Here's chapter 7! Sorry I haven't updated for an age! And another chapter to 'Pepper For Your Thoughts' will hopefully be up by this evening! I need to get food first though; I've eaten nothing and am therefore running on empty. Feeling a bit dizzy o.O

And I got really crap results in my AS levels :( Feeling a bit sorry for myself. If there was an exam in fanfic writing I'd have been okay!

Tony could feel himself falling asleep and he remembered that there was a reason why his staff called the head of marketing 'Drone Boy.' The man could speak for England, and the rest of Europe and especially America.

Tony tried not to slump down in his seat; around him he could see the rest of the senior staff doing the same. A quick bssssssssstttz in his pocket made him and the person next to him start. Tony pulled the phone out from his pocket and quickly checked the ID, then drew his attention to Pepper who was sat in the corner, laptop on her lap making notes and scowling at him. Tony looked down at the text. 'Don't you dare fall asleep or I swear I'll convince Dummy to foam you.'

Tony snorted and quickly turned it into a cough when Drone Boy looked over at him. 'Trust me on this, he wouldn't take much persuading.'

Tony saw Pepper try to hide a smirk when she read this.

Five minutes later, his phone beeped again, seeing it was Fury, Tony ignored it.

It kept beeping.

After he'd had enough of it beeping for an hour, Tony stood up. 'Excuse me one moment,' he said, crossing over to the window. He flung it open, flung his phone through it, closed it and sat back down again.

'Sorry about that,' he said apologetically, Pepper glaring at him from the other side of the room, his staff smirking behind their hands.

Julie Richards knocked politely on the door and stepped in. 'Sorry to disturb you,' she said. 'But I have Nick Fury on the phone; he's refusing to get off the line until you answer your phone.'

'That MAY be a bit difficult,' Tony said slowly, causing more sniggers from his staff.

'He said something about Bruce Banner,' Julie said doubtfully.

Tony's face hardened and he got up to answer the phone in his office.

'Stark.'

'Tony! You're in a lot of trouble.'

'Because I didn't answer my phone? I was in a meeting.'

'I need you in South Carolina.'

'That isn't going to happen; I can guarantee you that now.'

'Bruce Banner has gone wacko; we can't get Betty to calm him down. I need you to get over there and distract him so SHIELD can get a dart in him.'

'Charming,' Tony said.

'He's holding a young woman hostage; we don't know why since that kind of thing isn't his style. So, are you in?'

'If he's holding a young woman I have to be, rescuing ladies is what I do.'

'Make it snappy, we can't hold out for much longer.'

'Got it.'

Tony hung up and glanced apologetically at Julie. 'I'll get Miss Potts,' she said.


Bessie swung her schoolbag up onto the wall and then hoisted herself over it.

Aaron Renn was already sat there eating his sandwich but he grinned when he saw Bessie. Aaron was quite tall; he had spiky brown hair and green eyes and, like Bessie, had also managed to win scholarships in order to keep his place. Also like Bessie, whenever she asked him about his parents, or where he lived, he suddenly and spontaneously changed the subject immediately.

'Hey sweet,' he said. 'Having a good day?'

Bessie shrugged, 'average.' She told Aaron most things but she couldn't tell him about her powers, and she definitely couldn't tell him about Tony Stark, not because she didn't trust him, he was the one person she trusted more than anyone else in the world, but because she wasn't sure how to tell him.

'Penny for them?' Aaron asked, looking at her oddly. Bessie looked up at him confused. 'For you thoughts, I mean,' he clarified, 'you look like you're having a deep internal discussion.'

'Oh,' Bessie said. 'I'm…'

She looked around her at the other students sat on the MIT lawn and dropped her voice. 'This is going to sound crazy, but I have to tell someone.'

Aaron leaned in. 'Okay,' he said. 'Hit me.'

Bessie swallowed. 'You know the Fantastic Four? How they have powers?'

Aaron nodded, unsure as to where this was going.

Bessie took a deep breath. 'I have powers too, more specifically, one power.'

There were so many emotions on Aaron's face that Bessie wasn't sure which one to go with. There was confused, bewilderment and… understanding?

'Really?' Aaron asked, he didn't sound like he thought she was taking the piss, he just sounded like he had to be sure she was telling the truth.

'Yes,' Bessie said. 'I don't know how, I just know that I can.'

'Show me!' Aaron said, his eyes wide.

Bessie looked around. 'I can't, not here,' she said. 'Are you busy this evening?'

Aaron shook his head, still looking at her like he wanted to believe her.

'Then come down with me to the beach this evening,' Bessie pleaded. 'And I'll show you.'

Aaron grinned. 'It's a date,' he said.

Bessie whacked him with her textbook.


Tony flew over to South Carolina as fast as possible. He always enjoyed missions in the States, it meant he could get back to Pepper faster. Not… that there was anything BETWEEN him and Pepper. Well, nothing that Pepper would admit to anyway.

Bruce was stood on the roof of the parking lot, a young lady with black hair clasped tightly in one hand, surrounded by police who were trying to sedate him without shooting his hostage. Tony spotted Betty stood looking up at him and landed next to her, flicking up his helmet.

