Cowering disclaimer: Usually, I'm a DC chica, but Marvel always has the tendency to create badass characters they don't know what to do with. So I do my own fiddling and stuff.


First off, he's never done this before, and it's really uncomfortable and he'd really appreciate it if you could turn off the recorder.

"Can you do that?"

"Sure," you say, reaching a hand up to the recorder perched on the armrest. You clearly turn it off – show that the recording button is red and hold is in the "off" position – then place the machine on the desk behind you.

"You're still writing," he notes suspiciously, and you respond, "yes, I am."

"Could you stop that, too?"

This isn't new, and it's not necessarily welcome. You tell him, "Mr. Stark, it would be better for all of us if there is some indication of you being here. "

He shifts, Armani suit sliding over the leather couch opposite of you. There is a sharp anxiety clearly raking at him, but beneath all that, you can see the supercomputer at work behind the eyes, cataloguing everything and everything. He bites the inside of his cheek, sweeps the room and then blinks.

Bam. Problem solved. Solution found.

"You have a check with my name on it, right?"

And you nod slowly, aware of where his train of thought is shrieking at full speed.

"Checks mean you paid me, Mr. Stark, but it doesn't necessarily mean we were here. I write these notes not to embarrass you, but to figure out what we can talk about."

Another movement of unease. It takes you a second to realize that there are bruises on his face, however well-disguised they may be.

You forgot briefly that a week ago this man proclaimed to the world he was Iron Man. You're still not sure what that means, but if it is true and this man isn't completely insane, then it is correct to assume that Anthony Stark has battle scars and bruises.

You wonder who did his makeup. They did quite a good job.

Focus. The prodigal son is tapping a finger irritably on the cushion near his knee and the Board of Stark Industries has decreed that in order for Mr. Stark to keep his position on the Board, he has to go to a shrink for five visits.

You are that shrink. And you're being paid a shit load of money to do this. You presume that the wad of green serves both as an incentive to meet the Crazy Rich Guy as well as Keep Your Trap Shut or We Will Sue Your Ass to Kingdom Come.

There are no complaints; this money could pay for the Mustang's new exhaust manifold and an anniversary trip to Germany. The Wife will like that.

Stark stares at the notebook in your hand, the chicken-scratch. There is a quiet wariness behind his eyes, a focus that shows that something is slightly off-kilter with this man, no matter how nonchalant and charming he may try to come off.

Compromise. It's what you must do. You do not sigh like this man is a twelve-year old who's being difficult. You flick the cap back on the pen and look at Mr. Stark.

"Mr. Stark, if you truly feel uncomfortable with me writing anything down, then I won't write. Memory can serve me just as well."

He smiles then. Something three-quarters fake and maybe one-quarter real.

"How old are you?" he asks, and you hear the possible jab at your age.

"Not old enough to forget," you reply.

The smile loses more of its plastic feel, genuine amusement quietly leaking through. You both evaluate each other before Stark shakes his head. Waves a hand and leans back.

"Eh. Keep the notebook. You might need it."

Another deprecating poke at age. But you've been given permission to write.

Interesting. You chicken-scratch and Stark watches, still guarded but letting down a little bit of the armor.

"Thank you, Mr. Stark."

"Yeah." he says, still airy but there is that faint twang of tension – of being unsure.

There is small talk for ten minutes, a brief interlude of seriousness and a moment of silence. You ask him fairly harmless questions, nothing that will scratch at the dirt to find out what's underneath.

He relaxes on the subject of cars. Stiffens on the subject of artificial intelligence.

When the session is over in what seems to be a quick twenty minutes (and it was actually forty-five minutes – shocking), you recognize that time warps itself when one is dealing with truly complex people.

He does not give a specific date for when he will be in next, so you recommend two weeks, same time and place. He agrees, you give him a slip ("and this is just so, you know, we have an indication you were here" and he responds, "what, is this like my class pass or something?"). There is a shaking of hands and then him leaving the office, bodyguards stacked awkwardly out in the hallway like bulky domino pieces that have no hard-surface to arrange themselves on.

You stare down at your notepad and look up at the closed door.

You did not ask him about Iron Man.