AN: Short story written for a prompt on Avengerkink that asked for mutant!Tony.
The first time the team notices an animal in the tower, it's at breakfast a month after the battle for Manhattan.
Steve, ever the early-riser, walks into the large kitchen that everyone shares on the main level and stops. Pepper is sitting at the island, sipping coffee from an ironman mug and reading what Steve assumes is something for Stark Industries on a holographic display Jarvis is projecting for her. But what catches Steve's attention is what her free hand is occupied with.
Stretched languidly on the counter is a cat, deep reddish-orange in color with stunning black stripes and lighter orange belly, batting playfully at Pepper's fingers as she scratches around its chin and chest. The cat stops trying to catch the fingers after a moment and turns deep amber eyes on Steve, mewing a greeting before going back to laying there, purring under Pepper's fingers.
"Morning Steve." She says belatedly, looking up from the projections that had held her attention, poking the cat once in the belly lightly when it nips at her fingers for stopping the movement of her hands, smirking as it mewed in irritation before resuming the scratches. Steve nods a greeting of his own but still staring at the cat as he gets his orange juice.
"This is Rowan." Pepper says as she follows his line of sight, but that's all the explanation she gives him and Steve tries to shrug it off as he grabs out supplies for breakfast. Slowly, one by one, the smell of food draws down the rest of his teammates into the kitchen and Steve watches as they, too, stop in the entryway to stare at Pepper and Rowan.
But no one asks any questions and Steve watches Pepper feed Rowan bits of bacon and egg whites from her plate and his rumbling purr fills the room. When Pepper's done, she rinses her plate, puts in the dishwasher and walks to the entryway, patting her thigh. "Come on Rowan. Let's see if we can find Tony."
The cat sprang off the counter and lightly to ground, walking besides Pepper out of the room, leaving the team flabbergasted.
The second time a team member finds an animal in the tower, Clint spends four hours with a frankly massive Macaw on his shoulder, snuggling into his neck, chirping and dancing and talking away. Bruce identified it as a Hyacinth Macaw, familiar with species from his time on the run in South America.
The bird is loud, but Clint bears up under the company with a smile, occasionally flicking the bird nuts and fruits from the bowl Bruce hands him. They're all a little surprised when the bird takes flight a couple of times, wheeling around the room before landing again on Clint's shoulder with a whistle and a bow, and they clap.
"Jarvis, since when does Tony own pets?" Natasha asked several hours after the bird arrives in the room. There's a moment of beeping and silence before Jarvis answers them.
"I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean, Agent Romanov. Sir has never in my time of operation owned a pet and, from what I understand, has no wish to."There's a silence for a moment and then the Mcaw trills sharply and takes flight again, flying to the entryway and landing on the shoulder of Coulson, who had just entered, carrying stacks of paperwork.
Bird and agent stared at eachother for a minute before the bird leaned forward and gently nibbled at Coulson's nose, trilling a little and hopping in place. Coulson merely smiled, tucked the papers under his arm and ran his free hand down the bird's head, neck and back, murmuring something to the bird until it flew away down the hall.
That night, the team cornered Tony in the lab and questioned him about the presence of the animals. The genius turned around from where he was bent over a repulsor gauntlet, soldering tool in one hand and a pair of safety glasses perched on his nose.
"Animals?" He asked guilelessly, fingers turning off the tool and placing it behind him while he pulled off his safety glasses with his free hand. The team took a moment to gape at him before Natasha leaned forward into Tony's space, face blank.
"Rowan. That massive Macaw you've got flying around." Steve said, watching as Clint pulled Natasha back away from the inventor. Tony's face screwed up a moment before he made an annoyed noise in his chest.
"Have I ever, in my entire life, owned any kind of animal?" he asked, crossing his arms.
"Not that I am aware of, Sir. However, I have no records before I came online."
"See, no animals. Maybe you guys are all seeing things. Or someone's pranking you. I don't know. But get the hell out of my lab if you're going to be in the way, because I have things to do." he huffed and, having no response, the team left the man alone in his lab.
The third time it happened, the team found Rhodey on the couch in the media room, buried under a massive furry, white shape the vaguely resembled a very happy dog. The dog was barking and his tail wagging swiftly and Rhodey was laughing, scratching firmly behind floppy ears. "Easy Dino, easy. I'm happy to see you too, but you're squishing me you tubby fluff ball."
The dog, now identified as Dino, seemed to take offense to being called tubby because he leaned forward, licking Rhodey's face from chin to hairline and leaving a thick trail of slobber in it's wake. He made a sound the was suspiciously like a squawk of indignation and rubbed at his face.
