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Infinitely Stranger

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Tony Stark wiggled in his seat. Eyes glued to the passing streets outside of the small, musty smelling cab that had gotten him from the London Heathrow Airport. One leg bounced with a mixture of built up energy and nervousness.

Despite the amount Tony had traveled in the past, this was his first time in London. Plus, he was alone- given the circumstances of his visit.

All in all- he was scared. Sure he was an adult- but barely. His twenty-two years of life seemed like nothing when he boarded the plane in California. No one knew he was going- not even James Rhodes- his best friend who was likely flipping his lid right about now.

No. He didn’t want anyone to know where he was- not with what was going on recently. The strange occurrences were enough to make even him- mostly fearless genius inventor- afraid.

A little less than a year prior to this, Tony Stark’s parents had died in a car wreck. The scene screamed accident- however, it never sat right with him. The damage to the car itself and the damage to his parents didn’t match up- his stomach still turned thinking about their bloodied, damaged bodies.

He rolled down the window.

Cool air greeted him happily and Tony let out a sigh of relief as the building sweat was suddenly attacked and tamed by the refreshing breeze.

London weather was- mild. At the moment at least. It was nearing fall so the temperature was dropping. Tony would be lying if he didn’t appreciate it. He was always a fan of the winter- although that view may change.

His parents did die quite close to Christmas.

“We’re here, sir.” The cabby spoke up, drawing Tony from his thoughts. He glanced out the car window and looked up at the relatively tall building they were sat just outside of. Tony felt his palms grow sweaty in anticipation. He popped the car door open and climbed out- grabbing his one duffel bag out of the back before hurrying to pay.

The first thing he had done when he landed was make sure he had the proper currency- the look on the woman's face when he offered her a hefty sum of American dollars to switch to English Pounds was quite priceless.

“Thank you.” Tony said as he offered the average looking cabby his fair- plus a generous tip. The drive had been long, and airport traffic was hell no matter where you were.

“No- thank you, sir.” The man offered back, voice thick with an English accent that Tony had come to love quite quickly. He gave the cabby a wide smile that could win over anyone in an instant.

Let’s hope that proved true.

Tony waved as the cabby drove away and turned to face the building he had spent hours searching for online- it looked quite the same.

Cheap and a little run down.

A bright red awning read Speedy’s Sandwich Bar & Cafe with glass windows offering a look inside- Tony smiled at how kind it looked. However, that wasn’t his destination.

Just next to the slightly famous Sandwich Bar sat a single dark black door with a single step leading up to it. There were dozens- if not hundreds of pictures floating around online of this very spot- however the resident was less photogenic. Tony had found maybe two or three blurry photos of the man.

Tony took a deep breath and walked up to the door- raising a fist to knock at the door.

Although- it popped open before he could bring his fist down. He quickly stepped down off the small cement step as someone emerged from behind the door in a shockingly bright yellow raincoat. The woman didn’t seem to notice him until she adjusted the bag slung over her shoulder. She looked up in mild surprise.

“Oh- hello.” She greeted, lips pulling into a warm smile that soothed Tony instantly. He let a smile of his own stretch across his lips.

“Hi!” He said in response.

“May I help you?” She asked a little uncertainty, looking him up and down with a spark of suspicion in her eyes- Tony didn’t blame her. He was a jet lagged American who probably looked quite unhealthy.

“Uhm yes-” He started, looking up at the building, then back at the woman. “I’m looking for Stephen Strange.”

“Ah.” Her eyes lit up a bit, followed by a soft smile. “Are you a client?”

“Yes! Well, I hope to be at least….” Tony explained, feeling a bit awkward. He kicked the ground- shoes scuffing along the pavement. “Is he here?”

“Yes.” The woman answered, mouth open as she seemed to consider her next words. Her lips were always upturned into a happy smile. “However- I believe he is waiting on a call. So the odds of getting his attention are ...Slim.” She explained lightly. “You’re welcome to go on up and try.” She said, then- “I’ll show you up.”

“Would you? Thank you so much.” Tony said with a wide smile. He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder. The woman eyed him with a hint of amusement trapped behind her eyes.

“Of course.” She said. “My name is Yao.” She introduced, stepping back inside- whatever she had originally opened the door for long forgotten. Tony followed after her and stepped carefully through the door. After a long hallway, the first thing he could see was a staircase off to the left, and a longer hallway leading to a closed door.

“Tony Stark.” Tony offered in response, following her up the stairs.

“I should warn you, Mr. Stark, that Stephen can be- a little...odd sometimes.” She began as they climbed the stairs.

“So I’ve heard.” He said, he’d read as much as he could about this man- the amount of hate he got was actually slightly impressive to Tony. Tony’s family was very well known- his father had been a weapons manufacturer and the things they did weren’t exactly good in the eyes of many people.

This man had about the same number of people who hated his guts. Maybe even more- which was simultaneously hilarious and worrisome.

“Is his schedule usually full?” Tony asked. “I didn’t really see any working hours….It does seem like a lot of people seek him out for help.”

“Oh…” Yao hummed. “His hours are basically all the time. A lot of people come to him yes, but his business varies by the day.”

“Oh.” Was all Tony could say in response.

They reached the top and Yao knocked lightly on the paneled door at the top of the stairs, pushing it open without waiting for a response.

“Stephen, there’s someone looking for you.” She called, however, her voice remained soft despite how she called into the room. Tony followed cautiously behind her as she entered a bigger room.

Tony’s eyes scanned the open space, to the right was a small coffee table and a couch pushed up against the wall. Straight across from the open door was a small desk where Tony spotted someone sitting- a short asian man who was squinting unhappily at an open laptop.

Further to the left was a nice fireplace with two very mismatched chairs facing each other and a single stool sitting in between them. Tony peered in a far as he could be saw no one resembling the pictures- as blurry as they were he knew this heavier man was indeed not Stephen Strange.

“He’s doing something...Somewhere. I’d wait.” The man grunted from his chair.

“His room, then?” Yao asked, not bothering to wait for an answer before wandering around the corner. Tony only followed a bit, stopping at the kitchen that she walked easily through- although, the kitchen was not the best word to use. It was more of a lab station. Tony looked with interest. Science was one of his stronger areas in school- obviously engineering was his focus but.

Science was fun.

There was a beaker filled with some sort of blue liquid that caught his eye. Tony leaned over it and squinted at the substance there was a burning curiosity to touch it. He reached out and touched the lip of the beaker- and then without really thinking he plucked it from it’s stand to get a better look at what was inside.

Yao walked out from the room she had disappeared into with a wide smile. She nodded at Tony as she passed. He simply smiled back at her- a little questioning as she went into back into the living room. He opened his mouth to ask if he should come back later when a hand came to rest on his back- Tony jumped at the touch but luckily the other person had the mind to grab the bottom of the beaker, promptly lifting it from Tony’s grasp before it could spill..

“Don’t touch that please.” Came a deep, baritone voice from behind him. “Batrachotoxin, nasty stuff.”

Tony turned and looked up at whom he could only assume to be Stephen Strange- tall, dark curly hair and blue eyes he’d heard much praise on.

Which- now he understood that praise.

Standing beside him was, honestly, the best looking man Tony Stark had ever seen in all his life. The combination of pale, smooth skin and dark hair had Tony’s head spinning but the ice blue eyes had him outright swooning. Not to mention the black jacket and slacks he wore over a simple white dress shirt-

Tony was screwed.

“H-hi.” He eventually said. Vaguely aware that the man still had a hand on his back and he was standing- quite close.

“Hello.” Strange replied smoothly and set the beaker down. Tony looked at it and then the toxin clicked in his head.

“Wait- I’m sorry, did you say-?”

“Batrachotoxin, a dangerous poison from frogs native to South America, yes. Don’t touch it could kill you. Excuse me.” Strange said and swept passed Tony- leaving him balking at the beaker he had just been holding and sloshing around like a child.

“Why-” Do you even have that?.

Tony spun around and watched Strange traveled across the flat, long legs took him into the sitting room where he shuffled around the room, grabbing random things that Tony couldn’t really look at.

“I’m expecting a call so make it quick.” He called over his shoulder as he approached the curtained window, pulling aside a corner of the drapes to look out at the street.

“Quick-” Tony repeated a bit dumbly before realizing exactly what was being asked of him. “Right, quick.” He repeated again, then stepped into the sitting room again. He glanced around a bit unsure before dropping his duffle bag on the single stool that sat in the middle of the room.

“Quick.” Stephen repeated, finally turning to face Tony again before a look of slight confusion crossed his face. “Who are you?”

“I’m- uh.” Tony tried- god, why was talking so hard right now?

“This is Mr. Stark.” Yao spoke up- bless her soul. “As I said, he needs your help.”

“That’s nice, with what?” Stephen asked- clearly losing patience. Tony fumbled with his bag. The nervousness he was feeling in the cab was twenty times stronger. This was his last hope- if Strange couldn’t help him, then he was doomed.

“I’m- my name is Tony Stark and I-”

“Need help?”

“Yes.” Tony said with a deep sigh.

“Stephen.” Yao spoke up again, the way she said his name was slightly berating. The man himself let out a deep sigh before perching himself on the arm of one of the small armchairs hands folded together. Stephen then offered Tony a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes and nodded for him to proceed.

“Right….” Tony said after a long pause. He looked down at his bag before opting to just explain first.

Get him on your side, Stark.

“On December 16th of last year my parents died in a car wreck.” He started to explain, hands wrung together as he spoke. “The police said it was just an accident but I’m not so sure.” As he spoke Strange looked less and less interested, which had Tony feeling a little nauseous.

“It just doesn’t make sense-” He began, reaching for his bag. “If you look at the- uhm.” Shaking hands couldn’t seem to unzip the bag, he cursed to himself. “The car. The damage done to it just doesn't add up to the ...well. Them.” He finished. Picturing the bloodied faces of his parents still haunted him. Even a year later talking about it was- difficult.

“If you’d just look at-”

“Most people try and find mystery in the death of people close to them. It’s a form of-”

“Coping, I know.” Tony cut him off- Strange looked a little annoyed at it, obviously he was used to being the one that talked over others.

“Good. Then you know your case is in fact not one.” Stephen said.

“Many people have told me that, Mr. Strange. But this is real. I have run out of options- I need your help. Just look at the case for- five minutes. Please.” Stephen stared at him, unmoving for quite some time. Tony shuffled in place, he was tired- hadn’t slept right for the last few days at least.

He needed Strange to say he’d help. Then he’d relax.

“No.”

Tony deflated.

His heart dropped into his stomach and a wave of nausea hit him, stronger than before. His hands shook as he laced and unlaced his fingers- trying to find some sort of hope to hold onto. Maybe if he just heard the rest of his story- he had more.

Tony opened and closed his mouth, trying to find the right words.

“No-” He started. “You see I- well, it isn’t just my parents. The last few months I’ve been experiencing some weird stuff-”

“Where?” Strange cut in, Tony’s lips curled into a half smile- relieved that he was at least somewhat interested.

“Well-”

“Brixton. Lauriston Gardens.” A new voice spoke from behind. Tony turned, blinking owlishly at a stern looking woman with short, sandy blonde hair. She was dressed in a dark overcoat and clearly a member of the police force-

“What’s different about this one. You wouldn’t have come to get me, if there wasn’t something new.” Stephen said, feigning disinterest. Tony stepped awkwardly to the side- not really comfortable standing between the two.

“You know how they never leave a note?” The woman asked, lips pressing into a firm line.

“Yeah?”

“Well this one did. Will you come?” She asked.

“....Who’s on forensics?”

“Barton.” Tony watched as Stephen wrinkled his nose- lips pulling into a scowl.

“Barton won’t work with me.” He said with a hint of offense.

“He won’t be your assistant, you mean.” The woman responded, this time the corner of her lips pulled up in the smallest of smiles.

