuddered. "But if she does end up with it, I'll let her know." He smiled and finished the forms for the officer. Dawn took him to talk to Callia. They walked into a barrage of 'Oh my god, I don't even like jets or bridges! Fucking morons!' from Callia. Dawn cleared her throat. "Police need a statement for the report, Callia."
She looked at the officer. "Can you taze him maybe?"
"If he's local, miss, and puts up a fight. We don't like guys who hit on little girls." He smiled. "We like to make them really miserable."
"Good! Before I do!" Pepper and Tony hugged her to calm her down. They helped her with the statement while Dawn called SHIELD's main office.
"Hi, Mommy." Dawn walked off to stand in the hallway. "No, bad shit just happened but I need you to handcuff Steve to a chair for about ten minutes so you can tell him. Callia doesn't need more stress. Because some tech company CEO in Norway sent her about six grand in jewels and about another fifteen in clothes." She winced at the screaming. "Yeah, that's why we want you to handcuff him to a chair to tell him, Mom," she said over the ranting going on. "Callia's a bit freaked out. They're already holding her.... hi, Cap. No, I was going to have mom tell you.
"Well, a CEO in Norway has sent a present of interest to your eldest daughter. Six grand in jewels and fifteen grand in clothes, Captain. Not candy like UCLA sent." He went silent. "They're doing a police statement right now. Natasha is looking the future dead man up with Bucky. I was going to have Mom handcuff you to a chair to tell you so you didn't throw the desk or something," she babbled.
"She's a bit shaky but she's okay," she said at the displeased sound he made. "LAPD is here getting a formal statement. It's all very pretty, would look nice on her when she's older, kinda sexy stuff. Which is why she told Natasha and Tony at the same time, so Nat could find them and kick them around before you got them," she finished. Captain America said one very quiet word. "Gym, Cap. Sparring gym. Yeah, that's great. Calm Mom down or tell Bruce, okay? I'm brave but not that heroically stupid because he'll Hulk out over this." She hung up and winced.
Captain America had just said 'fuck'. This was going to be horrendously bad. She opened the door. "Um, boss, told Steve. Cap *swore*." He shivered. "No, I mean like me *swore*." Steve appeared and grabbed Callia to cuddle, letting her nuzzle his neck with her nose to calm him down. Dawn let them calm down. She called a free day for the whole staff so they could be evacuated subtly without alerting the press to the future danger that CEO had just put himself in.
Bucky walked past her. "Told him?"
"Told Mom. Her fit made him grab the phone so I did," she sighed. "She'll tell Bruce so she can control the Hulk somehow." Bucky shuddered. "I don't think they do that when he's huge and green, Barnes."
"Eww, mind out of the gutter, Summers."
"Second trimester," she quipped.
Bucky walked into the gym, handing Steve the sheet on the guy. "That's all we've found in the last half-hour we've been looking." He patted him on the back.
"Dawn was going to have Joyce handcuff me to my desk chair to tell me." He took a calming breath. "She should've." Callia snickered. "Though I still probably would've thrown my desk across the room."
Barnes looked over at Stark. "Dawn called a free day, Stark. That way no one was in the crossfire while you guys vented or whatever."
Callia looked at him. "I only know high energy output weapons and thermonuclear devices as a theory. It'll take me a few days to tinker and make one." She put her head back down. "Though, a playing day sounds good, Dad."
"It does," he agreed, staying calm. His daughter did not need to see him losing his shit in the way he wanted to. "Did she get updates from the labs yet?"
"Yeah, on her desk," Pepper said. She stood up. "That's a really good idea. Dawn's very smart."
"She's kinda running for her life," Barnes said with a grin.
"She's seen me this mad once," Pepper said. "I nearly did magic then to kill the person." Tony shuddered. "Yeah, I think a free day is a *great* idea." She took Callia to cuddle. Steve held them both instead. Tony pulled them all down next to him so they could both hold the girls. The officer was happier with that. It might mean they didn't have to evacuate the rest of Malibu.
Bruce Banner stomped in, halfway to full on Hulk. He threw the door that he had accidentally ripped off the hinges across the room. "Who did that?" he demanded. The officer handed him the sheet. He read it over, sneering. "Hulk smash very well."
"After I get him," Tony and Steve said together.
Tony smiled at Pepper's snort. "You can direct us on where to stomp him, Pepper. That way you don't have to hurt yourself or the baby." Pepper glared. "Blood pressure."
"It's. Fine," she growled.
"We'll find your softball bat so you can get him first," Tony soothed. She calmed down and nodded, squeezing Callia harder.
"Normally I'd complain you're about to squeeze the poop out of me, Mommy Pepper, but today it's okay." They all squeezed her. Hulk picked her up to cuddle. "I'm okay, Grandpa. Just a bit freaked out. He sent me *jewels* and flirty clothes! I mean like sexy, wear it for the boyfriend clothes. He even sent me hooker boots to wear with them. Though I have no idea how he guessed my sizes." Hulk growled. She cuddled him to calm him down. When he was a bit less green, Pepper stole her back. "If he was fully gone Grr Guy, we could all sit on Grandpa's lap," she joked.
Hulk shrugged. "Cuddles nice." He looked at the officer.
The officer was proud of himself. He didn't step away from him, he didn't pee himself, and he didn't stutter. "We're making a report, Doctor Banner, and as soon as we can find him we can charge him and have someone grab him for trial." Hulk grunted but nodded, picking up Pepper and Callia to sit down and let them both on his lap so he could hold his granddaughter.
Liz ran in and squealed, pouncing her grandfather. "Grandpa Grr Guy, cuddle me too!" He smiled and did, patting her. She smirked at her sister. "Did you blow up lab?" she demanded.
Callia snorted. "You know those guys that we warned you about in the park? One tried to talk to me. They're bad and you have to remember that, Liz. That way you and Chris never talk to strangers."
"Ooooh, bad guys. Auntie 'Tasha?" she asked, looking around.
"We're going to beat him for her," Bucky said.
Liz grinned. "Good boy!" She waved at the officer with a grin. "Grandpa Grr Guy is green."
"Yes he is," the officer agreed calmly. "He's very green. You're very smart." Liz beamed and nodded.
"And modest too," Steve quipped. He took her to cuddle. He'd talk to her about pretending to be a bimbo later; she was smarter than that green comment. She got free and went back to Grandpa. The girls were going to help him calm down apparently. Which was probably a good idea. Chris came pelting in wearing his roller blades, and no safety gear. "What did I say about the helmet and knee pads, Chris?" Chris giggled and waved then pounced the grandfather too. Hulk groaned but cuddled them. They were nicely helping him calm down. Pepper got out of the way so the kids could work their magic on Bruce's temper. The officer fled to fill out the paperwork. He was praying those kids could calm down the Hulk before Stark had to rebuild the entire compound, but they'd handle it because that was Tony Stark.
Tony looked at the kids then at Bruce. "I think they're being calming on purpose."
He nodded. "Very good at it too. Hulk pleased." The girls smiled and cuddled in better. Joyce stomped in and Hulk handed over the grandchildren as soon as she got within range. He knew not to hog them from her.
"You poor thing," Joyce sighed, cuddling them.
Bucky decided he'd have to get there before Joyce, not Steve. He had no idea Joyce Summers-Banner was that scary. Now he knew where Dawn got it from. Because he had met assassins that were less mean than Joyce was venting, which was making Callia laugh and the Hulk look very pleased with his wife. Yeah, he'd have to get there before Joyce or Pepper. Or the Hulk.
Clint walked in undoing his uniform's zipper slightly. "Okay, Dawn called in an SOS and an emergency meeting. What's wrong?" Bucky told him. Clint considered it. "Norway's not that far. We can easily fly there by tonight by quinjet."
"The LAPD took a statement," Pepper said, trying to calm down again. "They want to arrest him first."
Clint considered it. "I'll give 'em three days and then go plant an explosive arrow in his brain for you." He looked at the kids. "You okay?"
"Bit creeped out but so is everyone else so at least I fit in."
He grinned. "Ask your Moms about the last present Dawn got from someone else."
Callia looked at Pepper. "She did?"
"Which one?" Tony snorted. "The lingerie of questionable taste and size or the other stuff?"
Clint smirked. "You didn't see the newest stuff that Fed Ex dropped last night?"
"No, I hadn't," Pepper said, going back to that scary place. Clint pulled up pictures on his phone. "Who?"
"The idiot oil heir who had kidnaped her in the desert that time. He wants to woo her now."
"The one from Saudi?" Pepper demanded. Clint grinned and nodded. "No, him you can shoot, Clint. He's a waste of sperm."
"Dawn told him he was a waste of his mother's time when he showed up last week," Bucky said casually, then had to move quickly before Clint grabbed him by the throat to ask about that. "He came here!" he said.
Tony looked up. "JARVIS, was he arrested?" he asked.
"No, sir, Dawn sent him packing while sniffling horribly in a teenage girl fashion. He said he'll lose his inheritance if he doesn't marry her, his grandmother adores her. He said her marriage isn't legal and he could divorce her after his grandmother passed on in twenty years. She could even bring her son. Which was when Dawn very nicely nearly fried him with a lightening bolt."
"Oh, that day! I wondered why we had sudden lightening!" Tony said, looking at Clint.
"I was at SHIELD," he complained. "I heard about it when she went mental rant that she wasn't spewing. Though I did offer to shoot him. The local head said I wasn't allowed. I had no idea it was because of an in-person visit."
