cover art by Opalsong
Iron Man Armored Adventures Theme by Rooney
cross posted at amplificathon, my journal, and AO3
The first day back at school after summer holidays is always rough for everyone. This is cold comfort, but at least as far as misery goes, there's lots of company. Tony, however, was unaware of this. Never having formally gone to school until he'd started midway through last year, Tony was convinced that his suffering was Unique. On the other hand, no one else at school had spent the last night of their holidays getting blasted by Killer Shrike, so maybe it was.
Rhodey, who had had the good sense to call it a night early, was unsympathetic. “I can’t believe you stayed up until 3 am to bust Shrike when he wasn’t even committing a crime.”
“I heard he was playing solitaire all alone in a condemned building like a total bum,” Pepper added.
“A condemned building that belongs to Stark International,” Tony corrected irritably. “And I can’t believe you’d suggest I should just let Shrike go just because he wasn’t committing any crimes this time after everything he’s done in the past.”
“You’re just sore because there’s been no big crimes in the city for the last month. Don’t be too shocked when I tell you this, but that’s a good thing.” Rhodey pointed out.
“If you don’t count all the freak wild dog attacks,” Pepper said, never one to waste a perfectly good silence. “I know all about it because that’s what my dad has been working on. It must be a quiet month, because otherwise he’d be assigned to something much bigger. That or he’s in trouble for some reason. I hope his bosses haven’t figured out that I’ve been reading all the classified reports they send him. But seriously, why would dogs attack a jewellery store?”
Tony sighed, ignoring the last question. “It's just my rotten luck that I’m stuck at the Tomorrow Academy for another whole year. Nothing changes. The same classrooms, the same faces.” Tony closed his locker and leaned his back against it, wearily naming the familiar students as they walked by. “There’s Happy, Girl-in-pink, Whitney,” Tony spared a smile a quick wave for the last, “there are the goth twins, Petro-Canada guy -”
“Am I the only one who’s suddenly depressed at how many people’s names you don’t know?” Rhodey interrupted, one eyebrow raised mockingly.
“How about them, they’re new,” Pepper pointed to two students just coming down the hallway.
Tony took a quick look and filed them away under “other-redhead-girl” and “t-shirt guy” and went back to feeling sorry for himself.
In reality, their names were Lydia Martin and ‘Stiles’ Stilinski and things weren’t going to be boring for much longer.
Like anyone who’d spent a significant portion of their youth cultivating appreciation of a particular, single sport, Stiles had never really been able to find the value in any other. Especially basketball. That being said, Stiles was actually starting to understand the appeal, as Happy Hogan swished a basketball through the net from the far side of center line.
Lydia, on the other hand, never had trouble finding value in any activities which involved toned, athletic young men wearing sleeveless shirts and jumping really high.
The game had just started, and the Tomorrow Academy was already leading 6-0 as Stiles and Lydia looked for seats among the crowded bleachers. They spotted four empty seats nearby and quickly snatched two of them for themselves.
"I'm just saying, Stiles, you have to get out more. You're young, and your sheriff dad is a thousand miles away. Have fun."
"I have fun," Stiles protested, unconvincingly. "I have so much fun, it's probably illegal is several states. Including this one."
"I mean, actual fun. With girls, preferably real ones. In fact, if you don't get your act together, I'll be forced to make arraignments myself. In fact - "
Before Lydia could finish, or Stiles could come up with a wittier comeback than 'I have fun', their conversation was interrupted by a tall girl with long blond hair. Stiles was pretty sure they'd been briefly introduced at some point. Hillary? No. Whitney something.
"This seat taken?" Not waiting for an answer, Whitney Something sat gracefully down as Happy scored again, this time jumping a full twenty feet across the court to land a slam dunk.
"I'm pretty sure that's not normal," Stiles said, having seen enough supernatural werewolf sports powers to be left in serious doubt.
"That's just Happy," Whitney dismissed the jump with a wave of her hand. "He always plays like that. Yeah, it's impossible, but after a while it just gets... boring."
Lydia raised one eyebrow appreciatively. "I'm sure he could hold my interest for long enough."
"I'm more interested in you two," Whitney said. "What's your story? Half the school thinks you’re dating, the other says you’re brother and sister."
"I like to keep a little mystery," Lydia replied, flipping her perfectly coifed hair.
"We're only living together," Stiles blurted.
"Oh, 'only'?" Whitney teased.
"Only," Lydia confirmed, though not harshly. "In fact, I was just telling Stiles he has to find a girl. I've already got one lined up. So, Whitney, what do you think about Pepper Potts?"
Although he was flying at nearly 100 miles an hour, Tony couldn't feel the wind in face. Frankly, Tony thought wind was overrated. He'd felt wind before and it usually ended with dust in his eyes. And in one memorable occasion: a bee.
"You're gonna get rusty, Rhodey, if you stop patrolling,” he warned into his com. Tony could hear Rhodey rolling his eyes. It sounded like it hurt.
“I do training simulations every day; the ones you programmed,” Rhodey’s voice said in his ear.
“No better training that being out in the field,” Tony replied cheerfully.
“Unless ‘in the field’ means flying around aimlessly, like you’re doing right now.”
Rhodey was interrupted from snarking any more as Pepper interrupted excitedly.
“Tony! Tony! It’s happening again! Wild dogs are attacking a jewellery store!”
Tony also heard a muffled smack he rightfully assumed was Rhodey facepalming in the background.
“Yes, Pepper,” he replied calmly. “It’s on my monitor too.”
“Well, what are you waiting for? Take them to the pound!”
In lieu of also facepalming, Tony instead adjusted his trajectory to intercept the address flashing in the corner of his vision.
“Better hurry Tony,” Pepper warned. “According to reports, they’ll be gone is less than four minutes!”
Tony fired his boosters. “Good thing my ETA is 75 seconds, then.”
Seventy-five second later, Tony landed in front of a broken a window. Deeper in the store he saw more broken glass and a few scattered gems, and a slumped security guard against the far wall. Whoever had done this was already gone, but it couldn’t have been long.
First things first, Iron Man went to the security guard; strong vitals. Good. At Iron Man’s cold touch she stirred and blurrily opened her eyes.
“Don’t worry. The police are on their way,” Iron Man told her. “Can you tell me who did this?”
“I didn’t see anything,” the guard said blurrily. “All the lights went off and I heard a growl, I barely had time to call it in before everything went black. The growl, it sounded like... a wolf."
In Tony’s opinions there was no way that a pack of dogs could have done what he was seeing here. “You’re sure? You didn’t see anything at all?”
