House of Stark

Summary:
July 27 2014: Dana stops by to see Pepper, and gets introduced to her house guests.

Stark Tower

Temple of Technology, with all that this implies.


Characters

NPCs

  • Cora the Hyena Girl

Mood Music:
[* None]


The bad thing about weird magical stuff going on is that is screws with one's sense of time. The even worse thing about weird magical stuff is that with the whole suddenly being back in her office with that damned book (and testing how well her windows handle a person running into them) and then the giant talking wolf suddenly being there as well, Pepper did not notice until everything had settled down again that she lost more than four hours to that damnable house and then more getting Fenris settled in a guest room in the Tower. She'd sent a text to Dana apologizing profusely for missing their 'happy hour' (which was really just meeting up at Dana's mother's antique store to share a light dinner and several episodes of Fawlty Towers over tea).

Now, as she returns to her office after the first meeting of her day and already feeling like she just wants to crawl back into her bed, Pepper sits at her desk but can't really settle. Something's … off. If she had not already mentally tuned out that 'Book of Vices' that's currently hidden in the bottom drawer of her desk, she'd know what was off.

"JARVIS, how is Fenris doing?"

*

Now, see, unleashing magic at Stark — or harboring it there — is not really fair, as far as Dana's concerned. In her world, Stark is supposed to be a citadel against the forces of magic. A place where the Fair Folk and their ilk are uncomfortable enough to skirt by rather than sneaking in… though, okay, given the current stalemate with Maeve, that may be debatable. Regardless, the point stands. The place is supposed to be a temple to technology, not a bastion of bewitchment.

And her meeting with Pepper to go over the latest proofs for another upcoming technology magazine spread isn't one where she's expecting to pass through halls dripping with residual magic clinging to the walls. As she knocks on the PA's door, her expression is one of vague consternation and certain perplexity. Behind her, invisibly, Rex stands alertly, his sharp ears forward, his nose trembling as he scents the aether around them.

*

"Your guest, Miss Potts, is currently looking after his… child. Whom he has asked me to entertain with a game of chase. Based on his gait, he seems to be recovering much more quickly than normal given his injuries when he was brought here. Your other guest is, presently, taking a nap."

The AI sounds… almost resigned. "I do believe the little one wore her out."

*

Pepper Potts says, "Thank you, JARVIS. Could you let him know that I'll be by with lunch in a couple of hours? Oh, and find out what Cora would like to eat."

Pepper looks up at the knock, and rather than her usual call to the visitor to come in, she bolts from her desk and goes to open the door herself. "Dana, thank … you for bringing the proofs by. Please, come in." She opens the door wider to let the photographer and invisible Thorn in, the room itself probably being much more 'aromatic' than usual. The building cleaning staff were in here while she was gone to her morning meeting, and the room still has the lingering hints of the steam carpet cleaner used to remove the giant-wolf-blood stains (which she claimed were spilled food) and the woodsmokey Lapsang tea steeping in the teapot on the credenza.

"I'm sorry I didn't make it to happy hour last night. Things got … kind of crazy around here.""

*

Dana gives Pepper a smile of greeting, but her eyes squint — particularly as they slide past the desk, where she can see a magical focus swirling. Steam cleaning might help against the appearance of wolf blood, but the residual energies don't dissipate so quickly. And, Rex brushes by her to go right to the spot where the largest stain once lay, sniffing with great interest. As the door is closed behind them, the big dog actually shimmers into view, circling around purposefully, trying to understand the confusing scents.

"Nothing to apologize for," she tells the redhead, moving to place the folder with the proofs down on the table by the credenza, rather than the desk. "Real life happens, as they say…" Still, she looks around, brows faintly drawn. "Must've been something serious." She glances to Pepper. "Please tell me it wasn't Her Majesty."

*

"Cora, I am told…" JARVIS breaks in ever so politely. "Will eat nearly anything. Her guardian recommends something that will not stain when - he did not say if - it gets everywhere." The little wild child doesn't have much in the way of table manners yet. At all. If Pepper's been up to visit she may have had the opportunity to see. At least she mostly eats in human form. Mostly.

