"Circe's Magnificent Rump, that's a good cuppa." Percy slumped further into the leather office chair with a sigh.
The tea was strong and dark with a twist of lemon, just the way he liked it. He drained the rest with one gulp and tilted the stark white cup into the light, trying to read the sodden leaves swirled at the bottom and up the sides before setting it down on the matching saucer with a sharp click.
The bottom of the cup was stamped in black ink with the MACUSA logo, it's eagle with wings spread looking fearsome even from the bottom of a small ceramic cup. He knew without turning it over that the bottom of the saucer would be similarly stamped and smirked. For a secret government agency, the Magical Congress of the United States of America sure liked to put their stamp on everything.
He waved away the solemn house elf offering more tea from a large silver kettle and let it take the cup and saucer before turning to the woman standing behind the large wooden desk who stood facing the large picture window that looked out unto the New York skyline.
Her back was to him, her mauve wizarding robes cut simply and tailored perfectly to her small frame. Wisps of white blonde hair were pulled taut and collected at the top of her head in an intricate knot work of braids and white gold barrettes that seemed to snake through her wavy lockes.
She was part Fae, Percy was sure, but she would never admit nor deny no matter how many times he'd asked. Her family name was Higgs, her given name Wendy but Percy would bet galleons that she had a 'Raedself' or a 'Hefeyedd' or a 'Hidhogg' somewhere in her family tree.
Hey voice was musical as she turned with a smile. "I remember well the time I spent 'across the pond' as you Brits love to say. I know how much you people love your tea."
He returned the easy smile. "Not as much as you yanks love your coffee"
She raised a sharp pale eyebrow. "Don't you start with that again. Especially around hereabouts. Some of us practically mainline the stuff. Especially with everything that has been going on these days."
She stepped away from the window and took a seat in the massive wingback chair behind her desk. She seemed like a child sitting behind the ornate wooden desk, placing her elbows on the top and leaning her cheek against one fist.
Percy clasped his hands and rested them on his stomach, idly scratching his belly through the striped white button down shirt and thin grey pullover. His jeans were faded and well-worn and his rough boots left traces of dust every time he shifted them.
His dusty leather jacket had been slung over the back of his chair along with his "All in One CatchALL" bottomless satchel that looked as if it had seen many better days. Considering it had been his constant companion on his misadventures through Africa and South America over the past year or so, he was surprised the charms on the bag still had any magic left in them.
"Does this have anything to do with why you brought me here?"
Higgs gave him and innocent look that he didn't believe for a hot second,
"I … may … have heard that you were on American soil and thought that we could catch up on the old days. I've never forgotten everything you've done for us while you were still with the Ministry of Magic. Fudge was an idiot to the tenth power and if we'd had to put up with him then most of the negotiations between our governments would have fallen through within the first few days of talks. You saved a lot of time and grief for both sides Percy."
Percy shrugged, "I just tried to help where I could. Bones and Thicknesse did most of the heavy lifting."
"Don't sell yourself so short. People in the right circles know how much work you put in behind the scenes. We are not blind to the politics of the wizarding world. Besides, you've made quite and name for yourself among the Goblin Horde and the International Confederation of Wizards in the past year, dealing with Potters and Grangers estates as you did."
A sly smile crept onto her face and she wiggled an eyebrow at him. "I've heard stories through the grapevine, unconfirmed of course, about your helping the Djinn at Hamunaptra negotiate some delicate matters back in Egypt. Or how you helped save an African tribe who had disturbed the lair of a pair of mated Nundus. Even the Caipora in the rainforests around Castelobruxo have taken to calling you 'Jabali' or 'Fire Mane'. I am sure that there is a very good story to go with that."
Percy choked, sitting up. "How did you …? Nobody knows… Wendy!"
Her laughter was like the tinkling of glass. "MACUSA has eyes everywhere and our magical fingers in many pies. You must tell me the whole story about that some time. All the report said was that the trickster forest spirits consider you a 'master opponent' and hold you in high esteem."
Percy blushed and cursed his pale skin despite the tan he'd manage to get traipsing through the wilderness.
"Let's just say I learned a few things from all the pranks the twins played on me over the years and leave it at that shall we?"
He leaned back again with a rueful smile, "So… are you finally willing to tell me why you had me picked up and brought here within hours of me entering the country Higgs… and don't give me bollocks about catching up. You could have at least waited until I'd gotten a hotel room at least. A meal and a hot shower. Some sleep. You could have given me until tomorrow."
"Tomorrow would have been too late." Higgs looked down at her hands and her face turned serious. "Something's come up and we only have a small window of opportunity. We may never get another chance like this."
She looked up and her eyes were sharp and shone with tempered magical power.
"What do you know about the Infinity Stones?"
Percy looked up at Stark Tower from across the street, takeaway cup of coffee in one hand and overcoat slung over the other, his trusty satchel hung from his shoulder. They'd tried to give him a sleek briefcase along with the muggle wardrobe- or nomag wardrobe as they called it over here- but he'd outright refused.
It was one thing to put on the drab clothes and spit-shone shoes ensemble he'd left behind with his life in Wizarding Britain but it was a whole other trial to step right back into the shoes of "Percicles Weatherby" - official bootlicker. It wasn't exactly the same but he needed desperately to cling to the carefree life he'd been leading for the past fourteen months or so. His satchel was a road map of his adventures and he wasn't going to let go of it easily.
It was a bit of a strain to look up at the gargantuan tower of glass and steel and soon enough Percy was rolling his neck and striding across to the large glass doors on the building. The central air was brisk against the temperamental New York weather and he gave a small sigh of relief.
A brief chat with the security desk and soon he was riding the elevator with a set of directions and a newly issued visitor's pass clipped to his jacket. He leaned back against the metal wall of the lift and thought back to his conversation with Higgs the day before.
"I'm not a spy Wendy" he huffed, flipping through the thick file they had on Tony Stark AKA Iron Man. "Don't you have people who do this sort of thing? I'm not sure that I can be of any real help with this."
Higgs came around her desk to perch on its edge. "That's just the thing… we don't need a spy. We have enough of those. We had people in SHIELD before they collapsed, we even have someone at Stark Industries but they never seem to get any further than low level management. I need someone who can successfully navigate the world of muggle business. "
She raises a hand to stop Percy from speaking. "This opportunity is something completely different and needs to be handled with the utmost care. Completely off the books. Just throwing out a fishing line and waiting to see what bites."
Percy's eyes narrowed. "For how long?"
"A few months at most… just until our other people can find out more about the stone. All the business with Loki of Asgard a few years ago has had MACUSA's petticoats ruffled and we've been scrambling to play catch up ever since. Many just want to dismiss it as 'that Alien Business' or 'the crazy nomag kerfuffle' but some of us here know that what affects the nomag world will eventually spill over into ours."
She sighed heavily, suddenly looking tired. "Can you imagine what people will think if they discover a whole community of people with similar abilities to the Asgardian Prince?... living not on some far away planet but right next door? We need to get ahead of this and we need someone close to Stark to do it."
"Why Stark?" Percy asked, waving a hand at the open file, "… it says here that he's retired from the Avengers. He's out of the hero business after that whole thing in Sokovia."
"He may not be part of the team but he still bank rolls them and provides the technology they need. We cannot get someone close to the Avengers and the newest iteration of SHIELD is more secretive and paranoid than its predecessor. Hydra is a total bust as every agent we sent to infiltrate them has either been captured or killed. Stark is the only point at which we could gain potential access to the information we need."
Percy crossed his arms and leveled a narrow glare at the diminutive woman.
"What exactly do you want from me Higgs? I won't spy on the man for you nor will I help you steal from him. What do I have that your Aurors and Unspeakables don't?
Higgs hopped off the edge of the desk and took a seat in the second office chair next to Percy. Her eyes dropped to the file open in his lap and her fingers drummed a pattern on the wooden arm of the chair.
"All we want is someone to give us a heads up if the Tesseract or anything like it appears. I won't ask you to do anything else. I just need to you watch and wait, even if it's just for a while. I don't want you to compromise your ethics or your morals. We don't want to hurt Stark or take what is his. We just need a horse in this race.
I need an Administrator… someone who is not well known in the Magical United States. I need someone I can trust to handle themselves and to do the right thing. There is nobody I can task with this right now that is skilled enough to pull it off or wouldn't have some sort of private agenda. Most of the Magical Congress don't even believe that we need to be worried but a few of us know that trouble could find its way to our doorstep too easily. We need to be prepared for when that time comes."
Percy bowed his head in thought, taking one deep breath after the other.
"What about my magic… won't it affect his technology?"
"We have a solution for that. Small gold Ring, Goblin charmed."
"So… what do I have to do?"
"well… Stark is in the market for a new Personal Assistant. I figured if you can still herd cats as well as you did back at the ministry then you can handle one eccentric billionaire."
The elevator dinged and the doors slip open, bringing Percy back to the present. Tipping back the last of his coffee, he straightened his shoulders and strode out of the lift, throwing the empty cup into a nearby bin.
The short hall opened up into a large airy space with plush carpeting, dark green plants and adequate seating for the dozen or so other persons who had all turned to look at him as he'd entered.
A large curved receptionist's desk dwarfed the space and the large silver Stark industries decal on the wall behind stood out against the dark wood paneling. It was aloof and inviting at the same time and Percy silently commended the interior decorator.
He approached the receptionist with a polite smile and received on in return, handing over his security pass for her inspection and watching as she ticked his name on a roster. The list itself was short and a quick count and glance at the others told him that he was the last to arrive.
There were seven other hopefuls, men and women ranging from fresh from college to middle aged. He thought there would have been more seeing that the position was so lucrative. Stark PA's had a tendency to go on to bigger and better things… just look at Pepper Potts. Personal Assistant to CEO of a Fortune 500 Hundred Company in less than a decade.
He's the last to go in, having watched the others make their way out looking either dejected or angry or some sort of weird mix of confused and somewhat constipated. The receptionist waves him in and he takes a fortifying breath before gripping his satchel and going in. Higgs' people could only ensure him a place on the list. Getting the position was all up to him.
He pauses at the door to the interview room, confronted with the sight of Pepper Potts herself. And next to her, dressed in causal jeans and Tshirt with sneakers and a sport coat, is Tony Stark, slumped in the chair and playing with his phone, looking bored beyond belief.
Ms. Potts looks up from where she is perusing his file and motions him to a seat. She grills him thoroughly about the CV that Higg's team had put together for him. All the while Stark never looks up from his phone.
"So Mr. Westerly… We have one final question." Ms. Potts clasps her hands over the closed open file and looks up at him with a searching gaze as Stark glances up from his phone for the first time to stare at Percy.
"How would you remove oil stains from a Ermenegildo Zegna Bespoke Suit?"
Percy blinked, "Grisaille, Cashmere or Merino?"
Stark raised a sculpted eyebrow. "Either… All"
Percy tilted his head in thought. "Grisialle or Merino, corn starch or talcum to absorb the oil the treat gently with cleaners until the stain is removed. Cashmere? Throw it out and buy a new one."
Starks laugh was harsh and rusty, as if it hadn't been used in a while. Potts stared at the man for a few seconds in shock before turning back to look at Percy with a trembling smile.
"I like this one." Stark sighs, twisting his chair from side to side. "Tell the others to go home."
He turns to give the redhead a curious gaze from above his crimson lensed shades and pouts.
"Will that be all Ms. Potts? I'm bored out of my mind here. There's genius a-wasting every second y'know. I can practically hear the money trickling out of the coffers. It's a tragedy."
She gives him a indulgent smile and a nod. "That will be all Mr. Stark."
He is out of the door without another word. Ms. Potts closes the file in front of her and sits back in her chair. Percy meets her sharp gaze steadily and after a few seconds, she tilts her head with a smile and nods, finding satisfaction with some unknown that she sees in him.
"I guess this means I'm hired?" He ventures.
Potts brushes her flame coloured hair off her shoulder with a smirk.
"I don't know. Do you really think you have what it takes to deal with being Personal Assistant to Anthony Stark? Are you ready for the pressure that comes with a job such as this?"
Percy gave her a wry look. "I grew up the middle child of seven siblings, was head prefect at a school of over three hundred randy kids and basically ran my old bosses department for him while he was having his head surgically removed from his arse. I know how to handle pressure.
"Besides…" He gave a cheeky grin. "… and the perks are nothing to sneeze at either."
Potts laughed and stood, leaning over the table to stick out her hand.
"Welcome to Stark Industries Mr. Westerly. Let's head down to HR and see about getting you settled in."
Percy stood and grasped it, giving it a firm shake.
"Thank you Ms. Potts. I think that I am going to like it here."
Ms. Potts… Pepper as she would rather be called, was true to her word as she took him down to HR and got his paperwork expedited. After signing what seemed to be his life away, he was given a security card with a horribly awkward photo of his face and a brand new StarkTab still in the box. Ms. Potts… no sorry, Pepper, informed him that the relevant information would be forwarded to the machine and that he had two days before he was expected to turn up for duty.
It was like getting swooped up into a whirlwind of competence and paperwork that eventually left him standing in the front of the building, a bit dazed and dazzled, holding a brand new tablet computer. It took him over the course of lunch at a nearby chinese restaurant to figure out how to turn on the damnable thing. He'd dealt with this level of technology before but it seemed that Stark based Technology was truly leaps and bounds beyond all others.
The user interface was friendly and soon enough he was fiddling with all the little bits and bobs on the screen, following the easy step by step instructions on how to set up his email and to use the Google to search and find almost anything under the sun.
He even spent a good half an hour, nibbling on char su pork and imagining the logistics of a wizarding equivalent to the search engine. A Magigoogle. He chuckled to himself, swiping his mouth with the thin paper napkin and tucked the tablet, box and all into his satchel, slinging it over his shoulder.
Higgs and company had gotten him an apartment, a re-purposed MACUSA safe house currently off the books. It was a shoe box of a place really, surely not meant for anyone spending more than a few days; but after spending most of the last year with limited access to clean water and indoor plumbing, he was glad to have a place to call his own. The cramped quarters reminded him of the old house at Ottery St. Catchpole and he felt a sharp pang of longing for his old life there.
Waking up to chickens clucking and the old poltergeist banging on the pipes upstairs. His mother yelling at the twins as they stomped down the stairs and the smell of frying bacon. The rustling of pages as his father read the Daily Prophet and Ginny squealing with laughter as Ron made funny faces behind their mother's back.
God, it hurts to think of it even now. His darling little sister.
He takes a breath and steadily tucks the pain away until he can breathe once again.
Most of the furniture is old and lumpy and the kitchen is dingy. Shadows fall long and dark across the room as his windows look unto a narrow alley squeezed in by a hulking old warehouse turned into apartments. The bedroom is marginally better as it's grubby window faces sunlight, even with the hazardous looking fire escape that seems to be holding unto the building by its rust alone.
The bed is the only redeeming feature as someone must have transfigured it from what was probably a pitiful disaster into the neat and comfortable haven it was now. The bathroom was basically a shower with a sink and toilet in it and the closet was laughable at best.
At least it was a place to stay until he could find another. It had been disconcerting the way Higgs' assistant Sanderson, had all but laughed in his face when he mentioned going apartment hunting, shaking his head in obvious pity and walking away, his laughter echoing down the corridor.
His only personal effects so far was the framed picture of his family he'd snuck out of England and a small cactus he'd set on the window sill in order to bring some colour and life to the drab place.
Kicking off his shoes and throwing his satchel on the edge of the bed, he flopped face first into the clean, soft bedding with a groan. As he rubbed his face into the cloth, he mentally made a list of the things that he would have to tackle in the two days grace Potts had given him.
Um… Pepper, not Potts. He'd have to keep reminding himself. Hn. Americans and their informal ways of addressing one another. How tiresome. He hoped Stark would be amenable to being addressed formally, he doubted that he could call the man Tony without feeling insolent. He would have to address that issue when it occurred he supposed.
He didn't have much in the way of money, the nest egg he'd tucked away for himself in secret had been whittled away during his time overseas and while he was far from destitute, he was actually glad that he'd gotten a job so quickly after arriving in America. Higgs had been able to re-route some funding into a local bank and it had been just enough to secure some muggle clothes for the interview and other necessities.
He would have to spend the rest wisely until his first paycheck and then go on from there. It would not be too much of a problem, he was no stranger to being frugal. Molly Weasley was the queen of squeezing the value out of every galleon and he'd been an avid student in his youth.
He was half way through the list and sinking into a comfortable doze when a sharp knocking jolted him awake with a half mumbled "Wah?"
The knock came again, this time to the jaunty tune of 'Shave and a haircut.' Percy pouted, grumbling as he pushed himself off the bed and stumbled towards the door, almost tripping over his discarded shoes, cursing and hopping on one foot to balance himself and he scrambled for the door.
"Hecate Dammit Wendy, can't you give me minute to myself?" he yanked the door open with a growl, only to freeze at the sight of his new boss, hand still in the air. "Mr. Stark? I… What… huh?"
Good job Percy, eloquent as always.
Stark lowered his hand with a grin and a raised eyebrow. "First thing's first… Who is Wendy and why won't she leave you alone? Jilted lover? Secret admirer? Obsessed stalker?"
He side steps a gaping Percy into the small apartment and makes a sound of utter disgust.
"Oh My God, this is where you live? How can you even live here? Look at that… is that asbestos? I'm pretty sure that that's asbestos. And look at this furniture. I swear to Thor that something just moved under that cushion. I can practically feel the mould entering my lungs right now…"
Stark has been carefully stepping around the room, making sure not to touch anything physically; making scandalized faces and noises as he made a full circuit and ducked into the bedroom only to duck back out just as quickly.
It took a few seconds for Percy to overcome his surprise and close the door, leaning against it as he let the other man wind himself down.
"What can I do for you Mr. Stark? You do know that I don't start my duties as your Personal Assistant for another two days." he said with a soft sigh.
Stark grinned at him and shoved both his gloved hands in the pockets of his designer jeans.
"I know… Pepper told me. Or at least I think she told me. She is always saying a lot of things and I mostly listen. Well, I listen sometimes anyway. She always reminds me of the important stuff. And lets ixnay on the 'Mr. Stark' business, Mr. Stark was my father and I am much cooler than him anyway…."
Percy pinches the bridge of his nose with a tiny grimace. Called it.
"As for why I am here… well, it's because I wanted to get to know you. Did you know that your background check comes up as squeaky clean as a toddler's rap sheet. Not a step out of place since the womb. On paper anyway. And that got me wondering about you because within two seconds of meeting you, I knew that you were something different to your record. Something much more interesting."
"Two seconds you say?" Percy folds his arms across his chest. "Alright, Dazzle me."
"Your bag gave it away." Stark grins. "There's no way you bought it like that. That kind of wear and tear only comes from exposure to the elements… travel. From the patches to have sown on, I recognize two of the languages off the bat. Egyptian and Portuguese… Brazillian Portuguse actually.
There is also a hand carved African talisman hung on the zipper of the front pocket and a hand woven Peruvian beaded bracelet sewn carefully unto the strap. I'd say… a trip from England down to the horn of Africa then back up South America until with a hop, a skip and a jump… you got to the big apple. Somewhat of a long way round don't you think?"
"The journey though… what a ride. " Percy smirks, shaking his head. "You really are a regular Sherlock Holmes aren't you?"
"Elementary my dear Watson." Tony gives a dramatic bow, getting ready to throw himself unto the couch when he makes a face, flailing a little from actually touching anything. He tries to pose as if hadn't just been flailing about like a dork and gives a sheepish grin.
Percy runs a tired hands though his unruly hair. " And what if I had been an enemy? Why would you come to my apartment alone? Does anyone even know where you are right now? Do you know how dangerous this was? Why would you hire me at all if you suspected me of lying?
"You're interesting. Like the puzzle you get in a clear plastic bag… no box cover with a picture on it. The kind you have to work out for yourself. It's challenging and fun to see where the pieces go. To find out what the picture is at the end."
"You're bored." Percy deadpans. It's not a question.
"Yeah" Stark eyes shutter for a moment and he shrugs. "and besides, I didn't come here alone. Friday is with me." he takes a sleek phone from his pocket and an husky Irish lilt comes from the small speakers.
"Sure thing Boss, I have the Mark VII ready to deploy as well as your driver on standby. I also have both Ms. Potts and emergency services on speed dial, both of whom can be here in under three minutes."
"Thanks Fri… " Stark nods, turning to smirk at Percy, "See? Safe as houses."
He looks around the apartment. "Well… not this house anyway. This is actually the opposite of safe. Why are you living in this rat hole anyway?"
Percy narrows his eyes. "Some of us have no choice but to live in the places we can afford. Not all of us can live in ivory tower you know? Granted, this place is a rat hole but I am in the process of looking for something better."
A light turns on behind Stark's eyes and he bounces a little on his toes.
"Well, as owner of an actual Ivory Tower, I can solve that problem. Move in with me."
Percy blinked, "What?"
Starks smile gets wider as he talks. "We can kill two birds with one stone. You can have a place to live that's not a petri dish of human despair and I can figure you out easier if you're closer to me. It's win win."
"What if I want my privacy, time to myself …. away from your crazy?"
"You'll have a whole floor to yourself. Friday won't peek and tell, not even for me… won't you girl?"
"I'll be the very soul of discretion." the phone says.
"I don't know…" Percy frowns.
"You don't have to pay rent." Stark offers.
Percy nods sharply, "Sold. Let me grab my things."
He ducks into the bed room and stuffs his coat and family picture into his satchel, shoving his feet into his shoes and grabbing the tiny cactus from the window sill. Everything else is still packed in his bottomless bag. In less than a minute he's back with a surprised looking Stark.
"No need to rush on my account…." Stark chuckles at Percy in his crumpled suit, bag slung over his shoulder and cactus in hand. "… you wouldn't want to leave forget anything. Favourite rat maybe? Disease ridden blankets?"
Percy purses his lips, "Weren't you the one who couldn't get out of here fast enough? I should bring a rat with me, I'd like to see what you would do then Mr. Stark."
"Please don't… they are hell on electrical wiring. You win." Stark puts his hands up in mock surrender, "… and I told you to quit it with the Mr. Stark thing. Call me Tony."
"Not a chance…. Mist… " Percy huffed. "Boss."
Stark gives him a shrewd look as the phone pipes up.
"I like it."
"You would" Stark shakes his head at the device in fond exasperation. He looks up at Percy and finally nods.
"I'll take it…. For now. I will get you to call me Tony though. Just you wait."
"With bated breath Sir." Percy intoned dryly.
Tony flinched, his smile falling before he blinks the shadow away and starts smiling again.
"Trust me… I'm nothing if not persistent. In the end I always get what I want."
"Keep telling yourself that Si… Boss."
Percy twisted the key to lock the shitty shoe box apartment one last time, slipping the single key under the locked door for Wendy's people to retrieve. He'd have to make sure and send a picture of his new place to that twat Sanderson at MACUSA with the hashtag 'rent free' when he finally got a hang of American magical social media. It would be worth learning about it for the look on his face alone. Smug American arsehole.
He turned to follow Stark… no… Boss down the dark staircase, wondering how the man had managed to get up to Percy's apartment without freaking out at the state of the place and it's broken elevator but those thoughts flew away when they stepped out into the sun and saw the cherry red Ferrari Sergio convertible parked outside.
"She's a beauty isn't she?" Stark preened at Percy's gob smacked face.
Percy blinked away from the work of vehicular art and blushed hotly at Stark's smug grin. He slid into the passenger seat with a bitten back groan, fondling the custom dashboard with reverent hands. The engine purred to life and Stark deftly pulled the car out into the almost empty street. It was a wonder the car hadn't been stolen during the time in his apartment but he figured that Starks AI would be a good crime deterrent as any.
"Please tell me that one of the perks of this job is that I get to drive THIS someday."
Stark revved the engine, chuckling gleefully at the face Percy made as he gave a full body shudder.
"Stick around and we'll see."
Well… Percy thought to himself, I may just do that.
The Tower was a beaut and Percy told Stark as much, which had the man preening. With sleek lines and steel and smart glass everywhere, it was as audacious and daunting and gaudy as its owner and designer. Stark had slung the Ferrari into a private underground parking lot and had smirked smugly as Percy had all but drooled over his collection of wickedly beautiful cars.
A private elevator whipped them up to the personal floors, Stark explaining that the first fifty floors were rented out to various corporations, law firms, government offices and the like and the next fifty were allotted to SI and its various subsidiaries.
The remaining twenty floors had been retrofitted for personal use by the Avengers with apartments, labs, a state of the art gym, heated swimming pool, an indoor basketball court and bowling alley. There was even a fully functioning Café on the seventy fifth floor that kept SI employees caffeinated and stuffed to the gills with exquisite pastries.
Stark takes them to one of the guest suites, a spacious set of rooms that rival the Gryffindor sixth year dorms for size. Decorated in tasteful warm neutrals and boasting a well equipped kitchen and breathtaking floor to ceiling glass windows running along one side of the entire living space.
He introduces Percy formally to Friday, Stark's Go-To-Girl AI who comes across as cheeky with her lilting Irish accent and quick come backs to Stark's snarky irreverence. There is a look of fond exasperation on the darker man's face as he banters with the voice overhead that has Percy thinking about the times Ginny would needle ickle Ronniekins when he was being daft, which was pretty much all the time.
Their Father would shake his head and hide his grin behind his teacup while Ron turned red and stomped away, absently patting Ginny's head when she flopped unto the raggedly old couch next to him and stole a sip of his tea.
Percy exhaled sharply and turned his face away from his new boss is still chatting with the ceiling, blinking away the sting of angry tears as he forced himself to calm. Even after all this time, her loss still cut him just as deeply.
He begs off the rest of the tour, wincing a bit at how Stark's face fell but he was tired and hungry and smelled a bit ripe if he were being honest with himself.
"You do remember that you just hired me this morning right?" he sighed, rolling his tired shoulders.
"I've just escaped from the three ring circus that is your HR department where I had to fill out and sign more forms than I did for my final exams THEN Ms. Potts took me to get a general medical check where the vampires there took my blood, scraped my skin and plucked my bloody hair from my scalp. I'm sure they were just about to ask for either a semen sample or a prostate exam when Potts … fuck… Pepper took pity on me and rescued me from their dastardly schemes.
Any other time and I would love to see the rest of your tower and gape appropriately at Its wonders and your effervescent genius but I won't be able to fanboy good and proper over your toys if I don't get food, sleep and a shower in whichever order I can within the next few minutes. Understood.?"
Stark's eyes shine with barely concealed amusement. "You think I'm effervescent?"
Percy gave him a flat stare. "That's what you got from everything I just said? Get out."
"Hey now… " Stark chuckled as Percy pointed resolutely to the door. "Do I have to remind you that you work for me now and that you are living rent free in my … what was it again… 'Beaut' of a tower'? "
Percy rolled his eyes and herded the shorter man towards the door. "Do I have to remind YOU that I don't actually report to work for another two days and it was YOU who came to my house and asked me to come and live here rent free?"
He finally got Stark out of the door and was about to shut it in the man's face when Stark faltered, rubbing his hand on his opposite arm and looking at anywhere but Percy.
"Uh… I have food… I can get food… if you want … later. You could come up to the penthouse for dinner…. If you wanted. You know. "
Brown eyes finally rose to meet his and Percy nodded with a sigh.
"Will there be greasy American cheeseburgers and oily deep fried things?"
Stark's face brightened with a grin. "The greasiest of burgers and the oiliest of fried things."
"Ok." Percy nodded and shut the door in his face with a sharp snap, turning to lean against the door as he listened to Stark whistling off tune as he strode to the elevator.
Well old boy, Percy thought to himself as he slumped against the hard surface, closing his tired eyes, this is what you signed up for. Being no stranger to loneliness himself, Percy could see the cracks in Stark's façade as plain as the ones he'd seen in his own. Walking away from his own family had broken something in him that only his stubborn stupid pride had been able hold together.
Granted, he hadn't seen it as walking away from them at the time, more like rising above them and their seeming happiness to wallow in squalor like pigs in mud. He had actually thought that he could rise above his station within society and drag his family kicking and screaming up to the status they'd once enjoyed as pure bloods. He'd been so blind and foolish. So fucking ungrateful for everything his family had stood for. Had fought for. Had sacrificed and grieved for.
He dragged his feet to the bedroom, scooping up his bag as he went. It found a new home on a leather arm chair along with his jacket and shirt. He kicked off his shoes and trousers, slipping his boxers off and striding naked into the adjoining bath.
"Merlin's balls" he muttered at the swanky bathroom with hedonistic shower and Jacuzzi tub. He took a moment to look at himself in the mirror. His slim body almost gaunt from more than a year of hard living in the wilds of Africa and south America. His pale skin was tanned and peeling in places, red and splotchy in others. He could count his ribs if he raised his arms up above his head.
He had a large bruise on his leg from where a holy man from a Peruvian village had whacked him with his knobbed staff for his cheek and he rubbed at the brilliantly coloured skin with a grimace. Other than that his skin was unmarked and wasn't that a pity. The last time he'd had someone take him down good was when he's stayed a few days at a ranch near the sea in El Sotano, Argentina.
