[Hey guys, as promised, here's the first chapter of Hollow Scars. This story concentrates more on the action/conspiracy aspect of my series since Glass Heart laid the romantic foundation down for Tony and Scarlett's tumultuous love affair. Thanks for reading as always, I'm excited to get this in gear!]
Scarlett's senses were roused from sleep by the smell of twenty year old scotch combined with the smoke of the finest Cuban cigars that money could be. Her limbs were sore and her mind was cloudy so she clung to the comforts of sleep for as long as she could. But the unnatural ache in her muscles wouldn't allow her to find enough comfort to rest so she laid still with her eyes closed, hoping.
The familiar haze of alcohol only permitted the brunette to hear the faint bustling sounds of a marketplace around the corner through the half opened window across the room along with an annoying buzz that she assumed was in her head. The white curtains that had been sloppily pulled shut across said windows did very little to keep out the bright light of the desert outside. Rolling onto her back Scarlett placed her right forearm over her eyes to hide from the light that was already contributing to the headache caused by drinking way too much the night before and not having eaten nearly enough to counter it.
The night before was a blur but it was most certainly not the first time she'd woken up hung over in a hotel room in the last month and she was sure it wouldn't be her last in the months to come. Someone shifted next to her in the bed, startling her out of her thoughts. Scarlett opened one eye warily and held her breath to listen in case she'd made the sound up. When the person next to her in bed shifted again to confirm their presence, Scarlett mouthed a string of curses, being careful not to wake up her partner for the night during the process. She had absolutely no doubts in her mind about who exactly had gotten her into bed.
Carefully checking under the covers, Scarlett saw what she'd guessed she'd find and then let the sheets drop back on top of her to cover her nudity. Or at least her partial nudity considering the night before she'd apparently been too hasty to care about how dressed or undressed she was after she'd consumed enough alcohol to give into her baser desires. Slowly she kicked the covers away, studying the face of the man lying next to her for any signs that her movements were waking him up. All she had to see was his trademark facial hair to confirm it was who she'd guessed it'd been.
Luckily, her company had as much to drink the night before as she had and he was practically passed out. Scarlett knew she only had few precious moments before Tony would wake up and realize what she was up to and then try to stop her.
Tony Stark had pursued Scarlett on her journey out of the United States where she'd hopped across Europe to try and avoid anyone tailing her to, apparently, no avail, seeing as Tony somehow showed up in whatever location she ended up staying in for the night. Whether it be a bustling city of industry like London or an obscure town in the middle of the German countryside, somehow Tony pinpointed her every location and showed up when she was least expecting it.
Or at least she had started out not expecting to see him and it had thrown her off quite a bit. The well known genius, CEO of one of the most prominent corporations on the planet and part time member of the Avengers had been on her tail only a week after she'd left his home in Malibu to try and right the wrongs she'd committed before her life with him.
When she'd left him alone in a hotel room in Los Angeles, a letter on the nightstand confessing her love for him and explaining to him that there were things she needed to do before they could be okay, she had expected him to be angry and instead he'd only become more determined to get her.
Their relationship had been bumpy from the start but once the air had been cleared they were left with the concrete foundation of something more. Well, other than Scarlett's conscience getting in the way that is. Tony had made it incredibly clear that he had no problem defying her conscience and following along for the ride or at least until he convinced her to go back home with him. She knew that was something she couldn't do. Her dreams were riddled with nightmares and the only times she did manage to find sleep she was wasted or woke up feverish. This morning was no different than the others. Her body was unusually sore and her forehead was covered in sweat, like she'd worked off a fever through the night.
Even so the first few encounters had so thrown her off her guard and upset her that she'd nearly reconsidered her plot and had gone home with him. But after she'd strengthened her resolve and continued on her journey and Tony had only kept following her from country to country she started mentally betting when he would show up on her tail and learning how to cope with the situation. She had the feeling that he had her bugged somehow and wondered if there was any truth to her hypothesis.
Either way their encounters always ended in one of three ways. While this ending in particular was Scarlett's favorite ending of the three, it was also the hardest to recover from. They'd drink together after some convincing on Tony's part, and it was always supposed to be just the one drink, but it was never just one and that always became several which turned into many and then before Scarlett knew it she was in bed with him again, losing herself.