*

Pepper Potts steps toward the credenza after closing the door, Rex's appearance not really startling her anymore. She knows the hellhound well enough already. "I can say with one hundred percent certainty that it has nothing to do with Her Majesty." At JARVIS's helpful comments, she says almost idly while pouring two cups of tea and setting them on the small table safely away from the proofs, "Please arrange for a peasant lunch, JARVIS, no soup this time. Maybe bread still hot from the stone oven bakery on west 54th?" She then moves to sit at the table to look at the proofs. And flatly ignores that little impulse to spike her tea with the brandy still sitting at the end of credenza. "Sorry. Houseguests with a very energetic daughter. Speaking of, would you like to join us for lunch?"

*

"Magical houseguests?" Dana presses. "Or is the fact your office looks like a leyline exploded all over it just a coincidence?" She can't possibly know who Cora is, though she'll certainly recognize her 'father', when she sees him. She is, however, seriously considering putting Stark in contact with John Wayland Smith, to get a few hard wards woven into the building. Because… da-amn.

At the suggestion of lunch, she gives a wry smile. "If you'd like. I don't want to interrupt." She just wants to get a bead on the full scope of the damage. "Why is your desk glowing?"

*

Somewhere, above, there is the 'thump-thump-thump-thump' of someone relatively small running very, very quickly. It's a good thing JARVIS never wears out.

*

Inara went to have a nap, with Cora, because of the exhausting 7 yr old. Unfortunately, Cora's not tired. And if she's not tired, then 'Nara can't be tired either. Besides, there is a new smell that must be investigated. Cora drags a very tired looking Inara with her.

"Gotta see the puppy!" Cora tells her 'mother' as Inara tries to entice her to going back to nap a little more.

"Now I know why parents put brandy in their children's drinks before bedtime."

*

Pepper Potts looks from Rune to her desk a bit confusedly, then ohs faintly. "That's that damned book. Reader's Digest version, some magical house dragged several people into it to help some chain-smoking British madman in his search for some stupid book. And then the book fell literally into my hands and there were giant centipedes, swords, and a purple cat. He told me to run, so I did. I ended up back here — don't ask me how — so I stuffed the ugly thing into the bottom of my desk. I hope it rots there."

Then, a seemingly random thought occurs to her and she straightens a bit to address the AI in the building. "Oh, JARVIS, please ask the baker for small bread rolls as well as the full-sized loaves. And nothing that can be spread with a knife." That should about cover the child-proofing bases, right?

Turning her attention back to Dana and the proofs, she sips at her tea and offers another apologetic smile.

*

"I don't know what it is," Dana says, studying the aura around the drawer, "but I suggest you get rid of it. It doesn't belong here."

She doesn't like the idea of Pepper being touched by so much unfamiliar magic. Slowly, the hellhound makes his way towards the desk, sniffing around the drawer. His ears flicker and he lets out a low whiney growl that might be a query or might b a protest.

"It's corruptive."

She turns back with visible reluctance and spreads the proofs out. "Do you want to look at these now, or after lunch?" Rex makes his deep doggy protest noise again.

*

"Miss Potts, lunch will be delivered in five minutes." JARVIS informs Pepper. It is his job after all to help her make informed decisions. "Would you like me to lock the top level? Your guests are about in the halls near the suite.”

*

Dragged along down the halls of the palatial apartments of the suite to the mantra of "Puppy, puppy, puppy, puppy…", Inara is trying to convince the girl that napping is really the better option. Are all 7 year olds this energetic? How do parents survive?!

"Sure, I said. I'll take her, I said. How hard could it be, I said," she mutters in Farsi. "Tonight, I phone my mother and apologize for everything I have ever done."

*

"After lunch. Let's go now." She stands again, quickly moving to pour the rest of the tea into a securely-capped glass and plastic thermos and picking up her teacup. "JARVIS, go ahead and let them know we're on our way up, and don't let anyone else onto those floors for now." She waits for Dana to be ready so they can both flee her office, confiding in her friend once they're safely riding an elevator toward the guest room floors, "So that's why my office feels so awful right now."