The owner of the farm had been a squib who hired Percy to get rid of a Nogtail that had been bringing ruin to neighboring farms. Percy had, after a week of tracking the creature, had been able call in a favour with the Departamento de Criaturas Mágicas in Rosario, the Magical Capital of Argentina, to procure an albino blood hound, the only way on record to get rid of the pig-like creature.
After all had been said and done, Thiago had invited Percy to his farmstead for dinner where he cooked Asado over an open flame, plying him with wine made from sweet pink skinned grapes. He'd then taken Percy's hand and took him to bed where he worshiped Percy's body until the red head was moaning and weeping with pleasure.
He spent a few weeks there before moving on, never staying any one place for too long until he made the final jump to America. There hadn't been anyone else he'd been willing to trust since then and so the bruises had faded with time.
The shower was as good as he imagined it would be, the numerous shower heads, the hot water that never seemed to end. He was in heaven. The tiles floor was heated as well as the towel rack. The bed was fucking glorious and smelled clean and fresh as he burrowed into the bedding with an obscene sigh.
A few hours later he awoke to a chiming from his new stark tab, a confirmation email from HR about his paperwork, security clearance and his medical. He squinted at the information, making sure to read it all before sending back an affirmation. Tossing the tab unto the thick comforter, he sank back into the pillows with a sigh. His stomach rumbled loudly and he groaned as he heaved himself out of the bed and dug into his satchel for some clothes.
After slipping on a pair of muggle sweatpants and a Bulgarian National Team t-shirt he'd once gotten as a present from Victor, he stuffed his feet into a pair of old trainers and asked Friday if it was an appropriate time to call on Stark.
Stark's penthouse was fucking glorious and put Percy's personal suite to shame. The view of the city alone had him laughing a bit hysterically. Even Hogwarts's highest tower had nothing on this. And Percy had flown on dragon transport before.
Stark's cheerful greeting pulled him away from his musing and they ended up vegging out in front of Stark's huge telly, bags and boxes of greasy diner food spread out around them as they binged on old black and white episodes of Twilight Zone.
"What kind of name is Ignatious anyway?" Stark asked while he was making his way through a box of curly fries. "Did your parents hate you or something? Who names their kid that this day and age?"
Percy shrugged, "I know right. All my siblings have names like Fred, George, Charlie and Bill and I get stuck with bloody Ignatious Percicles. I was told that I was named after some long lost great uncle or something. At least I didn't get stuck with Aballach or Ximen or Nagelfar or something, so I'm somewhat grateful."
Percy almost went on to lament his last name but he remembered that he was no longer a Weasley, going by Westerly after fleeing Wizarding Britain. He took a large bite of his burger to keep his mouth from rambling as Stark chuckled, taking a pull from the straw of an enormous cup of soda.
"Gives a new meaning of living up to your name doesn't it? I know how that can be."
Percy scoffs, incredulous. "what the hell do you have to complain about Anthony Edward?"
Stark's chuckle is a little bitter. "It's not those names I have a problem with."
Percy pauses, setting down his burger and picking up his own enormous soda. He could empathize with that on a certain level. To be a Weasley had certain connotations in wizarding society. You had to be red haired, freckle faced, brave, outgoing and firmly on the side of the light… Gryffindor through and through. In more recent years had added living in squalor and wearing hand me downs to the list of things that every pure blood worth their salt 'knew' about a Weasley.
He'd been born into the name, into how the world viewed him and no matter what Percy had done, no matter how he'd differed from his bothers and his parents, even his fellow Gryffindors, he'd never been able to throw off the heavy mantle.
Just as no matter how Stark… no Tony, tried to do good, make things better with his amazing genius and technology, the world seemed determined to paint him with the same brush as his father. Unable to truly ever escape the heavy chains of legacy that hung on the neck and shoulders like a punishment.
Percy offered Stark…no, Tony a deep fried pickle in commiseration and they shared a smile before finishing up their food. Percy burped and stretched, rubbing his full stomach with a pleased moan.
"That hit the spot."
Tony wiggled his eyebrows and bounced in his seat. "You ready to see the rest of the place now?"
Percy scratched at his stomach absently.
"I think I can work up enough of a fanboy experience to satisfy even your ego."
"Great" Tony clapped his hands and jumped up from the couch, knocking boxes to the floor.
"Oi…" Percy frowned. "Aren't you going to pick up after yourself?"
Tony blinked, looking down at the scattered debris of their meal. "Friday can take care of it."
Percy gave him the gimlet eye. "Friday doesn't even have hands. Also that's not her function."
Tony shrugged. "She can call for service."
That cheeky Irish lilt piped in. "I am actually programmed to see to the upkeep of all Stark residences which includes having a maid service on call twenty four seven."
Percy looked up at the ceiling, aghast. "You'd drag a maid all the way up here just to clean up your rubbish when you can take two minutes to clean up after yourself?"
The other man gave him a look that said 'No duh'.
"They are my employees. That's what I pay them for… in fact, that's what I pay you for."
"I'll give you that…" Percy nodded slowly, "… and even though I technically don't report for duty for another two days… I will, very graciously I might add, help YOU clean up the mess WE made."
Tony took a second to deliberate. "Then we can do the rest of the tour?"
Percy nodded, gathering up empty boxes and wrinkled greasy paper and started stuffing them into the plastic delivery bags.
"I promise to be patiently attentive and suitably impressed."
"Okay, cool." Tony smiled, scooping up boxes and paper by the armful, carrying it all into the kitchen where he dumped the lot into the garbage chute.
"You'll love it, I promise." he called over his shoulder, "It's amaze-balls."
Percy shook his head with somewhat fond amusement.
And, even though he'd only known the man for a short time, Percy found himself believing it.
i'm really enjoying the the organic flow my writing is taking for this story. there isn't much of a plot but more of a mish mash of guilty pleasures and seeing two of my favourite characters getting the care and love they need. thank you to everyone who had left Kudos and commented. i love you all.
Percy sat back in the sleek office chair and looked out beyond the gleaming glass desk that was the centre piece of his personal office, out unto the New York city scape. It was a master piece of darkened smart glass with hidden ports for connecting to Percy's tablet and phone.
On one corner sat his little cactus and the picture of his family in it's simple wooden frame. There were no drawers in the bloody thing, all other files being stored into tasteful inset filing cabinets with soft close drawers and touch keypads for securing sensitive documents.
Even though Tony had tried to convince him to go paperless, Percy still loved the feel of paper and the smell of ink too much to do so. He'd purchased a large charcoal colour leather blotter and a set of Parker gun mental ink pens. The clerk at the store had tried to sell him on custom engraved stationery but Percy had balked at the idea as he'd always wanted letterheads bearing 'from the desk of Percival Weasley' and could not bear to have his childhood wish warped by a different name.
Instead, he'd gotten a set of heavy letter writing paper with matching envelopes and correspondence cards. On the other side of the blotter, he'd set his tablet computer into its cradle and had set his new stark phone unto it's wireless charging pad.
Stark had taken one look at the phone Higgs and company had provided Percy with and scoffed in disgust, saying that no employee of his would ever carry around such a relic of obsolete tech. By breakfast the next morning, he'd woken to a brand new Stark phone in box at his door. A special edition Iron Man version with a LED arc reactor light set in the middle of its sleek red and gold case.
He'd spent most of the morning in bed, nibbling on buttered toast and sipping tea while the large television on the wall blared local and international current events. He'd fiddled with the new phone, setting up his ringtone and alerts, signing up for both muggle and magical social media sites. He'd taken somewhat perverse pleasure at sending that MACUSA twat Sanderson pictures of his swanky new digs, laughing at the angry face emojis sent back almost immediately.
That afternoon, he'd stepped out of the Tower for a late lunch at a small Peruvian hole in the wall restaurant before setting off to do some shopping. Stark had offered to go with him of course and no doubt he'd have been decked out in an expensive custom wardrobe before the day was done but Percy had wanted to do both some muggle and magical shopping that was best done alone.
Besides, Pepper had swept in and had hustled Tony into getting cleaned up and out to a lunch meeting with such efficiency that Percy felt a great desire to pull out a paper and pencil and take notes.
Shopping for suitable muggle clothes in New York was both simple and tedious but in the end, Percy had been satisfied that he'd been able to build a good base for his business and casual wardrobe with the muggle credit card which Tony had pressed into his hand that morning, insisting that came as one of the perks of the job.
Percy had raised an eyebrow before nodding and expressing his sincere thanks and Tony, who'd been ready to argue the point, had stopped short and mumbled a stunned 'you're welcome' before letting himself be dragged away by a smirking Pepper.
After securing his muggle purchases in his satchel, he'd made his way to one of the Magical Districts hidden throughout the city. The entrance to Bismuth Avenue looked like a crowded and cramps dead end flea market with a hidden entrance to a large indoor market. The warehouse like space was large and open concept with colourful tents and stands and wooden kiosks lining clearly marked and brightly painted walkways while stores lined the walls.
The upper balconies were lined with cafes and restaurants with tree lined paved walkways where customers could promenade and watch the activity below. The uppermost level held various offices and high end custom craftsmen. The roof of the building had been spelled to look like an ornate massive stained glass structure ceiling that cast shifting vibrant colours over the entire market.
Percy browsed for a while, picking up some of his favourite brand of tea and a bottle of cologne Bill had given him that had run out halfway through Nigeria. The market was noisy and crowded and smelled like the strong herbs of the local apothecary and animal musk of the magical Menagerie. He bought some Ice Mice from a cherry young lady with a brightly painted cart and sampled some grilled lamb on a stick from a very forward young greek.
He took a short ride on the subway over to Battery Park where a secret path near Castle Clinton granted him entry into Hodthel, the elvish haven for non-human magical beings. Existing in what amounted to a heavily warded magical stasis bubble, Hodthel had been a sanctuary for non-humans since the nineteenth century, when it had still been known as West Battery.
Heavily wooded and bursting with exotic flora and fauna, the space hosted a variety of residents ranging from Satyrs to Half Giants to a small Centaur herd. Maintained and ruled by a group of High elves, it was a sanctuary for all those who were willing to adhere to its strict rules.
Gringotts Bank even had a small outpost there, a squat, domed, stone structure manned by a solo surly goblin. Behind him, a huge heavy vault door would swing open, revealing a tunnel to a sprawling underground forge where a contingent of Goblins lived and forged their metal crafts and weapons.
Percy ended up buying a colourful knitted afghan from a wood nymph that looked like fallen leaves in autumn and s mall foe glass from a crone in a dingy, smelly tent. He haggled with the surly goblin and eventually handed over far too many galleons to have a letter sent to Bill in Egypt, acquiescing defeat as the wretched creature grinned crookedly and pocketed the coins.
Evening was falling by the time he'd made his way back to the Tower, laying out his purchases and packing them away carefully. He sourced an iron and ironing board from the housekeeping staff, preferring to do his pressing himself even though Friday offered to get his things professionally laundered.
There had always been something calming about the repetitive motion that Percy enjoyed so one by one, he pressed and hung his new clothes. He emptied most of his satchel unto the bed, throwing away the rubbish and placing the bits and bobs he'd collected during his travels all over his room. His magical books and items went into a trunk he then tucked to the back of his closet while his toiletries and a few magical potions were sorted to the bathroom.
Having burned his wand long ago during his flight from wizarding Britain, he'd been forced to acquire a new magical focus during his first few months in the African Wilds. He'd ended up purchasing an athame made of intricately carved steel and a carved African snake wood handle. It had cost him a crap load of galleons and his last bottle of Dreamless Sleep potion but it had been worth it to feel his magic thrum through his fingertips once again.
He'd also purchased a sturdy leather sheathe for the blade which he now tucked under the pillow before packing the rest of his things. Feeling sweaty and grimy from hours exploring the city, he took a shower and put on some jeans and a soft grey Henley, slipping his phone into his pocket before taking the elevator down to the workshop.
Stark's workshop was a muggle techno-wonderland that had Percy speechless the night before when he'd finally been given a tour around the place. Compared to Arthur's little table in the garden shed filled with broken muggle knick knacks and various electronics in various states of disrepair, Tony didn't just putter around and tinker with this and that, no… he was way beyond that by leap years. By light years.
Sleek glossy surfaces of glass and steel glimmered in the cool blue of the holographic images suspended in midair. Machines beeped and booped and hummed and whooshed like something out of muggle space adventure movies.
A huge ratcheted metal table stood in one corner filled with a jumble of spare parts and wires and other odds and ends and a few dirty coffee mugs that had reminded Percy so strongly of his father and he'd had to take a few deep breaths to ease the pain in his chest.
Tony had introduced Percy to his robot minions, complaining bitterly about how clumsy they were, what useless lumps of metal and circuits they continued to prove themselves to be. Yet, under all the lamentation, Percy could hear the strong undercurrent of affection for the excitable robotic arms.
He'd also seen how Stark had watched him closely as he'd politely shaken each bots 'hand' or claw and introduced himself. After that Dum-E, Butterfingers and You had all become quite enamored with him, tugging at his shirt and pants and plying him with yummy fruit smoothies and he'd seen the last of the tenseness in Stark's shoulders loosen and relax.
They'd spent hours into the night in the wondrous place, Percy fanboying so much over the cutting edge technology that for a moment he'd thought that he'd actually channeled his father's spirit. The thought had made him chuckle to himself as he made Tony explain once again what Augmented Reality was and how it was going to change the world.
As the elevator dinged open on the workshop level, Percy could see Tony slouched over a delicate circuit, a large magnifying glass with a bright light suspended between them from a mechanical arm. The man was dressed in a dingy pair of jeans and a dingy maroon t-shirt stretched over his muscled shoulders, his ass balancing on the faded and ripped black leather seat of the stool he hooked his feet on.
Percy felt that familiar flame of attraction and had to admit to himself that Stark was a very sexy man with his lean body and casual brilliance. Sadly, Percy had always been to suss out a person's dynamic and Tony didn't seem like the kind of lover Percy went for.
For one, even though Stark had an easy confidence in his own masculinity, he wasn't self-possessed enough to deal out the kind of handling that Percy craved. Not to mention the man suffered from raging PTSD and a huge inferiority complex coupled with crippling self-hatred.
It surprised Percy that it had only taken a couple of days with the man and a perusal of Stark's MACUSA file to determine these facts making him wonder what in the Seven Hell's SHIELD and the other Avenger's had been thinking when they'd labelled the man a self-destructive narcissist.
Were they all that blind?
Maybe it was because they all saw him as some poor little rich boy with more money than sense. That growing up rich somehow negated any sorrow and pain Tony may have gone through as a child.
Percy had once thought that way too. He'd been so jealous of the richer pure bloods in school, especially the Slytherins. During his seventh year especially he'd been so dreadfully jealous of Gwendolyn Rhovandis, a sixth year Slytherin girl who'd taken to hanging on Marcus Flint's every word like it was manna from heaven.
She'd been gorgeous and rich, from a old pure blood family that could trace their line back to the Founders. The soft tinkle of her elfin laugh, the dark luscious curls of her raven hair, her pale skin free of any freckles or blemishes; she had been everything that Percy wasn't. Flint had taken delight in flaunting her affection in front of Percy, sneering as he stole a hand up her creamy leg, slipping under her skirt as she jumped and blushed.
It had driven Percy to distraction and he'd taken extra pleasure in handing out detentions and taking points whenever he caught her stepping out of line. It had only been years later when he'd been accompanying the Aurors on a raid for Dark Artifacts that he'd learned the bitter truth about poor Gwendolyn and her unfortunate life.
Her parents had wasted their fortune on gambling, excess and poor investments and were trying to throw their lot in with the Dark Lord, trying to recoup their fortune by joining the ranks of the Death Eaters. After being dismissed by the pure blood elitists like the Malfoys and the Lestranges alike, Gwendolyn had been hard pressed by her parents into ingratiate herself into the good graces of the next generation.
With Draco Malfoy being too young and the other seventh year being either already betrothed or gay, there had only been Marcus Flint. Unfortunately for the poor girl, for all that he was an excellent lover, Marcus Flint truly was a heartless fuck. He'd led her around by the nose then, after graduation, had used her and passed her around at the rowdy death eater parties.
It was only when the Aurors had battered down the rotting doors of the old Rhovandis estate that Percy had learned how much the girl he'd been so jealous of in school had suffered in life. He'd been barely able to look at the gaunt and drawn woman, aged beyond her years as she cowered by the only lit fireplace while the ministry upturned every filthy corner of the old house.
Her father, crazed and half blind from liquor had charged blindly at them and had been stunned by so many wands simultaneously that his weak heart had failed instantly. He was dead before he'd even hit the ground.
They'd found her mother's corpse still laying abed in an upstairs room, dried flowers scattered around her bed. A pale and shaky Percy could only stare as the Aurors around him joked and laughed at the dirty Death Eaters getting their comeuppance, stumbling outside when Gwendolyn began to scream bloody murder as her mother's body was levitated down the stairs.
It had been all in all a horrible day and one Percy would never forget. The next time he'd met up with Flint in the dingy hotel room, Marcus had been all too eager to regale him with stories of what had been done to the poor girl while he fucked Percy steadily up the bed. That night Percy had cried into a cup of strong tea and had sworn to himself never to let Flint's filthy hands touch him ever again.
Of course, Percy was weak and a coward to the next time Flint sent for him, he'd gone; eager and needy for that heavy cock and bruising hands. He'd hated himself a little more after that, even as he whimpered and begged for more, spreading his legs wider so that Flint could thrust deeper.
Percy shook himself, swallowing back bile as he keyed in his code for the workshop door, the loud blear of heavy metal assaulting his ears as the doors slid open. He winced, shoving one hand in his pocket as he stroll across the lab, the other shaking hands with an enthusiastic Dum-E.
He takes a seat near Tony, his chin propped on one hand as he watches the genius work his magic on the metal and wires. He absently sips at a smoothie pressed into his hand and hums contentedly at the taste. He likes this one better that all other so far and tells the robot so, smiling as it chirps and rolls away toward the blender.
He slips his phone out of his pocket and checks his social feed and a couple of emails from SI and Pepper. He sends a text to Friday to have some food delivered and she pings him back an affirmative. They'd taken to talking and texting throughout the day, the ins and outs for the Care and Upkeep of Eccentric Billionaires.
Friday may have advanced and complex codes but she is no JARVIS and had admitted as much to Percy. She had been able to share her observations of her creator and father with Percy and between them they'd been able to hammer out a few new protocols put forth for further testing.
Friday had just pinged him that the food had arrived when the music cut off abruptly. Percy had been in the middle of switching out his empty smoothie cup for a full one and had just about dropped the cup on poor Dum-E. it was only the robots quick reflexes that had saved the drink and the floor.
He looked up to see Tony blinking at him owlishly, his goggles pushed up into his unruly hair. He gazed at Percy, then at the smoothie then at Dum-E with a frown.
"When did you even get here? How long have you been here? Is that smoothie for me? How come you get one and I don't? Starving Genius here… I need sustenance too you know."
He raps gloved knuckles against Dum-E's arm. " Is this how you gonna treat me now you bucket of bolts? I should reprogram you and be done with it. How would like to be the ball cleaner at a golf course? You can pump the little ball washing thingy, that will be you job from now on. No more blenders for you."
The robot arm whined and hung his camera low, whirring slowly and deeply as it inched away from them both.
"Don't listen to him Dee…" Percy muttered, slipping off his stool and setting his mug down so that he could pet the sulking arm, "… hunger had made him lose what little sense he has left. He's just taking it out on you like the big meanie he is."
"Hey" Tony mumbles from around the rim of the smoothie Percy had set down, draining it in one go. "don't call me a big meanie. That's offensive. I am offended. I am also hungry."
He snaps his fingers at the bot. "What are you waiting for? I need smoothies. What did I even build you for?"
For hugs, Percy almost says out loud but swallows the words like stones. He says instead,
"Oh no you don't. you don't need smoothies, you need real actual food that need chewing."
Tony makes an ugly face. "I don't have time for food. I have work to do… amazing, incredible, awesome work that needs to be done right now."
Percy gives him a flat stare. "Ok, let's make a deal. You come upstairs and get some food in you, maybe some liquid of the water variety, maybe some juice and in return I will make sure that when you return to the lab, there will be a fresh pot of coffee waiting for you."
Stark looks skeptical so Percy decides to sweeten the pot a bit. "I will even send out for those crepes you like from Donnatelli's for breakfast tomorrow if you agree to take and shower and change your clothes after eating."
Tony tilts his head, looking confused. "You're not going to lecture me on getting enough sleep?"
Percy shrugs. "Would it make a difference? Or even help? If I whine or nag or harangue you about sleep and drag you out of here and up to your room; even if I tuck you into bed myself would you sleep? You'd probably just lay awake and think about things until you eventually made your way back down here."
Percy shakes his head with a bitter chuckle. " I know what it's like to burn that midnight oil. I had a roommate once who could only go down if he'd exhausted himself physically and mentally then he'd collapse and sleep like the dead. He could never do it any other way. No matter what we tried, it was just how he was hard wired. All we could try to do was manage it to that he could get enough rest so as not to lose his mind to sleep deprivation. That shit was bloody awful."
"Yeah… that can get bad." Stark eyes are sharp and stormy. "You said… that you managed it?"
"it's trial and error, something's worked… some didn't. in the end we were able to create a number of routines he'd be able to use whenever the need arose."
Tony blinked slowly, glancing away. "Percentages?"
"74% success in getting brain activity calm enough for achieving a restful state. 60% success rate in getting sufficient REM cycle sleep to keep the body and mind at close to optimum health."
"60%" The genius nodded absently, staring off into the distance. He cut his eyes to Percy sharply.
Percy smiled. "Food."
First day of official duty and Percy was up at five am for a short work out in the huge gym, his grunts echoing through the empty space as he went a few rounds with the kickboxing dummy. The sun is tipping a toe over the horizon by the time he's back at his rooms, fresh from the shower and sipping on some strong hot tea while Friday streams current events on the plasma.
He has time for dry toast before he's slipping on a simple dark charcoal suit and white shirt. He forgoes the tie and leaves the top button undone. Grey socks and sharp black shoes complete the ensemble. He slips on a black Diesel Analog watch and his gold Goblin-made, magical suppression ring.
He'd been wearing it 24/7 since the day of the interview, a snug flat gold band on his left pinkie finger. It fit perfectly and was charmed so that if a person didn't know that it was there, they wouldn't be able to see it. Percy knew that the Americans were usually the first and foremost in marrying magic and muggle technology amongst the various magical communities around the world but they in turn had nothing on millennia old Goblin warding and rune work.
The small gold ring was deceptively simple looking but Percy knew that the magic forged into the very metal was hideously complicated. Higgs must have pulled in some pretty big favours to get one issued for Percy's use.
Slipping his phone into his pocket, he made his way down to his office as the sunrise painted the city in breathtaking light and colour. Picking up his tablet from its charging port and running through his emails, he looks over Stark's itinerary for the week and schedules a video chat with Ms. Potts for later that morning, taking a minute to shoot the breeze with Potts' executive assistant Rosemund, who is also on work at this early hour.
He spends a while going over protocols with Friday and between them they come up with several new ones for Tony to look over and approve. He lets Friday place an order for some crepes from Tony's favourite place in New York; a selection of chocolate and various fruits with some whip cream on the side.
Friday informs him that Tony had slept on the work room couch for approximately two hours before awakening and going back to work. Percy purses his lips and taps his pen against his leather desk blotter. Tony's work week was shaping up to be a nightmare with SI board meetings, R&D Department visits not to mention all of the work he was doing for the Avengers and his clean energy project.
Adding to that a messed up sleep cycle, odd eating habits and re-emerging alcohol abuse to the mix and the genius was going to burn himself out sooner rather than later. Percy may not be able to help the man with his psychological issues but he could at least do something about his physical wellbeing.
Looks like Tony was in for a bit of mothering taken straight from the Molly Weasely Handbook.
Leaving his office, Percy stepped into the elevator and hesitated before asking Friday to take him up to the penthouse. He wonders if Tony still feels comfortable in the Avengers common living space since the team's exodus to the new compound.
Friday had informed him that the rest of the team still had standing invitations to the tower and that the cleaning crew still visited the vacated personal quarters but there was a difference between laying out a welcome mat and being one.
Having to sit alone in a space where there had always been others before had often a cold and jarring experience for him personally so he had Friday re-direct the breakfast delivery to the penthouse. Percy himself stopped off at the avengers common room because it had the best stocked pantry which he then raided shamelessly.
Tapping on his phone, he sent off a quick email to the service staff to have the penthouse kitchen stocked fully and to have the common area cleaned thoroughly and everything perishable either thrown away or given to the needy.
As an extra thought, he made a note to have all avengers private quarters, cleaned and sealed off, all personal items packed into plastic crates and sent off to the avengers compound. He'd run that one by Pepper first of course, before having it implemented.
He took his bounty up to the penthouse and set to work, searching for and finding a glass carafe before setting a pot of water to boil on the stove. With a practiced efficiency that takes him back to his days in potions class under Snape's watchful glare, he starts tossing things into the water. Some dried licorice root, dried burdock root, some chopped fresh ginger, cinnamon chips, some cardamom pods with dried eleuthero that he was surprised to find way to the back of the pantry.
What Stark needed with dried Siberian Ginseng in the first place Percy didn't know but he wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, even when that gift horse came bearing whacky, rare ingredients.
By the time the crepes arrive, Percy has strained the boiling liquid into the glass carafe and added some honey to taste. He gives a pleased hum. Just like he remembered it. He has Friday patch him through to the workshop via video feed and is unsurprised to see Tony hunched over the worktable. He clears his throat to alert the man, not wanting to startle him and cause an accident.
When Tony looks up at the screen, blinking behind his safety goggles, Percy holds up one of the distinctive boxes.
"As I promised. Hot and ready from that place you like. You'd better get up here before I eat them all."
He cuts off the feed at Stark's indignant squawk and makes a note to check back in ten minutes just in case the genius gets distracted by work once again. He ends up not having to because Tony staggers into the kitchen five minutes later, wiping grease from his hands with an equally oil-stained cloth. He looks tired, dark shadows under his eyes and his skin sallow.
He makes a be-line for the coffee maker and frowns when he sees it silent and empty. He stands there for a few seconds as if he can't comprehend what he's seeing and Percy takes the time to gently guide him away to sit at the raised breakfast bar, placing a plate and some cutlery in front him. He pushes the open boxes of crepes closer and fills a couple of glass mugs from the carafe.
"But… Coffee?" Tony whines, his bewildered gaze still on the silent coffee maker.
"I thought that we could try something new?"
Percy placed one of the glass mugs on the table before sitting down and taking a sip of his own. He winced a bit at the strength and added some more honey while Stark glared at his own mug like it would bite him.
"is this… Tea?" Tony made a face, leaning over the mug to take a sniff. He curled his lip in disgust before taking another sniff. "I need coffee. Strong black American coffee. Hot enough to scald the tongue and put hair on a man's chest. Not this weak ass, dish water looking, horse piss you people try to pass off as a hot beverage."
Percy froze, his mug halfway to his mouth. Taking a deep breath, he carefully placed his mug down on the bar and placing his hands flat on either side of it. He stares at Tony for a few seconds until that wary brown gaze stops shifting long enough to meet his.
"I knew going that there were going to be some growing pains in our working relationship with you being a belligerent American ass and me being a stuck up British twat so I am going to let your negative opinions on my nationality, my culture, my beverage preferences and what seems to be my sexuality slide this time; mostly because you've probably been awake and puttering about your workshop since god knows and sleep deprivation probably has you barmy."
He held up a hand at Tony's sputtering, "I know that you didn't mean it like that and I understand that sometimes… most times I should think, your brain to mouth filter doesn't work like other peoples' do. Therefore I think that it's best that we get some things settled now."
Tony frowned, his eyes wary as he shifted in his chair. "Things like what?"
Percy cut carefully into his crepe, chewing slowly before answering.
"You may have hired me to be your Personal assistant, well no… actually… Miss Potts hired me to be your Personal Assistant. You hired me because you were bored and you think I'm interesting. I am quite okay with whatever the reasoning was because I needed a job and this one is turning out to be quite a bit of a pip actually. I get to stay in these posh digs, I have a chance to drive some smashing cars and just being in your workshop is really quite stunning."
Percy smiles as Tony preens at the praise.
"That being said, I am not your parent, sibling or significant other and as such cannot and will not utilize any undue influence on you to change your life in any way or to make certain choices - be they business oriented or personal. You are a grown man, despite what people may say about your so-called childish behaviour, how you live your life is ultimately up to you and you alone. I would, however, like to be your friend because I get the feeling that both of us have come through life so far with too few of those."
Tony ducks his head, avoiding Percy's steady gaze by cutting and eating his crepes almost mechanically.
Percy felt something in his chest twinge and absently placed another crepe in Stark's plate, along with some fruit and some cream. Tony hummed his thanks and kept on eating.