The guard swallowed. “Nothing I believe.”
“Well, for just a second I thought I saw eyes. Glowing yellow eyes.”
The police arrived a few minutes later. The police and EMTs efficiently took over the crime scene, getting no more information than Tony had. Iron Man scanned the area for a trail, but there was nothing. Something had even taken out all the cameras in and around the store right before the attack. No way wild dogs did that.
Tony called it a night just after twelve. Rhodey and Pepper were both making sleepy noises into the com.
“You two better head out ahead of me. We’ll talk about this after school tomorrow and figure out what is going on. Whatever just stole $3000 worth of gold, it definitely wasn't wolves."
“Aboout that,” Pepper answered. “I kind of have a date tomorrow.”
Stiles knees were shaking slightly, but considering he was on a first date with a pretty girl, it could have been a lot worse. Of the planned 'dinner and a show' they'd already survived the 'show' portion of the evening without a hitch; an off-Broadway avant-garde production of Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not for Burning. The dinner bit was the harder part, since it involved making small talk without leading Pepper to think he was some kind of weirdo. On the bright side, if the drive to the restaurant was any indication, any dinner with Pepper was not at risk of awkward silences. Not that Stiles had much trouble with that himself.
Like the theatre piece, the restaurant they were eating at was also avant-garde. It was one of those sensory places where you ate in complete darkness. They didn't even have a menu, only asked Pepper and Stiles to write down a list of any food allergies or aversions. Only after eating would the servers tell them what they had just consumed.
"Do you think I should have written 'eyeballs' on my list of foods I dislike, or does that go without saying?" Stiles asked as a greeter wearing infrared goggles lead them through pitch blackness to their table. Nearby Stiles heard someone cough pointedly. So much for not coming off as a weirdo.
"Well, technically," Pepper answered, from somewhere vaguely in the opposite direction as the cough, "if you never said you didn't want eyeballs, it's an option for sure. They probably taste a lot like foie gras." The quiet conversations going on around them halted for an instant.
They reached their table then, and Stiles fumbled into his seat as another server placed the starter dish somewhere in front of him.
"Darn it. I can't find my own mouth!" Pepper complained. She was ahead of Stiles though.
"I can't find my fork, what kind of set up is this?" Stiles asked, feeling around. "What? There are three forks? How do I know which one I'm even supposed to use? It's like some kind of demented pop quiz."
"Use whichever one you want. It's not like anyone's going to see," Pepper answered. "Ouch! I just stabbed myself in the face again. If I'm ever going to eat this, I think I'd better just give up and use my hands."
"Sounds good to me," Stiles agreed, feeling for his plate and popping the first thing he picked up into his mouth. "Hmmm. A little sticky. Chewy too. What do you think it is? It might be squid, or intestines of some kind."
"Mine's different. It's all crunchy."
"More like baby teeth. Oh! I found something juicy! Yummy! I think it's some kind of pus sack."
Stiles and Pepper were asked to leave the restaurant before the main course arrived.
Rubbing their eyes, they made their way back to Stiles' jeep.
"I can't believe they kicked us out! It was just a cherry tomato. If we were bothering everyone so much why couldn't they just ignore us? It's not that hard."
"I don't know," Stiles admitted. "I'm having trouble ignoring how hungry I am now. All that talk about eating baby teeth has me starving."
"What should we have now? Entrails? Oh! Brains!"
"How about a hamburger?"
They took it to a vote. Hamburgers won, two votes to zero.
"To tell you the truth," Stiles confessed as he drove, "Lydia planned this whole night. I would have just gone straight to hamburgers. She's just been pretty gung-ho about me getting my life on track ever since she got an internship at Hammer Multinational. Apparently that includes classy dates."
"I think it's pretty cool that you live with your best friend," Pepper said.
"For the record, my best friend is Scott, back in Beacon Hills," Stiles answered. "But yeah, it's pretty cool. It's also the only way I could afford to move here. My dad's the Sherriff and we're not exactly rolling in the kind of money you need to afford a second home in New York City."
"Your dad's a Sherriff? That's so cool! My dad's an FBI agent and one day, I'm going to work for SHIELD."
“There’s a police scanner in the glove compartment. You can turn it on if you want,” Stiles offered. "You can practice learning the codes."
Pepper made a high pitched sound. She always wanted a car with a police scanner, and she knew all the codes. Well, most of them.
"Do you know if there's a code for 'organised-wolf-attack-on-a-small-business-or-maybe-just-people-with-glowing-eyes' because that's what we're... I mean, that's what my dad is working on right now and that seems really clunky."
Stiles froze. Stay cool, staycool, staycool. "Um... weeeell... you'd probably combine the codes for 'animal attack' with 'unknown assailants' or something like that."
Inside Stiles was thinking Well we know there are werewolves in New York. But Derek said they were totally cool and super organized. It's probably just a couple of omegas... and the full moon is in five days. Crap.
To distract them both from any more suspicious wolf talk, Stiles flipped a switch and a scratchy male voice immediately started listing a series of important sounding numbers followed by an address.
"Oh oh oh! That's a suspected smuggling ring! And it's not far! Stiles, we should totally go there right now!!"
Hamburgers were immediately forgotten.
Five days later, the full moon was rising high and bright in sky.
"Tony, we have a problem. You can't ignore this anymore."
"Your suit's fine Rhodey, I finished all the upgrades."
"I'm not talking about my suit. I'm talking about Pepper. These dates with Stiles, they have to stop!"
Pepper's voice cut loud through the communications channel. "I can hear you, Rhodey."
"You should hear this, Pepper," Rhodey answered as War Machine and Iron Man landed on the roof of a downtown skyscraper. “You’ve been on three dates and you’ve already burned down a building!”
“That was a drug cache. And you have no proof we had anything to do with it.”
“Now that you mention it,” Tony chimed in, “I heard on the secure SHIELD line that there was suspected break-in on the Hellicarrier last night.”
“I confess nothing!”
Rhodey sighed. “Why can’t you just go bowling like regular people?”
Pepper’s answer was drowned out by an explosion from the ground below them. Without having to say a word, Tony and Rhodey took off toward the sound.
The building where the explosion had come from was in fairly good shape, considering the amount of smoke. It was a completely nondescript tower of concrete and glass. No business or company logo was visible. Or possibly it had just been blown up. The explosion seemed to have been contained on the ground floor, or possibly one level below it. The street was already clear. Trust New Yorkers to get out of the line of fire.
“War Machine, cover me, I’m going to see if any civilians are trapped inside,” Iron Man instructed, then turned his rockets towards were he estimated the front door should have been.
