"What the hell arethese things?" Pepper had caught Tony in worse situations, and in various states of undress, over the fifteen years she'd been with him. She'd walked in on him naked, having sex, getting out of the suit, bleeding, dying, laughing, crying, puking, everything.

This, however, was new.

"What are you doing?"

Tony whipped around, unaware of his visitor, and (shockingly) blushed. "Uh, hey, Pep."

Pepper propped her hands on her hips and cocked an eyebrow. "Tony. What are you doing?"

Tony bit his lip. "It's not what it looks like."

"Oh?" Pepper appraised him. He was dressed in what looked like a Halloween costume, with black rubber molded into the shape of a man's body. A bat logo was embossed on the chest, raised like a scar that spread just under where his collarbone should be. A yellow belt was cinched around his waist, adorned with various small packs, and the boots and gauntlets had blades set into the edges. The icing, however, was the long black cape that flowed from his shoulders.

Pepper bit back a laugh. "Because it looks to me like a forty-two-year-old-man is playing dress up."

"I'm not playing dress up," he spat, his tone more childish than hostile. "I'm testing some stuff out."

"And what are you testing?"

"Bruce Wayne's intelligence," Tony answered with a smirk. As he began to fiddle with parts of the suit again, Pepper crossed her arms and sighed. She'd been through this before — whenever Tony got his hands on a piece of rival tech, he always had to disassemble it, then try to one-up its creator in every way possible. It was how he functioned, and it made him a brilliant engineer, but it also made him a sore loser.

"Alright," she conceded, sighing. "And just how are you going to do that?" She paused. "What is it that you're even wearing?"

Tony's eyes caught hers once more, and Pepper knew that she'd instantly made a mistake. She could spot that telltale gleam of humor a mile away, and she knew, before he opened his mouth, that she was about to get a snarky answer.

"Well, Pepper, to tell the truth, I'm not exactly sure," Tony said slowly, "but I can tell you one thing." A wide grin split his face, he paused for effect, and when he spoke again his voice was purposely rough. "I'm not wearing hockey pads."