"I will, however, as your assistant, do the job I was hired for to the best of my ability and place myself as a buffer between you and the rest of the world so that you don't have to juggle so many things at once. Anyone that wants to get to you will have to go through Friday and myself, as well as Miss Potts to a certain degree. My aim is to lift away enough burdens on your mind and your time until your work load becomes somewhat manageable and sustainable."
Percy set down his knife and fork and wiped at his mouth with a napkin, smiling when Tony looked up and caught his eye.
"As you friend, I am afraid I will have no other choice but to mother you constantly as I was taught by me own mother. Granted, she was often overbearing to the point of being suffocating at times but she taught me a lot about providing care to stubborn and troublesome people who fight against any kind of affection and emotional support. I fully intend to make sure you eat and sleep properly and take better care of yourself and I fully expect you to fight me every step of the way."
He pointed the napkin at Tony's bemused face.
"You may be a genius but I am my mother's son and the mollycoddling begins right now. That… " he pointed to the tea, "… is something called Jump Juice. It promotes physical performance and endurance, supports cognitive abilities and mood and boosts immune functions and vitality without the empty calories and bad side effects of caffeine. I'm not trying to get you to give up on coffee entirely but after being awake for so long, you need something that will give you a boost but won't keep you awake."
Tony looked at the steaming cup with a skeptical eye before taking a sip. He made a weird face, smacking his lips before taking another sip. He huffs reluctant approval before smirking at Percy.
"So it's good for endurance and vitality huh?" he wiggles his eyebrows salaciously. "Maybe we can test that out later?"
Percy gave him a flat stare. "Given the history of exorbitant rumours of you seducing people's underwear off at thirty paces and the way you seem to thoroughly enjoy wit and humour skewed towards the lewd and innuendo…. You can do so much better than that weak attempt at a come on. That being said, you're not my type so knock it off."
"Are you kidding me… " Tony barked a harsh and bitter laugh. "… I'm everyone's type. Rich."
Percy raised an eyebrow at the self-loathing in Stark's words, deciding to broach that subject another time.
"If you had met me three years ago or so, I may have very well let you seduce me, me being the power hungry little prick that I was back then. Fortunately for both of us, I left my groveling sycophant days behind me in merry ole England. Consider yourself lucky that my 'give a fuck' is broken when it comes to ambition and success at any cost."
Percy smirked and topped up both their mugs from the glass carafe.
"That is to say, I do thoroughly enjoy living in your tower and look forward to any opportunity to drive your beautiful cars. And my salary is pretty sweet to….. " Percy trailed off with a light blush. "I do enjoy perks."
Tony grinned, sitting up in his chair but Percy cut him off.
"Not your 'perk' though so keep it in your pants buddy."
Tony pouted, slouching in his chair as he took a long drag at the mug, humming at the taste. He looked up at Percy through his lashes, turning the mug in his hands.
"I don't do well with people trying to mother me, I'm warning you now. Pepper and Rhodey do it all the time and it never works."
Percy shrugs and sips his tea. "I'll take my chances."
"I'm the worst boss ever. I'm inappropriate and infuriating and unreliable and don't like to be handed things."
Percy nodded, "I can work with that."
Tony sighed heavily, "I will give you the weirdest tasks and hit on you constantly."
Percy smirked and countered. "My last boss tried to have me thrown in jail for life on trumped up charges just so he could save his own skin. "
Tony paused. "Damn. That's stone cold."
The redhead nodded again "You can say that again."
"He still in his position?" Stark's voice is hard and it makes Percy glance up in surprise.
"Nah, last I heard he was arrested and put in the clink by Interpol or some such… one of those International Investigative Agencies got an anonymous tip exposing all of his dirty little secrets. Got sent to some gulag in Siberia for his crimes."
Stark sits back with a smug little upturn of his lips. "Anonymous tip huh?"
Percy blinked innocently. "And wasn't it just the luckiest thing. They even managed to take most of his cronies down with him. It was a bit of a hullaballoo… or so I heard anyway. Me being in Africa at the time."
Tony chuckled and shook his head. "I knew there was a reason I liked you."
"what can I say…" Percy grinned. "… I am a likeable person."
The first time Percy attended a Stark Industries Board meeting as Tony's PA, he spent the first half hour biting the inside of his cheek raw to keep from speaking rudely out of turn and the next two hours plotting complete and bloody revenge on the old piss pots that made up the rest of the board of directors.
First of all, the Board of Directors aka the Bag of Dicks as he took to calling them in his head, had moved the meeting time up without warning, making Tony and Pepper scramble to get themselves together with little to no notice. After shoving Tony into the bathroom, Percy had sent a frazzled yet grateful Pepper off to get herself ready while he browsed through Tony's wardrobe and laid out a complete outfit on his bed, down to underwear and socks.
After sending for the car; because the Bag of Dicks had demanded that the meeting to be held in the old SI headquarters situated out of the tower, Percy had checked on the traffic report and; after some conference with Friday, nixxed the car and called for a helicopter. After satisfactorily lighting a perverbial fire under the chopper pilot's ass, he called ahead to the head of SI Secretariat, Raizel.
She was a formidable woman, a silver haired battle axe who rode herd over the main offices and proudly wore her holocaust tattoo with the same grace as she did her Chanel bag and Gucci pumps. She reminded him strongly of Minerva McGonagall with her piercing stare and her lifelong mission to take shit from absolutely no one, ever.
The subtle art of networking was one of the many skills Percy had honed to a fine edge in his years at the Ministry of magic and the first thing he'd done in his new job was to get the lay of the land and connect with the hands that really greased the wheels at Stark Industries.
Currently his strongest links were Pepper's assistant Rosemund Bakerson, SI Admin Head Raizel Vilner, head of R&D Dr. Vihaan Pranay, Security Chief Happy Hogan and head of Tower Sanitation, Bill Jacobs. Between the five of them; and Friday of course, Percy had been able to keep a steady bead of the goings on within the Tower and the company as a whole.
Given time, Percy was sure that he could build a strong enough network that would give anyone trying to make a move against Tony in any way a serious run for their money.
Chatting with Raizel was had given Percy a veritable lay of the land at SI HQ and he briefed both Tony and Pepper via video chat as they dressed. Luckily for them all, the project that the Bag of Dicks wanted to be briefed on had already been put together by Tony so Percy sent the package off to Raizel for printing and binding, having been assured that they would be ready and distributed by the time the meeting began.
Soon enough Percy was hustling Tony and Pepper unto the helicopter and handing them dark chocolate almond mint KIND bars as they'd had to forgo breakfast. Tony made a face but at Percy's flat look and promise of coffee at the meeting, grumbled thanks and slipped the bar into his pocket.
They made it to the meeting with minutes to spare, much to the surprise of some of the BoD. Percy made note of the differing reactions by the board and of who in particular seemed more disgruntled than seemed reasonable. He'd had talks with Pepper previously about the board and their attitude towards Tony but the level of hostility seemed somewhat alarming.
Between doodling little cartoons of the Bag of Dicks being killed in ways both heinous and hilarious and exchanging quick messages with Friday to start in depth background checks on each of the stodgy bastards currently sitting around the beautiful glass table of the main conference room, Percy sat in his small chair against the wall and silently observed the proceedings, occasionally refreshing the cups of coffee next to Tony's and Pepper's elbows.
By the time the meeting wrapped, Percy had complied almost ten legal pad pages of hand written observations and notes which he would later transcribe to Friday. Tony and Pepper lounged at the table, picking apart catered muffins and slurping coffee; exhausted from the near interrogation at the hands of the BoD.
He wandered over to the breakfast bar, which had been near picked clean by the vultures on the board, and grabbed a slightly smushed and lonely banana nut muffin and a couple of bottles of water before joining his bosses at the table.
"Well, that was brutal." he sighed as he pushed one of the waters towards where Tony say slumped. Tony gave the bottle water a wary look but didn't push it away so Percy counted it as a win.
Pepper watched the short interaction with a dry chuckle. "Actually, that wasn't much worse than usual. Good thing we came on time and prepared to kick corporate ass. Those fuckers would have raked us over the coals if we'd come in the time the meeting was supposed to start. Thanks for the heads up by the way."
Percy acknowledged her gratitude with a brief nod. "They do seem bound and determined to put a stymie in anything you try to push forward. Is this a recent development or were they always such tossers?"
Tony barked a laugh. "They've always been a thorn in our side… most of them have been main stays from Howard's days. The others were brought in under Obadiah."
Tony's face hardens and he downs the rest of his cooling coffee. He makes a disgusted face and scowls at Percy when the redhead uses the end of his pencil to surreptitiously push the water bottle closer. With a put upon sigh, Tony grabs the bottle, cracks it open and takes a few gulps. He absently plays with the bottle for a few seconds, seeming in deep thought before speaking again.
"We were able to weed out a couple after Ob… Stane's death but none of them believe that I am any kind of CEO material. Even before I made Pepper CEO, even before the Avengers, Ironman… even before Afghanistan and the decision to get out of the weapons business."
Tony glanced up and Pepper and then at Percy before concentrating on the water once again.
"I've been a fuck up from a long ways back. The drinking, whoring and partying didn't help matters any but I realized long ago that no matter what I did, in their eyes I would always just be Howard's greatest disappointment."
Tony's lip curled with a growl.
" 'Too much of an unstable influence to the bottom line' they said. Too scared for their profit margin… for their quarterly reports. Too afraid that the coffers won't be able to line their fat pockets the way they used too. Too set in their ways to welcome any kind of change, too willing to hold on to the 'tried and true' even though what worked in the past can't possibly work now or in the future. All too ready to squeeze that little golden goose a little harder each time until it eventually chokes to death. "
"They still refuse to see that SI can be more than what Howard built it to be. We can be more than the ones to build the bigger sticks. That there are things more profitable that war. Even after everything we've accomplished the still refuse to see past their own petty mewling to the pure potential that's right in front of us. For the taking. "
"Even after the moving the company into technology and clean energy had been a complete and undeniable success. Even after our profit margin had grown steadily overall year after year. Even when a motherfucking alien invasion came tumbling down on our heads and our stock never fluctuated more than SEVEN FUCKING POINTS!"
The bottle hits the wall and splashes open, water dripping down unto the carpet as Tony spins out of his chair and starts to pace, his body tense. Percy exchanges a glance with a concerned Pepper and nods as she motions for him to give them some privacy.
Quietly gathering his notes, Percy slipped out of the conference room, trusting Pepper to take care of Tony as she had far more experience in doing so. Taking the elevator down to Secretariat, confers with Friday to have tentative lunch reservations made in case Tony felt like eating out and placed an order for Fish Tacos from Pepper's favourite place to be delivered to her offices. Surely she deserved a treat after her morning.
He taps out a few messages to Rosemund and checks Tony's SI emails. Friday was usually good at filtering messages but often referred the odd ones to Percy to parse through. The elevator lets him out and he spots Raizel at the end of the hall, most likely tearing someone a new asshole from the look on the unfortunate man's face.
She spots him and waves him over, dismissing the underling with a disinterested shooing motion. The man scowls and flushes red before making himself scarce and all of the office looky loos suddenly find themselves deeply engrossed in their own duties.
The older woman waves Percy into her office and with one last blistering stare at the milling worker bees, closes the door to give them some privacy. She offers Percy a seat before perching on the edge of her desk. She doesn’t have a sleek glass one like most of the others do, instead an ornate wooden monstrosity dominates her office.
She's wearing a grey knit wool dress that accentuates all of her sharp edges and matching heels with toes sharp enough to stab a man. Sensible jewelry and sharp angular bob of silver grey hair complete the look of a modern day ice queen. When they first met, Percy was sure that she had some magic or the other within her but she was full on muggle. That bright spark within her was in fact a core of steel that came from her time in the concentration camps when she was a mere girl and the only survivor in her family.
"So… " She shakes her head. "… what did those alter cockers complain about this time? Were the project packages too complicated to read? Too heavy to lift? Were the muffins too soft? The coffee to cold? Did Stark not bend over backwards far enough? Hell, did Potts not bend forward far enough? Feh! "
Percy crosses one leg over the other and gets comfortable in the chair. "I take it that you've heard about their persistent obstinacy to certain new ideas?"
Raizel harrumphs and shakes her head. "Certain ideas? That bunch of old blowhards wouldn't know how to find their own asses even with a GPS and a swift kick in the pants. Stane was one helluva snake charmer and he had them all eating out of his hands. They still think of Stark as some uppity kid playing among the grownups. And when he made Potts CEO? Hah… a woman in charge? They just about shit themselves."
The older woman pushes herself off the table and rounds it, sitting back in her leather chair.
"It's been an uphill battle for the both of them since day one. Sometimes I wish those vultures would just drop dead and we could finally wash our hands of them."
Percy cocks an eyebrow. "Is this just wishful thinking …? " he trails off as she gives him a sharp look.
"According to Legal, what we say in this office right now considered hearsay and not admissible in court… That being said… don't think we haven't tried alternative methods to getting those asses booted out of here for good. Unfortunately they don't have any dirty secrets or they’ve hidden them too deep for us to find. And believe me we've tried. The only choices left were either buying them all out or arranging some unfortunate accidents but Stark nixed the first one and Potts put a kebosh on the second, so our hands are tied."
"How extraordinarily mercenary of you Raizel. I'm impressed." Percy grinned. "I didn't know corporate America was so very cut throat."
Raizel's laugh is husky and wicked. "Boyo, you haven't even scratched the surface of corporate espionage. It's just too bad Stark won't let us hire one of those clandestine comapny saboteurs, those mother fuckers are ruthless."
Percy chuckled, tilting his head. "You get more amazing the longer I know you. Tell me, what are you doing here in secretariat? You could probably have made VP of something important by now."
"And get shuttled into some lonely office in some corner of the tower and dictate memos all day? Never. Better to be the neck than the head my grandmother used to say, God bless her soul. You're a smart boy… you know by now where the power base really lies. Why else would you come and introduce yourself to me on your first day? Surely not for my sweet grandmotherly reputation? "
"True enough" Percy admits before saying his goodbyes and making his way back up to the conference room.
He finds Tony and Pepper in her office, eating tacos and laughing so he has Friday cancel the various lunch reservations and breathes a sigh of relief. Tony seemed to be in a much better mood, his shoulders and mouth no longer tense. They invite him to share in the tacos and he accepts, absently tapping notes and texts with his phone as Tony regales them with hilarious stories from his travels abroad.
Percy lets the problem turn over and over in the back of his mind, humming and laughing in response to easy chatter. The Bag of Dicks situation would have to be addressed and as much as he wanted to walk up to the fools and cast any one of the unforgivables, he really wasn't that kind of person. That did not exclude magic entirely though.
He sends off a quick text to Sanderson at MACUSA. The man may be a bit of a twat but so was Percy. Not to mention that he was one of the best aurors in Higgs small unit.
*I need information on some no-majs. Who do you know that can get it for me? Affordable. Discreet. No questions asked.*
A few minutes later his phone pings.
*Fuck you English. Is this a secure line?*
Percy rolls his eyes. *Good grief man, I'm not asking for state secrets. Keep your panties on.*
*Hah, you wish you could see my panties."
*Don't be juvenile. Do you know someone or not?*
*Maybe. What do you need info for?*
*Weren't you the one concerned about this being a secure line? What the fuck?*
*Well excuse me Mr. Priss. I may have to ask around. What's in it for me though?*
*Aren't you supposed to be helping me out anyways?*
*Fuck that. If you wanted official MACUSA help you would have asked Higgs.*
He had him there. Percy huffs and scowled.
*Well, what do you want?*
*I want to visit Stark Tower.*
*Fuck no. I can get you a Iron Man Cell phone case signed by Stark himself.*
*Shit yes. Deal. Give me a bit.*
Percy shakes his head and tucks his phone away, concentrating on his tacos. He's able to get both Tony and Pepper to eat most of the fare and drink a fair amount of water before his phone pings again.
*Got a fair niffler for you, English. Gnome that lives out at Hodthel at Battery Park. Guaranteed to dig up anything you need. Even no-maj secrets. Expensive though. Goes by handle - Digger. Don't forget the phone case fucker."
Percy twists his lips. Digger indeed, what a name. He thinks about the expense account attached to his job and wonders if it would be able to cover Digger's fees. It should be. He'll have to meet with the gnome first. That meant a trip down to Battery Park. He tucks the thought away for later and tidies up the detritus from lunch.
"Will that be all Mr. Stark?" Pepper smiles and settle behind her desk, kicking off her shoes and pulling the closest file towards her. Tony gives her a small genuine smile that somehow seems brighter than his flashiest Paparazzi one.
Percy is somewhat grateful that they've both let their guard down enough for him to witness. It's soft and warm and speaks of years of friendship and fondness. It changes Tony's face and is so warm that Percy finds himself having to turn away from the intimate moment.
"That will be all Ms. Potts."
Percy escorts Tony back to the tower, letting him escape into the workshop after such a frustrating morning for some much needed engineering. He does some paperwork, transcribing his notes and taking care of the minutia of Tony Stark's life. Then, after checking in with Tony once more and instructing Friday to alert him if need be, he changes into some muggle clothes and makes his way out of the tower.
He has to see a gnome about a job.
there are so many fics out there where writers go into detail of what Tony is going through emotionally. i love all of them and appreciate them very much. this fic though is seen from Percy's view and so i won't go into all the stuff that i want to see happen for Tony because there will be parts of Tony's life that he has to deal with himself and that he probably won't discuss with Percy.
Percy is not privvy to a fair bit of Tony's business and is not really integral to SI's survival. that's why Tony has employees who do that stuff. All Percy can do is try pick up the slack in places that JARVIS used to take care of and that Friday is still learning to do.
To me Percy is sort of a conglomeration of Old Jarvis and New, taking care of Tony, being his support to that Tony can go out and rock the world's socks off.
I'm trying to not make Percy a Mary Sue in this. i hope it's working.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Locating a reclusive gnome, even among the denizens of Hodthel was more difficult than Percy anticipated and he'd ended up leaving word with the old crone he'd bought the foe glass from. He'd had to make a few purchases in her smelly tent as well as leave behind his brand new shiny watch as an incentive for Digger. To show the bauble loving gnome that he meant business.
He stuffed the terribly useless knick knacks into his jacket's pockets, rubbing at his now bare wrist with a frown. He'd really liked that watch. The crone had been vague about if and when Digger might show so all Percy could do now was hurry up and wait... and trust that the crone stayed true to her word and actually passed the watch on to its intended recipient.
He had a late lunch at a road side hot dog stand and checked in with Friday. Tony had not left the lab since he'd retreated there this morning and had been existing on Dum-e's smoothies and little else. Not wanting to get in the habit of eating takeout food too often and having little in the way of real cooking skill, despite his mother's frequent lessons in 'how to be a good spouse and run a household' that ALL the Weasley children were mandated to attend… along with 'how to be a grown up and take care of yourself' and 'how to save your own skin by using any and everything around you'.
Basically, everything Molly Weasley had ever learned on her own and from her husband and brothers, she'd tried to pass down to her children. Not everything stuck though, with each of the children picking up different aspects but in the end Percy could keep his apartment reasonably clean, could do his taxes and balance his bank account without help, could use mundane household charms to incapacitate an enemy long enough for Percy to get away and even put a passable feast on a table in a pinch.
He doubted that one could live for very long on a rotation of the three or more dishes he could throw together so he contacted Tony's private chef and made an appointment to discuss meal plans. He had heard from Pepper that the Avengers had set up some sort of rotation when it came to kitchen duties and it had been mostly successful. Sadly, now that most of the team were located at the new compound, that set up was no longer feasible.
The next few days are mish mash of daily video chats with Pepper, Raizel and Happy. Meeting with Tower staff and distilling most of the business of the day down to a few pertinent points he shared with Tony and got Yay or Nay on. Pepper signed off on the closing off of the Avengers living quarters for both security reasons and that she was still a bit pissed that the team had just left Tony behind without even a Fare-thee-well.
Friday had shown them video footage of Tony ghosting through the empty halls at night, cracking open the plastic storage containers and sitting on the empty beds with his former team's mementos in his hands. His shoulders would hunch and his head would hang low as he ran trembling fingers over one of Rogers' books, one of Barton's broken arrows or Banner's old shirts. It was such a desolate picture of loneliness and surrender that Percy had ended up clenching his fists until he'd left marks in his palms.
In between coaxing, bribing and outright threatening Tony into taking an appropriate level of care of himself be eating small meals several times a day, alternating between coffee and jump juice depending on how much sleep Tony needed, clearing all of the junk stacked up in the small bathroom of the workshop and setting up a closet with toiletries and clothes as well as a small washer and dryer that he made Tony promise not to tinker with or install a simple AI into.
They'd argued hotly about the lumpy couch in the workshop and its viability as a source of a comfortable night's sleep. Eventually Tony had capitulated when Percy found the perfect replacement at a small estate sale. It was a truly hideous thing made of supple leather and reminded Percy giant slug with wrinkled brown skin but it made up for its unfortunate appearance in spades by being the most comfortable sleeping surface Percy had ever experienced without magic.
Percy had found himself nodding off more than once on the thing and was never surprised to find Tony sprawled out, face down on the sofa after working himself to exhaustion. Pepper had even fallen asleep mid-sentence once, stark tablet slipping from her hand unto the seat. Percy had watched how Tony gently and lovingly shifted her into a much more comfortable sleeping position, that same warm smile on his face.
What time he wasn't spending on his duties and his off the books investigations into the Bag of Dicks, Percy was reading. Old SHEILD files released unto the internet, Jarvis' own files, Friday's new ones, old Team debriefings, news articles, anything and everything he could get his hands on pertaining to Tony and the avengers that had happened while he was deep in the wilds of Africa and South America.
He made an appointment with Joo-Won Yeong-Suk Park - Head of SI Public Relations, a friendly and scarily efficient Korean Woman, and Aaron Quinn - Head of Stark Legal, a a short, pudgy black man with salt and pepper hair, a friendly smile and sharp, intelligent eyes.
"So… Ultron." Percy waved them to sit and sat back in his own chair, his hands clasped across his stomach. "How big of a cluster fuck are we looking at here in regards to both the company and Mr. Stark personally and what can I do to assist?"
Joo-Won is the first to speak "it's not good … but it's not as bad as it could be. Both SI's and Tony reputations took a hit with the whole Sokovia fiasco and it's been an uphill battle since then. Ms. Potts and Mr. Stark have been working really hard to get the Company back in good standing with numerous public appearances and press releases and working closely with the Sokovian Government and the survivors. The Maria Stark Foundation has several outreach programs going and it helped a helluva lot when Tony was seen at ground zero along with hundreds of Staff volunteers, helping out with digging for survivors and providing aide."
She flips her elegantly cut black hair over the shoulder of her sensible pink suit and tapped absently at her Starkpad. "It's not all unicorns and rainbows though. There's been a lot of anti- Stark mentality for a while now and no matter how much effort we put forward, there are those that will see our actions as either bids for attention or signs of guilt. We still have a ways to go."
Quinn nodded sagely. "We've been able to handle and even counter most of the Civil suits being filed against both SI and Mr. Stark personally. There have been grumblings at the UN, especially coming from what's left of the Sokovian government and several other countries where the Avengers' numerous excursions have left behind some serious property damage."
"Stark Industries has an Aid fund set up that covers reparations and the like, which is currently funded in part by SI and Mr. Stark himself but that in itself is finite and can only go so far. If it keeps going on like this, we are looking at the real possibility of Tony Stark declaring legal bankruptcy."
Quinn shifted in his seat and frowned. "There have been rumblings at the UN. Talks about how to go about 'handling' super heroes, what they are liable for legally and such. Since SHIELD fell and the so-called 'World Council' slipped back into the shadows, there has been no oversight, just the efforts Tony has been putting forth on behalf of the Avengers. Not many people are happy with that situation. My contacts at the White House have been alluding to some sort of presidential mandate but it's being kept top secret for now."
Percy blinked in shock. "It's that bad?"
Quinn splayed his hands in a helpless gesture. "Not yet, but if things don't change soon and for the better, it's a likely scenario."
Percy pursed his lips and turned to Joo-won. "What about the Avengers? How are they doing in public opinion?"
"Not as much as they should. They don't leave the compound much except for missions and whenever they do make an appearance, they don't stay around for long after. Maybe if the public saw them sticking around to help with the clean up or even giving emergency services a hand, it would go a long way in keeping public opinion positive."
"What do you suggest then? What can we do to help Tony's image?" Percy frowns, swinging his chair from side to side. "We need a way to show the public that Tony is more than just The Tony Fucking Stark… That there is more to his than his money and his ego… that underneath it all he's just a man who's trying to do the best he can."
Joo-won leaned forward eagerly, her dark eyes shining. "There are only so many press conferences and public appearances a person can do before people start to get sick of seeing their face. We need a way to help the public see Tony as a human being without over-exposing him. I think that social media is the best way to do this."
Quinn rested his cheek on his fist and furrowed is brow. "You mean like myspace?"
The Asian woman rolled her eyes heavily. "Oh My God Aaron, MySpace? Nevermind. " she shook her head as if to throw that suggestion off her shoulders like water. "I was thinking more of Twitter or Instagram. Just small glimpses into everyday life at Stark Tower. People need to be able to see Tony as a person, the funny, witty, somewhat insecure eccentric genius those who know him personally know him to be."
Percy nodded, deep in thought. "I think that I might be able to help with that."
They ended the meeting shortly after, two more people joining Percy's network which grows stronger and more complex as each day passes. He pulls Tony out of the lab with the promise of food and mothers him into taking a drive in one of Tony's exquisite cars. They spend the afternoon driving the outskirts of the city, stopping at various road side stands and small greasy spoons and stuffing their face with fresh fruit and all manner of fried goods and messy burgers.
Tony is not entirely unrecognizable with his hoodie and baseball cap either but the few people who realize who he is seem satisfied in not making too much of a spectacle, mostly asking for an autograph or two. Percy takes a picture of Tony handling some fruit at a road side stand because it's too good of an opportunity to pass up. Tony is talking farming practices with the surprised vendor as her star struck daughter gazes up at Tony with awe.
He takes another when they are at a honey stand and it turns out that Tony has never tried honeycomb before. Neither has Percy so they both give it a try. It's delicious and they end up buying six jars, even though they have to pack them awkwardly in the small seats of the car.
He takes another of Tony leaning against the hood of the car, eating churros and checking his phone. They are parked near the ocean and the sun is setting orange and pink and purple and it almost looks like an Instagram filter. Tony laughs and asks him what he's doing, licking powdered sugar from the corner of his mouth.
Percy sits beside him on the hood of the car and tells him about the social media idea, that he wanted to take the pictures first and then talk to Tony. If Tony approved then Percy would have Friday set up and account. If not, Percy would send the pictures to Pepper and Rhodey because , frankly, they were adorable. Tony flushed at the word, shaking his head and chuckling.
"What the hell… go ahead." he mumbled around the fried dough. "Anything I can do to help Pepper and the team with pulling SI back up, I'm up for it."
Percy nods and says that he will take care of it and they don't speak of it again because he wants this trip to be about more than just photo ops. He wants Tony to enjoy himself and step out of the work mindset he'd boxed himself in. instead, he's true to his word and sends pics to Pepper and Rhodey.
Pepper replies with happy emojis and Rhodey pings back a confused face emoji. He wants to know what Tony is doing buying fruit by the road and ends with vague hilarious threats if Tony doesn't send some of the Honeycomb for the compound. Tony chuckles and replies that if Rhodes wanted to see a drop of the deliciousness, that he needed to get his patriotic ass to the tower himself.
By the time they get back to the tower, Tony is relaxed and happy, slouching on the large sofa and asking Friday to pull up a list of movies. Percy ruefully admits that he's never seen Star Wars and Tony gapes for a full minute before springing up off the couch and demanding that Friday queue all three of the original movies. He all but shoves Percy toward the elevator, ordering him to go and change into something comfortable because they are making a night of it.
They invite Pepper but she sadly declines because of a previous engagement. Tony hides his disappointment poorly but rallies fairly quickly and soon enough there is popcorn and pizza and orange soda and Star Wars. Percy is part amazed, part appalled at the trilogy. The things muggles were capable of always amazed him. He thinks of Luke and Vader's relationship, comparing it to Potter and Voldemort. At first he compares Dumbledore to Obi-wan but by the time the story ends, he sees Dumbledore so strongly in the emperor that it makes him a bit sick.
He eventually packs a sleepy and sated Tony off to bed and cleans up before heading to bed himself. He stumbles into his room and flops face down on the bed, groaning at the thought of getting up to brush his teeth; only to freeze when a gravelly voice echoes through the room.
"So…. what's a wizardling Weasley doing all the way over here in the continent?"
Percy pops up, rolling off the bed to crouch behind it. His hand darts under the pillow and he palms his athame while glancing at the foe glass on his night stand. It's empty and he frowns. The voice had come from his darkened closet and several bumps and bangs followed it. Percy carefully rounded the bed, whispering a quick *lumos* at which the tips of the blade started to glow.