Not that she was really against the way the night ended. It was always fun, but she knew her behavior only encouraged Tony to follow her around to get what he wanted. He was far more stubborn than she had given him credit for.
The other two results of their encounters were not nearly as entertaining and felt nowhere near as pleasurable. Either she'd be in the middle of some kind of important meeting or investigation and he'd show up just in time to blow her cover or scare off her target then get them into some kind of danger and they'd end up just barely escaping with their lives or she'd give him the slip in a crowd and have to watch from afar the disappointment on his face though the determination he was showing her was impressive to say the very least. Any other man would've given up on chasing her after the first time she'd left him alone in a hotel but Tony kept on pursuing her.
Tony Stark had made it crystal clear how committed he was to their confusing relationship within the past few weeks and while Scarlett was flattered, it didn't change what she had to do. The weapons she'd created for MedCo while she'd been held captive in South Africa were too dangerous to ignore. It was her responsibility to stop them and was the only wrong in her life she could think to right. Every part of Scarlett wanted to give up, remain in bed with Tony and ask him to take her home, wherever the hell that was. It didn't even have to be home, it could be anywhere in the world and she'd be happy. But life was not that easy and she knew that she could never start a new life with Tony like she wanted if she didn't do this first.
Tony deserved more from a relationship than a woman who was preoccupied with thoughts of revenge.
Now Scarlett was slowly creeping her way out of the bed, half keeping an eye on Tony's expression out of paranoia in case he woke up and the other half taking one last good look at him before she'd run into him again at her next destination when he inevitably caught up with her. He had his mouth hanging open, snoring lightly with one leg hanging comically off of the bed while he slept. Scarlett couldn't help but smile.
Glancing around the room, Scarlett held a hand to her aching head in an irrational attempt to make the room stop spinning and then scoffed in disbelief at the extravagance of the hotel room they'd ended up in. Only Tony Stark would find the nicest hotel in Cairo to get them a room in while they were drunk. Shaking her head in amusement, Scarlett started to collect her missing articles of clothing off of the floor so she could get out of there as quickly as possible.
The first time he'd caught up with her in London after she'd gotten away, Scarlett had written him another note telling him not to follow her with another apology and had left it on the nightstand like she'd done in Los Angeles. But when Tony had found her again a few days later she'd decided that note writing was a little silly considering he wasn't listening to her anyway, and she was pouring her heart out for no reason. Clearly Tony knew exactly how she felt or he wouldn't be following her all over the globe to try and save her. Or at least that's what he called it. She referred to it as obstructing her or getting in her way.
Shoving the dirty clothes into her bag that had been thrown sloppily across the room into a corner, Scarlett pulled out fresh clean clothes that she'd purchased in London and got changed quickly into a comfortable pencil skirt and a white button up. It wasn't the ideal clothing for a mission, but she knew that while she was out in public she had to appear less threatening than she intended to be.
Once she was finished, she walked around the side of the bed and found on the floor a pair of handcuffs Scarlett had taken off of an old colleague she'd caught up with in Germany who had gotten them into a pinch during her visit. Picking them up she recalled Tony's attempts to play dirty with them and how they had been easily discarded thanks to the shortened attention span the abundance of scotch had provided.
Double checking to make sure she had her phone, gun, wallet and other belongings she slowly moved Tony's arm so that it was closer to the edge of the bed. He grunted and shifted but didn't wake up. Once it was close enough and she could slide it off the bed without shifting his body too much, Scarlett hooked one end of the handcuffs onto the bed post closest to the floor and the other end onto Tony's wrist then jumped away from him quickly so that he wouldn't be able to grab her if he woke up during the process like she predicted.
Sure enough, the constriction on his wrist caused him to stir and shift. Yawning loudly and dramatically Tony blinked open his eyes and smacked his lips together tiredly. Glancing to the side with squinted eyes he saw Scarlett fully dressed and at first just smiled at her. Then upon realizing what it meant to see Scarlett dressed and ready to go, he jumped alert. Tony sat up and then pouted as he was tugged onto his back again because of the way the handcuff was restraining him to the bed. Short of rolling off of the bed and onto the floor he wouldn't be able to properly sit up like this. Craning his neck to look over the side of the bed to see what was holding him down, Tony then chuckled.
