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Old Ones 61: School Trips for Future Old Ones.

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It was the second round of interviews SHIELD was making them do. Dawn was up first because they wanted to talk to her more than nearly anyone. Her mother's was after Dawn's so they could go shopping for the kids. Philip needed things for his birthday. Dawn smiled at the reporter. Not a *real* reporter but more of an entertainment reporter. SHIELD hadn't cared as long as they did something for positive publicity. So Dawn had given in to some begging. "So, what did you want to talk about?"

"A few things. First, some people said you were getting snotty with the local society folks?"

Dawn laughed, shaking her head. "Not hardly. I could care less what they think about me but I would not let the lying and the false assumptions stand. I kept hearing 'you're *just* an assistant' when we were looking at good schools for Philip. I couldn't let that stand. I'm more than an assistant."

"It's said that you run a few farms under another identity?"

"It's my emergency escape one but I'll have to redo it since you guys found it." She smiled. "In case things like what happened after Romania happen again."

"I guess I can understand that. Is that legal?"

"Within some loopholes but gray. Most of the time other countries understand when you're not doing it because you're a criminal."

"Huh. I did not know that, but you do have some contacts with other agents."

"I do, yes."

"Through your spouses?"

"Not all of them." She smiled. "There's one in England that tried to capture me so they could get me to give them the Iron Man plans. We fought and he kinda respects me. Anytime I find out about bad things that he should hear about and handle for the UK, I send them to him. I've met a few over things like that." The reporter gave her a funny look. Dawn grinned. "Sometimes those things happen."

"I guess." She looked at her. "A starlette said you insulted her because you thought women looked strange with a six pack."

Dawn giggled, grinning at her. "Some women can rock it, some women can't. I'm one who cannot. I look very strange. If she's one of the few that look good that way, then go for it. Personally I think women look a bit unnatural when they're that muscled. I can't imagine someone like Marilyn Monroe or Jane Mansfield with a six-pack of abs. Can you?"

She paused then shook her head quickly. "No, I can't. But today's Hollywood...."

"Is so full of shit," Dawn said bluntly. "No real woman is that tall and skinny. Biologically, women should have some curves. Some softness. Granted that was for childbirth to go easier on them and to nurture the child later, but I've seen a good few of them that looked like well clothed skeletons. Way too skinny and I want to make sure my nieces and daughters didn't turn out that way. Half the time I want to look at them and ask if I can make them a good dinner. Most of them look like they could use a few good meals. Even if I was in Hollywood, I'd be like the older screen goddesses. I don't need implants to keep my breasts and I'm about five pounds under my correct weight because this is where I look good."

"I can see that point. She said she could run a marathon and you probably couldn't."

"I only do 10K twice a week," Dawn said. "But I've run farther in the past." The reporter blinked at her. Dawn grinned. "I'm in Avengers shape, not muscle mass shape. If something happens I need to be able to handle it. Even if it means chasing a bad guy halfway across Manhattan."

"I guess I can see that." She stared at her. "She wanted to challenge you to run a marathon."

"Sure. Best time wins?" She smiled. "How much did she want to wager and would she agree that the winner pays the other's charity?"


Dawn gave her a look. "Not like either of us would need more money. I've always donated to a number of charities."

"Oh. I'll ask her." She texted her. She got one back. "She said that's fine."

"Tell her to let me know which charity she's using. That way I can look into it." The reporter stared at her. "For future use. If they're good and need funds badly I might put them onto my donation list next year. I have four standard ones I do every year and then I've added in some here and there who needed it."

"You do?"

"I've put out donations since I was seventeen. I've always felt since I've earned more than enough to save for a comfortable life that I should donate to those who haven't had a chance to do the same thing yet. Or those who need help with bad things going on in their lives. One of the four constant ones I donate to is an abuse shelter for men."

"Men?" she demanded.

"It's not just a joke that women beat on their men, dear. Plenty of men have to fight the stereotype that they're men, they should be stronger, while women joke about clocking them with a frying pan upside the head. Men can and are abused daily and not a lot of attention is paid to it. Like male rape victims, there's a huge stigma there that they have to get past. I've always donated to a male abuse shelter. I have an acquaintance that needed their services one year and gladly gave him their name and number. Actually I keep a list of helpful organizations in my desk for anyone at Stark that needs them. I've donated to them for years and used my matching funds from Stark to add to it. I also donate to a few women's abuse charities as well."

"Huh. I never gave it any thought." She paused. "I've seen some butch women who could beat up their husbands."

"It doesn't take a butch woman. It just takes a companion that's snapped to the point of hitting them. Chronically or the first time doesn't matter. It happens to both hetero and homosexual male relationships. It's not covered, which it should be. The stereotype is really a bad thing and it keeps a lot of men from getting the help they need to stop it before their partner kills them. They run higher risks of that outcome or suicide to get it to stop than women do because women know there's help and people prompt them to get help. Men don't get that prompting or told that there is help. Some whole states don't have abuse shelters that can help men, especially with their kids. For this being one of the most modern cities in the world, we only have one and nineteen female abuse shelters, all of which turn men aside. Which I can understand but it's a problem that's not noted. Both sexes should be safe and happy in their chosen relationships."

"I hadn't given it much thought but you see anti-violence campaigns aimed at wife beaters."

Dawn nodded. "You do."

"Huh." She made a note of that. "Do you have their name right off so I can look them up?" Dawn wrote down a single contact name and number. "Thank you."

"They do good work and there's a growing need on both sides. I'd probably have the wager donation go to them."

"I'll keep that in mind." She looked at her. "Lighter questions." Dawn grinned. "How are the girls?"

"They're great."

"Are they multilingual? I heard rumors about you and a dissertation?"

"Yes, I did defend my dissertation and I'm walking in a few weeks." The reporter blinked. Dawn grinned. "I did it on teaching children to be multilingual naturally the way the kids in Europe get it using a more Americanized system of teaching. We teach our kids differently but if kids in some countries over there natively speak three and four languages, why do ours get pushed to only speak one?"

"I don't know," she admitted.

"Even if you're working as a guy who sells newspapers, the other languages can come in handy."

"It can." She smirked. "Is Philip?"

"Yes. Philip this morning looked at Mommy Natasha with his most grumpy face and told her she was an evil queen for waking him up too early in Russian. She praised him for using Russian and told him if she was an evil queen he'd be eating oatmeal without any flavoring. Instead she was making him one of her protein shakes because he loves that Mommy Natasha eats weird food."

"Awww. Did he learn it from her?"

"Some. Some from me. Some from a show."

"You let your kids watch tv? I took you as the 'you don't need that garbage' sort of parent."

"They're allowed to watch educational shows right now and some movies. All age appropriate. Though I am not showing my kids Bambi. I don't want them that upset. They aren't allowed to watch Nickelodeon most of the time. Natasha had a really bad reaction to Sponge Bob that meant we needed a new tv. Twice. She gets this cute eye twitch about Sponge Bob."

"I can see that point and I think most parents get that same eye twitch over Sponge Bob. So no watching Old Yeller?"

"Nope. Actually, Philip loves animals but hates animal movies. Even animated ones. Which is kinda nice since so many of them are depressing."

"They can be. There's educational shows like Dora in other languages?"

"Yeah." She smiled. "He likes the Russian one. It comes on when it's bath time so he sits in there and watches it during his bath. Then he goes to babble about it at the girls. Which is nice. Lexi was calling Mommy Natasha Babushka the other day."

The reporter laughed. "That's adorable."

"It is. Mira tends to scowl at us for not talking at her no matter which language we're using. She's a tiny bit grumpy when she's not being paid attention to. Some day soon she's going to be the diva that Philip turns into when you get him up too early."

"Does Clint mind him and his clothes obsession?"

"He's not *obsessed* at the moment. He has things he favors, he thinks are neat. Liz Stark showed him how pretty some things made him, which freaked out Clint a tiny bit since she also did a stunning lipstick job on him with Mommy Pepper's lipsticks, including on his eyelids. Really a lot harder to get off than eyeshadow. We had to talk about how eyeshadow went on the eyes and lipstick was only for lips. She's convinced both boys that they have to be pretty."

The reporter tried not to laugh. "How does Mr. Stark take that?"

"He goes along. He knows the boys will grow out of it for the most part. Liz almost had Chris convinced that he could become a girl, so therefore always be right like his big sister and her, by putting on the pretty dresses." She pulled out her phone to look up the picture. "This was Chris's idea while we were sorting out my closets again. He did a really great job of tucking it so it looked right on him. I came back from a trip to get a drink and found him doing it." The reporter did burst out laughing. "Tony explained that pretty dresses didn't make you a girl, it made you a transvestite and they were pretty but still not girls. So he liked that answer and picked on Liz some more."

"He doesn't pick on Maeve?"

"She's too young and he knows Callia will swat him good if he picks on the baby. At least until she's old enough to defend herself slightly."

"So I hear you have an assistant?"

"No, I have an under-secretary that works with me. We have a lot of things that have to get done weekly and I've heard a few jokes about time turners in the past." She smiled. "We used to have two but they were found to be the major leaks back to the press." Clint popped in with a thought about that being part of that concussion dream but she said Tony had joked a few times too when he had caught her reading Harry Potter.

"So you're not training your replacement?"

"No. I'm in no way ready to leave Stark and I'm pretty sure I'd never quit so they'll have to fire me. Have you heard I'm being fired? I haven't but you never know with the way wild rumors abound right now."

"No, I haven't. I've heard Pepper joked a few times about you making out with a spouse during your lunch break."

"We don't usually make out but if Clint's coming to pick me up for lunch or the end of my day, he'll sit and watch me work for a few minutes." She grinned. "Pepper teased him about that a few times."

"How are things personally between you three?"

"They're great."

"Do you three fight a lot?"

"Not really. If it's more than a tiny thing the kids all get to go visit Grandma for a few hours while we have a fight. I don't think the kids need to see that. They know we don't always get along and have some disagreements but I don't want them to see us fight."

"You think it'll upset them?"

"I do and I also think it sets a bad example. The tiny things that we glare at each other across the kitchen about. Natasha complaining about I put the dishes up funny or did the dishes funny. They see those. Big things, no. They don't need to see that. There's been a few fights we've tabled until they could go visit Grandma or Uncle Tony or someone else."

"Do you three tend to shout?"

