AN: This is it, the Epilouge for Leopard Spots. You guys have been great, like you have no idea how great you all have been. There will be more of the Spots!Verse soon, but first, coming soon to a screen near you..."Sivass". Look for it soon. Also, if anyone would like to draw Leopard!Tony, then you would be my hero. But enough of that, on with the story!
Over the next two weeks, the Avengers spent varying amounts of time on the Helicarrier, entertaining Tony, who was still secluded. Clint and Thor could often be found accompanied by Tony and up to no good, while Phil and Natasha brought him everywhere, both agent and Were looking suitably stern and frightening. Steve would draw him and talk to him while Bruce spent hours simply sitting with him and relaxing.
What surprised the others the most was Fury. Tony often went to debriefs and meetings, or spent time on the control deck, lounging comfortably on the floor. Most of the junior agents expected Fury to quickly lose patients with Tony underfoot, but were surprised when all Fury did glance sideways at him and walk around. Tony simply gazed back at the confounded agents with the leopard equivalent of a smirk.
After the the third week, Evan declared Tony's ribs knitted enough to send him back to the tower, to finish healing in the peace and comfort of his own home. And so, after having his rib splints and bandages removed, Tony pranced his way onto a Quinjet, tail held high and eyes bright, with the rest of the Avengers and made the trip home.
Once at the mansion, Tony immediately climbed onto an elevator with Pepper Thor and Clint, the only people that could fit in one ride, and made for the penthouse level. That night, for the first time in almost a month, Tony and Pepper slept in their own bed, though Tony curled up at the foot.
Stykre was happy to have Tony back, no matter what form he was in, and soon he was a constant presence along with Tony. The group, over the next few weeks, got used to seeing a leopard calmly lounging around the house, the glow of the Arc Reactor just as constant as it was before.
Two weeks after returning from the Helicarrier, the group determined, with input from Fury, Coulson, Pepper and Dr. McKnight, that then was the opportune moment to begin introducing Tony to the team in their costumes. After a bit of debate, it was determined that they would introduce themselves to him in different places around the tower, going from Natasha, whom Tony was already used to in her fighting gear, to the Hulk, who had the largest difference between his appearances in the tower and in the field.
The first day, Natasha simply moved about the tower in her catsuit, polishing her guns and toying with the Widow's bite in her hands while the others watched. Tony was mellow at first, until she'd pulled out the weapons. The reaction they were expecting followed. Tony had recoiled sharply and roared, the sounded piercing and then echoed by hissing.
Taking the tips given to them by Coulson, the room didn't tense up and instead continued on with what they were doing. Tony seemed to remember himself quickly, because within twenty minutes he was back to facing Natasha with an impassive face.
The next day, Thor and Steve introduced themselves in costume. And Tony wanted absolutely nothing to do with either. Both had come into the room expecting a reaction similar to the one Natasha received but much to their consternation, and the amusement of the others, Tony looked them up and down, sniffed once, and turned on his paws and stalked away.
The room was silent for a minute before everyone burst into laughter while Thor and Steve stood there and looked confused, shocked and amused, a strange combination on the super-soldier and thunderer both. Jane had hugged Thor while Pepper patted Steve's cheek and the others chortled around them.
Introducing Clint in costume was a disaster. While Tony in leopard form was just as fond of the archer as he was in human form, he was absolutely terrified of Clint's bow, and therefor Clint in costume. The minute Clint removed the bow from his back, Tony released a sound that could only be classified as a shriek and, in an impressive show of speed for one still injured, ran from the room. The room had been shocked still at the show of fear, but after a shocked moment, Coulson and pepper burst into action.
Coulson ordered Clint to put the bow away and everyone broke off to search for Tony under orders from Pepper not to approach him if they found him. Despite Jarvis' assurances Tony hadn't left the floor, it still took over an hour to find him. Jane found him, tucked under a futon in the game room, fur on end, tail lashing and teeth bared. She stayed by the door and called for Pepper, who came moments later, most of the team behind her.
It took almost thirty minutes for Pepper to coax Tony out from underneath the futon and even then the only ones he let near him were Pepper, Bruce, Coulson and Darcy. Pepper feared that the split second occurrence of Tony seeing the bow had set back his trust and socialisation with the team. That night, Tony didn't sleep as, even in his animal form, nightmares plagued him.
Clint hid in the vents for the next weeks upset at himself despite the fact that everyone kept telling him that it wasn't his fault. But every time he closed his eyes, he was haunted by the echo of Tony's frightened shriek and the terror the effused his eyes. Clint and Tony couldn't be in the same room now, as every time they were, Tony ran away.