Dana nods and sweeps the photos into a folder, leaving the folder neatly on the table. She accompanies the the PA into elevator. Rex is torn for a moment. He fades from mortal view and trots out of the office to join both of them in the elevator.

"Yeah, it is," Dana tells her friend. "Are you holding the thing for someone, or can you ditch it? Maybe Wassea will know how to destroy it."

*

Cora is using her nose, sniffing about the apartments to figure out where the puppy is. She decides this whole person thing isn't working so shifts into her 'proper' form. A chuff towards Inara has the persian woman chuckling. "Yes, I know that feels better. But you can't exactly go to school like that. How would you pick up you pen?" Cora giggles at that in hyena-ish glee. Mind you, in this form, she laughs at a lot of things. She heads to the elevator door and starts scratching at it with both paws, whining.

*

"Holding it for someone," Pepper replies grimly. And that insane Brit had BETTER show up to reclaim the thing. She does NOT want that stupid thing around any longer than necessary.

"Can we, I don't know, put it in a lead box or something?" She's about to say something more when she hears a faint, odd sound just before the elevator indicates they've arrived. "Do you hear that?" It's kind of like … when her mother's Jack Russell would demand to be let outside to chase squirrels.

*

Dana considers that. "I'll see what I can find for you," she promises. Then, she catches the scratching on the door as the elevator lifts to the right floor and Rex's eyes narrow. They gleam red for a moment or two and he bunches his shoulders.

"Something…" Dana confirms as reaches out to brush the hellhound's invisible shoulders, though Pepper cannot see him in the lift with them. It is enough to tell the cwn annwn not to automatically attack when those doors starts sliding open.

*

"Miss Potts, there's something at the-" JARVIS doesn't get it quite all out before the door opens.

*

Inara sees the door open and is trying to catch the spotted hyena by the scruff, but is too late. It gives a sort of bark and then pounces at and then away from the invisible hellhound. She bounds about in the room and then hunkers down in a 'play with me' stance'. "Ms. Potts, I… allow me to introduce Cora. Again. In her more… favored form." She smiles at the other woman. "Would you be the puppy she was looking for?"

*

Pepper Potts startles with a gasp at seeing a hyena… puppy… right there at the door, but she recovers from that surprise even more quickly than she did finding an injured gigantic wolf in her office. Of course, the happy wiggling and the play bow really help instill the image that this critter — sorry, Cora — is by no means intentionally malicious. She smiles a hello to Inara along with a brief headshake no as she steps out of the elevator and to one side to give Dana and Rex room to exit as well, then kneels down to be closer to Cora's level.

"Hello again, Cora."

*

Dana regards the hyena for a moment, blinking as she registers the woman's words. Indeed, she can see the girl's form overlaid with the puppy's… which is a little odd. But, she's seen odder. "No," she says politely, giving Inara a simple smile. "But animals do have a sense about them, don't they?"

Indeed, most animals can perceive the hellhound even when people can't. Most of them flee before him, though, to be fair, he isn't really manifesting his true hellish form. He's more an oversized, white German shepherd… if an invisible one for the moment. Usually, he's insubstantial, too, though he wasn't when the puppy pounced him simply to be a barrier between his mistress and the stranger.

Since the woman seems to have some sort of affinity with… if not magic at least shapeshifters, Dana makes a subtle shift in her body language which gives Rex permission to carefully move forward to inspect the playful puppy.

*

Inara looks like the mother of a rather hyperactive child, feeling the need to apologize for her child's every action. She rubs at one temple as Cora scampers over to Pepper to nuzzle at her and rolls over for belly rubs. To say that Cora has no decorum would be putting it mildly.

"This isn't actually standard behavior for her genus. She spent so much time around dogs though that I think some of their behavior might have worn off on her," explains the woman. She sees the dog as it appears and nods her head, smiling. She goes to sit down near Pepper.

"Well, I was hoping to try and tell you in a more … sedate setting, about Cora's talents."

*

There's the sound of heavy padded footfalls coming up the hallway. "Cora?" A deep voice calls. "Inara?"

