|What: After eighteen days, Tony decides it's time for coffee.|
Tony's been back now about 18 days. His condition hasn't changed much since the cheese slid off his cracker. Well, it didn't really slide off. Everything he underwent on Apokolips, leading to his escape and return, proved to be a greater price than his mentality could cash. Tony simply went off the reservation and imploded.
The past two and a half weeks has seen Tony in an unresponsive state. He's not an invalid, but close enough. He hasn't made a mess for anyone to clean up, but he hasn't done anything unless prodded to do so, like a docile cow. All attempts to reach him are failures. Leading experts brought in. They were all in agreement: He just needs time. Even if and when he does come back about, he may not be the man everyone remembers. This is warned multiple times. Stark Industries and Pepper herself are hounded by the media for quotes, press releases, and statements.
Sometimes you can take the man out of the war, but you can't always take the war out of the man.
Pepper Potts has steadfastly refused to let someone else take over Tony's care. She can tell that Natasha's starting to lose what little patience she had, because no one, not even either of the two redheads, can juggle the kinds of demanding jobs they've been doing AND make sure that Tony eats and sleeps and bathes and goes to the restroom.... Of course, they HAVE had two distinct advantages: JARVIS and Pizza Dog. When both of them absolutely had to leave him unattended, the AI's constant vigilance and the dog's uncanny ability to sense when Tony might need something before even JARVIS.
Right now, though, Pepper is here. All is quiet, as it's fairly late at night. Despite the sheer enormity of Tony's bed, she almost never claims more than one corner for herself, typically staying perched there while doing what work she can via tablet (and JARVIS). Tonight exhaustion caught up with her, and she's lying on her side along the foot of the bed facing Tony. And Pizza Dog? He's in his new most favoritest spot: lying on his side with his back pressed down the length of Tony's leg, his head even with the main's waist. He usually alternates lying with his head closer to Pepper or Tony, using some decision-making process in his doggy brain that only he seems to comprehend.
It's late when Tony finally pulls himself together. It takes time to repair a shattered psyche. Care must be taken, and nothing can be overlooked. This takes time, and people do it at different rates.
It takes Tony eighteen days.
There have been times he hasn't slept. Slept, but screamed himself awake. Dreamt violent dreams of death, rebirth, and altnerate existences. Times when he seemed he might be close to pulling out of it, and others when he was as silent as a corpse.
Not unlike someone who had a dream of falling and jolted themselves awake, so it is the case with Tony. It's enough to get Arrow's attention, who whines lightly and cranes his head up. Tony looks down. "Well then," he thinks to himself, "not the first time I've woken up next to a barely dressed, sexy blonde."
The thought gives him a chuckle and reaches down to skritch the pizza dog, shifting slightly in his bed.
Pepper is normally a rather light sleeper, so it's saying something that Tony's waking and Pizza Dog's whine didn't cause her to so much as stir. Her tablet is on the bed in front of her torso, her head pillowed on one arm. She's dressed in soft yoga pants and a dark colored t-shirt that has printed on it in pale lettering "Most Illogical." Even in this uncharacteristic clothes she looks to have lost weight, the dim light levels that JARVIS set when she nodded off not doing much at all to improve her appearance.
Tony takes in Pepper's sleeping form. To him, her weight loss is all too apparent to the man who insisted she eat at least one sandwich a day. It's like a shock of cold water to him. "Jesus," he whispers to himself, "How long you been gone, Stark?" he asks, no on in particlar. He might try and go back to sleep, but the last thing he remembers is Kalibak being dropped dead at his feet, and Darkseid taking him away. That's when he realizes it's over, that he's home, even if now he's ignorant of the true cost of his sacrifice.
That's the horrible part. He remembers. Everything. Every hour from being resurrected by the New God, to his return to Earth. He remembers it all. Remembers knowing deep in his bones in a way he can't explain that the ticket to Apokolips to help Superman was a one way. He's been asleep a long time.
Time to wake up.
Tony slips out of the bed, Pizza Dog following dutifully behind him, and when he's safely out of his bedroom and in the living room, he stops abruptly, "Good god.." he mutters, "..smells like a hotel in here."
He pads his way into the kitchen. He pauses briefly, remembering a certain someone's presence in here. It makes him smile, "Well," hey says to himself, "this'll make for quite the case study.."
He starts up a pot of coffee, and if anything were to wake Pepper it might be that.
Tony, standing in a pair of lounge pants and a tanktop, wrapped up in an open robe and making coffee.
Pepper does finally wake, and probably at the smell of coffee. She does so slowly at first, taking a few deep breaths before opening her eyes. Probably Natasha here to go over some demand from PR or the board or something that she neglected to deal with last night. She expects to see Tony with Pizza Dog glued to his side. Instead she sees... an empty bed with rumpled sheets.
She's instantly awake and alert and on the verge of panic, sitting up up with a gasp and looking around to try and locate Tony. Pizza Dog probably alerts Tony to Pepper's now awake state, his attention turning away from whatever the inventor is doing and trotting back to the bedroom proper with his tail wagging.
The coffee is almost finished when he sees Arrow trotting off to the bedroom. Pepper's probably awake. He calls out, "JARVIS, what's the time?"
"Sir, very good to have you back with us. The time is currently four-fifty-eight AM and the outside ambient temperture is forty-three degrees."
"Well, definitely not an unheard hour to start the day. How much time has passed since I went offline?"
"Sir, I lost telemetry with you approximately thirty two days ago. It's been eighteen days, ten hours, thirty six seconds since I re-aquired your telemetry."
"Thanks, JARVIS. Good to be back, buddy, thanks."
Tony sets up a couple of mugs, pours them, dresses his how he wants, knows Pepper takes hers black and heads back to the bedroom. He leans in the door way with the tray, "Good morning, Pepper." he says gently. No jokes, no wit, just a simple good morning. "Made some coffee."
By the time Tony leans in with the tray, Pepper's on her feet and just emerging from the bathroom, where she had clearly been searching for Tony. She stops dead and just stares.
Pizza Dog is just happy that both humans are moving about and wags his way back over to Tony to say hello or ask to be let out or ... something.
Tony looks taken aback. "Go on, boy.." he says encouraging the dog to move. When he does, he sets the tray down on the nearby end table. He takes up his cup as well as handing onne to Pepper. "Don't stare like you've never seen me make coffee. I can make a decent cup. Promise."
Pepper Potts takes the cup, but instead of taking a sip she blinks, gasps at a hitch in her breath, then covers her mouth with her free hand as she sinks to sitting on the edge of the bed and makes strange, distressed little gasping sounds as she tries to not start flat out sobbing. Of course, this reaction has the dog immediately moving to put his chin on her knee as if trying to reassure her.
Tony Stark does the same. He rushes to sit next to Pepper, putting an arm around her after a bit of awkward debating about it first but he does it. "Pepper..it's ok. It's me. It's really me. I'm really here, and I'm really back."
