Industrial Espionage

Tony stiffened as he stepped into the living room. Steve nearly ran over him. "Bonjour," said a warm voice from the sofa.

"Huh. You really are a thief. I thought that was just a line." Tony moved across the room to the bar. He poured two tumblers of scotch.

"Bah. Worked on you. But true." Tony handed one tumbler to the young man lounging on the sofa and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. Steve's brows rose. "Merci. Y' always have the best booze. Tastes like home."

"How'd you get up here?"

"The vents, a'course."

"Didn't you run into Birdbrain?"

Tony poked the young man until he sat up. Tony sat down and the young... thief sprawled over his lap. His hair was a wild tangle the implied it was stuck between lengths.

"Barton? Oui. Bioscanners let me t'rough without needin' override so he figured you let m' in."

Tony snorted. "JARVIS, what the Hell?"

"You've allowed M. LeBeau into your workshop in Malibu. I assumed you'd allowed him similar access to Agent Barton here."

"Did you sweet-talk my AI?"

"M. Jarvis if very helpful."

Steve pulled a Coke – a real one in a glass bottle – from the fridge before he sat down.

The thief looked him up and down. "Merde, Tony, y' got the best toys." The young man offered a cheerfully appreciative leer. "Introductions, cher."

"Steve Rogers, meet Remy LeBeau. He's apparently actually a thief, amazingly flexible, and a has a mouth like sin. You are legal right?"

"Was legal when we met. Well, f' what we was doin' at least. Not the drinkin'."

Tony rolled his eyes. "Pepper actually liked you."

"Weren't just a one night. Besides, made her breakfast an' got y' to eat somethin'."

"And what brings you to New York?"

"Y'r sparklin' personality." Remy batted his lashes. Steve blinked as he actually saw the red on black eyes. Either it was some new fashion or Remy was a mutant. "Need some help."

"Problem with your bo?" Tony frowned.

"Non." Remy pulled out his phone. "Say, hell, CHERI."

"Hello, Cheri," a smokey female voice replied.

"Hello," Tony said. "And what sort of help do you need?"

"CHERI has some bugs. My codin' ain't up t' the task." Remy sounded pained. "Don' want t' hurt her."

"You never could, Sweetie," she informed him.

"Hurt everyone eventually."

Tony frowned at him. He tugged on Remy's hair. "Stop being morose. This is a kick-ass only area."

"Was that a sparrin' request? Best get in one of y'r suits."

"You spar perfectly well when I"m squishy."

"Been runnin' from mercs me. Gettin' nasty."

"What happened?"

"Left m' employer. He been sendin' Sabretooth after me. Found m'self a petite t' help. Got tangled up wit' Xavier's crew a bit. Like tar those bastards. Got m' degree cuz of M. Essex interferin'. Figured bein' in New York an' all ole Remy should stop in an' see his friend Tony and ask him t' help his friend CHERI."

"I'd ask for details, but I know better." Tony sipped his scotch. "CHERI, can you let JARVIS link to you through the phone?"


"You can trust JARVIS, CHERI. He won't hurt either of us."

"Access granted. Oh! What big servers you have," she purred.

"Should we give y'all some time alone?" Remy teased.

"I know you like to watch," she shot back.

Tony chuckled. "I like her." He stroked a finger down Remy's nose. "Do you want to play with Steve in the gym?"

"Prefer t' be in y'r bedroom, but I hear tell y' finally wit' Pepper. Is Mademoiselle Romanova here?"

"She'd break you."

"Not f' dat. Got some sense. Non, need a present f' my 'charmingly sociopathic' wife's birthday. Was hoping she'd let m' have an autograph."

"Your wife?"

"Oui. Black Widow's her hero."

"That could be mildly distressing."

"Bah. She been able t' kill m' since we been kids." Remy's eyes drifted closed. He pressed up into Tony's hand. Tony stroked his hair gently. There was obviously more story there, but Steve bit his tongue on the question.

"Oh, JARVIS, you're a naughty boy."

Remy's eyes snapped open.

"It's okay. You know we'd never hurt your girl."


"I know. You look exhausted."

"Med adjustment. M. Essex versus M. Herni. Ain't goin' well."

"Grab a room and take a nap. JARVIS will keep watch. Unless you want to stay on the couch?"

"You're comfy."

"Then close your eyes and trust me. JARIVS code to my pad." Tony picked up his StarkPad from the side table. Steve found his place in To Kill a Mockingbird and settled into his chair.


Remy didn't actually fall asleep, just drifted in the strange space before true sleep. Tony was busy arguing with JARVIS. Stealing AI technology for Essex had ostensibly been why he'd wormed his way into the man's bed. What he'd found there was the person the papers never saw. Obsessive, absent-minded, brilliant – Remy hadn't been able to look away. Charming Pepper had been harder. Still, they'd become friends to a certain extent – late night arguments about electrical engineering that gave way to kissing and blowjobs and the occasional drink or party invitation.

