He Without Sin

Pepper's Chapter

Tony told himself he was not going to panic. He would remain calm, be reasonable. There was no reason to worry. None at all. He diligently repeated this to himself over and over as he was on the way back to his house in Malibu. He hadn't been far, but there was an urgency in his return now. Not that he was panicking or anything.

The call from Jarvis and Bruce had come almost at the same time. He was able to calm Bruce down well enough and if he could just do the same for himself, that would be great. It wasn't that he thought Loki would hurt Pepper... He didn't! Really! That didn't mean he thought nothing would possibly go wrong after he had KIDNAPPED HER!

He reminded himself to take deep breaths and whatever other zen crap Bruce did to keep the Hulk at bay. Everything was fine. It had to be fine. Because if it wasn't fine, then that meant that Loki had been using him in order to get close to Pepper. Which was ridiculous, since he could have taken her ages ago if he wanted. Hell, Loki had taken Tony (okay, that was Doom, but Tony didn't want to think about that because it added another layer of panic to the situation to think about it) so maybe it was... how he showed affection! Yeah! This was... This was fine.

Except when he wondered where Loki would possibly take her and remembered that the god was hanging out with Doom of all people. Not good! Not cool. Very bad.

Not that Tony was worried! He remembered that. The not worry. It was... He rushed all the way back to his house.

"Jarvis, show me the footage of Loki and Pepper!"

After watching their exchange, and fighting the urge to be amused at Loki and proud of Pepper for holding her ground (priorities dammit!), he was still undecided on the worry thing. He hadn't even thought about the fact that Loki knew about Pepper being injected with Extremis. Or that he would want to help. Or care to. He supposed he should have considered it, Loki had been involved in the Extremis thing, after all, and he did want to... Well, Tony wasn't really sure what the hell Loki wanted to do. They should probably talk about that...

But it was good! Right? Loki wanted Pepper to not explode. What could be better than a non exploding Pepper? The only problem came when he thought about how Loki would go about doing that. And wondering if Doom would be involved. And trying to firmly tell himself that Loki would not let Doom experiment on Pepper.

Though he did let Doom drug Tony's food. That... shouldn't worry him...

Bruce found him in his lab five minutes later, still trying to talk himself out of panicking. "Tony? Are you alright?"

"Fine. Peachy. Wonderful. Great. Calm, even," Tony rattled off easily. He rambled when he was nervous, didn't he? He should really fix that.

"Tony," Bruce tried to approach him calmly, laying a steadying hand on his shoulder to stop Tony from pacing. He was pacing, wasn't he? He almost didn't notice. "Can you think of any reason for Loki to take Pepper?"

"Extremis," Tony answered without thinking. "He wants to fix her Extremis problem. That's what he said. On the surveillance."

"Does he plan to remove it?"

"I don't know!" Tony exclaimed, before trying to calm himself down. He repeated, more calmly, "I don't know."

"Maybe we should tell..."

"We aren't telling Shield," Tony said firmly. "That's worse than Loki having her." Of that, he was certain. At least Loki didn't have government backing. And if he needed to storm Doom's castle and take Pepper back by force, Thor would probably help him. In fact, he should probably ask Thor. Actually, he should probably ask Loki.

Tony hit himself on the head and groaned aloud. He actually could ask Loki, in a sense. Why didn't he think of this sooner? First chance he got, he was giving Loki a cell phone. It didn't matter if he already had one, either. Stark tech was better than whatever else he had.

"I think I have an idea," Tony said aloud. "I'll... I'll be back." He rushed up to his room.

Unfortunately for him, a certain collection of magical boxes and Magpies seemed more interested in trolling him than being helpful. Tony wondered if the faster option would be blowing up Doom's castle.

Pepper found herself on a bed when she woke. It took a few minutes for memory to catch up with her, but it all came rushing back when she heard a familiar voice speaking.

"How are you feeling, Miss Potts?"

She sat up swiftly to see Loki sitting to one side of her bed, book in hand. He was smiling at her pleasantly enough and he didn't look threatening, but that didn't make her feel less threatened. She glared at him a little. "You said I could stay awake."

"Hmm. I did, didn't I?' Loki replied lightly. He closed his book and set it aside, giving her his full attention. "I do need to know how you are feeling. I must check that all is well. Victor wanted to keep you in his lab until you woke, you know, but I thought you'd enjoy the comfort of a bed a bit more."

