I was really hoping that I'd have finished this story by the time I put it up but that clearly isn't going to happen anytime soon because I'm having such fun writing it!

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Bessie Sprint hopped from one foot to the other in the queue in an effort to keep warm.

'Next!' called the old brown-haired man from the counter.

'Name?' he asked, hardly bothering to look up as she approached.

'Elizabeth Sprint,' Bessie replied, brushing her short red hair out of her face.



'Date of birth?'

'Um… March 15… 1993.'

The man looked up at her, 'you don't sound sure about that,' he said.

'That's my birthday,' Bessie said firmly.

The man shrugged and looked back down. 'School or college?'

'The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.'

That got the man's attention. 'You go to MIT?' he asked staring at her in wonder.

'Yes, I do.'

The man looked incredulous. 'That's quite a way from here.'

'I manage.'

The man raised an eyebrow. 'What do you study?'

'Biological engineering.'

'Wow, although, if you go to a school like MIT I can't see why you'd need a job, it's only rich kids that go there. That Tony Stark, he went there and look how he turned out.'

'Flying around California in a metal suit?'

'Well quite. So why do you need a job if you're rich?'

'I won a scholarship, I'm not rich.'

'Impressive, alright, I need you to sign… wow, speak of the devil.'

Bessie turned around, just in time to see Iron Man crash into the pavement, bringing up a wave of concrete.

'Sorry kid we're closed,' the man said, running out the shop to join the crowd outside.

'But… I need…' Bessie stared after him and turned back to the form on the table. She filled the rest of it in and signed her name at the bottom, before pushing it onto the pile with the others and going back outside, pulling her thin jacket tighter as snow began to fall around her.

A large crowd of people had already formed around where Iron Man was standing up in the middle of the road. However Iron Man had hardly caught his balance before a large black shape smashed into him and sent him spinning through the air.

Bessie looked around; Iron Man had landed somewhere out of sight and the crowd were shouting so loudly it was hurting her head. She glanced around her. No-one was looking at the small, skinny girl with red hair, pale skin and green eyes wearing a faded pair of ripped jeans, a thin black cotton t-shirt, faded trainers and a worn black jacket, red scarf knotted around her neck.

Leave him, don't go after him.

Bessie sighed and turned, creeping into an alleyway and tightened her scarf so she wouldn't lose it. She then crouched down into a sprinter's position and with a soft boom! disappeared in the general direction of where Iron Man had gone.

When she reached the spot 0.15 seconds later Bessie straightened up and looked down at her clothes, there were a few more holes in them but on the whole nothing too bad.

Looking around her at the empty street, she saw a crater which Iron Man was sat on the edge of.

Stupid, stupid, why did you follow him? Do you want everyone to know your secret? I mean seriously.

Bessie didn't move, she only watched as Iron Man pulled off his gloves and removed his helmet, becoming Tony Stark in a matter of seconds. She had to admit that he was actually quite handsome, but at that moment blood was pouring down his face from a gash in his head, probably caused by the helmet. She watched as he dropped his head into his hands and moaned softly.

Bessie turned to walk away but her foot came down on an empty coke can and the result was a scrunch that echoed through the deserted street.

Tony Stark looked up, startled, and looked at her.

'Where did you come from so fast?'

Bessie opened her mouth to reply when the black thing dropped down into the street.

Bessie gasped. It was horrible, it vaguely resembled a bear except it was far larger and shrouded in a black mist.

Tony Stark jumped up. 'Stay still,' he said to her. 'Don't move, they're like T-Rex's, their sight isn't all that good.'

Bessie didn't move, trying hard to not even breathe. She hardly saw it when Tony grabbed a fallen glove and pulled it on, repulsing the bear-mutant-thing with it in the chest. The bear-mutant-thing stumbled back and collapsed in the ground.

Tony Stark looked up again, 'what's your name?' he asked. But Bessie was already gone, leaving only footprints in the snow to prove she'd ever been there at all.

Bessie didn't stop running until she'd reached her apartment block in Manhattan, just up the road from the job agency.

Bessie sprinted into it and sank back against the closed door, only standing up when she heard banging from the other side.

Turning round, she saw the landlord glaring at her.

'Where's my money?' he bellowed.

'I don't have it,' Bessie replied, looking down at her jacket and poking a finger through one of the holes.

'If you don't get me my money by tomorrow you're out of here,' the landlord said, marching back down the stairs.