"You know, Scarlett, I've played dirty games enough times to know my way around a pair of handcuffs." Tony smirked, sleep still hanging on his voice, but he becoming more alert as time continued. If he could buy a few minutes he might be able to get out of the handcuffs and stop her. It was a long shot, but he had to try. "It won't take me very long to break out of these, you could reconsider… We never did get to play our game last night."
"Sorry but there won't be any games this morning. Those few minutes are all the time that I need." Scarlett picked up her bag and then glanced back at him, pointing an accusing finger. "Stop following me around, Tony. I'm doing this for your own good."
"And I'm saying it's for your own good that I'm still following you around." Tony turned his attention to the handcuffs on his wrist, starting to maneuver them so he could slip his hand free or break the mechanism that kept him in place against the bed frame. He heard her sigh and continued to fiddle with the mechanism on the cuff while he rambled on in hopes of delaying her. "You know, when Stark Industries was still manufacturing weaponry for the military I designed a far more efficient personal detainment system but the military wouldn't purchase it for whatever reason… I spent a lot of time showing them just how flawed these things were and how they were better suited for the bedroom." Tony lifted his head up, and glanced toward the door only to see Scarlett walking out of the room without so much as a goodbye.
Sighing softly he shook his head in a smile and then craned his neck to try and watch her walk away, so at least he'd have that memory to get him by until he caught up with her again.
"Until we meet again! I love you!" Tony pursed his lips in a smile, speaking in a sing song voice. The first time she'd left him it'd hurt, but now it was turning into a game and Tony was perfectly okay with that as long as he won in the long run.
Scarlett was thankful that Tony had come to terms with their odd new arrangement and was relieved when she didn't feel the all too familiar guilt in the pit of her stomach that she'd been used to accompanying the morning after.
Quickly she walked to the elevator at the end of the hall in a comfortable open sitting area. When the door slid open with a chime, Scarlett reached inside and pressed the buttons for every floor below the one they were staying on, which was the tenth, including the lobby so that when Tony summoned the elevator to try and follow her he'd get hung up by the fact that it'd been called to stop on so many other levels. Afterward she walked past the elevators, hearing the doors slide closed without her, and found the stairwell at the end of the room where she raced down the flights stairs, heels in her hand to avoid falling down as she raced.
Once she arrived at the lobby of the hotel, Scarlett didn't bother to stop and catch her breath and instead slipped her heels on, adjusted her bag on her shoulder and walked into the bustling lobby.
Scarlett had learned over the years that the key to blending into a crowd was to act like she belonged amongst them and she was a master of looking like she belonged. Placing her sunglasses on Scarlett surveyed the lobby to make sure things would be safe for when Tony inevitably came down and tried to catch up to her.
She knew she'd be long gone by the time that happened, but it wouldn't have been the first time she'd been followed by an enemy and had a rude awakening. Even if she was leaving Tony upstairs in a hotel room handcuffed to the bed she wanted to make sure he was safe, considering that was the whole point of her leaving him in the first place. That idea hadn't exactly worked out the way she'd planned it, but she was also aware that Tony was more than capable of taking care of himself.
Scarlett recognized someone out of the corner of her eye and instead of going out the front doors like she'd intended she walked to the front desk and pretended to fill out a guest inquisition form but was really looking out of the corner of her eye at a woman who was walking slowly around the lobby, like she was searching for someone or waiting for someone to arrive.
The professional looking woman had peculiar yellowish tinted eyes, long brown hair pulled back into a lazy ponytail and bangs that framed her face. There wasn't anything remarkable about the woman that she could discern other than she looked out of place and yet Scarlett had diverted her escape to get a better look at her. She recognized this woman and it took only a few seconds to recall where from.
The mystery woman was holding a worn leather briefcase stuffed with folders that stuck out of the top of it for convenience. Scarlett had let the woman into the Stark Mansion on a prior occasion when she had been breaking into Tony's complicated computer system and making a mess of their already messy relationship.
The woman had announced herself as a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent and Scarlett had made sure she was legitimate before she'd taken off. She wished now that she had taken a more specific interest in the woman and her position at S.H.I.E.L.D. so she would have a better idea of what she was dealing with.