“But I need and assistant.” Stephen stressed, standing up from his place on the arm of the chair, walking passed Tony like he hadn’t been there.

“Will you come or not, Stephen?” She asked with growing impatience.

“Not in a police far. I’ll be right behind you.” Strange answered, folding his arms behind him, hands clasped. The woman looked relieved and nodded at him with a look of mild amusement before turning to leave the small flat.

“Thank you, Stephen.” She called over her shoulder as she walked out. There was a moment of collective silence, the only sound came from the policewoman marching down the stairs at an even, yet hurried pace. It wasn’t until the front door opened and closed that Stephen broke his stern facade. A wide smile spread across his lips and he turned to face the rest of the room.

“Finally!” He exclaimed, making Tony jump slightly where he stood. “This is brilliant!” He called, taking long strides to the desk where other man still sat, he grabbed a few random items off of the messy table top with a weird bounce to his step.

“And I thought it was going to be a boring evening. Serial suicides, and now a note - oh, it’s Christmas!” Stephen sang, Yao looked simultaneously amused and sympathetic for Tony- who stood there a little at a loss as Stephen ran back towards the door.

“Yao, I’ll be late - might need some food.”

“I’m not your maid, Stephen.” She called after him.

“Wong, are you coming?” Stephen asked as he pulled on a big overcoat, the man at the desk- Wong, apparently, looked up with an unimpressed look.

“No. Last time I came you left me in a graveyard in the middle of the night.” The man snapped. “Find a new assistant.” Tony watched as Stephen pursed his lips, rapidly tying a scarf around his neck.

“Please.” He scoffed. “No one would want to work with me. And those that are either fans who know next to nothing or someone with a grudge looking to sabotage-”

“I wonder why that is.” Wong said, voice flat.

“-no one worth anything would want to work with me, so, Wong-”

“No.”

Tony watched the exchange with growing annoyance- he was slowly beginning to realize that his case had been dismissed, and Strange hadn’t even looked at what all he had. Nor did the man listen to his full explanation.

Biting down on his bottom lip, Tony watched a little helplessly as Stephen continued to argue with his- what, friend? They must be. Although the man sitting at the desk- Wong, looked quite annoyed and unimpressed with Stephen’s reasoning.

A tap to his shoulder had him turning. Yao stood just beside him, a playful smile on her lips- she nodded towards Stephen as she spoke.

“Sometimes he needs to be forced to listen. All it takes is time- and maybe a little persistence.” She said softly so Stephen couldn’t hear, although it was unlikely he would as he paced in front of the small desk.

“How am I meant to spend time being persistent if he’s busy?” Tony asked- crossing his arms. Yao looked at him, clearly amused. She placed a delicate hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

“Stephen, I’m sure Mr. Stark would love to assist you.”

The room went quiet, Tony felt three pairs of eyes on him- each of them giving off very different signals. He squirmed a bit under the speculation, but forced himself to meet the eyes of Stephen, who looked a mix of surprised and suspicious.

“I just rejected your plea- why would you want to help me?” Stephen asked, leaning against the doorway, hands sliding into his jacket pockets. There was no protest to him helping- which was a good sign.

At least- Tony hoped it was.

“So I can prove that you’re wrong.” Tony said with the most courage he’d had in a long time. Stephen’s eyebrows shot up, and much to Tony’s relief, his lips curled up into a smirk.

“Alright.” He said, stepping closer to Tony until they were nothing but inches apart. “Let’s go then, Mr. Stark.” He said in a low voice that sent a shiver down Tony’s spine- he had to force himself to hold eye contact, even as the man leaned down to look at him. “I look forward to it-” He basically purred, “You, proving me wrong.”

Tony swallowed, every inch of his face was definitely on fire and his stomach? Yeah, it was doing somersaults. Something about the way Stephen stood, his posture- the look in his eyes- they all screamed that he knew Tony was one hundred percent into those stupidly nice cheekbones and slender fingers.

“It’ll be easy.” Tony said, fists clenched at his sides- a small voice in the back of his head was screaming at him to stop antagonizing the genius detective- but he couldn’t help himself. The man was basically begging to be annoyed.

Or maybe punched in the face.

“Easy?” Strange repeated with a single, raised eyebrow. “Well then, I’ll give you a handicap.” He said, popping the ‘p’ “How about- I give you till I solve this case? If I’m not convinced by then, you leave me alone.”

Tony hated that deal. He knew Stephen Strange was good- he had solved cases in less than an hour and if Tony couldn’t get him to sit and listen to him in that short window of time- then he was screwed. Royally.

“Fine.” Tony said, amazed at his ability to keep his voice steady. “Let’s go.”

He wouldn’t lose to this asshole, no matter what.


“Hello, Freak.”

Tony scowled. He eyed the woman standing with her arms crossed on the other side of a band of caution tape- she had on an annoying smirk that shouted arrogance and for a split second Tony had the urge to come to Stephen’s defense-

Freak? Even Tony wouldn’t go that far.

Asshole, maybe.

“I’m here to see Detective Inspector Danvers.” Stephen said in response, not rising to the bait.

“Why?” The redhead asked, lips pulling into a tight frown.

“I was invited.”

“Why?

“I think she wants me to take a look.” Stephen replied, Tony could see he was holding in a sigh.

“Well, you know what I think, don’t you?” The woman asked with much to cockiness.

“Always, Natalie.” Stephen answered. “I even know you didn’t make it home last night.” Tony’s eyes widened at the words, he looked between the two- they seemed to be having a silent conversation that Tony was sure he didn’t want to participate in. Eventually, the girl looked at Tony, looking for a new subject it seemed-

“Who’s this?” She asked.

“Colleague of mine. Stark. This is Sergeant Natalie Romanoff-”

“Natasha.” The woman cut in, clearly annoyed. “A colleague, how’d you get a colleague? Did he follow you home?”

“-an old friend.” Stephen finished, although the moment for introductions had clearly passed. Tony shuffled on his feet, looking between the two of them yet again.

“Look, would it be better if I just-” Tony trailed off, gesturing to the idea of just staying put.

“No!” Stephen snapped. Giving Natasha a pointed look, she rolled her eyes and pulled out a walkie-talkie, raising it to her lips.

“Freak’s here. Bringing him in.” She said into the speaker and Tony frowned yet again- he felt he wouldn’t like this woman all that much. Stephen lifted the caution tape and ducked under, keeping it up for Tony to come as well and the two of them followed Natasha towards the entrance of the abandoned building. Tony watched Stephen as the man looked the building up and down- he could almost see his brain working to figure out every last detail of it.

Stephen’s gaze eventually dropped from the building and then his lips pulled into another, wide, but fake smile as they came to a stop at the top of the steps.

“Barton! Here we are again.” He exclaimed.

“It’s a crime scene. I don’t want it contaminated. We clear on that?” The man- Barton, spoke with a deep scowl on his lips.

“And is your wife away for long?” Stephen asked, Barton narrowed his eyes at him.

“Don’t pretend you worked that out. Someone told you that!” He exclaimed, voice defensive.

“Your deodorant told me that.” Stephen said with a smile, stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets- he seemed to enjoy doing that.

“My deodorant?”

“It’s for men-” Stephen started.

“Of course it’s for men, I’m wearing it!”

“So’s sergeant Romanoff.”

Silence. Tony’s eyes widened as he stood there beside Stephen- the man himself didn’t look like someone who just outed another person’s sexual escapades- in fact he looked a little bored. Although, if Tony looked closely, he could see a hint of amusement in his eyes.

“Oh! And I think it just vaporized! May I go in?” Stephen asked after the pregnant pause as Romanoff and Barton exchanged panicked looks.

“You listen to me, okay. Whatever you’re trying to imply-” Barton began but Stephen quickly jumped in.

“I’m not implying anything - I’m sure Natalie just came round for a lovely little chat, and happened to stay over.” Stephen said with a grin, looking Natasha up and down. “And I assume she scrubbed your floors, going by the state of her knees-”

Tony snorted a little too loudly, drawing Stephen’s gaze. He covered his mouth at his own slip up but half smile Stephen gave him dissolved any embarrassment on the spot.

“Right, just go in, just go!” Barton said, exasperated. He stood to the side to let them pass, as soon as he did, Stephen basically jumped into the room. Tony followed behind him, sparing one last glance at the two very flustered looking sergeants.

“I can give you two minutes.” Danvers- Tony had learned, said to Stephen when they got inside.

“I may need more.” Stephen said without pause, walking passed Danvers into the kitchen- Tony followed close behind, very out of his element. He was sure if he wasn’t beside Stephen they’d arrest him for disrupting a crime scene.

“You’ll need to put this on.” Stephen told Tony, handing him a crime scene coverall, who looked at it with a deep frown, not only was it hideous- getting it on would be a hassle.

“Who is this?” Danvers asked, suddenly aware of Tony’s presence. She looked a little disgruntled. Tony inched closer to Stephen. Why had he volunteered for this?

“He’s with me.” Stephen said and Tony simply stared at the coverall. Stephen looked at him with took it back- tossing it to the side.

“But who is he?” Danvers asked.

“I told you - he’s with me.” Stephen scoffed. Danvers simply shook her head and started climbing the stairs- the only one of them who had actually bothered to put on the coverall. Tony suddenly felt a sense of dread that yes, he’d be getting arrested tonight.

“So, where are we?” Stephen asked, following the Detective.

“Upstairs.” She responded dryly, leading them up the spiraling staircase- it was several floors that had Tony slightly exhausted when they reached the top. No one questioned their lack of coveralls- which had him sighing with relief. Obviously despite the fact that he wasn’t technically a member of the police force, Stephen held some sort of power.

Or maybe he was just terrifying.

“Jennifer Wilson, according to her credit cards - we’re running them now for contact details. Hasn’t been here long - some kids found her.” Danvers explained as she opened the door to a rather large, yet empty room.

Empty save for the single body, sprawled face down on the dirty wooden floors. Tony’s stomach turned at the sight- he wasn’t really familiar with this sort of thing. In fact- he was incredibly under qualified. His degree was in Electrical Engineering and Physics- not criminology.

He stayed near the door even as Stephen danced inside, circling the body like a predator on the hunt- Tony tried not to laugh at his own comparison.

The woman stood out quite a bit from the rest of the room. While it was dark, with peeling, ugly wallpaper, she was a bright streak of pink. Everything she wore was a bright- rather ugly shade of pink. A pink coat, pink shoes- nails. Everything.

Stephen kneeled down beside the body simply staring in silence- the entire room seemed to go silent, save for the bustling from downstairs.

“Shut up.” Stephen snapped suddenly, causing Tony to jump.

“Didn’t say anything.” Danvers said- even she seemed mildly confused.

“You were thinking. It’s annoying.” Stephen said, pulling out a small magnifying glass from his jacket pockets and began looking over the body. Tony glanced at Danvers- who offered him a similar look of confusion.

Tony’s gaze returned to Stephen- he watched as the man crouched around the woman at different angles. He knew people said that he was the best- but seeing it in person was likely entirely different.

Part of him was excited.

The little display downstairs was obviously a show of bragging- but this, this was serious. It was time to see if Stephen Strange really was the best.

Only seconds seemed to go by until Stephen stood back up, pulling his phone from his pocket.

“Got anything?” Danvers asked.

“Not much.”

“She’s German.” Barton- who appeared from nowhere said, Tony turned to him with raised eyebrows. “Rache is German for Revenge. She could be trying to tell us something.”

“Yes, thank you for your input.” Stephen said without so much as glancing at Barton. Instead he closed the door- cutting the man off from the rest of the them. Stephen then handed his phone to Tony who took it- a little confused.

“Weather please. Over the last say- twenty four hours. Look for rain.” Stephen said under his breath to him.Tony- a little confused, nodded and typed away at the small smartphone.