The strange noises continued until he got to the door of the closet and stuck the light in. to the back of his closet, his small wizarding chest had been prized open and someone or something was bent over waist deep into the trunk. Short legs wibbled in large striped pants that slacked down, revealing quite a bit of grubby arse crack.
Percy made a face at the sight, scowling as culprit continued to dig about unashamedly through his private things. Just then, he sees the flash of gold against the light and slumps tiredly against the doorway. He recognizes the watch he'd given the old crone at Hodthel.
"Master Digger I presume?"
The gnome pulls his head out of the trunk with a wide grin, two rows of gigantic white teeth gleaming in the light of the nox. He's holding a stamped gold ingot that Percy had acquired in El Dorado and Percy huffs as the gold disappears into one of the numerous pockets of the voluminous pants. He lets the issue go without a fuss. He was pretty sure that the gold was cursed anyway because it had been a parting gift from the chief's daughter who hands in marriage he'd politely yet firmly refused.
"Ye presume right wixen child. I hear ye have a job for me?"
I'm off for a four day weekend with nothing but my tablet and i HATE tablet typing. i may or may not muddle my way through and post. nothing is sure.
Sorry for the Typo in the last chapter's notes. i am trying NOT to make Percy a Mary Sue in this. He doesn't magically save Tony and makes all his problems go away. also, there is some trust between them because Tony is a cinnamon roll who keeps trusting people even though they hurt him but he is also careful and it will be a while before he sees Percy as a friend.
i just want these two characters to be bros. i love them both so much.
Percy snorted awake, hips still jerking as he came, hot and sticky, in his boxers. His body curled in on itself with pleasure and he buried a moan into his bedding before finally slumping, boneless and panting through the tail of the orgasm. He blinked sleepily against the late morning sun, sighing deeply as he rode out the last of the aftershocks.
God, he really needed to get laid. It had been way too long since he'd been properly taken down.
He'd had a few lovers during his time on walkabout but he could still remember vivdly the weight of Flint's body over his, the feel of calloused hands as they bruised pale his skin, the burn of his thick cock as he fucked Percy stupid. Flint may have been a card carrying, Death Eating psychotic cunt and 24 hour asshole but he knew how to work Percy over like a fucking master.
Or was that a Fucking Master. Whatever he was… he knew exactly how to throw some next level cock Percy's way.
Giving one last sigh he curled on his side, hugging the luxury body pillow that he'd gotten from the Tower's Pillow Concierge. Because of course Stark Tower had a fucking Pillow Concierge. The custom pillow was long and weirdly shaped and curled around Percy like a lover on the lonely nights. It never ceased to amaze him, the many things muggles came up with to make life easy.
He stretched lazily, debating whether to get out of his all too comfy bed and forage for food or roll himself back into his blankets and sleep for a few hours more. It was his first day off since he'd started working for Stark and even though he'd made a list of personal matters to attend to, he just couldn't seem to scrape together the energy to be productive.
His grumbling belly finally drove him out of his blanket nest and he stumbled towards the bathroom, asking Friday to please start the kettle. He stepped into the shower, letting the warm water beat against his body as he palms his cock once again. He leans forward under the spray, one hand braced against the tile as he fists himself. soon enough He shudders through another orgasm and lets the steady pressure of the water beat the tension of the past few days out of him.
He pulls on an old t-shirt of Charlie's with a faded dragon motif and a pair of grey sweats before padding into the kitchen to fix himself a nice cuppa, his ginger hair still damp and curling around his ears. He's considering whether or not he should go for trim when sees a figure slumped at his small kitchen table. Percy pauses for a moment before making his way to the cupboard. He really needed some tea before he could deal with anything today.
"You do know that it's my day off right?" he frowns as he digs around at the back of the cupboard for his nearly empty box of Twinnings. He shakes the box experimentally, making a mental note that he would have to pick some up on his next trip to the market. "I thought we had an agreement about this. It's in my job contract and everything. My off days are my own."
Tony has a cup of coffee in his hands, gazing unseeing into its dark depths. Percy frowns and puts the tea to steep. Leaning back against the counter opposite the silent genius, he crosses his arms over his chest. He'll have to make sure to leave all of the exits open so that Tony doesn't feel closed in. Percy's seen the older man in low moods before but never quite like this. This utter silence.
He turns and goes about the routine of making his tea, popping some bread into the toaster and digging through the fridge for some butter and jam. He keeps his movements slow and well within sight of the darker man, having noticed how tense Tony held himself. He sets his fare on the table and takes a seat opposite the genius, smearing some jam on his toast and taking a large bite. He hums at his first sip of ambrosia, glancing at Tony occasionally as he demolishes his meal.
The silence between them is a bit terse and Percy finds himself concerned at how quiet Stark is being. He is just wiping at his mouth with a napkin when Tony looks up at the him through thick dark lashes. He takes a sip of his own coffee and makes a face at the cool temperature.
"You know that I have Friday wired through the whole tower?"
Percy arches an eyebrow. "Of course I do."
"Even through all the guest suites. I mean, she's everywhere… she has to be. For security reasons."
Percy nods. "As long as she's not perving on me in the loo, I don't have a problem with Friday playing Overwatch. I agreed to as much when I first moved in, remember?"
"I assure you Sir that I would never…" pipes from the ceiling and Percy chuckles, raising his hands in mock surrender.
"I know, I know… " he capitulates quickly, "You are the soul of discretion and are the true lady of the house. I was just trying to get a rise out of your boss. My apologies if my thoughtless words have offended you. "
"Apology accepted." came the curt reply and Percy silently cursed his sometimes ill-timed and thought out attempts at humour. He'd too often stuck his foot in his mouth both at school and at the ministry, thoroughly embarrassing himself in front of student and co-worker alike.
The twins had never ever let him live down those cock-ups. Just as Delaney and Vicente from the Department of Magical Games and Sports took absolute delight in teasing Percy because of his scathing professional assessment review had kept the both of them benched at the Ludicrous Patents Office indefinitely. Not that they didn't deserve the poor review, the fuck ups .
It still burned him like bad heartburn though that his own brothers were never able to set aside their utter glee at seeing Percy pulled down a peg in order to help his poor stunted sense of humour and love of mischief grow. it wasn't like he was born without one as they loved to tell any and everyone. It had just been smothered by fear of the Dark Lord in his formative years.
Oh well, it was a moot point now. The twins were back in England and Percy was here now. There was nothing else for it.
"I'm sorry Tony" because in his jest he's somehow insulted both AI and Creator. " I know that everything Friday does, she does to protect you."
Tony frowns into his empty cup. "Heh… yeah… I seem to have some trust issues. It's a thing that I'm dealing with… after everything with the battle of New York and uh.. You know… Ultron. But you already knew this…" he looks up at Percy, "… since that day at your rat hole of an apartment."
Percy sat back in his chair, playing absently with his tea cup, "You hired me because you were bored and you find me interesting. Trust has to be earned and I'm a bit of an unknown. My life on paper doesn't really give an explanation of who I am in real life and you have some just concerns. I know all of these things. It's not that much of surprise that you would have Friday keeping an eye on me. "
"Another thing I have Friday keeping an eye out for is weird signals and anomalies just like the ones given out by Loki's sceptre." Tony's eyes narrow, "… Just like the ones detected in your rooms last night."
"Shit." Percy closes his eyes briefly and then opens them again to meet Tony's laser sharp gaze. "I need bacon for this conversation. You want any?"
He slips out of the chair and puts a pan on the stove. He works in silence until the meat is sizzling away, feeling Tony's gaze burning into his back as he works. He can't tell Tony about the magical world. That would have MACUSA and her Obliviators down on them both in two shakes of a snidget's wings. Percy would be deported before he could even catch his breath.
He slides the plate of bacon unto the table and takes a large bite of one of the cooling strips. He sighs as he chews, swallowing before raising his gaze up to meet Tony's. He finishes the strip before speaking.
"So you know how before Thor crash landed in New Mexico, everyone thought that Norse Gods were just Myths and everyone thought that they were the sole sentient species on the planet. Just like everyone thought that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth. Then Thor came and the Chitauri came and suddenly real live fucking Aliens from actual fucking Outer Space were front and centre in everyone's' minds and on their twitter feeds."
Tony's eyes are wide as he tries to drink coffee from his empty cup before setting it down on the table with a thump. "Uh huh"
Percy pushes the plate of bacon his way but not before snagging another piece.
"Well, there are some out there who are just as thoroughly enjoy not being in the spotlight. Who happen to love living their lives in complete and utter anonymity and shadow. There are certain circles that you don't know about, can't now about, will probably never know about and …. Well…. I just happen to... you know…. My circles happen to .... sometimes overlap on their circles…. Not in any real way mind you but i….. I just know certain people who can do…. certain things."
Percy huffs, his hands miming circles in the air in front of him. He flushes at Tony's skeptical look, grabbing at another strip of bacon and biting into it angrily.
"The circle fucking overlap ok?" he snaps around the food in his mouth, " I can't tell you anything more alright. You aren't part of the …." he makes another frantic circle motion with his hand. "There are rules."
Tony bites his lip to keep from grinning and blinks at Percy. "There are rules… to the circle?"
Percy rolls his eyes. "Don't laugh asshole, I'm trying to explain something important here but I can't tell you at the same time. It's a bit of a conundrum."
Tony nods sagely. "I get it. First rule of fight club. Don't talk about fight club."
He scoffs at the confused face Percy makes and makes a note with Friday to make that their choice for the next movie night. Tony sobers and leans forward.
"What about the anomalies though? Care to explain those?"
Percy nods. "I could see how overtly hostile the Bag of Dicks was being towards you and how upset it made you. I know that you and Pepper have been trying to get rid of those old fucks for a while now with little success. It so happens that I have a friend who is into the information gathering business and I thought I would give him a call to see what he could dig up. He has a certain skill for going deeper than the conventional and he's discreet. Expensive but totally worth the cost."
Tony ruminates on that for a minute before tilting his head with a smirk. "Bag of Dicks?"
Percy hangs his head with a sigh. "That's what you got out of that whole thing? Not me going behind your back, trying to gather information underhandedly so that we could black mail your board of directors to step down, essentially pulling a hostile takeover of your own company and using your own money to do it? None of that registered with you?"
"Of course I figured all of that out, I am a genius after all." Tony shrugged. "… but that Bag of Dicks thing, it's fucking hilarious. I have to share that with Pepper. She'll think it’s a hoot. I'm gonna call them that in my head from now on. That’s fucking gold."
"Speaking of gold…" Percy's mouth twists. "I… may have used part of my company expense account to pay for this clandestine venture... heh... just so you know."
Tony furrowed his brow. "How much exactly? I hope that you didn't pay it all up front? Tell me that much at least."
"Noooo" Percy denied hotly, drawing the word out. "I'm not new. Half up front. Half on delivery of goods. The total sum came up to about half of what was in the account."
Tony shrugged. "Well… I've spent a quarter mil on less. We'll put it down as a business expense. Think of it as an investment towards the companies' future. If it pays off it will be more than worth it to see the Bag of Dicks gone. Shit, that is such an appropriate name for those fossils."
He chuckles a bit before turning back to Percy. "Any further explanation on the strange readings from your room last night?"
"A carefully crafted and localized jammer. Totally unique to the individual and cannot be duplicated." Percy assured, "He won't come after you though. The kind of people who hire his services aren't really the kind of people who would be interested in you frankly."
Tony takes a deep breath. "… the kind of people that run in these certain circles you speak of?"
Percy slumps a bit. "uh… yeah."
Tony studies him for a while before nodding. "Okay. I will leave it alone for now. Friday will continue to read and analyze any strange readings, even the sudden lack of readings altogether. Make sure to meet your contact out of the tower next time. I don't like my girl having blank spots."
"So…. " Tony claps his hands with a smile, reaching out to grab a piece of bacon from the almost empty plate. "What are we doing today?"
Percy scowls. "We are not doing anything today. It's my day off. You need to go back to wherever you came from and leave me alone. Thank you very much."
"But … But… " Tony pouted. "What about Fight Club?"
"Circe's Tits… " Percy groaned, pointing at the door, "What don't you understand about taking a day to enjoy one's self? AWAY from work?"
"But every day spent with me is a joy, didn't you know?"
"Okay geez, I'm going. Tough crowd."
And then the fucker swipes Percy's last strip of bacon and is out the door before Percy can even protest.
"Fucking wanker" Percy mutters, shaking his head as he puts his dirty dishes in the dish washer. Molly Weasley may have taught all her children how to clean house but Percy was not above letting muggle technology make life easier.
"Serves you right." Friday's smug tone comes from the inset speaker just above his head, startling him and almost making him drop his favourite teacup. He fumbles but manages to save the fine china from smashing on the floor.
Percy closes his eyes and tries to still his racing heart. Great. It seemed that Friday was still mad at him.
"Fuck today." He gives a gusty sigh and shakes his head once again. "I'm going back to bed."
"Ok…" Percy nodded to himself as he slung his Balenciaga suit jacket over the back of a nearby chair and rolled up his white shirt sleeves to the elbows. "I can do this. No problem."
He plucked a dark blue apron from a peg on the inside of the pantry door and deftly tied it to his front. There was white writing on the front stating that 'Cooking is Science for Hungry People" and the cloth was soft and comfortable from much usage. Percy especially appreciated how the wide panel protected his white shirt and favourite slacks.
"Come on then old chap. It's make your mama proud time. " he turned towards the stove, giving a great sigh and putting his hands on his hips. "Friday?"
It seemed so simple on paper, well… email really. Tony's personal chef had whipped up a batch of Roasted Tomato and Basil soup in the slow cooker and had left simple instructions on how to prepare the final steps for Percy to execute whenever Tony came home.
Considering today was Tony's monthly visit to the R&D department to kick around with his lab coat army, it was toss up whether or not he would get back to the tower for dinner or for breakfast the next morning. It seemed that everything had gone well though because Tony had waltzed back into the penthouse that evening with a spring in his step and a grin on his face, tapping away on his phone and talking specs with Friday as Percy picked up the pieces of the suit he'd stripped off and tossed absently unto the bed.
As Percy tutted and hung the suit aside for dry cleaning, Tony had slipped past and gone down to the workshop in a pair of worn jeans, his ratty converse and an old KISS tshirt. Percy had let him go without a word because he'd figured out by now when Tony was in one of those inventing 'zones' as Pepper called them. All he could do at those times was to make sure to keep Tony fed and watered and supplied with really good, really expensive coffee.
There was a small space in the workshop that consisted of a metal cabinet and small counter with sink where dummy washed his blenders, that made up a sort of pantry. The main focus of which being the huge black and silver coffee machine that Tony often stroked lovingly and called Lucille. It was a monster of a machine and it had taken Percy nearly a week to work the buttons and touch screens to get what he needed.
Next to behemoth there was a smaller, much older and even more hideously complicated, gold coffee machine that Tony had brought over from an old café in Italy. Tony called this one Scontroso which meant grumpy in Italian and reflected both the temperament of the machine as well as the old man who had previously owned it.
Getting a cup of coffee from the thing was an uphill battle.
Getting a cup of espresso? Witch Please.
Percy had watched in ill-disguised horror as Tony had all but molested the contraption for a full ten minutes, pulling out what seemed like self-defense moves and continuous mumbled curses until it had eventually eeked out enough liquid to fill one of the tiny ceramic cups that hung from little hooks along the side. Tony had held out the cup to Percy, grinning like he'd just come out of some back alley scuffle the proud victor.
Percy had given the man and the cup the hairy eyeball before carefully accepting the tiny coffee and taking a sip. Tony had laughed uproariously at Percy's wanton groan at tasting what had to be the nectar of the gods and nodded smugly.
"Totally worth it right?" He'd said.
Percy had promptly taken a crash course in the art of being a barista from a local Immigrant run café, which happened to be owned by the granddaughter of the man Tony had purchased the original machine from in Italy. It had been an intense three nights of after work training and at the end he'd come away with enough working knowledge to work in a Starbucks if this job ever fell through and enough inner confidence to try his own against Scontroso.
He still failed two times out of three, Tony being the only one who knew how to work the devil machine with any kind of success but whenever Percy played it just right and was rewarded with that little cup of ambrosia, he considered the war won overall.
Getting back to dinner though, Percy knew enough of the culinary arts from his mother to make his way though some grilled cheese sandwiches. Of course Molly never had Chevre -Goat Cheese and Pullman bread nor a gourmet panini press to make the gooey on the inside, crusty on the outside sandwiches. After making a stack, he cut them into triangle halves and out them in the warmer before turning to the soup.
"Uh… Friday?" He frowned at the large cooker compared to the smaller blender that stood next to it. "We may have a bit of a problem."
"There's no problem Red" the AI piped up, "Just use the immersion blender."
Percy looked up at the ceiling. "The what now?"
"The immersion Blender. It's a hand held…. Nevermind. Just look in the second drawer on your left."
Percy did as told and made a face. "The fuck is that? It looks like the dildo from hell."
He picked up the cylindrical machine painted in the same deep red of the Tony's armor and groaned.
"Merlin's hairy nutsack. Just add a little gold trim and it's Iron Man's dick."
He timidly pressed the on button and shrieked with laughter as it started whirring.
"It even vibrates" he gasped, bent over at the waist against the counter and the tube buzzed in his hands. "Oh God. I just pictured it in my mind. It's burned into my brain now Friday. I'm just a wee lad. What did I do to deserve this?"
It takes him a bit to get over the hysterics and brews himself a cup of strong tea while Friday attempts to console him. She doesn't really get the humour and Percy is loathe to share this little nugget with Tony just yet. Finally he suppresses his giggles and 'mans up', taking the hand held blender in a cool and confident grip and blending the tomato and basil soup to a smooth consistency.
He nearly loses it again when Friday tells him that the internet suggests moving the thing back and forth repeatedly to get the best results. Percy Weasley everyone. Semi-professional chef and hand job expert. He manages to keep himself together enough to spoon the rich soup into bowls and arrange the grilled sandwiches. He added a bottle of chilled Sangiovese Rose wine to match well with the cheese and two glasses, heading down to the workshop.
AC/DC is blaring in the workspace and he greets Dum-E with a smile and a nod as the bot waves at him and trundles over, pulling out a tray table for Percy to set the meal on. It's a compromise they'd come up with when Percy had first realized that any empty flat space in the workshop soon became a home for some half completed project or random spare parts or was disfigured by fire and acid burns or in that one instance when the poor table had been cut in half by a stray laser.
Percy had finally gotten fed up and had gone down to an IKEA and purchased a sleek and sturdy little table and, with Friday's and Dum-E's help, had installed it on tracks under one of the larger riveted metal tables near the 'pantry'. Tony had frowned at it the first he'd seen it in use but soon lost interest after learning its purpose. He'd patted Dum-E on the chassis proudly and returned to work but not before grabbing one of the plates that chef had prepared.
He cracks open the wine, letting it air. It a light and crisp selection, citrusy, to go with the rich tomato and creamy cheese. Tony is playing with his holograms, putting together and taking apart some kind of complex circuit. It's like a dance the genius does, his arms waving, his quick fingers flickering over the thin and shining blue lines. He gives Friday quick commands, his brown eyes shining with intelligence and a little bit of manic energy.
Percy clears a bit of space on the crowded table and places the soup and sandwiches there, pouring a glass of wine and setting it far from gesturing hands. He deftly places a sandwich in Tony's hand when it stills for a moment and grins as the genius absently bites into the crusty bread. Percy leaves him to find his way to the rest of the nearby plate and goes around the table to where his own meal sat.
The soup is rich and decadent, the sandwiches crunchy and creamy. The wine was light and sweet against his tongue. He savours the meal, forgoing checking his phone or work email. He doesn't even think about work, always enjoying the rare times he can get his mind to just float along, never zeroing in on one topic or the other.
The rock music washes over him, he's not actively listening to any particular thing. He's aware of Dum-E rolling nearby, of Tony awash in hologram blue, the chill of the central air on his bare forearms. He hadn't rolled down his sleeves or taken off the apron before coming down and it's comfortable. He fits in here like no other place he's ever been.
Not at home. Not at Hogwarts. Not at the Ministry. He'd always been the odd man out, just a little set apart from everyone else. Always awkward in his attempts at finding a place to slot into. But here… here there was another person who wasn't quite like anyone around him.
Someone who was often 'the smartest person in the room', the 'arrogant know it all', the insufferable arsehole full of himself', the 'socially awkward egg-head' who played the role of self over-confidence so perfectly that no one saw the lonely little boy who was never really allowed to just be himself.
But here, in this cluttered workshop, in a New York sky scraper, surrounded by charming robot arms and a cheeky artificial intelligence, he felt comfortable. He felt… settled.
Tony's voice startled him into looking up from his empty plate and the last of his wine swirling in the glass.
"Beg your pardon?"
Tony frowned, his eyes sad. "The apron. It's Bruce's."
"Oh. I see." Percy looked down at the dark blue cloth and ran his palm down the words printed on it. "it's a very good apron. He has good taste. And a sense of humour too I bet. "
Tony huffed a laugh, his voice a little rough. "Yeah. He does."
"Do you think he would mind me using it?" Percy asked, thinking: Do you mind me using it?
Stark was still for a few seconds before finally shaking his head ruefully. "Nah. He'd probably be glad that someone is still getting some use out of it at least. He banned me from using it the day after I bought it for him. Burned a hole near the bottom with bacon grease. I kept telling him that it wasn't my fault but he wouldn't change his mind."
He shrugged and popped the last sandwich in his mouth.
"It was that asshole Hawkeye. Trying to twirl his new flame arrows like batons RIGHT THERE in the middle of the living room. One of them got away and fell right into the bacon. One minute I'm graciously helping Steve make breakfast and the next I'm lying on the kitchen floor, a super soldier huddled over me and I'm literally on fire. No… no Dum-E I'm not on fire NOW. I'm just telling a story geez."
He waves the enthusiastic claw with its extinguisher away, chuckling as it droops low.
"Anyway, picture a fireball six feet high and four across raining flaming bacon and hot grease all over the kitchen. The security footage really didn't do it justice. So after getting the fire put out and Steve and I being treated for burns by Medical, Natasha ended up putting Clint in the naughty corner for playing twirl with experimental weapons tech while we waited for the hulk to calm down.
Bruce took one look at the burns on the apron and forbid me from ever using it again. He told me later that It was easier for him to be mad about the apron than anything else that happened. It was such a small thing that he could allow himself to be angry about it without the hulk dropping in. I didn't mind though, it got me out of cooking rotation."
Percy runs his fingertips along the small burn pattern near the bottom of the apron. A small smattering of holes with discoloured and warped edges. He thought about the former owner and everything he'd heard so far from Tony's anecdotes, Pepper's musings, Friday's observations and SHEILD's own files. He put an elbow on the table and rested his chin in his hand, tilting his head a little to look at the genius.
"I guess he found it easier to be mad about the apron being burned than being scared that you were burned."
Tony looks down at his bowl for a long while before slurping the rest of his soup, placing the bowl to the side. Nothing else is said. Percy silently clears the dishes and leaves Tony to his work, hanging the apron neatly back on its hook. It's about pride of place. It's about letting the apron hang there in case it's owner ever came back. It's about having a place you can always…. always come back to.
It's about coming home.
One of the perks of being personal assistant to Tony Stark was access to his fleet of cars. And we're not talking about the lovely , well maintained, sleek black sedans and flashy SUVs. Nor were we discussing the luxury cars with their shiny chrome trim and custom leather interiors. Not those, nice as they were. No.
What we were talking about was the collection of exquisite vehicles that Tony had personally picked, bought and maintained with loving care. There was Audi, Bugatti, Ford, Tesla. There was Rolls Royce, Ferrari and Cadillac. Bright and shining jewels that gleamed in the perfect lighting of the garage and never failed to steal Percy's attention whenever he was near.
It was not that they were monuments to modern innovation and human imagination. That they were tributes to muggle ingenuity and a perfect amalgam of both raw power and grace. It wasn't just that they were so finely tuned, responsive to the driver and handled like a dream. It wasn't just all of those things to Percy really.
It was that they were fast.
So breathtakingly, heart-racingly, orgasmically fast.
Yes, he knew that he was making up words but normal English language just didn't seem to do them justice.
The only hiccup was that as much as Percy knew how to drive a muggle car, he did not in fact have a valid driver's license. Oh, he'd had one back when he was at the Ministry of Magic, it had been needed for his forays into the muggle world, but that did not transfer over to his new life. While he'd been on walkabout, no one had cared if he'd had the proper paperwork, all that had mattered was that he could drive… and drive fast.
It didn't matter, he'd driven cars, trucks, bikes, even farm equipment. He'd even driven a tank once during a short lived rebel attack on a rural African village. He'd ended up driving the tank off a cliff and apperating away, therefore ending the battle in its tracks.
It took one call from Pepper to SI's HR department to get the paperwork pushed through, proclaiming that Tony's PA needed to be ready for anything. She'd even suggested flying and helicopter lessons and as someone who loved learning new things, especially things that went very fast, Percy had happily agreed.
She'd introduced him to the head mechanic at SI, one Asta Cloudsister, daughter of hippies and a former marine with a bleach blonde crew cut and a prosthetic leg. Asta looked like a young Brigit Neilson, tall and built like an amazon with her tanned skin and tattoos, happy covered in grease and elbow deep in car guts.
The leg was a custom made number, fitted for her by Tony himself even before she'd taken the job. It was a prototype that allowed the kind of movement and strength needed for mechanic work that paved the way for a new wave of prosthetics geared towards getting military veterans and other heavily active people back on their feet and back to the lives they lived before their injury.
There were days when Tony, Asta and Percy would wade into the backlog of SI's Transportation division, getting their hands dirty with the grunt work of auto-repair, showing Percy the ins and outs of internal combustion while trading good natured barbs and truly filthy language. Often Percy would find himself in stitches from the scorching zingers Asta and Tony traded.
For his flying lessons, Percy's instructor was a friendly and scarily competent African Immigrant Kwasi Ime Ikenna. She was Tony's personal pilot and had a wicked sense of humor and an utterly disarming smile.
"My parents wanted a boy…" she laughed, running through the pre-flight routine, "… hence the name Kwasi. He kicked me out when I refused to enter into an arranged marriage with a man three times my age. My aunt took me in and helped me get an education, she was a real firecracker … an 'owesifazane eqinile' … that means…"
Kwasi nodded, surprised. "You know Zulu?"
Percy shrugged, "I've picked up a few things here and there."
"I ended up being the first person from my village to go to college and the first person in the whole county to become a pilot. When I got my first international job, I went home to my village and opened a school for girls and named it for my Aunt who had saved me. I even invited my father to the grand opening. I was not surprised when he declined to attend."
Percy just laughed and said "You, my friend, are a bonafide badass."
Kwasi smiled as they taxied the jet down the runway. "Why yes, yes I am."
"I want to have hot filthy sex with you."
Tony chuckled and looked up from his latest project. "Are you talking to me or to the car?"
Percy shrugged. "Whichever one that lets me get behind the wheel faster I suppose."
The Hennessy Venom GT sprawled smugly across the garage floor looking like hot wet sex on a stick. One of Tony's exquisite car collection, looking sparkling new as if it had just been rolled off the factory floor. The slung low bucket seats still had their plastic coverings for merlin's sake. All gunmetal grey and sleek lines, it was half hidden in shadows that swallowed most of the garage space outside the small sphere of light that surrounded Tony's workspace.
Percy had come searching for the elusive genius with a tablet full of paperwork that Pepper needed signatures on ASAP or so help her she would come and stomp on someone's gonads with her six inch Jimmy Choos. As someone who valued self-preservation and had a deep attachment to his own gonads, he'd set out looking for his boss forthwith.
Now, the tablet hung forgotten in his fingers as he stared unabashedly at the best thing he'd seen since he'd discovered hot man cock. He clenched his jaw against the tingling of his saliva glands, Percy Weasley had never drooled over anything publicly in his life thank you very much and he didn't intend to start now.
As it was, his own cock had started twitching in his pants at the sight before him and he wouldn't be surprised or ashamed if it was already leaking pre-cum unto his boxers. His blood felt hot in his veins and his fists tightened around the tablet just as his gut tightened and burned low.
"Should I leave you two alone?" Tony's voice is low and darkly amused and it tumbles down Percy's spine like a lover's hot breath.
"Fuck you Stark" Percy sputtered, his face and neck heating against the chill of the garage as his lungs struggled to pull in air. "You once told me that you'd fuck the iron man suit if you could so you don't have room to talk."
"Please…" Tony scoffed softly, "Everyone wants to fuck the suit. It's a goddamn sexy motherfucker."
They both fell into silence, staring at the car as it all but oozes sex appeal from its parking spot. Percy narrowed his eyes at the car, his hands itching to touch. In fact, not only his hands but his whole body wanted to rub along the swooping lines of the car's hood, to feel the growl of the engine vibrate through his body. Fucking cock tease, he moans mentally, you dirty bitch you.
"So, " Percy turned to catch Tony's eye solemnly. "Who's cock do I have to suck around here to drive that thing?"