Pepper wasn't certain she agreed. While evil villain laboratories were bad, there was something unsettling about a villain watching her in bed. "I feel fine," She answered curtly.

"You should," Loki agreed. "Victor wanted to do something drastic to test your condition, but I thought that you would object to being stabbed just so that we'd know if you heal without blowing up under the stress."

Pepper wondered if this was some sort of intimidation tactic or if Loki really did't realize how very unsettling he was being. The man walked toward her and Pepper jumped from the bed, moving away swiftly. Loki smiled in amusement before tossing a cell phone onto the bed. "Tony will be worried about you, I gather? You should tell him that you're alright."

Pepper's glare intensified. "What, are you trying to lure him here?"

"Quite the opposite," Loki answered. "I don't want him to be in a panic. We need to keep you a while longer and it wouldn't do for him to drive himself up a wall about your safety. Better he know you are safe and well, if not entirely where you wish to be."

"You think me calling and saying I'm safe in Doom's castle is going to calm him?" Pepper snapped.

Loki sighed and a wistful expression overtook his features. "No... I don't suppose it would." He shook his head, his features smoothing back out into something neutral before he spoke again. "Make the call, if you please. Do you require privacy? I can step outside, if you wish."

Pepper looked suspicious at the offer, but answered, "Yes. I would like privacy."

Loki nodded. "I shall give you ten minutes then. I will be right so outside the door, so please not make any grandiose escape attempts." Then he walked outside, leaving her alone with the phone.

This was too easy, wasn't it? Was the phone a trap of some sort?

She used the phone anyway.

"Who is this and why I don't I already know?" Tony answered in a slightly irate voice.

"Tony?" Pepper said breathlessly. The relief she felt at the call actually going through was almost too immense to handle.

"Pepper! Are you okay? Where are you? How did you--"

"I'm fine," Pepper told him. "At least, I think I am. Loki kidnapped me. I... I don't know where I am, but where ever it is, Doom is here. They... did something to me, I don't know what. Loki put me to sleep. They said they were going to stabilize Extremis."

She heard Tony taking a deep breath before he spoke again. "How were you able to call me?"

"Loki gave me a phone," She answered. She felt slightly better being able to talk to Tony. He would rescue her, of that she had no doubts. "He told me to call you."

"Is he with you now?"

"No. He said he'd wait outside..."

"I want to talk to him."


"Pepper, trust me," He said. "Give the phone to Loki. I'll handle it."

Pepper nodded nervously, even though she knew he couldn't see. She wanted to keep talking to him. Maybe until Loki finally barged in and took the phone away. But she trusted Tony to get her out of this. "Don't say anything reckless, Tony."

"When am I ever reckless?" He replied. It was possibly the worst reassurance ever, but nothing could have made her feel better than Tony being his usual self. A small laugh startled it's way out of her as she approached the door.

"I'll hold you to that." The door wasn't locked when she tried it and Loki was standing across the hall as promised.

"Rather bold for an escape," Loki said with a smirk. "Usually, stealth is called for."

"The phone's for you," Pepper said harshly.

Loki seemed unaffected. He nodded and reached out for the phone, then shooed her back into the room before speaking. Pepper wanted badly to eavesdrop, but something told her she wouldn't get away with it. Instead, she settled on her bed to wait.

"Anthony," Loki began, only to be interrupted by the mortal's yelling.


Loki frowned at the volume, sighing. "I knew that you would be upset with me, but hear me out--"

"You don't ever touch Pepper! You understand me! Never! I don't care why you took her--"

"She's stable," Loki told him. The mortal was silent at that, so Loki went on. "I knew that the Extremis virus was putting her at risk and that you would be unhappy if she were to spontaneous combust, so I've had Victor working on a way to fix it."

"You allowed Doom anywhere near her!" Tony yelled again.

"I was with her the entire time," Loki explained. "I didn't let her out of my sight for a single moment. I had Victor working on this for a while and he tested it before using it on Pepper. I brought him a few test subjects from the break in at Shield a few days ago. I know that you care for her and I do not want to endanger those you care for."

"That's not the only reason," Tony said. "You were planning this before we... before."

"Of course," Loki answered. "Extremis is a powerful thing. The healing factor, the increased strength, as well as the potential control over the element of fire would make Miss Potts a grand warrior if she could control it, wouldn't you say? She is already close to your Midgardian hero group, so I thought that she could be a great asset."