"We'll see," Steve said. He stole Chris from Bruce, earning a grin and him snuggling in. "You need to be wearing the knee and elbow pads, plus your helmet, anytime you're in your roller blades, Christopher. You know that." Chris cooed and patted him then hopped up to skate off. He came back followed by Jonathan, who had a tray of bottles of water. "Thank you, Jonathan."
"Welcome. What happened?"
"Idiot tech guy sent me sexy clothes and jewels," Callia said. "We're calming down and setting up who gets to beat him first."
"I'll take last," Jonathan said with a grin for her.
Clint patted him on the arm. "You can help Dawn with hers since he's probably still in LA. That way you don't have to wait in line."
Jonathan grinned. "They wouldn't let you?"
"Nope. Or Natasha. Or Dawn. Who got warned by the State Department it would cause a huge stink, and they encouraged her to marry him."
"Sure, we can deal with that," Jonathan said, going to look that guy up. Andrew knew who it was. He had a watch on his credit cards and where he was staying. And hey, Coulson was too busy to notice them releasing a robot to go stomp on the guy for Dawn.
JARVIS cleared his throat. "Mr. Stark said if you make him put on the suit today before he's calmed down he's going to paddle you both and ground you from the lab without pay for the next month, boys. Please retrieve the robot before it hurts someone." They pouted but called it back. "Even though it was a daring plan, it's a bit obvious."
"I can learn how to make poison ejectors," Andrew decided, looking those up on spy sites. "There's all sorts of ways to get something Dawn's brewed up into someone's body."
Jonathan looked over his arm. "That one's a bit stereotypical. Xander has a stake shooter design that could shoot poisoned toothpicks."
Natasha walked in and got them onto a site. "Tech Ops ideas that people would like to see. Their suggestion site, boys. That way you don't copy cheesy movie versions that never work right." She smirked slightly as she walked off.
They projected that one up on the virtual screen so they could go over them. They could do half of them very easily and put them on a Roomba. Hell, they could almost do that within a day.
Dawn looked up from her typing the next day because an elderly woman wearing an all-covering robe that left her face uncovered walked up to her desk. "Yes, ma'am, may I help you?" she asked politely.
"You could only help me if you would marry my grandson and make him a better man, Miss Summers."
"Ma'am, I'm already married and my spouses would not like that."
"I was not told that." She considered it. "Legally?"
Dawn smiled and nodded. "Somewhere in the world, yes."
"Oh, no wonder." She stared at her. "My grandson could definitely improve your lifestyle."
"I like my lifestyle and I have more than enough money of my own, ma'am. I work because I like to work and I like working here because we're like a family." She stood up. The woman stared at her stomach. "Yes, I'm presently pregnant and my spouses are ecstatic that it's a girl. I'm sorry someone misled you but even if I was single I would not marry the man who kidnaped me, who was planning on 'convincing me' to marry him while stranded in the desert, because the only way I could take that statement was him planning to rape and torture me, and I don't believe that any man like that is worth anything anyway. No matter how fat his wallet, that doesn't make him a good man. I'm sorry you failed but I don't need a project, ma'am."
"I can see how it would be distressing to you. He is a good boy underneath all that."
"He kidnaped me. I consider that grounds to kill someone. Frankly, I'm the reason he's so scarred now," Dawn said with a slight shrug at the end. "Because he was going to keep me hostage until I gave into him. It may be very American of me, but I don't believe in arranged marriages and I sure don't believe in them being due to kidnaping." She stared at her. "I'm sure there's plenty of beautiful, strong, smart women in your own country who could be taught how to correct him. I'd suggest you start with a cattle prod and move back to a paddle with the way he came here and caused a scene the other day." The older woman was glaring at her. "Frankly, you should be fairly happy that I didn't shoot him then for getting near my son."
"You said a daughter."
"I have a son that's about eighteen-months-old," Dawn said, showing her the picture with a smile. "He's adorably smart, loves animals and music, and if your son did as he threatened and had promised to bring us both with him, he wouldn't have made it out of the courtyard." She stared at her for a moment. "I'm really sorry he misled you, ma'am. I've never wanted that grandson of yours. I fought to get free of him when he kidnaped me. I didn't like it when his brother offered my boss jewels to date me when I was sixteen. I have what I want and it's fantastic."
The older woman pursed her lips then nodded. "Any woman should stick up for a proper spouse, even if it is not legal."
Dawn shrugged. "I don't care about legalities that way. Neither my wife nor my husband care about such things either." The woman looked horrified then cleared it up, nodding slightly. Dawn smiled. "I hope your other grandchildren learned the proper lessons from your knee," she said in Arabic, staring at her. "I know a few of his relatives who were there during the business meeting we attended were very polite, very charming, and good at negotiating business matters. Frankly, there's almost always one child in the extended family that doesn't live up to the rest of the family. You usually call them black sheep."
"True," she agreed in Arabic. "You are well educated."
"Yes, which is why I'll never be with a man who kidnaped me. I didn't want to be taken from an airport in Sweden and brought to your desert so he could supposedly convince me I'd be his wife," she said at the opening mouth.
"Oh, dear. I was not told that part either."
Dawn smiled. "I'm sure he was trying to be diplomatic about it but I'm not really interested." Bucky came up the hall. "Hey, Bucky, is Callia calmer today?"
"Mostly." He nodded. "Ma'am." He looked at her. "You okay?" he asked in Russian.
She nodded slightly for him to stay just in case. "Agent Barnes, this is the grandmother of the man who desperately would like to be my husband."
"Agent Barnes," she said with a nod at him. "You work here?"
"I'm part-time with SHIELD and I help now and then when the children have security issues. Speaking of, Dawn, your son is somewhere. The daycare said he wandered off again."
"He's either with Callia's pets or he's in the caf probably."
"Nope. Or the library or the music room."
Dawn sighed and looked up, searching magically. "He's coming this way. Philip Ivar Summers!" He squealed. Dawn walked out to pick him up and carry him back. "You do not wander away from the daycare. I don't care why you did." The older woman stared at him and he smiled. "Sometimes he's a little too smart for his own good." She sat down with Philip on her lap. "I'm sorry someone was so diplomatic and gave you half-truths, ma'am. I wish him nothing but a peaceful life far away from my son."
"I can understand that. He goes by your name?"
Dawn smiled. "Clint liked my mother better."
"That is a wise man then. He knows when the matriarch should rule. Thank you for your time, dear."
"You're quite welcome. I'm sorry you had to come all this way." She shook her hand. Philip grinned and waved. "Good boy, Philip, and very polite. Thank you. We all appreciate that." The baby grinned and reached up to Bucky, who sighed but picked him up. "Bucky, I can handle him."
"You have typing to do. I'll take him back to the daycare."
"I only have a few reports to do and then the weekly searching of news stories on you guys. He can stay." She took him back and smiled at the older woman, who walked off unhappy with a few people but she understood more.
Tony leaned out of the office. "Tactful, thank you," he said, going back to working on Pepper's sore shoulder.
Dawn smiled at the baby. "Your Uncle Tony is so silly sometimes," she told him with a grin. "He knows I have manners. He made sure of it with Auntie Pepper." She typed around the baby, making him stare in awe as things appeared on her screen. Bucky walked off shaking his head to tell the head of the daycare that Philip had been found.
"Someday all the girls will want you too," she whispered to her son. "I want you to pick a good one, son, even if it's only for a one-night stand. Never date bad boys and girls." Philip laughed so she went back to her many tasks. Philip cheered and clapped when the news stories had pictures but he loved his family.
Pepper came out, smiling at them. Philip leaned over, staring at her stomach. He frowned but patted it, pulling back suddenly when it kicked him back. He babbled and patted it. Dawn and Pepper both snickered. Babies were so fun sometimes. Dawn turned him around and put his hand on her stomach. He gave her an awed look when her stomach kicked him. He could pat that all he wanted. Chris could have his own mommy for a bit. Philip looked up at her and grunted, meowing then babbling as he patted it. "That's your baby sister, Alexina Idella. She'll be out soon so you can stare at her."
He frowned and patted her stomach again, then huffed when he didn't get kicked. She finally obliged him and he was happy again. This new kicking thing was fun to play with. Even if Mommy did grunt now and then about it.
Natasha came up the hall with Clint. "It appears he found out he's due to be a big brother," she said with a smile, taking a kiss from Dawn.
"He has. She's presently kicking him a lot." She winced at one hard kick. "Can you maybe pat the daddy, son?"
Philip grinned at his father and patted. He babbled. Clint picked him up, earning a pout. "That's your baby sister. Some day soon she'll be out and you can pat her the right way."
Philip cuddled him, staring at the other mommy. He noticed she had the same sort of thing so he leaned down until he could pat hers. She stroked over his hair but that one didn't kick as much. He wiggled until he got down and went back to the mommy with the kicking thing. "Kiki?
"No, it's not a kitty," Dawn said with a grin and a hug for him. "It's a baby sister, just like you only a girl."
"Then again, he thought he was a cat for a while," Clint said. He took him back. "C'mon, we have books about baby sisters." He walked him off talking about that. Natasha and Dawn shared a kiss then Natasha got back to her research for her present case. No wonder Stark had called them.
Andrew and Jonathan came up the hall hissing at each other. Jonathan grinned at Dawn since she was at her desk. "Can we ask you for a huge favor?"
"Sure, what's up?" She stopped typing to look at them. She knew that look, they were up to something.
"Can we borrow a few vials of poison for the girls to look over?" Andrew asked.
Dawn slowly shook her head. "I promised Phil it wouldn't get out of my hands unless I had to use them. Sorry. Why are they playing with poisons?"