The Old Wolf comes into view. He's scarred and limping on one of his rear legs, but there can be absolutely no mistaking what he is. "Ah there you are. And Miss Potss…. and Rune. Greetings seer."

Pepper gets an odd look. "For someone with no magical talent of her own, you do seem to get around."

*

Pepper Potts seems entirely okay with a hyper hyena puppy who behaves like a canine puppy getting up close and personal with her, and obligingly rubs her sternum for a moment before gesturing to the now-visible Rex.

"Is he why you're all excited, Cora?" And then she hears the Old Man (wait, no, that's Coyote. Old Wolf) and looks over at him.

"How are you feeling today…?" She doesn't get to finish her sentence as that's when JARVIS speaks up again.

"Miss Potts, lunch is on its way to you. Perhaps adjourning to the guest room would be advisable?" Of course, if one watches the indicator above the elevator doors, they'll see that the one car travelling upward currently is doing so more sedately than the others.

*

Inara sees Fenris and rises to walk over to him, stroking his side and looking over his wounds. She lets out a soft hrmm of disapproval, not seeming to trust the magical way they are healing. She scritches behind his ears, his head at her shoulder height. Cora rolls over to go and try to entice Rex to play with her, pawing at him as she giggles.

*

Dana looks up as the charge in the very aether around her seems to change. She watches the Old Wolf walk towards them and draws herself up and together swiftly. Indeed, it's entirely reflexive, at that point, but she looks more the Sidhe in that moment than in any other that Pepper has seen her in — save for that time in the Unseelie Court, of course. Except that, by Sidhe standards, she looks terribly human.

*

"Lord Fenris," she replies, stepping back with one foot and according him a courtly bow of the sort she reserves only for her Father. She knows better than to beard a wolf in his erstwhile den, after all. Rex's response is to break away from Cora and to turn to face the Wolflord. His ears tuck back and he twists to present his throat in submission, moving close to Dana… which means Cora goes ignored for a moment, because the Wolf of Ragnarok takes precedence over a shapeshifting puppy.

*

The God-Wolf smiles at the seer and her guardian/friend. "Thank you both for that, but this is Miss Pott's house. I am her guest as are you. Please, be at ease." He's been injured in a fight and his aura is a bit muted as he heals. The scars are fading but won't be gone for some time yet. At least he's small ish in this form. Only eight feet long.

"I am well enough Miss Potts. At the moment the biggest worry is entertaining young Cora. I can't exactly keep up with her at the moment. Fortunately she seems endlessly amused by my being locked in this form."

*

Pepper Potts looks over at Fenris, then straightens to standing again as Dana and — holy hannah — Rex both REACT to the great wolf. And, in some manner of crazy foresight, she steps forward quickly to scoop the hyena puppy up off of the floor, even if she's borderline too heavy and regardless of whether or not she struggles. She's taken her mother's Jack Russell to the local dog park enough times to stave off any potential unpleasantness before it can start. And really, even in full squirm, she doubts Cora would be more of an armful than Eileen.

*

Cora ignores Fenris. That's just daddy. He may look furry and big, but he smells just the same as always. There is new people and puppies to play with and — Ooh! Look! Exposed throat! Attack! — Cora is about to pounce on Rex, trying to assert her dominance, when she is unceremoniously scooped up by Pepper. This, of course, rewards Pepper with a face full of hyena tongue. Inara watches this performance and sighs, muttering something under her breath in Farsi again. (I will not use tranquilizers on my daughter.)

Instead, she looks to Fenris. "I have to admit, it took me a little while getting used to you in this form. It takes a bit of getting used to realizing you are dating a Norse god who happens to be a giant wolf.”

*

Dana rises gracefully, and Rex swells from the size of an oversized german shepherd to something considerably more formidable, though not quite so big as Fenris. Red eyes. Red muzzle and ears. Snow white coat. Black claws. Carefully, he approaches Pepper to sniff at the hyena pup. He then licks the pup's face, his tongue big enough to take in her whole head at once.