Pepper sets the cup of coffee on the end table before her shaking hands slosh the hot beverage everywhere, and then she turns to look at Tony. She's crying openly at this point, but she's smiling as well. After looking at him for a few moments, she puts her forehead on his shoulders and mumbles half-incoherently, "I should be so angry at you right now."
Pizza Dog just stands there and wags hopefully, possibly trying to wrap his doggie brain around what just happened.
Tony Stark allows the gesture, and looks down, "Why? Wait, did I do something? I don't remember doing anything wrong."
Pepper starts laughing, which, considering she's still crying, doesn't look or sound all that different. "You made me CEO. And that's with knowing how much Farris on the Board hates me...Hated me. No. No, I'm just, I'm babbling. Ignore me. It's fine. Everything's fine now." Everying WILL be fine now, if Pepper has to force the world to comply like she did the Board.
Tony Stark reaches down and scratches Pizza Dog's ear. "Yeah, I kinda did." he says, with a bit of a reflective smile. "No one else I can trust with it. Certainly no one on the board..so I had to turn to the only person I could trust. It also doesn't hurt that I could count on my dying to turn you into the kind of cast iron bitch you'd have to be to handle it." he looks up and smiles, "..and was I wrong?"
Pepper Potts huffs out another small laugh, straightening up again and wiping at her face with her hands while taking a deep breath. "Well, mostly no. You weren't wrong. But, you owe Natasha and Clint big time." She can't help but laugh again faintly when Pizza Dog crowds in to get more ear scratches and to whuff faintly.
Tony Stark takes a drink of the coffee. Nods. "I have no doubt." he looks back over, "Which reminds me..who's bright idea was it to give Rescue a paintjob and give you a walking switchblade in its place?"
Pepper Potts ohs faintly and looks a bit sheepish. "Mine. I was, um, kind of angry. At... everything."
Pizza Dog whuffs again, this time backing up a few steps as he does so and causing Pepper to look at him and sigh. "He needs to go out, I'll be right back."
Tony Stark grins, "Fair enough. I'll be right here when you get back." he takes a sip of his coffee.
Pepper Potts nods and stands, gesturing Pizza Dog toward the door in a way that the canine clearly recognizes, if his prancing, wagging gait is any indication. They disappear through the door, and their progress can be tracked by the sounds of the doors opening and the occasional clicking of dog claws on a section of non-carpeted floor. Then there's that sensation of pressurization change as the door to the rooftop is opened.
Tony Stark stands up, coffee in hand and heads to the garden balcony portion of the penthouse. Taking a moment to drink his coffee and enjoy being around something green that isn't a rage monster.
Surprise, surprise, that's where Pepper and Pizza Dog are. Because, really. Why go all the way to street level and walk for BLOCKS to find a single tiny patch of earth when there's all this, right here? By the time Tony meanders out, the dog has already completed his business, as he's wandering about snuffling at things and Pepper is just inside, washing her hands at the sink set into the bar.
Tony Stark takes another sip of coffee.
He leans in the doorway and watches Pepper for a moment. There's a silence. There's an eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. He doesn't know how to approach either.
Pepper Potts finishes washing her hands and walks toward Tony, completely unaware of any eight hundred pound gorilla anywhere. She's got all of Stark Industries AND the furor of the press weighing on her mind (even with Natasha's help), so a single gorilla doesn't really make much of a blip on the radar. "Hey."
Pizza Dog is obliviously happy the way dogs usually are, wagging his way over to greet Tony with a squeaktoy shaped like a pizza slice hanging from his mouth.
Tony Stark laughs at the dog, and scratches behind his ears and tosses the toy for him to fetch. Tony looks up after a moment, "So, uh..how's it been here?" he asks, tentatively.
Pizza Dog bounds happily off after the toy, by virtue of being a dog that's loved and not having a care in the world.
Pepper leans on the opposite side of the door frame to watch the dog, and hear the first chirps of a bird brave enough to try for the trees all the way up here on this rooftop. "Things continued to move, lives continued to happen." She shrugs faintly. It was like everything had become colorless and two-dimensional, as if the world had become a pencil drawing of the world instead of the real thing. But how can she convey that without making it sound ... inappropriate?
Tony Stark nods quietly, sips coffee. "Good, good.." he looks around, "Look.." he says, looking back down. "I'm..I'm sorry." he says, at least trying to begin a dialogue of some kind.
Pepper Potts blinks at that. "Sorry? Tony, no. You're the last person that needs to apologize. You got put into a shit situation you did the best you could with it. Just like the rest of us." Yes, she did just cuss right there. Maybe she's been around Natasha a bit TOO much? "I think the only person I would have wanted an apology from is the one that started this whole mess. But honestly, I'm okay without ever so much as hearing about him ever again."
Tony Stark shudders at even the implication of the name, "You and me both -- so, shit siutation, eh? Sounds like Nat's been rubbing off on you a little." he smiles, and then just takes a deep breath. "I've never.." he sighs, rubs his chin, "I've never been to be back here. In this place..or..just here. At all."
Pepper Potts offers a small smile as well, and takes a turn at tossing the squeaktoy for Pizza Dog to chase. "She might be, a bit. She stepped back in as Natalie Rushman to help me get through that first week, and, well, now I kind of can't imagine getting through the day without her help." At his expression of being glad to be here she simply nods. "I'm glad you're here too." She's still a bit on the roller coaster emotionally, so can't help but feel like the floor's about to drop out from under her again at any moment. Maybe an attempt at a joke? "I think JARVIS was starting to get impatient with me."
Tony Stark takes another deep breath and drinks some more coffee. "Why's that? Did you insist on doing something he's used to doing?" he says, walking back into the penthouse and has a seat on the couch. "It's so weird, in a way."
Pepper Potts follows and moves to sit on the couch as well, putting her back against the arm of her chosen end of the couch and tucking her feet under one of the cushions. "I think it's because I always say please and thank you. Maybe he missed someone being snarky at him."
Pizza Dog follows them after a moment, leaving the squeaktoy outside to noisily drink water from a bowl at the end of the bar nearest the windows then trot happily over to put his soggy drippy chin on Tony's lap.
Tony Stark looks at Pizza Dog and sighs a little, "You've got a drinking problem." he deadpans to PD. To Pepper, he shrugs a little, "Well, it IS a nutritional requirement for AIs, being snarky. At least mine, anyhow.." and the mention of AIs makes him pause. "Tweleve," he says to himself, and looks back to Pepper, "Did any of the armor I was wearing get recovered by the cleanup crew?" he asks, curious.
Pepper Potts has to think for a minute to remember, then nods. "I think so. Natasha had every last scrap they could get to boxed up and put in your workshop. She thought you might want to be the first to look at everything." Of course, she's wondering what he meant by 'twelve', but she knows better than to pry. "And Clint's been stonewalling SHIELD so they don't try to get their hands on that stuff before you do." Then she wrinkles her nose. "He also told them where they could stick their demands for a debriefing from you as soon as you woke up."