"They were thinking about it," Jonathan said. "You sure?"
Dawn stared at them. "Why do you really need them? No one's picking on you two, right?"
"No!" Andrew said with a quick head shake and a grin. "We wanted to try something out."
"Test using saline solution. It's about the same weight outside of some that are gels." They beamed and hugged her then ran back to their labs to try that. Dawn considered it and sent a prayer winging at Phil. He sent a text message saying he had no idea what the boys were doing and he was in the middle of yelling at trainees so he'd have to check later. Though, to ask Natasha since he felt her having been involved. Dawn sent a thought at her wife - who was bored doing paperwork today anyway. She admitted what they were doing. Dawn groaned and thumped her head on the desk. She considered it then went to talk to Stark, who was hanging out with some of the guys in Shield Design. "Hey, boss, got ten?"
"Another tasteless package I'll have to deal with?"
"I think we may have a rogue Roomba."
"Why ask me?" he asked.
Dawn stared at him. "Because I think you should probably see why it's rogue?" She grinned. "Before someone uses actual things to test on someone?"
"The experts on the Roombas are the boys," Tony said with a grin.
"He's kinda busy, Dawn."
"Fine. I'll handle it. If I have to spank I'll let you know." She walked off texting him. He hopped up and went to handle it after all.
"No, there's no poison delivering Roombas," Tony yelled from the doorway. "Before it hits one of the kids! Find another method for whatever Barton or Romanoff wanted. Thank you for not being derivative, guys!" He swung by Dawn's desk. "Could've said it."
"I didn't want to worry anyone, boss."
"Good idea." He went back to where they were hanging out shaking his head. "She was right, I needed to yell at them."
"They were making poison delivering Roombas now?" one of the other engineers asked. Tony groaned but nodded. "Why?"
"I have the feeling someone had a mood swing and since she can no longer go kick butt, she wanted to be more subtle," he said, flopping down with a sigh.
"Dawn's mad at someone?" they asked.
"Her wife, guys. The more dangerous person in that trio." They all grinned at that.
Jonathan leaned in with a grin. "Does this mean we can't finish testing the cell exploding laser, boss?"
Tony stared at them. "Cell destroying laser?"
"Where are you getting these ideas?" another of the engineers asked. "Just so we know."
"Natasha showed us a site. It has agents giving ideas of things they'd like to have their tech ops people make for them." Jonathan grinned. "It's pretty cool."
Tony shook his head but the lone woman in the room quipped it. "Every engineer secretly wants to be Q," she said with a grin. "How big is the laser, Jonathan?"
"We're working on perfecting it and then shrinking it. Right now it's movie shrink ray sized. Though, shrink ray, not all that great. We can't undo it yet and we've lost about three Roombas that are too tiny to find. We think another vacuumed them up so we've been debating whether or not that's cannibalism."
"Go get Andrew, we'll all hang over then look at those later, Jonho." Jonathan beamed and ran off. They came back with two of the Roombas and settled in to talk geek things with the older geeks. They loved going to the older geeks as mentors. They gave them all sorts of help and ideas without giving them the answers they wanted. Tony looked down. "Who were you going to test the poison system on?"
"Um.... the guy mooning over Dawn at the gate?" Andrew guessed, looking at Jonathan.
"And the guy who flirted with my wife," Jonathan agreed with a grin. "He keeps doing it even when I growl. I was going to have the robot pick him up at the same time it was going to pick up the pitiful guy."
Tony stared at them. "No putting giant robots in LA, boys. I did not want to get into the suit." They shrugged and relaxed again. "Thanks, guys."
"Welcome. Did they arrest the guy that sent Callia pretty stuff?" Jonathan asked. "If not, we have special arrows for Clint to use."
Tony stared at them. "We'll look at those later too." The other geeks grinned. "Sometimes you two are like younger brothers." They grinned at that compliment.
Howard faded into view, shrugging. "I don't think I slept with their mothers but if so, that's fine. Maybe we can talk them into helping us merge with the laser people in Connecticut."
"No, Dad, and butt out please unless it's a problem," Tony said.
"Well, Pepper's presently being fussed at by Dawn because she slipped and fell," Howard said. Tony hopped up to check on her. Howard shook his head. "I have no idea where he learned how to fuss."
Andrew stared at him. "Real men fuss over their pregnant wives or girlfriends. Things have changed since you were human, Mr. Stark. A lot."
"You need to look up the word metrosexual," Jonathan said with a grin. "That'll explain a lot."
Howard sighed but went to the library. Someone in there could open the dictionary for him or explain it to him.
Everyone in there heard Howard ranting that men did too many girly things and real men didn't use gel in their hair a few minutes later.
"Shut up, Dad!" Tony yelled. "Yes they do! And we change diapers, walk the floor with the kids, and take care of what's ours. Including treating them nicely. Maybe you should go ask Mom how she would've liked that. After all, you did it to your mistresses. You might also rethink all that product you used to use since you used more than gay male models do now." He walked back in and shut the door then started Callia's little blocker. "That might help," he said, sitting down again with a sigh. "She's fine. She was interviewing one of the new doctor candidates and they helped. They got hired." The others all smiled. "That one guy is fired in two weeks. That way we'll have a good infirmary again." Andrew beamed and bounced a bit.
"We need more elves," Jonathan said. "They're a bit high strung and some are a bit snotty but they seem to be good doctors." The others stared at him. "No one else heard about Doctor P?"
Tony shook his head. "Nope, guess not." They all moaned and shook their heads, though two paid off a bet to the lone female in the room. Tony looked at her and she just smirked back. "You knew?"
"Yeah, I saw her ears." That got a few more groans.
Natasha was considering things while lotioning after a long bath. She hadn't expected to like being pregnant. She was though. She was having to do a lot of self-pampering. She was having to take time to meditate away stress and problems. She had never felt more sensual, even though she had sore breasts. The nipple itch was going to drive her nuts but she could ignore it hopefully. And the kicking. "Fine, we will eat," she told her stomach. She washed the extra lotion off her hands and went to make herself lunch. Philip was in daycare, which he adored. She was alone in the house. Or so she hoped since she just heard something in the garage. She grabbed the nearest gun to check and walk out there. She cleared her throat, making Barney jump. "If you scratched my anniversary present, I do have mood swings."
He looked at her. "You can tell." She pointed the gun at him. "Looking for my idiot little brother? Someone sent me as a messenger," he said with a grimace.
"If you wouldn't let people use you, you might be happier. Though he is at SHIELD. I'll summon him. Inside." He nodded, following her. "I am not making you lunch."
"I had a burger." He looked around. "With the freaky stuff your wife does, you'd expect crystals and fairies."
"She's not that sort of witch and don't sit there. The cat's under the pillow." Barney sat down and she had to smile at his yelp of pain. "I did warn you." She made an extra salad since Clint said he was on the way. At the second yelp she looked back. "Tsarina," she chastised in Russian. "He is not your serf, you may not treat him like prey. Who knows what you'd catch from him." She turned back around. "Gently put her onto the floor. She will quit using you as a training toy."
Barney stared at the kitten. "You're a funny color."
"She's a Russian Blue," Natasha said. "She was a gift of respect from a few demons. Loki was our former fire escape cat."
"Loki?" She pointed. He looked. There was a black cat with green eyes staring at him. "Yeah, I can see why you named him after the evil guy."
"He is much more settled now that he is married to Ares," she said dryly. Barney shuddered at that news but oh well. Clint walked in from the garage. "He was admiring our anniversary present from Dawn." She took a kiss. "I made you extra."
He smiled. "Thanks, 'Tasha." He looked at his brother, taking the envelope he held up to read over. "We think it may have stopped. Discord and some others discouraged it to the point where they went on mass suicide binges. But sure, if we have one, we'll agree to let you jump in without trying to arrest you. The usual policy is that you get an hour after the battle to clear out of sight if you're wanted for something."
Barney nodded. "How did she discourage an invasion?"
Natasha smiled. "They wanted Dawn very badly to be their queen. Discord showed them how pleased she was with her current life. Their king promised to commit suicide as well to quit prompting them to invade us."
"That's why they were going to invade?"
"No, they were overpopulated," Clint said dryly. "Dawn was just a lofty goal of the invasion. A way to integrate by taking one of their new slaves as a queen." He shook his head. "I'll note it but we haven't heard of any new big thing this spring yet. Though we're all on the lookout for it. We know it'll be in April." Barney nodded at that.
"Sometimes something huge will pop up out of nowhere and sometimes we have warning," Natasha agreed. "Hopefully nothing of the size of the battle against Thanos will happen anytime soon."
"Me too," Clint agreed. "Damn that was bad and the aftermath was pretty crappy until we got free too." Natasha nodded, stroking up his arm. He grinned at her. "If I could get us another long vacation, I would."
"Why did you go on vacation? Injuries?" Barney asked.
"No, people wanted to capture us and use us," Natasha said. "Especially Dawn."
Clint nodded. "That's when we got to be brainwashed in Romania, Barney. We went on a *long* vacation after that to heal, work on things, avoid the US trying to conscript anyone with gifts."
"You guys get a lot of trouble from Dawn," Barney said.
Clint grinned. "Sometimes but I kinda like that."
Barney shook his head. "You're weird."
"Well, yeah, but I'm pretty sure we all know why." Barney grimaced but nodded. Clint looked around. "The sprout?"
She smiled. "Daycare. He wanted Allenetta."
"Aww, his first girlfriend? I would've said Caroline."
