|A Familiar Face
Author: lucky str1k3 PM
"So, are you doing anything later?" "Tony." A pause. "Your calculator's burning."Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Romance - Iron Man - Words: 3,646 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 9 - Published: 06-10-10 - id: 6039773
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A Familiar Face
Chapter One: The Fractal in a Peanut Butter Jar
In the midst of a playground, a young boy with dark hair, intelligent blue eyes and an awaiting gaze sat alone on a wooden bench. He looked out of place with the other children playing on the swings, slides, monkey bars and what-have-you. A swirl of activity, a cacophony of noise, yet this boy was as quiet as a mouse, choosing not to waste his breath or his energy.
The young boy, known as 'Tony' to his peers, sat quietly, waiting for one of his best mates so they can go purchase a frozen dairy product known as 'ice cream'. Unfortunately, first graders weren't known for patience.
The said boy sighed, agitated. If she doesn't show up in five minutes…
Finally, after what seemed like hours (a minute and thirty-four seconds, Tony noticed) of scrutinizing every human activity on the playground, she came.
Black hair, brown eyes and a sheepish expression were her defining traits as she inevitably drew closer. Yup; that was her, alright. Tony sat up straighter to contemplate his friend. She was different from the others, choosing to keep her dark hair long while the current fashion trend was a bob cut.
Narrowed blue eyes regarded her with a look that clearly said, 'where have you been?'
Out of breath, the she panted, "I – I'm sorry, I'm late, it's just that mom told me to do my chores and then my little brother–" the girl continued her babble; almost all the words resorting to gibberish. After a moment she sheepishly looked up at her friend.
"We could go get ice cream now?" she suggested, flashing what she hoped was an apologetic smile. The girl prayed he would understand, and was soon rewarded with one of Tony's own smiles.
"Let's go," Tony said, as he got up, still grinning, but more eagerly at the prospect of ice cream.
First graders also weren't known for holding grudges.
Everything seems alright, Tony Stark, now grown up and suited in armor of his own design, thought as he flew over Super Hero City.
Tony, or Iron Man as he was now often called, was patrolling the city because – well, let's just say things were getting a tad stingy aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier , and everyone unanimously agreed that he needed to relax. Thus, he was currently surveying the city at about three o'clock at the afternoon.
Overtime, unease began to settle in his mind yet he didn't know exactly why. One could have labeled it as intuition, or perhaps simply a random hunch, if Tony ever believed in superstition. Fortunately for him, there was no trouble brewing in this currently calm, peaceful city.
Taking a left turn at Gingham Avenue,Iron Man's gaze turned downwards, expecting normal cars, normal citizens and basically all-around normal activity. Unfortunately, dreaded suspicious activity greeted his perceptive eyes. Looks like I spoke too soon…
Below, a rapidly moving figure was heading away from what looked like MODOK and the Abomination, who were doing their best to catch up.
"Can't you go any faster, you doofus?"
"Me? You're the one with the floating chair!"
As Doom's henchmen's pointless banter reached his audio-sensors, Tony used his extensive machinery and remarkable wits to deduce that yeah, the person-thing-whatever they're chasing probably has a fractal. Go figure.
Speaking about that moving target, Iron Man thought it was high-time to examine it closely. However, the more he tried to get a good look at who (or what – after all, you never can tell) was running away from the villains, the more it seemed to be a purple blur. Hmm. Who do I know that wears purple? Tony thought, well, there was that girl I dated a week ago…Then again, it could be just Hawkeye… but he would've just shot them already…
In the midst of Iron Man's intense speculation, it vaguely occurred to him that he should have been able to properly analyze the object in motion, but he simply chalked it up to armor malfunctions. Damn bugs…
Suddenly, the moderately fast purple blur – a person, Tony now realized as it, err, they slowed – seemed to stumble on something; the human (thank god) flailed their arms in a desperate attempt to lessen the inevitable impact. It worked, but only for them to land awkwardly in a mock push-up position, grazing their left leg against the hard, unforgiving ground in the process. Ouch.
The good news was, now that the person had stilled, he could finally get a closer look. Long black hair covered their upper body portion, but judging by the person's slender curves, it appeared to be a young woman. Deciding to descent, Tony took a brief double-take. Yeah, definitely female.
Of course, things just had to go wrong at this particular moment.
It was as if time had slowed down. Iron Man couldn't get his systems to respond no matter how he tried; he simply ceased his motion and was currently hovering in the air. (Thank goodness for the back-up system override.)