Now that Pizza Dog is done drying his chin off on Tony's leg, he hops up onto the sofa -- something that he clearly does regularly by the amount of doghair already on the cushions despite the regular housekeeping visits -- and flops with his head near Pepper's feet and his behind against Tony's hip. One happy doggy groan, and he looks ready to nap again.
Tony Stark's eyes go dark briefly, "They aren't going to get one, either." he says flatly.
"From what I heard, that's what Clint told them, but not nearly so politely. And Natasha was even harsher than he was," Pepper offers. "They'd have to get through all three of us, AND Arrow, to get to you." She leans forward to pet the dog fondly for a moment when he raises his head at the sound of his name. = Tony Stark chuckles, "Glad to hear it, but it's not necessary. I'm not hiding behind anyone anymore. Someone wants something from me..they can damn well come and ask for it or try to take it." he reaches down and gives the dog an affectionate scratch.
Pepper Potts tilts her head a bit to rest it against the back of the sofa, though she's still got a bit of a smile. "I know it's not necessary. But we're still going to be protective of you, and you'll just have to deal with that. "Like this lug here," she nudges the now snoozing Pizza Dog lightly with one leg. "One of the housekeepers came in here without knocking first, and he went kind of Cujo at her. And he's known her for weeks already."
Tony Stark smiles, "I guess that's one thing I gotta get used to." he takes a drink of his coffee, "I was alone most of my life, even when my parents were alive. To the point that the only person I've ever really relied on was myself. I trust you, but..not rely." he shakes his head, "I gotta learn, especially now, that I have people to rely on."
Tony and Pepper are sitting on the couch, sipping coffee at the pre-dawn hour of fivish AM, with Arrow snoozing lazily between them.
About an hour ago, while Pepper was asleep, Tony came out of his catatonia..and decided it was time to be awake..and made a pot of coffee.
Pepper Potts nods without lifting her head from the back of the couch, her current chosen seat probably a bit too familiar to Natasha, except for a few major differences. Pizza Dog isn't draped over her lap like a breathing furry blanket, and, well, Tony. Considering she'd only been asleep for at best four hours before Tony woke up and had been burning the candle at both ends for weeks before that, it's no surprise that seated as she is she's starting to lull her way back to sleep. She's fighting it, though. Because Tony. "It's something I learned very quickly wh... um, in the past month or two. And you know, thinking back, I don't regret it."
James has buried himself in just about anything that keeps him from having to accept his best friend's death. If there was a brutal assignment in some backwater country that needed a little 'act right', War Machine volunteered. If a warlord in Africa needed reminding that human rights were more important than his desire to be an object of fear? In he goes without much more than a suggestion.
He's come to the Tower a number of times, sure. Come in, stayed long enough for the realization to be more than just a painful twitch in the back of his mind, then left.
Tony Stark is alive. The news reports said. Double checked with his Pentagon contacts, triple checked through PATTONs uplink with JARVIS.
James handled the business that remained in South America with... arguably... more aggression than was absolutely necessary to close the file so he could be back in Metropolis ASAP.
Rhodes walks through the doors into the penthouse for the first time in weeks and cants his head around corners while storming, he's storming, through the halls. "Tony? Pepper, where's Tony?" Is his friend even awake yet? Believe he doesn't care. Loud is the order of the morning.
And, for the past several days, while Tony has been in his catatonic state, Natasha has been living in one of the Penthouse's extra bedroom. Sleep hasn't been high on her priority list -- or, more accurately, sleep has been one of those catch-as-catch-can priorities for her. Twenty minutes here, a couple of hours there (when she's lucky). A typical day? Up at 5am, down to the office by six, 14-16 hours there or dealing with "The Tony Situation" or otherwise just being Natalie Rushman, another half a dozen hours after that being the Black Widow... and then, maybe a couple of hours to nap, only to get up and do it all again.
So, when the scent of coffee finally does penetrate the Russian woman's brain it actually takes her several long moments to figure out just what it is that's different. Good thing she's not under the gun. She'd be dead.
She rolls out of bed and makes a detour into the ensuite to scrub her face, dress, and rake a brush through her hair... and remind herself that, yes, she needs to be up and moving no matter how much it hurts -- she's suffered worse deprivation than this -- and she needs to be fully in character for the day.
Thus, when she does finally come padding out of her room, she looks... every inch the Natalie Rushman persona, and thus several hundred times better than how she actually feels.
As she enters the main living space, however, she pauses. Pepper and Arrow... well, that's normal. Tony, on the other hand... is up and moving. And, for just a moment, the Widow looks back over her shoulder toward his bedroom suite, to make sure it really is him, out of bed, and not some LMD she wasn't anticipating. No LMD. Check. A small, controlled smile touches her lips. "Good morning, Mr. Stark. Miss Potts." she greets them both. "It's nice to see you up and about. You as well, Colonel Rhodes. We're in the living room..." And she crosses very matter-of-factly to pour two extra cups of coffee -- just in case Rhodes wants one.
Because she sure as hell does.
Pepper Potts flinches in surprise at the sudden sound of Rhodey's voice ringing through the penthouse, promptly causing Pizza Dog to go flying off of the couch where he'd been napping and doing his best Cujo imitation, barking deep and angry barks. Pepper scrambles after the dog to try and keep him from actually attacking Tony's best friend, and wow does she look uncoordinated.
Thankfully, the dog is as familiar with Natasha as with Pepper, and when she appears to be calmly greeting Rhodey the canine takes his cue from her and stops barking. That doesn't stop him from approaching cautiously, though.
For her part, as soon as PD stops barking she stops as well and looks from Natasha to Rhodey and back. "Hi." She's not QUITE as sleep-deprived as Nat, but it hits her a lot harder because she's not been trained to work past it.
Tony Stark raises his coffee mug in greeting, like it was just another morning at the Tower. "Mister Stark? Really? You've been working me like a six foot Barbie doll for three weeks and I get Mister Stark? Jeeze..like you'll ever get away with calling me that ever again."
Then he stands and looks at Rhodey, and gives him a smirk. "You're late." he says, naturally giving his best friend the largest ration of shit.
James has just been in the middle of a jungle loaded to the treetop with gun wielding revolutionary psychopaths who have beheaded at 'least' four people in the past two weeks. He's been shot at with RPGs, assault rifles, and LMGs. Literally attacked by dogs trained to go directly for the throat.
And ontop of that, he's standing in the living room of his best friend who has now died and come back to life (assumed once, confirmed the second) twice. It isn't so much that he's ignoring the barking dog. He stutters to a stop when pizza dog comes around the corner Cujoing it up, but there is for sure more on his mind at that very second.