There was a bright light, and a very loud noise. And suddenly Tony found himself laying face up on the street at least twenty feet away from where he had been a moment before.
“Iron Man! Are you ok?” War Machine asked, landing next to him.
Tony had no time to answer as three shapes lept from the smoke towards them. Two landed on War Machine and the other was right on top of Iron Man. He had his two feet planted on Iron Man’s chest, using his hands to pin Tony’s arms down.
“Rhodey! Tony! Are you ok? What is that thing?” Pepper was asking.
“Whoever, or whatever, these are, they’re hairy!” Tony answered. The man on top of him looked about 40 years old, with amazing sideburns. Then Tony saw the fangs, and glowing yellow eyes. The man was making a sound deep in the back of his throat that sounded like... no... was this who had attacked that jewellery store? But whoever had done that was organized. They’d been in and out in under three minutes. This man looked, for lack of a better word, rabid.
All this rushed through Tony’s mind in two seconds. He tried to shove the man off, but he was really damn strong.
“Armour Integrity Compromised” his armour told him soothingly.
“How? He’s not using any weapons!”
“Tony!” Pepper shouted, “They’ve got claws!”
Looking down, Tony saw the man’s shoes were ripped across the toes. Long, sharp nails were digging through his chest plate, thankfully not terribly deep. His hands meanwhile, were also tearing through the armour at the hands and wrists, and were only millimetres away from his skin.
“Hand Repulsers Damaged.”
“Revert power to unibeam!” At this close range, Tony was worried about seriously hurting the attacker, but he couldn’t think of any other option.
The man was blasted all the way back until he vanished back into the smoke of the charred building.
“A little help here, Iron Man!” War Machine was doing little better than Tony had. He’d managed to throw off one of the two.... people... attacking him, but one was clinging to his back and was doing his very best to rip apart all of War Machine’s munitions. There were deep claw marks all over the War Machine armour; some of the internal circuitry underneath looked damaged.
Iron Man used a second, short unibeam burst to knock him off.
“Can you handle these two?” Iron Man asked, “I want to make sure the mine isn’t dead in there.”
“No problem, go ahead,” Rhodey grimaced.
“You guys have another problem,” Pepper warned in their ears. The last attacker, the one War Machine had knocked off earlier was raising one arm. She, at least, Tony thought it was a she, the facial hair was throwing him off a bit, wasn’t armed but there was a distinct air of menace to the gesture. Iron Man barely got out of the way before a blast of energy nearly downed him again. It had come from the palm of her hand.
“That’s based off my repulsers!” Nothing pissed Tony off more than cheap knockoffs. But these weren’t armoured suits. They were cybernetic implants. Could that explain the claws and fangs?
“Thanks for the warning, Pepper.”
“No problem. But that wasn’t actually what I was talking about. I’m hacked into the security cameras in the area, look behind you. It’s Stiles!”
Iron Man turned, sure enough, Stiles Stilinski was running full tilt towards the smoke, broken glass, and crazed cyborgs. He had a backpack in one hand and was rummaging through it with the other.
“Change of plan, Rhodey,” Tony said through the com, “I’m on civilian duty. The unibeam drained too much power. You take care of things here; I’ll get Stiles to safety.”
“Just hurry back,” Rhodey answered.
Setting his jets to one setting below ‘breakneck’ Iron Man rocketed towards Stiles, lifting him bodily upwards in a flying manly hug.
“AAAH!” Stiles shouted, clearly torn between squirming to freedom and clinging for his life. “I like the ground! Humans weren’t meant to fly!”
Speak for yourself Tony thought. “You know,” he said instead, putting on his best we’ve-never-met-before voice, “You really should run away from danger, not towards it.” Meanwhile, Tony was quickly accessing the Tomorrow Academy student database to find Stiles’ address.
“But I can help!”
“I don’t think there’s much you could have done. Unless you know a lot about cyborgs.”
“But I know about werewolves! You know, those big wolf people with fangs, claws? Glowing eyes? Not ringing a bell?"
Tony almost dropped him. Seriously? Freaking werewolves? Pepper definitely had to stop seeing this guy.
“I recommend you stop watching so many horror movies,” Iron Man suggested as he dropped Stiles on the roof of his apartment building, immediately turning to fly back to War Machine and the so-called-werewolves.
“Wait, how did you know I live here?” Stiles called as Tony flew off. Then, “Can I have your autograph?”
Tony decided the best thing was to just put that nonsense out of his mind. “Rhodey, you doing all right? I’m coming back.”
“No point, Tony,” Rhodey answered. “They’re gone. About a minute after you left, the two attacking me grabbed their heads and ran back into the building. I’ve been searching but they’ve all just disappeared. Including the one that you blasted earlier.”
“Meet you back at the armoury then.” As Tony flew his mind raced with unanswered questions.
"But Lydia, we have to do something!"
Stiles briefly considered that talking about this openly in the school hallway was maybe not the best idea. But it had always worked with Scott so he didn’t worry about it.
"No. Do you remember why we're here?"
"Because my Dad asked us to come here. He said it wasn't safe in Beacon Hills for humans in a pack of werewolves with anything less than Olympic level archery skills."
"We're here, Stiles, for the best education money can buy. I plan to get my money's worth."
"You got a full scholarship!"
"Which I transferred to you. You owe me big Stiles. So listen closely. NO. The local packs can handle it."
"They don't know about it! What about Iron Man? What if he can't handle it? He didn't believe me about werewolves. I could see it all over his blank expressionless face. And how are we supposed to let anyone handle it if they don't know about it and/or believe in it? We can't exactly just call them up. Unless you have the phone numbers.
"Well, technically, you could call up Iron Man whenever you want."
"Seriously? Iron Man is clearly Tony Stark."
"What!? Iron Man is only the coolest person in New York. Tony Stark is... he has a slushy machine in his locker. That's just .... so cool... OH MY GOD he is Iron Man!"
"Who's Iron Man?" It was Whitney, she'd somehow snuck up on them from behind.
"Oh, he's 'the coolest'. At least according to Stiles here." Lydia answered without missing a beat.
"Hmm. I don't see it."
Stiles lagged behind while the three of them walked to class together. Lydia had made her position clear. But Stiles was also clear about what he had to do, and it certainly didn't include leaving the problem for someone else.
"But Tony, what if he really knows something?"
Tony filled a slushy from the machine in his locker. He was going to need the sugar boost if he was going to be having this conversation all day.