“She is German.” Danvers said.

“Of course, she’s not German. She’s from out of town though.” Stephen said, circling Tony and looking at the phone. Tony did his best not to shiver when Stephen came to a stop over his shoulder- standing close to see the screen, not moving as he spoke with a large amount of confidence.

“Planned to spend a single night in London, before returning home to Cardiff. So far, so obvious.” Stephen said with a deep sigh.

“Sorry, obvious?” Tony asked, offering Stephen his phone back but he waved it off.

“What about the message though?” Danvers asked.

“Stark- what do you think?” Stephen asked, Tony looked at him with wide eyes.

“About- the message?” He asked. Stephen shrugged his shoulders.

“About anything. Have a look.” He said, gesturing to the body. Tony’s palms began to sweat- well, all of him began to sweat at this point.

“We have a whole team right outside-” Danvers began but Stephen shook his head at her.

“They won’t work with me.”

“I’m breaking every rule letting you in here, Stephen.” She said sharply. Tony suddenly wanted to just- leave. That would probably be best right about now, right?

“Yeah, because you need me.” Stephen said with a grin, Danvers rolled her eyes and seemed to do a silent prayer.

“Yes, I do. God help me.” She said. Tony looked between the two- once again Stephen seemed to be having a silent conversation with yet another member of the police force until the detective gave up, she leaned up against the back wall and crossed her arms, annoyance was written all over her.

“Mr. Stark?” Stephen asked, gesturing for him to look at the body. Tony shook his head but Stephen ignored him. Pushing him towards the body.

“Oh, do as he says, help yourself.” Danvers said with mild sarcasm.

Tony awkwardly shuffled towards the dead body. He knelt down beside her. His heart clenched at the sight- her nails which had been perfectly polished were damaged from the effort she put into carving this final message into the floor. Tony bit his bottom lip when tears threatened to fall for just a brief moment

This was a huge mistake.

He shook his head slowly and stood back up, shooting a frown at Stephen who ushered him to the side.

“Well?”

“She didn’t want to die.” Was all Tony could produce- and honestly, he said it without thinking. The room stayed silent for a brief moment, the Head Detective’s face grew somber- and she let out a soft sigh. Pushing herself off of the wall from where she stood.

“Would you like to step out, Mr. Stark?” She asked him in the kindest voice he had heard from her since that morning. Tony opened his mouth- ready to agree when Stephen cut him off, placing a hand on his back like when he had taken the Batrachotoxin from him.

“He’s fine.” Stephen said firmly. “And correct- although most people don’t want to die.”

“Stephen, two minutes. I need anything you’ve got.” The head detective said- a little weary still. Tony simply stood there- out of place.

“Victim is in her late forties.” Stephen began, stepping away from Tony to once again circle the woman. “Professional person going by her clothes - I’d guess something in the media, going by the frankly alarming shade of pink. She’s traveled from Cardiff today, intending to stay for one night - that’s obvious from the size of her suitcase-”

“Suitcase?” Danvers asked suddenly.

“Suitcase, yes. She’s been married for at least ten years, but not happily. She’s had a string of lovers, but none of them have known she was married.”

“For God’s sake. If you’re just making this up... “ The detective said with a deep sigh. However Tony stood there a bit dumbfounded as Stephen spoke. His eyes were drawn back to the body laying limp across the floor and as Stephen spoke- explaining the facts- they seemed to appear all over her body.

“The wedding right, ten years old at least. The rest of her jewelry has been regularly cleaned, but not her wedding rings - state of her marriage, right there. The inside of the rings are shinier than the outside - that means they’re regularly removed; the only polishing they get is when she works them off her finger. It’s not for work - look at her nails, she doesn’t work with her hands - so what, or rather who, does she remove her rings for? Clearly not one lover - she’d never sustain the fiction of being single over time - so more likely a string of them. Simple!”

“That’s amazing.” Tony breathed- eyes wide. Both Danvers and Strange looked at him and he could feel heat build in his cheeks. “Sorry…”

“Cardiff?” Danvers asked.

“Obvious, isn’t it?” Stephen asked.

“Not obvious to me no..” Tony said, squinting at the body.

“Stop being a smart ass Stephen.” Danvers snapped.

“Dear God, what’s it like in your funny little brains, it must be so boring. Her coat! It’s slightly damp - she’s been in heavy rain within the last few hours. No rain anywhere in London at that time. Under her coat collar is damp too. She turned it up against the wind. She’s got an umbrella in her left pocket but it’s unused and dry. Not just wind, strong wind - too strong to use her umbrella.”

“That's why you asked for the weather- isn’t it?” Tony suddenly realized. Stephen turned to him- a mixture of bewilderment and pleasure crossed his face.

“Exactly Stark. We know from her suitcase that she’s staying over night so she must have come from a decent distance. But she can’t have traveled more than two or three hours, cos her coat hasn’t dried. So where has there been heavy rain and strong wind within the radius of that travel time?” Stephen pulled his phone from Tony’s hands and held it up.

“Cardiff.”

“Fantastic.” Tony said with a bright smile- earning another look from the two.

“Do you know you do that out loud?” Stephen asked, Tony’s face flushed.

“I’m sorry- I’ll shut up.”

“No- it’s. Fine.” Stephen said, smirking.

“Why do you keep saying suitcase?” Danvers asked, breaking up their mini conversation. Stephen turned to her.

“Yeah, where is it? She must have a phone or an organizer - we can find out who Rachel is.”

“She was writing Rachel?” Danvers asked.

“No, she was leaving an angry note in German - of course she was writing Rachel. No other word it can be. Question is, why did she wait till she was dying to write it ...”

“How do you know she had a case?”

“Back of her right leg. Tiny splashes on the heel and calf, not present on the left. She was dragging a wheeled suitcase behind her, with her right hand - you don’t get that splash pattern any other way. Smallish case, going by the spread. Case that size, woman this clothes-conscious - could only be an overnight bag. So we know she was staying one night. Now where is it - what have you done with it?”

“There wasn’t a case.” Danvers said, voice even. Stephen paused in the pacing he had taken up about half way through his explanation. He returned to the body with furrowed brows.

“....say that again?” He asked.

“There wasn’t a case. There was never any suitcase here.” Danvers explained- a little annoyed. Stephen stared at her- a deep scowl pulling at his lips until he pushed past Danvers and out into the main stairwell, shouting down the stairs.

“Suitcase! Did anyone find a suitcase - was there a suitcase in this house?” He called, Danvers rolled her eyes and followed out of the room- Tony close behind her.

“Stephen, there was no case.” She stressed, Stephen stood still, standing over the balcony.

“But they take the poison themselves ...They chew and swallow the pills themselves, there are clear signs - even you lot couldn’t miss them.” Stephen explained- although it was clear no one knew what he was talking about.

“Right, yes, thanks - and?” Danvers asked with a deep scowl pulling at her lips.

“...It’s murder. All of them. I don’t know how, but they’re not suicides, they’re killings - serial killings. We’ve got a serial killer. Love those, there’s always something to look forward to.” Stephen explained.

“Why? Why are you saying that?”

“Where’s her case? Come on, where is it? Did she eat it? Someone else was here - and they took the case. So the killer must have driven her here - forgot the case was in the car ...”

“Maybe she checked into her hotel, left her case there?” Tony offered, Stephen seemed to contemplate before shaking his head.

“She never made it to her hotel. Look at her hair - colour coordinates her lipstick and her shoes, she’d never have left a hotel with her hair still like-” He paused, eyes lighting up in some sort of realization that the rest of them were obviously not getting.

“Oh! Oh!” Stephen shouted.

“Stephen…?” Tony questioned- but before he could really get an answer, Stephen was running down the stairs. Tony watched a little helplessly as he did- pushing past people with little regard.

“What, what is it?” Danvers shouted down at him. Forcing Stephen to pause.

“Serial killers, always hard. You’ve got to wait for them to make a mistake…” He said.

“We can’t just wait!” She snapped growled in response.

“Oh, we’re don’t waiting. Look at her! Really, look! Houston, we have a mistake!” Stephen exclaimed, reaching the bottom of the stairs. “Got on to Cardiff, find Jennifer Wilson’s family and friends - find Rachel.”

“Yes of course. But what mistake?”

“Pink!” Stephen shouted from below- and then he was gone. Tony stared down the stairs after him- mouth slightly agape. He looked to Danvers who rolled her eyes- she had clearly put up with this all the time. She looked to him with a slightly sympathetic smile.

“Okay - let’s get on with it!!” Barton shouted, clearly happy that Stephen was gone. The rest of them seemed to agree.

“Carol Danvers, by the way.” The Head Detective greeted, extending a hand. Tony offered his own.

“Tony Stark.”

“Really?” She asked, eyebrows raised. She ushered him down the stairs as they talked. “Stark Industries? What brings you to London?”

“Well…” Tony sighed. “I came for Strange actually- I need his help.”

“I see.” Carol said with a mild laugh. “I wish you luck then. He hardly ever sits still long enough to hold a proper conversation.”

“I’ve noticed.” Tony said.

“Tony Stark…” Carol repeated. “You’re still quite young, aren’t you?” She asked. Tony nodded.

“Twenty-two.” She nodded, smiling sadly at him.

“I see. Well, let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” She said when they reached the bottom of the stairs. She waved to him as he left- and Tony reached the outdoors and looked around- hoping that maybe Stephen had half a mind to wait for him.

“He’s gone.” The woman from earlier- Natasha- spoke up. She looked him up and down with a critical gaze.

“Stephen Strange?” Tony asked.

“He just took off - he does that.” She explained.

“Is he coming back?” Tony asked.

“Didn’t look like it.” She said, causing Tony’s shoulders to sag a bit- he let out a soft sigh before turning.

“... right. Right. Yes, sorry.” He said about to go- but he paused. “Uhm...Where am I?” He asked Natasha- who looked at him with some sympathy.

“Brixton.” She said.

“... Where would I get a cab? It’s just, well- I’m not from around here.”

“Try the main road.” She said. Tony nodded, turning to go.

“Hey….” Natasha called after him, coming up to his side. “You’re not his friend, he doesn’t have any friends. So who are you?” She asked.

“I’m- nobody. I only just met him.” Tony explained.

“Nobody?” Natasha asked, her eyebrows raised. “Well then- Nobody, I’ll give you a bit of advice. Stay away from that guy.” She said, earning a confused look from Tony.

“Why?” He asked, a little put out.

“You know why he’s here? He’s not paid or anything. He likes it. He gets off on it. Weirder the crime the more he gets off. And you know what? One day just showing up won’t be enough. One day we’ll be standing round a body and Stephen Strange will be the one who put it there.” She said. Tony stared at her- appalled at the idea. He felt a slight rush of anger towards this woman.

“Why would he do that?” He asked with a little venom in his tone.

“Because he’s a psychopath. And Psychopaths get bored.” She explained easily. Tony could only stare at her- uncertain. He had read many articles about Stephen, and yes, they held very nasty comments. But none accusing him of being a Psychopath- it didn’t seem right.

He was helping because- it was the right thing to do- right?

“Romanoff!” Carol Danvers called from back towards the crime scene- drawing the woman’s attention.

“Coming!” She called back, crossing her arms over her chest. She cast one last look at Tony before walking away. “Stay away from Stephen Strange.” She said- and was gone.

Tony stood there, unsure what to do. He let out a soft sigh before slowly making his way towards the main street as indicated by Natasha. When he got close- he actually spotted Stephen not to far away. He had to look up to see him- he was standing on the rooftop of a small house, his phone in his hand. He seemed to be speaking into it periodically- then looking at the screen.

Tony considered calling out to him, in fact, his mouth dropped open but before he could say anything, a phone in a nearby phone booth began to ring. Startling him. For a brief moment, Tony thought it may be Stephen- but when he looked back, the man was gone.

