Buffy stares down at the lower two thirds of her boss, tapping the pointy toe of her shoe on the floor of the garage and eyeing its proximity to certain sensitive body parts. "....So if I can interrupt your love affair with Steve's motorcycle for a minute and get your thumbprint, that would really be great," she says, dryly.
"I don't know that I'd call it a love affair," Tony replies, indistinctly. "Maybe a fling? A vacation romance? A recurrent one-night stand? I've actually spent more time with Barton's quiver, you know."
"Yes, and...?" she comments, dryly. "New arrows one week, stretchy pants for the Hulk the next, upgraded bracelets for Natasha... I'd ask what you have in mind for Thor next, except, well. Norse god of thunder, kinda not so much with the needing new equipment. Doesn't your suit get jealous?"
"What's to be jealous of? My suit and I are one, or didn't you get that memo?" he snarks back.
Something goes tink! under the body of the machine, then clang, and she catches a glimpse of bared arm reaching up to rub the back of a hand over his forehead. She usually leaves him alone when he's tinkering, especially with the other Avengers' gear; the hierarchy of those delegated to dig him out of his obsessive phases usually goes in order from AI to fiancée to Science BFF to team captain, and from there on through the rest of the Avengers, Rhodey if he's in the city, and Jane Foster or Betty Ross on the rare occasions they're in the Tower when their honeys aren't in residence, before it ever gets to her. His personal life isn't her responsibility, thank God; she doesn't know how Pepper ever managed to juggle both. But this is a business thing, and he's been dodging it since the Wolfram and Hart attorneys left.
"I did, actually," she replies with a snort. "Pepper made sure I saw a lot of your press footage before she hired me. Though just so you know. That thing you said at the Expo, about how 'from the ashes of captivity, never has a greater phoenix metaphor been personified in human history'?" She pronounces the words in the same overly dramatic tones he'd used that day.
He goes still under the bike, then shifts sideways enough for her to see one intense brown eye, a swath of grease-smeared forehead, and a tuft of dark hair. "Wait, what?" he says, in half-disbelieving, half-marveling tones. "Do you mean you, or...? Because seriously, it's not fair to taunt me with that."
"Masculine history, maybe," she elaborates, looking down her nose at him.
"That's not fair," he complains. "That thing you're doing? Did Pepper teach it to you, or is it something that came naturally?"
She waggles the clipboard at that visible eye, implacable. "Thumbprint first. Story after."
The scowl returns, though he looks like he's considering it. "I hate magic," he says.
She'd kinda thought that was his problem. The fact that Faith is probably going to get her dead 'handler' back through a legal-magical loophole Tony can't use to restore his own is really upsetting him. Not that that's stopped him from wanting to talk to Willow about engineering applications. "That's not a nooooo," she sing-songs, trying to tease him out of it.
But before he can move-- either way-- the sound of the stairwell door opening interrupts, and they both glance over to see who else has braved the engineer's den.
For half a second, Buffy thinks the newcomer is Bruce, from the style of shirt and the dark floppy hair; but there are no silver threads through these tousled locks, and he's at least a couple of inches too tall. Then he turns his face toward her, and she smiles in even more delighted recognition.
"Buffy!" Xander crows, smiling widely back and approaching with open arms. "Bufferina! The Buffster! Queen of all she surveys! How's the Big Apple treating you?"
She drops the clipboard on the nearest car's hood and bolts toward him, catching him up in a tight hug. "Xander! What are you doing here? I thought you were in Scotland!"
"Oof! Breathing, much?" he gasps, then chuckles as she loosens her grip. "Actually, I heard all of the significant women in my life were one by one disappearing into the belly of this high-tech beast, and thought I should scope the place out for maiden-eating dragons or new Hellmouths or billowy coat types before the problem grew any worse."
"Nope, none here, and too many to count, though the type of coat varies," Tony interrupts them, slithering out from under the motorcycle at last. "Isn't that a heroic prerequisite?"
He's wearing one of his old rock band tee shirts, the arc reactor clearly visible under the thin dark fabric, and a pair of worn designer jeans; normally she might have despaired of him turning up in that sort of outfit for an important meeting, but with the Scoobies? This is probably actually the best case scenario. He sticks out a hand as he approaches, narrowing his eyes at Xander; and this moment is one of the very few instances she's ever wished she could have kept that demon-aspect telepathy.
"Point," Xander says, looking amused as he sticks a hand out in return.
"Tony Stark," her boss says next, not bothering to wait for her introduce him. "Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, Iron Man. And you are?"
"Xander Harris," her friend replies, as calmly as though Tony hasn't just waved the flag of testosterone in his face. "Watcher, Comfortador, and BFF of long standing. So you know I speak from experience when I say, you might as well give in. It'll be a lot less painful in the long run."
Buffy notices he doesn't say for whom, and rolls her eyes at him.
Tony looks startled for half a second; then he glances toward her, over to the clipboard, and back to Xander. "Not another one," he groans. "What did I ever do to deserve multiple one-eyed, all-seeing men in my life?"
"You really want the list?" she grins. "Thumbprint? Pretty please?"
He gives her a mock scowl, but sighs and reaches for the high-tech clipboard.
"Speaking of the women in your life," Buffy says while Tony's distracted with the document, "I notice a distinct lack of Willow. What's the what?"
Xander winces, then glances over his shoulder toward the stairwell. "Yeah, about that," he says.
"...security in this place is amazing," a faint voice carries through the not quite closed door, "there has to be at least a Turing-capable AI running the systems, did I mention I have some experience with computer security? I'd love to talk to him. It? She? Anyway, I know that's not why Buffy asked me to come, but the labs here are like Disneyland, I've never seen some of the equipment on the robotics floor before, and I'm hoping I get the chance to talk with Mr. Stark while I'm here. There was this project I worked on in High School...."