Stark barked a laugh and went to a lock box mounted on a nearby wall, punching in a key code and revealing rows upon rows of keys on hooks. He selected one from the box and closed it, turning on his heel towards Percy.
He jingled the keys in his hand with a grin. "Seeing as you've brushed off every pass I've ever made at you, I'm just going to take that as a rhetorical question and not a literal one. "
Percy smirked. "Considering how long it's been since I got some and how much I want to drive this car, my question may have just been more literal and less rhetorical than you thought."
As Tony's eyes glaze over at the thought, Percy swipes the keys from his lax fingers and replaces them with the tablet. "Sign those before Pepper has both our guts for garters."
Tony frowned at the tablet then at Percy. "Or we could go take this baby for a spin instead. She can reach up to 270 MPH with 1,244-hp 7.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 under the hood. Never had the time to really open her up on the track. Never had the time. Asta keeps her looking all gussied up but she's never been on a date."
"Never been…" Percy licked his lips, the keys clutched tightly in his fist. "… but Pepper…"
"…will kill us for sure… " Tony grinned wickedly, "But at least we'll die happy."
Percy gave Tony a sly look as the genius wriggled his eyebrows salaciously. "You, Sir, are a bad influence."
Tony laughed, grabbing his leather jacket as Percy pipped the lock. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
They made their way ninety miles outside of New York to the Monticello Motor Club because of course Tony is a card carrying member. Friday had called ahead and reserved the track and Tony makes quick work of signing the paperwork because as much as they both liked living dangerously, they also liked the more delicate parts of their anatomy healthy and unharmed. Finally, as they pull up to the Club, Tony signs the last document with a flick and sends off an email, tucking the tablet into the pocket in the seat.
The calm and friendly Senior Concierge greets them at the track; along with the stoic Track Master. After some brief introductions and an order for a late lunch at the Club's in house restaurant, Percy eased the car unto the track. The run is 4.1 miles of smooth, race grade asphalt and the Vemon GT roars as Percy opened her up, shifting from gear to gear with the ease of a master.
Percy can distantly hear Tony's exited whooping but his ears are filled with the deep vibrating growl of the engine that he can feel through his feet on the pedals, his hands on the wheel, his ass in the deep bucket seat. It's a good thing the car still had the heat sealed plastic covers on them because he was 75% sure that he was going to cum all over himself before he was through.
His hands, covered in black racing gloves, tightens on the steering wheel as they take a sharp curve, Tony screaming with laughter at his side as the billionaire braced his arms and legs against the dashboard and floor. Percy's vision tunnels down to his heartbeat, the steady throb of his pulse in his head, his heart, his cock. His breathing deepens, evening out until there's nothing left but him and the road being eaten up by the beast under him.
He feels its power, he feels its control, he feels the barely restrained savagery that could and would kill them both horribly if he lost control for a moment. The scenery blurs by, the wind whipping off the aerodynamic lines of the car. Percy can imagine the sounds it makes, can almost feel it tugging on his clothes, pulling at his hair like a lover, seeking to own him, to show him who really held control.
The speedometer climbs steadily, the car slinging low to the ground as the headwinds push its nose down. Percy's hands are sure and steady, controlling the wheel as it fought and bucked against his hold. The car hugs the turns, pressing him against the seat or the belt accordingly. If he's lucky he'll have bruises on his chest tonight. Delicious marks that he can touch and tease as he lays in his bed tonight.
His breath hitches, his heart racing as the car growls and jumps forward, sending a tremor through the whole of him and Percy is gone, bright sparks in the corners of his sight as he shudders through climax. He rides the high, laughing freely as pleasure ripples out like never ending waves.
He makes a couple more laps as he comes down, finally rolling to a stop near the track gates. Slumping against the seat as he pants and tries to marshal his weakened limbs. The lack of g-force constantly pulling at him leaves him weak and jittery and he rolls his head to the side to check on Tony. The darker man is panting harshly, his pupils blown wide as he turns to meet Percy's gaze.
Tony giggles a bit hysterically and soon enough they are both laughing wildly. By the time they've calmed down the Concierge and Track master have returned with bottles of water. Percy shifts awkwardly in his seat, his pants wet and sticky from his orgasm.
"Um…" He winces, flushing hotly. "… I may need a new pair of trousers."
"Of course Sir" the Concierge smiles benignly and kips off after getting his sizes.
The Track Master watches her walk off then turns back to look at the red faced Brit. He directs them to the Clubhouse Spa Centre just off the track and tells them that the staff will be expecting them.
"Don' worry about it." he intones seriously, folding his beefy arms across his broad chest. "It happens more than you'd think."
Percy and Tony exchange looks and head off to the spa. The clubhouse provides custom monogramed tracksuits after they've showered and the sit down for a late lunch of exquisite steak. The restaurant has floor to ceiling glass windows and the view is breathtaking. There's hardly a reaction to Tony's presence and the noise level never goes above the comfortable low murmur that good restaurants just seemed to have.
Tony tips well and by the time they get back to the car it's been cleaned and detailed, their clothes laundered and hanging in garment bags. On the drive back, Tony tweets about the great service and the Monticello PR team retweets almost immediately. By the time they get back to the tower, they are trending because of Tony's instagram pics of them in their snazzy tracksuits.
He gets a happy emoji from Joo-Won in PR and a turd emoji from Sanderson at MACUSA. Most likely from his new stark phone, complete with a signed Ironman phone case. The ungrateful fucker.
Percy sees Tony off to his workshop and logs in to his computer, making his way through his backlog of emails and duties. He checks in with Raizel and Rosemund, makes arrangements for a light dinner with Chef and teleconferences with building security and building maintenance on some pressing matters.
He checks his phone for any special messages from Digger. Turns out that even magical thieving gnomes had Snapchat. There's nothing yet but Percy can be patient if it meant that a proper and thorough job was being done.
There is an email from Pepper thanking him for the getting the documents signed and sent back so quickly. There is also a post script that if he can keep Tony's level of interest and response on the up and up, she may not have to crush their balls after all.
Percy chuckled at the teasing but still shifted uncomfortably and crossed his legs.
You never really knew with Pepper.
He felt loose and relaxed, much like how he felt after good sex, that free floaty feeling that lingered in the soreness of his muscles and left his mind clear and uncluttered. He pressed a hand to his chest, the seat belt did leave bruises and as he prodded them with his fingertips, he trembled and moaned softly.
Maybe he had time for a little self-love before wrangling Tony for dinner and a movie night.
Yes, that sounded like an excellent plan. He'd have to get right on that.
"Friday, Hold my calls would you?"
"Of course Percy."
There was a reason why Percy did not play quidditch while at Hogwarts. It was a simple one actually.
No, it was not that he was terrible on a broom or that he thought studying and his education was more important than sports. It wasn't that he felt jealous of Bill and Charlie's exceptional skills and it definitely was not that he hated sports all together.
It was because Percival Ignatious Weasley liked to go fast.
Really, mind-blowingly, recklessly, stupidly, complete disregard for personal safety, fast.
It was the summer before his first year at Hogwarts and after weeks of begging and pleading, he'd finally been given permission to ride a real broom by ex
asperated Molly Weasley. Partly because both Bill and Charlie, both already heroes of the quidditch pitch at school, had insured her that they would be keeping a strict eye on their eager little brother; and partly because Percy was such a well behaved boy and hardly asked for anything for himself. It was also due, in part, to the fact that her little angel's earnest and shining eyes just melted her heart something awful.
So as the sun rose hot, chasing across the pale morning sky, the wooden back door off the kitchen slammed open and out strutted Percy, clothed head to foot in in his brother's quidditch leathers which hung somewhat large on his lithe frame; a thick leather skull cap tucked over a riot of red curls and buckled at the chin; a pair of slightly cracked and worn goggles that Arthur had dug up from his knick knack shed and had belonged to the late Fabien Prewitt; and thick gloves usually used to de-gnome the garden.
On his shoulder sat an ancient yet very well cared for and oiled Clean Sweep, the first broom Percy would ride that was not one of those frustratingly slow and stupid kiddie brooms. Creeping along like snails just above the ground, they'd done nothing but ignite Percy into a scorching little ball of impatience and temper with their refusal to do anything but mosey around the lawn like a tame pony.
Heck. Riding an actual pony would be better.
He could see Bill trying to stifle a giggle as he ran through the rules of flying a real broom, Charlie coughing into his fist often as he checked over Percy's gear. The twins' childish sniggering echoed from the kitchen window, the red headed duo practically hanging over the sill, despite their mother's threats to whap their bottoms with a wooden spoon. It was a small mercy that she'd made them stay inside, saying that Bill and Charlie had hands full with Percy already.
Percy studiously ignored them, concentrating on Bill's instructions. He'd heard so much about Hogwarts and he knew that quidditch was a large part of that experience. Not only were his brothers naturals on the field, his family bloodlines on both his mother's and father's sides were chock-a-block with quidditch prodigies. He was already socially awkward and a bit of a know it all twat, he needed all the social currency he could get.
After a last check and some adjustment to the heavy leather robes and gloves, Percy secured the goggles with a grin and nodded at his brothers' pushing off from the ground a good twenty feet with a wobble. He steadied himself with a nervous laugh, almost giddy that he was already higher than any kiddie broom would ever go. He knew that if he wanted to go higher he could. If he wanted to go faster he could. It was like the whole world suddenly unfurled before him, spreading out like a brightly coloured blanket.
Later, when he finally woke up at St. Mungo's with a broken arm, broken leg, broken clavicle and a concussion, with his family either crying on him (Arthur) screaming at him (Molly) pale with worry (Bill) Red with anger (Charlie) or filled with awe (Fred and George); he'd known in his heart of hearts that he had always and would always love things that went fast.
With all the arguing, screeching, crying and all around over reaction, Percy was able to piece together events as they'd happened; along with bits and pieces of his own memory of course. Apparently he'd shot off into the air without so much as a by your leave to his shocked brothers, zipping around the property like a maniac. He flew high, he flew low, all but ignoring the squealing from the kitchen window and the caterwaul that came from his mother at the back door.
He'd twisted sideways to duck under a clothes line, the laundry fluttering madly as he whipped past. He'd skimmed the toes of his boots along the shingled roof, kicking a couple off to shatter upon the ground far below. He almost had a run in with the old iron weather vane, barely dodging in time to avoid an awful crash and taking out the poor rooster at the top with the tail of his heavy coat.
He'd veered upwards, climbing higher and higher as he grinned like the very devil into the shrieking winds. Then, in a moment that had almost stopped all their hearts, he hung in midair, the only sounds his ragged panting and the rush of blood in his ears, before falling to the ground and pulling off a near perfect Wronsky Feint.
At that point his mother had fainted dead away and had not actually seen him come out of the Feint whole and unharmed, only to veer suddenly in the face of their father's Ford Angelina, which had rolled itself out of the shed at all the ruckus, and wipe out spectacularly in some nearby bushes.
Bill, being the oldest family member at home and still conscious, had sent Charlie to deal with the wailing twins and check on their mother while he went to see to Percy. Charlie, after soothing the twins and casting a cushioning charm under his mother (he had yet to master 'envenerate' in school, quickly flooed Arthur at the ministry.
In the end, the head nurse at St. Mungos came to Percy's room and in no uncertain terms told the Weasely clan that this was a damned hospital and to either shut the hell up or get the hell out because visiting hours were long over and it was only her acquaintance with Arthur through the ministry that they were all still allowed in there.
Molly, red in the face, had puffed up her chest and, after tucking the blanket around Percy once more and kissing his forehead, gathered her brood around her to leave. Arthur ran his hand through Percy's curls gently, giving him a wobbly smile. The twins grinned widely and waved before tucking themselves into molly's skirts.
Charlie, still a bit angry that Percy had broken his Clean Sweep, just patted Percy's hand and gave it a small squeeze. Bill leaned in close and whispered that even though Percy had most likely scared a decade off his life, that was still the best Wronsky Feint he'd ever had the pleasure of witnessing first hand.
Later, in the darkness of the room, skele-gro and pain potions coursing through his system, his mind drifted hazily back, feeling the wind in his face, the sun on his cheeks, the strength of his grip on the broom, the sheer determination to escape the clutches of gravity and soar right up into the clouds.
It had been worth it though.
Even though his mother all but banned him from ever getting on a broom again.
Even though they were in debt to the hospital and had to use money that they'd been saving for new school supplies.
Even though his father had been reprimanded at work for leaving so abruptly in the middle of his shift.
Even though they could not afford a broom for Charlie to replace the one Percy broke.
Even though he hurt like the dickens as his bones re-grew.
He chuckled weakly to himself as he settled back into the hospital bed.
"Tank. Talon. ETA on Hazard and Hellfire, two minutes. Twenty feet to exit."
"Roger that Hornet. Vehicle is on route."
Percy did a quick sweep of the room and frowned. "Hold. Hellfire delayed by an over-eager beaver."
A few feet away a young business woman with a slightly twisted pencil skirt and loose fly away curls escaping from her sloppy bun was looking up at Ms. Potts with awe filled eyes, an ugly attaché case hugged tightly to her ample chest. Pepper, immaculate in her white power suit and six inch Jimmy Choos, nodded and smiled at the breathless chatter spilling from the woman's lips.
Percy huffed a laugh under his breath as Tony blatantly looked at his watch for the second time in as many seconds. Way to be subtle Boss, he thought to himself, exchanging a knowing look with Happy who was stationed at the door. Beyond the door stood four of Happy's security team, all former SHIELD agents who had been absorbed by Stark Industries after the whole winter soldier/ collapse of SHIELD fiasco.
In fact, many of former SHIELD employees had been welcomed into the wacky SI family, after extensive psychological and mental evaluations of course. The agents trained in combat had been brought into the Security and Logistics Division while the scientists had been shoved into the deep end of R&D. the administrative division had been sent off like ducklings to Raizel's 'tender loving care' and then sorted into the various departments and branches worldwide.
The biggest changes were to the PR Division and Stark Legal. If Percy thought those divisions were sharks in suits before, that was nothing on what they were now. Under the Joo-Won and Aaron, those departments thrived and cut down any who stood in SI's way.
Rosemund, Pepper's personal assistant now had a contingent of three undersecretaries that ran roughshod over bureaucracy like Charlie's angels on a good day and like rabid harpies on bad. Raizel was in her glee in secretariat, putting her new charges through the wringer and grinning in delight when they passed all of her rigorous training. HR had almost been overwhelmed until Maria Hill had walked in looking for a job.
Tony had patched through to the office where she was being interviewed and yelled.
"You're hired. Get the fuck to work."
Hill had made a face and retorted. "Stop channeling Fury, Stark."
"Please, as if I couldn't rock the leather and eye patch." Tony scoffed before hanging up.
Percy was pulled out of his meanderings when the couple started moving for the door. Happy signaled to the team, who immediately started making a path through the paparazzi to the town car that had just pulled up, flanked by two black SUVs.
A petite platinum blonde in a fitted black uniform hopped from the car to open the door, completing the smooth pathway from the door into the car. Percy ducked into the second SUV while Happy took the Town Car's passenger seat and within seconds they were off, FRIDAY coordinating navigation that took them quickly through the city.
"Hazard and Hellfire secure, Overwatch, ETA to airport?" Percy murmured into his comm unit.
"Thirty minutes if traffic patterns hold Hornet. Re-calculating for an accident near the tunnel. Sending alternate route to convoy GPS now. ETA now thirty seven minutes "
"Understood Overwatch." Percy acknowledged, sending off a quick text alert to their security team at the airport and private jet. "Copy Tank? Talon?"
"Copy" Happy's gruff voice came over the comm.
"Da. Copy Hornet" A heavily accented female voice replied.
Percy smiled as he pictured Happy and Svea giving each other the hairy eyeball in the front seat of the Town car. Hogan had never been happy at letting anybody else drive Tony and/or Pepper as long as he could help it. Even when he'd been moved from Tony's driver to Head of Security, he'd still held a job as Pepper's personal driver as Tony had taken to driving himself everywhere.
It was finally Percy who'd put his foot down after a horrid week of trying to be Tony Stark's Personal Assistant/Driver/Bodyguard/ Friend that had left Percy with a black eye and a very fast and out of place member of the paparazzi with a restraining order against him and the Eye of Sauron that was Stark Legal looking at him with acute interest.
After slapping a bag of frozen peas on his face, he'd glared at Tony across the kitchen counter and, in plain terms, informed Tony that he would be getting a Driver/Bodyguard or by Merlin, Percy was going to make his life very uncomfortable. With Pepper standing next to him with a frown, Tony wilted under the gaze of both redheads and capitulated.
Svea Raubvogel was a half human, half veela squib who worked as a freelance driver for MACUSA when she wasn't competing in Roller Derby. Standing at 5'1" no one thought that the tiny woman was hell on wheels, either on the track or one the streets. With hardly any magic at all, she had been kicked out of her family home in germany for being both half human as well as magically weak.
Her only traits from her veela heritage were tiny grey feathers that sprouted from her hair behind ears and her sharpened nails. She also had a strength that belied her small stature but could only be used in short bursts. Her roller derby name was 'bird of prey' which suited her because of her birdlike features as well as being the literal translation of her last name.
Svea was a woman of few words and it drove Happy crazy that he couldn't get a rood read on her. It tickled Percy pink to see them interact. No matter their differences though, they were both loyal to a fault and did their jobs extremely well.
"What I don't understand…" Tony's voice came across the comm, " … is why I have to be called Hazard? Couldn’t you pick a cooler nickname for me? Happy my man, at least you get to be the Tank! Why couldn't you hook your boy up with something cool? I like Arsenal, how about that? Or maybe Kingpin? Or Steel Shot… I'm partial to Strike Eagle myself, you know. Now THAT is a badass name. Strike Eagle! And Pepper could be Stiletto, my beautiful Femme Fatale and right hand woman."
Percy could picture Tony gesturing wildly behind the tinted glass of the town car as Happy gave an exasperated sigh.
"Stiletto?" Pepper's amused voice responded.
"Yeah!" Tony enthused, "… you know… because your shoes are as sharp as your mind and you can cut a man to pieces both verbally and literally. Probably without even getting your clothes dirty or your hair messed up."
"Good one." the agent at Percy's side muttered off comm and they shared a grin.
"You're lucky you're cute." Pepper chuckled, followed by the sound of a kiss. Tony hummed.
"Damn lucky." his voice was a little rough and he cleared his throat before continuing,
"So What do you say Hap? Strike Eagle? The Eagle had Landed?"
"I picked the names. " Percy interrupted before Happy got put too much on the spot. "We needed codes that were not to common so that whoever was listening in on our frequency would know immediately who we were talking about."
"… And Strike Eagle? Please. You might have well called you Iron Man and be done with it. " He scoffed, "We picked Hazard because it suits your wild behaviour in and out of the suit. Be glad we didn't choose one of the other names on the list. You could have been Crash Test, Turnip King or Disco Potato. We almost went with Prometheus even if it was only so we could call Ms. Potts Pandora but it was too bloody long to roll off the tongue."
Pepper giggled while Tony made choking noises over the comm. " The first woman. A means to deliver misfortune into the house of man, to cheat mankind of the company of the good spirits? Is that why you went with Hellfire for me?"
"Of course mum… "Percy acquiesced. "Between your red hair and your ability to light a fire under the Boss' ass like no other… I think the words 'hell hath no fury' was bounced around the room a few times."
Pepper's laughter tumbles freely over the comms and Percy grins.
Tony finally recovers and shoots over the radio. "And you are Hornet because you buzz around our ears like the annoying bug you are I bet?"
Percy nods even though they can't see him. "Of course. I also can sting you in the ass when I need to get you moving and like all hornets around the world can attest, I'm basically an asshole who will fuck your shit up if you test me. Buzz Buzz Muthafucka"
Even Tony laughs at this, even though Percy can tell he doesn't want too. They pull into the airport and are taken directly to the plane. Percy checks in with the pilot and sends some emails off to Raizel and Joo-Won while Pepper and Tony kiss goodbye on the Tarmac and Happy gets the luggage loaded. Pepper was headed over to Malibu to oversee some inspections of the newest SI facility there and would be gone for a couple weeks. Happy and a team of five would be accompanying her, including two of the team that driven in with them.
Tony, Percy, Svea and a team of two guards would be staying behind in New York. Percy could tell that Tony wasn't happy about being away from his lover for so long but he was in the middle of at least three different projects that couldn't be halted or postponed and the facility needed this personal oversight from its CEO if they wanted to get it reopened under the deadline.
Tony leans against the car to watch the plane take off, even though it drives his security team up the wall for him to stay in such an exposed place for so long but they suck it up and do their jobs. It's only after the plane disappears into the darkening sky that Tony turns to Percy with a sigh and a wistful expression on his face.
"What's next on the agenda Perce?" he shoved his hands into his pockets and rolled his shoulders.
"You have a dinner/slash meeting with the buyers from Osaka Group at seven, A Video Conference with Ventriss Industries in New Dehli at nine and you need to look over the Liquid Circuitry projections Dr. Pranay sent over for the presentation tomorrow." Percy listed as he got into the Town Car with his boss.
Tony sighed again, letting his eyes close as he rested his head against the seat. Percy exchanged a look with Svea who pulled off, keeping the ride smooth as she could. Percy checked Tony's schedule on his tablet once again, making a note to slot something fun into his boss' schedule for the week. Tony always needed a pick me up whenever Pepper was away.
Percy would have to be extra vigilant and not let Tony hide out in his workshop too often.
Looks like another visit to Monticello was in order.
"Is that a falcon?"
Percy looked up at Tony's question, following the man's questioning gaze out to the landing pad where said falcon was perched, as comfy as you please, on one of the handrails. He frowned, blinking at the sight.
"Yes, a Peregrine if I am not mistaken."
Tony furrowed his brow, moving closer to the large glass doors that open out unto the landing pad. "What is it even doing here? It shouldn't even be here. I have special Avian Aversion Tech installed in all my buildings, the Tower especially. There shouldn't be any birds on or around the Tower… at all."
Percy stepped up to his side. "Avian Aversion technology? Are you allergic to feathers or do you just not like birds?"
Tony gave him a look from the corners of his eyes. "Did you know that over 900,000 birds die from flying into glass in New York City alone, over a billion all over the world? To birds, Stark Tower is like the Sky Scraper of Death. Every Stark facility has an Ultra Sonic Repeller that puts out a continuous near silent ultrasonic sound waves that let the birds know 'Hey! something is here… fly around it!"
He waved his hands at the last few words. Percy nodded and looked back out at the falcon. A flash of red and gold glinted at the bird's claws and Percy frowned, squinting his eyes at the birds. The colour flashes again and Percy blanches.
Was that a Wizarding Mail Falcon?
He knew that in America mail owls were not as prevalent as in the UK but he couldn't think of anyone that used falcons for deliver messages. Maybe MACUSA but Higgs would never risk contacting him this way. She knew better. Sanderson had a muggle cellphone and an obsession with emojis to is wasn't him. That left a scarce few and none of the options were favourable.
"Friday?" Percy asked while shooting off a quick text to Sanderson. "Can you do a scan of the bird on the rooftop for me?"
"Of course Percy." the AI replied.
Tony shook his head with a laugh at Percy's frown. "What do you think it is? Some shape shifting assassin sent to kill me? That's not possible."
Percy gave him a look. "A lot of things aren't possible until they are. You should know. Aliens weren't possible, Asgard wasn't possible. Exploding People wasn't possible. "
"Until it was" Tony finished with a grim look. Percy nodded and they both looked out at the bird.
"Scan Complete." Friday announced. "No anomalies detected. It's just a normal Peregrine Falcon, Historically known as the Duck Hawk. Male. There is a pouch tied to its leg, red, with a gold engraved coin that says Gringotts on the face."
Percy face palmed "Oh bugger me" he groaned.
Tony raised a curious eye. "Friends of yours?"
With a long suffering sigh Percy finally looked up. "If that is from who I think it's from, I am in the shit."
Tony gave a slow and wicked grin, rubbing his palms together. "Oh, Do tell."
Percy made a pass at the kitchen to grab some leftover chicken strips and a bowl of water, instructing Friday to open the glass doors. Before he could go outside though, the falcon flew in and perched on the kitchen counter as if he owned the place.
While Tony's eyes widened in shock, Percy carefully placed the chicken and water before the bird. "I don't have any treats but you can never go wrong with chicken."
The bird huffed and waddled over to the food, inspecting it carefully before deeming it satisfactory. It leaned over and held it's leg out, letting Percy carefully unravel the red velvet pouch before ripping into the meat.
"Uh…. " Tony gaped as he stared at the bird, ignoring Percy's attempts to open the pouch at his side. "… what the fuck? I've heard of carrier pigeons and trained falcons but Trained Carrier Falcons? What the actual fuck?"
Percy paid him no mind, finally opening the pouch after brushing his magic over the galleon attached to the neck. With much trepidation, he upended the pouch into his palm, gulping heavily as a small black case fell out, looking like a muggle compact. Most of him wanted to fling the damnable thing off the side of the tower but a small part, seeing the W marked in an Egyptian cartouche inlaid in gold against the black gave him pause.
Before he could try to make an excuse to his boss and face what was coming in private, the compact clicked open in his palm.
"Fuck" was all he had time to breath before the cacophony started.
"TWO YEARS! TWO MERLIN DAMNED YEARS YOU'VE BEEN TREKKING ACROSS MOTHER NATURE'S GREEN EARTH WITH NOTHING BUT A POST CARD OR TWO SAYING THAT YOU ARE ALIVE! TWO FUCKING YEARS AND I DON'T EVEN KNOW IF YOU ARE DEAD IN A DITCH SOMEWHERE LITTLE BROTHER!"
I COULD'NT BEHOOVE YOU TO PICK UP A PHONE, A PEN, TO SEND A FUCKING TELEGRAM? AND WHEN YOU DO SEND A POST CARD ONCE IN A BLUE FUCKING MOON, IT'S JUST GOT THREE OR FOUR WORDS ON IT. 'I'M FINE. WOTCHER PERCE'! WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF MESSAGE IS THAT?
YOU HAVE CHARLIE GOING OUT OF HIS MIND WITH WORRY. FLEUR WANTED TO YOU BE THERE FOR THE BIRTH OF OUR DAUGHTER. DAD GOT IN CONTACT WITH ME ASKING ABOUT YOU AND I COULDN'T TELL HIM SHITE BUT THAT YOU'D GONE TO AFRICA. NOT EVEN A SPECIFIC COUNTRY… JUST THE ENTIRE FUCKING CONTINENT. I'M IN FUCKING AFRICA IF YOU WANT TO GET TECHNICAL ABOUT IT.
I HAD TO CALL IN A FAVOUR WITH MY BOSSES TO GET THIS MESSAGE TO YOU JUST TO FIND OUT THAT YOU ARE SETTLED DOWN IN AMERICA FOR MONTHS WITHOUT SO MUCH AS A LINE DROPPED TO US. MONTHS. I OUGHT TO TAN YOUR HIDE YOU WANKER.
Oh, and Fleur says hello and can't wait for our little Victoire to meet her Uncle Perce. CALL ME!"
The silence in the kitchen was like a heavy blanket after that, the only sound he could hear was the blood rushing in his ears. Percy swallowed heavily, shaky and pale as calloused hands guided him to sit in a nearby chair. The falcon had flown away at the first few words, leaving chicken bits strewn across the table. Tony gently took the small compact from his trembling hands and replaced it with a glass of water.
Percy made a face at the water and it was promptly switched out for a glass of whisky. He slung it back, savouring the burn in this throat and squeezing his eyes shut. When he finally opened them again, it was to see Tony inspecting the small device, turning it over in his hands. The older man looked up as if he could sense Percy watching and gave him a compassionate smile.
Percy rubbed a hand down his face and shrugged. "Not really."
"So… big brother huh?"
"Yes. Bill… William."
"Fleur. Bill's wife."
"Apparently my niece."
"And the rest?"
"Just… strange. We don't talk…I've never got along well with my family. They are a very close knit group and I could just never fit in with them. I left and it's just been better on my own. Easier."
"I hear that." Tony nodded. "Another drink?"
Percy cleared his throat. "No thank you. I'd rather have that glass of water now."
"Sure." the glass is placed in his hand and he sipped it.
"Do you happen to know where one can send a telegraph here in New York?"
"Not really but I'm sure Friday can find out for you can't you Fry?"
"Of course Boss, scanning now."
edited because i forgot the time line of my own story. LMAO. Continuity BITCHES!!!
Digger is back and the Bag of Dicks gets what's coming to them. Team Tony for the win!!!!
Percy is at a brunch meeting with Raizel and Maria Hill when his phone pings. Dragging his eyes away from the impending apocalypse that is the friendship of these two powerhouse women was difficult to say the least. He had the inkling that if he looked away for too long, they would end up taking over the world, or at least pulling the strings. He wondered what it would be like if Pepper joined on their power brunches in but he was convinced that the world was not yet ready for that triumvirate of BAMF.
Percy certainly wasn't.