Tony let out yet another deep sigh and continued walking. Ignoring the ringing payphone. He did his best to flag down a taxi but most of them were either full or simply ignored him- one even almost hit him with how quickly it sped past.

“Yeah thanks…..” He murmured to himself. Jumping as another phone began to ring- this time, he looked at it, a bit puzzled. Spinning around, Tony went up to the booth and pulled it open, squinting at the phone with mild distrust- but, giving a glance around the weirdly abandoned street, he picked it up and pressed the cold payphone to his ear.

“Hello?” He said into the line.

“There is a security camera at the top right corner of the building opposite you. Do you see it?” A deep voice said from the other end of the line. Tony suddenly felt like he was in a cheap version of the Jason Borne movies.

“Uh...Who is this?” He asked.

“Do you see the camera, Mr. Stark?”

“Yeah.” Tony sighed, squinting out into the darkness where the weird man on the phone had described- it was definitely there.

“Watch.” The voice said, and as he did, the camera turned away. Tony watched- mouth slightly hanging open as it turned.

Great.

“There’s another camera on the footbridge to your left. Do you see it?” The man asked, Tony looked- and once again the camera turned away. “And finally, at the top of the streetlamp two along, on your right.”

“Fancy hacking skills, yeah, is there a point to this?” Tony asked, drumming his fingers against the top of the phone receiver. Headlights suddenly flashed, illuminating the phone booth. Tony startled a bit and looked at the approaching car.

“Get into the car, Mr. Stark. I would make some sort of threat, but I’m sure your situation is quite clear to you.” The man explained, and the line went dead. Tony pulled the phone away from his ear and sighed heavily- believe it or not, things like this happened to him more often than not.

Another kidnapping for the scrapbooks?

He pulled the phone booth door back open and stepped out, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he approached the car. At least it was nice- limo, black.

He pulled the back door open and climbed inside, pleasantly surprised by the woman sitting in the far seat. She had a wild head of red hair- although Tony had to admit it was quite stunning. Her eyes were glued to a small phone in her hands.

“Hello.” Tony said with a smile, plopping down in his seat and pulling the door shut.

“Hi.” The woman said.

“What’s your name?” Tony asked, attempting to spark conversation. She looked up at him- observing.

“Scarlet.” She offered.

“Is that your real name?” He asked.

“No.”

“I’m Tony.”

“I know.”

“Is there a point in asking where I’m going?” He asked, watching the streets pass through the tinted windows.

“None at all, Tony.” She replied. Tony sighed, but slid down in his seat, kicking his feet up on the row of seats across from him. He even shut his eyes- he’d been through this thousands of times to the point where he’d befriended his captors. Or annoy them until they just dropped him off somewhere rather than take the ransom.

It didn’t take long for the limo to pull to a stop. When it did Tony pushed the door open and stepped out- a little put off to see the huge warehouse they were outside. For meeting spots- this one was less savory. ‘Claire’ led him into the large warehouse, they walked silently down one of the corridors.

As they neared the end of the hallway, a man came into view- Tony squinted down the hall-- but it was dark. He couldn’t make out who it was until they got close. But when he did, Tony let out a scoff.

“What are you- twelve?”

“Have a seat, Mr. Stark.” The man- man? Said, pointing to the single chair set up. Tony raised a perfectly trimmed eyebrow at it before shrugging and doing just that.

“You know, I’ve got a phone. Very clever- the whole phone booth thing. But it doesn’t take a genius to hack into shit like that.” Tony said with a snort.

“When one is avoiding the attention of Stephen Strange, one learns to be discreet. Hence this place.” The guy explained. Tony just squinted at him- so this wasn’t a kidnapping? Just a secret meeting?

“You don’t seem very afraid.”

“You don’t seem very frightening.” Tony answered easily, crossing his legs. “I’ve been held at gunpoint a few times- it gets old.”

“Does it?”

“No- but you get the point. Anyways- you look like you’re maybe what- eighteen?” Tony guessed.

“Twenty-four. I wouldn’t throw out insults on age when it looks like you’ve never had the need to touch a razor. What’s your connection with Stephen Strange?” He asked. Tony absently touched his jaw- smooth as usual.

Ouch.

“Uh- we’re best friends from grade school.” Tony offered, earning a flat looking in return. “I’m a client.”

“A client? Yet you’ve moved in and now you’re solving crimes together? Might we expect a happy announcement by the end of the week?” He asked.

“Jealous?” Tony asked with a grin- not about to correct him, the man wrinkled his nose. “Who are you?”

“An interested party.” He answered.

“Interested in Stephen? Why? I’m guessing you’re not friends.” Tony responded.

“You’ve met him. How many friends do you imagine he has? I’m the closest thing Stephen Strange is capable of having a friend.” The man said.

“And what’s that?”

“An enemy.”

“An enemy?” Tony repeated.

“In his mind, certainly. If you asked him, he'd probably say his arch enemy. He does love to be dramatic.” He sighed- Tony held in a laugh.

“Well, thank god you’re above all that.” He quipped- earning a blank stare. Tony opened his mouth for another readily prepared snarky comment when his phone chimed in his pocket. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, looking at the newly received text with mild confusion.

Come at once if convenient. SS.

“I hope I’m not distracting you.” The man said with a drawl.

“Not at all, no.” Tony answered, sliding his phone away.

“Do you plan to continue your association with Stephen Strange?” He asked, Tony leveled him with a stare- considering his next words carefully. Eventually, he leaned back in his chair and offered a wide smile.

“You should expect a happy announcement by the end of the week.”


“Mr. Stark, welcome back.” Yao greeted Tony when he pushed open the door to 221b Baker street. She seemed to have just come from upstairs, a tray of empty tea cups in her hands. She offered him a soft smile, and he smiled back.

“Thank you.” He said, she simply nodded and disappeared around the corner- Tony watched after her for a moment before climbing the stairs, two at a time, pushing the door open at the top.

When he pushed open the door, he found the room empty- aside from Stephen, who was sprawled out over the couch that was pushed up against the far right wall. Tony squinted at him as he seemingly just pushed a lot of drugs-

“What are you doing?” He asked, breaking the silence. Stephen’s eyes snapped open and he looked over at him. Tony tried not to freeze under his gaze.

Mission failed.

“Nicotine patch.” Stephen said, popping the ‘p’ “Helps me think. Impossible to sustain a smoking habit in London these days - bad news for brain work!” He explained. Tony simply nodded along with him, not entirely sure if what he was saying made sense.

“Good news for breathing?” He offered. Tony himself had never been a smoker, drinking? Now that was a whole new story. Although, when Tony drew closer and saw three brown patches littered over Stephen’s arm, he balked.

“Three?” He asked.

“It’s a three patch problem.” He offered, looking up at him with a smile.

“Yeah…” Tony said- puzzled. “Well, you asked me to come. I’m assuming it’s important?”

“Oh, yes, of course. Can I borrow your phone?” Stephen asked.

“What?”

“Don’t want to use mine - always a chance the number will be recognized. It’s on the website.” Stephen explained.

“Do neither of your friends own a phone?” Tony asked, pulling his phone out and handing it to Stephen who had an open, waiting palm.

“Is this for the case?” Tony asked and Stephen nodded.

“Her case- and don’t pretend you’re put out. Your own duffel bag is still here.” Stephen said, nodding over to the bag still perched on the stool Tony had left it- untouched.

“Her case?” Tony asked, ignoring the comment.

“Her suitcase, yes, obviously! The murderer took her suitcase. First big mistake.” Stephen explained, sitting up.

“Okay, he took her case. So?”

“It’s no use. There’s no other way, we’ll have to risk it. There’s a phone number on my desk - I want you to send a text.” Stephen explained, offering Tony his phone back- Tony raised an eyebrow but took his phone back.

“You brought me here to send a text.” Tony laughed.

“A text, yes! Number on the desk!” Stephen called, Tony rolled his eyes and walked over to it. He picked up the small piece of paper and began punching in numbers.

“I met a friend of yours today.” He said eventually, earning a snort from across the room.

“A friend?” He asked, voice a little put out.

“An enemy?”

“Oh- which one?”

“Your arch enemy - according to him. Do people have arch enemies?” Tony asked, pausing in his typing to look at Stephen, who was back to laying down- although he was staring over at Tony with a look that had Tony’s palms sweating yet again-

God he was weak.

“Did he offer you money to spy on me?”

“Yes.” Tony snorted- remembering the nice end to their conversation.

“Did you take it?”

“No?” Tony said with a scoff.

“Pity. We could’ve split the fee. Think it through next time.”

“I’m a billionaire, I don’t need money.” Tony replied quickly, earning a raised eyebrow from Stephen. Tony shook his head-

“What- do you not- you know, live?” Tony asked.

“What?”

“Anthony Edward Stark. Son of Howard Stark- Stark industries. I thought you were smart?” He asked at Stephen’s blank stare.

“I only remember things of importance.” Stephen offered in response- earning a gasp of mock offense from Tony. “It isn’t you, it’s Americans. They’re low on the chart of importance.”

“Whatever- who is he?”

“Who is who?”

“Your arch enemy?” Tony asked, resuming his typing.

“Ah, the most dangerous man you’ve ever met and not my problem, right now. The number!” Stephen called again, Tony finished typing in the number before pausing at the name on the card above the number.

Jennifer Wilson.

“Why- am I texting a dead woman?” He asked.

“Doesn’t matter, just enter the number. Are you doing it?” Stephen asked.

“Yes.”

A pause.

“Have you done it?”

“God you’re impatient. Yes- I did forever ago. I’m not inept at typing on a phone” Tony answered. He was greeted with a small moment of silence that, for some reason, felt tense. Tony looked up from the phone at Stephen who was back to looking at the ceiling, arms crossed and hands tucked under his armpits.

“What do you want me to-” Tony started, but Stephen cut him off with a deep, clear voice.

“In these words exactly: What happened at Lauriston Gardens? I must have blacked out. 22 Northumberland street. Please come.”

“You blacked out?” Tony asked, typing the message.

“What? No, no. Type and send. Quickly.” Stephen answered, finally moving to stand up. Tony hit send, and slid his phone back into his pocket. He watched Stephen walk across the room- eyes drawn to his long legs as he walked and-

Yeah, don’t.

Stephen sat down and grabbed something from beside his chair- dropping it on the desk. Tony stared- brain working at an all time low as he considered the ugly shade of pink.

“That’s- that’s the pink lady’s case ...Jennifer Wilson’s case.” Tony said slowly.

“Yes, of course it is. Oh- I should probably mention that I didn’t kill her.” Stephen said with a grin, Tony offered him a glare in response before moving his duffel bag onto the floor, taking its place on the stool.

“I never said you did.” He said.

“Why not? Given the text I just had you send, and the fact that I have this case, it would be a perfectly logical assumption.” Stephen said.

“Do people usually assume you’re a murderer?” Tony asked.

“Now and then, yes.” Stephen said with a sigh.

“So- how did you get this?” He asked, pointing at the suitcase.

“By looking.” Stephen snorted. Tony rolled his eyes.

“Don’t act like you don’t want to explain it and show off.” Tony said.

“The killer must have driven her to Lauriston Gardens. He could only keep her case by accident, if it was in a car. No one could be seen with this case without attracting attention - particularly a man, which is statistically likely. So obviously he’d feel compelled to get rid of it the moment he noticed he still had it - wouldn’t have taken him more than five minutes to realize his mistake.” Stephen said, looking up from the case to Tony with the smallest smile possible.

“I checked every backstreet wide enough for a car within five minutes of Lauriston Gardens and looked for anywhere you could dispose of a bulky object without being observed. Took me less than an hour to find the right skip.” He finished. Tony looked at him, dumbstruck.

“Pink. You got all that, because you realized the case would be pink?”

“It had to be pink. Obviously.”

