Any smart girl would kill for that appointment, he said

Any smart girl would kill for that appointment, he said. Not, of course, that she needed it, his eyes nervous even if his half-grin was sly.

How on earth did he know who to call? Maybe June and December went to the same stylist? Redheads, both of them, and even if their implants could keep a battleship afloat, Tony's "friends" knew their haircare.

Happy Tuesday, he deadpanned. Of course you can accept it. Can't a boss… No? Interest, then, on all of your late birthday baubles. Besides, I've been working you too hard. Split ends, Ms. Potts? You usually put so much more work into your hair.

She huffed, she protested, she felt a bit dirty (Roberto Montoyez? She'd never afford Roberto Montoyez.) But he won, in the end, because you just didn't stand the man up.

The next day, perfectly coiffed with just a little curl that he matched with his mouth. He reached out – to touch it, oh god, so over the line – but no, he was just reaching for the paper behind her.

He would have told her she didn't cry well. Of course she didn't, not like this, not at the moment, because nobody sobbed well, nobody gracefully fell sideways off her stilettos and got snot all over her face.

She'd read her fair share of train novels. People were supposed to hear things like this in pieces, ears whooshing like wind tunnels, like they were disconnected from their bodies. Nobody ever remembered the call, crystal clear, like dictation. Nobody picked up the phone and dialed the firm, his tailor, his appointments and repeated it back, word for word, voice even. Certainly nobody sat back down and worked through the accounting once, twice, two-and-a-half before it hit, sick and wet and low in her stomach.

And certainly nobody stopped mid-sob, took two deep breaths before answering the ringing phone. Yes, Obediah, she'd stay on. Yes she'd keep up her usual routine and some of Tony's besides, yes she could be trusted to be discreet. Yes yes yes yes, until he was back.

Anyone could shoot him. Even in a room full of reporters, cameras flashing, they might escape in the confusion. And if they didn't, well, it would still be too late.

Every time. Ever since that crazy had taken a potshot at him in DC, she sweated through every press conference, every public appearance. She mentioned it, once, and he'd quirked a smile and yanked his collar open (three buttons lost, 300 reporters waiting for half an hour while someone got another shirt.) Of course he had body armor, lighter and stronger than Kevlar. Of course he'd worked countless little references into it. He'd want his shining armor to look the part.

How could it work, with the neck scooped so low she'd never felt it while fixing the knot on his tie? It didn't work – shrapnel right through it, right into him and damn if she believed that it would stop a bullet from shattering his bright blue heart. One shot, right now, and any one of them could kill a superhero.