Bessie's room was small and freezing. The actually room itself was tiny, but there was enough in it for a bed, desk (with chair) and a wardrobe. The wardrobe was tiny, but that was okay because Bessie didn't have many outfits to put in it.

The bathroom was connected to the small room and contained a sink, toilet and shower with a miniscule cupboard that Bessie kept plasters and soap in.

Bessie sat down on her bed. The cover was blue and so worn it was turning grey. Bessie turned the heater on but after 3 seconds it gurgled, spluttered and went out.

Bessie knew there was no way she could get the money to the landlord by the next day, but luckily there wasn't much to pack. She could fit all of her belongings into a rucksack with room for more.

Bessie opened a drawer and pulled out her skirt and blouse. She worked at 'The Jazz Room', a jazz club in the middle of the city as a singing waitress. She'd lied to the owner and told him she was 21. She had an air about her that made her seem older than her 17 years and could give her any age she chose under 25.

Bessie pulled the clothes into her rucksack along with the matching heels. She didn't dare run to the bar in them in case she wore them out; unfortunately her clothes couldn't keep up with her supersonic speeds.

Bessie crept out of her room, desperately trying to shut her door as quietly as possible.

It only took her 2 seconds to run to the bar in the middle of Manhattan, it was already busy. Creeping into the changing room at the back, Bessie pulled the clothes on and tied her short red hair back with a hairband, pushing it out of her eyes.

Stepping into the bar, she stopped dead.

Tony Stark was stood in the middle of the room.

Peter Parker was stood there too talking to him. Bessie knew Peter because he was engaged to Mary Jane Watson, a friend of hers who also worked in the bar and was (along with Peter Parker) the only one who knew her secret.

Bessie stood off to the side; concealing herself behind the bar so Stark wouldn't see her if he looked over. Mary Jane saw her and walked over, drying a beer mug as she went.

'Stark's looking for you,' she murmured.

'What does he want?' Bessie asked.

MJ shrugged. 'I don't know, he said he saw you this afternoon.'

'How does he know it was me? He doesn't even know my name!'

'He's Tony Stark, he would have found out somehow. Why did he see you?'

Bessie braved a glance over her shoulder. Stark and Parker had sat down with a beer in their hands.

'Did you hear about what happened this afternoon?' Bessie asked.

MJ nodded. 'Peter was annoyed; he accused Stark of stealing his glory.'

Bessie smiled. 'I saw that black thing hit him, he flew off and landed somewhere. I went after him, God only knows why.'

MJ sighed, 'and he saw you?'

Bessie nodded.

MJ frowned and looked over at the two men. 'Maybe he wants to help you.'

'How could he possibly help me?'

'I don't know, but he helped Pete. There's this camp somewhere. A man named Fury runs it; I think it's called the Avengers. Stark introduced Peter to it. There's training camps and stuff, ways to protect people with…' MJ paused. '… abilities out in the real world when they're fighting.'

Bessie looked over at Tony Stark.

'I think you should talk to him,' MJ said softly. 'I doubt he'll go away otherwise.'

Bessie nodded. 'Cover me will you?' she asked nodding to the manager. MJ nodded and Bessie moved off in the direction of Stark with a rag in her hand to clean the table next to him.

'Hi,' she said.

Tony Stark stood up and held his hand out to her. 'Tony Stark, nice to meet you.'

Bessie shook it, 'Bessie Sprint.'

'I wanted to thank you for saving me this afternoon.'

Bessie stared at him. 'I didn't save you! If anything I got in the way.'

Tony shrugged. 'If you hadn't stood on that coke can I wouldn't have looked up, that black thing would have got me.'

'What was that thing?'

'No idea.'

Bessie looked over at Pete, who waved.

'I'm guessing Miss Watson has given you her views on why I'm here?' Tony asked.

'She mentioned a camp somewhere.'

Tony nodded. 'The Avenger's camp, also known as the boot camp for superheroes.'

'How will it help me?'

Tony looked around him; no-one was looking at them. 'You can run fast, supersonic,' he said dropping his voice. 'The Avengers have been monitoring you. Not spying!' he said quickly when he saw Bessie open her mouth to protest. 'Protecting you, we're not the only ones who know about your power.'

He pulled a card out his pocket with a hastily drawn address on it. 'This is the place. Come round tomorrow evening, I'll introduce you to everyone. I mean you don't have to, obviously, but if you feel you need to, we have training to help you and equipment to help with your studies, we even have a room if you want it.'