"No. She has chicken pox from her shot. He and Etta went to spoil her." She ate a bite of chefs salad. "Etta called up to babble at him about Caro so he begged and whined until Dawn brought him in with her."
"I like that he's got his mom's empathy." He grinned and took a kiss, then his own salad to eat. "Is Dawn cooking tonight?"
"You know we do not mind if you want to," she offered. "We do have that deer in the freezer."
He grinned. "I might." He looked at his brother. "I'm actually the better cook of the three of us."
"I remember when you burned soup."
"Yeah but I'm a lot better now." He ate another bite and smiled. "Undercover in a restaurant a few times."
Barney shook his head. "That had to be weird."
"Easier to poison someone."
"Good point." He let his grimace clear up. "Who's the kids?" he asked with a point.
"Dawn's sister's kids. Buffy and her husband are in Valhalla so we had custody while they grew up here and on Asgard."
"Oh, the ones you mentioned."
Natasha smiled. "We are exceedingly proud of those three. They have merged their worlds very well and all become exceptional young people. When is Atlantis landing?" she asked.
"Tomorrow if everything's all right. The rooms above the garage are done so Sean and Diana both have one." She smiled and nodded. "The new general who's lording over O'Neill is not happy that there's non-Stargate people on the city. O'Neill told him to blow him and warned the civilians on the city."
"That mystical city bullshit?" Barney asked. Clint walked over to get a picture to show him. Behind Diana, Sean, and Artemis was a good view of Atlantis' spires. "That's....."
"Atlantis behind them. That was Sean's eighteen's birthday party. She's a beautiful city. We've spent some time there a few different times. Dawn spent four months up there because they were hiding from the NID and others before the first invasion of LA." He put the picture back and grabbed his salad, sitting down. Loki jumped down to stare at him. He gave him a piece of egg yolk. Loki sniffed and ate it then settled in to stare at Barney. Tsarina stretched on her way over to him, putting her paws on his knee to pat until he looked at her. "Spoiled princess, aren't you Nat's kitty?" He gave her some egg yolk too and she purred as she ate it. Then she strolled off casually to pet her human by rubbing against her.
"I will brush you after I eat." Her phone beeped so she looked at it. "Callia's missing her Tony cat, Clint."
"I haven't seen Tony cat. Tony," he called. "Food!" Yup, there was a loud meow from the garage. They went to get the cat out of Dawn's car, somehow in the trunk, and brought it inside. Natasha texted that they had found him. Callia said she'd be right over for a kitty play date because the other kids were being annoying brats again. "Fine," Clint said when she showed him. "If you want."
"At least she's a quiet, calm child. She can tinker in the garage as long as she doesn't tune up the cars."
"She can?" Barney asked. "That's the mouthy big Stark kid, right?" He'd ignore the shared look his brother and his normal wife shared. His brother wasn't stupid and he knew he was fishing for information. Not that he was getting a lot.
"Who's all but graduated high school at almost ten, and has been tinkering with cars and weapons with her dad since she was a toddler," Clint said with a grin. "I'm kinda happy that our boy's smart but a more normal smart. Callia drives herself nuts sometimes trying to come up with things to do. She's a great girl; if our next one is a future genius, we'll take ideas from Stark."
"Dawn's already hoarding building blocks and those sort of things," Natasha said with a grin.
Clint looked at her. "I think a few of those are yours."
"Possibly. I did like that castle she got me the plans for."
"It's very relaxing and like a puzzle in the off-hours," Natasha said. "Since so much of television is garbage and we have a self-imposed ban on buying more than three books a month each, even for the e-readers, I needed something to do."
"I was not amused when I realized she spent a whole paycheck on books at a little used bookstore and we needed a library," Clint said, looking at her. "Books are heavy and you can carry your own."
She smiled. "I did and asked Bucky."
"Uh-huh." He went back to eating. Loki was staring up at him. "What?" He got a silent meow. "I know, you like books. They're a good napping spot." Loki settled down with a bite of ham. Tsarina was getting another treat from her human so it was only fair. He looked at his brother. "JARVIS, can you tell Secreva I'll be back later? And have Dawn send Philip with Callia?"
"She's already got him in the car because he pouted until she did, Agent Barton, and I have made such a note to his email."
"Thanks. I needed lunch." He got back to eating. Callia and Philip showed up about fifteen minutes of staring later. Philip ran in with a squeal. Both cats huffed but he only patted them with a 'kiki good' this time. "Hey, little man." Philip smiled, showing off his new tooth. "Wow, another one. You've got almost the full set."
"Hard to believe since Chris is still cutting them," Callia said, letting the cats loose. Tsarina meowed in frustration. "They're only visiting, Tsarina. They wanted to play." Clint kitty and Dawn kitty sniffed her and meowed. Tsarina stared at them. Dawn chattered and 'talked' to them. Clint went to climb something. Natasha was already finding a toy to bat around. Phil kitty and Xander dog were in the corner watching out the window at the birds. Tony cat leapt onto his human to get some petting because he had missed her when she was lost, then ran over to investigate that stereo thing they had.
"No," Callia ordered. "Off, Tony kitty." He slunk away. "Thank you." She sighed as she leaned back. "The mice were easier."
Clint grinned. "A lot of the time, yeah. Did you video call Tara's kids?"
"Yup. They babbled about school." She petted Dawn when she came over to chatter at Barney. "That's Clint's big brother. He's mostly a bad guy but if he tries to hurt you, I'm helping build a cell exploding laser, dear."
Barney blinked at her. "That's science fiction crap."
She grinned. "My other mentors are like that. That's why they made an army of guard Roombas. Who can still change diapers."
Natasha smiled. "That's something we would've found wonderful. Son, let's change you?" Philip scowled at her. She stared at him. "Now please. Your pants are hanging much too low and you smell." She picked him up to carry him in there, talking to him the whole way. "Clint, he's got a mark on his leg."
"Yeah, he got into the heat massage thingy in the infirmary when they went to visit Caroline," Callia called. "Auntie Dawn came down to baby him for it."
She came out with their son redressed in cargo shorts that were nearly pants length and a new t-shirt. "He needs more clothes. They're too small."
Clint took him to let him sit in his lap. "Growing is a great thing, no matter how often your mommy has to shop for you, son."
"At least he won't be like Liz and bring home a pretty dress for her brother," Callia quipped with a grin.
"Kids are weird," Clint agreed with a grin for her. "Why are you escaping?"
"I'm not allowed to lock the heathen bitches out of my lab and I wanted some sketching time to work on an idea?"
He pointed. "Pool? Because you're pasty and could use some sun too." She hugged him and ran outside. The cats went with her. There was a fence and they wouldn't wander too far away from her. They were well trained. Plus they hated it when she had Xander fetch them for her.
"Put on some sunscreen," Natasha ordered, grabbing the bottle and tossing it out at her. "You with a sunburn will be miserable to be around later."
"Auntie 'Tasha, I need a new bathing suit."
"We'll go when you go next time." She looked out at her. "You can't hope to fit into mine or your aunt's."
"No, I guess not." She stripped off her outer clothes to show a nice bathing suit. That was too tight.
Natasha grimace. "That is much too tight."
"This and my leotards."
"Hmm. Perhaps we'll find some later." Callia beamed and hugged her. She settled by the pool to sketch out new ideas with the cats being helpful. She'd have a pale spot due to Dawn kitty sitting on her butt to nap and a shaded spot from Xander laying around her feet. She was used to it though. Natasha smiled and took a picture, sending it to Pepper, who said to send her home. Natasha assured her she wasn't being a problem and was getting some much needed outdoor time with her pets. Pepper was pouty about needing to shop with her. Natasha said to pick her up from here and go, they were closer to the shops they liked. That made her less pouty. Natasha put down her phone. "I am thankful I do not have extreme mood swings yet." She got them bottles of water and sipped hers, sitting in the other chair since Barney had the couch. They all looked toward the back of the house at the splash and howl.
"Then next time, don't fall in, Daddy kitty," Callia complained.
Philip looked then at his mother. Who shook her head. He pouted and pointed. "I thought you could talk," Clint said, staring at him.
"Me?" he asked with a point and a grin.
"We can swim later, after work." Philip pouted again. "Get me my guitar." He squealed and ran for it, carefully bringing it back for him. It was dragging a bit but it was mostly on carpet and he was very gentle with it. Clint sat down to play, Philip in his lap to help. The baby adored that.
"Wow, he's into music," Barney said quietly.
Natasha smiled. "The day Dawn gave it to Clint, Philip laid on the bed listening to him play for nearly eight hours without fussing about needing changed or wanting to be fed."
"Huh." Philip scowled at him for interrupting the music. "I can see why you said he'd gut me for making the music stop." Clint grinned and nodded.
A hologram of Pepper appeared. "They finally got that fixed, that's great." She smiled. "Clint, the daycare wants to go to the children's museum sometime this week. Can we have you as a chaperone? The kids all listen to you and Bucky."
"I'm off Thursday," he offered with a grin.
She beamed. "Great! Would you like Caro and 'Etta? They were trying to 'tune up' Bucky's mechanical arm. Well, 'Etta was polishing it mostly while Caro was trying to tighten the few bolts she found."
"He let them?" Natasha asked.
"No," Pepper said then grinned. "Chris ran into him and knocked him down and out. He's got a very slight concussion from the skating son. Who cried and sobbed and fussed over him until the new docs made him quit. He's very sensitive and Bucky forgave the kid accident. They were in there visiting Caro, who escaped from quarantine." They all grinned. She walked over to look outside. "She really does need new bathing suits."