"Not often. Now and then one of us will vent on the roof. We don't tend to shout while fighting. We tend to have those awful, painful silences more than not. Our last one it was so quiet the kids got worried because they were across the room. Clint and I fought while Natasha distracted them. No hope of a sitter there at that time."

"Huh. So it's like a normal marriage? You fight over the toilet seat and the toothpaste?"

"We have three sinks and two toilets in the bathroom," Dawn quipped. "It stopped most of those." The reporter laughed, shaking her head. "I have my vanity for morning makeup things so Natasha can have the bathroom all to herself since she's got lotions and concealers and I barely wear anything behind a bit of lipstick and some mascara most mornings. It lets Clint shave in peace once she's done since they leave first most mornings."

"I remember you had welts from her lotion."

"I did. She has this heavy duty lotion for when she's getting dry skin due to the heat and I'm allergic to that. I got it once when she came to bed right after putting it on and then some the next day off a couch pillow transfer." She grinned. "I bought her better stuff."

"Did it help with stretch marks?"

"We got a special aloe based lotion for those. I got one more on my side and it's already been bleached down to almost nothing like the one on my back. Natasha got one on her leg but it's also been bleached. She got the kit and used it on both of us."

"Huh. I need that one for my friend." Dawn wrote down the name, getting a grin. "I've seen that."

"We used it right out of the nightly showers."

"I'll tell her that." She tucked that into her notepad. "Do you think you'll want more some day?"

Dawn shrugged. "Not sure. Maybe an empty nest baby."

"Have you thought about adopting?"

"I have. If we hadn't been able to have kids, I would've adopted some out of the foster care system. Those kids need a lot of love and we certainly had it to give."

"Clint was a foster child, right?"

"His parents died in a car crash when he was young. He and Barney ran away from their foster home because it wasn't exactly great. Unfortunately some aren't even though there's a lot that are very good. When the system's as overcrowded as it is now, they end up taking in people who are doing it for the checks."

"I've seen stories."

"They're less than a tenth of the system but you never hear about the rest."

"Do you donate to any foster shelters?"

"I've never been asked to and the one time I asked I got laughed at and said they didn't take private donations from women who felt guilty."

"You nearly went into foster care."

"No. I was in protective custody at that point. My sister was still around and she would've taken care of me until I graduated. We talked about that option but then Agent Coulson stepped in to point out I was in protective custody and they could help me find somewhere that wasn't dangerous."

"Yet you were kidnaped a few times."

Dawn smirked. "I was in protective custody because there was a hell goddess after me. We found that out right after we found out about Mom's brain tumor."

"So it's not that uncommon?"

"It's not as common anymore. Most of the ones I see these days are more about the kids."

"Huh." She stared at her. "When did that change?"

"After the battle in Sunnydale."

"Oh." She blinked. "They didn't see you as helpless?"

"Half the ones that would've wanted me couldn't use me at that point because I wasn't a virgin after that battle. I had spilled blood and had sex so I was ineligible for most sacrificial rites or reasons. Half the ones that still wanted me had been fought off and arrested or killed by Agent Coulson and others. There's still a few who'd love to get me but they realize that I'm kinda mean about those things."

"So we've seen."

Dawn smirked. "No, I've been meaner than any you've seen." The reporter shuddered. "I figured they earned it by trying to kidnap me. Bad things happen to bad guys." She frowned for a second. "Philip cooed that at the pickpocket Natasha scared the crap out of the other day."

"Do you secretly want to be a stay-at-home mom?"

"No. The kids would drive me nuts if I didn't have a way to get away for a few hours at a time. Even if I wasn't working, they'd still have a daycare at least twice a week. I think it's good for their socialization and my sanity."


Dawn shook her head. "No, daycare. Licensed, bonded, background checked daycare."

"So you think it'd be a safety issue?"

"Yup. I also think that Philip would be running over a lot of kids his age. He's starting first grade." The reporter cooed. Dawn grinned. "We've always read to him, taught him stuff. I think a lot of kids in his age group are coloring. Which he does a ton of. He's coloring on things like Daddy's field mission reports when they have diagrams. I'm told the agent he hands those to is not really amused by those but yay." She grinned. "Every now and then Chris will let him help him color in Dad and big sister's design drawings. He was bragging to Clint he had colored in his new bow design a pretty purple because Daddy likes that color." The reporter had to walk off she was laughing so hard. Dawn grinned and waited. She finally came back. "I think Philip might freak out the other parents a bit."

"Did your son get gun safety lessons?"

"Clint and Natasha taught him and Callia both. They're working on Liz's now. They taught Callia how to shoot in case she absolutely needs it to protect herself because the tower's been attacked again or something. Mommy Natasha and he like to sit down and read Guns and Ammo every time a new one comes in. He and Daddy read hunting magazines. He and I read hunting magazines and fashion magazines plus music ones and all sorts of things. He really like the pictures in Smithsonian's magazine."

"He likes music?"

"We all like music."

"Rock, country?"

"Depends. Clint likes older rock, seventies, early eighties, harder rock but not Kiss. He's a Led Zepplin fan and those sort of things but he'll do country sometimes. At which point in time I hand him headphones. I tend towards more modern rock with some temping in club music. Which he hands me headphones for. Natasha likes some classical, some lighter rock, some jazz. Philip gets exposed to it all. Basically, whoever gets home first gets to pick whichever Pandora station we're listening to for dinner. We each have our own and Philip's got his. He's made one for the girls that Lexi adores, she's very happy with music, and Mira tolerates it. She's not so musically inclined. She doesn't like noise."

"Sensitive hearing?"

"No, I think she just doesn't like noise. She squeals at her sister when she gets too happy and squealy. She squeals at Philip when he gets loud. She's like the librarian you see on comedies, shushing everyone. She did it to me so I turned the music up louder and made her dance with me. Which she didn't like either but her mommy saved her from the mean one making her do something besides look out the windows."

"Some kids like nature."

"She likes the reporter that likes to try to get pictures into our apartment from across the street. I think she's flirting with him. But she'll stare at the windows even when the shades are drawn. We're not sure why yet. Her pediatrician is amused by it because she'll just stare at him like 'it's your turn to impress me, now do something that doesn't require a needle'."

"She's spoiled?"

"We should've named her after Nat's cat," Dawn shared with a smile. "We really should have."

The reporter chuckled and nodded. "Sometimes girls are like that. Which one of you does the housework?"

"The housekeeper, who Natasha kindly taught how she wanted things done. Because I never did it good enough for her and she hated how I did laundry. Then she'd complain about how expensive it was when I took everything to the dry cleaner. I gave up and let her do it. She's the cleaning person, I let her do it."

"Which one of you does the most cooking?"

"We all cook. Clint's the best cook of the three of us. Sometimes he'll just decide it's his night even when it's not." She smiled. "He's really good. I learned a lot from him about how to cook. I think he used to dread that my weird food combinations when I was younger would come back and he'd end up eating stuff he didn't think went together. I liked it but he used to joke that maybe when I got pregnant my food cravings would be for normal food."

"So you're not the domestic goddess sort?"

Dawn shook her head. "I could care less if we vacuum three times a week like Natasha likes to have happen. Or if we let the dishes soak overnight, which drives her nuts."

"Is she OCD?"

"No, she's just...she grew up in a fairly strict environment so she's used to things having to be done exactly the way someone taught her to."

"Her parents?"

"Ask her."

"I can do that. What about Clint's family?"

"Ask him."

"I can do that." She smiled and Dawn smirked. "Any upcoming announcements for the Expo?"

Dawn smiled and texted someone, getting permission and a threat from Pepper for missing paperwork. "Give me two." She found it on her tablet and sent it to Pepper, texing her it was in her inbox again. Where she had sent it earlier if it had been eaten. Pepper huffed and found it. "Sorry, Pepper lost an emailed in file. Tony said, and I quote, there is a dual Stark time this time. One will be his usual flashy announcement of our greatness and the other is going to be the tinkering group he's part of and their announcement time."

"Tinkering group? He tinkers?"

"They all play around with ideas and lean on each other during it. Him, Bruce, Rodney, Andrew, Jonathan, and now Callia and sometimes Chris. With a new math person who recently got added in for some higher stuff Callia started off the tinkering group on. She's taking Calc 4 and it was above her. Really it was above everyone but Rodney but he deals in theoretical maths from other places anyway. So they pulled in a math guy Callia had talked to."

"Hmm. Sounds interesting."

Dawn grinned. "They've come up with some neat stuff. Including Chris taking one of Howard Stark's old inventions and making it work very well with a new one that was his and his dad's project."

"Very interesting tease." Dawn smiled. "Um, spinach."

"Sorry." She got it out with a fingernail then cleaned the nail off. "Thanks."

"Welcome." Dawn's phone beeped and she looked at it. "You hear about assistants that have to be on-call twenty-four/seven."

"I kinda am but I'm not really. I'm not a rock star assistant."

"You hear about some of them being forced to pick up people for their bosses for the night."

Dawn laughed. "Tony's never had a problem getting his own and Pepper has taste so they'd never ask me that. Especially if they had pissed me off that day. I might've given them someone from the Valtrex patrol." The reporter burst out laughing, shaking her head. "It never pays to piss off your assistant." She smiled sweetly. "We do control things like your dry cleaning, all your clean clothes, all that. Thankfully I'm not that sort of assistant and I have great bosses that are like stepparents most of the time."

Her phone beeped with a 'Pepper said you're grounded' from Tony. "I'm guessing Tony logged into my phone. I need to figure out why that file translated itself into Japanese. You have a great day." She shook her hand and strolled off to get back to the office. Dawn walked in and looked over Pepper's shoulder, clicking on something. Pepper sighed. Dawn tested her forehead. "You have the kid's flu. Go to bed. Before I tell Steve."

"Fine," she mumbled. "Thank you, Dawn."

"Welcome, Pepper." She smiled. "Did you find the original?"

"Yes." She looked at her. "You'd be that mean to him?"

She smiled. "Yup. If he made me pick him up bimbos I would've made sure he hit the Valtrex patrol at least once every few sluts and probably the clap at least one other time. That would've made him come running to you so you could've babied him and nagged him at the same time until he saw he was an idiot for not treating you right." She walked her up to her bed and tucked her in then went back to handle the office stuff.

Tony leaned in. "That's mean, Dawn."

"Thankfully you used to pick up your own sluts, boss."

"Yeah, thank god." He frowned. "The clap can kill your brain."

She smiled sweetly. "Only if left untreated."

He shuddered. "Barton needs to work that out of you."