Meanwhile, the half-elf woman cants her head. She glances between Inara and Fenris, but then addresses the latter. "How are you trapped in that form?" she asks. "Perhaps I can help?"

*

Pepper Potts tolerates the hyena puppy lickings well enough, but then ReallyBigRex seems to be in on the act and, well… "How about we all head inside?" The elevator is getting closer, and really, there's only so long that JARVIS can delay the elevator. Oh, and Cora's kind of heavy, especially when she's squirmy.

*

Fenris shakes his head. "I'm not sure, Seer." He says in that low growly voice he uses. "When wounded griveously I become trapped in this form until healed. And much weaker. Fortunately my magic always takes me to a safe place to recuperate." He looks about and sighs. "Unfortunately I have no control over where, and my magic decided that Miss Potts' office was safe."

*

And Cora is very squirmy, especially when she's being groomed by Rex. No! She's the dominant one! She lands on the ground, nips at Rex's ankles and then runs down the hall, stopping to check every now and again if he's following her. Chase! Inara give Fenris one last loving scritch behind his ears. "You're lucky it was indeed safe. I was worried sick." he turns and heads after her daughter, muttering in Farsi again. (I will never get used to this magic business. Teleporting? Shape-shifting? Glowing lights?)

"Not right now it isn't," Pepper mutters faintly to herself.

*

Rex moves smoothly after Cora, though he's not racing by any means. He doesn't need to. He's curious about her. Most animals, after all, even other canines, flee from him — especially when he's in this form. He bats her lightly, across her shoulder and side, with one big paw.

Dana gives Inara a sympathetic look, though she can't understand the language. She can at least read the emotions and character in the woman's aura. "Pepper's offices are as safe as any place I've found," she admits with a mild shrug, glancing to her as she mutters about that damnable book. "Though, yes. We need to deal with that artefact."

She cants her head to the big wolf. "I've some healing potions, if you think they might work. Never leave home without them."

*

"If you think it wise to part with them. I will recover otherwise though. Thank you." The wolf turns to head toward the meeting room nearby. "I do not believe we have been properly introduced as yet. Please, call me Fenris. I claim no lordship here on Midguard but among beasts, and then only at need. And you? Your manners are… quite impeccable. Even for one of the Sidhe."

*

"Oh, I'm just being over protective. I am certain that Ms. Potts office and home are both incredibly safe. But getting a phone call from Stark Industries and told to come right away, is a little disconcerting." She pauses and offers out a hand. "Do excuse my manners. My name is Inara Bahrami. And that hyena is my foster daughter, Cora. Short for Crocuta. I was never very good at naming things."

*

Pepper Potts gasps and tries to keep Cora from falling roughly to the floor, but if she'd remembered from Eileen, hyper puppy dogs tend to bounce. And then the child…hyena…child… whatever is gone down the hallway with Rex following, and the elevator dings. Uh oh. She hastily wipes at her face then turns to meet the person who's just arrived before she can step out and see Fenris et al. "Becca, thank you so much. I'll get it from here," she tells the front desk security guard as she accepts the two canvas sacks that bring with them the smell of still-hot bread.

She watches the elevator depart again, then looks back to the others. "Lunch?"

*

Dana starts to move away from the elevator as Pepper moves towards it. She reaches into her satchel to pull out a rowan wood box. When she opens it, it contains a half dozen glass phials filled with an iridescent, transparent, pinkish liquid. "I don't know if it will work on you," the witch replies, "but one dose shouldn't hurt." She extracts it and pulls the cork.

A pause.

She smiles to Inara and inclines her head. "Dana Maddox," she says, giving her human name. Then, to Fenris, to make the pedigree complete, she adds, "Dana verch Arawn." Chances are good he'll recognize the name of the Lord of the Wild Hunt in her name. A notable, though not pre-eminent, homo magi line and the Celtic God of Death. A changeling by any other description.

Introductions past, she offers the wolf a sniff of the phial. She can pour it into a bowl once he's decided if it's worth it.

