It was four in the afternoon on a Tuesday, and Tony was wrist-deep in an engine when a thought made him pop his head up. It was a good thing U had good enough reflexes to move out of the way; if it had been Dummy over him, he'd have brained himself.
"JARVIS," Tony called.
"Sir," he answered crisply.
"Call Pepper. Direct line. Don't let her screen me this time."
It took a few moments, during which Tony could just imagine Pepper ignoring her increasingly loud ringtone. "Yes, Tony?"
"You haven't had your period."
"Will you excuse me for a moment?" she said to whoever was with her, and Tony knew from the tone of her voice that he was in trouble. It was hard to care, seeing as how the trouble they were potentially in was much worse. He could hear her walking, talking to someone, followed by street noises. "Is it really necessary for you to interrupt me when I'm in a meeting with the CEO of IBM to ask me about my vagina?" she hissed.
Tony was undeterred. "You were due on- JARVIS?"
"Approximately the twenty-first, sir."
"Approximately the twenty-first," he said authoritatively. "It's the first. Where's your period?"
Pepper sighed angrily. "Tony, I'm not having a conversation with you about my reproductive health right now. We'll discuss this later." The call ended abruptly.
"Wonder what got into her," Tony said sourly.
"Why does JARVIS know when I'm supposed to have my period?" was the first thing she said when she stepped into the workshop that night. Tony had been fitfully working all evening, but he was really too distracted to do anything but fuck things up.
"It's kind of an important event in my life," Tony said, and Pepper rolled her eyes. "You're late."
"Tony," she said, in the 'calm down or I am going to kill you' voice. "There are factors that can impact a woman's schedule. High stress is one of them." She pinched the bridge of her nose. "I do not believe I have to explain this to a full-grown man."
"Man is probably the operative word in this situation." He stalled for a moment. "I sent Happy to CVS, and-"
"I do not want to hear what you're about to say to me," she said coldly. "I haven't had sex with anyone else in years, and if you doubt that for an instant, then I don't know what to say to you."
He was certain they both knew that what she'd say was 'Goodbye.'
He didn't say what he'd been thinking pretty much all evening; it was just that, if she'd cheated on him, he probably deserved it. "Jesus, Pepper, I'd never think something like that," he lied. "Look, it's just that sometimes there are failures-"
"Please?" he said. "Please, I swear I won't ask you for anything for at least the next six hours."
"Tony, I'm going to sleep in an hour," Pepper said.
"The offer stands," Tony told her.
She sighed, clearly annoyed. "Fine. Give me the stupid test."
"After you," Tony said; she pursed her lips, but she let him lead her to the bathroom, firmly shutting the door in his face, maybe a little harder than was necessary.
He hovered at the bathroom door; it seemed like she was taking forever. "Can I come in yet?"
"Tony, I'm not letting you watch me pee," Pepper said irritably.
"I don't want to see you pee, I want to see the stick." He frowned. "Nothing about that sentence came out right."
The toilet flushed, and Tony decided that was permission enough. No sooner than he had the door open, Pepper intercepted him. "Three minutes."
"That's bullshit," he said, leaning back against the doorjamb.
She crossed her arms. "Then make a better test."
There had never been a longer three minutes of Tony's entire life. He had time to tap his foot about seventy-two times; it would have been more, but that was when Pepper stared him down and he reluctantly stopped, settling for drumming on his arm instead.
Her cell phone finally dinged. "Time's up," she said, turning back towards the bathroom. Tony followed hot on her heels, and she didn't stop him. She reached the counter first, picking up the test and staring at it.
He crowded her, looking over her shoulder at the little white stick. "What is it?"
She peered at it. "It's a circle."
He looked at her blankly. "What's a circle mean?"
She looked at the box. "One line for no, two lines for yes."
"Then what's a circle mean?" he asked, alarmed.
"I don't know," she said, a little hysterically.
"Who the fuck made this, Justin Hammer?!"
"I'll get a blood test in the morning," Pepper said, sounding very tired.
He was already reaching for his cell phone. "Fuck the morning, I'll get a doctor in right this minute."
"Tony," she said. "If you suddenly fly in a gynecologist in the middle of the night-"
"It's only eleven-"
"How exactly do you think that's going to look?" Pepper continued. Tony frowned; he hated the fact that she was right more than usual this time. "I'll go to the doctor in the morning, unless you want Entertainment Tonight to show those weird facial blends of us again."
"I'm bribing the lab to get your test results sooner."
"I know," Pepper said. "I'm just going to bed, okay? I'll have JARVIS schedule the appointment, and I'll let you know when I get the test results."
"Okay," Tony said. He kissed her forehead. "Okay, okay, everything will be okay."
Pepper gave him a sad look, squeezing his hand before walking away.
Well. Hopefully not.
Tony came into the lab already unbuttoning his fly, his jeans zipped down before he even got to the table. "Gonna need your help, Banner."
Bruce looked startled. "I don't think Pepper wants me giving you that kind of help." He frowned. "How did you know I was still up?"
"Because science doesn't sleep," Tony said. "I need a sperm count."
