I hope you enjoyed it!
Now that we're to the end of Iron Man II, we're in Tony/Pepper territory, if you recall the scene with them on the rooftop at the end of the movie. I'm not much of a shippy writer, so I hope I do the pairing justice in this part. I'm also happy you introduce you to Agents Yang and Bandopadhyay in this final part. Hey, what's a few more OCs?
Fandoms: Iron Man/Marvel Movieverse, Highlander
Warnings/Notes: Complete, spoilers for Iron Man II as this is set during the events of the movie, gen friendship with mostly background het. This directly follows Transformative Variations.
Character(s): Tony Stark, Methos, Ezra Standish, Pepper Potts, Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, Natasha Romanoff/Natalie Rushman, James 'Rhodey' Rhodes, Jarvis, Joe Dawson, Justin Hammer, Original Characters.
Summary: Their whole world changed when Tony revealed he was Iron Man, but that wasn't nearly the end of it.
Stark Expo ~ Flushing, New Jersey
"So why exactly am I being punished?" Charlotte asked plaintively.
They were in the VIP lounge of the main auditorium, watching the crowd file in for the presentation Justin Hammer was scheduled to make. Charlotte's presentation, which had been set for the beginning of the evening, was now to be after Hammer's.
Pepper squeezed her shoulder sympathetically. "I'm sorry, honest, but you know as well as I do that the crowd Hammer will draw in will mean a wider audience for your talk, and it's an important one. One we want the most exposure that we can get."
Charlotte rolled her eyes. "So what you're saying is that I'm boring, and on my own, couldn't fill a classroom."
"No," Pepper began to object. "I didn't mean that, honest—"
Charlotte waved away her protests. "Kidding! You're right, I know you are. Sorry, I guess I'm missing Tony, him not being here to snark at."
"So what you're saying is I'm your second string," Pepper said dryly, mimicking Charlotte perfectly.
Charlotte searched Pepper's face, then began to laugh, before drawing the other woman into a tight hug. "You are never anyone's second string, Virginia Potts!"
"Ms. Potts?" Natalie Rushman interrupted. "Sorry, but your interview with Forbes is waiting."
"Duty calls." Pepper laughed. "You're going to be great, seriously, Charlotte. Let's meet up after for drinks so I can tell you how good you were." She kissed Charlotte on the cheek.
"Deal. I'll catch up with you later."
After Pepper walked away, Natasha appeared at Charlotte's side, saying softly at her ear. "He found an answer; we think he's going to be okay."
Not thinking, she grasped Natasha's hand, but the SHIELD agent didn't seem to mind the familiarity. "Thank God," she whispered.
"That works too," Natasha responded, a small smile tugging at her lips, one Charlotte returned.
"Yes, yes it does."
"I need to get back." Natasha indicated, inclining her head towards where Pepper sat with the Forbes reporter.
Now alone, Charlotte pressed a finger against the ear bud she wore in her right ear. "Is she right, Jarvis? Is Tony going to be okay?"
"Preliminary indicators are that the new element is quite promising, madam."
Nodding, she exhaled sharply, closing her eyes to say a silent prayer of thanks.
"Everything okay?" Methos asked, joining her.
"Better than," she said, smiling up at him.
"I take it there's been an encouraging development?"
"Very," she agreed. "Now I just need to get through the next few hours. I want to get back to California as soon as I can so I see for myself Tony's going to be okay."
Charlotte was watching Hammer's presentation from the wings when all hell broke loose. First, Tony had arrived quite unexpectedly in the Iron Man armour, then Hammer's drones seemed to take on a life of their own, targeting Tony. He'd taken flight, along with Jim in the War Machine armour, leading a group of them on a chase, while in his wake, the crowded auditorium flared with panic and fear, broken glass from the ceiling raining down on the audience, with the remaining drones firing randomly into the crowd.
Pushing through the fleeing attendees, Charlotte made her way towards the control center, coming across Natasha on her way out. "Vanko's alive and working for Hammer, well, that's what Hammer thought," she said with no preamble. "I'm on my way to Hammer's facility. I need you to hold down the fort here till reinforcements arrive." She didn't wait for a response, heading for the doors at a run.