"He was talking about werewolves, Pepper. Werewolves. He doesn't know anything."
"I thought science was about keeping an open mind. Don't you have to consider every possibility?
"Ok, I'm considering it right now. Nope. Rejected. Why? Because werewolves aren't real."
"You are being sooo pigheaded right now. I could just... GAAH!"
"Very good argument, Pepper. You've almost got me convinced."
Pepper was about to answer, when her phone received a text message.
"Oh look," Pepper said, reading it. "It's Stiles. Asking me to go hang out after school today."
"Pepper," Tony warned.
"Oh, and now I've answered. 'Yes. Sounds great.'"
"This is a mistake, Pepper."
"No. It's a lead. Maybe our only lead. I'm just going to follow it."
After school, Stiles and Pepper decided, for once, to forgo crime fighting in favour of getting ice cream. It helped that the most exciting things coming up on the police scanner were speeding tickets. They ate their ice cream sitting in Stiles' parked jeep.
"Soooo. Stiles," Pepper started, "Since you never told me much about where you’re from, I looked Beacon Hills up in class today. Did you know for a town of its size, it's had a huge number of animal attacks in the past few years?"
"Well yeah," Stiles answered. "My Dad's Sherriff, remember? I kinda got a front seat to the whole thing." For that reason and a few others, he added in his mind. "But it's still nothing like dangerous compared to New York City. Good thing you have Iron Man here, huh?"
"Oh, Iron Man's pretty cool," Pepper admitted, doing her best to sound casually worshipful. "But there's still a lot he can't do. What if he could do, like, magic. Now that would be impressive." After a tiny-but-suspicious pause, Pepper added, "do you believe in magic, Stiles?"
"What, magic like Happy scoring fourteen three-pointers in the basketball game last Tuesday?" he said.
"No, magic like abracadabra, wingardium leviosa, or like... werewolves?"
To avoid answering, Stiles pretended that he had a brain freeze. It helped that he actually did have a brain freeze. Stiles had never mastered the skill of eating ice cream slowly.
As she was pounding on his back, Pepper's phone rang.
"Mind if I take this?"
"Go ahead," Stiles answered, stretching his back. Turns out, bruises aren't the cure for brain freeze after all.
"Hello," Pepper said into her phone. "Tony? What, now? But I'm... I know but... right now? Fine, I'm coming." Pepper closed her phone and turned back to Stiles. "Sorry, that was... my Dad. He needs help with a... dog problem."
"Your Dad, didn't you say 'Tony'?"
"Yeah, Tony. It's a really big, um, dog problem. Can I get a ride?"
Without waiting for Stiles to answer, Pepper named an address that was roughly in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Actually it was New Jersey but same difference, as she gave directions, Pepper turned on the ignition herself.
When they got there, Stiles was surprised to see what looked like a sunken temple. What the heck was that doing in New York?
"Ok, this is it, thanks." Pepper said, getting out.
"Wait," Stiles called. "Are you sure? Doesn't look like there are any dogs around for miles."
"Oh, yeah. It's crawling with dogs. Gotta go." And Pepper was gone.
Well this stunk. Stiles had seen awful lies before. Had told most of them himself, but this might just have taken the cake. He parked the jeep a discreet distance away and walked back. He grabbed his backpack from the back seat. It wasn't his regular school pack, but the one he'd had with him on the full moon.
Once inside the temple, he pulled out a flashlight. There weren't exactly any convenient muddy foot prints to follow, but the excavation that had been done here had been finished or stopped months ago. There were areas of the floor that were vaguely less dusty than others. Stiles was just about to proudly congratulate himself when his 'trail' led him straight into a stone wall. Perfect.
Tony arrived at the armoury only seconds before Pepper. Did he feel bad about pointlessly calling her out of a so-called-date? Not even a little.
To be fair, when he'd actually made the call, there had been a point. Tony had returned to the site of the blown out building when he'd run into one of the cyborgs again. Now that his armour knew what it was looking for, it recognised the presence of a foreign electromagnetic signature right away. The weird part, the really weird part was that Tony was prepared to swear on his life that the man he ran into inside that scorched wreck was the same man who had attacked him. Except he looked completely different; no fangs, no claws, no crazed yellow eyes, not even any facial hair. But something about the line of his twice-broken nose and something about his smug sneer. It was definitely the same person.
Naturally, the man had taken just that cue to sprint through a crumbling doorway and vanish. That was another thing. What was with all the disappearing acts? Tony suspected they had some stealth tech among their cybernectic upgrades.
Rhodey was running a trace to see who owned the building, but so far all that was coming up was a string of fake businesses. Someone was really covering their tracks.
Tony exited the armour just in time to see Pepper run in. She did not look happy to see him there.
“Tony,” Pepper said, in a warning tone, “I thought you told me it was really important that I come in.”
“It is important. We need to figure this out before the next building that explodes actually has people in it.”
“I was trying to figure it out. You -”
“Will you both just STOP.” Rhodey, who had been trying his valiant best to stay out of the science vs. werewolves argument. “If I can change the subject to a useful conversation, I found something. The building that blew up? The company that owns it is actually Hammer Multinational.”
Tony couldn’t say he was terribly surprised. “So they’re doing illegal experiments, it blows up in their face. Literally. See? There’s always a scientific explanation.”
“Stay on topic, Tony.” Rhodey warned. “If it’s Hammer behind this then we can bet they’re planning something big.”
“Everything so far has been small scale. In, out, no traces left behind,” Tony pointed out.
“Except for the big attack,” Pepper added. “That doesn’t fit the pattern at all.”
Rhodey clapped his hands. “This is good. We have a lead, you two can apparently be civil for more than five seconds. I’m leaving.”
“What!?” Tony and Pepper both exclaimed.
“You heard me. The world isn’t going to end tonight and I have a mountain of homework.” Rhodey got up and walked towards the armoury’s exit back into the temple. “Let me know if you find anything else.” With that, he opened the door. And found Stiles standing right outside.
“Oh. My. God. This is absolutely one million percent the coolest thing I have EVER seen!”
“Stiles!” Pepper ran towards to where he and Rhodey were both looking dumbfounded, though for obviously different reasons. “What are you doing here?”
“I followed you. Is that hulkbuster armour? Wooooow.”
“Pepper, you led him here?” Tony asked, clenching his fists.
Pepper was also doing her admirable best to stay civil. “I had to come right away, remember? It was an emergency.”
“Tony, can it,” Rhodey warned again. “Pepper, you too.”
“Wait,” Stiles asked, “are you going to wipe my memory now?”