"I've never done a sperm count," Bruce said, befuddled.
"How hard can it be to count things?" Tony said. "Look, I'll make it easy for you: the number we're looking for 'any.' If there are any in there, let's call it a positive result."
Bruce took a clean slide out of his tray. "How's your aim?"
"Very funny," Tony said flatly. "I'll call you when, y'know." He made a motion with his hand. "Mission accomplished."
"And why, exactly, can't you do this yourself?" Bruce asked.
"Division of labor," Tony said. "I'm the engineer, you do the wet stuff. You need a better vibrator, you come to me, I need a sperm count, I go to you."
"Just put it under the microscope and I'll take a look at it," Bruce told him, shaking his head.
"Fair enough," Tony said. "Now go."
Ten minutes and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders later, Tony was standing behind Bruce, watching as Bruce fiddled with the knobs on the microscope. "Well, it looks just like it's supposed to," Bruce said.
Tony couldn't decide how he felt, so he settled with relieved. "Thank God."
"I don't know exactly what I'm looking at, mind you," Bruce reminded him, "but there's plenty of them, and they look pretty, uh, motile?"
"They?" Tony said. "They who?"
Bruce gave him a look. "I thought you were aware of what we were doing here."
"Bruce, I had a vasectomy," Tony said, aware that his voice was getting frantic. "I had a vasectomy in nineteen ninety-four."
"Um," Bruce said. "I don't think it took."
Tony suddenly slapped himself in the forehead. "Thor, Thor, Thor, fuck, Thor!"
Bruce looked at him in confusion. "What?"
"JARVIS," Tony said, tipping his head back and shutting his eyes. "Who is the Norse god of fertility?"
"As with most pantheons, that characteristic is shared by several different deities-"
Tony sighed. "Don't get cute with me, JARVIS, I've had a long day."
"Though Freyja and Freyr are more central, Thor is also among those deities."
"Find the fucking god of fertility and get him here right fucking now," Tony said, through clenched teeth.
"Immediately, sir," JARVIS replied.
Bruce looked at him wide-eyed. "I didn't- I took Latin, I don't know anything about Norse-"
"I didn't think about it until right this second," Tony said.
It was easy to hear Thor coming; he didn't believe in elevators or inside voices, after all. "My friends," he said, entering the lab. "It is good to see you. You have closeted yourselves for too long. The night draws to a close, and-"
"Look, I don't need an Asgardian bedtime story, as funny as it is," Tony snapped, and Thor looked confused. "I have bigger fish to fry."
"Speak plainly, then," Thor said, crossing his arms over his chest.
"You knew I couldn't have children," Tony said accusingly. "I don't know if it's some kind of demigod alarm system or what, but you knew, and you just decided you'd come along and fix it."
"It is a sad fate," he said, putting his hand on Tony's shoulder. "Your happiness is thanks enough."
"Thor," Tony said, trying not to slap Thor's hand away. "Buddy. Sweetheart. Sometimes people don't want to have children, but they still want to have lots and lots of sex. So they go to doctors and have procedures done so that they won't have any problems with that setup."
Thor gave him a puzzled look. "I do not understand."
Tony sighed. "Well, the 'people' in that statement refers to me, Tony Stark-"
"I do not understand why you would allow yourself to be mutilated so to avoid such a great joy in life," Thor said, looking at Tony in shocked disappointment.
"Lord Christ Jesus on a bicycle, can we not have this conversation?" Tony said.
Thor looked at him as if he still couldn't see the problem, even when it was staring him in the face. "I see no reason for you to avoid this wondrous event, other than ignorance or selfishness."
Tony narrowed his eyes at him. "Thor, do you have any kids?"
"Not as yet," Thor said evasively.
"Yeah," Tony said. "That's what I thought. Now put me back."
"I am afraid that would take magic beyond my abilities," Thor told him, sounding extremely put out, and Tony got the distinct impression that he was lying. "If you will not accept this gift, then perhaps one of your doctors can be paid to damage you again."
Tony looked daggers at him. "If you made me knock up my girlfriend without my consent-" Bruce whipped his head around, staring- "I'll kill you. I will actually kill you. I will invent something to kill you and then kill you with it."
"Let's all calm down," Bruce said firmly, and when Bruce said something firmly, you listened. "Thor, you did what you thought was right," he said. "It's just that what you thought was right wasn't appropriate. Tony, please don't kill Thor."
"No promises," Tony said, through clenched teeth.
"And both of you, please, get out of the lab if you're going to hurt each other," Bruce said. "It's very fragile in here."
"Fine," Tony said. "Blondie, if I don't hear what I want to hear tomorrow, your ass is mine."
Thor gave him a hard look. "If you are this ungrateful to a friend, you are welcome to try."
"Hey!" Bruce snapped, and they both stopped cold. "You. Out. Now."
With one last murderous look, Tony left. Great. Now he had to figure out how to kill a god, too.
