His suit of armor is unlike any that I have ever seen. I'm glad my steed is well trained and not skittish, as most horses would probably react badly to such an odd sight. The armor seems much too thin to protect him from any blows, fitting skin-tight like hose along his arms and legs, only a little thicker over his torso. It reveals every sinewy line of his body, and while it seems flimsy and useless as armor goes, it looks beautiful, its surface a lustrous red and gold. His armor is gorgeous; he is gorgeous, more attractive than any lady in fine garb that I have ever set eyes on. I cannot stop staring.
I know I should not feel like this when looking at a man, and yet I cannot help myself.
He removes his helmet, revealing dark hair and blue eyes just as enticing as his armored frame. He smiles at me, and the smile is another temptation that I cannot resist.
"What manner of a man are you, wearing such strange armor?" I find myself asking him.
"Uh, Iron?" he replies, his lips quirking to suggest this is some kind of a private joke. I don't understand it. "This is going to sound like a really stupid question, but are you a knight?"
"Indeed I am. Sir Stephen of York, at your service," I introduce myself, and I see his eyes grow slightly wider, the look he gives me an obviously admiring one. It brings up yet more warm feelings that I struggle to keep in check. I do not even know his name, I realize. "What may I call you?"
"Just Tony will do," he replies, and bows. "This is an honor, Sir Steven."
Even if I do enjoy much respect from the people around me, I don't think anyone has yet addressed me with quite so much reverence.
I have to stop thinking like this. I have come across this stranger on a rarely traveled path, deep in the woods, far from any settlements, where I wouldn't have expected to meet anyone. I should be taking care of this situation as is appropriate.
"What are you doing out here, Tony?" I ask him.
He purses his lips, his confident and charming looks faltering a little. "It's a long story that you probably wouldn't believe anyway. The short version is that I'm hopelessly lost and could use some help. Any chance you could take me to the nearest village?"
"Of course. That's the least I can do. Come, my steed can carry us both."
I offer him a hand, which he accepts without hesitation. As my fingers close around his forearm to pull him up, I find that his strange, flimsy armor feels as tough as any metal I have ever touched.
The ride back home is the most distracting affair, with all that sleek metal pressed against my back, Tony's hands on my waist for balance.
I know I should take him to Lord Fury. With all these feelings I shouldn't be having towards him that I just cannot shake off, it would be the best course of action. But I don't know what Fury would make of him, and I worry for him. I want to keep him safe.
When Tony asks if there is a blacksmith in the village, because he is skilled in that field himself and needs to make repairs for his armor, I find myself negotiating with the old smith to have Tony stay secretly in the back room.
I've been rescued by an actual knight in shining armor. I may have fashioned Iron Man after one of those, and I've always looked up to them, but I've never really felt like one. Sir Stephen, though, he's the real deal. I'm not sure if that portal threw me back in time to the real Middle Ages, or if this is some kind of a parallel dimension that only resembles the time period. I haven't come across any familiar names, which kind of suggests the latter.
I'm basically living an Arthurian legend. I'd be having the time of my life if not for the minor detail that I'm seriously running out of time. More exactly, I'm running out of power. There are no handy electric outlets to plug my chest plate into. Good thing I'm one of the handful of people who might be able to pull off building a battery off the top of my head while limited to the armor I'm wearing and what the medieval setting offers me.
I'd never be able to pull this off without Steve. Sir Stephen.
At some point during the two days I've been stuck here, he's become Steve, and I've fallen for him as hard as I've ever fallen for anyone. Not that it's surprising. He's an actual knight, and he's stunning, from his perfect physique to the handsomest face I've ever set eyes on.
Unless I'm reading things completely wrong, he doesn't hate me, either. He's clearly doing his damnedest to hide it, but there are too many lingering glances and warm smiles for it to be a coincidence. Unfortunately, from what I've been able to gather so far, the attitudes in this time and place really, really don't favor same-sex relationships, and the last thing I want is for my amazing knight to end up in trouble.
As further evidence that he's as smitten with me as I'm with him, Steve is being incredibly helpful, finding time to fetch me the seemingly random supplies that I need for my all-important engineering project, never questioning my requests.
Now, the battery's almost finished, but so am I; I can feel that there's barely any power left, a familiar ache settling in my chest. If I don't finish this tonight, I'll die here, an immeasurable distance away from everyone I ever knew.
Steve stops by that evening for no particular reason at all, and as soon as his gaze finds me, he frowns. "You're awfully pale," he says. "Are you not feeling well?"
"You could say that," I admit, forcing a smile.
Steve moves closer, his hands settling on my upper arms. "Anything I can do to help? Should I fetch the healer?"
"No, they can't help. You've already done more than you realize," I assure him. I can't help leaning into the touch a little; his hands are warm and comforting. It almost feels as if he could fix everything that's wrong just by holding me close. He can't, of course.
If I can't get this makeshift mess of a power source to work within the next couple of hours, this will be the last time I see him. This will be goodbye.
"Steve," I add before he can speak up again. "I know I haven't told you very much about myself, and I'm sorry. I promise I'll try to explain everything later, if I'm still around. The thing is, I'm not sure I'll make it through the night."
"How—no, that can't be!" Steve exclaims, looking horrified. "There must be something—"
"If there was anything anyone could do, I'd ask, but there isn't. I'll have to sort this out myself. Only thing I ask is that you make sure no one disturbs me. Before that, though, there's one other thing."
I don't want Sir Stephen to end up in any trouble, but we're alone in this room. Whatever happens here will remain between us.
We're already standing so close to one another than I can almost feel his breath on my skin. I place one palm between his shoulder blades, on his scale mail armor, and pull him closer to press my lips against his.
He draws in a sharp breath, but doesn't retreat. Instead, he buries one hand in my hair and kisses me right back. It's tentative at first—he clearly hasn't done this very often—but then turns more intense, his mouth hot and demanding. I cling to him with the despair of a man facing impending death.
When we finally draw apart, he looks stunned, like he can't decide whether he's elated or appalled at what just happened.
"I should go," he says stiffly.
"Yes. I've got a lot of work to do," I say.
"I'll be back in the morning. You'd better still be here," he adds, seeming to surface from his stupor a little, his eyes demanding.
"That's the plan," I promise him.
If I'm not, things will be a lot simpler for him.
If I am, well, then things are about to get really interesting for the both of us.