“I haven’t invented it yet. But I think it’s just jumped up on my priority list.”
“Great. Then we talk about your werewolf problem.”
“Stiles,” Pepper ventured. “Unlike Tony here, I’m keeping an open mind about this. But how do you know about werewolves anyway?”
“Well,” Stiles began nervously, “Remember all those animal attacks in Beacon Hills the past few years?”
“Werewolves,” Pepper nodded wisely.
“Me and Scott were poking around where we shouldn’t have been and we kinda got dragged it to the whole thing. Why is that armour blue when the rest are red?”
Tony, Pepper and Rhodey waited for a few seconds.
“That’s seriously not the end of that story.” Rhodey said finally.
“I’m not going to tell you who I know is a werewolf. That’s really personal information!”
“Well, are you a werewolf?” Pepper asked.
“Me? God no. Is that what you’ve been thinking?”
“I assure you, I never thought you were a werewolf,” Tony stated seriously.
“What about Lydia? Does she know about werewolves? Is she a werewolf?” Pepper continued.
“Yes! No! Lydia’s not a werewolf either. She doesn’t want anything to do with this.”
“Then is there any way you can prove these are werewolves, not some kind of genetic grafting?” Rhodey wanted to know.
“If it was genetic grafting, they couldn’t shift back and forth between looking human and looking all beasty,” Stiles answered. “And these guys do that!”
“Actually, we’ve only seen them beasty,” Rhodey pointed out.
“Uhhhh,” Tony said, rubbing his neck. “Not that I believe you. At all. But... tonight I did see one of the men from the other day, looking totally human.”
“I knew it!” Pepper yelled.
“This doesn’t prove anything. There’s still nothing I’ve seen that can’t be explained by science,” Tony was firm.
“Fine,” Stiles agreed seriously, “Try this.” Stiles then reached into his bag and pulled out a large jar full of dark powder. “This is mountain ash. I only have two of these jars, so this is half my supply. Pour it in a line and werewolves can’t cross it. Make a circle around them and they’re trapped.”
“That’s sufficient nonsense,” Tony agreed.
“There’s more,” Stiles went on. “It only works if you believe in it.”
Tony laughed, he couldn’t help it. “Of course.”
“Oh! Oh! Let me!” Pepper jumped up and down. “I can take the stealth suit!” Then she added for Stiles benefit. “That’s the blue one. It goes invisible.”
“If it works,” Stiles said, withholding his precious jar, “you have to let me in on this.”
“Fine.” Tony agreed. “Pepper suit up. We’re going... uh... werewolf hunting. And Stiles,” he added, “this is only until I invent that memory wiping machine.”
How do they do this? Stiles wondered a couple weeks later. Staying up all night, and still going to school the next day, it was absolute madness. Stiles stumbled to his locker. He hadn't even been home at all last night; good thing nobody at the Tomorrow Academy seemed to worry or care about wearing the same shirt to school two days in a row.
On the bright side, Stiles was officially on the werewolf hunt. On the less bright side, while these mecha werewolves were just as susceptible to mountain ash as regular wolves, their hand lasers weren't. Too bad too, Tony had apparently been really looking forward to studying a werewolf up close. Followed by debunking or explaining everything Stiles told them on the topic of lycanthropy.
Stiles grimaced. He'd been neglecting Lydia pretty badly lately. Actually, it wasn't neglecting it was just respecting her requesting to be left out of it. Stiles had, naturally, let Lydia know that Hammer Multinational was behind the mecha werewolves but she declared it had nothing to do her internship, so she wasn't quitting. Stiles turned to face Lydia, a sarcastic remark at the ready. One look and it was immediately forgotten.
"Lydia, what's wrong?"
Lydia looked like she'd slept even less than Stiles had. Not that anyone else at school would have noticed, Lydia was that good at hiding it. But not from Stiles. Lydia pulled Stiles aside so no one could overhear or sneak up on them unseen.
Stiles froze. "Peter Hale? Here?"
"He was at Hammer. He's the Alpha that's making all the werewolves for them to experiment on."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. Because there's more."
"I looked into Hammer's records. Peter was suddenly hired in June, out of nowhere he was put in charge of something called Project Aconite."
Stiles mind raced. He was already working for Hammer in June? He and Lydia had moved at the beginning of August. So it was nothing but coincidence then? Talk about shit luck. And 'project aconite'... Aconite was another word for wolfsbane. Great. Definitely the mecha werewolf project.
Lydia pulled a file from where it had been tucked in with her school books.
"Take it," she said. "I downloaded and printed all the details of Project Aconite. And no, it wasn't legal. You're welcome. I didn't look at any of them. I meant what I said before: I don't want to be part of any of this."
Lydia had never let her game face slip for even a second. She turned to head back to the throng of students as if she had nothing bigger to worry about than a biology quiz.
"Wait Lydia. Did Peter see you?"
"Yes. But don't worry, I pretended I didn't recognise him." She smiled innocently. "Repressed memories are so fortunate."
"Are you sure he bought it?"
"Oh, Stiles, of course he bought it. I pretend to love my dad every day."
Project Aconite would never have been approved at Stark International. Tony knew this within fifteen seconds of going over the files. Not even a weapons profiteer like Obadiah Stane would have approved this.
Tony, Rhodey and Pepper were eating lunch on the roof. Stiles had given Tony the files, but he wasn’t there now; he’d been pretty cagey about why he couldn’t spend lunch with them. Happy and a few other members of the basketball team were up there too, but they were too busy watching Happy do handstands on the small guard wall to pay any attention to Tony’s science babble.
“It’s a project to create weaponised cybernetic implants,” Tony interpreted, “just like we thought. But it does it by implanting a body with nano robots. They’re supposed to integrate themselves, turning the subject’s body itself into weapons. They also provide power for energy blasts and short term stealth shielding.”
“I’m sensing a ’but’,” Rhodey commented. He’d been the last of three to arrive. Having forgotten his lunch, Rhodey had run over to the hotdog vendor on the next block. He was eating it now, expertly avoiding letting drop a single speck of ketchup on his shirt.
“This tech is at least ten years from being viable,” Tony confirmed. “It’s crude at best. If you injected these nanobots into someone right now, they wouldn’t turn you into a weapon, they would just shred you apart.”
“Unless you had a healing factor,” Pepper pointed out. “Those are pretty hard to come by, unless you have a werewolf collection.”
“That would certainly help,” Tony agreed. “But a healing factor alone wouldn’t be enough. To prevent the body from rejecting the nanobots, they would have to be made of something hypoallergenic like solid gold. Even a company like Hammer would get attention for buying that much gold for an incompetent project like this.”