"Yeah but I'm going to be filling in for Pepper since she's clearly got the flu."

"I was starting to think it was menopause."

"She's a bit too young for that, but you never know." He grimaced, going to talk to Doctor Pigalli about that stuff. Dawn got back to work. All the stuff Pepper had been complaining about was automatically sorted for her into a folder within her email. She switched where it went and that fixed most of the upcoming problems. Though she was missing a page of the newest contract. Linda had it to correct and emailed it to her. That worked and it got sent up to Pepper's tablet since she was logged on. Then Dawn sent up a note about where things had been hitting due to a filter issue and how she had fixed it.

Pepper sighed her thanks and said she was resting since everything was now done for the meeting in two days that was so important. Dawn smiled and treated Linda to a good coffee drink for getting it done early then they got back to work on the next issue coming up. Dawn made sure to put her graduation on the business schedule. It conflicted with a meeting in Brazil. Oh well, she couldn't go.

"Dawn, you have to go to Brazil," Pepper said from her phone a minute later.

"I'm walking my PhD that weekend, Pepper. Can't."

"We need you there."

"I didn't make it to any other graduations except my one from high school. Don't you think I should walk the important one?"

"Well, yes. They asked that you be there since you can speak the language."

"That's sweet of the cartel lord that's supposedly reformed but I'm walking my PhD and I'm not going to Brazil. This is important to me, Pepper, and I'll translate virtually the rest of the weekend from the system except for during that."

"I guess we can do that."

Tony came off the elevator to stare at her. "Where's our invitations?"

"Printers," she said with a smile.

"Oh, good."

"Tony, that's the Brazil meeting," Pepper said from the phone.

Tony snorted. "Are you really Pepper? Because I don't remember my Pepper being that grumpy about Dawn walking a degree. Beyond that, I've got an honorary one I'm accepting the next weekend and you've scheduled me somewhere else." She moaned. "If you're not Pepper I need to check you for electronics. Or lowering estrogen, something like that."

"I do not!" she complained.

Tony snorted. "Pepper, is it menopause?"

"You're so dead when you come up here."

"If you kill him I have to take over the damn company!" Callia shouted from what sounded like the living room. "Don't you dare, Mom! I'm not hiding his body and he'd have to haunt us so he could finish training Chris and Liz."

"I didn't mean literally, Callia," Pepper said impatiently.

"Bullshit. You've been in a cranky mood all day. I was about to sneak you midol." She came closer. "Really gooey chocolate brownies with hidden midol, Mommy?"

She groaned but nibbled on one, they could hear her chewing. "You can't tell."

"I used the pot brownie recipe to hide it. By the way, when I looked that up, nice save on that with Chris, Auntie."

"Thanks, dear."

Tony shook his head. "I thought it was too." Dawn smiled. "Callia, call your mother's doctor. Tell him she needs a full workup please. We're not sure why she's suddenly turned into a mean Pepper and one who would deny Dawn her rightful walking of a degree. And I'll be right up there." He hung up the phone and looked at her. "I'm attending." She smiled. "I'll break something on your spouses if they're on assignment. And if some major threat happens, I'll tell them they have to wait because we're busy."

"I have kindly asked the two major groups not to attack that weekend as I have to graduate then and it would really piss me off in ways that would make me destroy their whole group. One laughed and one promised, he remembered his own PhD ceremony. He'll do it the next weekend."


"Which we can handle, boss." She smiled. "You can wear your robe over the suit and all that."

"Uh-huh." He walked off. "What if that one tries?"

"I've already started to unravel their organization from the inside. I hired them an assistant." She smiled sweetly. Tony paused to stare at her, eyes wide. "Natasha told her what they needed and I taught her how to slow things down so they weren't efficient any longer. She's more than happily doing all that paperwork for them."

"Oh, no," he said, rubbing his stomach. He suddenly had heartburn.

"Well, organizations and businesses do run on their paperwork, boss." She smirked. "She's doing a fantastic job and once they're reformatted again she'll straighten them out."

"Oh, dear to quote Steve." He walked off, going upstairs. "Pepper, Dawn and Natasha hired HYDRA an admin assistant."

Pepper choked. "Why did she do that?"

Tony stared at her. "To fix their efficiency problem." She went pale and shook her head. "In the negative way," he said more quietly. "Natasha helped."

"Well, I guess they're not going to be attacking during her graduation. I'll try to reschedule both of those."

Tony stared at her. "You're going through the early stages of the change, Pepper. We'll handle it, you'll get what you need, and we won't let you turn that bipolar like some women do."

"Shut up unless you never want laid again," she said dryly then ate some of her brownie. She held up the small plate. "Midol?"

"Sure." He took some to nibble on and curled up next to her to make her feel better. He had to remember, Pepper was nearly his age and women his age were having menopause. They'd handle it though. He could make something if he had to. Thankfully he'd probably miss his daughters going through it.


Dawn came home that night sniffly. Natasha stared at her over the lid of her laptop. "What happened?"

"Pepper's having a bad day."

"Did she say something mean?"

"Kinda. She called me a mommy instead of my usual perky assistant self." She kicked off her shoes and walked over to get a hug. "Tony said she's hitting menopause. Her and Mom both."

Natasha patted her on the back. "It will be fine."

"If you're sure."

"I am." She kissed her on the cheek. "Things will be fine and I'll be there tomorrow to help as I compare their things with your lab's ordering to see what they're doing."

"As long as you do it with Stark. That way I don't get into trouble."

"I'll try."

Dawn went to curl up on the couch, smiling when Philip came over to cuddle and nap on her. "Long day too?" He nodded with a yawn. "We can nap together." He yawned again and snuggled into her shoulder to nap. She fell asleep cuddling him.

Natasha smiled and got to work on her current case. It was nice doing it without the field work this time.

Clint came in carrying the mail and his bow. He dropped a box on the table. "I didn't know it was time for checks."

"Those are from a printer so they're probably invitations."


Natasha stared at him then pointed at Dawn. "Graduation?"

"Oh!" He looked and they were. He smiled and set them somewhere they wouldn't get messed up. "I heard she asked HYDRA and Doom not to attack that weekend."

"She did and he agreed not to upset her graduation."

"Huh. That's decent of him. So he'll attack Monday?"



"I don't think they're going to be attacking anytime soon." She heard Dawn's phone beep and grabbed it from her bag to look at. She called her. "Pepper, she's napping on the couch with Philip. What needs to be found?" She listened to the complaining. "I believe she said she sent that to your email earlier, Pepper. Then check the new folder since she moved them all. She sent how she fixed it." Pepper saw that and sounded pouty. "I will. You try to rest." She hung up and shook her head. "Definitely the change."

Clint shuddered. "I don't want to think about that topic though I feel very sorry for Bruce and Tony." He checked on the kids then moved to make dinner. Since Dawn had bragged and all, he could make something really nice. Natasha smiled at him for it while she got back to work. Neither of them had ever thought about creating an administrative snafu to take down a group. She looked up the qualifications of that young assistant and paused. "She went to the evil genius school?" Clint quipped with a smirk at her.

"Yes. She is." She congratulated her on how effective she was and promised to write her a report if she needed one for a class. She bragged she was sending in reports of how she was doing but that a recommendation would be great and thanked her.

Clint laughed. It was like Dawn to mentor a future evil genius to give their kids someone to work against. Well, a cranky Dawn with PMS would. Normal, perky Dawn would laugh it off.


Callia looked up from her bed that night. "Why can't she be normal?" she muttered. "I wish she wasn't going through all this and confusing Liz and Chris."

A demon appeared. "I have a wacky idea that would work."

Callia stared at her. "You're a wish demon." She smiled and nodded. "I didn't really mean it that way."

"There's a potion that can make them ten years younger."

"They wouldn't be in the same shape, right? Because Grandma had the brain tumor then."

"No, it wouldn't revert them health wise, just physically deage them." She smiled. "I can find you a copy."



"I can work with that. It's probably a bad idea...."

Tony opened the door to stare at them. "Yes, it is a bad idea. She'll kill you for it." He stared at the demon. "As much as I would like that, no."

"Fine, just trying to help. I could've given her the one to make her even younger, around her aunt's age."

"I don't want a mom that young," Callia said. "It'd be weird."

Tony nodded. "Very weird." He stared at the demon. "No thank you." She huffed but disappeared. The scroll was now hidden under Callia's pillow. "I can hear it crinkling, don't you dare."

"I won't. I might show it to her though." She smiled.

"No." He came in and got the potion, taking it before the bad ideas set in. Sometimes he worried his kids had no common sense, then he usually remembered dating half the starlettes in Hollywood within a few years. Sometimes at the same time. So they at least got it naturally from him. He had the scars to prove it. He put it onto the dresser and laid back down. Steve hadn't woken up this time so that was good. Pepper either, and that was better.


Pepper woke up in the morning first, which was unusual. She checked Steve, he was apparently in the land of nyquil again. Tony snuffled and shifted over to cling to Steve since she had moved. She tucked them in and headed for the bathroom. She spotted the scroll, taking it with her. That was interesting. Where had Tony found that and why was it on a scroll? She cleaned up and got dressed, coming out to make breakfast. Callia was making toast. "Did you look up a potion for your father?"

"No, I was complaining that you've turned into a neurotic, whiny starlette on crack so a wish demon gave it to me," she muttered. "Dad took it." She was clearly half asleep still.

Pepper stared at her. "What did you just call me?"

Callia looked at her. "You can't find things in your email, even when you know where they are? You blamed Dawn for not looking at your new messages to see what had come in? You blamed Dawn for your coffee spilling on something when you poured it, you put it on your desk, and she was halfway across town, Mom. I've seen less cranky starlettes. Pretty soon you're going to start throwing phones at someone's head for them breathing. And I can't promise Auntie Dawn won't throw it back." She sipped her morning Red Bull, staring at her. "Daddy's nice but I'm too tired to be anything but honest thanks to hairballs from the dog." She finished making her toast and rolled over to the table. Pepper huffed. She looked at her. "You did."

"I did not."

"Bullshit. Watch the security footage."

"Young lady...."

"If the truth hurts you're doing something wrong and I'm hoping like hell I never get PMS like you or Auntie Dawn. Or like my mother's because Spike told me a few demons held off an attack due to her having PMS once. That way she didn't rip them to tiny little pieces instead of killing them."

Pepper glared. "I do not." She pulled up footage and Pepper glared harder. "That's not cute, young lady."