'What's going on?' he asked.

'We don't know,' Betty looked over at the Hulk. 'He's never done this before.'

'We need to get that woman out of his hand before he crushes her,' Tony said. 'What's her name?'

'Alicia Laurens.'

Tony activated his jet boots but kept his helmet up, doing a lap around the roof and appearing behind the Hulk so he didn't see him, instead continuing to bellow at the police.

'Miss Laurens,' Tony whispered. Alicia squirmed in the Hulk's grasp and tipped her head back so she could see him.

'Trust me,' Tony said, meeting her eyes.

Alicia nodded and Tony swerved round to land in front of the Hulk. Taken by surprise, the Hulk dropped Alicia… over the side of the building. Now the police had a clear shot they pumped the Hulk full of tranquillizers but Tony was too busy zooming down the side of the building to rescue Alicia, who surprisingly wasn't screaming. Tony grabbed her and she wrapped her arms around his armoured waist tightly while Tony slowly carried her down to the ground. 'No screaming?' he asked, looking at her with his eyebrows raised. Alicia shrugged, or tried to with her arms currently holding on for dear life. 'You told me to trust you, I do trust you.'

Tony grinned and set her carefully down on the ground away from the press and reporters, catching her again when she hissed as he let go. 'You okay?' he asked. Alicia clutched at her side. 'I think the Hulk broke some ribs.'

'Oh,' Tony held out his arms. 'Here, let me…'

'No, no… it's okay, I got it.' Alicia lifted up the bottom of her blouse and Tony watched as the dark black bruises that had formed on her skin faded and disappeared. He stared at her. 'Whoa,' he said. 'That's something.' Alicia smiled and pulled a card out of her trouser pocket. 'If you need me, call me,' she said, tucking the card away into the small edge around Tony's helmet, then she turned and walked away.

Tony gaped after her until Betty joined him. 'Bruce is back, she said quietly. 'He's being flown to the hospital in California.'

Tony turned to watch the sea of press swarming towards them. 'I can't deal with this right now,' Betty said, a tear in her eye.

Tony gently lifted her up and carried her away.

Pepper was waiting for him when he got back to base, tired out. She handed him a glass of water when he got out of the suit and gave him a quick hug for his efforts. 'Hard?' she asked.

Tony's eyebrows shot up and Pepper nudged him with her elbow. 'Don't be so gross Tony you know what I meant.'

'Pepper, don't do that, I actually freaked out for a second there!' Tony said, laughing. 'And no, the mission wasn't hard.'

'Bed,' Pepper said, steering him towards his room.

'You're not helping yourself here, Pepper!' Tony called as he stepped inside the doorway. Pepper expected him to be smirking at her but instead there was a soft smile on his face. 'Goodnight, Tony,' she said softly.

'Night, Peps,' he responded, hugging her tightly suddenly and gently closing the door.


Bessie bought herself an ice cream while she was waiting for Aaron on the beach and ate it slowly, thoughtfully. Aaron was her dearest friend, she trusted him with anything, he deserved to know about this. Bessie flicked her hair back so it caught the breeze and contemplated how she'd met him. She'd been a burglar for the past few years, not something she was proud of, but she did what she had to in order to survive. She never stole from old ladies or poor people; it was always the rich, which often made getting into their houses rather difficult due to the amount of alarms. But she'd had practise with lock picks, and always staked out the house first to make sure that there was no-one home. She'd often, like Georgia, slept on their couches and eaten their food, taking showers in their bathrooms and taking a few clothes she didn't think they'd miss.

It was 2005, she was 12 years old and currently raiding the fridge of a Mr J. K. Clark, who had gone to the Bahamas for a week with his wife, and wasn't expected back for another few days. Bessie fumbled with the butter and bread for a few moments, eventually succeeded in making herself a cheese sandwich as quietly as possible, although Mr J. K. Clark was gone, his neighbours weren't. She was about to open the living room door when she heard a creak on the stairs.

She froze.

This wasn't possible… he'd gone; she knew that, she'd followed him to the airport to make sure. She'd been staying in the house for 3 days already and no-one was home. So what was that sound?

Bessie melted into the shadows, and watched, silently, as a dark shape holding a torch made their way slowly down the stairs. The torch lit up its owner's face briefly, and Bessie saw that it was a tall, spiky haired nervous looking boy with a huge rucksack over his arm.

Not the owner… Bessie realised when she spotted the lock-picking set at his belt. Another burglar… around my age…

Bessie stepped out in front of him and the boy jumped back a mile. 'I… I was just…' he stammered.

'You were just burglaring the house,' Bessie replied. 'Like me.'

The boy stared at her, at the pretty girl with the short reddy-brown hair, pale skin, and green eyes that had been lit up in the light from the torch.

'Oh,' he said, dropping the torch slightly so he wasn't dazzling her so much. 'That's okay then.'

'Bessie Sprint,' Bessie said, holding her hand out.

'Aaron Renn,' Aaron replied, shaking it. 'Do you come here often?'

Bessie smiled. 'Only when I have to.'