“That’s why they were robbing jewellery stores?” Rhodey asked. “For science? So know we know what they’re made of. What are we going to do, get them appraised?”
“I can do better than that,” Tony answered, nonchalantly. “With these plans, I can build a disruptor. Turn those nanobots back into useless lumps of gold.”
“What a waste,” Pepper mourned. “Of science,” she added. “What? Did you think I was a gold digger?”
“Well, you do hang out with me,” Tony pointed out. “And you routinely steal money from my wallet.”
“Only fifties. That’s pennies to you.”
“Hey guys,” Rhodey interrupted. “Should we do anything about that?”
Happy had escalated his handstand to a one-hand handstand.
“Happy, get down!” Pepper yelled. “that’s dangerous!”
“No way,” Happy answered, righting himself. “It’s less dangerous than eating those hotdogs for that vendor guy. They’ve gone bad. The nose knows.”
“Rhodey ate one and he’s fine,” Tony replied.
“Actually guys,” Rhodey was holding his stomach. “I think Happy might be right.” Then he bolted for door.
Despite Lydia's unmatched ability to be flawless under any conditions, Stiles could see that her encounter with Peter Hale had shaken her quite a bit. Though having somewhat less than a medical degree, Stiles had prescribed a day at home. After handing off the Project Aconite files to Tony, he'd taken her home himself. Frankly, he was going to be even more useless at school today than Lydia was.
But there was one thing he had to do, and it was best to get it over with.
He pick up his phone and prepared to dial a number he kept written on a scrap of paper tucked in his wallet in case of emergencies. After taking a few seconds to interpret his scrawled handwriting, he made the call.
"Hello?" A voice answered gruffly. It sounded like Stiles' call had woken him up.
"Hi, Derek. It's Stiles."
Stiles couldn't tell if Derek was asking out of concern or routine, and it annoyed him. "Who says anything's wrong. What if I'm just calling to talk? Hey, you catch the game last night? Some weather we've been having, let me tell you. Something like that."
There was a pause that was just slightly too long. "What's wrong," Derek repeated.
Stiles sighed. "It's Peter. He's here and he's up to something. And before you ask, yes, it's bad. It's Peter so it's definitely bad." Stiles' cell phone vibrated against his ear. He was getting a text message, but he ignored it. "He's been in New York since at least June, working on... well, I don't have to give you all the details but it involves lasers. Lasers, Derek."
"Stiles," Derek warned. "I don't want you or Lydia getting involved. Just stay away from Peter. I'll contact the New York packs, you let them deal with it. They're the oldest and strongest in the country. Peter won't try anything before Hunter's Moon anyway."
"Wait, what's Hunter's Moon? It sounds important."
"It's the full moon in October, it's the most dangerous time for werewolves. I'm telling you, even Peter won't risk trying anything."
"Really," Stiles was mildly surprised. "It sounds like would be a great time for werewolves. 'Hunter's Moon'." His phone vibrated again.
"Think about it; wolves are predators not hunters."
"Wait, so by hunters, you means like the Argents?"
"Yes. On Hunter's Moon, werewolves are at our weakest. It's easier to lock ourselves up, but if we're found, that just means we're trapped while they take us out."
Unless you have a laser cannon built into your arm, Stiles thought.
Derek misinterpreted Stiles silence. "Don't get cocky just because we'll be weakened. That kind of vulnerability combined with the regular effects of the full moon just makes any undisciplined werewolf all the more vicious. It's a huge advantage for werewolf hunters, but you'd still get torn apart."
While Derek was talking, Stiles phone vibrated three more times. Someone really wanted to talk to him. Well too bad, he was already having an important conversation right now.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Derek. It means a lot."
"I'm serious. I know Peter. He'll do anything for power, but he never takes any real risks unless he's sure he can win."
"Right. Yeah," Stiles agreed absently. "Thanks, bye." He hung up on Derek still warning him to keep out of it.
Unfortunately, it was clear to Stiles that Peter wasn't going to wait until after Hunter's Moon to make his move, he was waiting for Hunter's Moon. That was the whole point, wasn't it? Peter wanted take over the New York pack. Derek had called it the oldest and strongest in the county, what better prize for a power hungry snake like Peter Hale? While they would be weak under the Hunter's Moon, Peter's werewolves, even moon crazy, had a technological advantage which meant all Peter would have to do was nothing more than point them in the right direction, then sweep in, pick up the pieces and New York would be his. Stiles debated whether or not to tell Pepper and the others about Peter, but he decided against it. There was way too much history there for that conversation to be remotely pleasant. Besides, it didn’t change anything.
There was only a week left until the fateful Hunter’s Moon. Had it really been three weeks since the last one? Seriously, where had the time gone?
It took Stiles another five minutes to realise that his phone had vibrated at least ten more time since he'd hung up on Derek. The first text was from Tony, the other fifteen were from Pepper.
Tony had been working on plans for making a disruptor for shutting down the mecha part of the mecha werewolves. But there was a complication. Stiles didn't understand the science, but in short: in order for it to work, it would have to be set off from inside Hammer. Not just any Hammer computer, from one with serious access. Preferably one inside Project Aconite itself.
There was only one person who could get that kind of access. Only one person who could save New York. Lydia Martin.
Tony was very unhappy with his disruptor. To be fair, the technology he was trying to disrupt was absolute crap. It was like trying to stop a bicycle by putting a broom handle through the wheel spokes, except instead of a wheel it was a giant bowling ball. The broom handle wasn't going to work. Their crudeness was actually working in their favour.
Is that ironic, or just stupid. I can never remember the difference, Tony thought. It was the night of Hunter's Moon; he and War Machine were waiting, as hidden as two brightly coloured human sized battle suits can be, behind some trees, one on either side of a narrow path. They'd spent the afternoon placing sonic booby traps all over the city, so wherever the mecha werewolves were heading, they'd be herded right here to this park. The plan was for Iron Man and War Machine to keep them busy, take them out if possible, until Lydia could set off the disruptor from inside Hammer. Stiles and Pepper were running communications back in the armoury.
Tony hated the plan, there were way too many parts that could go wrong. Which led back to his terrible disruptor, and the stupid cyborg nanobots.
The faint fweee of one of their sonic traps blew in on the wind, followed by a pained yelp.
Rhodey heard it too. "Game face on, Tony. They’re almost here.”
Iron Man raised his arms and prepared the other special item he’d built for the evening. It only had three shots, one for each opponent, so he couldn’t afford to waste any.