Tony's fingers dug absently into Remy's hair. It was nice to have touches that didn't hurt. Ororo was well enough without him though she still hugged him. Scott fairly hissed when Remy hugged Jean which was amusing as Hell. But none of the X-men were touchers.

CHERI was chatting with Tony about server space and processors. Remy tried to focus on their words, but the scotch and the petting took him further down. The addition of a soft blanket knocked him completely out.


"Don't think I've ever seen Stark sit still for this long," Clint murmured.

Steve grinned at him. Clint's brows rose when Pepper tucked a quilt over their guest. She ruffled Tony's hair and kissed his temple. There was a low conversation about food that ended with JARVIS ordering barbecue. Clint perked up at that. "What do we know about the kid?"

"His name is Remy. He's a thief. And he had a fling with Tony. Possibly and X-man."

"Didn't know Stark was bi. Suspected, sure, but it's never been confirmed."

"Sir, there's call from Scott Summers."

Remy shifted, but Tony soothed him. "Put it through. What is it, Summers?"

"Is Remy with you? Is he okay? The professor tracked him to the Tower, but he can't really get a read on him."

"I'm understanding why Magnet Boy wears a bucket."

"Granted," Summers replied. He was a prick, but his sense of humor was okay. "Still, have you seen him?"

"He's fine. Exhausted, but that's all."

"Last time he bolted he was hiding claw marks and an infection."

"No fever. He came for a tech consult and a nap."

"That explains why CHERI isn't answering his phone too." Summers sighed. "Tell him to come home and stop worrying."

"Something I should know?"

"I wouldn't have any idea where to start. Just remind him that I get to make staffing decisions, not the overly-emotional woman who just dumped him. And Kitty still wants a confab on the firewall hack against her servers." Summers sounded tired. "And Storm is currently threatening to drown me."

Remy's lips twitched. He opened his eyes, but didn't say anything. Tony stroked through the man's bangs as though he were an oversized cat. "Go away, Summers. He's mine for the duration. I'll send him back all healthy and fed. Eventually."

"Gambit, calm the fuck down and come home. Your sister is trying to kill me because Rogue won't admit to trying to shove you off the roof when you broke up and she blames me because you tried to hook up with an emotionally insecure idiot. Don't piss off Pepper by hooking up with an insecure genius too." Summers hung up.

Tony huffed. "How the Hell do you put up with him?"

"Drinkin' helps."

"That's my boy." Tony tugged on Remy's bangs. "Up. We'll move this to the workshop until the food shows up."

"Aren't you going to introduce me?" I'm hurt. Really hurt." Clint pouted.

"Clint Barton. Codename Hawkeye. Partner to Black Widow. No known mutancies. Excellent sight and gymnastic ability. A good candidate for breeding into the line." Remy smirked. "Pleasure t' actually meet y'."

"I'm intrigued and disquieted that you have a file on me that involved breeding stats. And you are?"

"Gambit." Remy saluted. "Tell Fury t' check his servers t'morrow."

"For you or for whatever you're stealing?"

The young man chuckled. "I like him. Can I keep him?"

"Ask Summers." Tony escorted Remy out of the room.

"That was interesting." Clint pulled out his phone. "Wonder how Nat will react to him."


Pepper accepted a kiss to the cheek from Remy as he and Tony joined the team in the dining room. He was one of Tony's exes that she actually liked; no matter how many company secrets walked out the door with him. He'd always been discrete. "Now, why ain't dis idiot married y' yet?"

"Because I'm not stupid enough to say yes." She patted the seat next to her. "Now, tell me about Belle."

"She's runnin' the business now her papa's passed on. Mon pere's got it in his head ole Remy should try talkin' her into lettin' him come home." He rolled his eyes. "Belle and me are fine wit' not livin' t'gether. Believe you me, cher, sometimes relationships survive best when you ain't around too much." He looked wistful though.

She added cornbread to his plate. "I should call and commiserate."

"I'm terrified," Tony said. He settled on Pepper's other side. She rolled her eyes.

"And how is CHERI doing?" Steve asked as he passed a plate of barbeque down to Bruce.

"I think we've found the problem. She's rebooting. Not bad for an AI I didn't program."

"Stolt as much code from y' as I could understand."

"That's how programming works. It's not theft until you try to patent her."

"Bite your tongue. Dat's m' best friend y' talkin' about. Be like registerin'."

"I take it that you do't support the Mutant Registration Act?" Steve asked.

Remy's eyes narrowed. "Non. Ain't met a mutant self-hatin' enough t' support it."

"Why not?" Steve pressed.

