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Times Three

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No doubt about it. Being attacked by invaders from alien realms...sucked. After the Chitauri, it wasn’t like a constant stream of aliens were beating down Earth’s door, but there had been some tentacled jerks a few months ago from somewhere near Kepler 22b and a scourge of nanobots from who-knew-where after that. And technically Tony wasn’t supposed to have kept a couple thousand of the nasty little bastards to reverse-engineer, but come on; he was Tony Stark and that was what Tony Stark did.

He was in the workshop waiting for the final process to be complete on a new coating layer for Cap’s shield that resisted corrosive acids (thanks, tentacled jerks) when a man and woman strode in together, dark-haired and determined. Tony was already moving to initiate security countermeasures via JARVIS when he saw that Pepper was trailing behind them, her heels tapping on the floor, so he reluctantly cut the music instead.

“Tony,” Pepper said breathlessly when they neared -- the guy had a long stride, but the woman, dressed in a black leather jacket and boots to match over tight jeans, edged back, casting a curious eye around the workshop.

“Good evening, Ms Potts,” Tony said, wiping his hands off on the nearest rag. “Stock down again? Are we charging for tours now?”

Pepper smiled and brushed hair from her forehead as the man in the military-style greatcoat stepped forward, offering his hand.

“Tony Stark -- Iron Man himself. Pleasure to meet you. I’m Captain Jack Harkness.” He offered a little half-smile as the woman came closer. “And this is my associate, Gwen Cooper.”

“And I should know your names because...” Tony trailed off.

“Tony. Manners.” Pepper threw him a scowl.

“Sorry. Yeah. I’m Tony ‘Iron Man’ Stark,” he confirmed, inserting air quotes, before offering a hand first to Cooper, then to Captain Harkness. “Who are you with again?”

“Torchwood,” Cooper said.

Tony squinted, then nodded. “Ah.” He remembered Torchwood from the news. Something to do with mass hysteria cases...people who imagined alien abductions, like that. Some kind of across-the-pond X-Files. “Huh. You’re mixed up with um...” he snapped his fingers. “U.N.I.T., right?”

“Hey, Cap,” Tony called out as Steve entered the workshop. “Come meet some visiting U.N.I.T reps. U.N.I.T.’s like SHIELD with more menacing uniforms. Not as snug and body-conscious, it must be said. But you know how the British are. Kinda...” he noticed Cooper was launching a preemptive death glare his way. “...classy. Uh, you know, civilized.” But then Tony’s attention wandered to Harkness and the way he was gazing at Steve. Like he was a porterhouse steak covered in butterflies and tied up in shiny gold ribbon. Tony’s eyes narrowed.

“Captain Steve Rogers,” Harkness enthused with an entirely too-perfect grin, shaking his head. “It is you. It’s really you.”

Tony lifted his gaze to the ceiling. Another one with the trading cards.

Steve shrugged, shaking the offered hand. “Sure.”

“Don't you remember me?”

Steve shook his head slowly, but Tony noted an unsettled expression sliding over his face as he took a closer look at Harkness. Where had Steve run into this guy? At SHIELD? “It couldn’t be, but...I’m pretty sure I must have met...your father, maybe? In the war?”

“Oh, Steve knew everybody’s dad, in the war.” Tony waved a wrench in the air.

“It’s kinda uncanny. You’re his spitting image,” Steve murmured, still staring.

“Am I?” Captain Harkness raised an eyebrow.

Cooper rolled her eyes, folding her arms. “You said it was fine if they knew, the Avengers,” she said, with a lilting voice. “On our side, you said.”

“It is,” Harkness nodded at her before turning back to Cap. “It wasn’t my father you knew before, Captain Rogers.” he said softly, but Steve just looked perplexed. “It was me.”

“Wait a minute, were you frozen too?” Tony asked. “Two Capsicles? Call my bookie; I’m rich.”

“You’re already rich, Tony,” Pepper chided.

“I love a long shot.”

“Jack wasn’t frozen. He can’t die,” Cooper said, matter-of-factly. “Doesn’t even age, really. Old as hell.” And at that, Steve's mouth fell open in a way that wouldn’t be very attractive, Tony thought, if it wasn’t Steve’s mouth.

“Yes, the Cap and I go way back,” Harkness said, and Steve’s shoulders straightened almost imperceptibly.

“Oh. Well, then.” Tony set the wrench down on a debris-crowded table with a loud clank. “Now I don’t know if I’m jealous or aroused.”