Coffee? He starts to head that way himself, until Tony strolls around the corner calm as he wants.. James' first reaction? Stare. Then he shakes his head, "Says the guy who waited... what... two whole weeks to come back to life?" Smirking at his friend, "I need you to step up your game, Tony. You're slipping." Then all pretences of tough guy evaporates and he grabs the still healing Tony in a hug. "Next time you go to a far away planet to fight a God and die without bringing me with you, I'm going to kill you."
Pepper had best not be quite as sleep deprived as Nat, because Nat's been putting in all those extra hours quite purposely to make sure she isn't. Which, mind, doesn't in the least mean she thinks Pepper has been sleeping properly and isn't sleep deprived. Only that, yes, she should be less sleep deprived than Natasha herself. Even if Natasha does cope with it better.
She crosses briskly over to Rhodes with the two cups of coffee, offering him one and setting the second down near the chair she's more or less staked out as her own over the past several weeks. The one that lets her see the most access points to the room, yes. Mugs distributed, however, she comes to help Pepper up, smiling. "Hi." And she crouches to give Arrow's ears a good, friendly fuzz. "It's okay, Arrow," she actually coos at him. "It's just Rhodey. He's always loud. He likes to shout over Tony. He really does..."
She glances up to Tony as he stands, rocking back on the balls of her feet and rising as she does. She actually flashes him a smile -- the Widow's tease, full of practiced charm and just a hint of subtle flirt... except there's this brief flash of genuine relief behind her blue eyes. "I thought about calling you Ken," she says with a mild shrug, "but it just doesn't have the same ring."
Tony Stark oofs as he is hugged by Rhodey and croaks a little, "That'll be ten, then.." he does embrace the other man, though and hold him a moment. "Sorry about the wait..I got held up." he lets go and breathes in, coughing slightly. He goes to sit back down, glancing at Nat, "You know better than to call me Ken. You're the one that pushed me into the shower." he takes a drink of coffee. He looks to Pepper, "Pepper," he says, voice gentle, "Go and get some rest..you've held vigil over me long enough." he looks between her and Nat, "Both of you." -- nd though it's not directly said, though it will be, there is a look of genuinely thanks and gratitude on his face.
James breaths a sigh of relief. One he's been holding for the entire trip back to Metropolis. This isn't some trick, cruel as that would be. Tony's alive and he looks good. After a moment to collect himself, he shakes his head and accepts the coffee from Natalie with a smile, "Thanks." And adjourns over to one of the overstuffed cushions where he flops. "Waaah.. Yeah, you've both..." Shaking his head, James sips at his coffee. He could have helped with things here, certainly done more than he did.
"We did what needed to be done," Natasha says, settling Pepper back on the couch (because Tony is going to have to physically carry the woman back to her room to get her to leave him alone; Nat knows this because she's had to do it). Her tone is gently, casually dismissive. Matter of fact, even, though there's no doubt it's true. "More people underfoot wouldn't have helped."
But, yes. Nat was the one that pushed him into the shower time and time again. Every couple of days, in fact. 'Cause she's too old to get excited by such things, and stinky Tonys are not good Tonys to have around.
She does cant her head, however, and considers... "JARVIS," she says now, "please, clear Miss Potts' schedule for the next two days. Block the time off as an 'executive conference' and reroute all her calls through to me or, if I'm unavailable, Mr. Jackson." The young, eager intern she's been using a pro-tem assistant during the crisis. "Also, send Mr. Jackson a message on my behalf, asking him to reschedule Miss Potts' appointments for sometime next week. I'll touch base with him later this morning." A beat. She goes through the checklist in her head. Then: "Thanks, JARVIS."
"Anything for you, Miss Rushman." JARVIS responds, pleasantly.
"Rhodey - relax. There's a reason I downplayed things the way I did before I left." he says to his friend, and looks to Nat, "Still, it's appreciated. I owe you." he says, and gives the woman a nod. The thousnd yard stare is gone from his eyes, but the scars one can see there are permanent. He looks at Pepper and smiles, and looks up at the cieling. "So--" he says, speaking to no one in particular, "How bad is media hounding us? I need to start thinking about damage control."
Pizza Dog promptly claims Tony's lap for a bed once he sits back down, draping himself over the man's legs and letting out a contented doggy groan.
Having been helped up by Natasha, she watches fondly as Tony and Rhodey get their brand of pleasantries out of the way, and is then steered back to the couch. She settles into 'her' spot with a faint sigh, and when the dog appears disinclined to leave his current napping spot to act as a furry blanket for her, she leans forward to drag the throw blanket off of the back of the couch. Draping the throw over her legs, she pulls it up to cover her dark blue t-shirt with "Most Illogical." printed on it in gold.
"Hey, Nat? Do you know anyone that likes to cook? I've been craving fifteen bean soup for a while now, but just the thought of standing in the kitchen to prepare it makes me want to cry." When Tony asks about the media she gets that pinched expression that usually means she's headed for a headache. "Not as bad as they could be. Nat's been kind of ruthless with telling them to back off." And yes, it's officially Nat now.
Rhodey lifts his mug to Tony, "Downplayed is a good word." He's past the part where he's beside himself with outward glee. Which is not to say he is not beside himself with glee, but now the Colonel is back in command of his emotions, "The Enquirer ran a story that you were spotted at a paranormal ball with Marilyn Monroe." Sipping at his raised mug. "Actually.." The mug is plopped down on the table and he pulls himself up to his feet, "I make a mean fifteen bean soup."
Nat looks at Rhodey as he reveals his culinary side. Then, she flashes a grin to Pepper, lowering herself into 'her' chair. "Turns out I do, Pepper." The grin turns to that charming Widow's tease, it's full wattage on the Colonel. "Would you mind, terribly, Colonel? We'd be oh-so-grateful." A beat, followed by a soft chuckle. "Maybe not for breakfast, mind... but lunch? Dinner? Just let me know what you need."
She grows more serious at Tony's question, however, and nods. "I've kept the hounds at bay, yes, but we do need to issue a statement soon. I was hoping to issue something this week, anyway. Now, that you're back, I'm probably going to insist on it." Yes, she recognizes the shadow in his eyes. And, for the first time, he's probably able to recognize the same shadow in hers. "Most of what they know is what they caught from the battle." The one where he kicked Kalibak's ass. "That, and it's on official record that I've filed papers to have you officially declared 'alive' again." A dry look is given to Pepper, before she tells Tony, "The most frequent inquiries are: Is Tony Stark alive? What condition is he in? Will he be taking back control of Stark Industries? ...And who were those other armors in the fight?"
Tony Stark shakes his head over at Rhodey, "No..." says trailing off and trying to think. He tries to form words. Fails. Tries again. "There was..somone -- someones, plural." he says, haltingly, "And we were..I forget where we were." he says, but looks over at Jim. "I can't remember.." and then looks over to Nat, and his mind starts kicking over to work mode, "Let's issue an official statement: Yes, good and stable, Yes, and two members of Stark Industries security who are to remain anonymous. Give me a few days to get my feet under me again and we'll schedule a press conference."