Tony was silent a long moment. "So you just wanted to get to Pepper..."

"No," Loki told him. "That is separate from... Anthony, I realize that I am villain and it does not come naturally to believe me, but I have not lied to you yet. I had no need to get close to you to get to Pepper Potts. If anything the worry over your reception to the deed is more hindrance than anything else. I realize that we have yet to... clarify what we intend to... There is much to be discussed, but now is not the time."

"I want to see Pepper."

"I was hoping to... ascertain our success before releasing her."

"Bring me there."

Loki paused. "Are you certain? You wish... Is it your wish to tell her of our association?"

"Yes. How soon can you--"

"Right now," Loki answered from behind Tony, startling the mortal. Tony turned wildly to face him. "Jesus! You can't just... You'll give me heart attack, you know."

Loki's lips curled up into a smile. "My apologies."

Tony took in the sight of Loki and started to relax a little. Not that he had been worried, of course.

Loki held out a hand. "Come, Anthony."

Tony took his hand.

Pepper definitely had a problem with this, but she didn't know what to do about it. Usually she would yell. Yelling usually made her feel better. The sight of Victor Von Doom in his armor sitting at the head of the table prompted her to hold her tongue, though.

Loki seemed positively cheerful as he talked to... himself? sitting across the table from him. Doombots were serving the food and Tony was sitting at the end of the table closest to her, beside where she had sat last time. The situation definitely called for yelling. Instead, she sat down beside Tony and whispered urgently, "What are you doing here? What's going on?'

"Well, I talked to Loki and asked him to bring me here. So... here I am!" Tony announced proudly.

That explained very little. Pepper didn't really have the chance to object.

"Loki tells me that you seem well," Doom said, a hint of a question in the words.

"Yeah," She replied quietly. Then, deciding that timidity never helped anybody, asked, "What's going on here?"

"Dinner," Loki answered smartly. "Extremis burns through your reserves, you need to eat to keep up your strength."

"After we dine, I would like to do a few test--" Doom began, but was interrupted.

"Absolutely not!" Tony objected.

"I was not asking your opinion, Stark," Doom replied harshly. "As I was saying, I would like to do a few test to assure that all is well."

Pepper looked around at them all a moment. "I... What the hell is happening right now?" She finally yelled.

"Your manners leave something to be desired, Miss Potts," Doom said disapprovingly. "With all I'd heard about you, I was expecting more."

"Now who's being rude, Victor?" One of the Loki's scolded, the other busily picking through his food. He turned toward Pepper. "Miss Potts, I know that this may be difficult to believe, but what is happening right now is dinner. Which you should eat."

"I think she meant big picture, Loki," Tony said.

"Well, if I may be transparent?" Loki began, looking to Pepper for permission to continue.

"Um, yes," Pepper answered.

"You are here so that you can have Extremis stabilized, become a hero of Midgard, and hopefully help fight of an alien invasion in the future." Loki smiled widely at her. Pepper just... stared. "Of course, we are not planning to force you to fight, but we would like you to be able to defend yourself and possibly others if needed."

"Are you... trying to make me a villain?" Pepper asked.

"No, no." Loki shook his head at that. "There are enough villains on Midgard. If that is your preference, however, feel free. I certainly have no plans to stop you."

"Is this... Is this real?" She asked Tony.

"It's real," Tony answered. "Loki wants to help. Doom... um... well, I don't know what he wants, but I promise not to let either of them hurt you." He looked over to Loki a moment and asked, "By the way, why are there two of you?"

The Loki that was talking to them smiled. The other had been speaking with Doom, but now turned to them. "You are not amused?" He asked. "I thought it would be amusing. I wanted to fill out the table a little. Dinning with so few is... something I've become unaccustomed to lately." His voice was sad a moment, but perked up as he added, "I thought I would make a better addition than Doombots. They are terrible conversationalist."

"Perhaps they would not be if you did not always interrupt my work," Doom snapped.

"Yes, yes." Loki replied dismissively.

Pepper, while still confused, thought that maybe she understood the situation slightly better. Enough to at least begin eating. Whatever was happening must have been Tony's fault and putting the strange situation in that context, she could handle. She'd cleaned up Tony's messes before. She'd find a way to handle this. Whatever it was.

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