She stared at her. "I haven't been *cute* since I was Liz's age. A bit mean, fairly blunt, kinda pretty, but not cute. Maeve is in her cute years, Mom, not me or Liz."

She huffed. The footage still played and she watched as she totally nagged Dawn about things she hadn't been doing. And wasn't supposed to do. She sniffled.

Chris wandered out, blinking at her. "Mommy, if you're pregnant can I have a baby brother so I'm not the only one? Please?"

She stared at him. "I don't think I'm pregnant, Chris. Why would you think I am?"

"You're watching you and Auntie Dawn videos from work and crying again. You did with Maeve."

"Huh. No, I'm not pregnant. Sorry."

"Then are you sick like Grandma? I'll make something to make you feel better. I promise I'll make something to make you not sick." Callia stopped him and hugged him. "You'll help, right?"

"She's not sick like Grandma. Mom had a bad day yesterday, that's all." He relaxed and she cuddled him.

Pepper came out to get him. "I'm not sick, sweetheart. It's okay." He nodded, cuddling her. "If I get sick that way I'll let you build me something great to help me." He relaxed and snuggled into her shoulder. She patted him on the back. Callia stared at her. "I need to see someone about those mood swings." She made Chris his favorite breakfast and let him eat it, going in to wake up Tony. She sniffled. "Chris just asked me if I was sick like Joyce and he'd make something to make me better."

He pulled her down to cuddle. "We'll figure out this new level of female hormones too, Pep," he said quietly. "That way you don't scare the kids or Dawn." She nodded, cuddling him.

Callia rolled to the doorway. "First he asked if she would give him a baby brother this time because he needed to even out the odds." She rolled off again.

"No, I don't think you can do that," Steve muttered, flipping over to rub Pepper's back since she was against Tony's other side. "We'll figure all that stuff out." Tony grinned at him.


Two days later, Dawn had enough. She looked at Linda then at Pepper. "I'm taking the day off," she announced.

"You can't do that!" Pepper complained. "You have to ask for days off, Dawn."

Dawn looked at her. "I'm taking the day off before I tie you down and feed you more midol. Really, I am." She stared at her. Pepper huffed. "I can't deal with this on top of the headache and the yelling you're doing over stupid shit that has no consequence, that neither Linda or I did or had any part of doing, is making the dizziness come back. So I'm taking today off."

"You can be fired for unauthorized days off," Pepper said.

"Okay." She got her stuff and walked off. Pepper stared, mouth open. Then she flopped down and started to cry. She was trying really hard but it wasn't working. Linda got her some tea and closed the office door for her, then went on break. She wasn't sure she should tell someone about that. She wasn't going to gossip but maybe someone else should know? She decided to tell MB. She knew Dawn and Pepper pretty well and Linda had lunch with her at least once a week. She could figure that out for her. And her former boss because Gloria handled legal matters for Dawn too. That way they could work that out.


Twenty minutes later, MB walked into Tony's lab, slapping him on the arm. He winced as he stared at her. "Pepper just drove Dawn off."

"Crap. How widespread is the gossip?"

"Linda told me and she said she had to tell Gloria in case it affected something she was handling for her legally."

"I think Dawn has her on retainer too." He pulled up the footage and sighed. "That's so bad."

"Is that the change? I'm having mine removed before I get to that point."

"That just speeds it up," Tony said dryly. He went to calm down Pepper. She was trying to handle some of Dawn's work and failing. She had no idea what Dawn was working ahead on. She looked up at him, trying to hide the confused look. "We'll figure it out and get her back."

"She's mean. She left."

"You yelled at her about things that aren't her fault. What did you expect her to do? Even the dog's hiding from you, Pepper." He watched her huff and get up to get some water from her fridge. "When is your appointment?"

"Yesterday. He said it's not."

"Bullshit." She scowled at him. He stared back. She sat down with a huff. "I'll talk to Dawn tomorrow. For now, you probably have everything you need for the next few days. We'll use it to calm down and deal with things." She nodded, swallowing hard. Then drank some water to cover it up. He went to call her doctor. He wouldn't give him facts but assured him Pepper was too young for that and she might just be having a mental snap. Which meant Tony sent her on vacation and then went to talk to Dawn. He unfired her in the system too and locked Pepper out of that system for now. He also told Gloria Dawn was on vacation, she was not fired nor had she quit. Gloria said that was a good thing since she wasn't on retainer for her. Tony said he'd mention that to her when he took her to lunch.


Dawn walked off the elevator and put down her briefcase then got something to drink and went to take a bath. The kids were with Beya in the gym, she had heard Philip cackling in there when she had come in. She could have a few hours uninterrupted to sulk and make plans. She had no idea that Stark had just called for backup from her spouses and Steve. Which meant that Bruce and her mother stepped into it too. She ran a warm bath with bubbles and slid into it with a sigh of pleasure.


Tony looked at Bruce when he walked in with Natasha and Clint. "Bruce...."

"She's my stepdaughter, Tony. What happened?" He put up the footage. They all sighed. "Joyce is having lesser mood swings."

"Pepper's turned almost psychotic." He looked at Clint. "Where is she?"

"Having a glass of wine in the tub with bubbles." He looked at him. "Want us to tie up Pepper for you?"

"Don't tempt me. She's going on vacation. Dawn's officially on vacation. I undid her quitting."

"Okay," Clint agreed.

Natasha sighed. "I hope to never go through that myself. They make medicines."

"Her doctor doesn't seem to think it is. Her bloodwork says differently. Her doctor wanted to put her on prozac."

"Maybe for a few weeks," Bruce said.

"Pepper doesn't need it."

Natasha rubbed her head, frowning. "What is that smell?"

"What smell?" the guys asked.

Clint stared at Natasha. "Why are you going into battle mode?" he muttered.

"JARVIS, scan for something being put out?"

"I believe there may be, sir. Women all over the building and the city are being more aggressive. There's been a number of reports of women fighting in the streets."

Clint looked at Natasha. Who had shifted her stance to more of what she used during battles. "Okay. Any idea?" he asked.

"No," Tony said. "JARVIS, where is it coming from?"

"I believe from across the river. The majority of the incidences are coming in the direction of the wind and spreading. Though, Pepper's incidences are not caused by that. She's upstairs sneering at Liz's outfit, which is part of it I believe."

"Liz, come see me please," Tony called over the intercom. "Callia, bring me your sister."

"In a minute," she called. They could hear her snapping back at Pepper, who huffed off crying. A few minutes later Liz and Callia came in, Liz riding on her sister's lap. "There's a shelter in place going on."

"Good!" He took Liz to cuddle. "The bad air is making your mom upset. She'll apologize later."

"I'm adorable," she said with a pout.

Tony looked at her outfit. "It doesn't match very well but you look good in it anyway." Liz pouted but cuddled him. "Callia...."

"Maeve and Chris are in my new lab space. I've got the air scrubbers on and locked all adults but emergency personnel out." She took Liz and brought her back there.

Tony looked at Bruce. "Any idea?"

"Not yet." He settled in to track it backwards. "That's a chemical company that had a fire the other week but it's coming from behind them."

Tony pointed. "That's a chemical storage area for their company. That's where they had the fire."

"Okay, so we've got a chemically induced rage problem in females," Steve said. "How do we cure it?"

Tony looked at him. "I don't think we can."

Tara stomped in. "Stark, I need a plant-based filter made."

"What sort, Tara?" She handed it to him and he looked it over. "How big?"

"Big enough for the bridge?"

"It's in the air," Bruce said. She growled. He stared at her. "Don't, Tara. Don't provoke him." She huffed. "We'll do what we can but we're not sure how to help yet."

"Those plants clear things out of the air."

"Okay, that's great," Tony said. "But we're finding it halfway to Pennsylvania right now." She groaned and stomped off again. "Bruce, go make sure it's there." He nodded, taking some equipment from the science labs and going. "Romanoff, guard the building please. This is a good time for someone to do something stupid." She nodded. "Barton, talk to your wife?"

"I'm going to." He went to talk to her. The kids were upstairs and Dawn was reading to them from the tub. She was covered with a towel so the kids couldn't see anything but they were watching the book she was using anyway. "Guys, can I have the mommy?" Philip blew a kiss and rolled the girls in their walkers out to play in the living room. He closed the door. "There's some sort of chemical accident in New Jersey," he said quietly.

"Is this the start of a joke?"

"No. It's creating an aggression problem in women all over the city." He turned on the tv in there and changed the channel. She groaned. "So part of that was...."

"Pepper's hormones. If I still have a job I'll go back to it tomorrow, when she's calmed down. I did this once when she was carrying Liz due to the mood swings." She shifted and looked at him. "I can't take that."

"I wouldn't have," he agreed, leaning down to kiss her. "Tony said you're on vacation. She's going on vacation." She huffed. "If she's allowed out of the city."

"Probably not. What's Tara doing?"

"She wants to make a plant based filter. It's all over the city."

Dawn nodded. "I'm not feeling more aggressive than usual." He grinned. "Let me call Tara."

"Okay." He took another kiss. "We'll help mediate between you, Pepper, and Stark. If not, well you can do the home schooling."

She smirked. "Maybe. Or I might just start a great business." He smiled and left her alone. She called Tara once she had on the headset. "It's me. What's going on?" She listened. "Tara, if it's in the air, we'd have to super grow a hedge." She grimaced. "You know what, I'm not being hit and I'm in the tub with my lavender bubbles. Try that?" Tara sniffed some. The lavender canceled out this new stuff. "Okay so we'll deal with it. Would a good, hard rain help ease it?" She nodded. "We can, yup." She got out, rinsing off the bubbles. She put on her robe and went to her closet to get something she could work in. "I'll meet you at SHIELD." She hung up and got dressed, walking out to kiss the kids on the head. "Beya, we're going to handle the super aggression going on thanks to New Jersey."

She snorted and nodded. "Please do. There's a bunch of idiots."

"They can be." She walked out and nearly got pounced. She punched one of the women who shrieked and tried to scratch her. "Nope, not today." She got a cab and went to SHIELD. "The air is flowing over where Tara said there's a chemical fire in New Jersey," she told him. "Lavender is helping release some of that problem, or blocking it." He nodded quickly, calling that to his boss. Within an hour, all the cabs in the city would smell a lot better with lavender fresheners. She walked into SHIELD and waved at them. "Handling the issue."

