I blame my sleep deprived brain for this. And, obviously, the debut of Iron Man in theaters. Getting this out of my system before the glut of stories begins. And fear not for La Casa en La Boca del Infierno, that's still in the works. I'm just really struggling with a particular scene. Bugger doesn't want to unravel for me.
Herein lies spoilers. If you haven't read the S8 Buffy comics or seen the Iron Man movie, but intend to do so, turn back now, if you don't want any storyline ruined for you.
Last chance, now.
The story starts an indeterminate time after the end of the Iron Man movie, but prior to the creation of the Avengers, and shortly before the beginning of the BtVS Season 8 comics. I'm sticking mostly to the known movie history for the Marvel events, although the occasional delving into comic history is bound to take place. And, due to the fact that I've read both mainstream and Ultimates story lines, I may end up getting my facts muddled. Feel free to call me on it, if/when you spot a story continuity issue.
Also: From the end of the movie after the credits, when Tony and Nick Fury meet, I can't properly recall if he introduced himself as colonel, general or just 'Nick Fury'. I'm going to go with the most common one in both the mainstream and Ultimates imprint, which is General, but if someone remembers differently, let me know.
BtVS and all related characters are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and Dark Horse Comics. Iron Man is the property of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics. And if you really needed me to tell you that, may the gods have mercy on your soul. -:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Tony Stark hadn't thought he could have even more fun than he'd been having while being an industrialist billionaire. Boy, was he ever wrong. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it could surely rent a great deal of the next best thing. Add to that the amusement (and fulfillment, though he'd never admit that aloud) he got from his escapades as Iron Man, and he was having more fun than the proverbial barrel full of monkeys, even if the barrel was filled with scotch.
He was smiling contently as he shuffled out of his bedroom one morning and was intercepted by his faithful assistant, Virginia 'Pepper' Potts. "Uh oh. I know that look. That look means you have appointments for me that may or may not spoil my good mood."
Pepper blinked at him in wide-eyed innocence. "It's my calling in life to ruin your day, you know this."
"Buzz kill." He accepted the cup of coffee that Pepper offered him and made a beeline for the wet bar to Irish up his drink.
Pepper started to talk, but was interrupted by an upraised hand from Tony. "Bup! Not until I've appropriately fortified myself," he admonished reproachfully. "You know the rules when you're about to give an itinerary that I may not like."
With a patiently amused grin, Pepper waited until Tony had gone through the ritual of doctoring his coffee up to his preferred specifications. After he took a long, savoring sip of his coffee, he reluctantly lowered his hand again. "Okay. Hit me."
Taking a deep breath, Pepper began to go through the to-do list. "Eleven A.M, finalizing the repulsors paperwork at the patent office-"
Tony made a face. "I'll give you ten bucks if you go in my place," he pleaded.
Pepper shook her head with a smile and went to the next item on the list. "Twelve-thirty, taping an interview for Nightline-"
"Casual or formal?" Tony interrupted.
"I've already picked your suits up from the cleaners," she assured him, continuing on her recitation. "Two-forty-five, autographing the donated Iron Man helmet at Planet Hollywood-"
"Make sure to give me an extra half hour after - I heard they have a new drink recipe that I've been meaning to try." He had removed the shell from the mangled helmet and hammered it back into a helmet shape for donation purposes at a charity auction. Planet Hollywood came out on top. Besides, he'd already been halfway through with making the new one.
Pepper did a bit of note jotting. "Pushing the board of directors meeting back to four-fifteen, then-"
"Cancel that." Tony was suspicious now. The patent office and the board meeting weren't so awful as to ruin his day.
"And finally," Pepper paused dramatically, "Dinner with Nick Fury at seven."
"If I've ever given you the impression that you're anything but evil incarnate, I am profoundly sorry." Tony scowled at Pepper. It wasn't that he had any personal objections to the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. precisely, but anyone that could infiltrate his
security system, well, it made Tony more than a little skittish.
Pepper gave her employer her most angelic smile. "Four Seasons, Manhattan, make sure to wear your tux," she chided sweetly.
"Evil. Incarnate. You should add that to your resume."-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Grudgingly wearing his tux, Tony followed the maitre'd patiently through the Four Seasons as he was escorted to General Nick Fury's table. Although Tony really could've found him by himself - a bald, dark-skinned man with an eye patch tended to stand out in these surroundings.
As they reached the table, Fury looked up at his dinner guest. "Mr. Stark, glad you could join me," the general greeted, while the maitre'd silently waved over a server to refresh Fury's drink.
"Always a pleasure, especially since these little outings are the only time that someone treats me
to dinner for a change," Tony replied carelessly, winking at the pretty server that had arrived with Fury's drink.
