Maria stepped carefully around the debris littering the street to where Iron Man was sitting on a piece of concrete. She wordlessly handed him an opened bottle of water. He took it, drank silently for a minute, and then looked at her. "Okay. I'm a little worried that I'm hallucinating here, so answer me this. Did I really just fight a giant octopus that was trying to take out the Statue of Liberty?"
"Yes," she said.
"And here I thought nuking an alien spaceship would be the weirdest thing I ever did," he muttered.
She suppressed her smile. "You did a good job," she said, because he had. They had scrambled some fighter jets, but the monster octopus was quick, and Iron Man had been the only one able to maneuver well enough to really damage and stop the thing.
He stared at her, then sighed. "Damn it, you're being nice to me. I am hallucinating."
She actually did smile, then. "No need to worry, I'm just softening you up for the bad news," she said. "News cameras are out in full force and they all want to talk to you."
Tony swore under his breath. Only for a minute, though, and then he stood up. "Where are they?"
Maria studied him, noting how tired he looked and wondering if this was a good idea right now. "You don't have to talk to them. We can put them off."
"If I don't say something now they'll just start speculating I was hurt," he said. "Plus, if I say something quick now, I may get out of having to do any actual interviews about this."
It still took her by surprise just how well he understood the media. She nodded, then led the way to the press. She watched Tony with them, answering their questions in an easy manner, putting on just the right amount of attitude... giving them exactly what they expected from 'Tony Stark's Iron Man'. He didn't blow up at them, though, or say anything wildly inappropriate. He actually did know what he was doing with the press and could control himself. Maria just hadn't figured out if this was a recent development or he had always been able to do this, and just hadn't cared to bother before.
Twenty minutes with the press, and then he turned and walked away. Maria fell into step beside him. "You need me for anything else?" he asked.
"No, we've got cleanup covered," she said. "Go home."
He tilted his head in thanks. "Call me when the next sea monster attacks."
"You're first on my speed dial, Stark," she returned dryly. He quirked a smile, then flipped his faceplate down and shot off up into the air.