The first werewolf came crashing through the park right towards them. He was short and stocky; he must have been one of the two who had attacked War Machine last full moon because he wasn’t familiar to Tony.
Iron Man raised the cannon shaped weapon and fired. An energised web shot out of the end, it squarely hit the first man and pinned him to a tree. It wouldn’t hold him forever, but Tony estimated it would do for at least an hour, which ought to be plenty of time. In theory.
“Two more coming up fast,” Pepper warned through their com. They’d rigged the whole park with sensors and scanners all linked directly back to Pepper in the armoury.
She wasn’t kidding, the second werewolf, the woman, came rushing through next, looking ferocious and thoroughly unhinged. Iron Man shot the second net, but she easily blasted it aside. In the weeks since their last encounter, the nanobots had integrated more of the woman’s body into weaponry, including an extra laser barrel coming out of her shoulder. It looked really freaky.
“No worries, I got this,” War Machine said. “Just take care of the next one.”
The last werewolf was already in sight. Strange, it was a tall skinny guy this time. What about broken-nose-guy who’d almost taken his hands off? Not that Tony had much time to consider the question. He shot the final net. At the last second, the final werewolf managed to turn and half dodge, and ended up on the ground half trapped and half free. Not perfect but it would do. War Machine already has his opponent struggling to stand.
At this rate, Tony thought, we won’t need that lousy disruptor at all.
“Hey, guys?” Pepper called. “We might have a slight problem.”
“Don’t say that!” Rhodey answered, echoing Tony’s thoughts. “It’s going really well here.”
“Maybe it’s nothing,” Pepper ventured. “But I had a blip on the scanner. It could be another mecha werewolf on stealth mode. Or it could be a pigeon.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” Tony judged. “We can handle one more.”
An energy blast seared through the trees in front of them, freeing the half trapped tall werewolf. Ok, that was a little annoying. Then two more blasts came, hitting Iron Man and War Machine, coming from both the left and the right.
“They’ve flanked us!” Iron Man called.
“Obviously!” War Machine answered. “How many of them are there?”
“Just three,” Pepper confirmed, “Plus the three you’ve already taken down. They’re taken down, right.”
“Well...” Tony was a getting a little worried now. The tall one was back up, looking angrier than ever, and the woman was looking less winded by the second. Directly in front of them broken-nose-guy had finally shown his ugly face. His eyes were flashing a piercing blue. Wait, hadn’t they been yellow before? Whatever, it didn’t matter. He looked the most in control of the six, which somehow made him the scariest. It was also intimidating that his elbows could apparently bend in both directions now and he had bony knife spines coming out of his arms.
And now he’s jumping at my face. This can’t get any better.
Iron Man fired a repulser blast, aiming to break the man’s nose a second, or maybe third time. One of the mecha werewolves who was still in the trees to the side fired another shot, intercepting Iron Man’s blast before it reached broken-nose-guy. This created an impressive explosion in mid-air, one which broken-nose just sailed right through, looking a bit singed now but no less vicious. Possibly more so. He slashed at Iron Man with his claws. Tony dodged out of the way as quickly as he could, but not fast enough. He stumbled, long gashes in his armour, along the chest and face mask.
This is weakened? He thought blurrily. Tony risked a look at War Machine; between the lady mecha werewolf and the second one still hidden in the trees, he wasn’t doing much better.
Something smashed into Iron Man from behind, sending him flat on his face, the back of his suit suddenly feeling uncomfortably warm.
Ok, let’s see how they like this. Iron Man set off a sonic blast. It should have deafened everyone within a square mile. Broken-nose-guy flinched, then tapped his ear and smiled. Had the nanobots adapted already?
That shouldn’t be possible, those things are garbage. But he couldn’t deny the results. But did that mean... he looked just in time to see the first mecha werewolf shake off the energy net. Just perfect.
“Tony!” It was Pepper in his ear. It was possible she’d been talking the whole time, but he was finally noticing. “I’ll be there in five minutes, just keep stalling them and stay alive until I can save you.”
“No Pepper,” Tony answered. “You need to stay there to coordinate and keep an eye on Lydia.”
“Stiles can do that,” Pepper was firm. “I’m coming.”
Though he wouldn’t admit it, Tony was relieved. The massive property damage was a bit of a pain, but no one could say Pepper was stingy on the explosions.
Stiles, alone in the armoury, stared at the chair for a good two minutes before he remembered he was supposed to sit in it.
Wow, I’m sitting in THE communications chair for Team Iron Man, Stiles thought as he sat. Then he put on the earphones so he could hear everything, and eased his hands onto the control bars. The chair immediately spun upside down. Why would it DO that?
Fortunately, the controls were fairly intuitive, so Stiles was able to right himself in short order.
“Stiles!” It was Tony, “I need you find the two in the trees. Tell us where they are.”
“Uhh!” Stiles frantically examined the screen in front of him. “They seem to be stealthed? It that a word? Stealthed?”
“Then change frequencies and look again!” It was Rhodey this time.
“Hey, guys,” Stiles warned, pressing buttons “this thing has a learning curve, alright? Give me a minute.”
“We don’t - ARG - have a minute!” Tony shot back.
“Alright, alright! I think I found them. They’re in the trees. Wait, that’s not helpful is it. They’re UP in the trees, maybe... umm.... six yards away from you, two yards up?”
A muffled blamf sound came through the speakers. Stiles guessed it was somebody shooting something. A safe guess all things considered.
“Hey, got one!” Rhodey exclaimed. “Thanks, Stiles.”
I’m helping! It was the proudest moment of Stiles’ life.
Figuring out the communications chair did get easier. He discovered that Pepper had already gotten it to hack into a feed of every single security camera in the Hammer Multinational headquarters. And that’s a lot of cameras. With a little luck, he was able to find Lydia right away. By the sound of it, Pepper had joined the fight against the pack of mecha werewolves and things were going... if not exactly ‘well’ at least no one was shouting his name. Stiles figured he could spare Lydia some attention.
Unfortunately, none of the Hammer feeds had audio, but Stiles could figure out what was going on easily enough. Project Aconite was on one of Hammer Multinational’s top floors. As in, one of the special floors that could only be accessed by a special express elevator that only went as low as floor twenty. That had to be some kind of fire hazard. Somehow. It was stupid, regardless. Lydia was currently on the twentieth floor, making her way to that special express elevator. She must have been detained at the front desk? No, Stiles told himself. Stop freaking out. Everything is ok. It’ll all work out.
