Title: Time is a Limiting Reagent

Prompt: Watered-Down

Cross: Joan of Arcadia and Iron Man

Spoilers: all of Joan and 2nd movie of IM

Chapter Word Count: 100 each

AN: Another of those Drabbles that wouldn't end at 100 words

1.)

Tony Stark stood amidst the field of broken, discarded robots and knew he should have been dead. Back-up was finally arriving. He should still be too drunk to stand, let alone fight this many and win.

The only reason he was sober was because someone had watered down his drinks. It had to be the pretty young bartender at the party. She blushed when he had asked for her name (Joan), but had brushed him off with eyes as knowing as Pepper's. Tony wondered if she was one of Fury's undercover agents, trying to detox him.

He would investigate it.

2.)

Fury insisted that he didn't have an agent as a bartender. (Tony noticed that he didn't deny having agents at the party.) Fury was not pleased that someone was interfering. He sat down with Tony and all of the security footage only to find that the girl managed to be hidden from view at every angle. It happened too often to be coincidence but the girl had kept very busy doing her job and in some cases, other bartenders' jobs as well. They couldn't get a picture good enough to use for a search.

Tony hated fruitless endeavors like this.

3.)

"I'm surprised that you didn't get her name and number," Fury said. They both watched as Tony flirted with the unseen bartender.

"No number; said her name was Joan. It's not like she'd tell the truth."

"Joan," Fury repeated. "Straight brown hair and brown eyes?"

"Yeah. You know her."

Fury debated telling him the truth. Tony offered his most charming smile. "I'll reduce my consulting fee by 50% for the next month."

"A Good Samaritan that saved the lives of four my agents. We don't know how or why, but she's always in the right place at the right time."

4.)

Fury had warned him that 'Joan' was completely off the radar: that no one could find her by looking. Tony snidely informed Fury that he was better and smarter. Fury huffed and let him waste his time.

Tony looked and looked. He and Jarvis had put together a sketch to circulate with a reward for information, but no one had stepped forward to claim the prize. Someone had to know the girl. Pepper found his obsession amusing and gratifying seeing as he had to drink and party less in order to get all his work done.

He never found her.

5.)

"Dr. Girardi!"

The tall skinny kid jerked his head out of the arc energy reactor. "Sir?"

"I read your proposal and I agree. You are now in charge of the improvements to the arc. Get down here and sign your papers and pick out the team you'll be leading."

A wide grin threatened to split the boy's face. "Yes, sir."

Pepper handed the young doctor her PADD so that he could sign his new contract. "Ms. Potts will get you set up in a new office and arrange for your stuff to be moved."

"Yes, sir."

Then he saw it.

6.)

"Joan," he murmured.

Girardi's head whipped around. "Sir? You knew my sister."

Tony reached for the framed picture on the Girardi's desk. "We met once, I asked her out and she turned me down."

Girardi shrugged. "You really are not her type, sir."

"Knew," Tony echoed.

"Sir?"

"You said 'knew.' Is Joan dead?"

Girardi shuffled and was downcast. "Yes. Joan died a couple years ago. In Sudan. She had been wandering around Africa for a couple years."

"Why?"

Girardi shrugged. "Why did Joan do anything? Only she knew. She said that she was helping people. That she was a catalyst."

7.)

A catalyst.

Tony wasn't sure he liked Joan's self-description. He had changed from knowing Joan. He drank less, for one. After he sent Dr. Girardi to his well-deserved, new office, he looked up Joan's life history. It seemed rather bland and quiet. She had skipped from job to job, often working under the table, barely making ends meet. She had traveled all over the world.

She had saved his life and the lives of Fury's agents. How many others?

Tony wondered if the others had changed as a result of knowing her.

Whatever had happened, this catalyst's reaction was complete.

fin