"Your usual, Mr. Stark?" the maitre'd asked, as if he hadn't heard any non-dinner related conversation.
Tony shook his head. "No, let's make it three martinis today."
The server nodded, still a bit pink-cheeked from the fact that Iron Man had just winked at her. "Will there be any appetizers with that, sir?"
"Sweetheart, that is
Chuckling indulgently, the maitre'd walked the flustered server away from the table so she could have the drinks made and the V.I.P.'s could proceed to ordering.
Once they were all settled in and waiting on dinner to arrive, Tony decided to bite the proverbial bullet. "Okay, Nick. You've plied me with your evil liquors, food is on the way, so out with it," he demanded of Fury, setting down his second of the three provided martinis.
General Fury gave a wry half-grin, fully aware of the fact that Stark wasn't pleased with being at someone else's beck-and-call. The guy was a little air-headed and obnoxious, but so far with the initial planning stages of the Avengers Initiative, he'd shown solid work. Now that the planning stages were almost at a close, he could indulge in having Tony run a few errands for him.
"Don't act like I just interrupted you trying to bang your secretary," Nick admonished, causing Tony to choke on an olive. There were still a few hints of tension between he and Pepper. "This is actually something that's pretty light work. There's an independent organization called the Watcher's Council that we're allied with. They've undergone a," he paused, trying to find how best to phrase this next part, "restructuring recently. And with the restructuring, they're trying to bring their security, database and communications into the twenty-first century.
"Now, database and communications, they can handle themselves. But security, well, that's where you come in." Nick tapped the table in front of Tony's martini glasses. "They have four locations that're going to be bases of operation for 'em, and they need to have those areas set up right before they get to doing the work that they do. And they want to have it planned out by the best. They called to find out if we could lend a hand, I told them that I'd send someone out as an independent consultant. That's you."
Tony blinked, briefly wondering what they were putting in those martinis. Fury wanted him to do a consulting job? "What kind of work could this Watcher's Council be doing, that would need a Stark Industries-style security system." Despite himself, he was intrigued.
Nick gave a slow, predatory smile. He knew the mystery would appeal to Stark's curiosity. "That, you'll have to see for yourself."
Tony thought about this for another moment. "Can they afford it?"
"They just got all their assets in order. I think it's safe to say, they'll be able to handle your prices," Fury confirmed.
"Are there women?" After all, Tony did have his priorities.
It was only Fury's long years of service that let him keep his poker face up at that question. "More than you'd know what to do with."
"No such thing."
Nick smirked faintly. "It's settled, then. They're based out of Scotland, so we'll get you moving in that direction in a couple of days." He paused, thinking of anything else that Tony might need. "And, one more thing. Better bring the suit."
Tony's eyes narrowed. "I won't build or sell any of the Iron Man technology to them," he warned.
"Oh, it's not for them. It's for you."Well, that wasn't at all ominous
, Tony thought. What had he just signed himself on for?-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
As it turned out, when General Nick Fury wanted something to get done as soon as possible, by God, it got done. Less than 72 hours later, Tony and Pepper found themselves in a S.H.I.E.L.D.-owned British lorry with two escort vehicles, hauling the Iron Man suit and packed to the gills with armed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. And, of course, Tony's liquor stash.
Pepper was shaking her head. "There isn't anything in the paperwork, except for the fact that we're going to this Scottish castle and we're going to talk to a Rupert Giles," she confirmed with a touch of exasperation. Tony had asked her the same question several times during the trip.
Tony sighed in resignation. "I suppose I can't complain, if they really can afford us. Awfully weird, that they can get Fury to ask 'how high', when they say jump, though."
She simply nodded patiently. He'd said more or less the same thing on several different occasions as well.
One of the two lorry drivers poked his head into the area they were sitting in. "We'll be there in a few minutes, Mr. Stark," he reported briefly, before heading back up front.
Another sigh escaped Tony's lips. "Another castle. I've probably already seen it, you know. My father loved castles." He trailed off, remembering assorted vacations as a child.
Finally, the mini-caravan pulled up in front of an honest-to-goodness castle gate. In front of which were two girls, seemingly just hanging out, but there was an indefinable air of readiness about them. To the agents with them, they sensed fellow warriors, if not professionals. To Tony, they reminded him vaguely of his more efficient female executives. The ones that weren't afraid to take risks or stand up to their male peers.
The agents assigned specifically to Tony and Pepper hopped out of the truck first, surveying the area before they signaled their charges that the coast was clear.
Tony hopped out of the trailer's side door, a scotch on the rocks in hand and blinked around, lifting his sunglasses since there was a cloud-covered sky overhead. "I'll be damned. Damsels not in distress."
