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The Cold

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“…donated four thousand dollars to the women in STEM scholarships-“ The women in front of him brags, Tony thinks her name might be Cat Grant. His eyes wander the room, and stop as he notices a drunk man knock a tray out of a waitress’s hand.

“I’m sorry, excuse me.” Tony says, ducking into the crowd. The woman makes an affronted noise as he dodges past a few fancily clad people to get to the drunk man.

“Listen, listen.” The man’s voice slurs. Tony grabs the guys shoulder before he can whisper anything else in the waitress’s ear, missing the way the woman’s hand reaches for her ankle.

“Dude, back off.” Tony demands turning his back towards the surprised woman. “She wants to be left alone, so why don’t you head home and hope she doesn’t press charges.” Tony says, pointing him towards the door.

“I am rich, like Bruce Wayne rich, don’t tell me what to do.” The guy says, pointing somewhere between Tony and the picture on the wall behind them. The waitress scowls.

“I am Tony Stark. I will not hesitate to act as a witness, and allow this woman access to my Lawyers if she chooses to press charges.” He threatens, and the guy grumbles a few cuss words before stumbling off towards the exit.

“Thank you.” The girl behind him says, and he keeps a wary eye on the Batman fans retreating form.

“It’s not a problem, can I get you anything? A drink? A ride home?” He offers, and she thinks of the poison in her pocket, glancing over to her coworker behind the bar. “Kate, are you okay?” He asks with such legitimate concern that her conviction wavers.

“Yeah, I’m fine, can you give me a ride home?” She asks, and he smiles reassuringly.

“Any excuse to get out of this place is a good one to me.” He says, allowing her to lead him towards the exit. “Be prepared for stories in the News Paper about you though.” He says as she opens the door.

“Well, if I’m going to be your next scandal you should call me Katie.” She says, unwilling to offer her true name. He grins opening the door for her. Despite the flirting, he keeps a respectful distance, and Anne finds herself in delightful company for the rest of the night.

Jack hated his job, hated having to hurt people like this, but the company said it was for the greater good, and he was the only member of his family making anything. He didn’t have a lot of choices, he finished setting the bomb under Stark’s red convertible and sat down at a café table, hands sweating as he clutched the small flip phone in his grip.

“You can do this Jack.” He whispers, eyes trained on the car, and then there’s a figure sitting in the seat across from him. He looks up to see Tony Stark, and nearly has a heart attack, his stomach dropping out of his chest.

“She’s a real beauty, isn’t she?” Stark asks, and Jack can barely hear him over the pounding of his heart. He nods nervously, trying to figure out what kind of game Stark is playing. “Wanna go for a ride?” He asks, and Jack nods numbly, half convinced he’s going to be killed by Iron Man. The last assassination attempt through Ten Rings hadn’t gone so well.

“Yeah.” His voice is a little breathless as he follows Stark to the car. He kicks the bomb off with his shoe, and nudges it down the gutter as he climbs in, unwilling to risk Hydra setting it off remotely with him in the car.

“You seem like a nice guy, what’s your name?” Tony asks, as he buckles his seatbelt. Jack is white as a sheet, and he wants to put the poor guy at ease.

“Names Jack, Dr. Stark.” Jack stammers, shoving the flip phone in his pocket. Tony smiles at him, and shifts the car into gear, pulling out of the parking spot with a near dangerous level of confidence.

“Call me Tony.” Tony says, turning right suddenly. Jack focuses on holding onto his lunch, between his nerves, and Tony’s driving. “What do you do Jack? What did you Study?”

“Well I’m currently unemployed.” Jack offers, technically true there is no legal employment status for Hydra. “I studied engineering actually.” He says after a moment, and Tony nods.

“Have you considered applying for Stark Industries?” Tony asks, taking another sharp right. Jack blinks at him in confusion, but Tony’s expression is soft. “Look, you seem to be on hard times, there aren’t a lot of positions available here at the moment, but if you’re willing to travel, and any good at what you do I can get you a job.” Tony says, and fuck Hydra, Jack is taking his family and running for it if Stark is really offering.

Sarah Gutierrez was the new intern in legal. She was different from Natashalie, a nervous girl. She seemed lost nearly all the time. She was sweet though, and one of Pepper’s favorites.

“Sarah, I’ve seen you talking with that boy over in HR.” Tony says, as he works to fix the copier, it was jammed again, and Sarah seemed near tears at the thought of being late.

“Jason? Yeah, he’s nice.” She says, tone non-comital. Tony winces at the amount of ink on his hands. Tony thinks of the blonde asshole who reminds him so much of Sunset Bain. Sarah can’t help but notice he’s vulnerable like this, but the cameras know she’s in here. It’s risky, but she’d probably get away with it.

“He’s not good enough for you.” Tony declares, and she pauses in her assessment. “You’re such a nice person, and he seems like such a jerk. He doesn’t deserve you.” Tony says, puling himself out from under the copier. There’s ink on his face, but her papers finally start coming out properly.

“Why not?” She asks, curious. His eyes dart towards the door and the back to her.

“When I was in college an older woman took advantage of me.” He starts, and her jaw drops. She just unlocked the tragic backstory, while considering assassinating this man. “I thought I loved her, though she loved me, but she just wanted my brain, my designs.” Jesus Christ what is Sarah doing here.

“I don’t think Jason’s like that.” She offers, and he shakes his head.

“Just, I don’t want you to get hurt.” He pats her shoulder and then leaves, clearly uncomfortable. Sarah realizes she cannot kill this man.