Then the converstion about bean soup ensues and Tony's eyes go wide with realization and he says to no one in particular, "Good lord, I'm starving." -- considering how little he's really eaten over the past month, it's no surprise.
Pepper Potts looks at Tony, then Nat, then Rhodey. "So, fifteen bean soup for dinner," she knows it takes HOURS to cook properly. "And some horribly unhealthy breakfast now? She looks at her wristwatch. "Taqueria Arandinas should be open by now, and I could be convinced to eat some migas or a breakfast taco."
Rhodes settles into the chair, leaning back comfortably while Tony tries to remember what he can only presume is something from the other side. "Now everyone's hungry." Patting his stomach expressively, "How about some heuvos rancheros?" Glancing around, "Then fifteen bean soup for lunch." Nodding, if nothing, his mind is made up that 'he' wants rancheros. "Could tell them one of the suits was me." Offered to Tony, headed for the kitchen, "JARVIS, how do I work the stove?" Bad start amirite?
"Until I get that statement prepared," Nat tells Pepper, "we're ordering in." But Taqueria Arandinas, she can do. Unless, of course, Rhodey intends to cook. "Or... making something here," she adds, brows rising some. Besides, the statement won't take long to draft, now.
However, it's going to be a media feeding frenzy. Which means, while Pepper may get two days off, Nat won't. (But, maybe she can catch an extra nap or three, finally.)
Pepper Potts wrinkles her nose at the mention of huevos rancheros -- she's never been a fan of tabasco sauce. "James, it's okay, really. We can just order in from Arandinas." Or hell, she knows the owners well enough (since she's fluent enough in Spanish to actually chat with them), she could probably sweet talk them into sending one of their line cooks over...
Tony Stark cocks an eyebrow, "Alright this is the plan. We're gonna order in. I'm gonna eat whatever I order and then probably at least a bowl or two of the completely unhealthy kid's cereal I keep stashed in the pantry. Rhodey, get me the recipe for this soup of yours and whatever you need and we'll get whatever I don't have brought in plus extras." and then he looks at Nat and Pepper - "Okay - now that's settled, once you get that statement out I want my office shut down for seventy two hours. No one is lifting a finger. You and Pepper are officially on vacation until the morning of the press conference." he looks around, "And so am I."
Rhodes pokes his head back in, pots already clanging in his hands as he taps them together, "You sure? I've just got back from Brazil. Every night I'd hop the pond over to Mexico City and found this wonderful little dive that did..." Shaking his head, waving a pan, "The best rancheros... I mean.. they're good." Anyways, "Now, I consumed a pretty good bit of tequila with the owner..." Glancing around, he shrugs and heads back into the kitchen to inventory for his soup. "I'll get a laundry list together."
Nat shoves herself out of her chair and moves to find her tablet, left in her room by her dressing table, actually. Returning with it moments later, she sits down, places it in her lap, and starts drafting up that statement.
Now, see, she's actually quite aware, at this moment, that technically, it's not Tony's company any more. It's Pepper's. But, she's also completely willing to listen to him, if it means Pepper's forced to take half a week off. (And if it means she can do the same. Even she knows she can't push her body indefinitely.)
Thus, while Rhodey, who arrived about the same time Nat got up -- some half hour or so after Tony woke up and made coffee -- bangs pots together in the kitchen, and Pepper sits in her usual spot on the couch, Nat tucks her legs under her and works on the media release. What's most notable, however, is that, yes, Tony Stark is up and about. He has spent the past 18 days catatonic. This morning, he decided it was time to get up and do stuff.
In the meantime, however, Natalie Rushman has become the official voice of Stark and the undisputed gatekeeper separating Pepper Potts from the rest of humanity. The only people who've gotten through? Avengers and people Pepper has specifically okay-ed (when she's actually known about them, that is... because... Widow).
This morning, sometime just before 5am, Tony woke up. Now, it's nearly 6am and he's sat on the opposite end to the couch as Pepper with Arrow draped over him like an oversized rug. The dog makes that happy-big-dog-groan sound occasionally, tail thumping once in a while against Pepper's leg. Nat pauses in her typing and glances up in that way people do when they're about to speak to JARVIS. She takes a breath, and then looks at Pepper instead. "Do you want to make the food order, or shall I?"
Pepper Potts glances at Natasha, considers being all smug and telling Tony he can't boss them around because he's not the boss anymore, but then decides to let it go. "I can place the order, Nat, though I left my phone back in the bedroom. Mind if I borrow yours?" Anything to keep any of them from having to get up, because she's feeling intertial right now. Stretching her legs out along the sofa (against Pizza Dog's back), she is clearly taking the 'settle in and relax' order to heart now.
Tony Stark is brought back to his penthouse at Stark Tower. For the next two weeks, despite repeated media hounding, deabte, ridicule, and spectacle, all of Stark's outlets are shut tighter than a bank vault. No statements are issued, no questions are answered. Only those among Tony's closest circles are allowed entry, and no one is saying anything.
For those who do get in, it's very simple - Tony is in a catatonic state. He doesn't respond to anything - not anyone's speech, touch, sound, anything.
He sleeps. In short jagged bursts that end with him screaming awake, the only sound he makes for the duration of this state.
After two weeks or so, Tony begins showing some signs of coming around. It's a slow, gradual process. Sometimes he makes progress, and sometimes he backslides. But he does eventually, slowly, comes back around. But it will be a long time before he is anything near that was the Tony Stark before that day on Apokolips.
Tony gets up and heads to the kitchen, he comes back out with a refilled coffee mug and fixes up another pot. It seems like it's gonna be a Grand Central kinda morning. Which is fine with him. "Okay, so..now that we've got the immediate future taken care of, what ended up happening on this side of things?" he asks, curiously. "There was a free planet to come back to, so I assume he got stopped?"
Right about now, Clint Barton arrives for work. He decides to pay his dog a visit so he heads up to the penthouse. He enters without announcing himself of course, and when he does so he blinks ab but at Tony being up and around. "Oh my god." he exclaims. He looks ot Pepper and Widow, "Just how long has he been up?"
Pizza Dog launches himself off of the sofa again, but this time is completely different. His barks are higher pitched, and he's literally bounding toward his human. Happy dog is happy!
Pepper doesn't answer Tony's question about what happened because she honestly doesn't know since she was, well, distracted. She looks up at Clint from 'her' spot on the couch as Pizza Dog announces his arrival, the space she gravitated toward so much in the weeks before Tony's return. "Hey, I'm about to order breakfast in from Taqueria Arandinas. Do you want anything in particular?" How she plans to do that when she very clearly has no electronic device at all within arm's reach? Good question.
Natasha chuckles, actually, at pepper's question to her. She pulls her phone from a little pouch on her waist -- because she actually thought to snag it when she snagged her tablet. "Here," she tells the lighter redhead, sliding the phone across the carpet to her with a sharp thrust. Because, damn it, she's not getting up, either.