"The two-piece sports suits?" Clint offered with a grin.
"Steve would freak out. She asked about when she could have a bikini last night and Steve said when she turned eighteen. They argued that it violated the original agreement they had made on bikinis." She walked back over. "Beyond that, Natasha, are you going to the lamaze class tonight?" She smiled and nodded. "I'm joining you and making the guys come. They really do have to finally learn that art even though this is my last one ever." She waved and disappeared. "It worked very well, Tony, and Clint's brother's there."
"We can still hear you," Clint's voice called from the pickup. "He's not being mean, Pepper. Or else I'd let the son kill him."
"Okay." Tony shut it up, shaking his head. "She does need new bathing suits." She took a kiss with a grin.
"If they're modest I wouldn't mind her showing a bit of bellybutton. Nothing more than that though."
"Okay." She went to text Callia that. They'd go shopping then to the lamaze class after dinner. A very full day for her. She found Dawn having a mood swing and hugged her. Accounting screwing up the budget again made her cry a bit too.
Barney looked at them. "You live a very weird life."
"I do, yeah. Before it was all missions, my room on the hell carrier, and range time."
"We are a great reward for excellent service," Natasha said. Clint beamed and nodded, leaning over to kiss her. Loki cat got up with a huff. Tsarina meowed a complaint and wandered off to her cushion again.
Barney shook his head. "Gooey."
"Yes, but she and Dawn are the best ever at it," Clint said smugly.
Barney shivered. "I saw that article."
"It was a great night on the couch." Barney moaned and got up, heading out. "See you soon? More peaceful talking?" That would give him a chance to beat his brother to death again.
"Maybe. If I can get the extra gooey sugar out of my system." He left, going back to their base. He had been wearing a wire because their handler was worried how he'd react to his family. He still wanted to beat the shit out of Clint but he knew better than to do it in front of either wife or his kid. He didn't want his nephew to have to see what they had when their parents were alive. His wife would kill him in a messy way. Neither outcome was a good thing by his way of thinking.
Clint grinned at Natasha once the baby had run off play in his room. "I have ten minutes before I need to leave."
"There is no way for either of us to get off in ten mere minutes, Clint."
He smirked. "Yes there is." He pulled her into his lap and invaded her mouth with his tongue, one hand moving their clothes so they could have something good, fast, and hard. He got off, Natasha got off with a moan, and Clint took another kiss before leaving.
She laid there, limp and partially sated. That was a good twelve minutes so she had been right, he couldn't do it in ten. She could make him try it again later on, after dinner and Philip went down for the night.
Clint showed up with Natasha that night for lamaze, looking around. No Dawn. He texted her, getting back a 'I'm at the spa getting heavenly pampered' back. He grimaced and sent back that he thought she was going to be at lamaze with them. That she and Nat could've gone to the spa anytime. Her response that Nat hadn't wanted to go last week or this week, and Dawn was having something done to her stomach so it'd quit giving her side cramps made him look at the other wife. He showed her.
"She asked?" She took it to text. "Ah, a warmth treatment for her muscle cramps. I knew her legs have been."
"And neither of you mentioned this why?" he asked.
"Because you were not home," Natasha said. She sent back one and Dawn said she'd join them for class on the next one, pending not being in South America again. Natasha agreed and they settled in to go over the advanced meditation techniques. Though Clint was clearly thinking instead. She looked at him. "We have not invited her along," she said quietly.
"She shouldn't need one."
Natasha stared at him. "Have you done more than hugged her or a quick peck on the lips in the last two weeks?" He stiffened then shook his head. "Which is probably why she's being subtle." She went back to it. He was helping her and she was enjoying this. The baby was kicking less today. She frowned. "You're not moving as much."
"Even they have to sleep sometimes," the midwife said quietly, walking over. She pulled out her little ultrasound machine to use on her. She smiled. "Good heart rate, Natasha. She's fine." Natasha relaxed and nodded. "Sometimes babies get with the meditative urge too. It's a special time." She looked at them. "Dawn?"
"Getting some sort of heat treatment for the side and leg cramps she's been getting," Clint said.
"Those are always charming but they happen to all of us," the midwife promised. "We're doing her next appointment in two days at three."
"And I'm going to be out of the country," he complained.
She smiled. "You'll figure it out." He nodded. She went over to help another couple. They were clearly still mad about something. She got them talking in a separate room so they wouldn't interfere with anyone else's calmness.
Clint leaned forward to put his forehead on her shoulder. "Maybe I can switch."
"You can't and she understands that," Natasha said quietly. "She always has about both of us."
"Still blows at the moment."
"Yes but that is life sometimes. At least you are not hiding in the office or the lab. You are legitimately busy."
"True." He rubbed her sides and back, helping her relax because he felt that cramp. Though it wasn't hers. It was Dawn's. He sent a calming thought at her. "Is that a false pain?"
"She had a few early Braxton-Hicks last time," Natasha said quietly, sending her own. Dawn snapped the bonds shut so she could concentrate. They packed up and went to her spa of choice. Someone texted them where she was instead on the way. That helped. They walked in. Natasha looked at the receptionist. "We're Dawn's spouses."
"She's back in the warm rock room, ma'am." She pointed. "They're trying to get her to calm down." They went back there with Clint following.
Clint warmed his hands and moved the technician to work on a sore spot, making Dawn hiss and bat at his hands but it got the cramp stopped. She panted, calming herself down. He stared down at her. "Hi."
"Hi." She blinked at them. "I don't know what the hell that was."
"Nor do we," Natasha agreed. "I thought perhaps early labor?"
"No. Not even close." She sat up with help. She hugged the massage tech, getting a smile back. "That's what I've been fighting through."
"We can go back to lamaze, see if she's still there," Clint said quietly, staring at her.
Dawn looked at his watch. "She's home by now. If it's still happening, I see her in three days and it's not affecting her. She doesn't like it in the least and kicks me like hell."
"We can get it moved up," Natasha said, stroking over her back.
"She's packed full. That was moved up." They groaned. "It's fine. The baby's heartbeat's not going down. She's still kicking my insides a lot." She winced as she moved. "I think she's about to bruise a rib."
"Then let's go to the ER," Clint said.
Dawn looked at him. "We just started over on our insurance year, Clint. That means we'll end up paying for the whole long wait and being told they can't really do much. Or like the last one that I should abort it because it's clear that my *gifts* are what's wrong."
"I didn't hear that," Natasha said.
"The day I went to the ER spotting, the doc started that until Clint came in."
"Damn. Okay, so let's go home and soak?"
"I'm good. I've only got the sauna left," Dawn said. "We can pay for you guys."
"Let's go home," Clint said. "I can do some wonders for your legs and arms." He stared at her. Dawn nodded, being helped up so she could get dressed and they could go home. Clint called the midwife Dawn went to so she knew about the problem and could nag Dawn about it. They got told she was still at the office so drove back there. They led Dawn in. "Here you go, one aching young mother."
She looked at her. "That's why you moved the appointment up?"
Dawn nodded. "I told Marilyn that I was having a lot of early cramping in the wrong area." She shifted and winced. "Sorry, leg cramps too." Natasha made her sit down. "I've checked her heartbeat with a borrowed fetal monitor and the cramps aren't lowering it any. It's not Braxton-Hicks unless it's radically different from the last set I had. She doesn't like it and I end up feeling more bruised from her kicking during it."
"Okay." She got Dawn onto the exam table so she could look her over. Clint handed her the ultrasound wand when she reached for it. "Thank you." She looked. "That's weird."
"What's weird?" Dawn asked.
"The uterus expanded upwards more than usual." She looked. "She's standing on your cervix."
"I noticed," Dawn said with a grin. "She's been trying to do yoga stretches up."
"Yeah, I think she is." She checked a few more things. No obvious problems that she could see. The heartbeat looked good. "What are you doing when you have them?"
"Usually, I'm totally relaxed and just settling down to nap." She yawned. "Sorry, spa was great."
"The heat probably helped a lot, Dawn." Clint moved to work on Dawn's shoulders, making her moan and go limp. Within a few minutes there was a cramp and the baby kicking. "Oh, that." She looked at her. "How bad is your diet?"
"I managed to eat at least once today?" Dawn moaned. "South America is giving us all fits. Plus I ended up nauseous again last night."
"After dinner?" Natasha asked.
"No. Right at bedtime." Natasha shook her head. They had wondered why Dawn had went to soak in the tub.
"You didn't mention anything," Clint said.
Dawn blinked up at him. "You were already asleep and I can soak while I'm having some nausea, Clint. I'm okay."
"She is," the midwife agreed, cleaning off Dawn's stomach. She checked the muscles. "I think the tension is carrying over so whenever she's totally relaxed the muscles are having to relax too far. Can't you cut down on your stress?"
"It's not a lot of stress on me. It's a lot of running around all day," Dawn said. "It's a lot of juggling. Nothing's making my pulse or blood pressure climb. Pepper and I are both on low-stress moments. We've both had time to sit and take off our shoes while we worked on paperwork. It's just been a constant stream of paperwork. Like on days when you're updating charts. It's not stressful, but it's chronic."
"I get that," she agreed. "They aren't stressful days but you never have time to do more than hit the microwave for tea."
"Exactly. Which I don't mind. You think I'm just too tense? I've been doing my meditations most of the time for a half-hour before I go home."
"I think that's the problem. I'm not seeing any other ones. Can you take a few days off?"