It occurred to Scarlett that this woman was likely there looking for her and not for Tony considering what she was neck deep in. Quickly, Scarlett twisted her hair up and out of her face and shoved a hair pin to keep it away. With her hair up and her sunglasses on she wasn't as immediately recognizable. She only needed a few seconds to distract the agent to accomplish her task. With any luck, the woman wouldn't be expecting Scarlett to approach her and wouldn't realize she was right in front of her.
Pulling her cell phone out of her bag, she walked toward the agent, head down and glancing at the screen as though she were looking at an important message. Scarlett snapped a few photos of the agent for reference so she could look up more information on her and the organization that she was already vaguely familiar with due to contact with one of their agents many years prior. Then she pretended to bump into the agent from the side, feigning having been so caught up in her message that she hadn't been aware of where she was walking. After muttering an apology under her breath, Scarlett snuck a handful of files from the briefcase that remained open and shoved them discretely into her own bag.
Without showing her face to the agent and receiving a confirmation that she was just fine and no harm was done, Scarlett offered a kind smile, a nod of her head, and then looped around and started toward the glass front doors of the hotel once again. Heading out of the hotel at long last, she didn't stop or turn around when she heard the agent following after her and calling her name, apparently realizing exactly who had bumped into her.
"Miss Damien? Is that you? Scarlett Damien? I'm from S.H.I.E.L.D., we need to have a word!" The agent called after her and started to follow her but Scarlett kept her head down, ignored the woman's calls and disappeared onto the crowded streets and out of sight before she could be caught and delayed any further.
If she had a need for S.H.I.E.L.D. intervention later on then she'd approach them with information and ask for assistance. In her experience, agencies like S.H.I.E.L.D. had a tendency to get in the way more than they did assist.
Agent Mickey Pierce considered navigating through the crowd in search of her target but knew it wasn't worth the effort she'd put into it. She'd surely spend hours crawling through the sea of visitors and locals around the overpopulated area of the thriving city to search for the woman and would likely only find traces of a ghost as she had in other cities.
So instead Mickey concentrated on her back up plan. If she could find Tony Stark, who was often in Scarlett's wake, then she would be able to ask him the questions she had prepared for Scarlett and at least have a better idea of what she was up against and perhaps even garner his assistance. But then again, the last time she'd approached him he had been very little help and had barely acknowledged her existence.
"Scarlett? Scarlett? Hey, anyone around here see a tall leggy brunette running this way? Probably in heels, she's out of her mind, have any of you actually tried running in three inch heels?" Speak of the devil, Tony emerged from the stairwell out of breath and in scant else but his boxer briefs. There was a pair of handcuffs still clamped around his wrist, one end dangling mangled off of him. People stared at Tony in response, clearly no one having the information that he needed and being far more interested in him.
Running out the front doors of the hotel lobby once he was sure everyone around him was useless, Tony looked from side to side and then sighed heavily, realizing that he'd been just a little too late to find Scarlett in the hotel. He'd have to track her down all over again. Not that it was entirely too hard for him. The first time he'd found her in London in a gloomy Bed and Breakfast had been one hell of a task but he'd gotten smart that first night he'd spent with her abroad.
When she'd fallen asleep that night after he'd lured her into bed, Tony had found her cell phone in her bag and had placed a GPS locator bug in the system so that he would be able to pinpoint her location without her realizing it at ease. He was surprised that she hadn't discovered his secret yet, but wasn't going to argue since his system hadn't failed him yet. There was hope that she still wanted him to find her.
Brushing his hand lazily through his short hair, Tony became very suddenly aware of those around him staring at him and starting to recognize him. Some people were even taking cell phone photos of him.
"What?" Tony hoped that by addressing those looking at him they'd be too embarrassed to continue their curious gaze, but instead several people pointed to the handcuff that was hanging from his wrist. "Come on, do you people even know me by now? This shouldn't surprise you." Tony's face lit up with a confident smirk. Before he could further explain the handcuffs with an elaborate story that would make the most open minded people blush, someone cleared their throat to attract his attention.