Charlotte finally made it to the control room, where Pepper was working with Hammer's people to try and take back control of the drones. Seeing Hammer, she strode up to him, grabbing his arm and throwing him forcefully against the nearest wall. "You bastard!" Twisting his arm behind his back, she resisted the urge to break it. "I should beat you to within an inch of your life for what you've done! How many innocent people out there are going to die tonight because of you?" She twisted a little harder, this time rewarded with a grunt of pain from Hammer.
"You're crazy! All of you crazy bitches!" This time he cried out as Charlotte came close to dislocating his shoulder.
"The police are on their way," Pepper said quietly, putting a hand on her shoulder. "He's not going to get away with this, Charlotte. Let him go before you do something you'll regret."
"What I'll regret is not killing him, but okay." She let him go like the touch of him disgusted her. "For you, Virginia."
"Thank you." She looked at Hammer. "If you have any sense, you'll keep your mouth shut."
Hammer just nodded, backing away from Charlotte, having seemed to decide that silence was indeed golden.
"You have everything under control here," she said to Pepper. "I'm going out there, see what I can do."
"Okay. Matthew was here earlier, he's at the gates now, setting up a first aid station."
Nodding, she squeezed Pepper's arm. "Be careful." With one last reassuring smile for her friend, Charlotte headed for the exit.
It had taken some trial and error, but it seemed that driving the blade of her dagger into the neck joint of the drones worked quite well in disabling them. Talk about design flaw.
Now, the park seemed to be emptying out, and the still active drones had flown off; no doubt to help take out Iron Man. She found herself once more at the entrance to the auditorium, meeting Pepper as she walked out with the police.
"I'm going to stay until the park's cleared," Pepper told them.
As the police officers walked away, Charlotte said to Pepper, "I'm going back into the auditorium, do a last sweep, make sure no one's left inside who might be injured."
"Good idea. I'll meet you back here."
Nodding, Charlotte headed back inside, glass crunching under her shoes.
Entering the auditorium, she surveyed the damage. This wasn't quite how she'd envisioned the evening ending. Making her way down the aisles, she stepped over disabled drones, and debris that littered the floor. "Is there anyone here?" she called out as she worked her way through the sections. She still had half the venue to search, but so far, it seemed as if no one was left inside. It was eerily silent actually. But it wasn't silent for long, the sounds of beeping coming from all around her. She realized it was coming from the downed drones, red lights blinking on their chest plates.
"God damn it!" There was no way she was getting out of here in time, let alone help Pepper out on the steps. As she threw herself behind the inadequate protection of a row of overturned seats, she heard Tony's voice in her ear.
"Birdie! Get out of there, the whole place is about to go up!"
At least Pepper would be safe. "No kidding!" she shouted in frustration, covering her head as the world exploded.
The pain in her chest made her gasp as life returned to her dead body. Scattered thoughts chased each other as she tried to remember what had happened. Her presentation. Did that even happen? If it did, it must have gone very badly. She was supposed to have drinks with Pepper after. How drunk had she gotten? Wait, that wasn't it. Hammer. Drones. An explosion, there had been an explosion. She struggled to sit up. Pepper, Tony…. Were they okay? "Tony…"
"They're fine." A hand took hers, squeezing it hard, helping her to a sitting position. "It's okay, I found you first. Charlotte Sparrow doesn't need to die just yet." A blanket was placed over her shoulders.
"Who else would be here to pull your ass from the fire?" She could hear the smile in his voice. "Even though it is a fine one—I've always said that."
Her laugh was more like a pained choking spell. "Oww!" she exclaimed. "Laughing hurts."
She fought with her eyes, forcing them to open, the face of Nick Fury floating over her, all blurry. "But my ass thanks you."
He grinned, gently pushing her hair off her face. "Think you can stand?"
She did a mental inventory, wiggling her fingers first, then trying her toes. "I think so."
"Good, because Stark won't let up till he gets to talk to you in person. Man is god damned driving me nuts!" Taking her other hand, he helped her to her feet, holding her against him till she could stand on her own.
"Yes?" she looked up at him.
"Are we cool?"
Smiling, she touched his cheek with her fingertips. "Absolutely."
"It was my endearing charm, wasn't it?" He flashed her a cheeky grin.
Laughing, she hugged him. "Of course; what else could it be?"
There was a van waiting in the loading dock for her, manned by two very young agents who looked like they were about to face down a sabre tooth tiger as their boss and Charlotte approached.
"Bandopadhyay, Yang, you got this?" Fury asked sternly.
"Yes, sir!" the two women said in unison, seeming to be frozen in place.