Then she glances to the time on her tablet. "About an hour," she says to Clint, in answer to his questions. "So, good morning! Oh. We've just shut down the office for three days. Just so you know."
Then, as she hits send on the media statement distribution list, she glances to Tony and lets out a slow breath. "The planet's free, yeah. Superman cleaned his clock. JLA took some serious hits. I think most everyone's accounted for, now. I haven't really heard, on that front. Carol's still without her powers; Booster made it back from who knows where; Thor and Sif are still missing. But, hey, Steve's back." That about covers the worst of it, doesn't it?
Tony Stark grins, "Clint," he says, "Good to see you too." he pads his way back to the couch, "A couple hours. I've kinda been on autopilot a minute..brain decided it needed caffeine so I got up and made coffee. There's a pot brewing in the kitchen, and uh, yeah..we're about order in and later Rhodey's gonna make a pot of his super colon bowl. We're taking a siesta for a couple days. Come hang out, we can make pillow fort." and then he looks back to Nat, as if the mention of the Asgardians were a trigger, "Wait..I remember seeing them.." he pauses, "I thought I was fugueing though..somewhere in those final seconds and first seconds.." he kinda glazes over again in the eyes, but only a moment. "I don't know.." he says, sitting down and shaking his head. "I gotta figure this out." he says to no one specific, "It feels like there's a ton of loose pieces in my head that I don't know where they connect."
Clint nods, "Well the last time I say them they said they had talk to you in Valhalla." he says. He then kneels down and gives the doggie some loves. "Hey there boy did you miss me?" he asks then he follows Pizza dog back to the couch and joins him on it, "Well that leaves me with a very important question, if we are closed for the next three days do I still get paid?" he then looks over to Tony, "Oh I have a training session with Cissie, good kid." He keeps his appraisal at that then he realizes something, "Wait has anyone called her or Danielle?"
Pepper Potts reaches down to catch Natasha's phone and picks it up to dial the restaurant, pulling her feet out of Clint's way as he sits and then promptly tucking her feet underneath his leg while Pizza Dog wedges his doggy self between the two men. "I..." She closes her eyes briefly. "I'm sorry. I'm the one that should have contacted Danielle. Let me get this food order in and then I'll call her." Though that would mean having to get up and get her phone, and she really doesn't want to move. She dials the restaurant on Natasha's phone and starts talking to whomever in very competent Spanish.
Natasha wants to tell him he'll get used to it, the disjointed memories rattling around. But, she knows from experience it's not a good answer. So, she gives him an empathetic smile, instead. Yeah. She gets it.
And she resists the urge to sigh at Clint as she sets her tablet aside. Valhalla is not what she would have led with.
"We haven't called anyone," she tells him. "I didn't want to get anyone's hopes up." Like her, Clint is probably familiar with PTSD-induced catatonia. It's like a mini support meeting of Scrambled Brains Anonymous, right here.
Tony Stark nods, looking a bit fuzzy for a minute. "Yeah..so um..I'll get Pepper's phone and when I get back..Valhalla huh? I'm not the go to heaven type in anyone's book, so yeah..I dunno 'bout all that..certainly don't remember it. Maybe it was something they were on to make everyone feel better.." and he heads back to his room where Pepper was camped out to get her phone.
Clint Barton shrug, "Not sure I just know what i was told." he says. Arrow barks in agreement since he talked with Thor during this visit but of course none of the humans present understand him. He looks over to Pepper and says, "Make my chorizo extra spicy." he then settles back on the couch and gives Natasha a smile being able ot sense her annoyance.
Pepper Potts nods to Clint and adds that to the conversation she's having. She's talking an awful lot just for a food order, but finally she ends the call and lobs it in a nice arc back toward Natasha before scooting down a bit on the sofa so she can use the arm of the couch as a pillow. But that's just not comfortable. So she sits up again with a faint frown.
Nat's hand comes up swiftly to catch the phone and set it aside with her tablet. She snirks softly at Clint, as she often does, and just lets it drop. It's an old argument of style, after all. One neither will change on.
Now, she shoves herself out of her chair. "Right. If I don't have to go downstairs at all, today, then I'm am not staying in this get up." Rushman's taking a day off? It seems so. She pads back to her bedroom, now, to change into something far less office-wear and far more casual-wear.
Tony Stark comes back out, with Pepper's phone and hands it to you, "Here ya go, Peppercorn." he says and sits back down. "So you said Thor and Sif are missing? Missing what? Did Blondie misplace his hammer in the Toolchest of the Ancients or something?"
Good old Clint always blunt, well except with being sharp and pointed much like his arrows. "Missing in action, no one has seen them." He says. He then looks over at pepper, "Everything alright." He looks over to tony, "Listen the problems will keep maybe we should watch some movies and not get into a ton of question right now." he says, "I have Tokyo drift in my office."
Pepper Potts accepts her phone when Tony offers it to her, but doesn't immediately try to get in touch with Danielle. Now that the majority of the excitement is over, the lack of adequate sleep is clearly catching up with her. She's spacing out.
Natasha emerges a few moments later, wearing a pair of loose, casual cotton slacks made of a stretch fabric that she'd never wear to the office, and a loose t-shirt clearly borrowed from Pepper's closet at some point. All it reads, however, is 'NO.'
She glances to the guys, her hearing sensitive enough to have picked up the conversation from the bedroom. Her expression remains neutral. "Sif and Thor led Asgard to war in an effort to free you from Darkseid," she tells Tony quietly as she reemerges from the bedroom. "I'm sorry. They haven't come home."
Clint winces at that and says, "Well I can see them doing that." he says. He then shifts himself a bit to give the spacing out Pepper a hug. he tries to take the phone from her, "The calls cna be done after breakfast." He looks over to Widow and grins, "OK it is wrong when I ma the only one in the room dressed to work in an office. He does have a suit on since he was on the way to work.
Tony looks like someone just let the wind out of his sails. "They went missing..trying to get me out of Apokolips?" he asks, making sure he has this correct. If Pepper can sense anything, it's Tony's already tensing jaw and the beginning of that one vein he has in that little hollow next to his eye beginning to become visible. His hands begin to curl into fists.
Natasha watches Tony closely, judging his reactions. "Don't go there," she says quietly, the look she's giving him direct and all experience. "I know where your head's going, Stark. Don't go there. Thor and Sif had the might of Asgard to back them up. They've disappeared before, and come back. We have no reason to believe the won't this time, too."
Okay, that's not entirely true. Brynn was fairly convinced that they weren't coming back. But, Natasha just can't afford to accept that, herself, right now. Nor can she afford to have the people around her thinking otherwise. She'll keep that secret from all but Clint, who's heard the story from her already.
But, there are no bodies. And this time there's no footage to prove otherwise. So, Natasha's not going there. At all.
He nods, "Yeah and well they could be in Asgard keeping that place in order, I mean with a bother like Loki I am sure there is no shortage of family business to handle." He does not know anything more about the situation besides what the Widow has told him then he says, "Besides for now takes things slow. I know that is not you but well we might have other more pressing issues."