“Why didn’t I think of that?” Tony said- a little bewildered.

“Because you’re an idiot.” Stephen said without missing a beat. Tony stared at him.

“Don’t look like that - practically everyone is. Now look - what do you see that’s missing?” He asked, gesturing to the bag.

“From her case?” Tony asked. Stephen nodded. Tony sighed and looked at the pink suitcase- trying to think of an answer-

“Her phone.” Stephen said after a moment- obviously not willing to wait. “Where’s her mobile phone? No phone on the body, no phone in her case. We know she has one - the number’s right there, and you just texted it.”

“Maybe she left it at home.” Tony suggested.

“She has a string of lovers, and she’s careful about it - she never leaves it at home.” Stephen explained. Tony nodded slowly.

“Right- so why did I send that text?”

“The question is, where is that phone now?” Stephen asked.

“She could have lost it?”

“Yes….” Stephen nodded. “Or?”

“... the murderer? You think the murderer has the phone?” Tony asked, eyes widening as Stephen smiled.

“Maybe she left it in his car, when she left her case. Maybe he took it for some other reason. Either way, the balance of probability is that the murderer has her phone.” Stephen said.

“Sorry, what are we doing here. Did we just text a murderer? What good does that do?” Tony asked, as soon as the words left his mouth, his phone began ringing in his pocket- he pulled it out and sure enough- it’s the number of Jennifer Wilson.

“A few hours since his last victim - and now he’s got a text which can only be from her. Now someone who’d just found the phone would ignore a text like that. But the murderer ...”

He lets it go to voicemail.

“Would panic.” Stephen said, completing his perfectly figured out plan with a huge grin. Tony shook his head at him in disbelief.

“Have you talked to the police?” He asked, watching as Stephen stood up, grabbing his jacket- the same ridiculously huge overcoat as before.

“Four people are dead - there isn’t time to talk to the police.” Stephen scoffed.

“Then why are you talking to me?” Tony asked. Stephen turned to him, throwing another smile at him- this time he added a wink.

“You volunteered, remember?” He asked. “And Wong went to bed.”

“So I’m just a stand in?” Tony asked, crossing his arms.

“You’re doing fine. Besides, still waiting for you to prove me wrong. Why don’t you explain to me your ‘case’ as we walk.”

“You want me to come with you?” Tony asked.

“I prefer company when I go out - I think better aloud.” Stephen explained, Tony simply stared. “Problem?”

“You’ll really listen?” He asked. Stephen cocked his head to the side, but eventually nodded.

“Diligently.”

“Where are we going then?” Tony asked, getting up from the stool. He didn’t have a coat- only a light jacket meant more for style rather than warmth, which he’d probably suffer for pretty quickly. It was nearing winter after all.

“Northumberland street is a five minute walk from here.” Stephen answered, tying his dark blue scarf around his neck as he marched down the stairs- Tony following after him.

“You think he’s stupid enough to actually go there?” Tony asked.

“No, I think he’s brilliant enough. I love the brilliant ones - they’re so desperate to get caught.” Stephen said, the way he spoke told Tony he had a wide smile on his lips.

“Why?”

“Appreciation! Applause!” Stephen shouted, spreading his arms as he did- Tony ducked under the left, nearly getting hit. “At long last, the spotlight! That’s the frailty of genius, Anthony - it needs an audience.” He continued, ignoring the fact that he almost knocked Tony out with both his arm and the way his name sounded in that baritone voice.

“Yeah.” Tony snorted, crossing his arms over himself and shivering at a particularly terrible gust of wind. He was faintly aware of the new speech Stephen began to give- only a handful of hours had they been acquainted and Tony had the feeling this man was a fan of his own voice.

“We now know the victims were abducted, and that changes everything. Because all of his victims disappeared from crowded places, from the busy streets - but nobody saw them go. They walked out of their lives with a complete stranger, and trusted him right to the moment they swallowed his poison. He can do the impossible, this one - he needs to take a bow.” Stephen stopped, Tony stuttered to a stop himself- looking up at Stephen with a raised brow- even as he drew closer.

“This is his hunting ground.” Stephen went on, pulling off his scarf. “Right here in the heart of the city.” He said with a nod, and then- much to Tony’s surprise, dropped his scarf over Tony’s shoulders.

“If it is a ‘he’. The Pink Lady- she wrote “Rachel.” Tony said, hands moving to wrap the dark blue fabric around his neck.

“Yes. That’s odd.” Stephen said, then continued walking. “‘Tll we know who Rachel is, no point in speculating. Mustn’t theories in advance of the facts.” Tony nodded along with him, catching up only once the scarf was wrapped tightly around his neck.

“Likely her daughter, people tend to think of those they love on the brink of death.” Tony mused aloud, Stephen glanced at him.

“Do they?” He asked, humming to himself.

Tony just nodded.

“How do you always reach these conclusions though- it seems so obvious once you’ve explained it but….” Tony began to ask, trailing off at the end- Stephen paused to look at him, it seemed like he was trying to put some thought to his answer.

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable must be the truth.” He said, and continued walking. Tony stared after him for a long moment, mouth agape- however impossible that sentence sounded, it did in a way- make sense.

Tony found himself liking it quite a bit. He smiled and quickly jogged to catch back up to Stephen, who was trotting down the street at a brisk pace. He was still talking despite Tony not having been listening.

“Think, though, think. Who do we trust, even if we don’t know them? Who passes unnoticed wherever they go? Who hunts in the middle of a crowd?” Stephen asked, stuffing his hands in his pockets- turning to Tony yet again.

“Who?” Tony asked- not having an answer himself. Stephen sighed and shrugged.

“I haven’t the faintest. Hungry?” Not waiting for an answer, Stephen veered off towards a small restaurant that had a large glass window overlooking the busy street- one Tony quickly identified as 22 Northumberland.

Following Stephen, Tony stepped inside the small restaurant, it only had a few seats and everything inside was made of wood- aside from the cushions on the booths. The moment they stepped inside- Stephen was greeted instantly by a waiter.

“Hello, Mr. Strange.” The man greeted with a wide smile.

“Hello, Billy.” Stephen responded in kind, seating himself at the table right beside the large glass window. Tony sat as well- his back to the window.

“22 Northumberland Street. Keep your eyes on it.” Stephen said.

“He’s not just going to ring the doorbell, though, is he? He’d have to be batshit crazy.” Tony said with a snort. Stephen leveled him with a stare before shrugging.

“Well, he has killed four people.”

“....Fair.”

“Stephen!” Ah- another booming voice echoed through the small, rather quiet restaurant. Tony looked up to see a rather large- and quite frankly terrifying man approach their table. Tony leaned back a little unconsciously.

“Anything on the menu, whatever you want, free! All on the house, you and your date.” The man said- Tony looked at Stephen with a raised eyebrow.

“I’m not his date.” Tony corrected, a sly smile spread across his lips. “He only wishes I was.”

“This man! Got me off a murder charge!” The man said- totally ignoring Tony and throwing an arm around Stephen’s shoulders. Stephen didn’t seem to enjoy it, however he made no move to push him away.

“This is Angelo.” Stephen explained to Tony. “Three years ago I successfully proved to Danvers that at the time of a particularly vicious triple-murder, Angelo was in a completely different part of town, house-breaking.”

“He cleared my name.” Angelo said.

“I cleared it a bit.” Stephen corrected. “Anything happening opposite?”

“We’ve been keeping an eye out.” Angelo said, pulling out his phone- he showed something to Stephen that Tony didn’t quite catch, “Just this man - stopped for a minute.”

“Oh, he’s just drunk.” Stephen said, squinting a little harder at the photo. “And married with a dog.”

“We all are, in the end.” Angelo sighed.

“Married with a dog. Keep your eyes peeled.” Stephen said, Angelo nodded. Slipping his phone back away.

“I’m on the case!” He said to Stephen before looking Tony dead in the eye. “But for this man, I’d have gone to prison.”

“You did go to prison.” Stephen reminded him, looking down at the menu for a brief moment as Angelo handed two to them.

“I’ll get you a candle for the table - more romantic.” Angelo said, rushing away. Tony watched him go and looked back at Stephen, who was staring out the window.

“You might as well eat - we might have a long wait.” Stephen said, although he didn’t look away from the window. Tony nodded.

“Your friend seems to be quite the wing man.” Tony joked, picking up his menu. Stephen didn’t answer. Tony sighed to himself before looking back at the menu- muttering out a soft “Thank you” to Angelo when a candle was dropped onto their table.

Minutes passed and Tony ordered something- a cheeseburger, thank whatever higher power there was that they had that here.

The wait was quiet. Stephen just sat still, staring out the window. Tony fiddled absently with the scarf around his shoulders and gazed around the room- unsure of what to say. The detective seemed less than interested in conversation.

However...

“We can sit in silence or you can tell me about your case.” Stephen said, cutting through the silence easily. Tony looked at him and for a moment his mind went blank-

His case, of course.

“Well I…” Tony trailed off. Dropping his hands to the table. “It would be easier if I had my bag- all my stuff is in there.”

“Where were they going?”

“What?”

“Your parents, the night they died. Where were they going, or returning from?” Stephen asked, glancing at Tony.

“They- were going away for a few days. Long Island.” Tony explained, recalling the day his father and mother had left- it was a memory he often played over and over again in his mind- wishing he had said something.

“Before they left, my father spent forever working on- something. I couldn’t tell you what it was. But for my father to put forth so much effort, it must have been important. They left to enjoy themselves. To get away, I can only assume whatever it was my father had been working on was finished- his spirits were higher than normal.”

“My father’s skull was cracked- police say it was from hitting the steering wheel but- damage like that just doesn’t make sense. Plus- my mother…” Tony clenched his jaw, looking at his hands as if they were the most fascinating thing in the room. “She was strangled. I’m sure of it. Asphyxiation, I wasn’t supposed to know that. But I do, someone lied. They tried to cover up how she died.”

Tony spared a glance at Stephen, who was still looking out the window, but his brow was furrowed- clearly listening.

“And...since then I’ve- well. Weird things have been happening. At first I just thought they were coincidences- but now I’m not so sure. What I mean is- I think someone is trying to kill m-”

“Look- there.” Stephen cut in, pointing across the street. Tony’s heart sank- however he did turn to look. Tony squinted at what Stephen was pointing at- a shadowy figure seemed to be craning their neck to look up at the window- they were in a taxi.

“In a taxi! That’s clever! Is it clever? Why’s that clever?” Stephen whispered to himself.

“That’s him?” Tony asked.

“Don’t stare.” Stephen said.

“You’re staring, asshole.” Tony answered, earning an annoyed look from Stephen.

“Well we can’t both stare.” Came the response- and Tony shook his head, looking away.

“Were you even listening to a word I said?” He asked, a little disgruntled. Stephen’s gaze pulled away from the window, standing as he turned to look at Tony.

“Of course. Something about a project- I can certainly see why someone would have motive to kill your parents, Mr. Stark. But what has changed since then? Anything? It could just be a coincidence.”

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Them dying from that minuscule accident is impossible. I’m not a doctor but I know that’s the truth. I’ve flipped cars and gotten away with a mild concussion.” Tony snapped, speaking through clenched teeth by the end of his declaration. Hands flat on the table.

Stephen blinked at him, expression unreadable. His eyes flickered to the window, and back down to Tony- who was growing more irritated by the second.

“I know this may seem like a little case to you- or not important. Or- whatever. I know it sounds crazy but it’s important to me. If it’s true that I’m full of bullshit? That’s fine, as long as you just look and tell me for sure. If you’re so great then it’ll just take two fucking seconds!-” Tony didn’t realize he had slammed a hand down on the table until the painful, prickling sting began to cover his palm. He was breathing a little heavily- and the restaurant had gone quiet.

He had half a mind to be embarrassed- but he was too upset for that right now.