Dawn shook her head. "No. We have intern applications to go over, the new idea panel meets in two days, there's a board meeting tomorrow and the next day - one for investors and the next for general company policy BS. Then we have the audit coming up, which happens every year since so much of the government is scared to death of what Stark's going to pull out of his panties this time. Things slow down in March, usually."
"It's barely February," Clint said. "It's like this every year?"
"Yeah. You don't remember me coming in and collapsing into a nap as soon as I hit the couch last year?"
"No. Then again, I was on assignment for part of the month." He looked at Natasha.
"I was too." They stared at Dawn. Then at the midwife. "How do we combat this?"
"In this case it's not stress. I think she should maybe try to sneak in a few minutes of meditation during the daytime, maybe even with Pepper and the kids. It can only help all of you."
"Then I have to stay late."
"Good point. How are things at home?"
"I'm interviewing housekeepers for the next seven or eight months," Dawn said. "They only handle high-income people and they are all background checked." Natasha and Clint stared at her. "None of us are going to be in any shape to clean the house in another month. Clint's probably going to be in Thailand at that summit meeting since we got a request for you to be Stark's guard from the State Department so he'd actually attend it."
"Not my idea of fun," Clint complained.
"Yeah but they're putting pressure on Steve."
"Oh. Great," he said flatly. "No, I'm going to be in the US only after this next assignment."
"Which may take you until June," Dawn said dryly, looking back at him. "Tracking the news, someone's screwy by what your packet stated." He groaned. "Sorry. Some underground blogger was noting it and I found it during my weekly search." She looked at the midwife again. "I make sure I at least get breakfast. I try for something beyond tea during the day and then I make dinner when I get home."
"I made dinner earlier," Clint said.
Dawn stared at him. "Leftovers?"
"Yeah. Plate in the fridge." He counted back. "I made dinner two days ago."
"I didn't get home until ten that night because of the audit team showing up with weapons," Dawn complained. "They were going to try to rush the building."
Clint turned and kicked a wall, shaking his head. "I've got to rearrange things so I'm here more often. That way you don't see more of Stark than me," he told her.
"I see more of Bucky than I see of any of you on the team," Dawn said dryly. "And Pepper almost all the time. Someone told him to hover."
"Probably Cap," Clint agreed, considering it, looking at Natasha.
"I've been at SHIELD doing a lot of paperwork," she said. "We have our yearly updated talks with Congress soon as well."
"You can go on early maternity leave," Clint said.
"Hell no I can't," Dawn shot back with a smile. "Are you going to go do my job?"
"No," he admitted. "They can..... Pepper can't," he realized.
"Even beyond that. I went on a week's leave and came back to the snafu from hell," Dawn quipped with an evil smirk. "I had three weeks of straightening things out." Clint slumped, grimacing. "That's just from the people that were trying to sabotage us. Not even the usual snafus that I smooth out daily. Things like a lab didn't order supplies and ran out at a critical moment. Or the caf's order never got sent in so they had bare fridges yesterday."
"Is it sabotage doing that?" Natasha asked.
"No, that's usual corporate stuff," Dawn said. "That's why I make the big bucks, so I can solve problems and make sure everything keeps running as smoothly as possible. Right now I'm doing that in between audit stuff and intern applications. Because they never have everything together so we have to create a folder and sort as things come in, then hand them to the right department head as their files become complete."
"Can you try to nibble while you sort?" the midwife offered.
"I have been. I had rice krispy treats today because Chris had helped make some with the daycare." She grinned. "The kids were going around giving people some."
"That's sweet of them." She smiled back. "The rest of your lunch?"
"Three breadsticks as I ran between buildings gathering stuff and making sure people ate, and then two cups of tea this afternoon. One decaf, which just made me more tired."
"You both need to slow down some."
Dawn snorted and shook her head. "There's no way that can happen. The audit team needs specific forms filled out. It needs the budget, both projection for this year and last year's actual and projected handed over. It needs specific budget files from each of the departments, and they don't usually know how to do them, and you can't do them beforehand because they need the January 1st totals. Thankfully I just have to update figures and print."
"How big of a task is a budget?" Clint asked. "You always seem to have something budget related."
"We do a monthly budget because of the audit," Dawn agreed. "The main budget is a listing of the mini budgets and it's ten pages long." Clint whimpered, shaking his head. "Then each of those has a budget that links into it, and a few of those have sub-budgets by project or the sales budget by country and item both."
"Don't you guys have an accounting department?" Natasha asked. "That seems to be their job."
"It is, and then they send it to me for proofreading and going over with figures from other places that they don't have access to. And I correct mistakes that've been made, change anything in the format that needs it, link all the sub-budgets to the main one for the paperwork, do the paperwork, present the audit team with the sixty-eight page report on the budget and the other six items they always want. This year they surprised us by not wanting one and wanting another but that only took me a few hours because I do it for the board."
Clint squeezed his eyes shut, staring at her. "Why don't you have an assistant?"
"I am the assistant."
"Some of that could be done by a secretary," Natasha said.
"They never rehired the outer secretaries after they were found to be handing out information," Dawn said, giving her a look. "So I'm doing a bit of that too. They've put up a want ad inside and outside Stark and no one wants that sort of stress. Then again, if something huge happens, like South America having another plant strike, then I've got to drop everything and help Pepper handle that, or take over most of her duties while she handles that."
"That's why you make in the eighties," Clint said.
Dawn looked at him, nodding. "After taxes, yeah. That and my masters degrees. Otherwise I'd be making in the seventies."
"I do report files and check facts," Natasha said. "It's a boring position while I'm incapable of being in the field. I can come over and help."
"I'd have to teach you all the forms," Dawn said. "I can ask Tony."
"I'll ask Stark," she said.
"No, if you ask Stark, he'll start to think I'm not good enough for the job and I'll have to find another one, and then probably move countries. So no you're not."
"He wouldn't," Clint said.
"That's not all his call," Dawn said, grimacing. "The board can fire people, dear."
"I didn't think about that. And since you're so strong in protecting the group they'd want you gone."
"They've tried it twice recently and it got defeated. The last time barely defeated. That was because the proxy from the kids." Clint shuddered. "Tony had a fit on them about it when he heard," she said more quietly. "Things will slow down in a month. They always do, pending another apocalypse or something."
"Did having Benji there help?" Natasha asked. "We can cite security issues and get you someone on the injured list."
"No. They tried to have me fired then for needing Benji and having security issues." Dawn pulled up something in her email to show her. "It took Pepper and Stark ten weeks to undo that plot."
Natasha shuddered and handed back the phone. "Good to know."
"And they see you coming in to help me with stuff the same way."
"Damn," Clint muttered. "How can we help you handle it?"
Dawn took a kiss and smiled. "I'm handling it. It's fine."
"It's not fine. We never spend any time alone," Clint said.
Dawn stared at him. "Even if I'm there, you never spend time with me, Clint." He glared. "Really." She waved a hand. "I see more of the kid that hates me than I do you two."
"You could've come tonight," Natasha said.
"You guys clearly needed more bonding time and I've been through a lot of the lamaze classes in bits and pieces." Dawn stood up and adjusted her clothes. "It kinda seems normal anymore." She stared at them. "Let's go home, I need a nap." They nodded. "We'll argue this weekend since I have it off."
"You could use a few days here and there," the midwife said quietly.
Dawn grinned. "Pepper has spa time as soon as the audit team leaves. I usually go with her to guard her." The nurse grinned at that bit of deviousness. "Plus we go over kid things that need to get done." She hugged her and paid her then walked off. The nurse let them out and locked the building up so she could go home too. Dawn did more than the average set of twins apparently but they'd work that out. She hoped. They were a good trio and were strong. They could work that out.
Clint laid there, watching the girls sleep. Natasha wasn't curled up against her because Dawn had a heating pad against her back to ease it some so she could sleep. Natasha was having some hot flashes so she was away from Dawn's extra warm spot on the bed. Maybe they needed a few days off together. Was he doting on Natasha? Yeah, he was. This was her first time through it, and really his, so they were going through it together but they hadn't wanted to not include Dawn. He heard a quiet footstep and looked out there. Philip was wandering. "Hey," he hissed. "Go back to bed."
Philip smiled and came in to hug Dawn. Which was weird. He usually didn't want to cuddle her. He still had a strong like of Natasha as the favorite parent. He snuggled in on her shoulder and cuddled, cooing at her stomach. Clint patted his lap, getting a pouty look. "Okay," he said quietly. "Cuddle Mommy. She could use it." He watched, thinking about how things needed to be. He needed a plan. Even if it did make him sound like Maria Hill and her ever-evolving plans to get Tara back. Philip scowled at Dawn's stomach and started to kick back but Clint grabbed him and put him into his lap.
"Do not kick the Mommy," he said, staring at him. "That can hurt them and your baby sisters." Philip pouted, reaching for Dawn. He let him cuddle her again. He settled in to nap on her instead. Clint got between the ladies, curling up against Dawn's back. He moved the heating pad and kissed her shoulder when she started to move. "It's been on too long," he whispered in her ear. "Let me take care of you." He got her back to sleep. He had felt Natasha wake up behind him but she was apparently going to lay there. He glanced back, meeting her eye.
She shrugged, she didn't know how to fix it either.
Stark came up the halls the next morning. "Dawn, typos all over the report," he complained, then paused when he saw Clint in her desk chair. "She sleep in?"
"No, she's in the infirmary getting some tylenol for the back spasm she just had." He looked. "That's not the one she was printing." He pointed at where it was still going.
"I had JARVIS print me out the preliminary."
