"How long has it been?"
"Four years, seven months, twelve days and about an hour," Tony Stark replied from his desk as he ran his fingers over his Iron Man helmet.
"You've really got it down," Carol Danvers – Ms. Marvel – smiled weakly.
"You know," he grinned, "roughly."
"What's on your mind, Tony?"
"It'd be easier to name something that isn't, Carol."
"If it actually gets you talking to something that isn't a machine, name it. It'd be good for you."
"Something that isn't on my mind?" Stark perked up. His face twisted in thought. "But if I tell you it'll put it on my mind, won't it?"
Stark stood, turning away from her and placing his hand on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Hellcarrier's window – more of a glass wall, really. "I'm going to lose my mind." His head fell forward next, a soft clink resonating from the window.
"Running this organization isn't as easy as you'd thought it would be, huh?"
"It isn't that."
Tony didn't reply – instead retreating to his thoughts as he so often did. As he so often had to.
Steve was dead. Half of the world hated him. He might as well be President, he thought jokingly to himself. Carol almost saw him smile.
Hell, half of the world might be Skrulls.
It would almost be easier that way – then half of the people he'd called friend, even considered family, wouldn't spit in his un-armored face given ample opportunity.
"What do you think Steve would do?"
Danvers stepped back. "What?"
"If he were in my shoes, here, now," Tony explained, "what do you think he would do?"
"Is something wrong, Tony?"
"…can't trust you," he thought sadly. She could be a Skrull. A spy. Someone sent to kill him – to kill everyone he's ever cared about; to destroy everything, everyone, he's been fighting for.
"Tony, you're dropping Steve's name. Answer me."
"Carol, I… I'd just like to be alone for a little while. I have some things to iron out."
"Should I take that bottle with me?" Carol asked, motioning to the bottle of Bourbon sitting on a desk not very far from the two of them. She was a little hurt.
"Not if you're going to drink it," he snapped. She'd had her own bout with alcoholism – Tony couldn't help but immediately regret saying it.
Danvers stood stunned – she knew she'd aimed low with her own remark but hadn't expected one in return. "I'll be seeing you."
And she was gone.
Stark stared into the clouds from his office. The Hellcarrier was thousands of feet up – he was alone now – so why did he feel so crowded? Why did he feel like he was amidst the battle of his life?
"We can't trust anyone," Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman, had told him. He had agreed. But did he even trust himself?
He turned, walking to the small table with the bottle of Bourbon.
"Four years, seven months, twelve days, about an hour," he said softly.
Tony Stark, Iron Man; Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.