"Tara's upstairs, Dawn," one of the guards said. "Sign in."

She did and went up there. Joyce was staring at the incident map. "Mom." Joyce looked at her. "Lavender."

"Okay. People, let's get some lavender scent put throughout the building." They moved to do that. Tara smiled at Dawn. "How did we find this out?"

"Pepper was having a hissy at me about something there was no way I was even remotely involved in so I went home to take a bubble bath." Joyce stared at her. "It got to the point where she blamed me for spilling her coffee yesterday and I was halfway across town, Mom. Hell no."

"I can see that reason. What will you be doing instead?" It was clearly time to talk her daughter down out of her stupid pride.

"I already have a few business interests, I can run them more closely and teach the kids until I get bored." Joyce nodded. They watched as the female agents all started to calm down. "Let's go make it rain, Tara. Then we'll talk to people about putting up a huge fire in the way of the wind stream that's full of lavender." She nodded. "Mom, talk to Stark. Clint said there was a chemical fire there and he thinks that's where it's coming from."

"I can do that." She called him. "Steve, give me good news about Stark having an idea how to stop it?" She listened. "Can we help them clean it up, tent it, something?" He nodded. "This is the security of the city, Steve. If we have to, we can tent it on them and they can use Hazmat gear. If they fuss, yay." She listened and looked at Maria. "He's sending you the pictures of the wind stream. Bruce is there and taking measurements."

She nodded, getting into her computer to find them. "It may not be the primary cause but it's helping," she said. "Doctor Banner isn't finding the same chemicals in the air in the same strength. He's looking for the start point, Director."

Joyce nodded. "Keep me updated when he finds out how."

"I can do so." She tracked the wind back with Stark and had him fly out in his suit to take readings since it was over open water. He found the initial cause and Bruce was finding the things that were strengthening and adding to it. "Ma'am, we have sightings of a ship that is pumping chemicals into the air. Iron Man stated that the person doing it was trying to promote a female pheromone response. I believe it was the same person that dosed your husband." Joyce growled, eyes narrowing. "Doctor Banner concurs and said that the two plants in the way are adding and changing it so it's aggression related instead. He's having the one that's still operating shut down. They're arguing but he's called in the FBI since they're trying to investigate. He found out they have a minute chemical leak in their storage area and the burned, altered remains of that other one is what's changing it."

"Have them tent the fire related one and shut that one down even if he has to smash it," she ordered. Maria relayed that. Joyce called the head of the FBI, who was on site to deal with it. They decided to shut down the company for a few days under threat of the Hulk destroying their building and their storage area was tented for them. The other one was tented and shielded by some of Stark's new shield designs. Joyce relaxed. "Let me know when it starts to go down and if Stark has to blow up that ship."

"He's got the Coast Guard coming and they're coming in Hazmat suits as well, an all male crew just in case," Maria reported. "Though he did promise he was going to blow her up."

Joyce nodded. "I'm not going to get near her because I'll beat her to death even without that."


Upstairs on the roof, Dawn and Tara were checking the local weather. They were pulling in clouds from higher up, toward Canada. Dawn called two news stations. "It's Dawn Summers and I'm acting on behalf of SHIELD. There is going to be a sudden, intense, cold rain happening within an hour. It is to wash some of the chemical stink coming from New Jersey out to stop that aggression problem. That will *help* reduce it but the smell of lavender blocks it from stuffing up our noses. I have no idea how you handle that. For all I care, they can do a huge bonfire with lavender soap and oils," she said dryly.

"We're doing a huge rain storm to help. People are working on the cause. For right now, warn people about the rain and that it's going to screw up projected weather patterns for a few days." She hung up and called the Mayor's office. "It's Dawn Summers for SHIELD. We are working on it. We're starting locally with a huge rain to start cleaning it out of the air. Lavender blocks it from affecting us as hard. SHIELD is looking at the cause. This is a stopgap. Within an hour. We're having to pull Canadian air." She hung up on the complaining and took Tara's hand to work with her. Callia rolled up a few minutes into their working, taking her aunt's hand. She looked at her.

"The coven's pulling from the southern winds to do the lower parts of the wind stream. I told them what Dad found." Dawn nodded and they started the rain. It was a cold, chilling rain but it helped. They already could feel it lessening. Callia sighed, looking at her. "Dad unfired you."

"That's great." She looked at her. "I'm forcefeeding her something."

"I did with the midol." She smiled. "I think her doctor suggested prozac."

"Maybe." They watched. "We need a huge lavender bonfire over there." She called Bruce. "For some reason lavender blocks the scent." He grunted and nodded passing that on. "It's raining over here." She helped Callia inside. Her wheelchair had an optional motorized climbing feature now. "Chris?" she asked her.

"Me. Stairs suck ass and it might be necessary." Tara hugged her and they went to dry off in the changing areas. They reported to the main floor. "It's raining," she announced.

"Any scent that works beyond lavender?" Maria Hill asked. "They wanted to know."

"I noticed my lavender bubble bath blocked it," Dawn admitted.

She reported that to Bruce and Stark, who said they'd figure it out. They started a huge bonfire of lavender oil with lavender bushes on the side of the last chemical company that was contributing. Everyone would smell like grandma's sheets for days but if it helped.....

An hour later the city was reporting it did help and so did the rain. The weather men were going nuts. They had been warned and were revising their opinions for the next week or so. The coven smoothed out some of theirs. Dawn and Tara went up to smooth out some of the weather they had yanked after a few hours. That caused a new fit but it meant it wouldn't affect other areas. That inward-water bound air stream was being fixed too. Turns out they had a witch working with them. Stark zapped her with a repulsor and she went down. Tara and Dawn let the coven undo her work since they were closer.


Tony landed and let the system take his suit from him. He looked at the waiting people. "They'll keep the big lavender bonfire going for a while. FEMA tried to step in but it wasn't that sort of disaster." He put up the results of what had happened.

Bruce came off the elevator, putting up his own. "Here's how it changed. By the way, the head of the FBI yelled at Joyce for telling me to smash them if I had to."

Tony nodded. "It might've caused more problems but yay." Bruce grinned. "I'm hoping whoever examines the storage areas shows up to start checking everyone's."

"Is there someone?"

"There should be. I'd hope there was." They shared a look and a shrug, letting Tony do a web search.

Chris looked over. "I've already sent them a very public message from me, as heir to the Stark legacy, and shared up-to-date information from SHIELD that Grandma said I could. They said they're going to be there in a few hours to look at their storage leak and that fire site." He grinned. "They called me an uppity bastard just like you, Dad."

"Was it an ex-girlfriend?" Bruce asked with a smile.


"Thankfully the FBI arrested the science bimbo," Tony said, getting them some water and sitting down. "Where's your mother?"

"Locked in her bathroom having a bubble bath." He looked at him. "You'll need to unglue the door. Maeve's in the daycare so I didn't have to change girl diapers."

"Why did you seal her in there?" Tony asked.

"Because she started to throw a fit and rant and scream and cry about the air." He looked at his father. "If girls are like that, why do boys like them?"

"Most of the time girls aren't like that, kiddo. Most women only have those things a few times in their lives."

"Well, maybe I'll turn gay then because I don't want to deal with that again. Dr. Phil says gay sex can be normally fun." He went back to his lessons. "Callia's at SHIELD with Auntie and Auntie Tara."

"That's fine. They'll protect each other," Tony said. He and Bruce settled in to teach Chris some new things and wait on Callia to get back. Callia had sent everyone home for the day and started the air scrubbers so the building was pretty safe.

Tara walked off the elevator with Callia, who had paused to pick up lunch apparently. She smiled. "Nice work, guys."

"Thanks," Bruce said. "Nice work with the rain storm too. It's brutal but better."

Tara grinned. "Thanks, Bruce. Tony, she was very helpful."

"I'm glad." He hugged his girl. "Go get a laser and unglue your mother's bathroom door?"

Callia opened her bag and ate a fry, shaking her head as she chewed. "Not yet. Let her have a nice, warm bubble bath and all that, Dad. She could use the spa day."

"That's not nice," Bruce warned. Callia pulled up footage, making him wince. "No wonder you glued the door shut, Chris."

He nodded. He looked at his sister. "Are you going to turn into that sort of girl?"

"Damn I hope not or I'm having all those nasty girl parts ripped the fuck out so I never go through it." She ate another fry.

"Then I might not start to like guys instead." He went back to his worksheet.

"Like dad, you'll probably like both," Callia said dryly. She looked at her aunt, who was blushing. "Mom's enough to make me not like girls." She shrugged. Tony hugged her. "It's okay, Dad. I figure I might be bi since you are and it'll be okay. I'm good with that." She went back to her lunch. She even let Chris steal her spare cheeseburger.

Tara shook her head. "It's not always that easy, guys."

"I can ignore boobs," Chris assured her. "I have that Stark focus."

"Which most Starks use to stare at breasts," Tony said dryly. "And quit calling them that."

"Fine, sorry," Chris mumbled.

Callia smiled. "At least you won't grow some."

"That's probably a good thing," he complained. "I'd be scary." He ate more of his burger. "The Mayor called six times and I told him you weren't back yet, Dad."

"Then he's probably on his way here. He'd have someone tell him when I flew back."

"He's huffing up to the front of the building now, sir," JARVIS told him.

"Great." He went down to the office to talk to him. "What?"

"Your assistant works with SHIELD?"

"She's an adjunct Avenger and yes. Why?"

"She announced she was working with SHIELD."

"When it's the fate of the world, SHIELD moves into action, even adjunct members get called in. I went out as an Avenger. Bruce went out as an Avenger and SHIELD scientist. Dawn went as an adjunct SHIELD member." He shrugged. "That's what we do in emergencies. I turn into Iron Man, Banner turns into the Hulk, Dawn turns into an adjunct Avenger. Steve turns into Captain America. It's not a secret we work with SHIELD during the big things. She's been in every battle here in New York, including helping move people out of harm's way during the Chitarui invasion."

The Mayor blinked. "She was?"


"We never noted her."

"Good. She'd hate that."

"Is that because she's your assistant?" he demanded, staring at him.

"No. Dawn hates that sort of attention." Dawn came off the elevator and got into her desk. "Don't you dare."

"I'm getting my personal laptop, Tony, not my work one."

"Take them both." She stared at him. He smiled. "You're on vacation but still."


"Yay. By the way, the kids glued her in the bathroom." She snorted, smiling some as she shook her head. "Yeah, they felt the same way."