Dawn walked up the hall sipping her water. "That's the preliminary as of last week, boss. This one's the pre-approval copy." She checked and started to collate and gather. When the last page spit out she bound it and handed it over with a grin. "Try that one."
"I can do that." He stared at her. "Need a day off?"
She gave him a horrified look. "Hell no! The company would fall apart!"
He laughed. "Not exactly. You can take a day off. The new audit team pushed back their arrival by a day."
"Which means I've got about thirty more forms to do in an extra day's time," she said dryly. "I was going to have to stay over an extra half-hour tonight so that's a good thing." He stared at her. She handed him the files. "What they wanted this year minus that last report that has to hit the board first." She got Clint out of her chair and pulled that up to work on it.
Tony took them all into the office to look over. "I'm damn glad Pepper streamlined this. It was another sixty pages long," he complained as he walked.
"Me too," Dawn quipped.
"Thirty forms?" Clint asked.
"Then I have to bind everything I just handed him and this into one report. I also have to have a separate copy of that plus other things for the board meeting tomorrow," she said as she typed then grinned at him. "It's only this month that's hectic." She got back to it. By lunch she was starting to stitch things together. She was also doing an external backup every hour to make sure she didn't lose anything in case of a stupid incident like a few years back when they had lost power so the whole document had been eaten.
Of course real life had other ideas about her carefully thought out schedule. Especially the higher powers over real life. Dawn moaned and collapsed at her desk, banging it as the vision started. It was not a good thing. She was coming out of it while figuring out how to sidestep that one when another one hit. About the same agent attacking her and Stark, nearly getting her put into federal prison for defending herself.
Cordelia Chase appeared. "You weren't supposed to have that," she told Dawn's unconscious body. She looked at Natasha, who was coming up the hallway. "No wonder it didn't hit you." She touched Dawn's head to see if she had anything going on because her spouses looked a bit pissed and she more than most knew how scary they could be. "Barton, she said you may not touch him. Just because she hasn't been wrong before doesn't mean she can't be wrong this time and we have to wait until he acts. Or else she'll have another one." He stopped moving and nodded, checking over Dawn's pulse. Cordelia sighed. "Sorry, guys. It was supposed to hit this one, not Dawn," she said with a point at Natasha. "Apparently someone decided she could handle it better." She disappeared.
Asclepias showed up and put a bracelet on Dawn's wrist. "That should stop the medical problem she just foresaw from happening." He checked her over. "She could use some curled up moaning at the headache time." They got her moved to the infirmary. The doctor down there got huffy so the God of Healers turned him into a puppy. He stared down at him. "Shut. Up. Whining is not a healer's job. It never has been and never will be." He got one of the other doctors out to help. They had things he hadn't gone over to help with visions. He could learn their methods too.
Tony leaned in. "She able to tell us what it was about?"
Clint looked over. "Nat and I both saw it. You're about to be attacked by a jackass agent and the President, who's a bit paranoid about you thanks to a preacher he's been seeing."
"Really?" Tony asked, coming in. "So why two?"
"Dawn was figuring out how to get around the one where he slapped her so she handled the agent the hard way," Natasha said. "And half of an office of agents, and the president." Tony moaned and shook his head. "They pushed her into it. The second one he showed up and shot at her, which she stopped, and that agent was claiming that was enough to put her into custody. He tried to sneer about her daughter going into foster care and things." She shifted, rubbing her stomach. "She had sidestepped the shut down warrant by going to the same judge before he got there with information on who was actually using the programs they were claiming you were."
"I need to know that," Stark said.
Clint nodded, making a list of what Dawn had been looking up and the judge. Plus the agent. They sedated Dawn so he settled in to do a proper background check on the guy. What he saw amused him to no end. He called an agent he knew fairly well to show up at the compound. They were in LA's office. He held up the statement on the visions and the background check. "I can't believe you guys hire that low of lowlifes."
"That bad?" He read over the background check. "He started what?"
"One of the pro-conscription groups against Dawn and others with gifts. The other two are visions Dawn just had about him showing up. So far she's said I'm not allowed to shoot him."
He looked over those, nodding once. "I'll take this to Internal Affairs but that high up it's going to be a fight."
Clint shook his head. "No it's not." He smirked. "Not hardly." He strolled off. "Thanks, man."
"Welcome, Barton." He took it to the LA office's internal affair's office, handing it over. "From a SHIELD agent."
They read them over, grimacing. "That membership is enough to get him suspended. Especially with him starting one. We lump them with other neo-Nazi groups since they usually belong to them to. How often is the one who had this vision correct?"
"I didn't ask. Same subject though."
"Which hospital is she in?"
"I'll see through SHIELD then. Thank you."
"Be damned if I want to see that battle be lost," he said dryly. "Because we would and look like gutter slime with him." He left, going up to warn his boss. He knew that agent, he was on the same floor.
The Internal Affairs agent called the one for SHIELD to talk to him about a few things. There were going to be a lot of very unhappy people soon.
Tony Stark looked at the judge he had just barged in on. "Here, you'll probably want it soon." He handed over a bulletproof vest. "We have proof that this idiot agent is going to come to you, Your Honor. My assistant has visions about bad things."
"Too often with the sort of damage visions cause. They're going to use you to get a desist order based on projects that they'll say we're doing. Those are the list of the ones she saw and what happened. The only one they could rightly attribute to us was a 'shipment' back to Norway that is covered by that LAPD report."
The judge looked it over, grimacing at that report. "That's sad and disturbing."
"Very. We're all working very hard not to kill the guy."
"I can agree with that." He went over the others. "I don't particularly like those programs."
"Me either but it's not my company that's doing it, no matter who tries to say something." He looked toward the hallway. "That's him." He handed over a copy of the background check Clint had done. JARVIS had saved him a copy. "That's on that agent, Your Honor. We've already had a talk with his people." Tony slipped out the other door.
The judge was reading it over when the agent got let in by his clerk. He had put on the vest under his jacket and vest. "Yes?"
"Sir, I have a warrant application," the agent said with a smile. "We're stopping something horrible on the corporate front." He handed over that information packet.
The judge looked it over. It matched exactly. He looked up at the agent. "You're a bit late, Agent Meads." The agent blinked at him. "Someone else came to us with facts on those few things. Apparently there were a few visions." He put it down. "Including that none of these programs go to that one company."
"Sir, I've researched...."
"Not very well then." He put them in front of him. "Publically available through their grant network, Agent Meads. I'm highly offended that you're trying to use the judicial system this way. This isn't how good agents act."
"You were influenced by that mutant," he sneered.
"No, not a bit. I don't know any mutants unless you count every person since none of us are clones," he said dryly. "This isn't the Empire." The agent pulled his gun. "Gun!" he shouted as he got shot. Fortunately he had on the bulletproof vest. Guards ran in and took down the agent. They got the judge help. "Ow," he moaned, holding his shoulder. "Damn that hurt."
"Yes it does," one of the guards said quietly. "Thankfully you had on your vest, Your Honor."
"I got warned he was coming." He pointed. "No one but Henders touches that. Judge Henders isn't one of them and the others might be. It's a huge conspiracy thing," he said quietly to the guard, who nodded and gathered it up for that judge. The Chief Justice leaned in. "I'm good, mostly. Bit bruised." He looked at the guard, who nodded and walked down there. "Hand-over for warrants today," he said as the paramedics lifted him up.
"Whatever he's involved in, I'm probably not," the Chief Justice said.
That judge looked at him. "Yeah, you are. You were at their rallies." The other judge grimaced but nodded. "Sorry to say but I'm not that trusting. I know you're a good man but personal ethics sometimes wins out over judicial ones."
"I understand and that's a great idea. I'll stay out of it." The judge nodded, letting himself be taken to the ambulance for the precautionary check. He waited until all the drama died down to go talk to the other judge. "I'm staying out of it but I need to know which area I almost stepped in."
That judge looked up at him. "Your minister is influencing higher authorities within the government that he's right and we should attack them."
"Okay, them. I can stay far out of that. He good?"
"Good. Am I implicated?"
"No, sir, just a lot of agents and a president." The judge shuddered. "Exactly. Someone's a fucking moron and I don't use that term that lightly, as you well know."
"I was pretty sure the one who shot at the judge in the courthouse already proved he was." He was handed the second vision. He read it and shuddered. "That's evil." He handed it back. "I'm hands off unless you need me to be. I'd recuse myself from any case involving it but if you need research let me know. My daughter's working against them. Means she won't talk to me anymore." He walked off to consider his stance on that issue. Maybe he was a bit hidebound.
Tony was leaning over Dawn when she woke up. "I would've slugged him too," he said quietly, staring at her.
"I'm in trouble for what I might've done?" she groaned, trying to sit up.
"Stay." She went limp. "No, you're not. Even if your wife wouldn't kill me you wouldn't be. You need to calm it down some but if an agent hits you for no reason you do not take that shit." She nodded, staring at him. "Beyond that, Doctor Shivs gave you the week off." She snorted, shaking her head. "Pepper can do all that."
"She can't find all those forms."
"She can call. Not everything's changed since she had your job, kid."
Dawn smiled. "I rearranged those on her so they worked for me."
"She'll call." He patted her foot. "We should not have been working you that hard."
"You do every year."
"Yay? Last year I felt bad that you had to be driven home so many times. So let's just call the short vacation a good idea. Okay?" Dawn nodded. "Romanoff's offered to fill in some but Pepper pointed out how much of it was paperwork that she'd have to interpret. She'll do your gathering and nagging duties with Callia instead." He patted her foot again. "Rest. You have to feel like hell."