Ordinarily, he would have leapt at the chance for everything to be still for once, but it seemed as if only Tony was locked in suspended animation. To add to this misfortunate predicament, MODOK and the Abomination had (momentarily) halted their incessant bickering and were now gaining on the fallen woman.
Swearing excessively in his mind, Tony tried his best to reboot his systems; he just had to save that civilian somehow. Call it instincts if you will, but a hero's job is to save innocent people. Either that or die trying. Hopefully this wouldn't be the case. Unless Iron Man wasn't suffering from some advanced form of paralysis, he was pretty sure he was going to be all right.
The same couldn't be said for the woman.
In the shadows, obscured from vision, a manic grin spread over a cloaked patron's face. Almost cackling with glee, the mysterious person observed the current on-goings rather smugly. This will show them.
Meanwhile, helpless as he was, Iron Man watched the scene below him unfold, oblivious of the other spectator's presence.
The fallen woman struggled to stand up, her efforts quite admirable considering that the injury she sustained had the possibility to be rather severe. About a few feet away, MODOK and Abomination tried to get to her before she could succeed or before the mutate  floating a little ways away, snapped out of his questionably insufferable paralysis, which seemed unlikely at this moment.
With great difficulty, the raven haired woman finally managed to stand up.
"What the heck do you want from me!" she yelled loudly, pain making her tone rise shrilly. She staggered slightly whilst trying to maintain a fierce death-stare at the villains.
"Aw, is the little girlie is giving up?" MODOK taunted, his voice laced with mockery as he ignored her question. He and Abomination laughed, the polar-opposite pitches of their voices creating a rather ear-grating sound.
The 'little girlie' gritted her teeth and glared harshly at them.
However, Iron Man couldn't help but noticed the way she pain-stakingly limped forward. Curious, despite himself, Tony temporarily paused his futile struggling to see what she would do.
The woman spied a fallen lamp post, and grabbed it with as much haste as the injured could muster. (The lamp post in question had been quite rudely rammed into by the Abomination a little while ago as he turned his head to respond to his 'comrade's' degrading remark. The impact of the wayward Abomination crashing into it made the poor lamp post submit to the crushing defeat of gravity.)
Evidently overcoming her pain for the moment, the woman tensed, placing her newly-found weapon a couple inches above her shoulder. Determination and rage were present in her face as she charged, preparing for… could it be? Is she actually doing what I think she's doing? Incredulous, Tony could only watch as the lamp post-wielding civilian proceeded with her actions.
Meanwhile, hearty sniggering emitted from the villains as they noticed the ridiculous lamp post weapon. It stopped abruptly, when MODOK was hit square in the face – by the angered woman with amazing concentration, given the circumstances – which sent him flying backwards a few feet, into yet another lamp post. Dazed, the villain could not find the strength to get up. The Abomination however, was a different story; he was still snickering loudly due to the woman's skillful display of baseball.
Thinking that the woman couldn't handle the rather distracted Abomination (it wasn't hard to guess, seeing her coordination had – yet again – lapsed, and she was now treating the lamp post as a sort of stand-support– who knew lamp posts were this handy?) Tony once again tried to reboot his systems, only to find out that they were working quite perfectly and that he had finally regained control of his limbs (it's about damn time.)
Bringing out his repulsors, he aimed them at Abomination, who despite all that had happened, was still laughing hysterically and clutching his stomach for effect. The blue beam hit the green disfigured monster in the chest, causing him to fly back into the large street, right next to the unconscious MODOK.
Deactivating his repulsors for the moment,Tony flew down to attend to the strange, injured woman, wave upon wave of questions swirling in his mind. Where's the fractal? Who is she? And finally, Is she single?
"I assume you're pretty talented at baseball," Tony remarked, raising an eyebrow as he studied the woman he had technically just saved. He could see that she was shorter than he was, the top of her head coming up to his line of sight. (This was probably due to all the extra inches Tony put into his custom-made boots, but he'll never admit that.)
The woman's outfit were of the casual kind – a pair of jeans that were rather dirty from her fall on the street, black flats that peeked out of the bottom of the filthy fabric, and a purple jacket (hence the purple blur) that partly covered a black shirt with a flaming arrow emblazoned on it.  Guess I wasn't far off with that arrow thing. A lilac messenger bag was slung haphazardly around the woman's shoulder, and the arm that held the lamp post was adorned with a digital violet watch.
