"Zita." Tony slipped into the chair across from the young woman and her robotic friend with a stern frown on his lips. "There are literally hundreds of people here and you chose to spend your night with a robot. What do you think that says about you?"
The brunette paused for a moment to think it over. Finally, she replied, "When they rise up and slay all of humanity I will be spared and possibly worshipped as their queen?"
Dummy let out an excited ding of agreement that put its creator on edge. Dragging his dark eyes from the machine's waving arm, Tony met Zita's curious stare. "…Maybe. But no. It says you have the emotional availability of a soulless machine."
Dummy beeped with offense as the woman flinched.
Tony shook his head, rubbing the machine on the arm as Zita glared at him. "Sorry, guys; but it's true. You need to make friends with people your own species."
"I have friends my own species! What about Mr. Rogers?"
"Uh, news flash, honey, he's not really your friend if you still refer to him by title." Stark whispered in a falsely secretive tone. When she frowned, he went on, "Look. I'm your friend. Bruce is your friend. Pepper…wants to be. You have plenty of friends. Any of which you could be talking to inside."
Her cheeks went a faint pink as she stood. Adjusting her dress, Zita straightened her skirt, fixed a stern glare on the man, threw her hair over her shoulder and stormed off. Dummy followed closely.
Tony gaped after the two of them. He did not just get out sassed by the little lab assistant. With an indignant, "HEY!" he ran after them.
Steve and Clint watched as Stark chased down the irate tiny woman, but neither made a move to help them as she began to make her way down the stairwell. They could hear his yelling echo off the walls as they turned to look at each other.
"WE HAVE ELEVATORS FOR A REASON, CALE!"
"What's up with them?" Natalie asked as she sauntered up to the men. Her beautiful features were tight as she eyed the two of them suspiciously. "And how are you involved?"
The second question, of course, was directed at Clint. The shorter man said nothing, just shook his head. When the redhead glared at him, he caved fairly quickly. "Tony looped me into helping him set up Cale and Coulson."
"You too, huh?"
Clint nodded with a sigh. It was than Tony made his reappearance. Flustered and looking as though he was on the verge of a mental breakdown, he approached the group. Very slowly, his face set in stone as he placed a hand on the Captain's back as he looked each of them in the face.
"I lost her."
A chorus of "What?" "How?" and "Why am I not surprised?" met him and he glared indignantly at them. "It's not my fault! She's like a mouse! She can fit into small crevices!"
Natalie sighed audibly and handed Clint her drink. "Hold this."
The Black Widow gave Stark a very stern look as her hand collided with the back of his head.
"Ow! Damn it, Romanov!"
Natalie took her glass back and took a dainty sip from it as Steve and Clint snickered. Tony glowered at her. "That wasn't very nice. It's not even my fault! She was hanging out with the robot, man! What was I supposed to do?"
"Respect her wishes?" The woman offered.
"Be nice?" Steve suggested.
"Get her liquored up?" Clint added, most unhelpfully. When his friends frowned at him, he smirked, "What? Always helps me relax."
Tony rolled his eyes at the shorter man. "Yeah, thanks." He pursed his lips, his dark eyes flickering around the room. They lingered on Agent Coulson, who was still being harassed by Pepper and sighed. "Someone put the breaks on the good Agent's escape. I'll be back in a bit."
Again, the man disappeared into the crowd. Steve shook his head soundly, a small almost concerned frown on his lips. "That man has too much spare time."
"I'll look into having Fury give him more missions," Natasha promised, her expression blank and hard. Clint chuckled into his glass as he polished off his second finger of whiskey, but neither paid him any mind. "Or maybe Pepper. She has a better handle on Stark than S.H.I.E.L.D does."
Clint made a whipping noise that confused the Captain and earned a scoff from Natasha.
"Don't be a child."
The man said nothing, just grinned impishly. His gaze shifted over to where Phil was sitting at the bar and without a word he made his way over to him.
Tony Stark was about a minute away from resorting to JARVIS and having his AI find Zita for him. In fact, had Dummy not let out a dull whizzing noise, he probably would've passed her for the third time. Stark paused, looked down and found he could see a flash of raspberry lace peeking out from under the stairs. With a sigh, he slipped between the wall and the stairs and into the small storage area.
The tiny brunette didn't look up. She was huddled in a ball, her arms wrapped tightly around her legs. Tony let out a sigh. "Come on, Cale, don't be like that."
She kept silent.
"I didn't mean to upset-" Dummy beeped frantically as the man made to approach her. Stark held his hands up in surrender before taking a seat a few feet from her. "Sorry, Dum."
"I don't like the name Dummy." Zita cleared her throat awkwardly. She wasn't crying, but she was close to it. "It's too harsh. I renamed him…Benicio."
Tony's eyes widened in bewilderment. Stunned, he repeated, "What?"