*

He does sniff and then nods with a smile. "Quite an exalted pedigree. Interesting, still, that I should find you here with the Lady of the House of Stark." Yes, that is a game of thrones reference, though the jest aside the suggestion that Pepper is somehow nobility is probably apt given the way she carries herself. "And lunch sounds delicious, thank you Miss Potts."

The great wolf lays himself down on a couch, taking up most of it. Okay, all of it unless one is prepared to get very well acquainted with him.

*

Cora comes sniffing around when the food arrives, little yips and growls given to Pepper. "No, Cora. Change back. Because people food is eaten by people. Because it's polite. Because I said so." The conversation seems mostly one sided unless they understand the animal speech of the hyena pup. She grumbles and shifts to her little girl form. She's not nearly as scruffy like this, washed and well dressed. "Thank you, Cora. Was that so hard?" asks Inara. "Gimme food now!" says the girl, causing Inara to groan.

She looks over at the large wolf on the couch. "Do you really think the school will be able to handle her?"

*

Pepper Potts shakes her head no at Cora while following Fenris et al into the sitting area of their guest room. "Food is much more fun when you share it with people. You'll see." Once everyone's settled in the same area as Fenris, she starts unloading the canvas bags onto the coffee table, though she starts by offering a softball-sized round loaf of bread to Cora to keep her temporarily occupied. "I wasn't sure what everyone would prefer, so I asked for a bit of everything."

The two bags contain the sort of feast one might expect from a renaissance faire. Several round loaves of crusty bread still hot from the brick ovens they were baked in along with just as many of the softball-sized 'rolls', bricks of cheese in no less than six different varieties and a clearly high end knife in a sheath, then cold cuts in the un-cut format: very generous chunks of ham and turkey and roast beef as if they'd been pulled from a deli cooler. Last but not least, well over a dozen different kinds of fruits and vegetables, all washed and peeled/chopped/sliced ready to be eaten. (There are strawberries, but they, unlike the rest, are securely packed in a lidded container.

*

Dana chuckles softly at Fenris' words, glancing to Pepper as she does. She's not the only one who's referred to the PA as a Lady, she knows. The reputation is, apparently, growing. "Mm. Well, I'd prefer to keep the Lady of this particular House of Stark away from Winter, if I can at all manage it." A beat.

"Never mind the rest of the cutthroat nobility attached to that particular court." A veiled reference to the Unseelie Court. In her world, the real life game of thrones she plays is every bit as deadly as GRRM illustrates. She'd sooner not play, truth be told.

Nevertheless, as Pepper lays out the spread, Dana arches a brow. "Though, I'm not so sure she's as unmagical as she likes to protest," she notes, a twinkle in her hazel eyes.

She moves, now, to find a small bowl — really not much more than a serviceable saucer — and dumps the contents of the phial into it before she brings it over and places it before Fenris. The potion is potent, but its dosage is designed for a body the size and mass of a human, which may mitigate it.

As the other gather, then, about the table, she takes a seat nearby for herself. Rex finds himself a spot where he can watch.

And maybe hope.

*

Cora snags the roll and starts to chew on it savagely. Inara calmly walks over to her and they have a very quiet talk. Cora doesn't look happy, grumbles, but Inara is quite firm. Finally, Cora sulks and nods. Inara stands up, giving her a kiss on the head and strokes her hair. "You'll have to excuse her. She was abandoned by her parents when her power manifested. She lived among stray dogs and fed herself out of garbage cans till we found her. We've been trying to socialize her but some days are less successful than others.

Inara looks down to Cora, who grumbles and heaves a sigh of resolution. "Cora is sorry, nice smelling Pott lady. Cora eat like a person now."

*

Fenris looks on amusedly at the group and smiles at Pepper. A moment later the wind flicks up and a small slice of turkey lands in front of Rex. Oh yes, Fen had nothing to do with that, not at all. "I'd prefer that as well. It's either that or initiate Pepper into a world that… most would prefer to ignore and with good reason." That's where he leaves that, though, because now there is food. "May I ask how you two know one another? I think yours was the spark of borrowed magic I scented on Miss Potts before, though I cannot be completely sure."