"Oh you nasty-" Dino jumped off of him and padded over to where the team, fresh from a sparring session, were standing came to a stop in front of Thor. Thunderer and dog stared each other down for a minute before Dino heaved himself up so he was braced on Thor's chest, face to face with the god.
"Hello great beast!" Thor boomed with his usual smile. Dino seemed surprised for a moment before he responded, a deep bark rumbling from a his barrel-like chest. Thor laughed and scratched behind Dino's ears, beaming brighter when the great dog closed his eyes and panted in appreciation, tail wagging. "What form of dog is this, friend Rhodes?" He asked.
"Great Pyrenees. I'm dogsitting for Happy and his wife so they can go on vacation and Tony said I could use the tower." He explained. Dino dropped down onto all fours and padded back over to the couch, hopped up and lay down, dark blue eyes gazing softly at the team.
The last time it happened, Coulson showed up in the field with a full grown Corn snake wrapped around his neck. Loki was in the middle of the street, hands waving as he almost seemed to orchestrate the massive drove of walking stone contructs that were destroying three city blocks.
The mischievous god was obviously feeling more pissed off than angry as he struck out against anyone who tried to to stop him and he sent Steve flying with but a flick of his wrist. When the rest of the team tried to ask Thor what had happened to upset his brother, because this was obviously much more than his usual pranking, and all they got as an answer was a shrug of broad shoulders and an apologetic look.
"Does anyone know where Stark is?" Clint asked from his perch above, though all he received in response were negatives. The fight went on for another few minutes before Coulson's voice crackled over the comms.
"Everyone back away."Coulson's voice brooked no argument and before Steve could even argue, he say the reason for the order. A few feet away from where Loki was standing, there was a dented and tipped over horse trailer and, stumbling out of the small opening left when the door bent away, was a little black foal.
And Loki froze.
The stone constructs stopped in place and the burst into dust before their very eyes. But before the others could move forward to apprehend Loki, the god waved his hands and they were frozen in place. Loki whistled sharply and the little foal pranced over, almost dancing as he walked.
The little foal knickered loudly and kicked up playfully and Loki smiled, brightly, genuinely and ran gentle hands down the smooth expanse of his neck. "I apologise if I have hurt you in any way, little one. I allowed myself to become carried away." The foal simply whined softly and butted his head against the hand that was scratching the front of his mane.
With a final pat to the foal's neck, Loki was gone in a flash of gold and green and the spell holding the others captive was lifted. Before any of the others could move to the foal, Coulson was striding to foal, sans snake scarf, and the foal was making his way forward as well. Coulson had, of all things, a pair of what looked like plaid pajama bottoms in his hand.
Other agents were bustling about the site now and one ran by, handing Coulson a t-shirt while two more brought over a tarp, which they held up in front of Coulson and the foal. The team watched as there was a sound like squishing and then a low, grumpy voice. There were a few moments before the tarp was brought down, revealing Coulson and a barefoot Tony, dressed in pajama pants a size too big and a baggy black t-shirt, the barest glow of the Arc Reactor visible where the neck of the shirt hung down.
Silence reigned for a minute before a haggard looking agent came forward with a cup of coffee and a pair of sandals, both of which Tony snatched away. He tossed the sandals on the ground and slipped his feet into them before downing half of the coffee. Coulson was talking to him lowly and Tony was nodding slowly before he turned on his heels and followed Coulson away, leaving the team with unanswered questions.
That night, the Avengers cornered Tony in the kitchen, where he was slumped over the counter and clutching a mug of coffee, looking exhausted. Pepper had given them all sharp looks, promising pain and suffering if they upset Tony ad then left the room. Tony gave up the story without being prompted and a short while later the team was almost satisfied.
"You're a mutant?" Clint asked and Tony nodded.
"Why didn't you manifest until after Afghanistan?" Bruce asked.
Tony shrugged his shoulders. "Charles says some mutants don't manifest their abilities until they're older if they had a traumatic childhood or lived in a house that repressed them. But since no-one really knows the the exact science behind mutations, we can't really answer it." He said, sipping his coffee. Bruce had been refilling it as Tony emptied his cup, but it didn't seem to help the inventor's exhaustion any.
"So Rowan and Dino? And the Macaw?" Tony nodded. Bruce was biting his lip and had his hand on Tony's forehead, though he made an annoyed noise when Tony swatted his hand away.
"Yes, those are me. And Bruce, stop it, damn you. I just get really tired if I stay shifted for too long. I'm going to go to bed here in a minute." He drained the last of the coffee and stood up, heading towards the door.
"Why didn't you tell us Toy? Pepper knows. Rhodey knows. Hell, Coulson knows. Why not us?" There was a moment of silence after Clint's question and Tony took a deep breath before walking out of the room, not bothering to answer the question.