"Y' helped liberate a concentration camp didn't y'?"

"Yes?" Steve leaned forward.

"First step t' that was registerin' Jews. I ain't never goin' t' say this again. On dis I agree wit' Magneto."

"You're frightened of the government." Steve nodded slowly. "I'm disappointed, but I understand."

Remy frowned. "Y' volunteered f' y're transformation. Dr. Banner too. We ain't sure about M. Wolverine, but M. Chat tells me Project X lied t' them bot'. Spent time as an experiment me. I ain't never lettin' that happen t' another scared an' stupid kid."

"Let's try a less thorny topic of conversation. I hear that you want Nat's autograph," Bruce soothed.

Remy looked as though he wanted to continue. He blinked and a look of mild horror crossed his face. "Tony, I been infected by Summers' rhetoric."

"Booze is in the bar. Feel free after your dinner."

"Merci." Remy settled a sweet smile onto his face. "Oui, Dr. Banner. I am hopin' t' get her autograph f' my wife. Black Widow's been her idol since we was kids."

Natasha's brows rose. "And why is that?"

"Y' the best female assassin in the world. Went t'rough a phase where she wore a pin wit' a black widow encased in resin an' everyt'ing."

The assassin leaned forward with a frown. "And how did she hear of me?"

"I ain't goin' t' say," he replied carefully, "on account of likin' the blood on the inside of m' body."

"I dislike that answer."

"Reputation is everyt'ing and that's all y' get from me. Dr. Banner, I been readin' y'r paper on gamma radiation's affect on mutancy rates. Mais, we could talk?"

"Of course. Are you interested in gamma radiation?"

"M'... mentor is pushin' f' me t' do a doctorate. M' masters is on the historical traces of mutancy. Best t' build on it."

"Why the Hell are you not in the Engineering program?" Tony frowned.

"Because ole Remy's been beholden t' a Biochemist?" Remy eyed Tony warily.

Pepper put an arm over Remy's shoulders. "Don't worry, Sweetie. As long as it's science, he approves. Of course he does need a new PA."

"Miss Potts, are y' offerin' me a paid job?"

"An internship is always an option, but you'll need to fill out paperwork and make sure Tony doesn't poison himself in either case. Take the money."

"Love money, me. Don't love taxes." He laid his head on Pepper's shoulder. She ruffled his hair. "This PA position include access t' your accountant? Mine's takin' a long vacation courtesy of the government."

"Manny DiBrasso?" Tony asked. Pepper remembered the name. Oh, the mob accountant who had been arrested for money laundering.

"Known mon pere from way back. Family, hehn?"

"Can't live with them, so drink to forget them?"

Steve made a disappointed face in Tony's direction. "So who's seen the latest Disney flick?" he attempted.

"I've got it scheduled for Friday. No spoilers," Pepper warned. "The trailer looks good." The diner conversation turned to lighter topics. Remy relaxed against her side.


Remy was on the phone with his wife. Ex-wife? Natasha wasn't positive yet. He was speaking in rapid French-based Creole. She couldn't catch every nuance, but the majority of the conversation was simple.

"So, yeah, escaped from Essex's labs and Henri tried to chain me up in his. And now Tony and Pepper are trying to lock me up in his lab instead. Summers called and begged me to get Stormy off his case. Non, broke up with Rogue. Again. Starting to not be fun anymore. Black Widow wants to know how you heard of her. I ain't sure what you want me to say. Hang on, chere, Hawkeye just took off his shirt; I need to send a picture." He took a picture with his phone.

Natasha looked down at her book with a concerted effort not to laugh.

"Well, Nick's been lettin' his chilen relax at Chez Stark, so I figure they ain't above a little letchery. Anyway, yeah, he's a pretty thing. You need to come up to New York. Bring that new apprentice of yours?"

Apprentice, hmm? That would explain some things. Most assassins she'd met had military backgrounds, but there were always a few she'd never pinned down."

"Merde. You ever see Capt. America? That body ain't from body armor." Remy pulled the phone from his mouth. "JARVIS, does Tony have a guest room free?"

"Yes, I'll have them cleaned."

"Merci, JARVIS. See you next week then." The young man grinned at something his partner – that was a safe description – said. "Ciao." He studied Natasha with half-lidded eyes. "Did you hear what you need to?" he asked in surprisingly good Russian.


He nodded once, then closed his eyes and fell asleep. She frowned. He was obviously unwell. "Designate Black Widow," a sweet Southern drawl said from his phone, "JARVIS says you prefer Natasha?"

"Yes," she told the young AI.

"Natasha, will you be kind enough to tuck Remy in?"

"Of course." She indulged the AI by tucking an afghan over the young man. She still had questions, but Fury's files should provide the answers.