Pepper slept like a log most nights, but that night she was giving Tony a run for his money in the tossing and turning department. Tony couldn't stop thinking about how little sleep he might be getting in a few months. The little Stark baby- the little Potts baby? What would she want to call it? It was her kid, anyway- was she going to kill him for thinking of it that way? It was just that it was her body, Tony had just kind of shown up and accidentally sent some things her way. Anyway, it was going to bitch and cry and God was Pepper going to be one of those people who wanted to keep the baby in the same bedroom? Tony had heard some shit about the primal scene, and he and Pepper were, let's face it, primal at least every other night. Or would she foist it off on a nanny? It didn't seem like her to do that, not on purpose. She was going to be one of those moms who didn't understand that no, you really couldn't have it all, not if you wanted to be sane at the end of it. Pepper was going to be one of those moms who- Pepper was going to be a mom-
Tony got out of bed and drank until he couldn't.
He'd learned his parenting from the best, after all.
He woke up when he fell out of his chair onto the warm tile of the balcony. He dragged his hungover ass into the shower; to add to his list of problems, he could feel the beginnings of a sunburn.
"JARVIS," he said. "I want every call that goes in or comes out of here recorded and scanned for keywords."
"If you'll permit me, sir, I believe I know which."
He paused to rinse the suds off his face. "Good." He frowned. "What time is it?"
"It is eleven thirty-eight AM."
"Oh for Christ's sake," Tony moaned. It was supposed to be about three hours from now. Why was this the one day he woke up early? "I'm going back to bed. Alert me when Pepper shows up. Or if there are any calls with those keywords. Or if there's anybody who wants to see me. Alert me if fucking anything happens, Jarvis."
"Yes, sir," JARVIS said, and Tony went to bed, putting a pillow over his head in a misguided attempt to drown out his own thoughts.
He maybe actually did nap, because it surprised him when JARVIS spoke again. "Ms. Potts has entered the tower, sir."
"Elevator override," he said, grabbing his dressing gown from the chair and throwing it on as he hurried to the lounge. "Bring her straight here. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars."
The moments until Pepper stepped out of the elevator were sheer torture; Tony was having a lot of sheer torture lately, and that was, quite frankly, bullshit. "They haven't called," he said. "Nobody called, why haven't they called? Did they call you?"
She looked at him sort of fondly, shaking her head. "Tony, they send you messages you now. I got it maybe a half hour ago, it- I was waiting until I saw you."
Tony picked his tablet up, swiping all his programs off the screen and pushing it into her hands as she sat down next to him. "Here, here, here," he said hurriedly. "Open it up before we both die from suspense."
She pulled up her email, tapping in the password that they were pretending Tony didn't know. She flipped through, opening a message and then an external site, something medical Tony didn't recognize. She logged in, and there it was, the inbox with a big 1 on it that might have been the most ominous thing that Tony had ever seen.
"I want you to know that I don't care what it says," he told her, putting a hand on her arm. "I mean, I care a whole lot what it says. But I'm not going to run screaming. Well, I might run screaming in a purely literal sense, but I'll come back."
She took a deep breath, clicking on her inbox, and Tony's heart skipped a beat.
"Negative," she sighed.
"Oh my God," he said, covering his face with his hands. "Oh my God, oh my God." He gathered her up in his arms, hugging her too tightly, the tablet smushed between them.
She relaxed against him. "I know."
"Do we have champagne?" Tony said. "We should have champagne."
"I could use something stronger," she said.
"One martini, coming up," Tony said, hopping to his feet.
He was back in no time, handing her a glass. She took a sip and immediately coughed. "Tony, this is a glass of vodka."
"It has olives in it," he protested. "I don't want you to take this the wrong way," he said, setting his scotch down for the moment. "I love you. I love you more than anybody. I have loved you more than anybody for a very long time." He put his hand on her knee. "But I am insanely grateful that you don't want my children."
"I'd never have children," she told him, "but if I wanted to have anyone's children, they'd be yours."
He shook his head. "That's a terrible life choice."
"Too bad," she said, twining her fingers into his, "because I'd make it."
He lifted her hand to his mouth, kissing it. "I'd suggest, y'know, comfort sex, but I'm almost certain we don't have any condoms, and it's kinda what got us into this situation in the first place. We need to get condoms, by the way," he added. "Lots and lots of condoms. Going without sex for a week after I get snipped again is going to be bad enough. I'm not going to last another four."
She snorted. "You won't make it three days."
"If the doctor says it, I'm doing it," Tony said. "I'm very aware I'm not serious about a lot of things, but the health and safety of the Stark family crown jewels is paramount."
She grimaced. "Please never call your penis that again."
"But after a week of recovery, I need to come as hard and as often as possible," he told her. "Speeds the process."
She lifted an eyebrow at him. "I'm pretty sure the doctor doesn't care how hard it is."
"I certainly do."
She stood, tugging on his hand. "Come to bed."
"You're a genius," she reminded him, not that he needed it. "I'm certain you know plenty of ways not to get somebody pregnant."
He stood, kissing her. "You are so the best girlfriend."
In the end, he didn't kill Thor.
He still thought about it really, really hard.