From the vents, he watched the events of the following week, when the entire team made their way down to the "Hulk-out" room. Pepper kept Tony in a far corner while Natasha and Coulson talked Bruce through a transformation. Hulk appeared with a grunt and a low growl, looking around him. Pepper eased Tony forward with a firm hand on the back of his neck and when both Were and Hulk faced each other, the rest backed off.
There was a tense moment of silence before Hulk leaned down and wrapped a massive green hand around Tony's stomach, lifting him into the air. Tony groaned once in protest, legs kicking before he fell still, blue-gray-green meeting earthen green. Tony and Hulk chuffed simultaneously before Hulk grinned. "SOFT. WARM KITTY." He grunted, smiling wide enough to reveal blunt teeth.
Tony didn't do much but rub one paw against Hulk's arm before he was lifted and settled across broad green shoulders, much like a scarf. Neither seemed to mind the arrangement and seemed content to spend the afternoon that way. Hulk was careful of his passenger as he sat to watch cartoons and Tony kept up a constant rumbling in his happiness.
Everyone was relieved that the introduction went better than they'd hoped.
Over the next three and a half weeks, the Avengers were called out almost constantly against Doom, Skurge and Amora, random mutant squids and squirrels, and even Loki eventually, who still bore the marks of his bout against Tony despite his healing magic. Tony spent more time in the habitat or with Coulson in the command center as he healed and, finally, eight weeks after the fight, Evan arranged an appointment to remove the cast from Tony foreleg.
And so, early on a Saturday morning, Pepper and Happy loaded Tony into a car. Pepper crawled into the back with him, a small duffel bag over her shoulder as today wasn't only the day when Tony would have his cast removed, but he would return to his human form. Evan and Brock were waiting for them in the back of the clinic for privacy's sake. Pepper, Happy and Tony entered the clinic behind the doctor and nurse, anxious for the procedure to be over.
An hour later, an exhausted looking Tony, clad only in a pair of socks, black silk pj bottoms and a loose t-shirt, was leaning heavily on Pepper while Evan ran gentle fingers over the wrinkled skin of his recently-uncasted arm, rubbing lotion into the area. Once that was done, Evan slipped a soft brace on his wrist and stepped back while Pepper wrapped the familiar blue knit blanket around his shoulders. Throughout it all, Tony was silent, on the verge of drifting off. Pepper bit her lip. "Is this normal?" She asked.
Evan nodded. "Completely. He's spent an extended period of time in his Were-form, which is exhausting, even if he didn't do anything terribly strenuous. The next few days are going to be like this. Just keep him warm and comfortable, make sure he performs his therapy for his wrist, and that he eats at least twice a day. He won't speak for a day or two either. His voice is unused and may cause him pain, so warm liquids like tea, coffee, hot chocolate and broth are recommended." Pepper nodded and brandished a thermos from the duffel, which was filled with Natasha's special hot chocolate.
Evan smiled and nodded. "Well, that's good. You have his therapy sheets and aftercare instructions. You guys can head on home. Take care." He said, waving as he left the room. Happy helped Tony to his feet and, with Pepper's help, helped Tony into the car. Upon arriving at the tower, Coulson and Bruce met them at the doors and helped them move the rapidly wilting Tony up to the penthouse.
Upstairs, Natasha and Steve had readied a foldout couch in the media room with mounds of pillows and blankets and Tony happily curled up with his blanket as soon as he saw it. Pepper smiled and lay down next to him, running her fingers through his hair and murmuring to him. It wasn't until the others started getting comfortable around them on the floor and the rest of the furniture, that she realized they were there to stay.
Over the next few days, the team and everyone else made themselves comfortable around Tony's makeshift blanket nest. True to Evan's predictions, Tony was weak and quiet for almost a week. It took almost four days before they got any response that had more than a single syllable. Despite his non-communication, Tony expressed himself in other manners. His face and the set of his shoulders gave away most things. When Pepper entered the room or someone brought him coffee or hot chocolate, his face came alight and his shoulders were high.
When someone woke him up from a nap or forced him to do his therapy when he was occupied with something else, his face would crease and darken and his shoulders would hunch. Slowly, they began to realize that Tony would move or vocalize differently for each person. When Steve came in, Tony would huff and lift a single shoulder slightly and if Clint came in his eyebrows would go up, one corner of his mouth would lift and his shoulders would shift back.
But one state they noticed whenever he was around any of them made their hearts lift. Shoulders relaxed, face smooth and a constant rumbling thrumming deep in his chest. For the longest while, no-one knew what it meant until one day, Darcy nudged Tony, whom she was laying next to while everyone enjoyed The Lion King. "What's with you?" She asked. Tony mumbled something into his arm and Darcy rolled her eyes. "How about in the king's english?" She asked.
"I'm happy." He rasped, eyes already drifting closed again.
Everyone else was only too glad to have been a part of his happiness, and they settled back comfortably around the room, content for the moment.