"Welcome to Chez Stark," Tony gestured grandly to the suite. "Your boy-toy is nose-deep in data analysis for Banner, but you're welcome to try out the amenities."

Belladonna Boudreaux smiled. "Always a pleasure, M. Stark." The guilds had been buying and trading Stark-Tech since the founding of the company. "And do you count as an amenity?"

His brows rose. "Well, I do have a permanent deal with Pepper, but she likes you."

Belle laughed. "Not for that. I have a consultation question." She pulled out her StarkPad. "I'm working on an app for my company's use."

Tony lit up. "For you, always." He led her to the kitchen. "Start the coffee JARVIS. Cajun blend."

"Of course, Mr. Stark."

"Bonjour, JARVIS. Remy tells me you've been helping CHERI. Merci."

"You are welcome, Ms. Boudreaux."

They settled at the surprisingly homely kitchen table. It was a sturdy wood farmhouse table scarred with knife marks and burns from hot pans and soldering irons. "Let's see what you've got so far." He plucked the StarkPad from her hands and she allowed it with an indulgent smile. He went in through his developer's back-door. Belle made a note of the cod. Tony hummed as he looked through her code. His brows rose. "You and Remy still married?"

She laughed brightly. "For our sins. Catholic, remember? Fee free t' sleep wit' him though." She reached over to point to the screen. She leaned on his shoulder. It tensed for a moment, then relaxed. "This is what's buggin' me."

"You're creating a private communication channel for your independent contractors." His eyes narrowed. "We can make this commercially viable. Maybe even get a few of the smaller government agencies to buy in."

"Oui?" Her brows rose of their own volition. "I do like money. We'll work out a deal."

"I'll get Legal working on it. JARVIS, make a note."

"JARVIS, m' lawyer is Henri Delacroix."

"Very good, Ms. Boudreaux."

She smiled up at the ceiling, assuming that the AI had sensors there. The coffee machine dinged. She went to collect two mugs full. She set Tony's within reach. She hummed in pleasure as she took a sip. She leaned on Tony's shoulder to watch him work. He didn't tense this time. "There," he said, "see if that gets closer to what you wanted."

She took the Pad back and ran through her trial. "Much better. Now I just need to set up the gateways."

"Aw. You dropped your accent."

Belladonna laughed merrily. "It's a true accent, cher. I jus' don' play it up as much as Remy."

Remy wandered into the kitchen. He got a cup of coffee before greeting both of them with kisses. "JARVIS tole m' y' went and made good coffee." He settled an arm around Belle's waist and she leaned against him the way she usually couldn't. "Bonjour," he purred into her ear.

She had her knife out and up the meet the attack before she consciously recognized the movement. Remy was protecting her back like they were still teenagers starting fights with non-guild gang members. She could feel the crackling energy of his biokinetic charge.

Black Widow stepped back from the fight, but Belle didn't relax. "I will not attack again."

Belle felt Remy nod once where their heads met. Telling the truth then. Belle eased into a resting pose.

"No fighting in the kitchen. Steve's rules." Tony's voice was mild, but Belle heard the tiniest thread of command in it.

The staticy feel of Remy's charge faded. "Well, po' Remy's awake now," he muttered. "Y' a mean woman, Agent Romanova." He settled at the table. "Black Widow, I present Belladonna Boudreaux, m' wife."

"You intrigue me, Ms. Boudreaux." Black Widow's face was passive. "Perhaps we could spar while you are here."

"It would be my pleasure." Belle studied her hero. She hadn't aged at all. She was either a mutant like Remy or an external like Candra. Either way – she was still the woman Belle wanted to be when she grew up. "Call me 'Belle'."

"Natasha." They shook hands. "It will be nice to have another female to work with."

Belle smiled at that. "Oui, I prefer sparring with women."

Tony tugged at her arm. "Test this."

She took the Pad and gave Tony the attention he craved. Natasha chuckled. She patted Tony on the head as she passed.


Pepper greeted Belle with a hug. The younger woman relaxed against her. "Bonjour, Pepper."

"Belle, wonderful to see you again. Did Remy show you your room?" Pepper continued the conversation in French.

"He did. It's lovely. The entire building is beautiful. You and Tony have done a wonderful job." Belle studied Pepper for a moment. "You seem well for living with a gaggle of superheroes."

Pepper laughed. "Compared to how Remy was when he arrived, I am." She linked arms with Belle and led the way into the living room. "JARVIS tells me that everyone is watching a movie. Did you want to join them?"

Belle shook her head. "I'd rather kvetch about running a business with someone who won't leak to my co-workers."

"JARVIS, which wines are in the kitchen?"

"There are three chilled California whites from the winery Mr. Stark purchased for your birthday, a new bottle of red from the LeBeau vineyard, and a plum wine from the head of the Japanese manufacturing department."