Another minute passed in silence, Tony watched as Stephen’s eyebrows drew together as he seemed to try and read Tony- he couldn’t hold the mans inspecting gaze. Biting his lip, Tony looked down at the table, trying to regain any sort of composure. Regain some dignity perhaps-

“...I’m sorr-”

“To a great mind, nothing is little.” Stephen said, voice even. Tony looked up at him with wide eyes but the man looked the same. “Let’s go.” Stephen said, stepping around the table and out the door before Tony could protest. He quickly clambered out of his seat- food long since forgotten. He almost left behind the blue scarf Stephen had offered- snatching it at the last minute and wrapping it sloppily around his neck before bolting out the door.

When Tony emerged from the restaurant he found Stephen standing there, cell phone raised in front of him- although he wasn’t actually using it. He was instead looking at the cab, it took Tony only a moment to realize the phone was a cover.

And, for the first time Tony noticed the slight shaking in Stephen’s hands. But only for a second because the cab started to pull away as soon as Tony came to a stop beside Stephen. Tony opened his mouth to ask what they should be doing when he notices Stephen mumbling to himself, eyes squeezed shut.

“Left turn, one way, roadworks, traffic lights, bus lane, pedestrian crossing, left turn only, traffic lights….”

“What-”

Before he could ask, Stephen’s eyes snapped open and he darted into the busy streets- Tony’s eyes widened as the man dodged around cars, a spike of actual panic surged through him as he did. But that voice that always popped in at the worst of times told him to follow.

So he did.

“Stephen!” Tony shouted after him, following in his trail of stopped and honking cars until they got off the street and start running down a sidewalk- Tony bumped into a poor man simply trying to unlock his door.

“Sorry!” He called behind him, barely managing to keep up with the lanky detective- long legs were the work of the devil in Tony’s fine opinion.

It was hard to keep up, especially when Stephen made a sudden turn down a narrow ally- only to launch himself up a fire escape. Tony watched in mild horror at the climbing he’d have to do- it was a miracle he could reach the ladder. The two of them raced up the steps until they came to the rooftops-

Tony was about to question Stephen’s motive when the man literally began jumping from rooftop to rooftop and Tony had to stop- he just-

Had to stop.

“Jesus Christ…” Tony wheezed to himself- winded. “...That’s- hot as fuck.” He said to himself.

Backing up, Tony got a running start and began leaping over the small gaps in the roofs- a little surprised that he could make the jumps himself. He had fallen a bit behind after his minor moment of ogling.

Once they reached a certain roof, Stephen hopped onto another fire escape- this time going down. Tony did his best to skip steps in order to catch up- which he did manage. He was only a few feet away from the detective now. The two of them hit the ground- Tony nearly falling over when he jumped from the ladder to the ground. He had to quickly regain his balance to chase after Stephen.

They ran for what seemed like forever- through alleyways, across busy streets and through theaters until Stephen ran straight into the street at a stoplight and held his hands out in front of a very familiar cab. The light had just turned green- the car about to go when Stephen leapt in front of it.

“Police, pull over, now. Pull over!” Stephen was shouting at the driver and Tony- who had just reached the scene, huffing and puffing, couldn’t help but be wildly into that authoritative voice.

Stephen Strange- however much of an asshole he was- fit Tony’s type in all areas.

And that just pissed him off even more.

“Open up, come on, now!” Stephen snapped, tapping on the glass of the back seat window when the cabby pulled the car over. Although Stephen didn’t seem to fancy waiting, he yanked the car door open and- looks a little perplexed at the man sitting inside. Tony drew closer to peer inside over Stephen’s shoulder- forced to stand on his toes to actually see.

The man was tanned- good looking in some aspects. Tony simply raised an eyebrow at him. The poor man looked scared out of his mind.

“No!” Stephen shouted, startling both Tony and the man in the cab. “Teeth, tan, what, Californian? LA, Santa Monica, just arrived.”

“Wow- how’d you-?

“The luggage!” Tony said, gesturing to the luggage tags- Tony saw them and made a noise of understanding. “Oh, and your first trip to London probably - going by her destination, and the route this driver has taken you.” Stephen said, explaining things to this man like it was inconveniencing Stephen himself.

“Sorry. Are you guys the police?” The man asked.

“Yes. Is everything all right?” Stephen asked, tone suddenly completely different- soft, kind even.

“Yeah…” The man answered wearily

“Welcome to London!” Stephen said with a smile and turned on his heel- walking away. Tony stepped out of his way- standing there a little awkwardly before flashing a smile at the very confused looking man.

“If uh, you have any problems? Just let us know.” He offered, the man nodded and Tony closed the car door, running after Stephen who was now leaning against a traffic barrier. His lips pulled into what Tony could only call a pout.

“So. That was basically just a taxi that happened to slow down at the perfect time.” Tony said, leaning beside him.

“Basically.” Stephen sighed.

“Not the murderer.”

“No, not the murderer.”

“Wrong country. Good alibi.”

“As they go.” Stephen said, lips twitching into a slight smile. Tony’s eyes trailed down to the police card in Stephen’s hands- he couldn’t resist taking it from the man- who let it go easily.

“Where’d you snatch this from?” Tony asked. “Detective Inspector Danvers?”

“”Yeah. I pick-pocket her when she’s annoying. You can keep that one, I’ve got loads.” Stephen explained, stuffing his hands into his jacket pockets- Tony caught the slight shaking once again but said nothing. Instead he looked down at the card again and chuckled lightly.

“What?”

“Nothing.” Tony said. “Just- welcome to London!”Tony said, chuckles growing into more of a full on laugh.

At this, Stephen cracked a smile. This time- it was a real smile. Not a fake grin or a smirk- a full blown smile, and the soft chuckles that accompanied it were- well.

Tony had spent a day with this man and he was already smitten.

Tony was much to focused on how pleased he was to get Stephen to smile to notice Stephen’s chuckles dying out. The way his eyes had lit up would have Tony daydreaming for hours-

God he was pretty.

“Got your breath back?” Stephen asked, pulling Tony from his thoughts. He turned to look where Stephen’s gaze was focused and saw the man they had scared the shit out of talking to a police officer- pointing their way.

“Ready when you are!”


“Stephen Vincent Strange, what have you done?”

As soon as Stephen and Tony pushed open the door to 221b Baker street, Yao was on them. Her voice was stern and reminded Tony of that whole ‘not mad, just disappointed.’ talk that parents gave. Although despite her stern tone, Tony could see true worry in her eyes.

“Yao?” Stephen asked, clearly confused.

“Upstairs, now.” She said, looking at both Stephen and Tony. Tony raised his eyebrows and looked at Stephen, who looked down at him in turn- clearly he was unaware of the situation. They easily climbed the stairs, two at a time until reaching the top, when they did- Tony was a little perplexed.

Detective Danvers was sitting with her legs crossed in the small armchair that Tony guessed was Stephen’s own, on the stool in front of her sat the pink suitcase- and Tony felt dread fill his stomach.

He was going to be arrested in London and no one even knew he was here-

“What. Are. You. Doing?” Stephen asked, each word said with a bite. Carol looked unimpressed.

“Well I knew you’d find the case, I’m not stupid.” She said a little dryly- Tony did admit she had a point.

“You can’t break into my flat!” Stephen exclaimed.

“You can’t withhold evidence, and I didn’t break into your flat.” She said, smiling- although Tony didn’t really feel comforted by that smile.

“Well what do you call this then?” Stephen asked, waving his hands about- there were about a dozen other investigators snooping around the flat. Flipping things over- opening cabinets.

It was like-

“A drugs bust.” Carol answered with a wide grin.

Tony snorted, but realized it was a bit loud when both Stephen and the Detective turned their attention onto him.

“You can’t be serious I mean- he’s weird as fuck-” Tony began.

“Anthony....” Stephen turned to face him fully- Tony looked up at him, shrugging.

“No offense- but I mean, a drug addict?” Tony’s smile widened as he thought of the man before him pushing drugs. “You probably won’t find anything even if you searched all day! Right?”

Silence.

“Stephen…”

“Now’s a good time to shut up, Anthony.” Stephen whispered to him. Tony stared at him with wide eyes- mouth opening and closing for a moment until he just outright scowled at Stephen. “Really?”

“What? Shut up!” Stephen snapped- voice defensive. “I’m not your sniffer dog!” He shouted over at Danvers, who shrugged.

“No, Barton is my sniffer dog.”

“Barton?! What’s he doing here? On a drugs bust?” Stephen asked, spotting Barton standing in the kitchen with a pair of latex gloves on- offering Stephen a little wave.

“Oh- I volunteered.” Barton called to them. Stephen rolled his eyes.

“They all did. They’re not strictly speaking on the drugs squad, but they’re very keen.” Danvers explained, a smirk on her lips. “You’ve just got a lot of friends who care, Stephen.”

“Are these human eyes?” Tony turned to see Natasha emerge from the kitchen, holding a jar with some strange liquid- everyone seemed to freeze, even Tony was mildly confused.

“Put them back!” Stephen snapped.

“They were in the microwave?” Romanoff responded, eyebrows raised.

“It’s an experiment.” Stephen said, hands waving in the air- he was clearly upset and Tony couldn’t blame him- although he was still a little disappointed by the drugs and now the eyes?

“Keep looking, guys.” Danvers said. “Or you could start helping me properly, and I’ll stand them down.” She offered to Stephen, who was shouting at another officer to stop touching the same vat of Batrachotoxin he had looked at that morning.

“This is childish.” Stephen stated, arms crossed.

“I’m dealing with a child. Stephen, this is our case, I’m letting you in, but you don’t go off on your own - clear?” She asked, finally standing up.

“What, so you set up a pretend drugs bust, to bully me?” Stephen asked, Tony’s gaze was drawn from their conversation to Natasha suddenly poking around his duffel bag- he slipped away from Stephen’s side and quickly approached her.

“That’s mine-” He said reaching for the duffel bag which had somehow ended up in the other armchair across from Stephen’s.

“My apologies.” Nat said, offering Tony a smile. She didn’t seem to be taking the search very seriously anymore- instead her cold eyes focused on Tony as she handed the bag over. “How has your day been?” She asked.

“Uh- fine.” Tony said in response. Taking the bag from her hands and holding it to his chest. She glanced over at Stephen and Detective Danvers who were suddenly sharing information on Jennifer Wilson- Tony could only hear bits and pieces of the conversation.

“Is Strange giving you a hard time?” She asked, leaning against the chair.

“Not really.” Tony said quickly- but sighed after a tense moment. “-sort of. He never slows down.”

“Rough, isn’t it?” Nat asked, Tony nodded. Her lips curled into a smile and suddenly Tony felt he was misunderstanding her question-

“Wait-”

“I’m kidding.” She said, then nodded towards the bag. “What’s with all the folders?”

“Ah- you saw?” He asked, she shrugged.

“Only a few names, makes sense though, why you’re with him.” She said, referring to Stephen. “I hope he helps you.”

“Oh…” Tony wasn’t sure how to respond, part of him was- happy that she seemed to care. His first impression of her was- well, not the best. Anyone who so casually called another man a freak was never good in Tony Stark’s books.

“Thank you, Miss Romanoff.” Tony offered.

“Nat, and you’re welcome.” Natasha- Nat, responded, giving Tony a smile that he easily returned. He felt a little more at ease now that he wasn’t completely friendless.

“Tony.” He said in kind.

“Her daughter?” Tony heard Stephen say, his attention drawn back to the man who was now pacing the room. “Why would she write her daughter’s name, why?”

“Never mind that, we found the case!” Barton said, pulling off his gloves and stepping into the room. “According to someone the murderer has the case - and here it is, in the hands of our favorite psychopath.” He said with a smile and Tony’s own lips pulled into a scowl. Stephen paused in his steps and whirled around on Barton.