And that was how Renee and Satsu, vaguely bemused by this strange procession pulling up to their gate, were introduced to Tony Stark. They'd been told to expect a new visitor today by Xander, but this hadn't been what they'd envisioned.
Renee gave their visitor a wry grin. "Not much distresses us these days."
"Sounds like a personal challenge to me." Tony agreed complacently. Pepper covered her forehead with her hand. It'd really been too much to hope, that Tony would behave himself, but a girl could dream. He took a long sip of his scotch and continued. "Suppose I should be all official-like about this. Tony Stark to see Rupert Giles."
There was a brief breakdown in communications while Satsu and Renee processed the information that the recently made public figure of Iron Man was standing in front of their castle. Satsu recovered first. "You're kidding." She half stated, half asked.
Tony shook his head firmly. "Darlin', I never kid about business, liquor and women. I've got at least two of the three in motion right now. And the third is looking promising." He got a glare from Pepper on that one - these girls were barely eighteen, if that. But it was a half-hearted glare. After all, she's known for ages that the man was an incorrigible flirt.
"Renee, go call Xander, ask him if we should bring Mr. Stark in." Satsu finally decided, blinking a few times in an attempt to clear her head and absorb this odd turn of events.
Tony hadn't been paying attention. He blinked and turned to Pepper. "Ms. Potts, did she just say she was going to call Xanadu? This may very well be the best business trip ever."
Pepper carefully schooled her expression to neutrality. "I believe she said Xander
, sir. Short for 'Alexander', if I'm not mistaken."
"Another dream crushed." Tony consoled himself with another swig of the scotch.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
"-Yeah, Giles says to have them bring in the truck and park inside the walls. And for God's sake, don't let the more, er, rambunctious ones tease the soldiers!" Xander cut off his communicator and turned to Giles expectantly.
Giles, meanwhile, was absently poring over a book, unaware of Xander's silent plea for elaboration. Chewing on one earpiece of his glasses, he calmly turned a page of his book.
"Giles?" Xander grew tired of waiting for him to notice the assorted expressions of attention-getting. "Why did I just tell Renee to let Tony freaking Stark and a soldier entourage in the gates?"
Starting from his concentration, Giles blinked up at Xander. "I told you, Xander. I contacted some military contacts that the Watcher's Council has, to help with our security measures. Mr. Stark is clearly who they sent to look over our layout."
"Yeah. Mr. Tony Stark. Owner of Stark Industries. And he's frickin' Iron Man
!" Xander threw up his hands in exasperation.
"He's what? Is that some sort of nickname." Giles held his book in front of him, defensively, as if to ward off one of Xander's pop culture references.
"Must not punch Giles. Giles is the only one with the bank account info." Xander rubbed his hand over his face, rubbing at his good eye. He turned and found a laptop that Willow had left laying about, taking a few moments to sift through files until he found what he was looking for. Showing the laptop to Giles, he made Giles watch a few snippets of Iron Man in action, at the end of which was Tony Stark announcing, "I'm Iron Man," at the press conference those months ago.
Putting his glasses on, Giles blinked owlishly again. "Stark built that armor?"
As if to a small child, Xander nodded and replied, "Yes."
"Well, bravo for me for getting someone that technically adept to plan our security, then." Now Giles looked inordinately pleased with himself. It was moments like this, that Xander could never tell if Giles was serious about his apparent lack of real world knowledge.
A blonde head poked into the room, face flushed from recent exercise. "Giles," Buffy began in a slightly bemused tone, "Did you know that ol' Iron Pants-slash-Tony Stark is currently swilling scotch and hitting on my slayers in the courtyard?"
Giles' hands twitched in precursor to a potential cleaning of his glasses. "Yes Buffy, I'm well aware. As I was just telling Xander-"
From another doorway into the room, Willow came bustling in, holding a large coil of network cable. "There's a huge truck in the courtyard with soldiers around it," she noted idly. "Is that Tony Stark walking into the castle?"It will do no good to throttle the children, Ripper
, Giles told himself mentally, taking a deep breath. After all, Buffy and Willow were a great deal powerful, and Xander had been looking in much better shape of late as well.
From behind Buffy, Vi chirped brightly and professionally, "Mr. Giles? Tony Stark is here to see you!"
Giles released the breath slowly and turned to face Vi. "Thank you, Vi," he replied in his long-suffering tone. "Please, show him and his associates in."
The two armed escorts came in, peering around the room warily. Buffy eyed them with a mix of curiosity and contempt, her past experiences with soldierly types still having soured her on any such interactions.
Finally, the guards gave the all-clear sign and Pepper stepped forward. However, when she turned to let Tony do his own introductions, she found she was standing by herself. Tony was paused just outside of the doorway and staring down a hall, where a couple of slayers were emerging from their rooms, clearly having just woken up and unaware that there was company visiting.