Tony Stark exhales slowly, "but still.." he says, trying to keep his temper in check, "I feel responsible..especially with them going after Darkseid like that." he says, "When was the last time they were heard from?" he asks, looking to Clint, then Nat.
Natasha resists the urge to sigh. "A week or so before you came back," she says. "I've tried contacting Brynn, but... she's been unavailable and frankly..." She looks around the room in a way that implies the whole building. "I've been a little swamped."
Clint nods, "We all have really you left some pretty big shoes to fill." he smiles, "I am an executive now." he shows Tony his nes Stark ID proclaiming him head osf Security.
Tony Stark calms down a little, and even manages to smile, "I like that, Clint. It looks good on you." he looks over at Nat, "You too." he says, his smile fading. "I worked with Brynn a little before I went out of town. I'll get hold of her and see if she's heard anything."
Natasha nods to Tony's plan, particularly as he appears to calm down. She notices Pepper finally dozing off and actually smiles, crossing to take the phone from the other woman and pull the throw over her a little more comfortably. At least one of them is able to sleep.
Now, she heads back over to pick up her coffee and take it back out to the kitchen for a fresh cup. "You should've seen Pepper facing down Nick, Tony. I thought she was going to challenge him to arm wrestling to get Clint and I reassigned."
Pepper is all but completely asleep by the time the lobby security call Natasha's phone to ask if they'd requested a delivery from Arandinas. The request is somewhat odd, because the lobby guards should be entirely accustomed to accepting restaurant deliveries. Why is this one requesting special permission?
Clint laughs a bit and nods, "That is true." he smiles, 'She did good while you were away." yes he just says away. He then looks over to the Widow, "Who is on Lobby duty?" He asks.
Tony cocks an eyebrow, "Oh really? She managed to get you guys reassigned here? How long did she talk Ol' One Eye into? I couldn't even get the words out before he told me to forget it." he glances between the two agents, "Something up? I can go get something.."
Natasha frowns, as she answers her phone. "I'm not sure; hang on..." she says softly to Clint, finger on the mute button. Then, releasing it, she speaks back into the phone itself with Rushman's cadence. "Sorry. I thought Wicks on duty, this morning. Who are you?" She waits for an answer. Mutes. To Clint: "Jenson?" Again, into the phone, "Thank you, Jenson. We did place the order, yes. Please send it up before it gets cold."
And as she speaks, she wanders back into her bedroom to go find her Widow's cuffs. Just in case. As she reemerges, however, she glances to Tony and points, "You, stay here. We don't need more media rumors out there. I'll tell you the story of Pepper and the Man over breakfast."
Clint nods to Natash, "I will answer the door." he leave the you be ready part unsaid after all they have worked with each other numerous times. He then gets ready to greet the dilvery man, "Maybe since we are closed they were not expecting it."
Jenson sounds a bit uncertain but agrees at Natasha's reply. A few minutes later, the elevator dings an arrival and an apologetic Jenson escorts an older Hispanic woman carrying a very full shopping bag. "Um, she said she's here to cook breakfast, sir." The woman waves a hand dismissively at Jenson, commenting (for those that speak Spanish) that Miss Virginia asked for breakfast and sending already cooked meals just growing cold simply would not do. Surprisingly sharp eyes look Clint over, and the woman adds a comment about the food clearly being needed badly.
Pepper rouses a bit when Clint leaves the couch and looks around blearily. Then she hears the woman speaking and sits up quickly. "Abuela Rodriguez?" And THAT sets the grandmotherly woman off again, commenting that Pepper looks WAY too thin and she clearly has not been fed properly. And yet, despite all of this, she hasn't attempted to step past Clint to enter the area proper.
Tony Stark just watches this exchange surreally, and looks to Pepper, "Uh..that doesn't look like breakfast."
Jenson must be one of the new guys. But, the Hispanic woman? Natasha actually relaxes some as she recognizes her. And understands the conversation. "It's okay," she says, letting her hands fall lightly to her side. "Mrs. Rodriguez is one of the best cooks in the city. She won't poison us..." But they may not be able to move for hours after they're finished the feast.
Then again, they probably won't really need to, either.
Talk about a crazy day.
Clint laughs, "Alright crises averted." He says, "We should be alright. Good Work Jenson." he then looks ot Pepper, 'next time let us know that ordering breakfast means a cook will show up." he shakes his head a little and moves back to the couch.
Mrs. Rodriguez is, in fact, the mother of the owners of the Taqueria Arandinas restaurant, and upon hearinng the breakfast order from Pepper insisted on coming here to do the cooking herself. Once Natasha has given the all clear, Jenson has departed again via the elevator, and Clint returns to the couch of Newton's First Law, the abuela makes her way through to the kitchen area and promptly gets started cooking. Unfamiliar kitchen? No problem. The first thing she does is supplement the current coffee supply with a large thermos of what smells like cinnamon-y hot cocoa. She even seems to be not at all perturbed by Pizza Dog following her into the kitchen and being a bit of a nuisance at all of the wonderful not-even-cooked-yet food smells.
Scrubbing at her face with her hands, Pepper moves to stand and head for the kitchen, looking at Tony apologetically. "I didn't ask for chef service, but YOU try arguing with Abuela Rodriguez when she gets an idea in her head." She goes to the kitchen to greet the woman, and gets shooed back rather quickly with a tray of cocoa mugs and a plate of pan dulce -- crumbly mexican cookies in pink, brown, and white.
Tony Stark looks at Pepper motioning to his kitchen and back again, "Pepper, I don't even KNOW Abuela Rodriguez and I'm most assuredly not going to go in there when there's a Mexican Grandma in there, who can use a broom to shoo me out better than Matt Murdock with his cane."
Cookies for breakfast? There's a grandma for you. Yep.
Natasha smiles and returns to her seat, flopping down gracefully in it and scooping her legs over the side so she can more or less curl up around one of those mugs of cinnamon cocoa. "Pepper knows all the best eateries," she notes with a grin. "Even when she's sleep walking."
Clint comments loud enough for the dog to hear him, "Now if I had a good dog the would fetch me some of those cookies." This gets a short clipped parjk from Pizza dog. Yeah it is not happening. He leans back and smiles, "Ahh well at least we have the day off." He puts his feet up.
Pepper Potts claims a cup of cocoa as well, but the cookies are for everyone. She settles back into her spot on the couch, resettling the blanket over her lap one-handed and tucking her feet back under Clint's leg as the abuela successfully scolds Pizza Dog out of the kitchen. Shortly afterwards sizzling noises and the smells of rich mexican breakfast foods waft out of the kitchen area.
Tony Stark looks at his coffee mug, which has been empty and one of the mugs of cocoa that's sitting there and a couple of the cookies. He dunks one into the cocoa and munches, "mmmmm" is heard from him before he sits back, "So..Pepper here put the fear of god into Fury, eh?" he asks.