“I’m not a psychopath, Barton - I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research!” Stephen snapped at the man. “You need to bring Rachel in, you need to question her. I need to question her-”

“She’s dead.” Danvers cut in.

“Excellent! How? When? Is there a connection? There has to be!” Stephen exclaimed, resuming his pacing.

“I doubt it, since she’s been dead for fourteen years. Technically she was never alive. Rachel was Jennifer Wilson’s still born daughter fourteen years ago.” Danvers explained, voice solemn. This had Stephen pausing again, his eyebrows drew together. The rest of the room fell silent at the news-

Even Tony felt a pang of sadness.

“No. No, that’s not right. Why would she do that?” Stephen asked.

“Why would she think of her daughter in her last moments? Yeah, sociopath, seeing it now.” Barton said with a snort.

“She didn’t think about her daughter, she scratched her name on the floor. She was dying, it took effort, it would’ve hurt - she was trying to tell us something!”

“You said the victims all took the poison themselves. Somehow he makes them take it. Maybe he … I dunno, talks to them. Maybe he used the death of her daughter somehow…” Tony offered- voice a little quiet as everyone seemed to turn their focus on him.

Normally- Tony Stark loved attention. He was in love with attention- especially attention from tall dark and handsome men. But now? It was serious- his confidence was next to none at the moment.

“Oh, but that was ages ago - why would she still be upset?” Stephen asked, Tony cringed and shook his head at Stephen. “Not good?” The man asked, Tony shook his head.

“A bit not good.”

“Yes, but listen!” Stephen began pacing yet again- “If you were dying, if you’d been murdered, in your very last seconds, what would you say.”

“Uh- Fuck I’m going to die?” Tony said in response, earning a slight snort from where Natasha sat beside him.

“Oh, use your imagination!” Stephen snapped.

“I don’t have too.” Tony slipped out- earning a few concerned looks. Stephen didn’t even spare him a glance.

“Yes, but if you were clever, if you were very clever… Jennifer Wilson, running all those lovers. She was clever, and she’s telling us something!”

“Stephen, haven’t you heard the doorbell? Your taxi is here.” Yao emerged from downstairs, looking just as annoyed and concerned as before.

“I didn’t order a taxi, go away.” Stephen responded instantly, the woman simply rolled her eyes and left the room again. Stephen paused in front of the window, standing there with his hands pressed to his head- Tony once again spotted their slight shaking but said nothing of it.

“Shut up! Everybody shut up, I’m thinking, don’t move, don’t breathe, Barton, face the other way, you’re putting me off!” Stephen suddenly shouted- causing a few people to flinch- but ultimately freeze. Barton, who was leaning against the doorway looked slightly offended.

“What, my face is??” Barton asked.

“Everybody quiet and still. Barton, turn your back.” Danvers said, listening to Stephen- which mildly surprised Tony.

“For God’s sake-” Barton began but Danvers cut him off.

“Your back, now, please!”

“Come on, come on.” Stephen mumbled to himself, Tony swore he looked a little in pain where he stood- trying to think so hard.

“Oh, she was clever. Clever, yes, I love her! She’s cleverer than you lot and she’s dead! Do you see? Do you get it? She didn’t lose her phone, she never lost it. She planted it on him. When she got out of that car, she knew she was going to her death - she left the phone to lead us to the killer!”

“But how?” Danvers asked.

“What do you mean, how? Rachel, don’t you see? Rachel!!” Stephen shouted, no one moved. He scanned the room- pausing on Tony who raised his eyebrows at him, earning a slight laugh from Stephen. “Oh- look at you lot, you’re all so vacant! What’s it like, not being me, it must be so relaxing. Rachel is not a name.”

“Then what is it?” Tony asked. Watching as Stephen took a few steps over to the laptop set up on the desk- Wong had long since disappeared. He opened it up and started typing.

“Anthony, the luggage label, it had an email address on it.” Stephen said, Tony quickly scurried towards the case which was still beside Detective Danvers- who offered him a quirked brow at his easy compliance with Stephen’s instructions.

“Jennie dot pink at mephone dot org dot uk.” Tony read aloud to Stephen.

“I’ve been too slow, she didn’t have a laptop, which means did her business on her phone. So it’s a smartphone, it’s email enabled. So there’s a website for her account.” He explained. “Anthony-” He called- drawing Tony over to the desk where he stood from the chair and pushed Tony down- it was open to Mephone.com.

“The user name will be the email address.” Stephen said, Tony quickly typed in the email- unsure why it was him who had to do it.

“-and all together now, the password is…?”

“Rachel.” Tony said, already typing the name in- it let him in.

“So we can read her emails, so what?” Barton asked.

“Don’t talk out loud, Barton, you lower the IQ of the whole street. We can do more than read her emails - it’s a smartphone, it’s got a GPS. And if you lose it …” Stephen tapped the laptop screen- a link to a different website. Find My MePhone. Tony clicked it- vaguely aware of how close Stephen was standing- leaning over him entirely.

“...You can locate the phone online.” Stephen explained just as the laptop screen flashed: “Your phone will be located in under three minutes.”

“She’s leading us right to the man who killed her.” Stephen finished, a pleased smile crossing his face. Tony turned in the chair so he could see everyone- waiting for the laptop to load.

“Unless he got rid of it.” Danvers offered. Still seated in Stephen’s chair.

“We know he didn’t.” Tony responded- earning both an interested and alarmed look from the head detective.

“Come one, quickly, quickly!” Stephen was saying to the laptop- Tony was forced to lean awkwardly to the side. Stephen’s hovering turned into basically pushing him from his spot in front of the computer.

“Stephen.” Yao appeared in the doorway again, her voice stern. “There is a taxi driver outside very sure you called for him.” She said, voice more stressed than Tony had heard before- although he hadn’t known her very long.

“Yao, isn’t it time for your evening soother?” Stephen growled without looking up from the screen, Tony flinched a bit at his tone and looked over at they very unamused woman. “Get some vehicles ready, get a helicopter, we need to move fast - that phone battery won’t last forever.”

“We’ll just have a map reference, not a name!” Danvers said, shaking her head. Stephen pulled away from the computer to look at the detective, letting Tony finally sit back properly in his chair.

“It’s a start!” Stephen shouted back and the screen finally loaded- making Tony squint at the screen a little unsure if it was right-

“Uh- Stephen?” He called.

“It narrows it down from anyone in London, it’s the first proper lead we’ve had.” Stephen went on, ignoring Tony entirely.

“Stephen!” Tony shouted, perhaps a little louder than intended- but it got the man to shut up and look at him. Tony nodded at the computer and he was over in a flash.

“Where is it, where? Quickly!”

“It’s here. It’s in 221 Baker Street.”

“But- it can’t be. How can it be here? How?” Stephen asked, a deep frown on his lips- Tony shrugged.

“Maybe it was in the case when you brought it back - fell out somewhere.” Danvers said, leaning forward.

“And I didn’t notice. Me? I didn’t notice.” Stephen scoffed at the detective- clearly offended.

“Anyway, I texted it and he phoned back.” Tony pointed out- not that anyone was listening.

“Guys, we’re also looking for a mobile somewhere here - it belonged to the victim….” Danvers began to say to the rest of her crew- Tony rolled his eyes and looked back at the computer screen, trying to work anything out himself- but. How could it be here?

Tony wasn’t sure.

He glanced back up at Stephen who was standing completely still beside him, cell phone in his hands- Tony couldn’t see the screen but the look on the mans face screamed distress- at least, as distressed as Stephen Strange could look.

“Stephen? You okay?” He asked, drawing the man from his thoughts.

“What? Yes, yes.” Stephen answered, stuffing his phone into his pocket.

“So how can the phone be here?” Tony asked, trying to get Stephen to talk more- he was being weirdly quiet, perhaps the most quiet Tony had ever seen him.

“I don’t know…” Came the answer.

“I’ll phone it again?” He asked.

“Sure, good idea.” Stephen said and turned on his heel, heading to the door. Tony watched him go- a little bewildered.

“Where are you going?” He called after him, already bringing the phone to his ear.

“Nowhere. Fresh air, just popping out for a moment.” Stephen replied, hands stuffed in his jacket pocket. Tony frowned.

“You sure you’re alright?”

“I’m fine!” Stephen shouted once he disappeared from sight.

At first, Tony was worried- but then that worry grew into more of a paranoia. He stood from his chair and went to the window, just to check, just to make sure his one ticket towards proper justice for his family wasn’t running off.

Tony pulled back the curtains to the flat in time to see Stephen climbing into the back of a cab. He watched- perplexed and a little annoyed that the man was just leaving again. Tony bit down on his bottom lip before turning away from the window.

“He just got in a cab. Stephen, he just drove off in a cab!” He stated to- well, anyone who was listening.

“I told you. He does that.” Nat said, waltzing over to the window to have a look herself, and then she turned to Danvers. “He bloody left. Again. We’re wasting our time.”

“I’m calling the phone- it’s just ringing.” Tony said.

“Well if it’s ringing, then it isn’t here.” Danvers said.

“I’ll try the search again.” Tony offered, going to the computer and hitting the refresh page button.

“Does it matter? Does any of it?” Nat asked, arms crossed. “He’s just a lunatic, and he’ll always let you down. And you’re wasting your time. All our time.” She said in a quiet voice to Danvers- but Tony still heard. He scowled at her words- eyes focused on the screen. Surely Stephen wouldn’t just leave for no reason, right?

“Okay, everyone - we’re done here.” Danvers said with a deep sigh. Right away people began clearing out- leaving the room a bit messier than Tony recalled it being beforehand. Another pang of annoyance shot through him at that- all these people were just here because they didn’t like Stephen.

Somehow, Tony could relate to that.

Danvers lingered behind for a moment, looking a little defeated. She let out a deep sigh, looking over at Tony like he held any answers.

“Why did he do that? Why did he have to leave?” She asked.

“You know him better than I do.” Tony said, shrugging. She laughed at him- making him blink in confusion.

“I’ve known him for five years, and no I don’t.” She responded.

“Then why do you put up with him?” Tony asked.

“Because I’m bloody desperate, that’s why!” She snapped, heading towards the door. Although she paused, looking back at Tony. “...Stephen Strange is a great man. And I think, one day, if we’re very, very lucky. He might even be a good one. He just needs someone to show him how.”

Tony watched her leave. Not responding to her words- although he did consider them. It was refreshing to hear someone speak about Stephen who had some semblance of faith in him.So far all he had heard was negative comments- insults and hate. From what he had seen of Stephen himself wasn’t anything awful. Yes, he was slightly mean, arrogant but- most people were. Plus it wasn’t like he didn’t have reason to be.

He was- in Tony’s opinion, amazing at what he did. That does allow for at least some pride.

Tony sighed, staring at his hands for a long moment.

One day and he was already desperate to defend this man’s honor. Maybe there really would be a happy announcement by the end of the week.

Tony’s gaze was drawn back up to the laptop screen when it finally loaded and he scowled at it- a little confused. The location had changed to a University- it had been at 221 Baker Street but now-?

“Mr. Stark.”

Tony jumped, turning in his seat to see Yao standing in the doorway, hands behind her back. Her lips pressed into a thin line. She stepped towards him, and Tony stood up, aware that whatever she had to say was serious.

“I’m afraid I need your help.” She said softly, Tony nodded.

“What is it-?”

“Stephen, as per usual- seems to have gotten himself in a very, shall we say ...sticky, situation.” She explained. Tony nodded- but froze, glancing back at the laptop.

It couldn’t be…

“I’m afraid so.” Yao said- as if reading his mind. She pulled her hands out from behind her back and for a brief moment Tony panicked at what she presented to him-

“Ah- what?” He asked, taking half a step back and staring at the gun in her hands.

“I doubt you’ll need it.” Yao said, looking at the weapon with mild disgust. “But- Just to be safe.”

