Pepper shot to her feet. "What'sthematterisTonyalright? Why isn't he home yet? Has somebody called?" Her words slurred together as worry took priority over legibility.
"Miss. Potts, Director Fury is on the phone."
Pepper gulped. Fury only ever called in dire emergencies.
"I'm sure everything is fine," soothed JARVIS in his calm voice.
Pepper swallowed, battling the panic that was rising within her. "Yes, uhm... Answer the call. Hello, Director Fury," she added as JARVIS put her on the line with the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Is everything alright?"
"Miss. Potts," Fury acknowledged. "I'm afraid we're going to need you to come in."
"Please relax, Miss. Potts. I'm sure they will not require you to perform any dangerous tasks."
"It's not that, Jarvis, I... I'm worried they have bad news." Pepper fretted as she drove to headquarters. She pulled up, and tensed as she saw that Fury was waiting for her with a grim expression on his face. "Oh, no."
"Pepper," Pepper corrected.
"Pepper. There's been an incident."
"Is Tony okay?"
"Well... Define okay. He's alive, if that's what you mean."
"Has he been harmed?"
"He's- he's not injured." Fury looked uncomfortable.
Pepper narrowed her eyes and pushed past Fury.
"I should warn you," Fury hurried after her. "It may come as a bit of a shock. However, we will require your assistance..." He trailed off as Pepper stopped in front of a large silver door.
Coming into such an area as this, one should be prepared for many things. Pepper knew this, and she had braced herself for explosions, mutations, torture and things that she didn't particularly want to think about. The one thing she didn't expect was-
Pepper pushed the door open.
"Oh. My. God."
Fury stood behind her, scowling resignedly.
Pepper turned to look at him. "Tiny Avengers?"
Fury nodded grimly. "Tiny Avengers."
"How did this even- Woahh!" Pepper's disbelieving question was cut off as she was hit by what appeared to be a small cannonball.
Or a miniature Tony Stark.
Followed by the rest of the team.
"Director, what-" Pepper was cut off again as she attempted to fend off mini-Tony, who was pulling her hair, mini-Steve, who was clinging to her leg, mini-Natasha, who was hanging off her arm, mini-Clint, who was poking her shoulder, mini-Bruce, who was on her other leg, and mini-Thor, who was thumping on her back.
Fury shrugged. "I said there had been an incident."
"I didn't even know they were all here. Wasn't Thor on, like, another planet?"
"We called them in. Just in case. Training."
"Tony did not tell me about this." She glared at mini-Tony, who grinned.
"Of course. What do you want me to do with them?"
"We were hoping that you would take care of them while we search for a solution." Fury looked at her hopefully.
"I can't take care of six- ow! Six evil children!" Pepper cried as Clint poked her in the eye.
"You do a good job babysitting the adult Tony Stark."
Pepper paused. "I suppose so." She glared at Fury. "Fine, I'll do it."
"Thank you, Pepper. Agents will be in to check on you periodically."
"Pepper?" Tony tugged on her pant leg. "Pepper, I'm hungry."
"Just a minute, Tony," Pepper called over her shoulder. "I'm slightly busy." An understatement, she thought, as she tried to stop Steve from killing Clint. In all honesty she thought that Clint deserved it after tearing apart Steve's stuffed shield, but she pulled the two apart just the same, offering Steve a cookie and Clint a firm glare.
"PEPPER!" Tony wailed.
"Okay, okay! Good God, you're no better as a child, are you?" Pepper mumbled exasperatedly.
Tony sniffled, looking up at her with big, sad eyes, and Pepper's heart melted.
"What do you all want for lunch?" she asked, wincing inwardly as she recognized her mistake.
"Cookies!" shouted Steve, and Bruce nodded his head vigorously.
"Sandwich," said Natasha quietly in her little girl voice.
"COFFEE!" roared Thor, to Pepper's confusion.