"White or red?" Pepper asked. Belle gave her a careless shrug. "White to start then."


Remy frowned at the line of code Tony had added to CHERI. "I don' understand what this is supposed t' do."

Tony smiled indulgently. "Talk it out."

Remy huffed. Steve hid a smile behind his book. Tony was a surprisingly good teacher. Remy's wife sauntered into the room. She settled on the couch with a small pad of airmail paper and a delicate gold fountain pen.

"Husband, I'll need your signature on these."

"Oui, Belle," Remy responded absently.

The room was quiet except for the quiet conversation at the table and the soft scritch of pen on paper. Clint wandered into the room. He stole the book from Steve's hand and marked his place. "Come on, Cap, I've got something for you to see."

"Anything the rest of the class would like?" Tony asked.

"Nah. Just Pepper and Tasha fighting." Clint grinned as the rest of the room's attention focussed on him. "Down in the training room."

"CHERI," Remy and Belle said.

"JARVIS," Tony said.

"Recording," JARVIS said, smug. CHERI answered the same a moment later.

"Thank you, J."


Belle settled against Remy on the couch to show off the application. "I assume your Guild would like this?"

"Oui." Remy nuzzled her hair. "I'll transfer a payment to Nightwing from TG Limited."

"Merci." She let him ruffled her hair for a few minutes. "I need to get back to work."

Remy sighed. "I know." He handed her a phone. "A direct link to CHERI. She likes you."

"I should hope so." She tucked the phone away. "Be careful, Remy. When you decide to go back to Xavier's crew, don't let them feed your guilt."


"Non, don't deny it. You think you have something to atone for. But you don't."

"You don't..."

"Remy. I am your wife. I've known you forever. You feel guilty about something that I cannot turn to my advantage. I like your previous employer, but he is a bokor."

"I know," he said quietly before she could continue. "M. Banner is helping. I'll meet Stormy for dinner, but I ain't leaving here for Xavier's until he thinks the depression is controlled."

"Good. Torturing you is no fun when you believe you deserve it."

He went for her ribs. He was the only person she allowed to tickle her. He was the only one she trusted enough to laugh at during an attack. "Brat," he murmured into her ear. "I'll miss you when you go home."

"I know." It was as close to "I love you" as either of them could manage these days.


Natasha studied the young man who was perched on the edge of Stark's landing pad. He had a screwdriver clenched between his teeth as he balanced as effortlessly as a cat and fiddled with a tiny camera housing. She stood in view until he looked over at her with raised brows.

"I didn't want to startle you."

He snorted. He turned his attention back to the camera. Once it was fixed to his standards, he laid down on his stomach and affixed it to the underside of the landing platform. He flopped over onto his back. "How can I help you, Agent Romanova?"

"You still haven't forgive me for the test in the kitchen."

"Belle has. I ain't."

"Why not?" Natasha was rarely so blunt, but it seemed to be the quickest way to reestablish the small amount of trust they'd had.

He grinned. "Gambit worked wit' folks who'd like as kill ya as look at ya. What y' done is pretty close t' what they done. Pretty sure y' ain't gonna kill m', but I also ain't gonna trust y'."

She considered that for a long moment. "I understand." She didn't leave him though. "Perhaps we could work together?"

"Oh, chere, I don't got t' trust y' to work wit' y'. What y' need ole Gambit for?"

She gave him a sly smile. "I need to work on cracking the S32852I system."

His eyes lit up. "Music t' my ears, Romanova."


Storm greeted Remy with a strong hug. "I have missed you, padnat," she said.

"Ma petite Stormy," he murmured into her ear as he hugged back. He pulled back to look her over. His eyes hung on the small bruise on her neck. "Y' datin'? Who?"

She shook her head. "No, I will not allow you to threaten him."

"How's po Remy supposed t' be a good brother if'n he don't get scare y' boyfriends?"

"Do not pout at me."

He stuck his tongue out at her. He looked better than she'd ever seen him. The dark circles were gone from under his eyes. His smile felt more real. "Stark has been good for you."

He looked down. "Oui." His voice was soft. "Dr. Banner too."

He tucked her hand into the crook of his arm and escorted her into the cafe. To her pleasure, he didn't even complain that all of the entrees were vegan. They chatted lightly over bruscetta and tea. Once their curries were in front of them, the conversation tuned more serious. "Scott wishes to remind you that you continue to have a place on the team."

Remy pushed his rice around with his fork. "I..." he started, then trailed off.

She put a hand on his wrist. "Brother." She waited until his eyes lifted to hers. "It is merely an option. He is simply offering a home the only way he knows how. None of us wish to see you return to your previous employer."

He blinked. "Merci," he said finally. "I told y' Pepper Potts hired me t' babysit her boyfriend?"

"You did." She smiled indulgently as him.