Tony’s got his nose in his tablet as he makes his way from the donut shop back to the Tower. He’s sent sprawling when he shoulder checks a brick wall, although upon second appraisal it seems the brick wall is a homeless man. The man’s dressed in a ratty old T-shirt, and jeans, an old pack slung over his shoulders and a blanket wrapped around his waist.

“Dude, sorry about that, wow you are built.” Tony says, pulling himself to his feet, the guy blinks at him. “Dude, are you Ex-Military?” Tony asks, gesturing to the tattoo on the guy’s arm. The stranger nods. “What’s your name?” Tony asks, ignoring the confused look on the guy’s face.

“Nelson Greene,” The man, Nelson, says gruffly. Tony nods.

“Cool, do you need a job? We have a security position open at Stark Industries.” He says, jerking a thumb towards the big building to demonstrate.

“Work?” Nelson asks, feeling the knife against his hip like an accusation. Tony nods eagerly, and gestures towards his bicep.

“You look fitter than Captain America.” He explains, and Nelson snorts a laugh. “I understand, if you don’t want to do security, but if you ever need a job, just call our HR department, I’ll tell them I recruited you.” He places a card in Nelson’s hand, and walks off. Leaving Nelson stunned, and in need of a cell phone.

Jennifer is positioned on the top of 28th Liberty Street, sniper rifle in hand.

“Any minute now.” She mumbles, the morning mist is beginning to bother her, as she waits for Stark to head over to the Dunkin Donuts. He leaves around nine AM every morning, and she’s finally ready to take the shot after weeks of recon. She should be able to fire and get off the roof before he even hits the ground.

She fingers the trigger as the door swings open and a familiar brunette walks out. There are a few people in the way, and she waits for a clearer shot. She’s about to get it when Stark suddenly stops in his tracks, turning quickly towards the alley beside him. She hesitates, finger on the trigger. Suddenly Stark is disappearing back into an alley. Anxiety courses through her thinking she’s been caught, spotted somehow.

I’ve got you. She can read his lips, and he emerges holding a small frightened kitten to his chest. Her stomach drops at the thought of shooting him while he’s holding the poor thing.

“Fuck.” She mumbles, worked for thirty years, and she’s too afraid to take a shot because the kitten might get squished.

We need to get you to a vet scrawny. Stark says, and Jennifer groans. She took this job because of the price tag, but fuck it. The man is a super hero, and a saint to boot. Not worth it. Jesus fuck, what self-described billionaire playboy rescues kittens out of garbage cans.

“So much money.” She whispers, scowling as she packs the rifle up. “Two million dollars, gone.” She groans. “Fuck you Stark, had to be a fucking nice guy.” She storms off, and Tony takes the kitten to the vet without ever knowing she was there.

Tony has grown wary, Pepper would say paranoid, since he was left bleeding on the floor of a frozen base in Siberia. He’s hyper vigilant when out in public, constantly aware of those around him. Which is why he noticed the purple haired teenager following him a few blocks back.

“Friday, hold the suit.” He orders into his ear piece, turning into an alley.

“Boss?” She asks, and he waits silent for the girl to follow.  “Yes Boss.” Friday agrees, as the young woman appears at the mouth of the alley. She stalks towards him, pulling a gun out of her holster. Tony resigns himself.

“Dr. Stark.” She says in greeting, he waves half-heartedly. He could fight. He would probably win, but he’s so incredibly tired of fighting. He’s been fighting to live ever since that bomb went off. Ever since Ten Rings picked him up. Ever since he became Iron Man. Ever Since he joined Fury’s boy band. Tony just wanted to be done.

“What’s your name?” He asks, noting the way her eyes dart back towards the mouth of the alley. He sees how easy it would be to drop under her guard.

“Lacey Sirri at your service Sir.” She greets, and while he’s pondering if assassinating someone is really a service she puts a bullet in a man’s head. It takes Tony only a moment to realize that she is not here to kill him, she’s protecting him, and he needs to return the favor. He calls the suit.

“Great, now what the hell is happening?” He asks, accepting the extra gun when she holds it out to him, and taking aim. She fires three times, dropping two men before they can round the corner, and one shot going wide. Tony fires on the remaining man as his armor comes into view.

“Hyrda’s attempting to kill you.” She explains, dragging him mostly behind the dumpster for cover.

“Ah yes, of course.” Tony says, shooting another agent as they turn the corner. They wise up then, two laying down cover fire so the others can move into position. It’s too late though as the armor wraps around Tony.

“Ready boys?” He asks, flying out towards them, the repulsor’s whine as the charge up glowing brightly.

“Fuck it.” A few of the Hydra goons say, dropping their guns and racing down the street. Lacey laughs uproariously, as Tony takes out the last few goons.

“So, my knight in shining,” He actually looks at her outfit and groans. “Plaid, really?” Lacey only laughs harder. “Stop laughing, why’d you decide to save me?” He demands. She doesn’t stop laughing, but she starts to calm down. “Really, why?”

“I’m part of a group,” She starts, finally getting herself under control. “We call ourselves The Cold. I’m one of the luckier ones, your strike team got to my location before AIM found my information in the dump. Some of the others got hurt though.” Tony looks stricken.

“I would have gotten all of you if I could.” He says, and the suit begins to disassemble. She nods. “I still can’t believe they dumped all of that info like that, thousands died before I could get there.” He’s practically overwhelmed by guilt.

“And thousands more would have died if you hadn’t acted.” Lacey tells him. “All of us, we’re on your team Tony. Not team Iron Man. Team Tony. Because you, you’re my hero.” She pokes his chest. “The world needs heroes like you, and heroes like you, they need back up. People who won’t leave them out in the cold.”