"Dear God, I've died and gone to heaven," Tony stated wistfully. Then he got a better look at the girls' sleepwear. "Or possibly, Fredericks' of Hollywood. Which is really the same thing."
The assembled Scoobies gave varied expressions of amusement or tolerance, according to their own individual temperaments. Pepper forcibly restrained herself from slapping her palm to her forehead. "Mr. Stark," she announced loudly, "This is Mr. Giles."
Tony snapped out of his admiring stare. "Hell of a place you have here, Mr. Giles. Nice to see people putting a good castle to use, without adding a gift shop." He glanced to the others standing about and looked to Giles questioningly.
Giles started and stammered his way through the neglected introductions of the 'senior staff' present. "Yes, of course, forgive me." He gestured as he introduced each of them. "Xander Harris, Buffy Summers, Willow Rosenberg. Ms. Rosenberg is our resident technical expert, and Mr. Harris has been sketching out the bulk of our security needs for this facility. We have other administrators that will be outlining the needs of their own separate facilities, and I shall be talking to you later about my own location outside of London."
"That's some introduction," Tony observed wryly.
"Well," Giles trailed off, embarrassed at having been caught in a moment of needless exposition. "Can I offer you any refreshment before we-"
"Brought my own," Tony interrupted, extracting a flask and refreshing his own drink. "Why don't we just give me the tour and you guys outline for me what it is you're looking to do here? Apart from unfairly hoarding fine examples of the female populace." It hadn't escaped his notice that the X-to-Y chromosome ratio was leaning heavily towards the left.
Amid a couple of courtesy chuckles, Giles nodded, flustered again. "Certainly, do let us -"
Once again, Giles was interruption by a high pitch exclamation of, "Holy crap
!" from the doorway.
Everyone turned to the source of the noise, where Andrew was staring, gaping at Tony. "It's really you!" he squeaked in disbelief. "You're- hey
While Andrew had been having his fan-boy moment, Xander caught Vi's eye and jerked his head sharply in Andrew's direction. Vi took her cue and promptly zipped forward to grab Andrew by his collar and haul him back out of the room. "Settle down, Andrew! You can have your Nerdgasm later," she scolded, amidst dwindling protests.
Silence reigned for a moment, until it was broken by Tony. "What was that
?" he asked in vague amusement.
Buffy opted to field this one, since Giles was looking rather mortified. "That," she began, "was Andrew. He's - " She trailed off, uncertain how to categorize their geek-ridden counterpart.
"Comic reader? Watcher of sci-fi? Nigh androgynous?" Tony supplied, helpfully offering suggestions.
"All of the above." Buffy nodded firmly.
"And," Xander chimed in. "Lucky you, he's going to be running the Italy location."
"But don't worry," Willow added. "We're totally going to have someone with you, to help restrain his greater outbursts of Dork."
Giles blinked as a thought struck him. "Have we assigned anyone to that duty yet?"
The other three residents shook their heads. "We've been avoiding it, because you know how those discussions turn out." Willow clarified.
"There's only one clear solution to this issue," Xander informed them solemnly.
Abruptly, Xander, Giles and Buffy all shouted, "Not it!" Willow tried, but she was a second behind the rest of them. She looked around at her friends in consternation.
"No fair! Giles, how do you know about 'Not It'?" Willow huffed.
"Please, give me some credit." Giles' expression was insufferably smug. "I haven't spent the last eight years around you lot in complete
"Yeah, it was only a little
bit of oblivion!" Xander piped in. Then hunched his shoulders guiltily under Giles' arched eyebrow being aimed at him. "You know better than to leave me an opening like that."
"In any event," Giles loudly continued in an attempt to get the proverbial show on the road. "Shall we proceed with the tour?"
Tony had been immensely amused by all the byplay, but he was willing to get down to business. Or as down to business as he ever got. "Incidentally, maybe you could answer me something." He waited for one of them to make an interrogative noise before he proceeded with his question. "They told me that you needed security consultation, but they didn't say what about and that I should find out from you."
Giles, Buffy, Xander and Willow sent a look of silent polling amongst one another. "That's a whole 'nother long and involved story," Xander began.
"The sun should be down by the time we get done with the tour and show him the floor plans of the other locations." Willow estimated.
Buffy nodded. "Good call. How about we get all the business done, and tonight we'll show you why we need the kind of setup that you and your company can provide?"
This only served to fan the flames of Tony's curiosity, but he shrugged carelessly. "Sounds like a plan to me. I'll warn you, I'm pretty hard to surprise anymore."
Later, Tony would realize how much that statement would resemble 'famous last words' and kick himself soundly for it. For now, however, there was work to be done and women to be ogled.