Aaron rolled his eyes. 'Trust me, I know what you mean.'

'How did you get in?' Bessie asked. 'I didn't hear the door or window squeak.'

Aaron shuffled his feet and looked uncomfortable. 'I… uh… well… I came in through the upstairs window.'

Bessie looked at him in bewilderment. 'You couldn't have done. It's two stories up and there's nothing to hold onto.'

Aaron grinned uncertainly. 'I found a way,' he said.

Bessie raised her eyebrows but didn't press the subject.

That had been the start of an unlikely friendship, but a friendship that Bessie was, none the less, glad to have. Aaron was everything to her, everything she had left. NOT that they were going out or anything, although they did spend MOST of their time together. Bessie smiled as she remembered last Christmas. They'd got a turkey and some crackers and cooked a mini Christmas dinner in Bessie's tiny flat. Decorating the flat with all the tinsel they could find. They'd found a Christmas tree that someone had abandoned in an alley 3 days before and had decorated it with broken baubles that they'd found in various bins across the city, opening their presents under it in the evening. Aaron had got Bessie a necklace with a 'B' charm on it, and Bessie had got Aaron a watch she'd found in a charity shop, it was a pretty cool watch though.

Waiting on the beach, Bessie fingered the charm around her neck and tipped her head back; enjoying the way the cool wind blew her hair to one side.

'Hey sweet,' came a familiar voice and Bessie smiled as Aaron sat next to her. He nodded at her necklace, 'nice necklace.' Bessie laughed and hugged him.

'So,' Aaron said, not wasting any time. 'What was it you wanted to show me?'

Bessie swallowed. 'Couldn't we talk about something else first? How was school?'

Aaron laughed. 'Oh don't get me started!'

'Oh?' Bessie encouraged.

'Well… you know Peters in the year above us? He let a firework loose in the lecture hall. MASSIVE explosion, gunpowder EVERYWHERE. Dr Edwards couldn't work out who had set it off and of course WE wouldn't tell him because… well, you know how massive Peters is. Total chaos for 30 minutes, brilliant.'

Bessie laughed. 'That sounds like fun,' she said. 'I did nothing of any interest.'

'Oh?' Aaron nudged her with his elbow. 'Not found any new gene pairs yet then?'

Bessie grinned. 'Not yet, working on it though. Watch this space.'

Aaron grinned. 'So,' he said. 'What's this cool power you've got then? Spill!'

Bessie took a deep breath.

'I can run fast.'

Aaron burst out laughing. 'Of course you can run fast! You've been a burglar most of your life! Running away is what you do best.'

Bessie elbowed him in the ribs. 'Just announce it to the whole beach why don't you! And for your information, I can run really fast, like really really fast. Supersonic, even.'

Aaron boggled at her. 'You can run… supersonic…?' Again there was that look on his face, that understanding look and a look like he wanted to burst out a secret to her.

Bessie stood up and brushed sand off her jeans. 'I'll prove it,' she said. 'What would you like me to fetch from another state?'

Aaron stood up and pondered this. 'Okay… I would like you to fetch…' his eyes lit up. 'I would like you to fetch a leaf from one of the palm trees in California.'

'Are you kidding? I can't jump up that high! It will have to be one off the ground.'

'That'll do,' Aaron said.

'Fine.' Bessie crouched down into a sprinter's start and looked up at her friend. 'Watch this space,' she said; and ran.

Aaron's mouth hung open. One minute she'd been there, and the next she was gone. He sat down and started counting the seconds, wondering if he should tell her his secret. It seemed only fair. He'd just reached 5 seconds when Bessie zipped back, creating a miniature sand storm in her wake, a palm leaf clutched tightly in her hand.

'Urgh,' she said. 'I hate running on sand.'

Aaron stared at the palm leaf and she handed it to him, a triumphant grin on her face. 'I wasn't sure if you'd believe me when I said that it came from Cali,' she said. 'So I brought you this as well.'

She held out a leaflet and Aaron started at that too. It was a leaflet for the 1011 12th Espresso Bar in Sacramento.

'Okay, I believe you,' Aaron said, putting the leaflet and palm leaf on the ground. 'And there's something I have to show you too. Remember when we first met? And I told you I came in through the upstairs window? Remember I told you I had a dorm in MIT and didn't live off campus? I was lying.'

Bessie stared at him. 'Wait, you lied to me about that?'

'Please, hear me out,' Aaron pleaded. 'I didn't know if I could trust you! I mean we'd just met and if I told you I could…' he trailed off and thought for a few seconds. 'You know something; I'll just have to show you.'

He raised one of his hands and said, 'okay, my turn, what would you like me to fetch for you?'

Bessie considered. 'Um… I'd like you to fetch my MIT ruler from off my desk in my flat.'

'Done.' Aaron snapped his fingers and disappeared.

Now it was Bessie's turn to stare.

He reappeared barely a second later, a bendable ruler clutched in his hand. 'Ta-da!' he said, holding it out to her.

Bessie took it and grinned. 'So we're both freaks then,' she said, suddenly happy that she wasn't alone.

'Freaks United,' Aaron said.

Bessie laughed.