"There are perks." He pulled out his phone and tapped the gallery. "So much t' look at."

Storm laughed as he walked her through the pictures. His open lechery made something ease in her chest. Perhaps the mood disorder that had plagued him since they'd met was finally stabilized. "I would like to meet your new friends."

He grinned at her.


Remy set the chocolate chip cookies in easy reach of Tony's distracted grabs. He nearly had him trained to expect food there. The next step was getting him to actually eat the food on a regular basis. Bruce had figured out how to add protein to the cookies. Remy munched on one as he reviewed Tony's schedule.

Tony's nose twitched. "Coffee?" He turned to face Remy.

"In the thermos. I ain't makin' a fresh pot every time y' forget t' drink it."

"You're paid to take care of me."

"Eat y'r cookies and drink the coffee. We got a meetin' with the board in fifteen. I got your jacket here. You ain't runnin' things no more so I'm assumin' no one cares about you wearin' jeans."

"In theory, I should put on a suit."

"Got one of those too." Remy frowned. "Am I expected t' wear somethin' like a suit?"

"Well, if you want them to take you seriously?" Tony smirked at him.

Remy rolled his eyes. "Fine. We change as soon as y' finish eatin'. Got somethin' presentable around here me."

"You have an expense account."


Tony rolled his eyes, but ate a cookie. "Not bad. Bruce?"

Remy nodded. "Come on. Time to change. Should come get y' earlier f' this sort of t'ing so I can blow y' in the shower."

"Don't let Pepper hear that. She'll be pissed that she didn't think of it."


Pepper brushed a kiss against Remy's forehead. "You look tired."

"Oui." Remy gave her a weak smile. "Goin' t' sleep as soon as I finish settin' up t'morrow's schedule."

She found Tony sprawled on their bed with a bandaid on his cheek and a StarkPad in his hands. He smiled up at her. She changed into her favorite silk boxers and a loose concert tee she'd stolen from Tony years ago after a lab accident involving motor oil and hydrolic fluid. It was as soft as a baby's blanket.

She snuggled down next to Tony and looked over his shoulder. "Is that the new thermal fabric?"

"Yep. Nightwing Enterprises has first dibs when the government releases us from classification."

"How exactly did Nightwing find out about it?"

"You hired the VP to babysit me."

Pepper laughed. "Belle and Remy's company. I'd forgotten. Are they still doing security for the Pentagon?"

"As long as Raven Darkholme has a say. I'm pretty sure both of them have slept with her."


"That's a devious hum."

"Natalie Rushman still works for SI."

"What a terrifying idea. We have a new database project with them. SI is a sub for Nightwing on a few security components. We might need to have her audit the contracts."

"I am also going to point out that we now have a world-class security expert on staff." She kept her voice innocent, but Tony knew her well enough to give her a narrow-eyed look.

"Why, Miss Potts, you astound me. Also, yes, he'll do it. He gets off on it."

Pepper snuggled against him. "Have you convinced him that he's welcome to join us together at some point?"

"He knows, but the new formulary that Bruce has him on is kicking his ass. Was he still up when you came in? I told him to go to bed at least an hour ago."

She sighed. "He was."

"Let me tuck him in for the night. Then, I'll come tuck you in." Tony waggled his brows at her.


"So, this is Stark tower," Summers said. He was looking up at the soaring lobby when Tony greeted him. "You don't have to protect him from me."

"I'm not. He's in the middle of fixing the cameras in the gym."

Summers shook his head. "Whatever he said to Ro helped. She hasn't threatened to drown me in at least a week. That being said, I need to steal him for a few days."

"See, this is what I like about you," Tony told him as they entered the elevator, "you don't believe in small talk."

"If I let you get started with small talk, it'll be five drinks in and four hours later before I ever get around to actually presenting my case. I was hoping Hawkeye was around too."

"Oh?" Tony didn't like people trying to poach from his team.

"I had a teammate named Longshot." Summers was quiet for a moment. "I was cleaning out the garage and I found all of his archery equipment. I don't know what's worth saving for sentiment and what's worth saving because of quality."

"Sure," Clint said as he poked his head in through the top of the elevator.

"I have a heart condition. You are not helping." Tony pointed at Hawkeye and glared over the top of his sunglasses. They were red mirrors and Tony wished he could claim that he'd worn them to mock the head of the X-men.

Hawkeye flipped into the car. "Bullshit. Clint." He stuck his hand out to Cyclops.

"Scott. Nice to meet you."

"Cool shades."

Summers' lips twitched. "I'll drag you back to the Mansion with me after I manage to get my thief to agree to a commission."

"I beg to differ. He is my thief. I pay him. You just offer room and board."

"He's family," Summers argued. "And I had him first."

"Did not. I slept with him in Malibu years ago."