Dawn smiled at the Mayor. "Problems with the rain storm?"

"How much do you work for SHIELD?"

"I'm an adjunct Avenger. I take over Hawkeye's place when he's unable to get to a battle or I'm there in case it takes magic. Not like they pay me to be fashionable and perky."

"They'd better never try to steal you to be their fashionable, perky assistant," Tony complained. She patted him on the arm and left with both laptops. He looked at the mayor again. "Pepper had a mood swing so she took today off."


"No. She's forty-five."

"Oh." He nodded. "My wife was hell for four years."

"There's medicine for that," Tony said dryly. He looked at him. "We don't do it for the medals. Usually, all of us duck medals like they're the plague."

"I'll keep that in mind. How long?"

"We've set up air quality meters and as long as the FBI doesn't tamper with them, which I'm not counting on; it should be a few days to fully clear it. At least it's a good, clean scent. It might make the city smell less like stale urine and cabs."

The Mayor shook his head. "Other cities smell the same."

"Some smell worse. Really." The Mayor walked off shaking his head. Tony called Dawn. She had to have a girlish idea to help Pepper. And her mother since Bruce had said she was going through the same hormones. She had a few ideas and so did Dr. Pigalli when he talked to her about it. She even ordered them so he could hand them to Pepper. He went upstairs with one of his daughter's cutting lasers, going to unseal the bathroom. Pepper was pouting in a tub full of bubbles so he kicked the door shut and put the bottles on the vanity. He looked at her. "Talked to Dr. Pigalli."

"I'm sorry."

"We know you can't help it. Joyce is doing the same thing and she's three years older than you are." He stared at her. "These are the hormone replacement therapy meds and a very light valium to take when you get too bitchy," he said quietly. "She said a lot of women go on a light dose of prozac during this time due to the mood swings that cause them hell."

"I don't want to."

"I know. That's why we went with a Valium 5." She nodded. "As needed. The HRT will help the other things." He pointed at them. "They're both once a day and if you have to go up you can." He leaned down to kiss her. "I unfired Dawn. She's officially on vacation this week," he said quietly. "I gave Linda a few days off too. She nearly hugged me, Pepper."

"I didn't mean to...."

"We know. Linda said she understood, she had seen her mother's change. Dawn's getting it from both ends." She nodded, sinking lower. He kissed her again and smiled. "We'll work it out. Within a few days you should be closer to an even keel. That'll make Chris quit swearing off women for life and Callia quit vowing to remove her girl parts so she doesn't have to deal with that." Pepper let out a bitter snort, looking pouty. "Okay?" She nodded. "Good." He kissed her again and let her soak.

She took the first pills and settled in to write Dawn an apology email. Then one to Linda. She hadn't meant to hurt them or upset them. Dawn accepted and Linda's email back said she had seen it before but she was nicer than her mother's since her mother had nearly stabbed her with a kitchen knife. Pepper wrote back that she'd never be that bad or Dawn could tie her down. She put her tablet aside and ran more hot water. It was good and she had needed a day off. Things were insane and she was losing track of things.


Chris looked at his uncle that night when Tony had invited everyone over for a family dinner. "Uncle Clint?" He looked down at him. "Is having two wives different than having two husbands?"

"Kinda. Why?"

"Someone on tv who then got shouted at about Mormons and polygamy."

"Oh. Them. It's different from most people's viewpoints, and even though they claim that their book of faith discourages it, almost all the relationships are. They don't like to admit it."

"Oh, so they're the Candyland people."


"Auntie Dawn explained to sissy about people who think they live in Candyland instead of here. She told us about that when we started to have those same thoughts."

"Yes, they are," Dawn called, smiling at him. "They definitely are." Chris smiled at her. "And we care not a bit about them or their viewpoints."

Clint kissed her. "Me either." She smiled. "Nat, do you care about them?"

"Not particularly. I tend to mock them most of the time." She smiled at Chris. "Having two wives is easier than having two husbands. He only has to pay attention to us. Your mother has to soothe your father and Steve when they argue."

"You guys don't argue?" Pepper asked.

"Not usually," Dawn said. "Sometimes but we also send the kids to Grandma." She smiled at her mother.

"It makes sense to us too," Bruce assured them.

"Half the time, Dawn and Natasha argue and I just watch it in case they get into a real argument then I make them kiss and make up," Clint told Chris with a grin. Natasha actually blushed. "That's why two wives are easier."

"It'd be nice if I could do that," Pepper said.

"Anytime you want, Pepper," Tony quipped. Steve was giving him a dirty look. "She can."

"Maybe." Pepper smiled and he kissed her.

"See, I get to watch them do that all I want," Clint said with a grin.

"Wow. Daddy kisses Stepmom sometimes and he and Mom kiss sometimes. They're pretty together."

"They are," Clint agreed. "The only problem is when they're having huge problems and then you have to baby them. Sometimes you don't have enough attention for that."

Dawn nodded. "Sometimes," she agreed. Clint kissed her, making her smile. "It probably won't come up again though."

"Probably not," Natasha agreed.

Steve looked at her. "You could...."

"Probably not," she assured him.

"Fine." He smiled. She gave him a pointed look. Dawn was laughing behind her magazine.

Callia rolled out from the kitchen. "Salad's done and I only agreed to make that part of dinner." Tony got up to get the rest to put on the grill. Callia transferred out of her wheelchair and onto a lounge chair, stretching out with a sigh of pleasure. "I needed the sun."

Dawn reached over to hand her the sunscreen. "It's late but still bright."

She put some on and got comfy. She fell asleep there. It had been a long day. Someone would get her up for food.

Pepper looked over. "We need to start enforcing a normal set of hours," she told Tony. "She's going to have hell in school."

"She has a study hall/nap time right after her individual gym/PT time," Tony said. "That way she can do her extra physical therapy she's making herself do then nap. She's only taking one regular class with the other kids and that's a history class, Pepper. The rest she and the other gifted students are in a classroom working on their own things and doing the video lectures. They have a teacher there to help if they get stuck but she could probably sleep through one if she had to. And yes, I'm going to remind her she has a month before she has to start being up all day long." Pepper smiled at him. "When are you getting her uniforms?"

"Next week. Is she going to stay in the back brace?"

"No. The physical therapist thinks it's not necessary unless she's so tired she's slumping and hurting herself. He did think she's pushing herself too hard." Pepper nodded she agreed. "She's doing good though. They all helped her work on the leg that she got to move a tiny bit on her own for the last few days."

"That's good," she decided. "Is there a PT there?"

"The head gym teacher is a licensed trainer," Dawn said. "That individual gym is with a few other kids that need the same sort of help due to accidents and one other kid in a wheelchair due to a horse riding accident. He sent a letter requesting her medical records so I put him on with the physical therapist to tell him what he needed to know without giving those over."

"That I liked," Tony agreed.

"Then I guess that's okay, as long as her physical therapist agrees," Pepper said. Dawn nodded she'd make sure. She smiled at her. "I'm sorry."

"I know. It's not your fault your body's going out of whack but if you ever scream at me for daring to go to the bathroom again I'm taking another vacation day."

"I can agree to that." She smiled at her. "Linda too. Thank you for clearing her out."

"She needed one," Tony said. He looked at Joyce.

"Maria's already handed me pamphlets on HRT and other matters," Joyce said with a smirk at her daughter.

Dawn looked at her. "Remember when you were so sick after your first few radiation treatments and I had to teleport the pills into your stomach?" Joyce burst out laughing.

"That's a handy skill to have," Tony admitted.

"She couldn't swallow thanks to all the throwing up she did," Dawn said with a grin. "It helped a lot. The nurses were happy she was getting what she needed."

"The nurses called it weird but effective. It meant less time on the IV drip." Dawn nodded. "They had her help a few others that way too." Dawn grinned. "It did help."

"It did," Dawn agreed.

Bruce smiled. "I'm sure we'll handle it, Dawn."

"Okay." She grinned at the girls. Maeve was pouting at them. "What's wrong, Maeve?" She pulled her out to check and cuddle. "You're all pouty and Mira's been sucking on your thumb for you. So what's wrong?" She patted Dawn's necklace. "Oh, you want something shiny." She found something in her purse, handing it over. "Would that help?" The baby smiled and shook it, showing it made noise. She got put back into the playpen. Lexi and Mira got their own shiny rattles.

Tony looked then at her. "Silver?"

"Yup." She smiled. "Stepdad, how's Oz? He wouldn't have breakfast with me yesterday."

"He does meditations from sun up to about ten, Dawn, and he's good. He said to apologize for that and to invite him to lunch."

"I can do that."

"When you come back next week," Tony said.

Dawn smiled. "You gave me a whole week off?"

"Yup. Linda's got Friday on to make sure we're not stuck over the weekend." Dawn grinned. "You can teach her the monthly filing next month."

"Sure." She settled in with her book. Mira grumbled but found her rattle she had dropped. She spotted Daddy staring at her and grinned, waving it for him.

"It's really pretty, Mira. You handle rattles very well." She beamed and shook it some more.

Natasha smiled. "You like flirting with your father and we like that about you." The baby cackled and went back to playing with Lexi and Maeve.

"She is very flirty at times," Dawn agreed. Lexi beamed at her so she waved. "Hi, Lexi." Maeve looked at her. "Hi, Maeve. Hi, Mira." Mira huffed but played. "Fine, you have a favorite mommy too."

"At least it's not as bad as Philip's was. He'd barely let you change him," Natasha said. Dawn smirked at her. "I did try."

"You also dressed him this morning." Her son was wearing red and black. Natasha had dressed him.

Philip looked over. "She said I look pretty."

"You do, son. Why do you never wear that blue shirt I got you?"

He shrugged. "Not go."

"It goes with tan, black, and gray, son," Clint said. If only so they didn't have to shop for his son anytime soon. Who knows what Philip would bring home this time. Philip huffed but nodded he'd try to wear it tomorrow. He looked at Dawn. "Doesn't he have enough clothes?"

"Not if we take out all the stuff that's too small. Then we'll have to do it with the girls in about a month."

He groaned. "They don't need that many clothes, Dawn."

She nodded. "They won't have a huge growth spurt for about six months this time."

"Don't remind me. I have to clean out Maeve's closet and go for her and Liz," Pepper sighed. She looked at Chris. "And you it looks like."

"I like these swim pants," he complained. "Tough."

"Excuse you?" Tony asked him.

"Fine. I get new ones that look like these?"