Conceding that, while a female's outfit hinted largely at their constituted personality, Tony figured that looks couldn't hurt chances either.
Long glossy hair framed her face (which was actually not bad-looking when you look at it) and her almond-shaped eyes which seemed very expressive. Ultimately, Iron Man decided that she was one of undeterminable age, her features that of an adult, yet her height and what he presumed were her 'trendy' disposition made her seemed quite young. Though, if he had to guess, he'd say that they were at about the same age. Awesome.
While Iron Man was busy heavily scrutinizing her (i.e. checking her out thoroughly), the woman had managed to prop herself up, leaning on the lamp post almost casually as if it were a cane. "I, uh, used to play, actually." She used her free hand to rub the back of her neck sheepishly. "And I doubt that I could've reached a trash can's cover and use it the way Captain America would to his shield."
Tony hesitated, dreading the way she knew this information and the sudden tone in her voice. It sounded very much like a fan girl, and he had enough of those types of people to last him nightmare material that could span at least a good... eight life-times. He still shuddered at the thought of that one episode a couple of days ago involving chaos-filled buses and his highly prized underpants...
The woman held out her free hand. "My name's Hailey. Hailey Rose." Her underlying tone suggested a vague sort of hope. Tony didn't exactly pay any mind to it, as he was too relieved by the fact she hadn't gone up to 'step two' of the 'fan-girl-affection-routine' – which was to scream the name of the object of affection a lot times, then pounce into the speech of how they were your biggest fan blah blah blah, and they would call their fellow fan girls and clusters of them would go on and trample you beneath their various, not to mention horrendous doujinshis that depicted himself and Steve in several unmentionable positions...
"Tony. Tony Stark," he mimicked, taking her hand and giving it a shake as he met her gaze. Hailey – That is what she said her name is... right? – didn't exactly let his armored hand go right away, pausing to smile pleasantly at him before she did so. This, coupled by the fact that she was infinitely better-looking when she smiled, was definitely a good sign.
"So, do you know why MODOK and Abomination were chasing you?" Iron Man asked, choosing to get the matters of importance over before focusing on more… trivial yet just as important things (such as asking if she was free for dinner.)
"Well…" The female furrowed her ebony brows in thought. "I was supposed to be going to the grocery when I saw…a thing; you know the one that starts with the letter 'F'…a-a…" She started to wave her left hand about, slightly frustrated that she couldn't place a name on what exactly she had seen.
Iron Man, being the chivalrous lad he was, tried to help her out.
"A fractal?" he guessed, as it was most likely what Doom's goonies were after.
"Yeah, that's it. I saw one right there behind that cafe." Hailey nonchalantly jerked her thumb in the direction of the aforementioned establishment. "And I just couldn't let MODOK and the Abomination take it. So I grabbed it and ran."
"Hmm… I see." Not very conventional, but it does take some guts to do face them powerless like that. Unless… "Are you from around here?" Iron Man half-hoped she wasn't (after all an opportunity to show her round town could present itself.) But then again, he'd have trouble explaining what exactly a fractal was to an (un)lucky tourist, if that was the case…
"I'm from Far-Side, actually." 'Far-side' was the locals' term used to describe the clusters of homes facing away from 'The Wall' and subsequently Villain Ville. That part of the city seldom witnessed any attacks and/or boastful proclamations of 'eventual' world domination.
Iron Man gave a brisk nod of acknowledgement. That would explain how she knew their names, and why she took it. "Do you have the fractal?" Fractals first, Tony hastily reminded himself, before he could delve deeper in his speculations.
"Yup; it's right here," Hailey answered absently as she rummaged through her messenger bag. After a few second, her hand emerged victoriously with a gleaming red particle of the Infinity Sword in a Skippy jar.
She handed it to the superhero in the suit of armor, smiling triumphantly. Added to the fact that she was still leaning on the lamp post made it look like a great feat
"Thanks," Tony replied, accepting the fractal and appearing somewhat shocked at the easy winning. "Do you always bring a peanut butter jar everywhere you go?" He flashed a semi-teasing smile.
A rather interesting shade of pink tinged Hailey's cheeks. "Not really; I just had to buy some peanut butter because we're all out, and the kid at the grocery store doesn't know where they re-arranged some things," she explained and gave a sheepish smile in behalf of the kid in question.
Tony chuckled lightly. After all this worrying over nothing, he deserved to have a good laugh (albeit not like the hysteric manner the Abomination did). But the universe seemed to be out to get him today, as there was something else to worry about.