He snapped his fingers at them. "How long would you like Miss Sparrow here to stand around in tatters? Or do you think she'd like to stay dressed in a damned blanket all the way into the city?"
They seemed to do everything together, both agents making a little hop before rushing into the van. "Sorry, sir, ma'am."
Charlotte jabbed Nick in the ribs with an elbow. "That was mean," she said softly.
"They don't know mean…yet."
"Are they even old enough to drive?" Charlotte asked, amused, as the two agents rummaged around in the van.
Nick snorted. "Barely. They get younger every year."
Agent Bandopadhyay nearly tumbled out of the van, holding onto the clothing in her hand for dear life. Charlotte resisted the urge to reach out and steady her, knowing it would only embarrass the young woman.
"Thank you, Agent Bandopadhyay." She took the standard issue SHIELD jogging pants and hoodie from her.
"You're welcome, ma'am."
Then Agent Yang was by her side, thrusting a water bottle at her. "You must be thirsty, ma'am."
"I am, thank you." Charlotte took a grateful swallow of the cold water, quickly finishing the entire bottle.
"More, ma'am?" Yang asked anxiously.
"No, that'll be fine for now." She neatly tossed the empty bottle over the rail into a garbage can.
"Show off." Nick poked her shoulder with a finger.
Shrugging, she unselfconsciously stripped off what remained of her suit skirt and jacket, quickly donning the clothes she'd been provided. "What's the plan?"
"The plan is that these two fine agents will take you to Standish's in Manhattan, and more importantly, you call Stark and get him off my damn back, got that?"
He sighed deeply, putting his hands on her shoulders. "I'm glad you're okay."
Settling into the bucket seat behind the driver, Charlotte pulled out her phone. Somewhere in all the hullabaloo, she's lost her Bluetooth earbud. She realized there was a text from Jim, and from not too long ago—
She texted back—
She had planned on calling Tony, but maybe, considering Jim's news, she should settle for a text instead—
Leaning back, she allowed her eyes to close. Maybe a little nap wouldn't be a bad idea. From the front of the van, the murmur of soft conversation between the SHIELD agents drifted back, mixing with the sound of the van engine, lulling her to sleep.
The vibration of the phone ringing in her hand pulled her back to consciousness. Of course Tony wouldn't wait till morning. "Hey," she answered.
"Hey yourself. You scared the hell out of me, just know that, Birdie," he grumped at her.
"Sorry. But better me than you or Pepper, or anyone else for that matter. I'm fine, Tony, honest." She tucked her legs underneath her. "Don't you have better things to be doing?"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, I don't know. According to my sources, you and Pepper find the rooftops of New Jersey quite romantic. You always did know how to show a girl a good time," she said wryly.
"Rhodey has a big mouth!" In the background, Charlotte could hear Pepper's giggle.
"Give the phone to Pepper," she ordered. The sound of rustling was accompanied by Tony complaining about bossy, nosey friends. "You okay, Virginia? I could have never forgiven myself if you'd been hurt."
"I'm fine! I was a little shaken up, but I'm much better now."
"You better be, or Tony's not living up to his reputation," she said mischievously.
"Charlotte!" She could almost hear Pepper blushing. "I can assure you that his reputation meets expectations," she said, giggling.
"No fair talking about me when I can't hear what you're saying, Birdie," Tony's voice now issued from the phone.
"Say goodnight and kiss your girl."
"I can do that. Goodnight, Birdie."
Setting the phone on the seat next to her, Charlotte wiped at her eyes. The one thing she'd wanted most for her best friend was someone to love him, for him to love in return. Maybe he'd believe her now when she told him he was a man who could have everything.
The ride back into the city was uneventful and peaceful once she'd finished her phone call with Tony. Eventually, she got her escort talking, learning that Agent Bandopadhyay's first name was in fact 'Esmeralda', but that her friends called her 'Esmay', and that Lea Yang had a cousin who was some sort of hot shot surgeon, who her mother always held up as an example to her youngest of what a successful daughter should be. When Lea had chosen to pursue linguistics instead of medicine, her mother had not been happy.
"So how many languages do you speak?" Charlotte asked curiously.
"About two dozen currently spoken ones, I guess. But my specialty is ancient languages—I think you can understand the past better if you can hear their voices, their words," she said excitedly, losing her nervousness as she talked about her passion. Then she seemed to remember where she was. "At least, that's what I think, ma'am."