He slipped his phone from his pocket and glanced at it. It was a snapchat of a mouth full of wide, dingy white teeth with thick wine stained lips curled back from almost blackened guns. Digger. The gnome he'd hired to 'dig' into the Bag od Dicks. His phone pinged again, this time a grainy surveillance photo of one of the more stalwart members of the BoD in a highly compromising position. The caption 'it gets better' attached.
Percy made a face and turned the phone to the side. He didn't think it was possible to twist the human body into that position without magical potions. Raizel snapped her fingers, bringing attention to his apparent inattention.
"Your face is telling a story I would like to hear." she takes a sip of her samosa and gestures to the waiter for another round. "I Know that we agreed to no devices at Brunch."
Percy bows his head sheepishly before handing his phone over. "I think you may just make an exception for this."
Raizel has to pull out her designer readers and peers at the picture with a frown, shifting to let Maria have a look as well. Soon enough their confused faces transform into amused ones as Maria snorts. Both women turn their head to the side in unison, turning the phone this way and that.
"My my…" Raizel smirks wickedly, "… I didn't know that Old Man Hodgins was so….. "
"Flexible?" Maria prompts.
"Adventurous?" Percy volunteered.
"Horny" Raizel deadpanned. She looked up at Percy with a calculating stare "It gets better?"
Maria joins her and for a hot second Percy gets the feeling of being a bug under glass. He puts his hand out for his phone and after a second's hesitation , she slaps it down in his palm. He grins and sends off a confirmation message before slipping his phone back into his pocket.
"It seems that I may have come across some pertinent information about our dear old board. Information that they've been paying big money to keep buried. "
Raizel shared his devilish grin. "Information that may just end up burying them all?"
"Up to the eyeballs." the redhead confirmed, murmuring thanks the waiter as he refreshed their drinks.
The lithe blond was cute yes, with the way he sent Percy little pouty smiles and stuck out his butt whenever he leaned forward to serve the table and Percy wasn't above bending over a twink or two once in a while so he slipped the scribbled phone number on the napkin into his other pocket.
With a promise to forward all the information received to Riazel so that she could swoop down on the Bag of Dicks like an avenging angel, he bid his goodbyes and winked at the blushing waiter as the valet brought his Cherry red Jaguar XF around.
He has a gnome to meet at Battery Park.
Hodthel was a busy and as dirty as ever, the tents and booths milling with crowds of magical folk. The elves were hosting some sort of fair or expo and there was a large arena stamped out to one side of the grounds.
It was always amazing to Percy that no one ever looked twice at his muggle clothing, the magical community more integrated into the muggle world than Magical Britain ever was. Sure, the Americans weren't perfect but they were miles ahead of where Percy had grown up.
Stopping at the clothing stall, Percy eyed a half cape, in a fine knit in shades of grey, that when turned inside out was pure black for more formal occasions. The capelet would go well with his business suits and was the perfect blend of muggle and magical fashion. Paying a pretty penny for it and shrugging it on then and there, Percy felt closer to his old self than he'd felt in the last few years.
His next stop was Gringotts where he neatly bypassed the miserable old goblin by the door after showing it Bill's Cartouche. He was then able to see one of the branch managers who helped him open a new account and establish a magical message exchange that connected straight to Bill's offices in Egypt. They would be able to exchange letters more easily, with a small fee to the bank of course, and so be able to keep in touch.
He also arranged to half the second half of Digger's fee wired into an untraceable money voucher that the gnome could redeem for goblin gold at any Gringott's branch in the world. Tucking the deep green with gold filigree envelope into his suit pocket, he ventured over to the grimy tent of the old hag with the dubious knick knacks he had frequented twice before. How she ended up as Digger's public contact, Percy would never know and frankly didn't want to know.
The tent is just as smelly as he remembered, a heavy mix of herbs, potions ingredients and other mysterious odours that the red head didn't really want to identify. He tried not to make a face as she shuffled to and fro, trying to sell him her odd and cracked baubles or read his palm, for a reasonable price of course.
Percy frowned as he spotted a highly illegal magical artifact and at least three illegally cursed muggle artifacts jumbled together on a rickety table just behind some jars of eyeballs and other body parts that Percy sincerely hoped were animal in origin. That particular one was definitely doxy heads floating in blue fluid. Percy cringed and clutched his new capelet closer to his body.
The hag cackled just then, making him jump, and pointed to the back of the tent. In the back room, the gnome was rifling through the contents of an upturned bag, piles of priceless gems, both mounted into necklaces, bracelets, rings and tiaras and strewn loose across the rough and scarred old table.
The gnome was chewing on the end of a short and stubby cigar, breathing of noxious smoke that hung in the room, making it hazy except for the sparkling of the gems. Grubby hands sorted the jewels, throwing the priceless stones this way and that, sending some of the loose ones rolling off the table. A ruby the size of Percy's big toe rolled to a stop next to his shoe and he stepped back swiftly, his eyes shifting between the stone and the creature at the table.
"Ye nah interested in meh shiny shiny eh Wixen child?" the big white teeth knash against the stubby cigar.
Percy gives the gnome a blank look. "I have no interest in anything that I haven't paid for. I have a feeling that dealing with items I don't know the price of would get me into more trouble I can handle."
Digger chuckles and it sounds like the grating of small stones against each other. "All wixen hear the call of treasure bright. Most follow along like fools and often run afoul the dangers. What makes you so different to ye brethren horde?"
Percy frowns thoughtfully. "I've walked the path to the shiny shiny as you call it. My shiny was power, recognition, money to a certain extent." he shrugged. "I've seen what that path does to men, better men than me. They did indeed run afoul in the end. I was fortunate enough not to fall into the pit but many that were close to me did. I have no hunger for treasure of that sort anymore."
The gnome breathes out another breath of noxious smoke and regards Percy for a long while. Seemingly satisfied with what he has seen, he gestured towards and old, worn biscuit tin sitting on a chair in the corner. It rusted all around and the images are half worn off.
Percy gives the gnome and the tin a gimlet stare before gingerly picking up the tin. It rattles as he tries to prize the lid off, wishing he was wearing gloves as his fingers came away stained with rust. Inside, wrapped in a ratty tea cozy was a high density memory card. Quickly, he slotted the card into a device he'd brought along for this purpose and scrolled through the numerous files, each labelled after a member of the board and one marked MISC.
Digger laughed. "Found a little more than ye were looking fer. Included it in return fer the cursed gold ye let me liberate from ye. The evil sprite that lived in it made a might tasty treat. A bit spicy but the ones from South America always are."
Percy gaped for a bit before stammering a thank you. He pulled the green envelope from his suit pocket and, at the gnome's direction, placed it on top of the tea cozy and closed the tin over it. Tucking the device with card securely into his coat pocket he took his leave of the gnome.
The gravelly voice had him stopping at the door flap of the tent and turning around. He fumbled to catch something thrown at him, opening his palm to reveal a large smooth stone of dark pinks and purples with a line of yellow fire running down it's middle. It was a dragon opal, mysterious, beautiful and highly valued amongst the Wizarding community. Percy gaped at the stone and then at the gnome.
Digger grinned, his Cheshire smile the only thing visible in the haze of smoke that hung around him in the dim lighting of the tent.
"That's for the watch. Blanche has a hankering for muggle things."
Percy's eyebrows raised. "Blanche?"
Digger nodded towards the old hag's side of the tent. Percy's mouth rounded in a silent 'o' and he quickly excused himself before he asked a question he didn't want to know the answer to. He nodded at the old hag as she shuffled her thick ragged shawl, the flash of several shining muggle watches of gold and silver fastened around her skinny arm before it was covered again by dirty cloth.
Stepping out into the fresh air of the grounds was a relief and Percy took a deep breath before glancing at the opal one more time and slipping it into his pocket and stalking towards the nearest drink stall. He needed something fortifying after that odd encounter.
He stuck around the grounds for a while, buying food and drink and watching a couple of the arena matches. It was near dark by the time he made it back to the tower, depositing his purchases in his room before herding Tony up from the lab with the temptation of food and some of the snacks he'd purchased at Hodthel. Muggle safe of course.
They eat dinner and watch Fight Club, Tony laughing unapologetically at Percy's reaction to the end. They end up eating all of the snacks as Friday cues up Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Percy pulls out the device and scrolls through the information Digger provided. He breathed out a soft curse. Well worth the money, he mused, the files were a gold mine.
He opens a private file on one of Friday's servers and copies the files, sending links to Pepper, Raizel and Tony before signing off and tucking the device away. He'd done his part. The others could now use what he'd sourced to string the Bag of Dicks up by their toes and nail their balls to the walls.
All he wanted was a front row seat to the action.
And maybe one last handful of those honey roasted nuts he'd gotten at the grounds.
Those were brill.
"HOLY FUCKING SHIT"
Percy almost dropped his teacup at Pepper's exclamation, tea sloshing unto his shirt sleeve as he turned quickly to face his fellow redhead. Her face was life size and in high definition on the screen near his elbow, the California coast sprawled behind her.
She was scrolling through some information off screen, her eyebrows creeping further up her forehead as she read. He took the time to dab at the stain on his sleeve and contemplate changing his shirt for the day when she turned to him.
"Has Tony seen this? This is incredible!"
Percy shook his head, "I set up the link to be sent when he woke up. I thought he needed a night's sleep before wading into it."
"Wading into what?" Tony muttered sleepily, squinting against the morning sun as he groped for his favourite cup. Percy had already set a pot of coffee to brew so Tony had no trouble in getting his needed fix. Two gulped mugs later, the genius was finally ready to wrap his vast intellect around whatever it was that Pepper was so excited about.
A few minutes later he set the device down and drained his nth cup of coffee, lapsing into silence and Percy and Pepper looked on in concern. Tony spun the empty cup a few times before looking up at them both.
"Holy fucking shit" he breathed.
"Exactly!" Pepper half screamed, half laughed and they shared looks of joy and disbelief.
Percy smirked behind his cup as they both started talking rapidly to each other, already making plans and giggling like exited teenagers. He'd just set about clearing the dishes when off of a sudden arms wrapped around him from behind. Percy froze, dishes in hand as he was hugged. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Pepper on screen, a soft, fond expression of her face.
A almost silent thank you is mumbled into his shoulder blade and Percy chuckles ruefully, shrugging his shoulder gently.
"Are you getting emotional of me Stark? Don't you know I'm allergic to 'feels'?"
Tony grinned against his shoulder, chuckling as he pulled away, turning to grin at Pepper.
"Can you believe this guy? Just handed me the best present ever, all wrapped up in a bow and expects me not to show my appreciation. Do you know how many people I've hugged in the last year? Me. Tony fucking Stark. You can practically take that to the bank!"
Percy shared a look with Pepper before placing the dishes in the sink.
"My Idea of appreciation goes more along the lines of a new car, maybe a fantastic year-end bonus. You know… things I can actually take to the bank."
Pepper laughs, bright and carefree as Tony sputtered in outrage.
Percy turned back to the dishes as Tony and Pepper make arrangements, smiling as the conversation flows over him. Finally Pepper signed off and in the ensuing silence, a warm hand came to rest on his shoulder.
"Still…" the hand squeezed gently before falling away." … thank you for this. You don't know how much this means to me."
Percy nodded without turning around. It was only when Tony neared the exit did he speak.
"There Is something you can do for me"
Tony cocked his head to one side, wary. "Yeah, what's that?'
Percy turned, grabbing up a towel to dry his hands.
"Can I be there when it goes down?
Tony smiled widely, his shoulders relaxing as he tucked his hands into his pockets.
It was as devastating and thrilling as he'd imagined it would be. Like a nuclear explosion. There were several times he'd wished for a pair of those thick protective glasses, if only to let him see the utter destruction wrought by a grim and unsmiling Tony, a smoldering Pepper who'd flown back in just for the occasion and a cool, sharp Raizel who stood at their back like a shark patrolling the dark depth of the sea.
Percy was glad that he'd forgone his second cup of fortifying tea that morning because he was sure that would have pissed himself by now. He was also grateful that Friday had been ordered to record every second of this glorious experience to be watched and re-watched at a later date. It allowed him to sit in his chair tucked in the corner and 'enjoy the now.'
He was absolutely certain that by the end of the meeting, secret shrines would be going up to the three people before him in the depths and back closets of SI offices everywhere. He was in the presence of greatness, of business genius, of ruthless power players. He itched to pull out pen and paper and make copious notes.
He could write a fucking thesis on what he was seeing before him.
You know what? Fuck it… he WOULD write a fucking thesis on this.
Maybe submit it to a business journal for funsies. Merlin Dammit, he wanted to weep for joy.
Ten minutes into the meeting, Tony and Pepper had herded the Bag of Dicks where they wanted them, setting up a false sense of security before dropping the bomb. Personally tailored files sent to each board members device. There were a few seconds of tense silence as mild confusion turned into horrified understanding and it was like Pandora's box opened up and out tumbled pandemoneum.
They raged, they shouted, two broke down crying on the spot while one fainted dead away and was coldly stepped over by a fellow director who turned an alarming shade of red, spittle flying from his mouth as he cursed and ranted.
It was like a performance of Dante's inferno Percy had seen performed in a Chilean Village. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth, hair pulling and tearing of clothes. He almost wished for some sack clothes and ashes to complete the aesthetic but he knew that if he opened his mouth, if he even moved, he would start howling with laughter and wouldn't stop.
And that would ruin the effect. The others had planned it all out and Percy was grateful that he could be a 'fly on the wall'. Near the end, when things started winding down and the Bag of Dicks were starting to realize how deep in the shit they were, Percy's jaw hurt from clenching it, his hands hurt from gripping the seat and his fist had been bitten in his fight to stay silent.
Then, like some avenging angel, Raizel went around placing brick thick Non-Disclosure Agreements in front of each director, nudging the unconscious ones awake with her sharp toed stiletto. When they'd all climbed up and slumped into their seats, Tony laid it out in no uncertain terms that they were to sign the agreements in front of them without a peep, that they would sell their combined shares back to the company for market price and walk away with their pride and reputations intact.
Anyone found in breach of the agreement would be sued for every red cent they had and their files would be made public. In addition, specific information from every other member of the board would also be released so they all needed to keep each other in check.
It was air tight and bulletproof and painted each soon to be former member of the board into a corner. Actually, It rather pushed them into a deep dark hole that they would be hard pressed to get out of. And with SI buying their shares back, they could not claim that they'd been robbed or stolen from.
It was brilliant, it was epic, it made Percy was to chortle manically and while petting some kind of feline in his lap.
When the former BoD finally trudged out of the room in utter humiliation and defeat, Percy had turned to Raizel and gushed, "I love you. Would you adopt me and be my grams?"
The silver haired woman cackled, ruffling his hair as she walked to the door and summoned Rosemund and a few legal aids to collect and deliver the NDAs to Stark Legal for immediate processing.
"I have enough grandkids Boyo, I could use a handsome young thing to be my plus one at the Synagogue's annual picnic and family day next month. You could be my sweet little Goy Boy. That should make all those other grandmother's swallow their wagging tongues."
She swept out of the room with a smile and a wink that had Percy blushing. What a fire cracker.
He turns back to the room, taking in the scene. It was one of ruination, papers, pens, water bottles and other detritus was strewn around the room. Someone had even taken out the muffin table in their ire and the poor muffins lay ripped apart and trampled like the aftermath of a war.
Tony was sitting in his chair at the head of the table, his arms around Pepper who was sitting on his lap. They were wrapped up in each other in such an intimate moment that Percy had to turn away and stare out of the window for a while. He gazed at the New York Skyline as their soft whispered conversation went on for a while tapering off into the soft sounds of lingering kisses.
When Pepper finally pulled away and came over to Percy, her eyes were red and a bit puffy but her smile was breathtaking. She pressed a kiss to Percy's cheek and squeezed his hand in both of hers before picking up her tablet and closing the door behind her as she left.
That left just Percy and Tony in silence. Out of the corner of his eye Percy could see Tony was struggling to say something, opening and closing his mouth several times. Tony's eyes, when he swiveled his chair Percy's way, were pools of chocolate brown and the red head could feel his breath clogging his throat. He couldn't do this. He wasn't pulled together enough for this.
"I want a 1965 Shelby Cobra, dark blue with Wimbledon White Stripes. There's one for sale in Texas I've had my eye on and with a bit of expediting, it could be here in a week. So.. Uh… you don't have to thank me or anything. You're welcome. No problem, nuff said. Water under the bridge. "
At Tony's startled gaze, Percy huffed and nervous laugh shrugged, popping out of the chair. He busied himself with picking up the debris in the immediate area, stacking up any important paperwork and leaving the rest for the cleaning staff.
He felt Tony's assessing gaze on him as he worked, intense and laser focused as the man himself. It wasn't he'd tidied as much as he could and turned to face his Boss with a deep breath that the genius spoke.
"Dark Blue with wimbledon white stripes you say?"
The redhead cokcked his head to one side. "About $200,000 after taxes and shipping."
Tony looked at the ceiling and smiled. "Make it happen Fry."
"Yes Boss." the AI chirped.
Percy blinked stupidly, before making a weird squeaking noise in his throat. Tony laughed, shaking his head and standing up out of the chair. He tugged his suit into place and ran a hand through his artfully tousled hair.
"What do you say we grab some lunch huh? I could use a cheeseburger right now."
Percy shrugged helplessly because what was his life. "I know of a great place. Better than sex they say."
Tony made a face. "I don't know what Pepper would say to that."
Percy chuckled. "I heard that. Relying on what 'they' say has never worked out for me but I have tried the burger and it's really bloody good."
"Better than sex?" Tony arched an eyebrow.
Percy makes a face and does a so-so motion with his hand. "Better than most sex maybe. Better than great sex? Definitely not. It's all relative."
Tony nodded sagely. "Sex and burgers often are."
They left the room, arguing good naturedly about burgers and great sex all the way to the lobby where Svea was waiting with the car. Two weeks later, a shiny 1965 Shelby Cobra joined the ranks of the beautiful cars under Asta's care and if Percy squealed like a little girl when it was delivered, that was only for him to know.
Well, and Asta who face palmed at his hysterics.
And Friday, who recorded his spastic flailing.
And Tony who laughed for a week at the video clip.
And of course he escorted Raizel to the Picnic, dressed to the nines, in his new Shelby fucking Cobra and they made all of the other grannies swallow their wagging tongues.
God he loved his job.
"Remind me again why I had to spend my hard earned salary to come and sit on sticky bleachers, drink watery beer and eat imitation cheese on stale nachos with you crazy people?"
Percy had to lean in closer to Asta Cloudsister to be heard over the noisy, screaming crowd, frowning as the lukewarm piss masquerading as American beer slopped over the rim of his cup unto his trousers. He muttered a curse which was swallowed up completely by the surge of noise that rose up around him.
He looked around for a napkin, sighing when he found none salvageable enough to dab at the material. Making a face, he set the cup down between his feet and shook the last of the liquid off his hand.
Asta fell heavily unto the seat next to his, shaking the bleachers a bit too ominously for Percy's taste. Her hair was wild and curling with sweat at the base of her neck and around her ears and her pale skin was flushed pink, no doubt due to the jumping and screaming she'd been doing prior hence.
With a loud and braying laugh, she elbowed him in the arm, her sky blue eyes glued to the track before her.
"Oh come on P, A little birdie told me that you've never been to the Roller Derby before. You're a certified Derby virgin. Of course we were going to bring you here even if we had to drag you by your shirt tails " She rasped before turning back to the action and letting out a stream of profanity that left Percy's ears burning.
Blinking away his consternation, he followed her gaze to the track beyond, narrowing his eyes at the supposed 'little birdie' who had apparently sung like a canary and landed him in this mess.
Out on the track, women of various sizes and ages were participating in some kind of violent ritual that Percy just could not make head or tails of… and he'd been a massive quidditch fan. They had tried to explain the rules in the car on the way here but seeing the sport in action was more horrifying and confusing that he could have ever imagined.
Amongst the indiscriminate and oddly titillating violence, a petite blonde with heavily tattooed arms, heavy elbow and knee pads and a skimpy outfit body checked a larger opponent, sending the other player off the track in a spectacular tumble which took out three more players.
The platinum blonde didn't even look back, shouting curt orders to a team mate who then performed some kind of human slingshot maneuver. Apparently whatever it was worked because the crowd went wild, screaming and cheering as the bleachers creaked and rocked.
Muttering a prayer under his breath and marking the nearest emergency exits, Percy took a second the glare at the laughing blonde being held on the shoulders of her triumphant teammates.
By day, Svea Durnovo was the personal driver / body guard for eccentric billionaire Tony Stark, but by night the diminutive half Veela squib was apparently a terror on roller skates. She had a sharp, almost bitter sense of humour, an air of restrained violence that belied her short stature and somehow she'd come to see Percy as a friend. Well, at least as a friendly work colleague.
Percy wasn't really sure how it happened. Just that he'd been spending more time with Tony's personal security team in weeks past. After an attempted kidnapping which left Percy with a scar on his calf and an extremely pissed off boss, Happy had offered Percy some training with the team.
So after work, for a couple of hours every day, Percy, Happy, Svea and sometimes Tony, would head down to the large gym and practice self-defense. He learned how to fall, how to use his slight form and quick reflexes to out maneuver his opponent.
Leonard "Leo" Elric, the leader of the four man team told him flat out that they were not teaching Percy how to win a fight, they were teaching him how to survive one.
"To quote Jack Sparrow…" he'd chuckled, smile lines popping up on his expressive, dark skinned face. "… we fight… to run away."
An elbow in the side brought him back to the present, the bleachers were almost deserted, the most of the crowd milling around the few food stalls and littered parking lot.
Asta nodded to the side, a sly look on her face. "That's the other reason you're here tonight."
Percy glanced over her shoulder, his eyes widening at the sight of Rosamund Bakerson, Pepper's go to gal, flirting clumsily with the only female member of the Alpha Team; Shivani Chowlha.
Known to most of SHEILD as The Bengal, similar to how Melinda May was known as The Cavalry; Shivani was one of the deep cover operatives who'd been hung out to dry in Madripoor when Romanoff and Rogers flooded the internet with all of SHIELD's dirty laundry.
By the time rescue had gotten to her, she'd escaped captivity and had been hunting and killing her captors through the Asian jungle. She'd come out of the ordeal with white whip scars across her back and a deadly reputation.
Shivani was all luscious dark skin and lithe muscular curves, jet black curls tumbling about her shoulders as she smiled at the pale and blushing woman next to her. Rosamund's skin was flushed a rosy pink, her pale lavender hair curled in ringlets that just brushed her shoulders.
They were both leaning towards each other, Percy could tell by body language that the attraction was mutual. He glanced back at Asta with a raised eyebrow. She chuckled.
"Rose was too nervous to come alone so we arranged it like a group thing."
Percy hummed in understanding. "Ah yes, so it wouldn't be awkward if it didn't work out. Safety in numbers and all that. "
The blonde nodded, breaking out in a loud cheer as she spotted Svea walking towards them in her street clothes, a large tacky medal slung around her neck.
"So… "Svea quirked up a corner of her lip in what on other people would be a smile, "What did you think? My team is awesome no?"
Asta thrust a fist in the air, one arm hanging off Percy's shoulders. "Hell yeah girlfriend. HEAD HUNTERS RULE!"
Percy twisted away from her, slapping a hand over his ear. He rolled his eyes and turned to the petite blond.
"it was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating." he admitted but then added solemnly. "The facilities and refreshments leave much to be desired though. I may have to burn these clothes."
Svea nodded and chuckled, swinging her free arm around Percy's other side, the two blondes pulling him forward as they picked up the other two ladies and headed for the door.
The five of them trouped into Rosamund's sedan and made for the nearest pizza place. Dan's Pizza Palace didn't sound like much to begin with and hadn't looked like much either but the pizza was hot and cheesy enough to overlook the grease dripping off it.
By the time the night was over, Percy had all but fallen out of the car in front of the tower, tipsy and fit to burst as he waved good bye to a giggly Asta behind the wheel while Rose and Shivani made out hot and heavy in the backseat.
The next morning found Percy eating antacids like Chiclets and sipping weak tea as he browsed through his emails. His daily video chat with Rosamund showed that she was also suffering but there was an underlying smugness about her that Percy honed in on.
"You've been shagging haven't you, you slag." He smirked as her face burned bright red. "Talk about catching a tiger by the toe. Well done you."
Her lavender curls bounced as she laughed brightly. "Well, there was a lot of hollering."
Percy grinned and tipped his cuppa toward her. "Well, here's to living dangerously… at least someone getting laid around here."
The thing was, Percy's situation had been getting dire for a while. Sure, he'd been able to arrange a few one night stands with horny, pouty twinks who loved being fucked hard. And by George, he'd fucked them hard and left them begging for more.
The problem was, while his dick was happy, the rest of him aching for bruising hands. He'd thought about going to S&M Clubs, finding a hot Dom to treat him the way he needed to be treated but he'd never been able to cross that last line.
It was about trust.
Not that he'd trusted Flint but then again, he'd believed that he'd had nothing left to lose at that point. His job was shit. His life was shit. The least he could do was to get shagged on the regular.
But these days he had more to worry about. Working for Tony Stark made his life so much better and so much more complicated at the same time. He had to be careful now, more cautious with his body and with his trust.
A potential solution to his problem came in the form of MacDonald 'Mack' Gearhardt, a former Army Ranger and the only member of Alpha Team who wasn't exSHEILD. The man was all rugged masculinity with a side of tenderness that called to the nurturer in Percy; with large calloused hands that looked like they could work wonders on his pale skin.
He completed the Alpha Team dynamic. There was Leo, the leader of the group ad an expert tactician, who'd been one of the SHIELD strike team leaders and whose family had been saved from assassination by Stark's quick actions.
There was Zaheer al Kashim, a handsome Arabic former deep cover operative and explosives expert who had been one of those personally rescued by Ironman himself from a camp belonging to what was left of the Ten Rings. Shivani was their analyst and spec ops while Mack rounded out the group as sniper and ballistics expert.
For the past two weeks Percy had been channeling his inner Ravenclaw, trying to suss out whether Mack would be open to the kind of relationship Percy was seeking but information remained elusive. Mack liked to keep things close to his chest and the most Percy had been able to find out was that he'd been married before, been divorced and had a child whom he never visited.
Taking the last sip of his tea, he gathered up his tablet and headed down to the workshop, pushing the issue to the back burner for now. He gathered a small basket of scones and a few fruits on the way and set them up on the small pull out table for ease of reach. He spent a few minutes pushing buttons on Lucille before he was awarded a hot and delicious cup of coffee.
He set the Coffee, two blueberry scones and a banana on a thick napkin near Tony's elbow and went off to greet the bots. After a twenty minute standoff with Dummy over some of his more dubious recent smoothie recipes, they came to an accord that satisfied both parties to a degree but had the benefit of being entirely better for Tony's digestive tract.
Grabbing the now empty cup, he quickly refilled it, clearing away the scone crumbs and banana peel and setting a few KIND bars in their place. He made a round of the workshop bath room, sending the used towels down the laundry chute and restocking most of the items as the maid service did not include the workshop for security reasons.
Sadly, the bots could not maneuver within the small space without cause damage so Percy made sure to check it regularly. He picked up a pair of Pepper's heels, a rolled up pair of stockings and a suit jacket and tucked them away in a little rolling shelf reserved for any items she left behind in the workshop. The last time she left a Chanel scarf on the couch, Tony had grabbed it to use as an oil rag.
Suffice it to say, the scarf was ruined and the red head had torn a strip into both Tony and Percy. After that, and much groveling and contacting the company personally to have the discontinued scarf replaced, Tony had earned his girlfriend's forgiveness by building a custom multi compartment shelf to store her things while in the workshop.
It was shiny chrome with delicate etching across the front and side and definitely DID NOT have an AI installed in it. Pepper's eyes had gotten that soft, gushy look and Percy had made himself scarce as the couple stumbled to the couch.
He deftly side stepped a rumba as it patrolled the rug in front of the couch and began to check the couch cushions for random pieces of technology. Most people lost coins and buttons but Tony fucking Stark lost switches and circuits and weird thiggamajigs and whatsits often made of rare and valuable metals.
There was even that time when a bauble with low radioactivity had been there long enough the burn a small hole in the cushion cover. Since then, Percy had made it a habit to check the couch more often, after they'd all been checked by Medical for radiation poisoning and been cleared of course.
A groan made him look up to see Tony stretching his back and shoulders and shutting down the various screens in front of him. Grabbing the coffee and draining it in one go, he turned to Percy and blinked.
"So, how was the girls' night?" he smirked. "Johnstone at the front desk mentioned that you all but crawled in the front doors last night."
Percy huffed. "Johnstone at the front desk needs to learn the art of discretion."
He cut a look at the brunette. "And it wasn't a girls' night… technically…. You know…. because I am a man. We went to the Roller Derby then ate our weight in greasy pizza and then drowned it all in two for one Margaritas at Amigo's."
Tony quirked an impressed eyebrow. "Isn't that the Mexican Restaurant by day slash Gay Bar by night on 23rd Ave? I heard they have excellent Baja Style Fish Tacos there."
Percy nodded and rubbed at his sternum, wishing he had another TUMS but alas he'd left them on his desk upstairs..
