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A Beginning

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Everyone knew the famous Tony Stark, star of Marvels: A Magazine Of Men’s Adventure. Everyone, especially one Steve Rogers, who devoured each new issue chronicling Mr. Stark’s adventures. And here Steve was, standing at the window of Mr. Stark’s airship, soaring over New York City. Right next to Mr. Stark himself.

He pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Because things this exciting didn’t happen to people like Steve.

Dazed, he still hadn’t pieced it together how he ended up here of all places, in the company of a fascinating man who hadn’t stopped talking once since Steve met him. Or why he felt a fierce protective loyalty already for someone he barely knew.

“What do you think, Rogers?” Stark asked as Steve reached out tentatively to touch the window.

Steve thought many things. He thought he was lucky that customer at his diner shoved a ticket at Steve for Mr. Stark’s lecture when he handed the women her egg cream. He’d been desperate to go, but money was tight, and he needed to pay rent. He thought he was lucky that he found that seat near the front of the lecture hall at the American Museum of Natural History. He knew he was lucky that Mr. Stark had only picked up his Marvels magazines when he dropped them, instead of tripping and falling and breaking something.

God, Mr. Stark was a dazzling man, sharp and handsome in his bespoke suit as he spoke passionately about his latest adventures in Peru. Steve had no idea that anyone had that much presence, charisma, and brilliance until he saw Mr. Stark in person. He hoped that Mr. Stark would not see the blush cross his face as he thought of Mr. Stark shining under the lights of the lecture hall.

Mr. Stark repeated quietly, “What do you think, Rogers?”

Steve was still mesmerized by the view of the city below and the clouds in front of them and the blue blur of the horizon stretching out forever. This is how Mr. Stark lived everyday! He could only dream of the adventures that Mr. Stark and his friends went on.

“Rogers?” Mr. Stark was now standing close to Steve, who startled at his voice nearly in his ear.

“What?” Steve replied. He barely was able to tear his eyes away from the amazing sights around them. He finally looked up at Mr. Stark, with warm sparkling blue eyes and his lips curled into a smile and decked out in a French shirt and tailored pants.

After his brief meeting with Mr. Stark over the dropped magazines, Steve had shaken the man’s hand, asked for an autograph, and promised to keep reading. The crowd pressed forward, vying for Mr. Stark’s attention and Steve was shoved to the side. His evening was over, and it was time to go home. Nothing could top meeting Mr. Stark, after all.

Until he felt the need to stop a man who had pushed two women out of the way to steal their cab. Steve was barely holding his own against the bully who took a swing at him, but he was determined to see the fight through, no matter the cost. Then Mr. Stark had swept in to stop the fight, send the bully on his way, gallantly proffer a ride to the ladies, and mop up Steve’s bloody nose.

His heart skipped a beat or two when Mr. Stark invited him to lunch and a tour. The view from the airship couldn’t be topped.

Mr. Stark cleared his throat. “Like I said earlier, Miss Potts is leaving Marvels to take a job as a lead reporter at the Daily Bugle. I have no idea why she would settle for that – she claimed it had something to do with ‘serious stories’ about the ‘state of the country’ and ‘not getting shot at’ and ‘dislike of dysentery’.” He shrugged. “But apparently it’s not some passing fancy, and she is really, truly retired. So I might be in the market for a new chronicler.”

“Oh?” Wonder who the lucky bastard was that was going to get that job, Steve thought.

“The job is all hard work, long nights, no permanent home, lots of adventures good, bad, and mundane – I should add that one of my chroniclers did die on the job, couldn’t be helped – but the fame, Rogers, the fame and the chance to see things no one else has seen!”

Shocked, Steve replied, “Me? You’re asking me?” He whipped his head around in case someone else had suddenly appeared.

“You seem to be the right sort of person for the job. Tenacious. Courageous. Stubborn. All the right stuff.” Tony clapped his shoulder. “I’m offering you the world, Rogers. The world!”

Tony’s hand burned on Steve’s shoulder as Steve looked up into those blue twinkling eyes. Small, frail, asthmatic Steve would not be any other person’s choice for an explorer. He knew that. But here was one of the most famous explorers asking him, of all people, to work for him.

He should stop and think. He was an artist, not a writer. He’d had a tuberculous scare and pneumonia last winter. He had not a single clue of what he was getting into. But none of that mattered or even registered with him as he said firmly, “Yes, of course.”

“Good. Start by calling me Tony and we head off for Greenland in the morning.”

 

 

 

Badge art by Inoshi.