Tony pulled a black canvas bag out from under his chair and held it out to her. Opening it cautiously, Bessie found it was full of clothes.

'They're made of a special material,' Tony said. 'They won't wear out when you run.'

He then pulled a roll of $50 notes from his pocket and handed them to her. 'Your rent for the next year,' he said. Before Bessie had a chance to protest he shook her hand again and left.

Bessie stared after him mutely and then looked down at the money and clothes in her hands and turned to Peter Parker, who shrugged. 'He's Tony Stark, that's the way he operates.'

Virginia 'Pepper' Potts stepped down the steps into the workshop below Tony Stark's million dollar Malibu mansion, coffee and clip board in hand.

She could see Tony's legs sticking out from under his Hot Rod and could hear him talking to JARVIS.

'What about the suspension?'

'I doubt it would last at the speeds you insist on going sir. Good evening Miss Potts.'

Tony wheeled out from under the car and waved at Pepper.

'You brought me coffee!'

'Consider it an early Christmas present.'

Tony grinned and sat down in his chair, glancing at schematics of the suspension.

Pepper perched on the edge of the desk.

'Did you find her?'

Tony glanced up, 'Bessie? Yeah I did.'


Tony leant back in his chair, coffee in hand. 'I told her about boot camp, it's up to her whether she comes or not.'

Pepper glanced over her notes on the clip board and handed some forms to Tony for him to sign.

'How old did you say she was?'

Tony handed the forms back, his messy signature not-so-neatly printed on the bottom.

'To work in that bar you need to be 21, but her record says she's 17. It also says that her name isn't Bessie.'

'What is it?'

'Molly Delaney.'

Pepper looked down at the file Tony was handing her; it only consisted of a few pieces of paper and a small photo of a young girl. 'She lied about her name?'

'And her age. Can't say I blame her, you've gotta get a job somewhere. Not all of us own our own billion-dollar companies.'

Pepper rolled her eyes at him. 'If her name and her age is wrong, how do you know this is her? This picture is of a five year old.'

'I had JARVIS record an image of her when I met her and then analyse it with that photo. Perfect match.'

Pepper looked at the photo of the 5 year old girl with the long red hair and green eyes, beaming happily up at the camera. 'The poor thing,' Pepper said sadly. 'What happened to her parents?'

Tony shrugged. 'The records aren't clear. Her mother died 10 years ago, drunk driving accident, she was the drunk driver. Looking at the mother's record it seems that she had a long history of drinking.'

Pepper swatted Tony over the head with the file. 'Remind you of anyone?'

Tony looked up at her, his large brown eyes gazing into hers.

'This was on a much larger scale, Pepper,' he said. 'She was treated for depression numerous times and Bessie's father appeared to be a really nasty piece of work.'


'Her father has a record of drug addiction and has been diagnosed as an alcoholic; he's been in and out of prison all his life, for all manners of crimes. He's also been arrested for child abuse; Bessie has been in and out of foster homes all her life.' Initiative

Pepper looked at the photo again. 'And she can run fast?'

Tony grinned at her. 'Fast is an understatement. She can run supersonic.'

'Where did you say she lives?'

'Run-down apartment in Manhattan, very near to Peter Parker actually.'

Pepper's brow furrowed and Tony briefly considered calling her adorable, but decided that actually his life was worth more.

Pepper, oblivious to what Tony was thinking, had been trying to pay attention to the duel identities of superheroes.

'Peter Parker… that's, Spiderman?'

Tony grinned and nodded. 'You've been paying attention, Pep.'

'Does Bessie know he's Spiderman?'

Tony nodded, 'and he knows about her power, and… ouch damn it!' He said, leaning over and clutching his shoulder.

'Tony?' Pepper said, moving closer.

Tony straightened up, or tried to and then leant over again.

'It's nothing, Pep, I've just got… ow… cramp in my shoulder.'

Pepper sighed and placed her hands on Tony's shoulders, massaging her fingertips into the massive knot that had formed under his skin.

Tony stiffened and relaxed.

Pepper let go. 'Better?' she asked.

Tony wriggled his shoulder experimentally. 'Much, cheers Pepper.'

Pepper took his now empty coffee mug, 'that's your shoulder trying to tell you to stop leaning over the computer desk and move around, go for a walk on the beach or something.'

'Do you want to come too?'

Pepper swatted him again and walked out, swaying her hips even more than usual when she realised Tony was staring at her bum… again.