"Hot dogs?" requested Clint, a mischievous glint in his eye. Pepper didn't particularly want to know what he was planning, but the way he was gripping his toy bow made her think that it would mean that she'd have to spend lots of time cleaning hot dogs off walls.
"Pizza," stated Tony decidedly, and Pepper was secretly glad that he hadn't requested caviar or something equally outrageous.
"Um, okay... No cookies," Pepper said firmly, to disappointed groans. "Not for lunch. Maybe afterwards, if you're good. No hot dogs, either. And definitely no coffee. Sandwiches would be good, Natasha, thank you for that. Pizza..." she glanced at Tony. "Maybe for dinner. No tantrums!" she added hastily as Tony began to pout.
Steve toddled up to her, snuffling. "Shield?" he asked quietly, holding up the tattered remains of his stuffed shield. For the second time that day, Pepper's heart melted.
"I'll try and fix your shield," she promised, and Steve lit up.
"Pepper," corrected Pepper automatically. She glanced up. "Good afternoon, Agent Hill. Can I help you?"
The agent smiled. "If I'm calling you Pepper, then call me Maria. I'm just here to check up. It looks like things are going well," she added, grinning as she spotted the tea party Pepper was having with Natasha. "You're good with children."
Pepper went pink. "Not really. I had a bit of practice with- hey, ow!" She pulled the suction-cup arrow off her temple and turned around to see Clint with an evil grin on his face.
"Gotcha," he said proudly.
Pepper opened her mouth to berate him, but she was too late. Natasha got up and punched Clint on the arm- not hard, but not particularly gently, either. Clint lost his balance and toppled over, glaring at Natasha.
"No arrow," Natasha ordered. "No arrow, no shoot Pepper." She grabbed the bow and snapped it.
"Uh oh," muttered Pepper.
Clint looked on the verge of tears. "Bow," he mumbled softly, looking sad and angry. Natasha looked slightly guilty, but her expression turned to alarm as Clint got up and jabbed her in the stomach. She squealed.
"No!" she squeaked, escaping on stumpy legs. "No tickle. Not fair, Clint."
"Bow," insisted Clint firmly. "You break bow. Yes tickle."
"Oh, damn," breathed Pepper. She rushed after the pair and tackled Clint so that he stumbled- not hard, just enough to make him stop. She gripped the tiny archer before he could move further, and gritted her teeth as he squirmed in her grip. She flinched as Natasha came back and started hitting him.
Maria winced as she saw Pepper wrestling with a small boy and a violent little girl. "Do you want some help?" she called hesitantly.
"I'm good! I'm fine! You can go, if you want," panted Pepper, offering a smile. "You don't have to stick with me and this group of annoying children." She glared at her charges.
Maria chuckled. "I'll let Fury know that you're doing a wonderful job. Good luck, Pepper."
"Thanks! Natasha, no hitting. You've been so good all afternoon. I don't want to send you to the naughty corner."
The tiny agent stopped. "Naughty corner? But no! I punish Clint for shooting you. And tickle."
"That's very nice of you, Natasha, but violence is never- uh, not the answer." At least not this time, Pepper thought to herself, smirking as she remembered that the child was a master assassin.
Natasha sniffed. "Okay. Sorry, Pepper. Sorry Clint," she added grumpily.
Clint stuck out his tongue playfully before standing up. He stuck out one pudgy hand, and Natasha took it. He started to shake, but Natasha had other ideas. She pulled him into a hug. Clint looked so surprised that Pepper had to try really hard not to laugh, but he patted her back awkwardly. Pepper cocked her head, enjoying the sweet moment. A sudden wolf whistle made her cringe.
"Clint and Natasha, sitting in a tree!" Tony paused, unsure of the next part. " G! Ahh!" squeaked Tony as the pair featuring in his song launched themselves at him, and he disappeared under a pile of squirming, punching, junior assassins.
Pepper was tempted to leave him there to teach him a lesson, but grudgingly accepted her role as babysitter. Sighing, she went to pull them apart.