AN: I am sorry for being MIA for so long and also for the shortness of this chapter - it lost 655 words in the reviewing process. I really did hoped I would manage to update sooner, but real life being what it is here are my excuses:
1. Winter holiday that didn't go according to plans (pneumonia - not mine, but close; skiing trip with too much melting snow, dirt and grass, and visiting relatives who stayed for far longer than I'd wanted);
2. 30+ projects to grade before school started;
3. SHERLOCK - And if you don't get this one you've been missing out on one of the greatest BBC shows ever made. It kind of consumed my mind...:)
Ok, enough excuses, now lets go to the praises. You guys are AWESOME and I LOVE YOU! Your reviews for the last two chapters were the fire keeping me from getting back to my old bad habits of self-doubt and too much second-guessing. And also because of you, this story is going to be so much more twisted than I've initially planned it. Honestly, after the last chapter I should also publish my notes and let you be the judge. :D
Pairing: Loki/Harry - It's complicated;
Beta: Un-betaed. Sorry guys for all the remaining mistakes.
Warnings: fem!Harry, Tony Stark - because his very presence should come with a warning. :)
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are property of their respective owners. Everything else is the product of my imagination. Enjoy!
"Sir, Miss Potter is here to see you," Jarvis's voice cut through the noise of the lab, making Tony blink and then turn off the holographic designs he was working on.
"Finally," Tony smiled in response and after taking something from his worktable he hurried to the elevator.
"Should I cancel the order for a dozen of giant plastic flamingos?" Jarvis inquired innocently.
"Too obnoxious?" Tony pretended to think about it, barely suppressing a chuckle.
"Just a tad, Sir."
"Put in on hold. She might still need some persuasion for what I'm going to propose," Tony said, then mentally prepared himself for the conversation he was about to enter, just as the elevator opened soundlessly.
Harriet Potter had been a surprisingly difficult woman to persuade so far. Even now, sitting ramrod straight on one of the chairs placed around the room, waiting for him, she looked as approachable as hedgehog. Too bad he had a soft spot for those little critters.
"A drink, Miss Potter?" he asked, grin firmly in place, going straight to the bar. This was the second time he played host to a magic user in that very room, Tony remembered, and the first time he got thrown out of the window. Hopefully the next argument would go differently, but just in case he checked to see if he still had his bracelets.
"Tony, please. Mr. Stark makes me think you're talking to my father," he interrupted her, while deftly pouring expensive scotch in two glasses.
Harry narrowed her eyes, "Mr. Stark. The flowers were an acceptable but unnecessary 'thank you' gesture, but what were you trying to achieve with all the other things you send me?", she asked referring to the delivery that started with an extremely large flower bouquet, followed by ten pounds of expensive liquor chocolate, a petting zoo and finished just that morning with a twelve foot tall teddy bear that looked more creepy than cuddly.
She made no move to take the glass from him and with a sigh, he placed it on a table near her. "When you didn't answer to any of the messages I've sent you, I had to find something to make you come to me."
"And inane gifts were your answer?" Harry asked, getting ready to leave.
"They got you here, didn't they?" Tony smoothly placed himself between Harry and the elevator door. Pretending not to notice her narrowed eyes and pursed lips he continued rapidly, ""And since you're here, would it be such a bother to listen to me?"
Harry tensed, but made no move forward. Tony counted that as a victory which bolstered him to continue, "I want you to work for me as a magic consultant."
"Mr. Stark," Harry sneered, "Everything I was willing to give on the subject of magic, SHIELD already has on file. I suggest contacting them for further information.""
"Yes, but what SHIELD has, is merely scratching the surface." Tony needled.
"I won't help you build more weapons." She enunciated each word with distaste.
"Why do you assume I want to work on a weapon? Don't you know I'm done with that?" Tony said, raising his hands as if to prove his harmlessness.
"And the Iron Man suit?"