"Mr. Stark, could you spare a moment of your time?" Mickey kept her eyes on Tony's face but had to keep repeating over and over in her mind to keep focused on just his face and not anywhere else considering Tony had ignored the need for clothing. It was incredibly distracting.
"I'm kind of busy, can't you tell?" Tony waved her off without giving her a second glance.
"Too busy for pants I take it?" Mickey smiled warily then scowled when Tony brushed her off again, this time pretending not to hear her. "You don't remember me, do you?"
"Sorry lady, you S.H.I.E.L.D. agents all look the same to me. No offense." Tony shrugged and started back into the hotel, contemplating his next move and how long he should wait before he followed Scarlett. At the very least, he should put some pants on since walking around half naked he seemed to draw more attention than he needed considering the sensitive nature of what he was up to. When Mickey didn't look amused by his quip, Tony smiled apologetically but also signaled with his hand for her to shoo. "If you don't mind, I've got things to do. You know the consulting hours. I'll send Fury yet another memo."
"These things you have to do, would they perhaps be related to a company that goes publically by the name of MedCo?" Mickey interrupted before Tony could turn away and retreat to the elevator. Tony stopped short and considered his options. If S.H.I.E.L.D. knew about MedCo then they likely knew he'd been pursuing them for quite some time. Why wouldn't they include him in their investigations? Likely for the same reasons they kept him out of the loop in most things. He was beyond their control.
"Okay, you have my attention."
"We met a few weeks ago when Scarlett Damien let me into your laboratory while you were sleeping. You knew my fiancé who died during that charity event where MedCo's robots attacked. Once again, I'm Special Agent Mickey Pierce and I think that it's about time we sat down and had a talk, Mr. Stark."
"Huh." Tony rubbed his hand over his goatee and considered her proposal. "Aren't you all sassy? Okay, you know what? Fine." He figured it couldn't hurt to see what S.H.I.E.L.D. was up to concerning MedCo. It didn't surprise him that they were aware of the company seeing as they were officially a global terrorist organization as of a few weeks ago. But why they would be so concerned with their personal matters involving the company, Tony was curious. If he could get any information from S.H.I.E.L.D. that he wasn't privy to, then he was more than happy to waste a few minutes with Special Agent Mickey Pierce while he let Jarvis do the work with locating and tracking Scarlett.
"Fine?" Mickey looked relieved but still skeptical that Tony was actually agreeing to listen to her. "Just like that?"
"If you're going to complain then I can change my mind." Tony would've glanced at his watch to show her his impatience but he'd taken it off the night before. "There's this little café down the road. It's filled with tourists but it should be safe for us to talk there without detection."
"Oh no, I'm not falling for that, Mr. Stark. You're almost as sneaky as your little girlfriend but not nearly as clever. You're going to tell me to meet you there and then leave me waiting while you scamper off." Mickey looked disapproving, making a walking gesture with her forefinger and middle finger.
"No, that's actually not it. I'm just half naked, in case you didn't notice, and they probably won't let me in without the pants I neglected, as you so keenly mentioned earlier." Tony held his arms out on either side of him, proudly displaying his half naked body. "And for the record, I'm just as clever as Scarlett is, thank you very much."
"Oh…" Mickey drifted off, contemplating his offer. If he gave her the slip then she'd have to track them down from scratch which was proving to be no mean feat since both Tony and Scarlet were immensely clever. Mickey sighed then glanced down the sidewalk in the direction Tony had gestured toward for the café, spotting the tables at the end of the street. "Alright. But if you're not there in fifteen minutes then I'm going to have you arrested. Next time the handcuffs won't be for some game."
"I miss Coulson." Tony smirked but then turned on his heels without saying another word to the agent that was pursuing him. Mickey was making frustrated sounds as she left the lobby but he didn't much care how irritated he'd managed to make her. Disrupting the life of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents was practically a side job for him.
Once in the elevator, Tony considered his next move. Jarvis and Pepper would be able to locate Scarlett for him while he juggled the task of speaking with Agent Pierce and eventually taking a conference call so he could keep his company afloat. He still had a thousand things on his mind from running a multibillion dollar corporation to where he'd find Scarlett next or if he'd find her dead.
Following her, Tony had hoped he would find some answers and instead was left with a thousand new questions. One thing was for sure: Scarlett remained as interesting as ever.