"It is as excellent as reviewed but it puts the devil in heartburn the next day."
Tony chuckled. "Noted."
Dummy rolled over with a mint green smoothie. The bot waffled for a bit before finally giving the smoothie to Percy. The red head took it with an aggrieved smile, wondering how awful he must look for the bot to take such pity on him over his own creator.
"Thank you Dummy." he shrugged and took a sip, humming contentedly as the creamy liquid soothed the burning in his esophagus . "You truly are a Godsend."
Tony laughed as the bot preened.
Chapter 14: Bonus Chapter- Kidnap Attempt
ok, BONUS CHAPTER because i was in a writing mood so you guys get to benefit. Here is the kidnap attempt Percy was talking about in the previous chapter. i started this morning and hammered out a whopping 4600+ words. go me!
As far as kidnappings went, this one was more of a comedy of errors. Not that Percy had ever experienced being kidnapped himself. Most of his knowledge came from listening to Aurors tell raucous stories in the cafeteria over his lunch break or in the old storeroom they'd commandeered and made into secret lounge behind a painting of ever sleeping Wizengamot members around a cluttered table.
Sometimes the Unspeakables would appear out of the shadows with their cloaks still up, freaking everyone out. They would then pour themselves a stiff drink or join in at the poker table while everyone hearts stopped leaping in their chests. They made for the best story tellers though, spinning almost unbelievable yarns that had everyone at the edge of their seat. There was , of course, doubt that the stories were even true but with Unspeakables, you never really knew.
There's been some grumbling when Percy had first started showing up but the grumbles soon died after the Dark Lord's fall and half the mismatched chairs in the secret lounge had sat empty. There was less talk and more drinking in those days, everyone clinging to some shadow in their heart. Percy had used as a safe place to get sloshed daily, often waking up the next morning to crumpled clothes, breath smelling like dead cat and a lingering headache.
He remembered most of the stories though, tucking away the titbits and advice the men and women gathered passed to each other over drinks and cards. So when he spotted something hinky during a PR visit to the local Kids Hospital, he did not hesitate to contact his team.
The Make a Wish Foundation had contacted Pepper, a little girl In Boston wanted nothing more than to meet Ironman, even though he'd retired. They'd sent along a heart rending video message from the girl and her single parent Father calling Tony a hero. At the end of it, there was not a dry eye in the place and Tony had quietly agreed to take the suit of out mothballs for this one time appearance.
Tony, Percy, Svea and the four person Alpha Team packed the suit and other gear into the jet, taking care with the Ironman/ Avenger Merchandise they were going to give out to all the kids in the ward. The flight was a little over an hour and Percy split his time talking to Kwasi, the pilot and shooting the breeze with Tony and the team.
He made sure to take some candid pics for social media though he wouldn't post them until they were safely back in New York. He'd sat through more than enough security briefings about the subject to endanger boss albeit unwittingly.
The hospital staff managed to keep their excitement under calm and professional demeanor though the Make -A - Wish representative was a little too awestruck for Percy's taste. The kids on the other hand were besides themselves in amazement at the seeing Ironman in the flesh, much less when Tony started handing out Avengers Toys and products to the kids and their grateful parents.
The little girl, Charlene, and her Father Richard were crying happily as they took picture after picture with Tony, even when he stepped out of the suit and sat on the edge of her hospital bed to chat. She seemed so small in the large bed, surrounded by a jungle of machines that beeped and booped and was scary to look at much less have connected to your body.
Her eyes were bright against her pale skin and pastel rainbow knit hat that no doubt covered her thinning hair. She had on an Ironman hoodie over My Little Pony pyjamas. As billionaire and child got into an in depth discussion about an IronPony mash up which included crude drawings coloured in with bright crayon, Percy exchanged a bemused look with Richard and guided the tired looking man out into the hall, leaving Svea in the room.
The other four members of Alpha team were spread out in the hallway with Zaheer stationed at the car garage. They'd been kitted out with cutting edge stark tech, form fitting armor that looked like normal cloth but was actually some kind of advanced mesh that Tony had been telling Percy about one afternoon. All Stark security personnel wore the stuff, even Percy who wore his as a vest, knee length tights combo.
They were dark gryffindor red and fit against his body like a second skin but breathed well, with loads of little pockets to hold things like blades and the like. Percy himself had a set of small blades that reminded him of senbon. He wasn't a master of weaponry per say but he could palm the scalpel like blades and stab a man's eye out if he was so inclined.
After chatting briefly with the teary eyes father about incidentals, he gently ushered him back into the room and looked around for a vending machine. He was feeling a bit peckish. Nodding at Shivani, he studied the poor fare the machine offered and debated whether he was hungry enough to gobble down any of the myriad of questionable choices.
Movement caught his eye and looked up the corridor. A nurse had just backed out of a nearby storeroom, wheeling a trolley our after him. At first Percy's eyes caught on the broad muscled back and frankly incredible bubble butt, grateful that the man's back was turned to him so that he could stare overtly. The teal scrubs were stretched tight over his ass as he bent down to pick up a plastic packet that had fallen off the trolley. Percy bit his lip and swallowed a helpless groan.
Circe preserve him, that ass.
He glanced away, taking a deep breath, only to take another look. The nurse's top rode up a bit, showing a nice strip of tanned skin and Percy bit his lip. He glanced around nervously to make sure no one was witnessing his pervy behaviour and caught Shivani's knowing smirk. Flushing hotly, he grinned back.
The nurse straightened up and turned, tugging the edge of his top down to cover his admirable wash board abs. Fortunately, he wasn't fast enough and Percy caught a glimpse of a tattoo half hidden by the drawstring of the scrub pants. Percy blinked. The tattoo looked familiar but he just couldn't pin down where he remembered it from.
He turned his head away before the man caught him staring and looked at his reflection in the glass of the vending machine. He was handsome enough but he had a closed off expression which was strange for someone in such a care giving profession as nursing.
His eyes were blue, his hair blonde with dark roots. In fact, Percy thought he looked like a knockoff version of Steve Rogers, only more stern around the eyes and more cruel around the mouth. Percy quickly choose a random snack and made a show of opening the cheese pretzel pack as an excuse to take a closer look at the nurse who was starting to roll the trolley down the same hall Percy had just come out of.
Something tingled up his back, a bell clanged in the back of his head and he frowned, snack all but forgotten in his hands. He took a calming breath and breathed out slowly, catching Shivani's attention with a simple gesture. She stared at him, alert, as he surreptitiously pointed to the man moving closer and closer to Charlene's room. If they were wrong they could always apologize later but he wasn't about to ignore his instincts.
She nodded, tapping her earpiece and speaking softly to the team lead. Just as she was taking a step toward the nurse, the lights went out with a grating noise. Percy immediately dropped to the ground as screams and crashes rang through the ward.
It took a terrifying seconds for the emergency lights to kick in and he gasped at the harsh light. The hallway was deserted and shadowed, the trolley capsized, all the small plastic packets and kits of pallets and q-tips scattered across the floor.
His comm unit was silent except for a few intermittent beeps and his stark phone was a blizzard of black and white. Frowning at the device, he turned to the nurses station but their phone was also dead. A quick check determined that all cellphones were useless as well as the computers. As the head nurse directed the others to start checking on the patients and calming them down, he snagged a candy stripper by the apron and stuck his phone in her hand.
"Gat as far away from here as you can, until the phone starts working again then press 9-1-1. A big red button will pop up on the screen. Press it and follow the instructions the voice tells you okay?"
The young woman nodded shakily. "Should I bring it back after?"
Percy shook his head gently, giving her a reassuring smile. "Just follow the instructions and you'll be fine. My name is Percy, What's yours?"
"Stacy" the voice had a slight wobble. "Stacy Burgis"
"You're a very brave young woman Stacy Burgis. Thank you for doing this for me. Now go… quickly."
He looked on as she fled down the corridor and into the emergency stairwell. Hopefully whatever was jamming their signal didn't go past the hospital building itself. Turning toward the empty corridor, he pulled one of the blades from his under suit and crept towards the room he'd last seen his boss.
Charlene's room was dark, the only lights coming from the various machines, some of which were blaring in alarm. The little girl's bed was empty and Percy's stomach dropped. A quick search found Richard on the floor, moaning from a blow to the head. Grabbing the cover off the bed, Percy balled it up and gently placed it under the man's head.
"They took her. They took my baby. The man… he wanted the suit. Oh God Charlie…"
Percy made reassuring noises, dabbing at the blood on the prone man's face as he scanned the room for clues. There were scuff marks on the linoleum floor and a couple of the machines had been knocked over. There was a thump on the closed bathroom door and, holding his blade aloft, Percy made his way towards the door.
For a few seconds he stood terrified at what lay beyond but finally marshalled his courage and threw the door open, ready to slash at whatever came at him. What he found was a pissed off Shivani shimmying half way out of layers of duct tape. With a soft concerned noise, Percy helped cut the rest of the bonds away.
The Indian woman snarled as she ripped away the rest of the tape, reaching behind her to pull out a secondary weapon; checking the clip.
"The UnSub pulled a knife on the little girl and took stark and the suit. Stark convinced him to take one of the machines the girl needed and that he needed Svea to carry it because he was holding the suit-case. He hinted that he wasn't working alone then made Svea tie me up. I can't raise the others."
Percy nodded along. "There's some kind of jammer. I gave my phone to a candy striper and made her go see how far the signal goes, if it is a signal and not some EMP device. Hopefully she would have contacted Friday by now."
The woman shook her head as she checked on Richard. "EMP would have fried the equipment and they wouldn't have wanted to kill the suit if capturing it was their goal."
She ducked her head out to check the corridor and motioned him to follow. Then, with one last look at Richard, he did.
The emergency lights gave everything a surreal look as they crept down the hall, Shivani trying and failing to raise the others on the comm. They quickly waved back anyone who tried sticking their heads out of doorways. One of the hospital security lay slumped against a wall, another victim of a gun butt to the head. Percy quickly checked his pulse. It was steady. He nodded to Shivani and they moved on.
Soon enough they heard voices and the sound of soft crying. Motioning for Percy to stay put, the agent crept forward to reconnoiterer. Percy tucked himself against the wall, trying to still his racing heart. It was times like these he keenly missed his wand. A few stupifies, an accio and protego would do the situation good right now. Of course then MACUSA would send her Obliviators and ret-con them back to infancy and that wasn't so good.
A large hand stole over his mouth and Percy froze in terror, his eyes bulging as he gripped his little blade. The hand gently turned his head and his eyes met Mack's. he slumped weakly against the wall for a few moments before anger surged through his veins.
He glared at the man, whapping ineffectually at his armor covered arm.
*What the bloody hell man?* he mouthed, his eyes burning with ire, *You want to give me a heart attack or something?*
The bloody bugger had the audacity to smirk at him, motioning towards the corridor beyond. They both took a peak, seeing Shivani creeping slowly towards the swinging doors of the operating theatre the voices had been coming from.
*Where's Leo?* Percy mouthed. Mack's face got serious as he pointed at the theatre.
He pulled Percy back a few feet and crouched, bring their heads closer together until Percy could feel the man's hot breath against his cheek. Firmly pushing done any inappropriate thoughts (now REALLY wasn't the time), Percy listened as Mack gave a run down of the situation as he knew it.
Leo had made for the room as soon as the lights went out and had met up with the hostage situation as they were coming heading into the OR. They'd been set to take out the bad guy in a two pronged assault when Leo had been taken down. Apparently one of the hospital security officers was working as an inside man.
Luckily for them, the man hadn't known about Mack but he must have informed the knife wielder about the number of people on the team. Shivani scuttled around the corner with a grim look, her eyes widening as she spotted Mack.
The situation inside the OR was a bad one. Leo was kneeling, unarmed and clearly injured beside a pissed off and bound Tony. Svea was sitting on the floor, holding on to a whimpering Charlene who was looking paler by the minute. Tony was arguing with the bad guy about letting the little girl go but the discount Steve Rogers was adamant that she remain as she was a good bargaining chip and a proven way to keep the genius on good behaviour.
Since there was no way to contact the outside world or even down to the parking lot for Faheer and they didn't know if the candy striper had managed to contact Friday or not; it was up to them to handle the situation.
Well, more like it was up to Mack and Shivani to handle the situation while Percy crouched around the corner.
"Don't forget Svea. She's our ace in the hole." Shivani murmured. "The unSub brought her along because he thinks because she's tiny that she's weak. He won't be looking for any trouble on her end. She also has the child in arms. If we can get him to turn his back on her…"
"She'll gut him like a fish." Percy agreed.
They had to move quickly because if Tall, Blonde and Bad's bragging was truthful, he was expecting back up any minute. With one last look at Percy, Mack followed Shivani down the hallway and disappeared into the shadows.
Casting around for something that would help him in any way as he waited, Percy spotted a storage closet. Inside were medical supplies and he started pulling things and stuffing them into a soft plastic pouch. Emergency first aid kit in hand, he popped his head out of the corridor. There was a noise from the shadows at one end, like someone kicking a can across the floor and he palmed his blade, crouching just inside the door frame.
Out of the shadow came the same security guard who'd been slumped against a wall a few corridors ago. He seemed to be stumbling forward, his hand trailing against the wall as he walked forward. If he kept going as he did, he would surely stumble his way right into the OR and that would really bollocks things up.
Steeling his spine, Percy stepped out into the corridor. The guard jumped, coming to a sudden stop as one hand went to his belt where he kept his pepper spray.
"Who goes there?" he said loudly.
Percy winced as the voice echoed through the hall. He quickly shushed the man.
"The name's Westerly. I'm part of the Stark Entourage. You need to be quiet now."
The guard blinked stupidly at first but after a minute or so he seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. He wanted to take a look down the corridor but Percy was able to dissuade him from doing something so fool hardy.
"The important thing is to make sure all the patients are safe…" Percy coaxed him down the hall, away from the action. "… and to get you checked out by a doctor. You seem a bit, you know, wobbly."
The guard huffed, wincing as he reached to touch behind his head. "Yeah that big fucker got me from behind. One moment I was doing my rounds, the next I'm waking up with a goose egg on my noggin."
"Hmmm…" Percy frowned, tilting his head in mild confusion. "… um…but if you didn't see anyone, how do you know that he was a so called 'big fucker'?"
The guard laughed sheepishly, squinting at the redhead. "You told me all about him didn't you?"
Percy frowned. "No. No I didn't."
"You must have…" the other man swung his hand up midsentence, hitting Percy on the jaw and sending him back on his arse. The red head gave a cry and rolled with the hit, putting some distance between himself and the guard. His blade fell from his hand and clattered to the linoleum floor.
"Uppity llittle pencil pusher" the other man growled, picking up the blade with one hand, his can of pepper spray in the other. "... hidden blade and everything you little shit. What were you going to do … stab my eye out?"
Percy scrambled back, casting about for a weapon ... anything. All he had in his hand was his cobbled together first aid pouch and that bounced off the guard too little effect. The other man's grin was cruel as he stalked towards the red head and Percy really lamented not having a wand this very moment.
He kicked out at the man , catching him in the knee and the guard yowled and cursed; spraying the redhead with pepper spray. Percy brought his arms up over his eyes but they only stopped some of the chemical. His eyes and face burned as he writhed on the squeaky floors, trying to crawl away from his assaulter.
"Oh no you don't ginger…" the guard sniggered as he lurched his way back unto his feet. "You're not getting away so easy. I think my knee is fractured and you're going to pay dearly for that. The job was to get Stark and the suit. Everyone else is considered collateral damage. Including Stark's own PA so get ready for a world of hurt, pipsqueak."
Percy kept crawling, hearing the lurching steps as the guard's shoes squeaked against the floors. The man lurched forward and swung the blade down against Percy's thigh but luckily the body armor deflected the blade. The second strike wasn't so lucky for him as the blade came down on his calf, sinking into the flesh.
Percy screamed, flailing his other leg and he pulled the injured one closer. His foot thrashed out, hitting the same injured knee which gave a loud crack and bent at a sickening angle. The guard screamed in turn and fell unto Percy in incoherent rage, pummeling the red head with his fists as he cursed to high heaven.
Percy fought as hard as he could, weeping through the burning on his face, the searing pain in his calf and the heavy fists on his stomach and sides. He finally was able to swing his elbow with all his might into the guard's sternum, knocking the wind out of the man and sending him sprawling.
Slipping the blood coming from his leg, Percy dragged himself back a few paces as the guard groaned and began to rise once again. Percy couldn't see far enough to search for a new weapon, breath coming in short gasps as he tried to rack his brain for some solution.
A sharp pain in his leg brought his attention to the blade sticking out of his calf and with a truly aggrieved cry, he pulled the blade from his leg just as the guard leapt for him. He trust upwards with all his might, feeling the gush of warm blood and hearing the sound of a blade entering flesh.
The body over him flailed and stilled, slowly falling to the side to sprawl on the blood stained linoleum. Blinking his burning eyes and shaking like a leaf, Percy kicked at the body to make sure it wasn't going to rise again. When the steel bands constricting his chest finally loosened enough for him to breathe, he crawled a bit closer to check on the traitorous guard.
The man lay spread eagled on the floor, one eyes staring sightlessly at the ceiling. His other eye was a mess of blood and nasty looking milky goo with Percy's blade buried near to the hilt; enough to know that the blade had gone through the eye and up into the brain. Percy went white at the sight, swallowing heavily as he brought one shaky hand up to his throat.
"Seems as though I did indeed stab his eye out. Who would have thought?"
Then his eyes rolled back in his head and he fainted.
The next time he woke it was in a bed on the medical floor for Stark Tower to a smiling Tony, cup of water with a straw in one hand, Stark tablet in the other.
"There we are. The unsung hero of the day. How are you feeling?"
After taking a sip of some offered water, Percy cleared his throat and squinted at the brunette. "Like I face the business end of a Blast Ended Skrewt."
Tony blinked. "Okay. Still on the good drugs then."
Percy huffed. "My face feels burnt half off. Do I still have my eyebrows?"
The brunette chuckled. "You still have your stunning eyebrows. Pepper spray is more chemical irritant than accelerant. You also have three stiches in your calf which the doctors say won't even scar which is a pity because lovers dig scars."
Percy smiled weakly. "Remind me next time to sear the full under suit… even if it feels like I'm wearing long johns."
The smile fell off the billionaire's face and he looked down at his coffee. "Yeah."
Percy frowned, reaching over to grab Tony's hand. "Hey what's wrong? Is the little girl ok? What happened to Richard and the discount bin Steve Rogers?"
That pulled a smile from the brunette, which is what Percy was hoping for.
"Discount Bin Steve Rogers?" he chuckled, "I can't wait to tell Cap about that. Charlie's fine. After the doctors looked her over she told me that it was the best adventure she'd ever had. Fighting side by side with Iron Man and saving the day. She's been telling all the other kids in the ward about it nonstop."
It turned out that the candy striper, Stacy had managed to reach three blocks away before the signal came back up on Percy's phone. Friday had immediately called Pepper who in turn called Happy. She'd also called Rhodes who'd been in Washington DC on Avengers business.
Within minutes War Machine (because Tony refused to call the suit Iron Patriot) was on its way to Boston. Meanwhile, Shivani and Mack had managed to take down the bad guys with the help of Svea who had broken the head baddie's arm in three places and broke his pelvis with a brutal kick to the groin area.
Rhodes had gotten there just in time to see them securing the crooks. They'd found Percy and the dead guard on the way back to Charlie's room, the little girl torn between exhaustion and awe at meeting both Iron Man and War Machine on the same day. Richard had burst into tears at having his daughter in his arms again.
They eventually found the device that had been jamming their signals in the parking lot where a smug Zaheer had been leaning back on the hood of the SUV, four more villains hog tied in a row in front of him. Apparently, that had been the back up the crooks had been expecting.
Zaheer and Shivani had stayed behind with Rhodes to settle things with the local authorities while Percy himself and Leo had been medivac'd back to the tower with Tony, Mack and Svea with the assurance that Percy would make a statement when he regained consciousness.
"… and that's about the size of it." Tony shrugged, wrapping up the tale.
Percy blinked and reached up his other hand to feel at the puffiness around his eyes, wincing at the pain. The dropped his hand and looked at the unusually silent man slumped before him.
"Are you blaming yourself?" he said bluntly, his pain medication obliterating any chance of sublty on his part.
Tony's shoulder slumped further. "If I hadn't been there…"
"Oh shut it" Percy snapped. Tony jumped, blinking at the harsh tone.
The red head squeezed the brunette's hand hard and gave it a tug.
"Bollocks to all that. You don't choose to be special. You just are. And because of that there are always going to be people who want what you have, no matter If you want them too or not. You can either choose to live your life in spite of it or hide away because of it. That choice is yours and yours alone. Nothing else."
Boy, one of these days Percy was really going to have to apologize to Harry Potter for being such a dick to him at Hogwarts.
"And don't give me any talk about getting any of the rest of us hurt because of you. We choose to come and work for you. We knew the risks and accepted them the day each of us signed the employee contract. And no… we are not here simply to get a paycheck. Not anymore anyways. Every one of us wants to be here with you.
You don't even realize the loyalty you inspire in us Tony do you? You are not just our employer… you're our boss and there's nothing you can do to make us push you away so you might as well get whatever cockamamie plan you have rattling around in that big brain of your out right now."
Tony flushed, chuckling softly as he squeezed Percy's hand.
"You're getting to know me pretty well huh?"
"Well, you've grown on me." Percy grinned back, shrugging. "… and I've decided to keep you."
Tony blinked rapidly, his eyes shining as he cleared his throat roughly. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." Percy nodded.
"So… " the red head sighed, looking around the room. "Can you believe I stabbed a man's eye out?"
sorry it took so long to get something on this out but i was caught up with my NCIS/Hawaii 5-0 and April HP Rough Trade. i'm trying to get more out before July Rough Trade though so fingers crossed.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Friday, please pull up the tower profile on Colonel Rhodes." Percy swung his chair towards his desk from the large picture window that lined one side of his office. Several blue lit holograms sprung up from his glass top desk. He took a few minutes to peruse the detailed bio, making several notes on a small pad of paper.
"Have housekeeping get the Colonel's room aired out and ready and send his preference list down to the pillow concierge." Percy tapped on a bullet point and it dropped down into a short list. "Schedule a conference call with Chef Dunn to talk about meals. We will probably have to stagger home cooked and take out so that Rhodes can have a taste of all his favourites while he is here."
He tapped a finger to his lips. "Make a few reservations at that steak house they both like. And send a message to the chef to stock the ingredients for that crazy loaded nachos dish they always order. If they don't end up going to dine out, we can always get them to deliver."
"Sure thing Red" Friday piped up, annotations appearing on the lists as the conversation went on.
"Have a masseuse on call, make it Cherrie, she's the best. Also the sauna. How are we on the shopping?"
"We have most of the colonel's favourite items stocked and ready. The IP beer he likes is on its way to the tower now. It should be stocked and chilled within the next three hours. I also took the liberty of ordering some of those gourmet popcorns the Bossman and his bestie love for movie nights."
Percy smiled and nodded, "That was very thoughtful of you my dear. I'm sure they will be pleased."
Friday makes a soft humming sound that he'd come to associate with her blushing or preening. It was the same noise the bots made when they showed their pleasure. They chatted for a bit more, making sure that everything was in place for the upcoming visit.
The last Percy had seen Colonel James Rhodes and the first time he'd met him in person, Percy had been drugged up and groggy at Tower Medical after having stabbed a man's eye out. Rhodes had been a blurry figure at the door of his room, arm slung around Tony's shoulders as they spoke quietly.
By the time Percy was lucid enough, the other man had already been called back out to duty. His detour to Boston had been unplanned and had come in the middle of important proceedings at the capital.
This time though, the man was coming in on some R&R, which made Tony very happy if the lively singing in the shower Percy had heard that morning as he laid out the man's suit for the day was any indication. In fact, Tony had been up in spirits ever since Rhodes had called to give him the good news, humming little ditties and practically skipping around the penthouse before Percy ushered him to his various obligations. Even Pepper could not escape the happy cloud that followed Tony around, their daily video chats filled with laughter.
Tucking his phone into one pocket, his hand held work tablet in the other, Percy stood; checking his watch briefly as he grabbed his jacket of the back of the chair. He had several meetings today, Bill Jacobson in Tower Maintenance, Aaron Quinn in Legal, and a conference with both Happy and Leo about some upcoming trips overseas Tony had planned.
Speaking of his boss, Tony was at R&D today with Zaheer and the Bengal as escort, for his weekly geek out with Doctor Pranay and his team. They'd been working on some really revolutionary stuff in the field of clean energy, something that Tony held close to his heart. Most of it flew over Percy's head but the seeing the genius' eyes light up when he talked about bout it, complete with hand gestures and funny faces, was worth it.
He stepped out of the elevator to the lobby, checking his phone messages as he turned towards the large glass doors. A throat cleared close behind him and he jumped, swinging himself away and stepping back as he brought one arm up in a defensive position. A firm hand caught his wrist and stopped Percy cold.
"You're getting better." Mack smirked.
Percy gaped for a second, then flushed hotly, yanking his arm out of the other man's hold.
"What is it with you and scaring me half to death?" the redhead huffed angrily, "I should put a bell on you, you wanker. What are you even doing here anyway? Hazard's not even in the tower."
He used Tony's codename, seeing as they were in a semi-public space. Johnstone was on duty at the large security desk and Percy could see him grinning at them both out of the corner of his eyes. Merlin's beard, that man was more of a busybody than his 180 year old Great Grandma Weasley.
He scowled, shaking his head and straightening at his suit jacket as Mack's smirk widened into a grin. Damn the man was entirely too sexy. It was utterly unfair for him to be dripping hot sex in those dark jeans and fitted wine red henley, blonde chest hairs peeping out from the unbuttoned neck.
His worn brown leather jacket hugged his biceps and expertly covered the holstered weapon strapped to his side. Scuffed steel tip boots competed the look of sexy ruffian that never failed to get under Percy's skin.
Really, it just wasn't fair at all.
"Leo asked me to shadow you today. There've been some threats called in recently. Nothing too serious but the Boss'll feel better if his people have eyes on them for the foreseeable future."
Percy gave him a shrewd look. On one hand he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself and having someone follow his around could prove an annoyance. On the other hand, if there was a threat being taken seriously by Stark Security then he would be remiss if he hindered their efforts in anyway. Also, if it made Tony feel less stressed to have his inner circle protected the Percy was happy to do so.
On the third hand, he would get to spend some one on one time with the man he was crushing on and have a valuable opportunity to suss out if there was any true potential for future sexual gratification.
"Fine." The redhead sighed and slumped his shoulders. "But I don’t have to be happy about it."
Twisting on his heel sharply and walking away, Percy glared flatly at a grinning Johnstone and tried to ignore the eyes one his back and the soft step of the man behind him. Stepping out into the sunlight, he slipped on his glasses and smiled at the valet who'd brought his car around to the front of the building.
He grinned as he slid behind the wheel, the pure joy of owning this beauty still thrumming through his veins. The 1965 Shelby Cobra had been a gift from his boss after the epic and still fucking hilarious take down of the Bag of Dicks.
The day was still one that lived in infamy amongst the business community, Percy's article in a popular Business Magazine- sent in anonymously of course- had sent many corporate petticoats a-fluttering. Friday still continued to set aside choice titbits of news pertaining to the article which Percy usually perused and chuckled at over tea and scones.
He still had Digger's contact on his mobile. The gnome had proven to be both effective and discreet, two things that Percy admired. He still mourned for his watch though, frowning every time he imagined it around the dirty old hag's thin wrist with the other watches she'd lined up alongside it on her spindly arms.
He shuddered in the warm sunlight at the visual, glancing over as Mack slid into the passenger seat. Percy thrummed the engine, giving the other man a glare until he'd made a show of snapping on his seat belt before smirking and pulling into New York traffic smoothly.
Stark Legal was located in the old Stark New York Headquarters, the one department that was not in transition to relocate to the new tower headquarters. It had been agreed that their current location was much more suitable because of its relative location to several key resources and infrastructure.
So as the other department's slowly cleared out of the building, the Legal department of SI slowly spread to the floors above and below; settling into the new spaces like a giant finally settling with a great exhale. SIL was already a giant in itself and had only grown as their boss and then CEO had donned a suit of red and gold metal alloy and made a bid to privatize world peace.
Percy had seen a movie once, about a shark with five heads. He'd been half asleep, vegged out on the massive couch when it had come on and he had been too lazy to change the channel. He'd laughed himself sick at the utter idiocy of the movie but the image of the massive five headed shark had stuck in his mind whenever he had a meeting with Aaron or any of his hyper competent staff.
He'd mentioned this to Raizel over brunch one day and she'd given that raspy chuckle that never failed to give him goose bumps. An odd mix between loving Jewish grandmother and ruthless minx, she always kept Percy on his toes with her sharp, bright gaze and iron will.
Maria Hill, another strong and competent female in Percy's life and regular brunch companion, had rolled her eyes while she drained her mimosa and they'd quickly moved on to another topic.