"If I can," Pepper agreed with a smirk. "Just for that, no dresses."

"Awww!" Philip nudged him. "Have kilt?"

"We'll see," Steve said.

"Philip's is too small," Natasha said. She was happy about that.

"I get new one," Philip told her with a smirk.

Dawn looked at him. "Who did you go shopping with, son?"

"Guy with swords but no mask and no splotchy spots."

"What?" she asked.

"I thought he looked like Deadpool," Clint said.

"His clone's over there," Dawn told him.

"We need to check on that. He was spotted taking out Barney." They shared a look.

"I'll get him again if I need to." She opened a viewing portal. "Deadpool, is your clone with you?"

"Yup. We just ate tacos," he said, smiling at her. "Cute bathing suit."

"Thanks, Stark pool rules." She looked at him. "We thought we spotted him here in this realm."

"Nope. Does that mean I have an evil clone? Because that's seriously great."

Clint nodded. "We think you might."

"Cool!" He looked over. "Hey, other me, we have an evil other us."

"Great!" he said happily. His mask was the backwards version of the original's, red where his was black and black where his was red. "Is he in the mask too?"

"Not the other day. He was pretending to be a doctor," Clint said. "Took out the clone of my brother."

"Awww. Did he eliminate the bad guy?" the original Deadpool asked.

"We're not sure if he's not making a new one," Dawn admitted.

"Even better!" He smiled. "Thanks, Dawn. I'll get lots of bragging about my evil clone. Send him over if you want."

"I can do that." She wiggled her fingers. "Philip." He came over to look, smiling and waving. "We found out because he took the son shopping."

"Awww." He smiled. "I saw you when you were first born from my mean dark angel there."

Philip smirked. "JARVIS had film," he said happily. "You're kinda neat." Deadpool, both of them, smiled at him for that. "Have you seen sissies?"

"Not yet."

He picked up Lexi to show her. "My direct sissy Lexi."

"You're pretty," he cooed.

She grinned and gummed her new rattle.

"Dawn, is she a meta?"

"We think so. We have a tiny subspace portal here in the building."

"That's so cool!" he cooed.

Philip got Mira. "Is my other sissy by Mommy 'Tasha. This is Mira."

"You're pretty too," he cooed. She blinked at him and cackled, waving her rattle. "You're going to like weapons, I can already tell." She batted at her sister. "Yup, you two are like your mommies. That's wonderful."

Philip grinned at him. "Some day I use self-defense class to beat up on boys for them. Boys like pretty girls with boobs." Dawn swatted him. "Hey!"

"I told you not to call them that."

"They are."

"Yay," Dawn said with a smirk.

He huffed but looked at the neat 'uncle' guy. "Mommy fussy sometimes about boobies."

"Some girls do," the other Deadpool agreed. Mira squealed. "I'm sorry, did we ignore you for a minute?" She grinned at him. "Wow, Dawn."

"Yeah. They're cute little hellions in the making. They'll be like their mommy. All flirty and happy and perky and fashionable, but yet deadly when necessary." The guys both shivered. "Thought I'd mention the other clone and I'll send him over if I find him."

"Looking forward to it." He winked. "Send pictures of the kids."

"I can do that." She smirked and closed the portal. She looked at Mira. "Want changed?" She pouted at her. "I know but it's okay. Want me to change you?"

Clint got up with a groan and took them to change. If Mira had dirtied herself, Lexi wasn't far behind usually. Though the reverse was always true, anything Lexi did, Mira had to do better. Philip helped him. He gave him a hug for that help and he went back to helping Chris color. The girls got put back down together. "Pepper, want me to change Maeve?"

"I can," Chris said, hopping up.

"No you can't," Steve said, taking her to change. "You're too little."

"Callia did credible attempts at it when she was his age," Dawn quipped. "She used to help Tara with the twins."

Steve looked at her. "How close did she get?"

"She was never big enough to reach the changing table so she'd drag in a chair and was usually on cleaning them up when Tara got there."


"She did the same thing with Philip," Tony agreed. "Then Chris. Which is how she realized Chris was circumcised and they weren't."

Philip looked at him. "What's circumcised?"

"Why you wondered about Chris looking different," Bruce said.

"Oh! Okay. Thanks, Grandpa!" He grinned at his buddy and they got back to coloring. He had gotten Chris a kilt of his own so they could match tomorrow. His would go with that blue shirt Mommy wanted him to wear. He knew Chris had a nice blue shirt too.

Clint looked at his wife. "You know I'm still jealous, right?" She blew a kiss but grinned and blushed a tiny bit.

"As am I. We will be proving that she is ours later," Natasha said, turning the page on her e-reader's screen. "As only I have to go to work tomorrow."

"I'm going to daycare," Philip announced. They all stared at him. "Play with Chris!"

"Fine," Natasha agreed. "I can drop you off on the way but that means getting up earlier." He shrugged and got back to his coloring.

"Stark, is the food ready yet so I can eat that instead of the wife?" Clint joked with a grin for him.

"Nearly and we do have spare rooms, Barton," he quipped back. "We don't need to see you eating her. We might have to protest."

"Daddy would not chew on Mommy," Philip said impatiently. "She'd swat him good and quit being wiggly and flirty for him."

"Probably, depends on where he bit me," Dawn said, looking at Clint, who smirked at that challenge.

Xander and Phil finally got there, and Phil put down the kids so they could run over to pounce the boys. Xander handed over their contribution to dinner. Stark put them on the grill too. "Sorry we're late. Melissa was having a crisis."

"I didn't match," Melissa said. "Mommy likes me to match." She carefully laid down and got into the coloring with the boys.

"Why are you wearing a skirt?" Joyce asked.

"Mommy Maria said I had to learn to wear one sometime."

"Playing isn't the time for that," Natasha said. Melissa smirked at her. "Stark, does Callia have some shorts she can borrow?"

"Probably." He got her some. "Put them on under the skirt so you quit flashing people." Melissa wiggled into them and smoothed the skirt down over them then got back to playing. The others were sucking up to Joyce and Bruce since they hadn't seen them recently. Tony started to pull food off the grill with Clint's help. Phil set the table for him and it was good. They could relax and eat, and ignore the lavender scent that floated up at them.


Clint got up long enough in the morning to watch his son pick out his clothes. He blinked a few times at the kilt and the one he was packing. "Why do you need two?"

"One's for Chris."

Clint yawned. Mira had kept him up all night and from snacking on Dawn. "Try that one on since the one you're wearing is too big?" He wiggled out of it and put on the other one. That one fit so he packed the other one with a grin for his father and pulled down that blue shirt. It was a polo shirt and it went well with the tan cargo kilt. Philip put on socks and his boots, letting his father tie them for him. Then he ran out with his backpack to bounce around Mommy Natasha until she fed him. Clint went to the bathroom then back to bed. He heard Mira fuss but Natasha was handling the girls. Dawn woke up with a yawn when he nudged her. "Go to the bathroom. They're about to go to daycare." She got up to do that, putting on a robe on the way out so she could kiss and hug all the kids. Lexi cooed at her and Dawn cuddled her extra. Mira was still huffing at her so she'd let Nat handle her for a few minutes. "Daycare," Clint called.

"Fine," Natasha agreed, packing up the girls to go to daycare as well. She looked at her son. "Why did you pick today to wear that?"

"Chris and I match."

"Oh." She was not going to ask her son how he knew he and Chris Stark were going to match. For all she knew they had went telepathic with each other somehow due to something Callia had created. She nodded and got them down to the SUV, taking them to the tower so she could go to SHIELD. She wouldn't put it past a Stark. She had to file reports on how HYDRA was falling apart.

Dawn grinned at Clint. "Want me to make coffee?"

"Later. C'mere." She took off the robe and came back in to cuddle him. This was a great sleeping in and they could do more in a few hours, when they woke up.


Philip smiled at Miss Nancy. "Me go wake up Chris."

"Let him sleep, Philip."

"I bringed him stuff." He held up his pack with a grin and ran out, going to the elevator. He knew how to get upstairs. He wasn't a baby. He ran off and hugged his Uncle Tony as he ran past him. "Bringed stuff for Chris."

"Okay then you have to go back to the daycare," he said firmly. "You can't stay up here by yourselves." They had barely put out the kitchen fire the last time the boys had tried to sneak back upstairs to hang out together. They had wanted pizza bites and Chris didn't understand the stove yet. Or the microwave.

"Yup." Tony got onto the elevator. Pepper was still getting dressed, she'd make sure they made it back down there. Which was probably a huge mistake but he'd regret it later when the daycare called. Philip walked into Chris's room, handing him his backpack. Chris had a nice blue t-shirt so they'd match. They put on the stick-on tattoos he had gotten from the gumball machine. They were cool and all kids loved tattoos. His daddy had some and they were great.

"Tv say no wear undies," Chris said. "Not under kilt."

Philip considered it and shrugged. "Okay." He took his off and they went into the backpack. It might be nasty but Mommy had taught him how to clean his butt so he wouldn't leave marks on anything. Chris could tie his own shoes so that was great. They ran out together before Pepper finished doing her makeup, going to the cafeteria to sneak sweets. The ladies in there smiled at them.

"You're both adorable, boys. Those are very pretty tattoo stickers." The boys grinned and Chris swiped his card in the machine. They let them run off with their pastries and juices.

Miss Nancy watched them come in. "Awww, you got breakfast and kilts." She really was going to have to talk to Clint. The boys looked like little mini goth kids only they weren't wearing guyliner and didn't have spiky hair. They settled in to go over things with Liz, who just smiled and patted them both on the head. Philip gave her one of the tattoo stickers to put on. She squealed and had their help putting it on. Miss Nancy was taking notes. She really had to talk to the parents sometime. She even took pictures. Caro and Etta ran in with Etta's little sister Marjorie following in her remote control stroller. She was barely walking and it was cute. Caro and Etta spotted the boys and giggled, going to play with Marjorie for now. It was Marjorie who would point out a flaw that Miss Nancy had missed.

"Butt!" Marjorie announced and pointed.

Miss Nancy looked. "Chris!" He hopped up and his kilt quit wiggling up his thighs as he shifted to color something else. "What ..... Why aren't you wearing underwear, Chris?" she asked, taking him aside. Then she came back to get Philip too. Since Philip had brought Chris things, it was probably partially his idea.

"Tv say you don't under kilt." He grinned. "Much nicer."

