it was Steve who noticed first. Steve newly returned from the dead,
who noticed that Tony was skipping more meals than normal. Steve who
started coming down to the lab, or the workshop bearing sandwiches or
He ate them, mainly because it made Steve smile and relax slightly when he did.
And if to do that while achieving his goal, he had to visit the bathroom to heave it all up, it was worth.
Steve wasn't sure why he was here.
Partly it was because Nick Fury was his oldest friend, with the exception of Bucky, who he wasn't sure he knew any more.
Mainly it was because Nick was the only person who didn't have an axe to grind with Tony.
That didn't mean he had any idea how Fury could help him. To be honest he wasn't even sure what was wrong. Just that something was and that he needed a friend's advice about it.
He knocked heard the grizzled snarl of "come in." and obeyed.
Fury was sitting behind a mahogany desk that looked both out of place and completely natural amidst the high tec back drop of SHIELD. Cat sat balanced on the desk, regarding the files spread out over it. She smiled at Steve and he managed something that resembled a smile back.
He had known Cat for years, she had originally been one of the British Kid Commandos, but she had also been a SHIELD Agent, or more accurately SHIELD link to British Intelligence during both Maria Hill and Tony's tenure of directorship. Rumours around the avengers indicated that she had been less than happy with the situation, and would have resigned had her superiors not forbidden it.
"Cap." Nick Fury was smiling, the stub of an unlit cigar protruding from between his teeth. "What can I do for you?"
His glance ran over Cat, who got to her feet.
"I need to talk the bigwigs anyway." She said, sliding off the desk. Pausing by the door, she added, "The information you'll need is in the desk. Second drawer."
Then she was gone. Fury shook his head.
"I've got to find out how she's getting in here." He observed, quietly. Steve shrugged, sinking into the indicated chair. They sat in silence for a moment before Fury opened up the second drawer of his desk and withdrew a leaflet.
EATING DISORDERS the title proclaimed. And suddenly, for reasons he didn't understand, Steve felt relieved.
He's wearing the armour all the time now, not that anyone's noticed. He opens the helmet occasionally and that seems to satisfy most of them.
Logan remarked that he stank, and looked at him strangely for a moment, but it's nothing really. He made some explanation about a late night in the shop, and that seemed to satisfy Logan. He left him alone anyway.
He moves over to the table, wishing that the whirling noise in his head would stop.
He finished the pamphlet and breathed out.
On the one hand he's relieved to know that others share his concerns, even if they don't know how to approach them.
On the other, if the pamphlet is correct, and knowing Cat it almost certainly is, he's in bigger trouble than he thought.
The pamphlet advised seeking medical help if the condition had been there for more than some months, or if they weighed less than 85% of the expected weight for their height and age. Tony had been doing this at least since Steve came back, and that was nearly 6 months ago, and the evidence for his weigh been dangerously low was piling up.
Unfortunately getting Tony to accept that he needed help, as he knew from experience, was nearly impossible, until he hit the bottom.
He opened his mouth to ask for Fury's advice, but a knock on the door stops him. Fury's face went scarlet.
"Dam it, I gave definite instructions._"
Teresa stepped in.
"Sorry sir. But I have a priority one message for Captain America." Her face was grim. He hadn't seen her look so serious since the Winter Soldier incident. "Dr Pym asks if you can meet him at the Beth Israel. Now."
"Peter found him." Hank Pym was running to keep up with Steve's strides. "He just went to the lab to get something and found him lying on the floor." He shook his head, slightly. "They can't get the amour off. We've tried the override codes, but they're not…" he trailed off as they approached the room. A red and gold figure lay on the table, completely still.
"They're scared. I...they can't get any readings, or anything." He added, too quietly for anyone except possible Wolverine to hear. "They aren't even certain if he's alive currently."
The red and gold figure lay perfectly still amidst the white tiles and monitors. Steve moved rapidly towards him. The Doctor made like he wanted to object, but Fury held up his SHIELD card, and the protest died before it began. Steve ran his fingers over the armour, his breathing shallow and rapid.
"Armor overrides Steve Rogers," he said, the words hurting his throat. "Code 34-44-54-64."