Imagine his surprise when at the next meeting with Aaron, he'd spotted a lovely 3d rendering of a savage five headed shark acting as a paperweight on the man's large desk. Aaron had chuckled delightedly, turning the gift carefully from side to side so that Percy to could take in all the details.
The paperweight had been beautifully made and had looked as savage and ruthless as the lawyer looked cheerful and unassuming. Proving that underneath Aaron's jovial façade was strong, writhing muscles and a massive maw filled with row upon row of sharp teeth ready to rip into soft flesh and brittle bone.
Today, the paperweight was sitting in pride of place atop a pile of thick manila folders at Aaron's elbow. Percy nodded in thanks at the secretary as she waved him and, glancing once more at Mack who'd already made himself at home in the small waiting area. He saluted Percy with a magazine and grinned as the redhead huffed and shut the door behind him.
Aaron stood to greet him, shaking hands and getting all pleasantries out of the way before settling in to talk shop. Finally, he lifted the paperweight and pulled one of the folders free, handing it to Percy.
"I need you to get these over to Mr. Stark. I would send it via email but this is Eyes Only. We shouldn't even have access to it yet but a friend at the Justice Department owes me a favour."
Percy looked down at the file. It looked like any other folder, secured with grommets laced with string. "May i?" he lifted the folder.
Aaron frowned, shaking his head. "Let Stark read it first. He can decide whether he wants you to see it or not."
The redhead straightened in his seat. "Can you give me a hint about the contents?"
The dark skinned man turned his chair away from the window, looking down at this watch so that his face was in shadow. "It a copy of a document coming out from the DoD…"
His voice was sotto voce. Percy had to strain to hear him.
Percy stilled, "The Department of Defence? What do they want with Mr. Stark?"
Percy also kept his voice soft, tilting his face away from the large window. He didn't know the reasons for the other man's manner but he would follow along all the same. Better to be safe than sorry. It's not paranoia if they are really out to get you.
"Not Mr. Stark directly but the Avengers on a whole." the other man frowned, the expression looking out of place on his usually jovial face, "… but Mr. Stark may end up being tarred with the same brush."
Percy looked down at the innocuous folder, wondering what secrets of Pandora were held inside.
They discussed a few other minor subject and bid their good byes. Percy left the offices with a pensive expression on his face, the folder tucked neatly into his jacket. Mack said nothing, falling into stride a step behind. The redhead was grateful for the man's presence and his silence, his mind twirling with too many thoughts to wrangle into some semblance of order.
He was still pensive as he stopped in at the Marketing Department, forcing himself to keep a calm and empathetic expression with Javier in the Art Department as they discussed Avengers Merchandizing for the next fiscal quarter. The stocky Hispanic man was at his wits end as all of his messages to the compound had either been pushed aside or ignored all together.
Percy spent a while soothing the man's agitation, promising to see to the matter and making note on his phone to contact Hill. She'd taken up command at the compound and had been managing logistics for the Avengers for a while now.
They took the car back to the tower, Percy reveling in the sunlight as they made their way through traffic. Somehow though the light wasn't as warm as he remembered it being that morning, the weight of the folder in his jacket pocket putting a damper on his mood.
Letting out a loud huff, he swerved unto a side street and into the parking lot of a chain steakhouse. Mack gave him a slightly judgmental look and Percy flushed, cursing his pale skin.
"They serve good steaks here." Percy groused, snapping out of his belt and stepping out of the car. He leaned his hands on the door and gave Mack a flat look. "I was going to offer to buy you lunch but since you clearly doubt my taste, you can sit and watch me eat or stay here in the car. Your choice."
"I'll take option three." The rugged blonde grinned and got out of the car and slowly walked around the Cobra to lean next to Percy, folding his arms across his broad chest. "There's a great little bistro just across the street. Serves an excellent rib eye. How about I buy you lunch?"
Percy's eyes followed his pointed finger at a small, charming looking place with outdoor seating and real wrought iron furniture. It looked infinitely better than the place Percy had in mind. He bit his lip and looked back at Mack.
The man was close enough to feel his body heat, to smell his cologne. His muscled form looked like sex on a stick as he leaned against the car right next to Percy's hand, his denim clad hip just a finger twitch away from touching. Percy's gaze flickered down to the blonde chest hairs teasing from the deep open neck of the henley and then back up to clear blue eyes.
"The food is good, trust me." Mack leaned in a bit closer, his breath hot against Percy's pinked cheeks. "I know a thing or two about good red meat."
Percy made a soft noise on want, slapping his fingers over his mouth in mortification as he stumbled back a few steps; hot and bothered under his collar. He blinked rapidly and took a deep breath as he tried to get his libido back under control.
"That was bloody awful." He sniffed as he straightened his jacket, giving the grinning man a mock fierce glare. "I'm having serious doubts about your taste level and intelligence if you thought that was an acceptable double entendre."
"The look on your face though" The blond threw back his head and laughed. "I couldn't resist. Plus…" his grin turned sly, "You're not exactly here for my witty repartee."
"I have no idea what you're talking about" Percy narrowed his eyes. "the only thing that we are here for is lunch."
"Cut the bullshit Red" Mack raised a hand and shaking his head. "We both know what I'm talking about. I know that you've been looking. I've been looking too. We can be adults about this."
Percy's mouth twisted into a frown as he studied the other man, his thoughts racing around his head like headless chickens. He quickly shut his panic down, shoving all the noise in his brain into a lock box and kicking said box into the shadows.
A voice very much like Ginny's sounded in his mind as clear as a bell and just as bloody loud. Right now there's a full on hottie looking at you like a snack, you stupid twat; get out of your own mind and into his pants already.
Later he would draw himself a nice bath and contemplate this entire exchange over and over, mining every little detail of what was said and left unsaid. The only thing that mattered now was that the right hottie he'd been lusting after for a while now was also interested in starting something. What that something was, Percy was ready to find out.
He nodded to himself and tilted his head. "So … your treat was it?"
Mack's grin was slow and promised wicked things. "Sure."
RHODEY"S HERE... almost. he'll be in the next chapter.
I also didn't expect Mack to make a move like that when i started this chapter but i'm glad he did. maybe Percy can get some vitamin D already. LOL.
also, Aaron is being a bit paranoid but there's a good reason. more about that soon.
By the time Percy made it back to the tower after his long and sexually tense lunch with Mack, Colonel Rhodes had arrived and was already ensconced on the large penthouse sofa with Tony. There was a generic action movie blearing, unwatched on the TV in front of them and Rhodes was nodding off, all but draped over Tony's shoulder and mostly asleep from all the food they'd just devoured. The remains of dishes from a favoured local restaurant lay spread on the large glass coffee table before them like bones on a battlefield, picked clean by vultures.
Nodding a quick greeting to his boss, who looked just as comfortable playing pillow to his best friend as he made notes on a starkpad; Percy made quick work of cleaning up and disposing of the empty containers. He repackaged the scant leftovers and stuck them in the fridge; then made a pot of strong black coffee, taking a mug filled with the rich liquid to Tony's side.
Wordlessly, he placed the cup on the small side table, well within reach of the trapped genius and fluffed the pillows behind both men. He then got two water bottles and left them nearby as well.
Tony gave him a small, thankful smile and Percy bowed his head slitghtly in return before taking the envelope from his jacket pocket and tucking it between Tony's leg and the edge of the couch. The brunette frowned, looking down at the document and the 'for eyes only' stamped in red ink. He glanced up at Percy, his brown eyes sharp.
Percy mouthed "Stark Legal" and at the other man's nod of understanding, excused himself. Tony would read it at his leisure and would decide whether or not he would show it to Rhodes. It wouldn't be any of Percy's concern unless Tony asked him to weigh in on it.
Slipping off his jacket and hanging it over his office chair, he had Friday initiate a call to the Avengers Compound, more importantly, Maria Hill's office. Soon enough, Hill's face appeared on his monitor.
"You're not cancelling brunch are you?" she raised a thin eyebrow, "You usually send an email for work related issues. What does Stark need now?"
Percy sat back in his chair and crossed his fingers over his stomach with a soft sigh. "It's not the boss man I'm calling for this time and so far emails haven't been getting the job done. Seems that SI Marketing Department have been trying to get feedback from the Avengers for a while now and they are just about ready to tear out their hair and set the place on fire."
"This again." Hill echoed his sigh with a deeper, more exasperated one. "I've had three meetings about this already. I don't know what you want me to do. They're grown people. I can't make them answer emails. Especially if they only see the people sending them as 'superficial, money hungry assholes trying to make a quick buck off the avengers good names'."
"Come again?" Percy gaped a bit then snapped his mouth shut. "That sounds like a pretty specific quote to me."
"Tell me about it." Hill rolled her eyes. "It's like beating my head against a brick wall sometimes."
Percy pursed his lips, "Would that brick wall happen to be star-spangled?"
"You would think so… but no." Hill mused, resting her cheek against her fist. "It's mostly been Maximoff so far but they others are slowly coming around to her viewpoint. Just the same sentiment over and over like a stuck record."
He'd heard many a frustrated rant from Tony about the #tonystarkistheactualdevil mentality the former Hydra operative had embraced and still continued to stubbornly cling to. It was another thing entirely for the rest of the Avengers to start talking like that as well. There was an alarming precedent being set here.
"Should we be concerned about this?" Percy leaned forward unto his desk. "It seems a bit fishy to me. I know that the avengers and Mr. Stark parted on not so good terms but this kind of shift in opinion seems rather rushed. You did say her powers were of mind control didn't you?" he mused loudly.
Hill's eyes sharpened and looked past the camera as if her thoughts were racing behind her still countenance. After a few moments, she hissed a soft curse and looked back at the redhead.
"You don't think…" She shook her head, blinking rapidly as she pressed finely trembling fingers to her temple. "… no, that would be… ah fuck. I can't believe that I didn't even think of that. I mean… I don't think I did." She paused for a long while, staring unseeingly into space then looked back up at Percy, a quiet fury burning behind her eyes. "I'll look into it."
Percy only nodded as she signed off abruptly. He hadn't been expecting the conversation to go in that direction so quicklly. He'd just been concerned about the already unsteady relationship between Tony and his former team.
He come up against expert Legillimens on more than one occasion during his time at the Ministry. Having someone able to read your mind without your knowledge or consent was uncomfortable enough but Maximoff's power bordered on the Imperious and it left Percy's insides feeling twisty and cold.
He knew of mutants who had mind control power, like Charles Xavier and his protégé Jean Grey but from what he'd heard about the Maximoff twins and their dubious super origins made him think that they might have been squibs rather than full muggles. Muggles would never have been able to adapt to the power of the Mind Stone as they'd been able too.
He'd done a report on the subject back when he'd been Under Secretary, about the after effects of magical rituals on Muggles. The research had been horrifying and somewhat soul killing as his contacts in the Department of Mysteries had reluctantly shared horror stories of the things they'd seen.
Of the few who actually survived whatever magic they'd been subjected to, most died or committed suicide within a year. The rest often lived a short and painful life thereafter. Of course, the infinity stones didn't resonate the same as wizarding magic did but from the reports Wendy had let him read, exposure to full muggles would still have proven deadly.
He sat back and tapped his pointed fingers against his chin as he thought.
If Maximoff turned out to be a squib, would that put her under MACUSA jurisdiction? Could they be called in to deal with her or would they leave her alone for fear of being exposed to such a public figure? Would obliviate even work on her if things went wrong? It was a large issue to wrap one's mind around.
Absently, he made a note to reach out to Wendy from MACUSA about it and turned his mind to another troubling matter. The weakening relationship between Tony and the rest of the Avengers.
While SI and the Avengers Initiative were solid business partners, with 'partners' being the term in question. Basically SI was bankrolling the Avengers doing whatever the fuck they wanted. It was uneven at best and abusive at worst. Also, Tony Stark personal relationships with his former team had been slowly eroding over the past few months.
Personally, Percy felt that SI should cut ties with the team completely and he had a feeling that Pepper was in agreement with him. Not that the Avengers didn't do some good for the world, but that they needed to be more self-sustainable and independent than they currently were.
They also needed to be more discerning of the matters they pushed themselves into. They were a team brought together to fight the battles the world couldn't. it didn’t make sense for them to be inserting themselves into matters that could more than likely be handled by local police and military.
Their seemingly utter lack of concern over collateral damage also left a sour taste in Percy's mouth, wincing in remembrance of some the post mission reports he'd read. Marketing was right, the Avengers needed to start working on their image ASAP if they wanted to stay on the world's good side.
Their relationship with Tony was in worse shape. being decidedly one sided in the heroes' favour. Frankly, Percy believed that Tony needed to cut the purse strings and let the team of heroes toddle off for themselves. As Maria Hill had curtly stated. They were grown people.
In the end though, that wasn't his decision to make. Tony was capable of a deep and abiding love and forgiveness for people he thought his own and the Avengers were still a part of that in his mind and his broken heart. He would the only one to decide when enough was too much.
Percy made his daily video call to Pepper, who expressed regret that she couldn't fly back for Rhodes' leave and after discussing several matters concerning Tony's itinerary, he broached the subject the Avengers copyrights.
"Tony only secured them all so that the team would have complete control over their images and likeness. It's too easy these days for people to misuse the Avengers for personal gain. You should have seen some of the stuff people put out before we finally secured all the rights to Captain America." Pepper explained. "This way, we have more control over how and when their names and likenesses are used. The profits get funneled into an account that is kept on the team's behalf and covers personal expenses and their credit cards."
She sighed "We'd planned for the money to be used towards sustaining the compound but that was something meant to be discussed and decided as a team and it didn't pan out in the end. SI has been pulling out slowly over the past year and it's been basically Tony's personal wealth that has been funding the team."
The red head looked tired at that admission, absently tucking her hair behind one ear with a faraway look in her normally bright eyes. "With that and all the AIDE we've been providing to areas damaged during missions, it's been taking a toll on him, personally and financially."
"Thank you for talking with me." Percy took in the subtle frustration on her and frowned. "Do you want me to look into it? A pair of fresh eyes couldn't hurt. I may have some ideas we can discuss."
She gave him a tired, yet grateful smile. "Yes, thank you. I'd appreciate that. There's just so much on my plate right now."
"I understand perfectly" Percy nodded, making a note on his calendar for a week ahead.
They said their goodbyes and he spent the next hour making notes on the matter. Just basically jotting down any thoughts that came to mind. Eventually he stood, slipping his jacket back on and tidying up his desk. He slipped his phone into his pocket and headed for the elevator.
He checked in with Friday on dinner plans and after being informed of Tony's plans to take Rhodey out to their favourite restaurant for dinner, made his way down to Tony's room to lay out a few outfit options. He set out a few pieces, a mix between suit and casual because Tony's fashion choices were sometimes as mercurial as his moods.
He was just steaming the wrinkled out of one of the brunette's vintage tees when Colonel Rhodes stuck his head in the doorway.
"Tones?" he looked around, blinking as he spotted Percy, steamer in one hand and hem of the t-shirt in the other. "Hey, Westerly right?" The darker man stepped further into the room. " The redhead who stabbed someone's eye out."
Percy made a face. "Is that how you remember me?" he blurted before flushing a mortified pink. "I'm sorry Colonel. That just came out. You can call me Percy if you wish."
"After how many times I heard that story? You betcha." Rhodes chuckled, coming a bit closer. He looked around the master suite. "Is Tony here? I've looked all over for him. In the labs, the kitchen even the garage."
Percy thought for a moment. "Have you tried his office? If he's not there, I'm sure Friday can locate him for you."
"Tony actually uses his office?" the other man looked surprised, perching on the arm of a puffy arm chair as he shrugged. "It's fine. I'll just wait here for him. Friday, can you let him know where I am?"
"Of course Colonel Rhodes." the AI chirped, eagerly.
When it seemed that the Colonel was settling in for a wait, sliding to drape his long frame over the overstuffed chair; Percy got back to his steaming. A few moments passed in comfortable silence before Rhodes spoke once again.
"So … Percy." he shifted in his seat, "Tony talks about you… A lot. He just can't say enough about you. Pepper as well. She can't stop singing your praises about how organized Tony is now. How relaxed and focused. She even talked about your part in the take down of the 'Bag of Dicks' great name by the way; I will never not call them that. Having Pepper Potts for a fan is no easy feat."
He shrugged. "Not to mention that time at the hospital? You'd think that you rescued Tony and his entire security team single handedly, the number I've heard that story. They both think very highly of you."
Percy felt his cheeks reddening but said nothing as the Colonel seemed like he wasn’t finished speaking.
Rhodes tilted his head in a curious manner. "And Tony's different. I've been hearing it over the phone and through our emails but seeing him today in person has made it all the more clear on how much he's changed. He's calmer. Happier. Maybe even healing a bit after everything he's been through."
He levelled a steady look at the redhead, his face solemn.
"I know that I haven't been around lately but I've known Tony for more than twenty years and I've never been able to 'handle' him the way I've heard that you can." his voice was half contemplative, half accusatory.
Percy stared back at the sprawling man. He didn't detect jealousy or anger in the man's voice or body language; only a caution that came from seeing someone you care about hurt over and over again. He took his time to process the other man's words and was grateful that Rhodes sat patiently as he did.
"I believe the crux of the matter is that I am not Tony's friend… Well, not the kind of friend you become from knowing someone for such a short time. I haven't known him as long as you have, I'm not as emotionally invested nor have I been 'through the trenches' as it were. Though there is potential for it."
He set the steamer aside. "First and foremost, I'm Mr. Stark's employee. I here to assist him and, along with Friday, fill in the gap left by JARVIS. It's my job to make Mr. Stark… Tony's life easier in any way I can. That usually means laying out his clothes or making sure he hasn’t left some kind of laser burning when he passes out in the lab. Basically I am here to be a buffer Mr. Stark needs between him and the world."
He gave a slight shrug. "Frankly, you and Miss Potts are the ones who have to do the heavy lifting. You are the ones who have to deal with the deeper issues. The PTSD, the depression and anxiety. Tony needs you for that. Your patience. Your love. Your strength of character and will. He needs the years of friendship that you've built together. I have no chance in hell of being that kind of support for him."
He gave a sheepish smile. "I just make sure that the fridge is stocked, the suits and pressed and the pillow concierge is kept up to date."
Rhodes seemed a bit nonplussed at that. "We have a pillow concierge?"
Percy chuckled. "Yes, and a Masseuse and an in-house Feng Shui expert. We also have an Aromachologist but she's only a consultant."
Rhodes huffed a laugh and slung his long legs off of the chair and ambled over to the window to look out unto the city. Percy took his silence as permission to turn back to his steaming. A few minutes later Tony popped his head through the door much in the way Rhodes had done. He grinned at the sight of his best friend.
"Platypus. Friday said that you've been searching high and low for little old me."
He walked over and tucked himself against his bestie's side, letting Rhodes sling an arm over his shoulder with a smile. As the two men talked, Percy finished setting out the rest of the genius clothing options and confirmed with Friday about the reservations via text.
"Hey Perce…" Tony spun to smile at him, walking over to inspect the clothes. "I see that you and Honey Bear have finally met. Last time in the hospital you were too doped up on morphine to do much more than gurgle and earlier today Rhodey was too busy drooling to notice you fluffing his pillows."
Both men exchanged chagrined looks at those words, Rhodes sighed before dragging his hand down his face. "Tones"
Tony gave him an unrepentant grin in return. "I hardly ever have any embarrassing stories of either one of you. I need to milk this situation as long as I can."
Percy couldn’t help but grin as the two friends started to give each other grief, excusing himself as they joked and laughed with each other. Tony seemed so relaxed when Rhodey was around. Just as he seemed more at ease with Pepper nearby. But with Miss. Potts in Malibu for the for seeable future and Colonel Rhodes on Duty most of the time, when he wasn't seconded to the Avengers that is; it meant that Tony was alone in New York without his much needed support system.
Percy was right when he told Colonel Rhodes that Tony needed much more than and PA and an AI to keep him on a steady keel. He needed his friends. He needed his family, whatever form that took.
Percy stopped in the hallway as a sudden thought came to him. Spinning on his heels he made his way back to the Master Suite. Both men looked up at him and he strode in through the door and strode up to the bed where they'd been laughing as cat vidoes on Youtube.
"I have the best idea." Percy stated bluntly, pointing at the genius. "You need to go to Malibu."
Tony blinked in surprise then frowned. "Why? Has something happened? Is it Pepper?"
Percy shook his head quickly, paling as he held up his hands "No, No, Nothing's wrong. That came out wrong. I didn't think carefully enough… I just got the idea and just blurted it out like a bloody fool… I'm so sorry…"
Rhodes held out a calming hand towards the redhead, his other on Tony's shoulder, keeping him seated. "Okay. Okay. Both of you need to just calm down and breathe. "
Percy took a deep breath and felt a pang of regret at watching the panic slowly fade from his boss' eyes. "I am so sorry." he repeated. "I just thought… I thought that you could benefit from a trip to Malibu. "
Tony made a face. "Okaaay" he said, drawing out the last syllable.
Percy gave a sheepish shrug. "You miss Pepper, she misses you. Colonel Rhodes has to go back on duty soon. Raizel has SI New York firmly in hand. I mean, all you have are the bots and they can go wherever you go. I think that you should just say Fuck New York and go stay in sunny California for a while."
He made a soft helpless noise and winced. "I mean, in my humble opinion, it would be good for you." He felt his face heat as both men continued to stare at him. He rubbed the back of his head and shifted on his feet.
Slowly, he backed away from the two me. "That's all I had to say so I am going to go do something else now. Ahem. Yes. Okay"
He wouldn't have called it fleeing per say, more of a hasty retreat; his cheeks flaming red with embarrassment. He shouldn't have just blurted it out like that. What was he thinking? He was a 'list' person. He'd always been. He'd never just been impulsive unless it was to do with sex. Sex was always the subject that bypassed his brain and went straight to his dick. Everything else was meticulously thought out and planned.
He ducked into the waiting elevator and slumped against the wall, running a weary hand down his face. "Merlin. You fucking gob. Just blurting the first thing that comes to your head to your boss no less. All but ordering the man to take a trip cross country on a whim. Fuck."
Friday's answering chime was wordless but seemed to convey the compassion and comradery he needed right now. He looked up at the nearest camera and mouthed a silent "thanks". As the elevator doors opened, he gave one final huff of disgust before vowing to think about something else entirely.
His mind ran on Mack and the charged and enjoyable lunch they'd had earlier. Getting to know the man in a social setting had been a revelation. Aside from being hot as burning, the rugged man was intelligent with a sharp tongue and a dry wit bordering on scathing. He had such a smug smirk than equal parts irritated the hell out of the red head and made him want to kiss it off the man's face.
He had to stop to adjust his pants as he made his way to the workshop to check things over and greet the bots. At least the man had made his intentions quite clear. He was willing to pursue a physical relationship and although they had not discussed the more sensitive points and preferences, at least Percy was closer to getting some than he'd been in a long time.
And boy did he need some.
His phone chirped. It was Wendy Higgs. He quickly stepped into the small bathroom of the workshop and pressed the privacy switch. Although Friday didn't actively monitor the bathrooms in the tower, she did collect passive feedback as part of her security measures. In the lab it was doubly so but Tony had also installed a switch for when utmost privacy was needed.
The redhead, flipped down the toilet seat and sat on the lid before answering the call. "Wendy." he greeted, "Thanks for calling me back. Can we meet?"
"Sure thing Red. How about six tonight at a great Vietnamese place I know. I'll message you the directions." Higgs' voice was musical over the phone, sounding as comfortable with muggle technology as the wizards back in Britain painfully weren't. "Or should I find somewhere more private.
'More Private' meant a MACUSA safe house and privacy wards.
"No" he assured her. "I just have a concern and I need your advice. I would usually go to Sanderson but this is a little above his pay grade and experience I think."
"Understood. "she hummed then chuckled. "it's hilarious how you and Sandy have hit it off. He talks about you all the time. Mind you, it's mostly bitter complaining but that's a good thing. Not many people get under his skin enough for him to even remember their name."
Percy barked a laugh. "He doesn't even remember my name. he calls my English, Miss Priss and Queen Mother all the bloody time and complains constantly whenever I call or text."
"At least he answers you. He mostly ignores everyone else." Wendy's laugh was like the tinkling of bells. "I'll see you later Red."
She rung off and Percy spent the next few minutes sitting in the silent bathroom as his mind raced. He wasn't sure what the situation with Maximoff would end up being but he was certainly out of his depth. Wendy would make a good sounding board and could take action if it needed to be taken.
He scrolled through his social media accounts, both magical and muggle and posted a random photo on Tony's instagram of DUM-E and U facing off over a neon green tennis ball. Research had shown that any pictures of the bots, with or without their creator usually pulled a large positive response. The public loved them and loved Tony even more when they saw how open and caring he was of them.
The head of PR had sent him an edible bouquet when they'd hit 1 million followers and had been sending over tokens every time another million followed. Percy in turn told her to stop sending him gifts and start holding giveaways on the media site itself, gifting one lucky fan with an awesome prize.
After the first one was announced, Tony's IG account had gained two million followers overnight. Seemed that a lot of people wanted "Brunch with the Bots" especially if Tony Stark would also be in attendance. These Brunches had been a success and even better, had been fun for all involved.
Tony had been wary of the idea at first but the fan who'd won the prize had been so over the moon at meeting both the billionaire and his helper bots that the brunch that had been set up in a private conference room on one of the lower floors had been an roaring success.
There'd been three more brunches since then, the candid pictures of DUM-E making smoothies as Butterfingers tried to squeeze fresh orange juice and splattered everyone present going viral almost immediately after each were posted.
Not to be left out, U had apparently learned how to flip pancakes and had taken to making more and more elaborate shapes and colours. The bot now had its own instagram, monitored heavily by FRIDAY of course, where the bot made pancake faces and, oddly enough, simple landscapes and circuitry.
Slowly but surely, Tony's popularity was growing and tilting towards the positive. Too bad the Avengers could not say them same for themselves. Even though SI and Avengers PR departments were working overtime to keep the team in a positive place, the sheer fact that none of the team were willing to be physically present for events and publicity appearances left a bad taste in the public's mouth.
It was also concerning because many of the team had no problem doing their part to bolster the team's image. He knew of many accounts of Captain America visiting VA hospitals, of Thor visiting Children's Wards. Even Black Widow and Hawkeye would make appearances at charity events. All of that seemed to come to an end after the events Sokovia which was unfortunate because this was when they needed to be visible the most.
Percy shook his head at the frankly childish behaviour. Well, he couldn't really judge. He didn't know these people personally so he really wasn't in a position to judge. That didn't stop him from judging the hell out of them though. If only for the wreckage of a man they'd left in their wake.
The physical and emotional wounds left on Tony Stark by the people who were supposed to be his friends, his family were horrible to witness and heartbreaking to watch slowly heal. Watching the amazing man he knew Tony to be, pick up the jagged pieces of his heart and try to push them back into his chest made Percy want to whip out his wand and Crucio someone. It made him that livid.
Shaking off the all too familiar anger that bubbled up at this train of thought, he exited the bathroom and continued his check of the workshop. Heading up to the living quarters, he caught Tony and Rhodes as they were getting ready to leave.
"Hey, here's the guy I was looking for." Tony smiled at the red head, slinging an arm around his shoulders. "…. the guy with the best ideas ever."
Percy gave his boss a look, turning toward a smiling Rhodes. "Yeah? Well, here I am."
Tony laughed, throwing his head back at he shook Percy gently. "Yes, there you are. Great news. I've decided that your idea for a trip to Malibu is an awesome one. New York is such a drag these days. I need some sea air and fish tacos like, yesterday."
He gave Percy a pat on the shoulder. "I already called Pepper and she's on board with it. I just need to get the house ready. I have a house there you know. Well, not the one that got destroyed by a missile and crumbled into the ocean. No I had another one built on the site. It's awesome. You'll love it. Granted I've never actually been there but Pepper has and she says it's great."
Percy stood gaping as he watched his boss ramble on, saved only by Rhodes hooking and arm in Tony's and pulling him toward the elevator.
"Alright man, we can talk about all of that later. Give the kid a chance to process. Meanwhile I'm starving and I have a thick porterhouse steak calling my name. You're gonna have to roll me out of there later. I promise you that."
The elevator closed behind them, leaving Percy in sudden silence. Percy blinked stupidly before shaking like a dog. He looked around the empty living area and then up at the ceiling.
"Did I hear him right? Are we really going to Malibu?"
"Yup" the AI chirped "Miss Potts was very amenable to the suggestion when Boss called her earlier."
"Oh ok." Percy looked around once again, this time his mind listing all the things he would need to get started to prepare for this. But first… dinner with Wendy. He need to get things rolling if they were going to be on the other side of the country for the foreseeable future. If he left now he would make it in time to get a good table.
"Ok then," he said to himself, straightening his jacket. "California it is."
He'd always wanted to visit the american west coast. Sun, sea, sand and hot beach bodies. He smiled to himself as he stepped towards the elevator doors.
This was going to be so much fun.