Methos would love this girl. "And I agree, Lea," she said, smiling at her. "And what about you, Esmay? What do you do that caught SHIELD's eye?"
"Biomolecular engineering. I had looked into an ROTC program, to help with tuition, but instead of the Navy contacting me, SHIELD did. It seemed a good fit, and now, here I am."
The two agents glanced at each other, Esmay nodding slightly at Lea, who was driving. Then Esmay turned in her seat to fully face Charlotte. "Can we ask you something, ma'am?" Charlotte waved a hand, indicating her permission. "What's Tony Stark really like?"
"I should get blown up more often if this is the result," she said, sliding a wet hand up Methos' bare arm.
She'd come home to find that Methos had drawn her a bath. But first, he had most meticulously removed every scrap of burnt and torn clothing from her body. Then he'd directed her to the shower where he'd rinsed away the majority of the soot and grime that coated her, before carrying her to the jetted tub.
"Please don't," he said, kissing her throat.
"Hey, no one ever told me power point could be so dangerous!"
"Right up there with mace and cannon," he teased.
She pressed her palm against his chest. "As lovely as all this is, you know what would make it better?"
"You in here with me, instead of where you are now."
He looked up at the ceiling, as if considering her suggestion, and she rolled her eyes. Then he looked at her, eyes twinkling. "I suppose the idea has merit."
"You do, do you?"
"Well, yes, why not? It's not like I have any plans."
"Lucky me." She stuck her tongue out at him as he climbed into the tub.
"Oh, that I absolutely guarantee."
Epilogue ~ SHIELD Field Office, Eastern Seaboard
"Come here often?" Tony asked Charlotte as he walked towards his car where she reclined against the hood, her legs stretched out to advantage with her short skirt and high heeled boots.
"Now and then," she answered with a wink. Cigarette in her fingers, she motioned for a light. Tony obligingly fished a lighter from his pocket.
"That's what I like about you, Stark, always prepared."
"Is it the thirties again?" he asked, grinning.
She shrugged. "Being blown up always leaves me wanting to smoke."
"So what brings you here, other than looking very sexy on my car?"
"Same as you—" she waved a hand "—secret agent stuff. And now, I need a lift home." Straightening, she asked, "So how did that go anyway?"
Tony twisted his lips into a grimace. "Turned me down—I guess I don't play well with others."
"Well, gee, there's a newsflash."
"Ha ha. So I suppose they turned you down too, since you're here bumming lights and a ride home."
"Me? On the contrary, darling; me, they wanted. You should have seen the benefits package they offered."
"I declined." She reached up, kissing his cheek. "I wouldn't be a member of any club that wouldn't take you."
Tony looked pleased at her answer. "We're too good for them."
"We really are."
"So, you, me, consultants club?"
"Consultants club," she agreed. "Speaking of, you promised me dinner at our place after my presentation, Pepper promised me drinks, and I think, after having your auditorium collapse on top of me, I deserve both!"
"I think I can make that happen, though I have to point out, you technically didn't give your presentation, so maybe just drinks."
"Hey, you're lucky I don't make you buy me the whole damn restaurant, so shut up!"
"Shut up? Are you like twelve?" He opened the car door for her, helping her in.
"If I am, that's seven years older than you," she shot back as he closed the door.
"That hurts, Birdie," he told as he slid into the driver's seat. "Wounds me right here." He slapped his palm against the arc reactor in his chest. He turned on the ignition. "Tell you what, you do your presentation for me on the drive back to the city, and then, that way, you'll actually deserve your dinner."
"I'm going to tell Pepper you're being mean, Tony, you just wait," she threatened as the car pulled away.
"Did I saw twelve? Let's go for eight."
"Then that makes you a toddler. Though, it fits. Bet that was in your Avengers assessment too."
"Was not!" he protested.
"Don't believe you," she said in a sing song voice.
Back in the SHIELD office, Fury and Romanoff watched them drive away, and Nick laughed. "It really is perfect."
"Those two. Sparrow keeps an eye on Stark so we don't have to, and her proximity to him keeps her closer to the fold. Perfect."
"But I thought you wanted her back?"
"I did, I do, but she's never going to come back, not unless she feels the threat is dire enough. And I'll tell you what, Tasha, I hope we never find ourselves in that sort of a situation."
][ PART SEVEN ][ PART EIGHT ][
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