The leader of the X-men shook his head. "He's like... twelve. You actually slept with him?"

"He's older than he looks. He was legal at least. Under twenty-one, but over eighteen at least. And that was back before," Tony gestured.

"Yeah. I suppose you have the same emotional depth."

Clint didn't bother to hide his laughter. "You aren't exactly an old man, Scott."

"Some day you'll have to get me drunk and ask me to explain my family tree."

Tony held up his hand. "That's the sum total of what? Two beers? I think we can swing that."

"After I talk to Remy. I am wise to your tricks. I also come bearing data for Dr. Banner. And Forge wants you to call him and consult on something that I refuse to think about."

"Time machine?"

"No, he makes my head hurt when he starts taking about being there-and-then as opposed to here-and-now which sets off Cable's damned Askani philosophy jags. I will not have you start. Rogue also wants to know if you'll fix her up with one of those punching bags you developed for Captain Rogers."

"Do not tell me you have a childhood crush on Rogers," Tony demanded.

Summers cocked his head to the side. "I have seen your collection. Has Rogers seen your collection?"

Clint blinked. "Collection. Tony has a collection. Of Captain America memorabilia?"

"Stop talking or you don't get the upgrades on the jet that you want. Don't even think about it, Legolas."

"Does Phil know?"

"Phil?" Summers frowned.

"Phil Coulson. SHIELD."

"Ah. I'll ask Kitty about him. They're working to recruit her. And her former boy-toy."

The elevator opened onto the main room. Natasha and Remy were glaring at each other from no more than six inches apart. "God damn it, Remy, you promised you weren't actively suicidal!"

"Y' stay out of this, Tony."

Natasha closed the distance by an inch. "You were attempting to manipulate my emotions. Do you think that I have survived this long without being aware of telepathic interference?" she hissed.

Summers stepped forward. "He doesn't actually control it," Scott stated. "According to Professor Xavier, it's a true talent and he might be able to train it up, but empathy is inherently passive. It'll fade in a minute."

Natasha turned to glare at Summers. "Cyclops," she said, her face going passive. "How is your wife?"

"Well." His posture turned more defensive. "Do you really think that Gambit is stupid enough to overtly manipulate a woman who could kill him with her pinkie?"

She considered. "I have met his wife. It is very likely."

Remy threw his hands up. "Y' off y'r head, woman! What y' need, Scotty?"


"Jarvis," Scott said to the ceiling, "I'm assuming you have a privacy policy that rivals anything a Catholic priest can come up with."

"I will keep anything said confidential assuming that it does not compromise the safety of my charges," the AI confirmed.

"Thank you." He turned to Remy. "Show me your arms."


"No, you cut in my rose garden. I patched you up. I get to demand to check for damage."

Remy glared at him, but pushed up his sleeves. Scott ran his hands down their length, counting scars mentally. "I ain't been cuttin'."

"And I'm assuming Tony would notice if you were cutting elsewhere," the older man allowed. "Banner's meds are working better than Sinister's?"

"Oui. An' better'n Henri's."

"Hank is many things, including brilliant, but he isn't actually a psychiatrist. And Charles can't prescribe. Besides, it's a conflict of interest for him to be your therapist." Scott paused. He still hadn't let got of Remy's wrists and the younger man wasn't moving to free himself. It was a positive sign actually. "Have you been seeing someone?"

"Non. I ain't exactly comfortable tellin' folks my secrets."

Scott studied him for a long moment. "You know that what Rogue did was wrong. She could have killed you. She's on restriction until she can prove to me that she won't lose her temper on a baseline human."

"Cher, she was angry."

"So what? She knows damn well that she's stronger than almost anyone else on the team and she's impervious to most damage. And I honestly don't care if you were both the same strength and durability. She was aggressive and instead of using her words she threw you off of the roof. If Jean hadn't seen you, you would be dead or paralyzed. I cannot let that pass."

"I made her mad. I ain't good at relationships."

Scott frowned. "Okay. You are getting at least one session with my therapist. She's a former stripper and a former hooker. She'll see you under my name as long as you want and she won't keep paper records. She knows everything including the fact that I killed my foster father before Charles and that I run a terrorist organization." Scott gave the thief's hands a gentle squeeze before he picked up his phone. "Jarvis, when is the best time for Remy to have an hour's appointment. It can be by phone, though she'd prefer it be face to face."

"Hey, now. I ain't agreed to this."

"Don't care. You bleed on my roses, you're mine until I say otherwise." Scott dialed the familiar number while Jarvis offered options. "Hey, Kandy. I need you to book a session for another me."

"This multiple personality problem of yours is mind-boggling," she joked. "Male or female?"

"Male," he confirmed. "Older than Jubilee, but younger than Bobby."

