It was like watching a car crash.
Actually, no, it wasn't, it was like being trapped in your car between a wild fire and a blizzard inexorably moving towards each other, and wondering even as you died in a terrible combination of first degree burns and frost bite, how nature, God, the general so-called order of the universe and anything that ever existed with any control over anything could have ever have been so careless as to let this happen.
That was what it was like watching Tony Stark and Sherlock Holmes 'talk'.
The Doctor added his own little branch of terrifying, which, when made obvious, kind of felt like it was always there, and simply needed other similarly petrifying people to bring it out. He was all the certainty of old age and passing time—like squeezing natural death into a human-shaped container and then making it grin like all the Christmases ever experienced by anybody had been dropped in front of him.
Weird and horrifying.
"This is brilliant. This is brilliant."
The three of them were playing a game. Sort of. They were actually playing a multiple of games. One of which was chess; each individual had two boards, and was simultaneously playing both of them against the other two participants.
Which sounded complicated enough, to a usual human, or, well, a usual sentient being to be politically correct according to the 212 clause of the Shadow Proclamation, but apparently it wasn't if you were the sort of man with a brain the size of a large planet, an ego a little bit bigger than that, and enough oxymoronic self-esteem issues to match an army of twenty-first century teenagers.
But for this combination of genius, only a multitude of complicated was acceptable. Hence the Risk (where the Doctor seemed to have the advantage), Monopoly (here it was Tony, who apparently had a vicious streak a mile wide when it came to real estate) and Cluedo boards (the obvious looked on the brink of flipping the board) that they were 'playing' together on. Then there was the Chinese checkers, Backgammon, Battleships, Connect-Four that were all set up in pairs in one long line that the three of them were scrambling to reach, with the chess sets and a game of Go Fish on top of it all.
"Absolutely brilliant, I've never met humans this clever."
"He's not clever," Tony snapped, and John could hear Sherlock's temper ignite.
"Excuse me?" the consulting detective demanded, voice low and even, eyes icy.
"You're not," Tony maintained, his eyes burning as the glared back.
"Pray tell how you have come to that conclusion? I'm sure the logic of it will entertain me."
"Four kings," said the Doctor happily, putting the cards down with one hand as he put up a hotel on Fleet Street with the other. "That's interesting, actually, we once met four kings, didn't we Ponds, on—"
Beside John, Amy made a small, non-committal noise as she watched Sherlock and Tony engage in a vicious property war, at the same time as start a fight in Asia, punctuated by Sherlock being put into check.
"You've no qualifications, you don't have a job—"
Silently Steve wondered when this had become Tony's criteria for intelligence; usually Sherlock's—could he call it entrepreneurial?—flair was the sort of thing he appreciated in a person.
"You've never made anything—"
"Your creations have proven to be hugely substandard to the technology of the rest of the universe," Sherlock replied waspishly, possibly alluding to the introduction of their twenty first century minds to Gallifreyan technology two hours earlier and Tony's subsequent tech-orgasm face. "I don't see why you're so keen to broadcast your own inferiority in your chosen area of supposed intellect. I am unparalleled in my field."
"Sherlock…" John warned.
"I'll tell you something that's an inferior area—" Tony said emphatically, staring pointedly at Sherlock before letting his gaze drop away from his face.
"Tony," Steve said, sounding world weary as Sherlock noticeably stiffened.
"Oh," the Doctor said, sounding crestfallen, as the two bickering men simultaneously put him in check mate. He made himself feel better by beating both of them at Connect-Four.
Oblivious—or possibly just ignoring the Time Lord—Sherlock brutally knocked Tony's queen off the board. His lips twitched slightly in a way that clearly represented an all out sneer.
Tony took out one of Sherlock's battleships in four successive coordinates, and put down a hand of Jack's opposite the Doctor's Kings.
"I know at least four Jack's too," the Doctor said. "Captain Jack Harkness, you remember him Pond, he—"
"No I don't," Amy interjected, "Who's he?"
"Oh, right, yes, you haven't," the Doctor said, an expression of horror washing briefly over his face. "Rory," he said, pointing at the exasperated looking man sitting next to Amy, "Be grateful."
"Right," replied Rory, raising an eyebrow. The Doctor started sending his little blue troops into North America, loosely held by Tony's red-coloured men, and against Sherlock's black mass of plastic in Europe. The pair rolled against him on auto-pilot with the same attitude adults have when playing against small children, and didn't seem to notice that they were losing ground.