“That was a long time ago,” Steve said, casting a glance at Tony.

Harkness smirked, raising his chin. “Not so long for you, I hear.”

“Aroused,” Tony muttered, and Pepper surreptitiously poked him in the side as Steve broke his stare at Harkness, sat down hard on a nearby bench and let out a gust of breath.

“I’ve got multiple things to take care of before Tokyo wakes up,” Pepper said, with a glance at her smartphone. “I trust Tony will see you out when you’ve finished your business...” she inclined her jaw at Tony. “Which Colonel Fury called me personally to arrange. If not, JARVIS will.”

“It was a genuine pleasure meeting you, Ms Potts,” Harkness said, lowering his lashes at her as he gave her hand a slow parting shake. “You’re Stark’s...”

“CEO.” Pepper said. “General wrangler, in charge of--”

“She’s my Pepper,” Tony interrupted, sliding an arm around her waist and giving Harkness a challenging look.

“...shall I fetch a ruler?” Gwen inquired after a pause, and Pepper bit her lip as Tony steamed. Who was this Harkness anyway? This...Pepper-charming, retro-coat-wearing, Steve-knowing, not-dying, U.N.I.T.-affiliated crank.

“Our business shouldn’t take long,” Tony said as Pepper gave Gwen a small wave and retreated. “Why are you here, Captain Harkness?”

“Please. Call me Jack,” his visitor said, and bestowed the same winning smile on Tony he’d just given to Pep. That really wasn’t going to work on him, though, charming, handsome motherfucker or not. “And I think you probably already know why we’re here.”

“You can’t have a suit. U.N.I.T. can go fuck themselves.”

“No, it isn't anything like that,” Jack said, as Gwen planted herself next to Steve and wiggled an ankle encased in glossy black leather. “We’re only interested in extraterrestrial or timeshift technology. Nanobots, Mr Stark. Tony. We know you have them, and we have this motto: if it’s alien, well, it’s ours.”

Tony gave him and his motto a sour look. It was a good thing U.N.I.T., or these Torchwood flakes, hadn’t known about the Tesseract. Probably.

“Well, let's see...last I checked, you don’t really have jurisdiction here. You’re in New York, not England.”

“Wales, actually,” Gwen said, raising a hand. “Torchwood. Cardiff-based. Welsh thing.”

“Nice accent, I like it, very musical,” Tony said before turning back to Jack, “...and the last time alien tech went loose around here, SHIELD took care of it just fine,” Tony rubbed his chin, thinking of the missing Chitauri blaster a young couple had used to rob a couple of banks before Agent Sitwell took them down.

And then SHIELD gave them jobs.

Come to think of it, SHIELD wasn’t really that competent. Maybe this Torchwood bunch had their shit together better, or maybe not. But they still weren’t getting their hands on the tech, Tony decided.

“We’re here for 48 hours,” Jack said tersely. “And I’m prepared to give you a very detailed rundown of all the reasons why your possession of this particular technology poses a major threat to Earth’s future.”

“Drama queen,” Tony grumbled. “You’re awfully quiet, Cap. You know this guy. What do you think of his unreasonable demands and passé personal sense of style?

“Captain of this team, aren’t you?” Jack said to Steve, who looked like he still hadn’t quite recovered after meeting up with an old acquaintance from the 40s who couldn’t die. “Why can’t you just order Stark to-”

Steve seemed to come back to himself, and began to reply just as Tony cut in.

“No,” Tony said, raising a hand. “No. The Avengers Initiative has nothing whatsoever to do with the presence or absence of any alien or native Earth technology in this building or in any other location as yet undisclosed.”

“Do you typically take this kind of insubordination?” Jack directed the question at an exasperated-looking Steve with a wink.

“Like you don’t?” Tony said, waving a thumb at Gwen. “Biker chick there doesn’t seem like the type to listen to your bullshit orders.”

Cooper...Gwen, looked up at Tony then, and to his surprise, laughed out loud. “Look, we’ve just got off a six-hour flight next to a screaming infant that wasn’t mine. He’s a bit grumpy and I could eat a bear. Perhaps we could discuss this over some food. Being civilized people, as we are. Isn’t that right, Jack?”

Tony thought he’d probably nailed that relationship analysis fairly well.

“That’s a pretty good idea,” Steve said, rising from his seat as Tony glared. “I seem to recall that you owe me a dinner, Captain Harkness.”

“Fantastic,” Tony said under his breath. “I’ll have JARVIS make a reservation."

shawarmababy is so awesome...