“Pepper, could you make the crater a little smaller next time?” said a voice in his ear, but Stiles was officially not listening anymore. Someone was approaching Lydia in the hallway. It was Justin Hammer himself.
It’s ok. It’s ok. Look at that guy with his I’m-so-cool vest and popped collar. Lydia can play him like a fiddle.
‘Hey, pretty lady,’ Stiles started narrating, like he was watching a movie with the sound off. What? It helped ease his nerves. ‘I’m Justin Hammer and I’m a douchbag.’
‘Tee hee’ Stiles continued, using a facsimile of Lydia’s voice now. ‘I’m so much awesomer than you, it’s embarrassing.’
‘I know. That’s why I try so hard.’ Hammer was holding one hand out to Lydia. ‘Solid gold mint?’
Lydia was shaking it now. ‘No hard feelings, right? I’m just going to destroy your company. And I’ll do with perfect hair.’
‘None at all. What’s your secret? I like to use the tears of newborn infants, but it dries out my scalp.’
‘I’ll sell you my secrets for eight zillion dollars.’
‘I‘ll pay no less than nine zillion.’
Wait, was Hammer actually handing Lydia his keys? The ones that would give her instant access to anywhere in the entire building?
“STILES!” Someone shouted in his ear. For possibly the third time. Oops.
“I’m here! What is it?”
“The cops just showed up,” It was Tony. “I don’t care what you tell them, just keep them out of the park.”
Finally, something up my alley. It was simple enough to access the police channel, and Stiles knew all the right buzzwords to keep them out.
“It’s a gas leak,” he told someone with an important sounding name. “Volatile but contained. Do not enter, just hold the perimeter.” Then he hung up on them. That was one of the best things he’d learned from watching his Dad deal with higher ups. Important people always hang up on you.
The fight in the park was still going. They’d gotten two of the mecha werewolves down again. For now anyway. The other four were holding their own. Pepper and Iron Man were both down below 50% power and War Machine had no rockets left to launch.
Stiles ventured a look back to Lydia’s progress. She was now inside Project Aconite. The disruptor, which took the underwhelming form of a computer program stored on a normal USB drive was already plugged in and being uploaded. A few more minutes, one press of a button and no more mecha werewolves.
And then the number one worst thing that could possibly happen, happened.
Stiles’ brain completely glitched for about five seconds. When it started working again, it defaulted back to its last happy place.
‘Hello, Peter Hale,” Stiles narrated in Lydia’s voice his eyes locked on the video feed from Hammer Multinational. ‘I have absolutely no idea who you are.’
‘Are you sure? This chiselled jaw is hard to forget.’
Lydia was standing her ground. Stiles was idly aware of shouting going on in his ears, but he only registered snippets of what was being said.
“Synchronise unibeams!” - “I’m down to 1% power!”
‘Oh yes, I’d definitely remember those perfect cheekbones. But they’re not ringing any bells at all.’ Stiles’ Lydia answered.
‘I’d be happy to ring your bell anytime.’
“I didn’t think that body part was detachable.” - “Oh god they have swords! WHY DO THEY HAVE SWORDS!”
‘That’s still illegal in all 50 states. For now. After that it’s just creepy.’
‘I do creepy. I’m the best at creepy.’
Just then Lydia pressed ‘enter’ on the computer while Stiles saw Peter go ashen. In his ear, the shouts changed from frantically panicked to celebratory. The mecha werewolves were suddenly without power to their blasters and struggling with body parts that didn’t take into account the physical realities of the human nervous system without a significant energy boost.
“You can call in those cops now, Stiles,” Tony informed him. Stiles got on that right away.
While Lydia was still inside Project Aconite, fixing her make up, and Stiles was organising a pick up of the not-so-super mecha werewolves with SHIELD, and Team Iron Man was limping their way back to the armoury on backup power, Peter Hale left Hammer Multinational by the backdoor, unseen and tail between his legs.
Mecha werewolves came and went, but there was always school on Monday. Just enough time had passed for Tony, Rhodey and Pepper to be extremely sore all over.
“Stairs are evil,” Pepper observed as the three of them finally reached Tony’s locker. “We should destroy them all.”
“I think you’ve destroyed enough, Pepper,” Rhodey remarked dryly.
“Speaking of destruction, did either of you hear about Hammer Multinational?” Tony asked. At the blank looks from the other two, he pulled today’s newspaper out of his backpack. “ ‘Hammer Multinational was rocked when an unknown whistleblower leaked details of illegal human experimentation using invasive and untested technology,’ ” he read. “ ‘CEO Justin Hammer denies knowledge of any unethical practices and has vowed that his company will make a full recovery. However, additional information linking Hammer Multinational with recent thefts and vandalism leave the company’s future in doubt.’ ”
“Well done, Tony!” Pepper congratulated.
“Thanks, Pepper. But, it wasn’t me. I was a little busy trying to keep my suit from bursting into flame to blow any whistles.”
“So who was it?” Pepper asked.
“Two guesses. And they both count,” Rhodey answered as Stiles and Lydia came down the hall, looking significantly less bruised.
Whitney also joined them as they reached Tony and the others.
“Rough night?” Whitney observed.
“Not as rough as some.” Lydia replied. “Don’t worry, I’ll be in class today. I don’t want to be stuck with Petro-Canada guy for a lab partner either.”
“He has a name,” Whitney pointed out. “Probably.”
“Hey, Lydia,” Tony said as the two of them turned to leave. “Thanks.”
“What would they do without us?” Whitney wondered aloud as they walked away.
“There’s two of them now,” Tony was seriously unnerved by the thought.
“It could be worse,” Rhodey pointed out. “At least Stiles and Pepper aren’t dating anymore.”
“We’re not?” Stiles asked Pepper. “Does taking down an entire pack of mecha werewolves count as a date?”
“NO! And, we were there too!” Rhodey exclaimed.
“Oh, you guys don’t count,” Pepper retorted. “I’m not sure, Stiles, I have to get back to you on that.”
Rhodey was interrupted from prophesying doom by Happy nearly knocking him over while barrelling down the hall. On his hands.
“Are we sure he’s not a werewolf?” Tony joked, trying to lighten Rhodey’s mood.
“I’ve been wondering that since I got here,” Stiles answered seriously. Then he saw the looks from the other three. “Oh, you were kidding?”
“If Happy’s a werewolf,” Tony noted aloud, “Then maybe I could finally study one up close. Understand why they change shapes and are affected by the moon.”
It was Stiles turn to be taken aback. “You still don’t actually believe in werewolves?”
Tony smiled, at least the rest of the year wouldn’t be boring.