"Queen me," Tony said triumphantly, and Sherlock beat him in Chinese Checkers.
"Let's not do this again," John said softly to Steve. "No offence."
"None taken," Steve whispered back.
"I've had assassins monitoring my house," John lamented after a few moments pause. "I've been kidnapped by the Chinese mafia. This puts more fear in my heart." He waved a vague hand at the scene in front of them. The Doctor had won Go Fish and both of his Battleship games. Sherlock and Tony had all their focus on the chess game, which by all natural laws should have been a lump of coal under the pressure.
"I have assassins living in the same house as me," replied Steve in much the same tone. "And this—Actually, I'm not sure which is more scary. But that it compares at all is not good."
John hummed his agreement. Rory mouthed 'assassins' at Amy, who shrugged.
"Is it legal for you to be carrying that?" Steve asked after a few seconds pause, gaze sharp even though the question came out in a faintly awkward rush, glancing at the faint bulge in John's coat.
"The gun?" John said evenly. "No, I'm afraid not."
"You should try a sword."
Both of them looked at Rory, derailed momentarily from the illegal handgun. The man looked slightly embarrassed, but shrugged with a smile.
"There are fewer laws about swords. And people don't expect them."
"You can use a sword?" Steve said blankly.
"Very well," Amy said, grinning.
A sudden burst of humming from the direction of the three dark-haired men on the floor diverted their collective attention.
"Sherlock," John said with frank disbelief, "Are you really going to act even more like a five year old?"
"It's a patriotic song, John, I thought you'd approve."
"Ja-wn," Tony mimicked. Sherlock recommenced 'God save the Queen'.
"That is a shit song," Tony said loudly.
"Yes," Amy said with a nod. When the Doctor and Rory looked at her, she tossed her head. "Sixth verse?" she prompted, as if it should be obvious.
"Don't encourage them, Amy," the Doctor whined.
"I encourage you," she pointed out.
"Who's strong and brave, here to save—"
"The line, Tony, you've crossed it," Steve said, getting up and stomping over to where the genius was sitting to pull him up; as he did so, one of Tony's feet caught the chess board and sent all the remaining pieces everywhere.
"You did that on purpose!" Sherlock accused.
"I did not!"
"Thank you for having us, Doctor," Steve said loudly as John stepped round him to put a placating hand on Sherlock's arm. "If you could put us back in our century though, I think everyone's getting a bit over-tired."
"But I won the most games," the Doctor said, looking disappointed.
"So?" Amy said, as they all looked at the array of boards. Tony's expression was a picture of undisguised distraught as the truth of his competitors words became apparent; Sherlock's cool façade flickered into one briefly thunderstruck before he sniffed and looked away.
"Whoever won the most games gets three hundred base units of their preferred currency, providing that this is equal or superior too three hundred American dollars, the value of which taken post-inflation 2010," the Doctor rattled off, tilting his head up in a confident smirk as he clearly mimicked either the detective or the inventor's arrogance preceding the game. No one dared ask whose, and the Doctor cast a beseeching look at Amy.
"Why 2010?" Rory asked, and was ignored.
"How did you win?" Tony said, sounding astonished.
"If you'd been playing more attention to the broader game—"
"You lost too."
"On the contrary, I came second, as after the Doctor I—"
"You can both pay up," John said firmly. "And stop acting like idiots."
"Steve," Tony tried.
"You were gambling, Tony, how do you expect me to react?"
"It's not gambling, Steve, it's—"
"It's rather sweet, actually, the way you seek constant reassurance as to your behaviour with a professional colleague."
Tony looked at him for a second, both eyebrows disappearing into his hair line. "The retort to that is so obvious that even if you didn't supposedly make a living from being a private detective you should see it. I'm going to make it anyway, because you really need how stupid you are reiterating to you because you're not told enough. You can't talk," he said, leaving a noticeable gap between each syllable, "You have John."
"Consulting detective, you ignorant man."
"Doctor, could we actually just open the doors now?"
"We're in flight at the moment, actually, so it's not really a good idea—"
"In flight is fine."
"No, Doctor, you can't drop them out into the universe."
"I've been out in the universe before, not even this one, if I had my suit I could—"
"Are you sure it wasn't just some of drug trip?"
"Okay, Doctor, pushing them out is fine."