"Technically that's a piece of advanced prosthetic." Tony said hiding his smile with a sip from his glass. Harry huffed and tried to go round him clearly done with the conversation, only to stop when he leaned forward and grabbed her by the wrist. She glared at him, but remained motionless until he let go and then took a step backwards while watching him through narrowed eyes. Again positioned between her and the door, Tony dropped the smile,"What if I tell you that us working together could improve the lives of everyone?"
That caught her attention, "How so?"
"Catch!" Tony said instead of explaining, taking an object out of his pocket and throwing it gently at her.
She did it without looking, and then she did a double take at it when she realized she was holding a sleek transparent cell phone and almost dropped it to the floor. Then Harry quickly tried to give it back while Tony sidestepped her.
"No, don't. It's safe for you to use it, I promise you. It's a modified Stark phone, Avenger edition, Thor tested and approved. And if anything can function around your magic is that little guy."
"How?" she asked dubiously studying the device. Tony thought he should be insulted at her disbelief.
"I took the liberty of improving the schematics SHIELD used for that brick they gave you. Appalling design. And when I say improve, I mean I build it from scratch. No, keep it! It's yours," he said when she tried to give it back one more time.
"A bribe?" Harry asked, her face a blank mask. It had been quite surprising to see how fast she had switched from showing her frustration to going all business like. Even Tony, master of misdirection was a little bit impressed.
"Not, not a bribe," he said trying to put as much honesty in his tone. "But I do want in return is to have more than a fighting chance the next time a magical lunatic comes around and threatens my city. And for that I need you working for me. Some sort of magical consultant."
"And what's in this for me?" Harry said, while sitting back on the chair she had used when he first came in the room, all traces of her previous nervousness, now completely gone.
Tony grinned, feeling he was back on familiar territory - charming a potential business partner. "Your world was based on magic, correct?" he said then he waited for her to nod before he continued. "But here, here technology is queen. And in no small part because of me, technology is evolving at an unprecedented pace. So that means that in a couple of years a house with no electricity, cable or Internet access, not to mention someone who doesn't have a cell phone is really going to stand out."
"I can manage," Harry said, head tilted to the side. She still hadn't touched her drink, and she had put the phone he'd given her next to the glass on the table. She was giving him her full attention.
"But the thing is, you shouldn't have to. And what about your son? Or any children he might have?" Immediately after he brought the subject up, Tony feared he had made a miscalculation, as all traces of interest fled from Harry's suddenly tense frame.
When she spoke, the subtle threat hiding beneath her words made the hair on his arms stand at an end. "And how do I know you're not going to use what I teach you against me some day?"
"You don't, and there's nothing I can promise you that will completely convince you," he admitted, having realized that honesty was the best policy in this negotiation. "But I tell you what, unless you start to threaten everything I hold dear, that knowledge will be treated as a Stark patent. And believe me, I'm very possessive of my toys." Tony grinned, somewhat vicious, which got him an amused twitch of her lips in return.
"Speaking of possessions, SHIELD might have something to say about you propositioning me, Mr. Stark." Harry said getting up and ready to leave, this time without the urgency.
"I'll handle SHIELD. Do we have a deal?" Tony asked, going to the bar for a second drink.
"I'll think about it. And Mr. Stark, no more gifts." Harry said just as the elevator door closed soundlessly in front of her.
For his part, Tony let out a long exhale, feeling the tension leaving him. "That went well," he said pouring himself another glass.
"Sir, SHIELD has requested your assistance for a breaking in at Lumina Pharmaceuticals. Captain America is asking for backup." Jarvis's voice cut through his contentment.
"Since when does the good Captain can't handle a couple of thugs?" Tony grumbled leaving his drink and hurrying to his loading platform, robotic arms already moving in an intricate dance which assembled his amour around him.
"Since the robbers appear to be Hydra affiliated," replied JARVIS smoothly just as Tony took flight.
Was I the only one who found that giant rabbit thing Tony Stark gave to Pepper as a 'forgive me' gift creepy as hell? Or the strawberries he bought to which Pepper is allergic. Clearly Tony has a history of insightful and appropriate gifts. ;)