*

Pepper Potts tosses a bit of a smirk toward Dana. "Toss enough money around, and it can sometimes resemble magic. Best part, I can write this off as a business expense because of the photo proofs." She'd be exasperated by that whole 'Lady' talk again, but it's just such a relief to be away from her office she lets it slide. This time.

There are, actually, double (maybe triple) portions of the turkey. Probably in deference to Fenris' current situation, though it should be easy enough to share with Rex. Of course, since the Old Wolf already made that choice for them… "Please, everyone, help yourselves. No standing on ceremony here." But in spite of her words, Pepper picks up the knife and offers it to Dana to check for acceptability before trying to use it on any of the foodstuffs. "And Cora, I asked them for apples, just for you." She gestures to draw the girl's attention to the slices.

*

Rex grins as the turkey lands before him. He bobs his head once at the wolflord and then makes quick work of the meat. Dana, meanwhile, glances at the knife. "You always find the most unusual alternatives," she notes, flashing her a grin that tells her the titanium is fine. She extracts two more phials from her rowan box and then closes it up and places it back in her bag. Turning to Inara she says, "Give the Wolflord one of these each day — tomorrow and the day after. He'll be trapped for a briefer period of time."

Then, she glances back to him. "I've had occasion to do some photography work for Miss Potts and Mr. Stark. Unfortunately, that drew some unexpected, and undesirable attention to her, which necessitated a more formal alliance."

*

Inara sits and looks over at all the food. She decides to forgo the meat today, picking at the fruit and bread. "I do hope that everything is alright for Ms. Potts now."

*

The Old Wolf chuckles as he watches his family interact with what appears to be the Court of House Stark. That conjures up an amusing mental image, really. "Family troubles, was it Dame Maddox? Inara could relate, sadly." She's had to deal with his own family. It wasn't pleasant. For anyone. Except possibly Loki. Then again Loki never cares what anyone thinks.

*

Pepper Potts steps over to the kitchen in the guest room and brings back plates for everyone, Rex included, in case anyone wants one. Then, after returning Dana's smile she starts slicing up the cheeses and meats, taking modest but not miniscule portions of everything for herself. Oh, and then she reaches to tear a dome-shaped loaf of bread open, releasing garlicky steam. "Amusingly enough, Dana was a last minute fill-in photographer for us, but I am so glad that things turned out the way they did. Family troubles aside, her photos really are superb."

*

"Dana, please," the photographer tells Fenris — and Inara, really. Dame isn't her title, in any case, though she makes no effort to correct anyone on that score. She's bumped into Loki once. It wasn't fun for her, either. Fortunately, she hasn't seen the trickster god since. Not even in the common room of the Silveroak.

She takes a polite portion of food for herself, and then ensures that Rex gets something more as well. "But, aye. Family troubles, after a fashion. The game thrones, you could say." She smiles, though, at Pepper's compliment. "Photography is a great escape from such things."

*

"And it seems that the Fae would be good at things involving image, to me at least. But your humility does you credit, Dana." Fenris is very impressed with humility. Not surprising considering who he grew up with. Humility is not a virtue in Asgard. Beer is. Lots of beer.

*

Dana's family is perhaps a little out of Inara's understanding. While she is starting to understand the ins and outs of Fenris' own family line and the mythology associated with it, his is a special case. And so, she just listens politely, learning things by observation. As she listens, Inara cuts up food for Cora, anything that she wants. While Inara may be strict about her halaal eating habits, Cora doesn't have to be. "May I ask what the photos were for?" she asks, hoping she isn't intruding.

*

Pepper Potts notices which foods Inara is avoiding and is taking mental notes. That's just how she is. "Stark Industries is going to be mentioned in a scientific publication in November, and of course they had to have photos of Tony and the tower and various and sundry to go along with it. Dana brought the proofs of the photo shoot today so we could look them over." Usually Tony also puts a vote in, but not always. Reaching for a small bunch of grapes, she adds somewhat idly, "The last article that was published with her photos included apparently was one of the more popular ones to date for the publication."