Buffy's eyes widen as the flow of one-sided chatter continues, and she throws an alarmed look at Xander. "You gave her caffeine?" she says, horrified. "Today?"
"It was either that, or watch her doze off into her Cheerios," Xander shrugs. "I don't think she slept a wink last night. Visions of science labs dancing in her head. You pretty much made her week, you know. Month. Maybe even year."
Tony hands her back the clipboard, slightly greasy thumbprint applied, and cocks his head as Willow's voice grows louder. "Is that...?"
"My other BFF, platonic love of my life, most brilliant person I know? Yep," Xander snarks. "One magic consultant, coming right up."
"...what they say about sufficient advancement, right? The two actually go together better than you'd-- Buffy!" The red-head emerges from the stairwell at last, trailing a rather shell-shocked looking security guard. Buffy makes a mental note to put a bonus in the guy's file later; Scoobies are a level of hazard the Tower's staff really isn't prepared for, Avengers in residence or no.
She indulges in some babble of her own as Willow embraces her. "Willow! It's good to see you. It's been months since I've seen anyone from home, and here you all are at once! How was the trip? Did you get Dawn settled in the apartment?"
"Good to see you too! Giles said we weren't supposed to bug you except for apocalypses unless you said otherwise, actually; I was so excited when you called, 'cause I've been dying to get my hands on some StarkTech. Not that I'd, you know, ask for any, but you have access to things here that aren't on the market yet, and...."
"Breathe, Wills," Buffy chuckles, letting go of her. "Dawnie?"
"Don't worry, she's fine. Some guy in a SHIELD uniform showed up as we got there, I think he's helping her unpack. But look at you!" She checks Buffy over, from heels to updone hair. "I just couldn't believe you'd agreed to become some guy's secretary, even Tony Stark's, but I can see it now. I bet you rule the rest of the staff with an iron heel."
"They look upon me and despair," Buffy quotes, grinning at her.
Willow giggles. Then she blinks, startled, as she finally notices the fourth person in the room. "Oh! Mr. Stark! Buffy, why didn't you tell me I was babbling in front of him? Willow Rosenberg," she says.
Her boss fortunately seems amused at having been treated like furniture for the last few minutes; he accepts the shake with a very dry, "Charmed." But then he frowns, scrutinizing her friend's face. "Rosenberg, Rosenberg. Have I met you before?"
Willow raises her eyebrows, a little taken aback. "Uh, no? Not that I know of."
"I think I'd remember freckles like that, particularly in combination with that skin and red hair; I freely admit to a certain weakness for the combination," he says, almost abstractly.
Oops. Buffy almost chokes as Willow yanks her hand out of Tony's grasp; she really had meant to warn him. And Willow's not the type to tease back, unlike Faith.
"Whoever you're thinking of, it isn't me," Willow replies, flushing bright red. "Sorry. Lesbian. Really, seriously gay. So unless you've been secretly shapeshifting into my girlfriend, in which case I don't know why you'd even need a magic consultant, and ew, I think I need brain bleach now...."
"What?" Tony blinks, his thought process clearly derailed. "That's not what I... interesting thought, though; is that an actual thing? I wonder if Loki...." Then he shakes his head sharply and drags himself back on track. "Never mind. Stick a pin in that; I bet Thor has some interesting stories. But you went to Sunnydale High, right? Career fair? Did someone approach you from Stark Industries?"
Willow blushes again. "Oh! Uh, yeah, actually. I think?"
Tony snaps his fingers and points at her. "That Rosenberg. I should have guessed. I was actually pretty disappointed that you didn't take us up on our internship offer; we're always on the lookout for fresh minds with your level of creative intellect. But if you were fighting vampires with my sharp-tongued assistant, I suppose I can give you a pass. I don't suppose you're also the W. Rosenberg who's been publishing papers about P-dimensional subspace with F. Burkle of late?"
He doesn't wait for an answer to that; instead, he turns abruptly back to the motorcycle, crouching down to reach beneath it, and comes back up with one of his transparent-looking touch computer tablets. Then he taps a few icons on the surface and spreads his fingers over the screen to pull something up. Willow watches it all in curious fascination, her guard relaxing a little.
"The math is compelling, though I think there are a few areas that could use some more work," Tony continues, intently. "Is she in New York with you? I'd love to discuss your theories, particularly in the light of Dr. Foster's work with the Bifrost."
"You would?" Willow brightens still further. "I mean, yes; I mean, I'll have to call Ill-- Fred first, and I know I'm actually supposed to be here as a magic consultant, but my first teacher was a technopagan, and the explanations actually go better if I can illustrate with principles of...."
Buffy can feel her eyes starting to glaze over as the Willow babble resumes, this time punctuated by tablet-waving Tony blather. They're likely to be at it for hours at this rate; she's going to have to warn Pepper that Willow's not to be counted on to bring Tony up for dinner, because she won't notice the passage of time any more than he will.
"Damn," Xander whistles, softly. "Two of them. I don't know whether be impressed, or duck for cover."
"You should see him with Drs. Banner and Foster in the lab when they're going over star-bridge mechanics," Buffy murmurs back. "I keep a safe distance."
"Right," he chuckles, then slings an arm around her shoulders. "I vote we make a run for it, then. We got the titanium tour on our way down, but that was all for Willow. You want to show me some of the more interesting areas? I heard a story about a shooting range, and a paint bomb...."
She laughs, turning her face into his shoulder for just a moment. Maybe Clint will even be there... though on second thought, it might be better if he and Xander never meet! But it can't be avoided forever; might as well get it over with.
"Okay. One ten cent tour, coming right up. Just let me drop this clipboard off at legal and find some more comfortable shoes."