It was the old code, prior to the civil war and Nick almost moved to tell Steve that. Then he realised that the armour was falling away, clattering to the floor. The medics swarmed past him, to do their jobs. Not, however before Nick had got a good look at the situation.
"It was bad?" Cat asked, taking a sip of her tea. Fury had no idea how she managed to drink it, as it had enough sugar in it to give any normal human cavities.
"I've seen concentration camp survivors with more flesh on them."
"Not your fault." It was a wasted sentiment and they both acknowledged it.
"I knew there was something up, I didn't realise how bad it was." She said, shaking her head. Fury snorted.
"No one did. All still too mad at Stark."
Cat snorted. "I wasn't mad at him, until he started supported That Stupid Registration Act. And he got what he deserved for that." She shook her head, realising that they were about to go into a frequently repeated argument. "Anything I can do?"
Fury nodded. "Shrinks want to know how long this has been going on for."
Cat shrugged. "I noticed it at the second anniversary of Steve's death. Could have been going on for a while before. I'll check my tapes and send the details to them."
"Why not just give them the tapes?" asked Fury, with a grin.
"I don't think the world is ready for the Spiderman bedroom games." Cat laughing slightly. "I'll get them to you before my shift."
Fury shifted uncomfortably. "You might want to talk to the kid before you do that."
And it was mark of how serious he looked, that Cat didn't tell him that James wasn't a kid.
"что же, спрашивается?"
"Relax Natalia." Cat leaned back from the chair. "It's just me."
The Russian stepped into the computer room, blinking at flickering screens.
"I thought you would be with James." She said.
"Um." Cat said, her eyes never leaving the screen.
"Ah! You two had a fight."
"We did not have a fight!" Cat said, her eyes fixed upon the screen. "We had a free and frank exchange of opinions."
"Isn't that how Monty Python defined an argument?" Natalia said, sinking into a chair opposite. She paused for a moment. "I saw the costume is missing."
Cat's eyes remained fixed on the screen.
Cat snorted. "Trust me. Putting on your mentor's robe is trouble."
"He didn't do too badly." Natasha felt obliged to defend the man who she had been partnered with.
"It's not the point." Cat sighed. "Steve's Steve. And James is James. They're different people. Now more than ever. It's...wrong." she sighed. "This is the first crisis Cap's faced since he got back. It's taking his confidence. It's..." she shook her head. "I don't want to talk about it!"
had known Cat long enough to recognise when she would be wasting her
breath trying for an answer.
"This for Fury?" she asked, casually running her eye down the list of names, several of which looked familiar.
"Kind of." She clicked a tab at the bottom of the screen. "Fury asked me to try and figure out how Long Tony had been-"
"Starving himself." Natasha suggested.
"Not eating." Cat confirmed. "As far as I can tell, it seems to have started here." A picture of the front page on the anniversary of Steve's death stared out at her. At the expression on Natasha's face, she nodded. "Yeah. My reaction." She clicked another tab. "this is from two weeks later." A still of Tony appeared on the screen. The face was pale, with huge bags under the ears. He was wearing a huge MIT sweatshirt and baggy trousers. "The shrinks say it's unlikely that this is the first time that Tony done this, and I agree with them." She swung around on her chair to face Natasha. "Jarvis denies any knowledge of Tony ever pulling something like this, and No one from your end knows anything. That pretty much leaves only one time unaccounted for. Tony's college years."
"So what's this?" Natasha asked, through she had a pretty good idea.
"List of all MIT graduates for three years before and after Tony." Cat said calmly. "I'm running it against Stark industries Christmas lists, which given the ease I had accessing the data, should have warned us something was up, and a list of patients at places that treated eating disorders during the same period."
"And supposing," Natasha couldn't help asking, "they used a false name."
Cat grinned. "Remember that program that Osborn designed? The one designed to recognise and indentify names based on the presumption that you never go too far from your real name?"
Natasha nodded. Cat continued.
"Figure it might as well do something to make up for all the harm it did."
Natasha nodded, and they sat in silence before the computer threw two names up at them. One of them Natasha recognised as Tiberius Stone. If it was him, they were screwed. The man might as well be dead. Cat however was smiling at the other.
"You ever been to Gotham?"