Tony's gaze fell to the woman's left leg as blood was beginning to seep through the blue fabric of her jeans. The worst part was, she didn't really seem to be bothered by it anymore. Has she lost the feeling in her leg? This was definitely not a good sign. Iron Man wondered if he should run (or in this case fly) her to the hospital.
Before he could inquire about her health, however, the lamp post she was leaning on abruptly gave way, splitting itself in half. The sudden loss of her support would have sent Hailey sprawling on the ground (once again) if it wasn't for Iron Man who quickly sprung into action and caught her before she fell.
"I – I guess that lamp post wasn't very sturdy, huh?" Hailey averted her eyes, an abashed blush rising on her face as Tony helped her regain her equilibrium.
Iron Man quirked his eyebrows. "It must be, if it withstood the Abomination's impact. Maybe you're just heavy."
"Well, excuse me," Hailey huffed, the redness in cheeks this time due to self-righteous indignant, "but that peanut-butter was low-fat!"
Amused, despite everything, Tony shook his head at that. Suddenly remembering that his conversational partner could be in mortal danger (he still didn't know the severity of her injury after all), Iron Man hastily asked Hailey if she wanted him to accompany her to the hospital.
She shook her head. "No, thanks. I'm good."
It took a second for his brain to register that she said 'no'. The words, Are you insane?, were at the tip of Iron Man's tongue before he realized that she probably wasn't in her right mind. Preparing himself to carry her bridal-style to the hospital, Tony's train of thought was cut short as Hailey did yet another unconventional thing.
Wincing, she kneeled down and rolled up the left side of her pants (instead of panicking like practical people would do when they've attained a possibly severe injury) and covered the bloody wound with her hands.
To Iron Man's utter astonishment, her hands, as well as the surrounding area, acquired a faint green hue. Gobsmacking moments later, she removed her hands, revealing the nonexistent wound.
Looking satisfied, Hailey returned her pants to its previous state before she stood up and tested out her left leg. "Much better."
"I thought as much," Iron Man stated, after a quick deliberation. So fractals can have long-lasting effects, even after they've lost contact with a specimen… "How long did you come in contact with the fractal?"
Hailey blinked up at him, bemused. "I never touched the fractal."
"What?" It seemed as if Iron Man's brain refused to automatically process the things this woman said.
"I never touched the fractal," Hailey repeated, slower this time. "I scooped it up it the jar, 'cause I didn't want to risk being turned into a giant octopus or whatever."
"They don't always turn out to be octopi." Or octopuses? Tony didn't particularly care at this point.
"Yes, because sometimes they can become squids," Hailey quipped, doing her best to dust off her jeans.
"So, you've always been able to do that? Heal yourself, I mean." Civilians with unnatural abilities weren't unheard of, but Tony just wanted to get the conversation rolling again.
"Not… not always," Hailey responded with a slight shake of her head. "And not just myself; it works on others as well. It comes in handy with my line of work." She gave a sparse chuckle.
"Interesting." A mutate perhaps…
It was at this point that an awkward sort of silence enveloped the two as it didn't occur to Iron Man to ask for her occupation and no topics (that were relevant to the situation, mind you) were coming to Hailey's mind.
"So, are you doing anything later?" Iron Man asked out of the blue, interrupting the suddenly preferable silence.
"Tony," Hailey stated his name in a monotone, her chocolate brown eyes devoid of any emotion; the effect was that her overall tone and expression seemed to be rather flat.
The hero in question took one look at her exasperated expression and concluded, she's going to say no, isn't she? He inwardly cursed himself. Was she sending mix-signals? Or have I been misreading things again? A horrid thought struck him. …She's 'that girl I dated a week ago', isn't she? His blue eyes widened in dawning horror. …I should have just fled when I had the chance.
As Tony began to ever-so-slowly inch away in an inconspicuous and most importantly undetected manner, Hailey said something completely and utterly random that it stopped Iron Man in his tracks.
"Your calculator's burning."
A/N: 1 – You know, mutates, the dudes/dudettes who get their powers from scientific experiments (Captain America), lab accidents (Spider-Man), magic (Dr. Strange), or technology (Iron Man).
2 – Hunger Games FTW~
Thanks to: Calm–Waters for beta-ing. [You're awesome, dude, don't deny it~]
Apologies for the countless revisions, and I promise this'll be the last one (on the first chapter, perhaps… /smashed by the Hulk) Chapter Two is in the works, though, and I'll do my best to hurry it along.