*

"The original photo shoot I did for them was for Scientific America," Dana notes. She glances to Fenris at his observation and compliment, acknowledging it with a simple nod. Truth be told, her skill with a camera is more the consequence of her Sight than it is her fae nature specifically. The only way she can see the world as others do, without all the distractions of auras and shadow world overlays, is through the photos she produces. But, again, that's not something she shares. It puts too much focus on her Sight. "Though, my favorite photo of that shoot was a candid we never did use." It looked to 'honest' to be Tony Stark in earnest. She's also know as a gallery photo artist, and a photojournalist of some note, but in both cases, she's still largely at the beginning of her career. Notable enough to be recognized by people in the industry and people who keep their eyes on 'new artists', but not so recognizable as to be anywhere near a household name.

*

Fenris is neither. He is, however, in the habit of keeping an eye on interesting people, and Dana most certainly qualifies now. "I shall have to look up your work. If Pepper finds you invaluable, I can imagine you must be quite good indeed." Also Dana is magical and while he's fairly certain he'll have no trouble wwith her, given all the various problems in the city of late, someone might.

*

"Well, hopefully this publication has equally good success then," says Inara. She notices Pepper's glance to her plate and chuckles. "I try to keep halaal whenever possible. I am not as strict as some, but it's how I was raised. Still, I won't turn down a good bacon cheeseburger, as long as no one from my mosque is around." She raises a finger to her lips, trying to look sweet and innocent. "Do you mind if I get your card, Dana. The Bronx Zoo is always looking for publicity to get people in the doors."

*

Pepper Potts offers Inara a smile. "I know a fantastic Halaal butcher shop in Queens. Maybe I can contact them at some point. You did still want to talk about funding opportunities?" She glances at the still unopened container of strawberries and … just can't do anything about them. Maybe she'll take them back down to Becca. She loves strawberries.

*

Again, Dana smiles to Fenris words, though her response is a modest, conceding tilt of her head that's somewhere between a nod and a twist. "Privately, I'm working on a collection of life-in-the-city candids from Hell's Kitchen. I'm to have the collection ready for the Howard Greenberg Gallery in the fall." A small gallery specializing in unique photography, located in the Fuller Building in Midtown. I'm looking forward to it." She seems far more human as she speaks about her work. Far more relaxed, in fact.

She glances to Inara at her request and her eyes twinkle some. "Of course," she says, smile widening. "I'm always looking for new clients and interesting subject matter." She turns and rifles through her nearby satchel until she finds her business card case and extracts a card from it to give to the woman.

*

Fenris watches with a smile. "If it ever comes up, I'll keep that in mind. I don't often have need for a photographer but…I may occasionally know people who do. I'll try not to send any who are too odd your way." And he knows some odd ones. It's a combination of having his kind of money - even if he doesn't really use it - and living as long as he has. "Does your family often take interest in your work? Or your employers?"

*

Inara shakes her head when Cora points at the strawberries. "Not right now, Cora. Maybe we can take some home with us, when Miah is better." She takes the offered business card and puts it aside to put into her purse later. "I would love to talk to you about that, Ms. Potts. We've had an idea for an animal exchange with some of the other zoos in other large cities, like Gotham and Metropolis. It will help to add some interest for our visitors and maybe some diversity in the breeding programs."

*

Pepper Potts sees that most everyone is pretty much done eating — though she slips Cora another cube of cheddar — and starts packing up the leftovers. "Oh, I do /not/ want to eat turkey for the next week. Rex, help me out here." She sets most of the remaining turkey on a plate for the hellhound and keeps on packing. "Would you like to keep any of this to snack on later? I know the R&D folks never turn down free food, and otherwise I'll just be taking it home so it won't go to waste." She glances to Dana, it's nearly time to go back and look over the proofs. And put up with that damned book.

*

Rex happily accepts the PA's offering, more than willing to take care of any leftovers. "I'm fine," Dana replies. Let the others keep the food, if they want. She'll be fine with whatever Wassea's cooking up, this evening. As Pepper glances at her, the photographer nods faintly. They do have work to do, after all. Those proofs won't choose themselves.


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