"Benicio Del Toro." The woman clarified, much to Benicio's joy. The robot let out a happy whirr and went in circles, narrowly avoiding striking Stark in the face with his arm.
"Why is he Mexican?" Tony shrieked through his laughter.
The brunette shrugged as she cuddled against the machine. "I just like the name. He likes it too. Respect his wishes."
"Okay I-GODDAMN IT!" Tony screamed before tackling her to the ground. The woman let out a shriek as the building shook, the dramatic thunder booming as a Norse god crashed through the roof.
The billionaire winced as alarms began to blare around them, lights flashing and warning of an intruder as JARVIS' ever-calm voice cut over them, asking all those who didn't have clearance to please vacate the premise.
"Um, Mr. Stark?" A small voice squeaked from under him. "You're hurting me."
Tony glanced down at Zita, who was perfectly still and wincing, and quickly scrambled to his feet. "Sorry! Oh god, here let me help you up."
The man pulled her up with ease. She was freakishly light, but considering how she was cradling her elbow, he supposed they had more pressing matters. Tony grabbed her arm, ignored her flinch and carefully inspected the joint. Through the raspberry red lace, he could see it starting to swell, and in a firm voice he told her that Bruce was going to take a look at it.
"That's really not-"
"Zita. This is my house." The billionaire took her hand and very seriously told her, "and in my house, my word is law."
A bit disturbed, she cleared her throat, "But Pepper said-"
"Forget what Pepper said! Now, come on, let's get you some ice."
When they got back into the main room, they found that most of the agents had either disappeared or were now patrolling the perimeter. This, of course, enraged Tony, who had spent too much of his personal time on this party to it to go to hell just because the roof had collapsed because Thor was too good use to a door like a normal person.
When he pointed this out to Pepper, she rolled his eyes at him, prompting him to add, "But you know, thankfully no one was injured or anything."
He then pointed accusingly to Zita, whose shoulder he was still holding tightly to, and asked his girlfriend if she would mind getting the assistant some ice while he went and dealt with the obnoxiously overjoyed Norse God.
"I kind of have more pressing matters to deal with myself," She answered with a tight sarcastic smile as she pointed to the large picture window. Sure enough, a news helicopter was hovering about, trying to catch all the action.
Zita flushed a bright red and tried to back away as the billionaire huffed. His hold on her only tightened as he waved over a friend of his, "Rhodes! Come meet Zita and play the role of babysitter for me!"
The Colonel rolled her eyes but obeyed, gently shaking the brunette's hand. "Miss Cale, so good to see you again."
"Make sure she tries the sundae bar-" Tony ordered him, pointing angrily at his friends, "and don't think I'm going to let that little flirtation go!"
"What flirtation?" Zita asked curiously as the army man led her away.
"Don't mind him," Rhodes assured her, "he's crazy."
Tony shrieked with rage, but the two were too far away to make out what it was he was saying. Instead, he just passed her a bowl and led her up to the sundae bar as instructed. With a smile, he asked, "How've you been?"
"Good! I saw the new design for your suit," She smiled at him, "very cool."
"Cooler than War Machine?"
"I never like War Machine- as a name I mean, too violent."
Rhodes positively beamed at her and pointed playfully as he scoped some vanilla ice cream into his bowl, "I knew I liked you for a reason. And how's Senator McCoy?"
"Busy, from what I hear," Despite the pain in her elbow, Zita managed to get a large helping of mint ice cream into her bowl, because, let's face it, nothing helps the body heal faster than ice cream. Except maybe booze, but according to Tony that was to be saved 'strictly for emotional pain'.
"So, what'd you think of all this?"
Rhodes smirked at her and made a sweeping gesture with his arms, "all of this, Miss Cale."
"You know why he did this, don't you?"
"Because he has far too much time and money on his hands."
"Besides that," He led her carefully outside, to where Fury was yelling at a very uninterested Thor. Beside them, Agent Phil Coulson was barely containing a smirk and the petite woman fought a blush at the sight of him. Seeing this, Rhodes leaned down to whisper, "he's playing match maker."
Zita blinked with surprise. "Match maker?"
"Mhm." He gave her a little shove outside, "To you and Agent Coulson."
She spun around to face him, but he had already firmly shut and locked the large glass door behind her. Aghast, she knocked on it, "Colonel Rhodes! This is completely inappropriate."
The agent approached her swiftly, hoping to lead her away from where the director was…debriefing Thor. He eyed her angry features with a tight smirk, "What's completely inappro- is that ice cream?"
"Huh?" She cleared her throat awkwardly, "Oh, um, yeah. Mr. Stark had a sundae bar."
"Huh." Phil blinked and gestured to her arm, "what happened to your elbow?"
Pulling it closer to her body, she had just opened her mouth when she was assaulted from behind.