Interlude: Meeting Tony
You didn't think anything of the encounter at the time.
You were late for work, and New York is always full of people coming and going, bustling to get to their destination; like ants in an ant mound.
It was only by chance that you collided into the man, coffee soaking your pants as you lay, stunned, on the ground.
The man, taller and broader than you, begins giving you an apology in a way that lets you know that he really wasn't apologetic at all, but you ignore him in favor of getting up off the ground, and you brush off the dirt and coffee stain as best as you can. It is only luck that your boss lets you keep a set of dry clothes behind the counter just in case such an incident as this ever occurred, and, as it was a busy city, things like this were bound to occur occasionally.
You cut off the man's not-apology of 'I apologize that you are so short I didn't see you' with a mumble that could have meant anything to the man before quickly heading to work, determined to not be any more late than you already were.
Though you did not know this at the time, if most people took the moment to look at the insignia on his briefcase or at the man's face, they would immediately know who he was, but you didn't and, even if you did glance at the insignia or his face, you do not keep up with technology enough to know who that man, exactly was.
All you cared about was getting to your job as soon as possible.
You never noticed the man's analyzing gaze boring into your back.
It is a few days, and your first time meeting with a therapist that your boss convinced you to see-he could recognize symptoms of a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when he saw them, when you next see the man.
You open the door of your apartment, leaving for work, only to see the man standing right at your doorstep with a bag of doughnuts in one hand and cups of coffee in the other.
You stand there blankly for a moment, wondering who the hell is this man and wondering if he must have mistaken this apartment door for his own or for another's.
The man takes it upon himself to push his way past you into your apartment, ignoring your attempts to get him to leave and defeating your claims of 'I've got work to go to,' by flippantly stating that he called in and cancelled your work hours for you that day, and your boss said that it was alright.
You had not had a day off since starting your job, and your boss apparently wasn't going to let you stay and work if you had come in that day.
The Doughnut Man made himself comfortable at the table in your tiny kitchen, and you blanch when he exclaims over the place with statements like 'so this is how the rest of the people who aren't me live,' and 'is this really your kitchen because this is smaller than my own pantry'.
Sitting hesitantly at the only other chair at the table, you watch as the man shoves a powdered doughnut and one of the cups of coffee in your direction.
'Here, I brought food, you should thank me,' he stated as if he had done you a personal service.
You stare at the bakery treat as if it was foreign, which it was considering you had never had a doughnut before, and you immediately push it back.
'I'm not hungry,' you state, and it was true.
Ever since the war, you had not eaten for the sake of eaten, merely enough so that you might live through another day. You cannot remember the last time you were ever truly hungry. Not since people died- died because of you.
The man hummed, staring into you as if analyzing you, seeing what made you tick.
'You don't get out much,' he observed, taking in your pale form.
You tell yourself the paleness is because you are British, and you make yourself believe that. But British people aren't that pale; don't have circles under their eyes due insomnia and a lack of sleep. And their clothing isn't as threadbare as yours due to a lack of interest in fashion. After all, fashion isn't quite as important when it compares to finding that next horcrux, fighting to survive.
You are a survivor, fighting to survivor in a world that doesn't truly need you anymore.
You eye the man across from you, self-conscious with his critique.
'What does it matter to you,' you want to ask, 'I, who have never interacted with you before, am nothing to you.'
And Doughnut Man seems to sense some sort of query coming from you, some sort of doubt and self-doubt from within you because he gives you a look as if asking if it weren't obvious.
Doughnut Man who has so much, but really nothing much at all.
He is surrounded by his wealth and fame and the paparazzi and celebrities and fans and 'ohmygodit'sIronMan' and he loves it all, basks in it, but is completely, utterly alone. Pepper knows him, treats him with respect and is a friend, but she is first and foremost his secretary and he, her boss. Rhodey is a friend, but he's in the military, dealt a bit with his weapons, and there has been a bit of an issue between them with Rhodey not understanding, not supporting, his decisions.
Or maybe not so much as a bit, but a lot, and the events from Afghanistan and the events afterwards are still too fresh for him to truly be as close to Rhodey as before.
But, overall, there has not been a single person who knew absolutely anything about him.
'See, I'm a genius,' he explains, explaining how he knew where your apartment was, and how he knew to be there right when you were about to leave. Apparently geniuses could do things like that- hack into files detailing who people were and where they lived. Or, at least, this genius could.
Still, you give him an unimpressed look at having your privacy invaded.
'Alright then. Who are you, what do you want?' You ask, annoyed at having your isolation breached.
Doughnut Man chuckles as if you had performed an adorable trick, like a trained dog, before answering for the first time he could ever remember.
'I am Iron Man.'
I know this is short and it's been some time since I updated Achilles Arrow and I'm so sorry. I'll work hard to get the next chapter up this coming week, promise. I was hospitalized and was placed on bed rest to recover so I wasn't allowed to be on my laptop for long moments of time.
Thank you Catzi for writing this, and please bear with me, okay? Trust me...it's going to be worth it once we get into the actual Avengers plot.