"You've met then?"
"You could say that. I…dropped by."
"No doubt under cover of darkness, uninvited, so as to make more of a splash." There was an undercurrent of displeasure in her words.
Her companion snorted. "Splash? At least I didn't announce I was a superhero to the entire world." His displeasure was more than evident. "You do recall that, don't you, Charlotte? It was only a few days ago."
"Of course I do! I was there, remember?" She sat back in her chair with a sigh.
"Yes, you were, weren't you?" He settled his one eye on her thoughtfully. "And you weren't surprised; unhappy, but not surprised." He rubbed his finger and thumb together as he thought.
Throwing her hands up in the air, she exclaimed, "You were there? No, wait, your spies were, weren't they? Recording everything that happened and everyone that was there."
He shrugged, but didn't confirm or deny her accusation. "You knew about the suit." It wasn't a question.
"Yes, I did," she replied, without a hint of apology. "What I didn't know was what Tony was going to do with it."
"Do you really expect me to believe that?"
"Frankly, I don't care what you believe, Nicholas. I don't answer to you, nor have I ever."
"You should have contacted me," he told her with a note of reproach.
That made her laugh. "Not in a million years would I sell out my best friend to you and your organization."
He looked hurt at her words. "You used to trust me."
"And I still do… to a point," she admitted. "But that trust is mine alone, and does not extend to those I care about. I know you too well, Nicholas. You're all about saving the world, and you don't care what you have to do to accomplish that." She said the words gently, not wanting to hurt him further.
Charlotte closed her eyes tiredly. The last few days had been a rollercoaster of emotion, most of it giving her a headache and the desire to get blindingly drunk for the foreseeable future. The last thing she'd needed was Nick Fury arriving on her doorstep after more than ten years. Not that she should have been surprised; his reappearance in her life had been inevitable from the moment Iron Man had shown up on the front page of the newspaper.
"Does Stark know about you?" he asked suddenly.
She shook her head, momentarily confused by the turn in the conversation. "No, he doesn't," she said, realizing what it was he was asking, "and God willing, he never will."
"You don't trust him then." There was a hint of satisfaction in his voice that raised Charlotte's hackles.
"Nothing could be farther from the truth," she objected heatedly. "Of course I trust him!"
"Then why?" He leaned forward, elbows on his knees.
"Because it would change everything; it would change us." She looked away. "It would alter how he sees me, it would damage our friendship; possibly destroy it. And I couldn't bear that."
"You don't know that."
"Don't I? Immortality changes everything, Nicholas. I'd have thought you might begin to understand that now. But perhaps you are still too young." She straightened her shoulders. "No, I always want Tony to see his friend, Charlotte Sparrow, not a three hundred year old Immortal who would be like a stranger to him."
"I think you're wrong, but I know from bitter experience not to argue with you," he said wryly.
She flashed him a smile before turning serious once more. "Why are you here, Nicholas, really?"
"I wanted your take on Stark. If he has your friendship," he paused, "your trust, there has to be more to him than would seem obvious from his public image."
"There's a reason they say 'don't believe everything you read', you know. I won't deny that some of that public image is true, but Tony Stark is so much more than that. You can trust him, Nicholas, so can your people."
"Then I suppose the question is, will he trust me?"
"Not at first. He is a man who has been betrayed, and that is not gotten over easily. But in time, if you're deserving, he will."
He gave her a calculating look. "That day would come a whole lot sooner if you finally took me up on my offer."
"For God's sake! Nicholas Fury, the answer was 'no' last time, and all the times before that. Nothing has changed." She slapped the arm of her chair for emphasis. "I have no interest in saving the world; that's your department."
"That's not the woman I remember."
"What I'm beginning to remember is how aggravating you are!" she said with a glare.
A wolfish grin spread across his face. "You didn't think I was aggravating when we were hiding out from the Nazis in that wine cellar in France."
"That was war." She sniffed.
"You could call it that," he said, sounding smug. It was obvious he wasn't necessarily referring to World War II.
Despite herself, she found herself matching his smile. "We made a good team."
"And we could again," he said, pressing his point. "Charlotte, you have to know that there are those of your kind working for the other side. We need… I need Immortals like you to counter them."
"No! Don't you see? Especially now…what Tony would think, how he'd feel. I won't be a party to your manipulating him, I won't!" Her voice rose. "He has been betrayed once this week already, I will not do that to him again!" Charlotte felt the fury well up, wishing she could bring Obadiah Stane back so she could slowly kill him herself. What he had done to Tony had pulled her into a darkness that she had thought she had finally excised from her soul. And she was still raw from those feelings of vengeance and bloodlust that she had rediscovered in herself. No, she was the last person who should ever be involved in Nick Fury's organization. Nothing good could ever come of it. "Leave it be, Nicholas, please."
Seeming to realize he'd pushed too far, he waved a hand. "Okay, I get it. I'm sorry. I won't ask again, I promise. But if you ever change your mind…." He gave her a crooked smile, shrugging, as if to say, 'you can't blame a guy for trying'. He stood. "It was good seeing you again, Charlotte."
She looked up at him fondly. "Don't let it be ten years the next time."
He handed her what looked like an old fashioned engraved calling card with an address and phone number. "If you ever need me."
She took the small rectangle in her hand. "I would have expected something more…. I don't know, some sort of electronic gizmo."
"I seem to remember someone telling me that sometimes, the old ways are the best ways."
"Obviously an individual of great wisdom," she said with a giggle.
"Oh, she is," he assured her with a wink. "My regards to Standish."
"I shall pass them on, Ezra will be sorry to have missed your visit."
"My wallet isn't," Nick replied with a laugh. Then he became solemn. "Watch your back, Charlotte. Stark made you, and everyone in his life, a target with his stunt."
"I can take care of myself," she assured him.
"I know that, but…." He shook his head.
She nodded her understanding. "And you look out for Tony."
"I'll do my best." He reached down, brushing her cheek with his fingertips. "Till next time."
"Till next time."