"Got it," she said cheerfully. They arranged an appointment.

"Appointment recorded," CHERI informed Remy.

"Traitor," he grumbled at her.

"Hush now," she shot back quickly. "You need someone who isn't me to talk to."


Summers rubbed at his brows. "I am already regretting this," he informed Tony as he took another sip of his drink. "I don't know why I didn't just say my piece and leave."

"Because this is the one place on the planet where your wife can't read your mind?" Tony smirked.

"Well, there is that."

"And you want want me to look at your battle equipment," he informed the X-man. Remy was curled up companionably against Pepper's side and they were discussing the next board meeting or something dreadful like that. Summers frowned at him. The mutant's body chemistry made him a cheap drunk.

"I never said that."

"Don't say no," Barton chimed in. "You want his upgrades. Trust me."

Summers shook his head. "I know there's a catch here, but I don't see where it is."

"Xavier's is going to set up a contract with Stark Industries for body armor."

"School uniforms," Scott said blandly. "We don't need body armor, but we need uniforms that can withstand the rigorous physical education programs."

"There. See."

"Now, there's just one teeny little problem. Your tech is not in the budget."

Tony leered. "There's ways around that."

"Sorry, I like my Sugar Daddies dumber than you are."

Steve coughed up his Coke. Tony ruffled Summers' hair and the man swatted at his hand.

Summers smirked. "Worthington Industrial has been supplementing the school budget for years."

"Worthington? Seriously?" Tony wrinkled his nose.

"I've known him since we were teens." Scott shrugged. "He's my favorite overgrown sparrow. And my favorite black shiny credit card."

"Okay. So Worthington Industrial will be making a contract." Tony grinned as he refilled Summers' glass.

"You don't have to get me drunk. I'll happily spend his money." Scott dialed. "Hey, War, I'm going on a spending spree," he told the phone. "Buying sex toys for the Professor and Magneto." He smirked at the response. "Well, I'm hoping that if I get him laid, he'll stop trying to kill humans."

Tony snorted at that.

"Yeah, I'm still at Stark's." Scott nodded. "But I need new tech. I'm going to be putting Rogue in time out and telling Hank that he needs to stop pretending that he gives good relationship advice. Umhum." Scott tilted his head. "Well, I don't know if he offers those sort of discounts. At least not since Potts is the CEO now." He paused again, frowning now. "Okay, serious talk, will it mess with your stock prices? What if we put it through one of Bobby's shell businesses?"

Remy perked up and made a note on his pad before passing it over to Scott.

"Or subcontract through Nightwing? Yeah. Security consultation." He gave the thief a thumbs up. "We'll make the arrangements carefully, but I'm not turning down a consultation with Stark. Well, if Remy actually liked you, that might work, but at this point, that ship has sailed. Yeah, yeah. Tell Jean I'll have a hangover tomorrow and I won't be home tonight. Go take your girlfriend to bed." He hung up.

Tony smirked. "I think I like your style. But Magneto and Xavier?"

"My god, they flirt. They flirt at the fucking time," Summers informed him. "It really couldn't hurt to get both of them laid either. Better for my blood pressure at least."

"So, are you drunk enough to explain your family tree?" Barton pressed.

"Oh, god, non!" Remy interceded. "Ain't none of us drunk enough f' dat."

"Bite me, Cajun."


"So, you and Summers?" Tony asked idly.

"Man's got it int' his head that Remy's his lil brother. Or somethin' like that. I ain't sure. Mebbe he's just possessive or somethin'." Remy shrugged. He snuggled under Tony's offered arm. "Been thinkin' it might be time t' go back, but," he trailed off. Tony hugged him closer.

"Don't go out of some sense of duty. You're doing important work here too. And don't you dare leave before Bruce gives you a thumbs up. You've been better, but I've noticed a few days when you aren't yourself at all."

Remy considered that as he breathed in the familiar scent of motor oil and coffee. "Pepper been tryin' t' tell me somethin', but I ain't sure what it is."

"She wants you in the bed with both of us sometime. When and if you want to be. Otherwise, she's okay with sharing."

Remy's eyes blurred a little bit from unshed tears. "Dat's sweet," he said, voice quiet. "I ain't... I jus' don' know."

Tony's arm tightened. "Totally up to you and I reserve the right to ask again at some point."

"I ain't sayin' no. Jus' m' head's still fucked up an' I don't want t' do somethin' we all regret later. You an' Pepper are good friends an' that's more important."

Tony kissed Remy's forehead. "Thanks." He tucked him in to bed. "Remember, if you can't sleep..."

"You'll be in y'r lab until Pepper strips off in front of y'."

Tony smirked. "If you get up, drink some more water. Your head will thank me in the morning."

Remy flipped him off before closing his eyes and falling asleep.



Xover Bedroom