"Kinda." She frowned at her wrist. "Why?"
"In case the leaking from the vision happens. If you have to anyway, rip it off and go." He smiled. "Barton's getting you stuff to go home in since you sweated through all yours." He left her to finish waking up and being grumpy. Maybe it was time they got an assistant for Dawn. Or maybe a raise. Or both, she probably deserved both. He went up to the office to talk to Pepper, who had done the same job. "What do you think about getting Dawn an assistant to do the sort and filing jobs for her?"
"I'm not sure how she gets everything she does done. Maybe it's a time turner spell or something," Pepper said with a smile. "Filing's only about ten percent of the job most of the time."
"Oh." He settled in on the couch, looking over what Dawn did weekly according to JARVIS' records. "Maybe she is using a time turner," he said, frowning. "You never did this much work."
"We had to add new departments thanks to the switching from weapons," Pepper reminded him. "If we could end the audit it'd be nice. I'd like some of those hours back too."
He nodded, looking over what they wanted. It was thousands of pages of things. Most were crossed out so Dawn had done them. A few were shorter forms that needed to be typed up and presented. Two were massive things that he hadn't seen. He got up to look over her desk to see if he could find it. Her computer wouldn't turn on. He found her backup drive and ran it in Pepper's office. That worked and he printed them all. She hadn't lost more than a few pages on the final budget projections. At Pepper and Dawn speed it'd be done in a few hours. At Tony speed he'd never get it done this year since he hated doing the paperwork. Thankfully he had Pepper and Dawn. He frowned. "We're doing a full budget?"
"Last year's projected and actual and this year's projected," Pepper said with a smile for him. "Most of that's done. She was pulling together the mass of forms for them. She had left herself the little stuff to get done." She got back to it, frowning at a form. "I have no idea what that one is." She read it over more slowly and filled out what she could. The audit team would have to understand and could wait a week on Dawn to get off bedrest. The Board could throw however many hissies they wanted, the company ran best under a Pepper/Dawn team.
Pepper stared at the Board meeting. "Let me make myself heard, people. We are not firing Dawn. I do not care what the Board wants. In fact, if Dawn doesn't come back from bed rest, then there's a whole lot of things that will never get done. Including your wanted files." She stared at them.
"Why is she off?" one sneered.
"Two visions within ten minutes yesterday about those anti-hero idiots influencing the president to have the company attacked," Tony said, looking up from his tablet. He was trying to decipher some of the forms for Pepper. They all stared. "We've since countered them both. We think."
"I'm fairly certain we have," Pepper agreed. She looked at them. "Should the board try to micromanage things that don't concern them, we would be most happy to dissolve it again."
Tony put up a virtual projection of the forms. "Unless some of you know what these are? All we know is that the audit team that the paranoid people sic on us each year want them and Dawn's asleep so we can't ask."
"I know one's a personal declaration statement." She highlighted it. "That one. That's an 'I did not lie' page."
"Good to know," Tony said, taking it down. "We sign that last?"
"I usually sign it at the end," she said.
"Even better." He looked around. There were a bunch of clueless people.
JARVIS cleared his throat. "The six on the left are all department related. They're to be filled out by the department heads and given to Dawn. They've mostly gotten them done but she was going to nag them today about them, sir." Those got taken down by the AI.
"That leaves ten we have to decipher by tomorrow morning," Pepper said, taking a sip of her tea. She choked. "Tony." She flapped a hand.
"JARVIS," he ordered.
"The doctor is on her way up, sir." He scanned the tea. "It appears to be poisoned."
Doctor Shivs rushed in. "He told me." He sniffed. "Get her to the ER." He called them personally. Paramedics rushed in a few minutes later but she was already vomiting up thanks to the meds he had given her. "Stark?" he prompted.
"I'll follow. Happy can drive me." He nodded. "Go with her?" Shivs stared then nodded, getting into the ambulance with her. Tony stared around the room. "Who has the magic gift?" They all looked clueless. "People, I am a genius. I do know the limits on moving something like a liquid without being seen. We tested things like that when we found out magic was real." A few started to fidget. "I'd fess up, people, before I start looking the hard way." One of the old liners that was always giving them problems sneered. "Fine, Board adjourned." They gasped. "Now, people. I have something I need to be doing." They huffed off. A few gave him looks but he shrugged at the ones he liked. They'd see. He gathered what he needed and headed out to the garage. Happy was parked right in front so he got into the car and let him take them off.
Natasha was pretending to be Dawn to see if she could help her quit worrying. She looked up at the sound of the elevator. Seven people. "Miss Potts is at the emergency room," she said quietly and calmly. "Due to a poisoning attack."
"Isn't Stark here?" one asked.
Natasha stared at him for a moment. "Would you be somewhere other than by your spouse's side?" He slumped and shook his head.
"Are you replacing Dawn?" another asked with a smile.
"No, I'm her spouse and she's on bedrest for a week due to visions yesterday. She did have most of what the audit team needed if you are them?" They nodded. She led them to the conference room and got them the files that were done. "Some are still in the process of being filled in by the various departments. It will probably be tomorrow on most of them."
"That's fine," one of them agreed. "It'll take a few days and we can use the nice, sunny weather you guys have out here to relax in." Natasha smiled, going back to the desk. "Not bad. She got most everything done." They went over what they had. One of them didn't have what he needed yet but he could help them for a day.
Natasha got back to work on the forms they needed. They were frustrating and Dawn kept telling her what something was so at least she wasn't making major mistakes. She did send Callia around to gather department head reports. She was bored anyway. At least until the alarm started and then Natasha went out to handle it. The person holding Callia hostage was eliminated and Callia got cuddled until someone who was family showed up. LAPD was nicely slow today but they could handle that. Bucky was hovering and guarding them.
"Wow, and I thought Dawn was efficient there too," one of the audit board said with a grin. "Stark has mandatory response training for secretaries?"
Natasha smirked. "I'm actually a SHIELD agent. I'm just temping in for Dawn."
"Ah! That makes more sense. She good?"
"She's fine. Stark has been summoned back." He nodded, going back to the conference room with a guard.
"You do look nice in Dawn's business clothes," Bucky said. Natasha smiled at him for that. Callia was still shaky but Happy pulled in and Stark got out. Callia ran over to pounce him.
"You've had a sucky month," he said, cuddling her. "Who was he, Romanoff?"
"No idea." She took a picture of his face and sent it to SHIELD's handlers. They identified him. "Hmm. He works with Barney Barton's group."
"Huh. Guards, search the rest of the buildings, just in case," Stark ordered. They nodded they were already doing that. He cuddled his little girl, making her calm down. "You okay? Want to come back to the hospital with Pepper?"
"Yup. It's probably a good idea before I beat the shit out of someone, Daddy."
"Okay." He looked at Romanoff.
"I'm still working on the forms for Dawn. She was gathering departmental head paperwork."
"He made me drop it in Building 4, Auntie," she called.
"Thank you." She walked off to gather it. One of the Roombas was pushing it all together for her. "Thank you," she told it. It barked and zipped off. Thankfully most of them had filled them out in pen so she could make sure each one's was together. She carried it back to the desk, letting one of the secretarial pool for the various offices gather the rest. Natasha sat down and kicked her heels off to collate and finish the paperwork for Dawn, who blew a kiss and said she had emailed most of them to her. She sighed in relief as she found them, printed them, and got a list of what went where and how. Plus how to use the punch binder. She delivered that to the audit board and left them alone to finish handling things for Stark. She thought SHIELD paperwork was demanding. She hadn't had to do this when she was being Pepper's assistant.
Clint walked some soup into their bedroom. "You should be resting."
"The audit team will stay for a month if we don't have everything they want and things will never go back to normal." She sipped the soup and moaned. "That's great. Thank you, Clint."
"Welcome." He leaned down to kiss her. "Want a leg rub?"
She smiled. "I'd never turn those down." He settled in to work on the mild leg cramps she was having. He had the time to spoil Dawn now. Though they could feel Natasha getting stressed. Dawn sent her an IM and they heard her repeat that to the geek that had just complained about something. The geek left happier and Dawn ordered what needed to be ordered a week ago but no one had told them. "Sorry, happens a lot."
"I've seen Stark get caught up in things and forget what day it was," Clint said. She grinned. "You could've asked," he said quietly.
She sat up to make him look at her face, not her stomach. "I shouldn't have to ask."
"No, you shouldn't."
"It's an issue we've always had and still have. It's one we've been working on, but now it's just a bit more stressed. I'm fine with it. Okay?"
"No it's not."
"That's why we're working on it, Clint."
"True. We have all worked on that problem in a few different ways. I guess you got used to handling all this yourself the last time." Dawn nodded. "Well, not this time. Even if I do have to take a sabbatical."
"No, there's no need for that." Dawn's phone rang. "I totally forgot I'm interviewing someone by video today." She put on a better shirt and laid back down to talk to the housekeeper. Clint listened in and made sure Dawn drank her soup. At the end, Dawn offered her the job and she accepted. She'd be out tomorrow.
Clint rested on her shoulder, one arm over her stomach. "That'll help a lot."
"Yes it will. Especially with Sean and Diana coming home in a few days." She took a kiss. "They'll need to do college tours."
"We can help with that." He cuddled her, rubbing over her stomach. She moved his hand to another spot so he rubbed there instead. She drifted off and he grinned. He'd fix that inequality thing they had going on. Plus the hiding at home thing Natasha was having too.
Old Ones 49: Future Old Ones Playing at Work