Chapter 1: Prototypes
Tony was not often called to SHIELD to answer for the quality of his prototypes, and he'd decided he didn't like it.
"I don't even work for you!" he groused, slouching into his chair. "Ergo, you should not be able to summon me to answer for my prototype's sins, which, also, definitely do not exist. Because I am a genius, a genius with multiple doctorates, I might add, and-"
"-no ability to do laundry?" came a voice from behind him.
Tony swiveled in his seat, sized up the woman behind him, then returned to face Agent Coulson. "You invited someone else to this 'vitally important design meeting', Agent Agent? I'm hurt. Devastated. I thought we were having a moment."
"You and your ego were having a moment," Phil informed him. "Agent Abbott and I, however, have concerns about your latest creation."
"Devastated," Tony repeated, then frowned at the newcomer. "Agent Agent the Second. I hear you question my genius, which is clearly nonsense, and... my ability to clean my own clothes? For some reason? Explain."
Agent Abbott did not look nearly as overwhelmed and awestruck as Tony might have hoped. "Nora, please. It does feel rather silly, calling myself an agent, under the circumstances." She held up a swatch of fabric that Tony recognized. "I was asked to turn this into body armor."
Tony took the fabric from her, turning it over in his hands, tugging at it absently. "Using my fabulous new prototype, which, by the way, met every one of the truly absurd list of specifications sent to me by Director Eyepatch, and really, who does he think he is, my time is valuable, priceless even... nope, not seeing the problem, my prototype was flawless."
"And how," Nora continued patiently, "am I expected to turn that into a handkerchief, much less body armor?"
Tony stared at her. "With... thread...? Is this a trick question, I do not sew, I have no idea why you would think I can sew, really, just go cut yourself a piece of the fabric-"
"-that is the fabric," Nora interrupted him.
Tony blinked at her. "I sent you two yards." He looked down at the swatch in his hands. "This can't be two inches."
"You sent me two yards covered in grease and motor oil," Nora pointed out. "I attempted to clean it."
"The motor oil was DUM-E!" Tony said defensively. "...the grease may, very possibly, purely hypothetically of course, have been me."
"The cleanliness of the fabric is not at fault, Mr. Stark," Phil reminded him. "The cleanability is."
"Tony, Agent Agent, please. Is cleanability even a word?" Tony wondered.
"Yes. Focus, please," Phil sighed.
"Dr. Stark, did you at any point in your testing process attempt to clean this fabric?" Nora asked.
"Ten points to sewing class, no one remembers the doctorates," Tony said. "But to answer your question- no, of course not, laundry is something that happens by magic and JARVIS and wildly overpaid staff. I do not launder. I create. And save the world. Important stuff, you know."
"You did just emphasize the doctorates," Nora said with a smile. "Did any of your doctorates happen to include a class on why the ability to run body armor through the laundry might be a desirable feature?"
"None of this appeared on the list of specifications," Tony sulked.
"Please consider all future armor design specifications to include 'the ability to launder' on the feature list," Phil said. On the far side of his desk, he located the paper entitled Tony Stark vs Common Sense and awarded a point to the second column. "Did the shrinking issue not appear in testing?"
"I tested all the features on the-" Tony started indignantly.
"-list of specifications," Coulson filled in for him, and sighed. "As an agency that operates primarily through stealth and covert operations, I do expect my agents not to be preceded by their... fragrance."
"Also, swimming," Nora added helpfully. "Or rain. I hear field agents encounter water occasionally."
Tony stuffed the fabric into his pockets and stood, chin in the air. "I will, out of the goodness of my heart and despite your unfeeling mockery, attempt- attempt!- to find time to address this new and previously unstated requirement," he said loftily. "Expect a delivery shortly."
"Thank you," Agent Coulson said, ignoring the sarcasm in favor of marking off an item on his To Do list. "That was all for today."
Tony got halfway out the door before he was stopped by a voice behind him. "Oh, and Dr. Stark?"
He wheeled to face Nora, eyebrow raised. "Agent Agentette?"
"I'll need at least five yards for a proper armor design," she told him, smiling pleasantly.
Tony stared at her, then threw up his hands before storming out. "Five yards it is, then! Why not ten? Why not fifty? No respect here, I tell you, NONE AT-"
Phil waited until the automatic door closed, then turned to Nora. "Good job, Agent Abbott. You can expect your Tony Stark hazard pay in your next paycheck."
Nora laughed. "It's still Nora. Oh dear, is he always like that?"
"Always," Phil agreed. "And given your composure in the face of Stark being... well, himself, I'll be recommending you be promoted to the Avengers outfitting assignment on an ongoing basis." He pushed a piece of paper at her. "Congratulations, Agent."
Nora's eyes narrowed. "Is this a promotion or a punishment?"
"Don't worry, Agent Abbott," Phil told her, smiling slightly. "All the really fun jobs are both."
I... exist? Maybe? Briefly? This is shorter than I wanted yet still so very much better than no update xD
"Anthony Edward Stark!"
"Pepper, you sound like my mother," Tony said, voice muffled by the engine of the car he was leaning over. "Really, my full name: unnecessary. Also? Hurtful. I got you that prototype you wanted, didn't I? And on time, it's practically a Christmas miracle-"
"It's February," Pepper said calmly from behind him.
"Then I am either wildly behind schedule or even more wildly ahead of schedule," Tony replied, rotating. "And since I know I wasn't late, that leaves wildly... ahead of..." his voice trailed off as he caught sight of the fabric roll in Pepper's arms.
"They haven't even touched it!" he said indignantly. "They're not allowed to complain if they haven't even used it!"
"I believe SHIELD R&D has yet to determine how, precisely, to use it," Pepper informed him.
Tony blinked at her. "You... make clothes out of it?"
Pepper arched the eyebrow that meant oh good, I am so glad you and your multiple graduate degrees from MIT were here to explain this incredibly difficult concept to me. Pepper had very sarcastic eyebrows. "Tony. They can't cut it."
"They can't... cut it," Tony repeated blankly.
"Phil forwarded me the list. Of things they tried." Pepper put the fabric down by the car and held up a stack of papers that more closely resembled a magazine. Possibly a novel. "It's- comprehensive."
Tony flipped through the papers, his eyes widening. "Scissors, knives, lasers, diamond cutters, bullets, arrows- damnit, Barton- chainsaws, RPGs- RPGs, really?"
Pepper arched the eyebrow that meant why are you asking me to explain your own inventions to you, if only you had created a pack of groundbreaking artificial intelligences to help you with these questions. Seriously, her eyebrows should be studied. "Focus, Tony. Cutting the fabric. How did you do it?"
"...I didn't," he admitted. Pepper just looked at him. "I made the thread, I wove the thread, I delivered the fabric?"
"Okay, you didn't cut the fabric," Pepper said patiently. "Did you cut the thread?"
"I just used the thread that was delivered? The fabrication process required us to use a cast instead of drawing wire, because the chemical structure was-"
"In English, please, Tony, not Engineering-ese."
Tony groaned and flopped his head against the hood of the car. "No, I did not cut the thread, it was already- cut. Except not cut, because that is a gross oversimplification of-"
Pepper cut him off again. "But they made the thread somehow, so it's shapeable by...?"
"About 1600° Celsius," Tony said promptly.
Pepper shook her head, but she was smiling. "Tony. I am not telling Coulson he has to sew his body armor with a blowtorch." She dropped a kiss on his cheek before heading for the door. "Let me know when you have something he can use, all right?"
Grumbling, Tony abandoned the car and went to examine the fabric Pepper had left. "Always with the surprise requirements."