Natasha chuckles softly. "She tried. I think I interrupted her, though. But, I'm pretty sure she was ready to nuke the Argus. Marched into his office with Barton and I flanking her... and told him in no uncertain terms, 'Romanoff and Barton are *mine*. You can't have them.'" She shakes her head, glancing to her friend. "I'm lucky you're not Superman," she notes. "I think I'd have had two laser holes straight through me when I intervened."
He grins, "Though we are still on the SHIELD duty line up in case of emergencies." Clint doeds not mention the little he did to soften hte blow as well instead he goes to get cocoa and cookies when he returns Pizza Dog ahas stolen his seat.
It might be a little late for the party, but Steve must have heard there was someone cooking up some authentic mexican food at Stark Tower. Though he's wanted to come by and see Tony, he also wanted to give Nat and Pepper time with him first. Give them space, let things settle down a bit, then come for a visit when it was right.
Right is right now.
Let in and moving through the penthouse, Steve left his jacket in the Avengers HQ so he's wearing just some slacks and a white t-shirt as he walks into the living room where the gang has all collected. He doesn't say anything, not right at first, just leans against the wall with his arms crossed taking in the sight of Tony Stark, returned from the dead, sitting in a room with a group of friends. Like the last little bit has just been a dream.
Tony is still a little slow on the uptake on some things, like prowling Star Spangled Avengers creeping into his pad. It helps that like the rest of the Avengers and most of the JLA, they have carte blanche access. He's sitting on the couch in what amounts to his PJs, talking to Natasha and Clint, while Pepper dozes and Pizza Dog pizza dogs. "I would've have paid a ridiculous amount of money to be a fly on the wall for that. Maybe I'll go over there in a few days and boost those Scooby Doo kids from him too just to see if I can make him go cross eye." he says, taking a sip of the cocoa, "Damn, that's good. I haven't had hot chocolate in years...not unless it had khalua in it, of course."
Natasha certainly notices when Cap sneaks his way in. It's part of her job... even if she is supposed to have the day off. Still, given it's... what? Still before 7am and she's spent the past three weeks (time sure flies when you're having fun) run off her feet with Pepper and trying to take care of a catatonic Tony? Maybe she's earned that rest.
Pity she doesn't actually know how to take it.
"Captain," she greets, as Steve saunters in. "Welcome to the party..."
After having some cookies and cocoa it is time ot ask the all important question, "So otny now that oyu are up and around whne do I get ot retire again?" he asks with a grin on his face. Heen he waves over to Steve and smiles, "Hey Steve how goes?" He takes a not dog occupied spot to sit.
Tony Stark looks at Clint and starts shaking his head yes, even as he says, "You don't." -- and then looks over to Nat and then over his shoulder, and sees Steve. He genuinely smiles, the same way he did when Rhodey turned up earlier (totally not a coincidence) and sets his mug down and stands up and walks over to Steve, "They should really put a bell on you, you know that?"
Steve smiles to Natasha and Clint, giving them both a nod and little wave of greeting, but for obvious reasons he's keeping an eye on Tony. As the brilliant engineer turned zombie walks across the penthouse, Cap shoulders off the wall and returns the smile. "I'll put in a request for one. Maybe we should get you one too, huh?" Motioning where it would hang across Tony's chest, but it's not in his nature to rib someone whose just returned from the dead. Not that he's gotten much chance to do so, mind... but no reason to start now.
There's something else in his blue eyes, something that is both related to seeing his friend alive and completely seperate from it. Like this is the SECOND time tonight that he's staring at a ghost. "Sorry I'm just now coming by. I wanted..." Waving a hand in a fague sort of gesture, "It just seemed appropriate to wait."
Natasha chuckles softly and takes a long sip of her cocoa before she tells the returning Avenger, "Given he only woke up 2 hours ago... it's not much of a wait. Besides, you're always welcome, Steve." A beat. "There's cocoa. Have some. Cookies, too."
Hawkeye grins, "Well you can't blame Steve he probably smeeled the cooking I would be will will have the entire team over soon eough unlesswe secure the kitchen." he looks in the kitchen and sees Abeula Rodriguez cooking and he grins, "And well the cost of that in collateral damage is just too high.
Tony Stark nods, and thumbs over towards Natasha, "It's true. I just came out of stuff this morning, basically. My brain telling me vacation's over and it's time to go back to work." he nods to Clint, "I don't think that little old lady would deal with anyone passing through that doorway and I own the place." he inclines his head to Steve though, "She's cooking enough for an army. Glad you're here, though. " he says, and does something that those here know to be rare - he offers his hand, "damn good to see ya, Cap."
"Two hours and you're already pulling out the cocoa?" Steve 'almost' sounds serious, but even he's not that square. He's also grinning around Tony at Natasha over on the couch, then towards the kitchen. The smell of food and the notion of cookies reminds him that he hasn't eaten in several hours. It doesn't help that the magical smell of mexican is floating in and threatening to carry him away like a cartoon character, still the gravity of the situation isn't lost on Cap. Not when he sees the hand, which he returns. "Tony, I'm glad that I get to tell you this face to face, but what you did?" Nodding with his hand falling back down at his side. "Well, I'm not just proud of you, but I'm honored to count you amongst my friends." Night of first, sentimentals aside, Captain America straightens and snaps his hand up to salute Tony Stark. It might not mean much to anyone else, but to Steve? Well he doesn't have a metal of honor to give out, so this will have to do.
Natasha recognizes that salute for what it is. She smiles and pulls herself up from her chair. On soundless feet, she walks straight into Tony's bedroom and pulls something out of a drawer in there. Something he may not have seen, yet. She comes out, then, and gives it to Steve -- a small black box in which lies a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"Mr. Stark hasn't formally received this in person yet, Captain," she tells the First Avenger. "But, I think he would be honored to receive it from you. And I don't think the President will object."
The President already made the graveside presentation, after all.
Clint remains seated but does stop eating nd come ot attention as the medal is presented. He smiles proudly watching Tony receive it. He thins starts to doze off himself liklely only ot be awakened when the food is ready then he will of course eat.
Someone please take Pepper's mug away from her, she's fallen asleep.
Tony is first smiling at Cap's words, but the gesture totally takes him off guard. When he get saluted by Captain America himself, even though it's his friend Steve standing there doing it, the magnitude of the gesture made by the man is immense. Tony falls silent, and is blinking back tears. Not registering what Natasha is doing, and Clint falling in with, Tony, after years of making the gesture a dismissive, actually proves he can return it properly despite the fact he himself was never a soldier. He stands ramrod straight and returns the salute, and then he is presented with the medal and is again gobsmacked. The only words he is capable of saying are hoarse and choked back "Thank you." as he looks to everyone assembled here this early, early morning, where it is just the beginning of a day for everyone else..
But for Tony Stark, this is really the first day of the rest of his life.