"In daycare you have to wear underwear at all times, boys."

Philip shook his head. "No, not supposed to under kilt." Chris pulled up an internet search. She closed it down on them and settled in to reasonably talk to them about it. They were boys and stubborn boys at that so they refused to understand the rules. Finally, she had to call a higher power. "Mr. Stark, may I see you in the daycare?" she requested politely.

"I'm a bit busy with a meeting, Miss Nancy. Is someone injured?"

"Stubborn but having a bit of a problem of the clothing sort."

"Send them up to me. Philip too if he's involved. With a note so we can talk about it."

"Gladly, Mr. Stark. Thank you." She hung up and wrote the note, handing it to Philip. "He's in a meeting." They grinned and would deviate to the cafeteria again for some oranges but they were boys and like that. Miss Nancy looked at her helper and went to the bathroom, shutting herself inside to laugh herself silly and a bit sick. The boys were very smart. And smartasses.

Tony hung up. "Sorry, problem in the daycare." His son and Philip came in with their oranges. "That's a nice fruit choice, boys. I see Philip's kilt addiction has spread."

"They're boy skirts so for pretty boys," Chris said with a grin, showing off his tattoos too.

"Very nice tattoo stickers. Your mom will adore those." Which she wouldn't but oh well. They washed off eventually. He took the note and sighed, putting the boys in his lap. "Let's handle the meeting and then we'll talk, guys." They nodded, staring at the other person.

"That's your son and who?"

"Dawn's son. She sent him to daycare this morning because he and Chris are best friends."

"Mira up all night with baby hairballs," Philip said.

"Ah, I know that sound." He patted him on the back. "Eat your oranges." They settled in to peel them, the lunch ladies had gotten them mostly done for them. Tony went over the details of the plans.

Chris looked up at him then at the other guy. "That's really 'spensive. Does it really cost that much to make it or is that markup?" He ate a bite of orange. "Some day I'll need to order for my own stuff," he said at the stare the guy was giving him.

"It's a bit of a markup. Each business has to make a profit," he said with a smile.

Chris nodded. "Profit nice. Profit gives allowances and paychecks," he told Philip, who grinned.

"Allowances are nice. Mommy types up agreements and she said markups are part of it. She 'splained it to me."

"It is. We agreed how much markup we're allowed to charge your father's people for our materials," the guy said. "They're really smart, Stark."

Tony smiled. "They probably think you're overcharging me." Which he was but Tony would deal with it later. He handed Chris some napkins from the table for his fingers before he sucked them clean. Philip took the napkin too. He and Dawn had made sure the boys took hints. "So, delivery dates?"

Chris looked at him. "Soon? I might need some to make stuff for Sissy's wheelchair again. She made a stair crawler but it's not efficient. Has low power waste that needs solved."

"She did what?" the guy asked, looking at Tony.

"Emergency stair maneuverability feature. We ran into that problem during a tower assault," he said quietly.

"Oh. That's good I guess. I sell your father computer components, Chris."

"Which most motorized things take," he pointed out. "You need components to make power circuits to run stuff. Like our goat powered engine." He grinned. "Sissy and I shrank a battery for her chair but she still wants to roll it by hand most of the time. It powers that and the seat lift since tables are too high sometimes."

"I guess that's handy," he agreed. "Very practical."

Philip grinned. "We made her new cover the other day. Bulletproof and pretty."

"That's very helpful," Tony said. "Thank you." He grinned. "What else did you guys make her chair?"

"New wheels. Hers are pitiful," Chris said. "New grips too. They're too smooth, no traction. We inscribed lines on them for ease of gripping. She can go faster now. We put a laser on it." He grinned at Philip. "He helped hold it."

"I'm sure she appreciates the laser," Tony said, giving his son a strange look.

"She has to leave tower and there's bad guys out there, Daddy. She needs laser in case huge poopy head shows up again." He shrugged. "Or other bad guys that don't like us for being really smart."

"I guess she does," he agreed. "Put an emergency alarm on it?"

Philip bounced some. "Did! It's on her seat. She can push it with her butt."

"That's cool," Tony said with a smile. "How much electronics did it take?"

"Six boards and three connectors, Daddy, plus some pipes," Chris said.

"Sure, we can look at what you took them from."

"Old suit you let Callia tinker with," Philip said. "I helped by unscrewing."

"That's very helpful." He grinned at his supplier. "Chris is already working with me in the lab. He and Callia did the renovation plans that we updated since it was right before she got hurt. Liz decorated everything."

"That's great, Tony. It's clear he's a true Stark."

Tony grinned. "Very. Liz likes medical stuff and decorating."

"Aww. She's her mom's daughter."

"Liz is mean," Chris said. Philip nodded quickly. "She's going to be the mean, evil empress of Stark."

"I think that was Dawn," Tony said dryly. "One year for Halloween." His supplier cracked up. "I'm sure she'll have a lot to teach Liz over the years." He went over the rest of the agreement.

Chris looked then at the guy. "Your math is wrong."

"I used the calculator." Chris drew on the virtual screen he pulled up to show him. "I guess it was. We can correct that." Tony drew through it with a pen and changed that. "No Dawn?"

"Vacation day. Linda, her helper, too." He looked at him. "Linda will be back Friday or Dawn on Monday so I'll get that page to you on Tuesday with the changes? Sign this one as the preliminary?"

"That'll work for both sides," he agreed, making that note and signing it. Tony signed it.

"Pleasure doing business with you," Philip chirped with a grin. "You should go have a beer at the pub to celebrate."

Tony looked at him. "What did you sneak and watch on tv?"

"Movie?" He smiled shyly. "They do business stuff too."

"Hmm." He cuddled the boys, cracking the other guy up. He shook their hands and left. Tony put both boys onto the table to talk to them about how boys, even under kilts, wore underwear, no matter what the internet said. He had to show them how their kilts were cargo kilts, not true kilts, and only true kilts had that underwear exemption. They pouted but went up to put some on. Tony took the contract to Pepper, who gave him an odd look. He handed over the note. She moaned and shook her head. "I got through to them. They know you have to be wearing a real kilt, with tartan plaid and all the extra stuff like the bag that Philip called the external furry ball sack to not need underwear. So they're putting some on."

"Good!" He handed over the contract. "Why preliminary?"

"Math error. Chris caught it. I said we'd fax the corrected sheets over by Tuesday."

"That'll work," she agreed. She put it down to stare at him. "Why does our son have a kilt?"

"I have the feeling that Philip got it for him. He said it's a boy skirt, so therefore for pretty boys to wear. That way he's not wearing a dress and upsetting someone." She let out a tiny whimper. "He logiced it all the way through, Pepper. Philip really thought that out."

"I guess it's a good transition from Liz talking them into wearing her dresses." She rubbed her forehead, prompting him to give her a temple rub. "Do they own tartan kilts?"

"I don't think Chris does. Not sure about Philip. He did say he'd have to get the bag."

"Okay. Sure." She smiled back at him. "We need to clean out the closets anyway."

"That fits him better than his pants did."

"We can help him shop this weekend."

"Sure." He smiled. "They even match. They're both wearing blue shirts and khaki cargo kilts."

"They are scarily like twins some days," she said. Tony gave her a hug and went up to play with the boys. He caught them in the halls and explained that Pepper wasn't used to boys who wore kilts. He took them to his lab to show them where Pepper was from. They wore jeans down there most of the time so she had to get used to kilts. He showed them internet shopping too.

"How you try things on?" Philip asked.

"You shop the size you should be. Most people make things the same size. Except for shoes." They oohed and found a lot of stuff they liked. That helped and he even helped by teaching them how to sort out the clothes that were too little so Pepper didn't have to. Philip was great at sorting by size. They even did the dirty laundry so they only had to wash the stuff that was the right size. Which Tony taught them how to do. Even if Philip disagreed because Mommy Natasha did it differently.


That night, Chris couldn't sleep so he was looking at other boy skirts online. There were whole groups of people that wore boy skirts. They were pretty. Some were like his favorite shirts that were too small now. Sarongs looked neat and they tied instead of buttoning or zipping. There were ancient boy skirts too and he liked those. They were longer like his kilt. But they were plain and boring. He found out how they made those and he could make some of the sarongs into them he guessed. There were even boy skirts that turned into pants when you tucked them up. They were Uncle Xander's mommy's people's boy skirts. He ordered some of those too. Uncle Xander would probably show him how to tuck them in. He found out he could order candy too. When he had to finally pay for stuff, he frowned when they wouldn't let him swipe the card he used in the cafeteria. "JARVIS?"

"Yes?" the AI asked.

"How do I do this?"

"I can make you a virtual card number from your trust fund this one time."

"Cool!" He ordered more candy. He was a boy, he lived on candy and Red Bull. He found he could order that too and they would deliver it to him weekly. That was great! Him and Sissy wouldn't have to sneak off for it. He let JARVIS fill in those sections for him. Then he ran down to see how his new lab was looking. His elevator gave off smoke sometimes and it was so epic! He was going to be the best Stark geek ever!


Two days later, Callia answered the apartment phone. "Starks." She listened. "Did he get presents from the pervert in Norway too?" she quipped. "Is it huge? You know he's five, right? Sure, I'll see who's here and who can get it for him. Thank you." She hung up and looked around. No Auntie. She had to leave work early because Mira had cut herself trying to get the baby in the mirror and knocked it over on her head. She was in the infirmary getting stitches. Grandpa was working at SHIELD today.

Well, that left one trusty, strong adult who didn't do much real work. She called him. "Bucky, Chris got some mail and it's heavy stuff. No, I asked if it came from Norway too; Dad said he had ordered him clothes the other night when Mommy wanted to take him shopping. Thanks, Bucky. No, he's in the daycare." She hung up and got back to her homework and planning how to put on pants all day long. Maybe she'd go to skirts for a bit. At least those didn't bind or ride up on her.

Bucky came off the elevator with a hand truck full of boxes. "Ya think Stark ordered enough?" he complained.

She looked. "Maybe. This is Chris we're talking about and he's almost as fashionable as Auntie Dawn."

"Good point." He went back to get the rest.

She frowned at one box. "Dad ordered him Red Bull and I'm not allowed to have any?" she complained. She followed Bucky to break into that box. She took it back to do her homework. "Thanks, Uncle Bucky."

"I'll make Stark tip me for it," he said dryly. Stark was in a meeting with Pepper so he left a message with Linda that he had hauled it up there for him and the kid.

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