Pepper winced inwardly as she closed the door quietly behind her. She was glad she wasn't in Fury's shoes at the moment, yet she also had no doubt that the man could more than handle Tony's fit of anger.

Granted, Tony was probably taking this as a direct insult to his manhood, or rather, his ironhood, and God forbid whoever Tony blamed for that.

The man in question was sitting calmly at his oversized desk watching the child-like display that took place before him with what Tony would later claim to be a look of sadistic pleasure.

"Goddammit Fury, I'm Iron Man!" Tony thumped his arc reactor with his knuckles, as though that explained everything, and glared at the director of SHIELD.

Fury lifted an eyebrow, and when no further statement came from Stark, he leaned back, "If that is all, Stark, I will-"

"-That is not all. C'mon Pep, don't tell me you agree with him?" Tony rounded on the spot that once held Miss Potts. He glared at the empty space for a moment, glanced back at Fury, then looked under the desk, as though she was hiding under there.

"I knew it. I KNEW it! This has Pepper's name all over it. She's been on my ass ever since that fucking day-"

"I can assure you that this was my idea, although she did seem to wholeheartedly approve of the initiative."

"So what, I have no say in the matter? Do I even get to choose my new BFF?"

The term went right over Fury's head, but he nodded, "For once we're on the same page. That is exactly the case: you have no say. Either you accept a bodyguard or you will resign from this organization."

"It's like goddamn Big Brother in here! As if you haven't already squeezed yourself into every inch of my personal space, now I have to be followed around by a babysitter?"

"So I take it you're resigning? I'll have Coulson retrieve the papers."

"I am NOT resigning you pea-brained, two-faced son of a"-

"-Finish that sentence and believe me, your resignation will be the least of your worries."

The man deflated in front of him. Fury could almost hear a hissing noise as the hot air escaped from Stark's head.

The director waited several moments to see if Stark would try for another death wish, but it seemed the man had finally seen reason.

"We have already narrowed down the list of candidates to someone who has the best overall qualifications. He's a young SHIELD war veteran with security clearance and a pristine record. He's been so kind as to agree to fly in from New York to meet you for a trial run."

"What do you mean, 'trial run?'"

"He might find you insufferable and decide that his highly valued services are put to better use elsewhere. We've given him the option of a trial period to see if he is able to tolerate you."

"Him, tolerate ME? Shouldn't it be the other way around?"

"You would think, but no."

Tony muttered something under his breath that sounded a lot like: "why do I put up with this shit?"

The Director let that one slip, and continued, "Mr. Rogers arrives tonight, after which I will debrief him and you two can meet the following day."

"Mr. Rogers? As in children's daytime TV Mr. Rogers: the creepy puppet master?" Tony gestured dramatically with his hands.

Fury gave him a look of undiluted disdain and stood up from his desk, "Please leave my office, Stark, I have more urgent matters to attend to than your bruised ego."

Tony huffed in response, turned on his heel and was about to slam the door shut when Fury spoke once more:

"Oh, and Stark?"

Tony looked around and watched hopefully as Fury approached him, "Yeah?"

"Mr. Rogers was not creepy."

The door slam shut in Tony's face.

Tony Stark had a thing for blonds. Ok, no, that was a lie. He had a thing for redheads, take Pepper, case and point. Blonds, on the other hand, triggered some sort of erogenous zone in his brain that he had no control over.

It was already the next day, and Tony was walking into the meeting room with his heels dragging, wishing he could be anywhere but here. That was, until, he saw the tall blond Adonis that stood silhouetted against the glass window.

The logic centres in Tony's brain shut off in response to the vision, and he stood dumbly in the doorway with his mouth hanging open.

What could have been several minutes later, he finally came to letting out an undignified yelp when the heavenly vision before him was abruptly replaced with the unreadable, ever-creepy face of Coulson very, very close to his own.

"Jesus Christ!"

At the loudly uttered blasphemy, the Apollonian beauty turned from the window and gazed sternly in his direction.

"Shit, I'm sorry. Coulson just appeared in front of me with that...that face," he gestured at the SHIELD agent, pointing the finger like it was his fault.

Adonis and Coulson looked at one another, and then back at Tony.

He tried to explain himself: "Coulson."

Still nothing.

"He's creepy."


"I mean, if anyone just popped up in front of you...and it's Coulson, so it' like ten times the horror. No? Okay then."

Creepy-face spoke, "Let's move on." He pulled out a chair for the handsome stranger, then sat down next to him, leaving Tony floundering in the doorway. "Formal introductions aren't necessary. Mr. Rogers has already read your file, and this is more of a courtesy than an obligation."

Oh, right. The light bulb flickered to life in his brain and he chastised his mind for not clueing in sooner. Apparently his mouth wasn't on the same wavelength.


Coulson just gazed at him with that ever-neutral expression of his and replied in the simplest way he could, "Sit."

Tony sat.

"Mr. Rogers has volunteered his time for the next ten days to be your bodyguard. If he finds the job to his satisfaction, and less importantly, if you are pleased with his work, he will move here for a more permanent stay."

Tony leaned forward, put on his most charming smile and gazed at Mr. Rogers, "I'm sure you'll find your stay here...very satisfactory." He added a wink for good measure.

The man stared at him in response, confusion knit in his brow.

"If you don't mind, Mr. Rogers," Tony continued, "I much prefer to be on a first name basis with my colleagues." He looked down to the man's lips, waiting to hear him speak for the first time.

Those lips moved: "Excuse me, but didn't you call Agent Coulson by his surname just a moment ago?"

Oh yes, that was a nice voice. Very nice indeed. Listen to his words, Tony, his mind supplied.

He cleared his throat, "there are always a few exceptions, besides, Coulson is not what I would like to consider a colleague, isn't that right Coulson?"

The agent looked at him, "The feeling is mutual Mr. Stark."

"See? He doesn't mind at all. He's great, very reliable."

Mr. Rogers looked sideways at Agent Coulson and replied reluctantly (though Tony didn't notice this of course), "My name is Steven."

Tony beamed, "Steve it is! You can call me Tony. Only my father used to call me Anthony when he was pissed off with me, so I'd rather avoid those wonderful childhood memories, please and thank you." He looked down as his pager buzzed, then back towards Coulson, "I need to get to an urgent meeting- the copter is here to pick me up." He stood up, roughly pushing in the chair so it hit the table and spilled some of the courtesy water he hadn't bothered to drink. He walked briskly toward the door, but before he could open it, he felt a firm hand grip his shoulder, halting him in his tracks.

Coulson spoke, "Thank you Mr. Rogers. I'll let you accompany Mr. Stark to his meeting. I'm sure he won't mind giving you the window seat in his helicopter."