“Just to be safe?” Tony repeated, laughing. “What’s safe about that? I don’t want it-”

“Please. Tony.” She asked, making Tony pause. His stomach turned uneasily. He hardly knew how to shoot- he had gone to a range, what, once or twice? Biting his bottom lip, Tony reached out and took the gun. It was cold and heavy in his hand-

He hated it.

“Please keep him safe.” Yao said, looking up at him with the saddest eyes Tony had ever seen. He wasn’t sure anyone could ever resist a look like that.

“I will.” The words seemed to stick in his throat, but he managed to force them out anyway, Yao’s lips pulled into the saddest of smiles, and Tony Stark was trapped.

This woman could probably get him to do anything at this point-

Nodding to the side, Yao stepped out of his way and Tony found himself jogging down the stairs of the flat. He had gotten more exercise today than he had in years- even with Happy’s training regiment.

Ever since his parents had died- Tony Stark was top priority, and he himself was a little paranoid. Happy Hogan cured that paranoia, although the man was probably having a meltdown not knowing where Tony was right now-

Poor guy.

Reaching the door, Tony slid to an ungraceful stop just before leaving. He looked down at the gun in his hands and realized how insane it was to be running out into the streets of London with a firearm-

An American with a firearm no less-

“Uh-” He hummed to himself, palms sweaty beyond belief as he looked around the entryway until his eyes landed on a large, knit basket purse. Only Yao could use that and get away with it- Tony contemplated before snatching it and stuffing the gun inside the purse, slinging it over his shoulder.

Yes- this would look much better.

Now he looked like he robbed a grandmother.

With a deep breath and an unwavering feeling of dread, Tony pushed open the door and stepped out into the very non-busy traffic of Baker Street.


The University was huge, and several times Tony found himself getting lost. Every time he pushed open a door he prayed silently to himself that Stephen would be standing there and he’d be fine. Not a scratch on that stupidly pretty face.

“Where the fuck am I?” Tony muttered to himself, spinning in a circle. The bag on his shoulder feeling heavier than ever. He ran down the hall he was rather sure he hadn’t been down yet and took perhaps way too many left turns until- finally, he spotted a light.

Tony’s lips pulled into a triumphant smile as he bolted towards the closed door, light pooling on the ground below it- signaling that someone was inside.

Perhaps he should have considered the situation a bit more before pushing the door open.

When he did, it revealed Stephen Strange standing with his hands clasped behind his back, and a rather average looking man sitting across from him. The room was huge- bigger than any university classroom Tony had ever seen. Perhaps it was a cafeteria?

Did that matter right now?

“Stephen!” Tony shouted before he thought it through. Both men turned to look at him but Tony’s eyes were drawn to the gun resting on the table between them- that and two bottles but what did that matter?

“Jesus Christ- what the fuck?” Tony swore, hands instantly raising in surrender. “Listen-”

“Oh it’s fake you idiot.” Stephen said, sounding exasperated. Tony’s eyes snapped to him and he stared, mouth hanging open.

“Then why the fuck are you still here?” He asked. Hands waving at- well, nothing in particular.

“Because he loves the game too much.” The man spoke up. Tony looked at him, still a little unsure if his gun was really fake. He didn’t seem to put off with Tony’s appearance- honestly he seemed a little pleased.

“Are you ready to play yet, Mr. Strange?” He asked, earning a scoff from Stephen.

“Play what? It’s a fifty fifty chance.”

“You’re not playing the numbers - you’re playing me. Did I give you the good pill, or the bad pill. Is it a bluff, double-bluff, triple-bluff….” The man trailed off and Tony looked down at the two bottles on the table- small in size and identical.

“It’s still chance.” Stephen said. Not moving from his spot.

“Four people, in a row. It’s not chance.”

“It’s luck.”

“It’s genius. I know how people think. I know how people think I think. I can see it all like a map in my head. Everyone’s so stupid. Even you.” The murderer said, a smug smile on his lips. Tony could see Stephen twitch at the insult-

That’s not good.

“Of course - maybe God just loves me…” The man added.

:Either way, you’re wasted as a cabby.” Stephen quipped.

“Stephen-” Tony tried, but Stephen shot him a look that had his mouth snapping shut.

“You risked your life four times … just to kill strangers? Why?” Stephen asked.

“Time to play.”

“I am playing.” Stephen snapped. “This is my go. There’s shaving foam behind your ear, and no one’s pointed it out to you. There are traces where it’s happened before, so clearly you live alone - there’s no one to tell you.” Stephen began, “But you have photographs of children. The children’s mother has been cut out of the photograph - if she died, she’d still be there. The photo is old, but the frame is new. You think of your children, but you don’t get to see them. Estranged father, she took the kids, but you still love them. It still hurts.”

“Oh, but there’s more! Your clothes are freshly laundered, but everything you’re wearing is at least three years old. Keeping up appearances, but not planning ahead. And here you are, on a kamikaze murder spree, what’s that about? Ah! Three years ago, is that when they told you?”

“Told me what?”

“That you’re a dead man walking.” Stephen growled, and suddenly Tony understood- the man at the table looked affected by his words, but quickly recovered.

“So are you.”

“You don’t have long. Am I right?” Stephen asked.

“Aneurysm.” The man said, raising a hand to tap at his head. “Right here - any breath could be my last.”

“And because you’re dying, you’ve just murdered four people.” Stephen stated.

“I’ve outlived four people. That’s the most fun you can have, with an aneurysm.”

“No. No, there’s something else. You haven’t killed four people because you’re bitter. Bitterness is a paralytic - love is a much more vicious motivator. Somehow, this is about your children.” Stephen countered.

“Oh- you are good, aren’t you?” The man asked with a dark chuckle.

“But how?”

“When I die, they won’t get much, my kids. Not a lot of money in cab driving.”

“Or serial killing.”

“You’d be surprised.” The man said lightly.

“Surprise me.” Stephen snapped, Tony by now had inched closer to Stephen- standing just a few feet away from the man. Stephen seemed to be aware- but didn’t say anything.

“I have a sponsor.” The man said with a cheeky grin.

“You have a what?” Stephen asked.

“For every life I take, money goes to my kids. The more I kill, the better off they’ll be. You see? Nicer than you think.” He explained.

“Who would sponsor a serial killer?”

“Who would be a fan of Stephen Strange?” The man countered and Stephen scowled. “You’re not the only person who enjoys a good murder. There’s someone else out there, just like you. Except you’re just a man. And he’s so much more.”

“Who?” Stephen asked, but no answer came- the man just smiled, a little unsettling. “What do you mean more? Who is he? Tell me!”

“There’s a name that no one says. I’m not saying it either. Now. Enough chatter. It’s time to choose.” The man said, gesturing to the bottles. Stephen’s eyes flickered over the two bottles.

“Stephen-” Tony reached over to grab the man’s arm, Stephen didn’t move.

“What if I don’t take either? I could walk away from this table right now.” Stephen said.

“You can take the fifty fifty chance, or I can shoot you through the head. Funnily enough, no one’s ever gone for that option.” The man said, fingers curling around the gun Tony had been very afraid of upon entering the room.

“I’ll have the gun please.” Stephen said and Tony gaped at him.

“Are you sure?”

“Definitely. As I said before, it’s fake.” Stephen said, straightening his stance. Tony’s grip on his arm tightened as the man aimed the gun towards Stephen.

“Are you sure?” The man asked, Stephen nodded. “Sure enough to risk the life of your friend here?” He asked, suddenly aiming the gun towards Tony- who was suddenly wishing he hadn’t come at all-

“Woah- listen I’m-”

“The gun.” Stephen said, Tony looked at him with wide eyes- mouth hanging open. The taxi driver smiled at Stephen, not sparing Tony a second glance as his finger squeezed the trigger and for a moment Tony was sure he was dead.

Until the gun lit a small flame at the end-

“Jesus Christ.” Tony wheezed.

“I know a real gun when I see one.” Stephen said, voice dry.

“None of the others did.”

“Clearly. This has been most interesting. I look forward to your court case.” Stephen said, finally making a move to leave. He turned towards Tony and pushed him towards the door, a hand planted firmly on Tony’s back- seemingly aware that Tony was not functioning entirely well at the moment.

“Before you go, did you figure it out? Which one’s the good bottle?”

“Of course. Child's play.” Stephen said, pausing at the door. Tony was pushing the door open but froze when Stephen wasn’t following him anymore.

“Which one, then? Which one would you have taken. Just so I know if I could have beaten you?” The cabby asked, drawing Stephen back into the room. “Come on. Play the game.”

“Stephen don’t-” Tony said, but the detective was already walking towards the cabby again, snatching the bottle closer to the man and circling the table. Tony’s eyes were glued to him. Frozen in the doorway.

“Oh! Interesting.” The cabby said, picking up his own bottle. “What do you think? Shall we?” He asked. Stephen didn’t answer, he was turning the bottle over in his hands. “Really, what do you think? Can you beat me? Are you clever enough? Are you really sure? Bet your life?”

“Stephen!”

“Shall we play? For real, shall we?” The cabby continued to ask, raising his own pill to his mouth. Stephen popped the lid open on his bottle and Tony felt his heart leap into his throat. He watched as Stephen turned the pill around in his fingers holding it up to the light like he could see the truth.

“Oh, stop it. You can’t see poison. You just wanted to get one step closer, didn’t you? Still the same addict! But this is what you’re really addicted to, isn’t it? This is the only fix that works. You’ll do anything, anything at all - not to be bored.”

Tony Stark stared in shock as Stephen Strange stood across from a perfectly normal looking man- save for the gun set beside him on the table. In normal circumstances, Tony might have been hyperventilating by now. But this wasn’t normal- this was worse than normal.

He watched as Stephen lifted a rather innocent looking pill to his lips- clearly intent on swallowing it. Just to be right.

Why was he like that?

Tony wasn’t sure. But he was sure that Stephen Strange was probably about to die. Which is why he found himself doing something he wasn’t sure he’d ever forget, or live down.

How did it come to this? Tony wasn’t sure. As soon as the gun fired, his entire body flinched like he had just been dunked into a cold vat of water- there was a moment of deafening silence despite the cries from the man falling to the floor. Tony was vaguely aware of Stephen’s shocked expression.

But it didn’t last long, Stephen was quickly on the man, littering him with questions that Tony paid no mind to.

“Jesus fucking Christ…” He swore to himself. “Fuck- fuck fuck! Okay ...it's fine.” He started rambling random words to himself as he sat against the wall, knees drawn up to his stomach. He wasn’t even sure how he had hit what he was aiming for-

“Oh god…” Tony ran his shaking hands through his hair- horrified by his own actions.

“I just killed someone.” Tony said to himself, shock beginning to settle in- or was he still high on adrenaline? He couldn’t tell. Wasn’t that the same thing?

Then the realization that the police were likely on their way hit him like a bus- he was going to get arrested. Why? Because Tony had called the police before he got here- he just sentenced himself.

Oh God. He was a murderer wasn’t he?

“I’m going to jail.” Tony said aloud to himself, nodding in confirmation. “For the rest of my life.”

“Why would you do that?” Stephen was suddenly in front of him, pacing, arms waving. Tony looked over at the man lying motionless on the floor and was hit with a wave of nausea.

“You- why would-?” Tony began, shock slowly melting into anger as he scrambled back to his feet. Gun and purse discarded on the floor. “What do you mean?! You were about to die!”

“No I wasn’t!” Stephen snapped back, running a hand through his own hair. “I had everything under control!”

“You almost got me killed!”

“The gun wasn’t even real!”

“It could have been!”

“Wh- no!” Stephen looked affronted, shaking his head at Tony who was still in a mixture of shock and anger. Both of them were breathing heavy from the sudden bout of yelling. Tony looked down at the body and his heart rate increased exponentially. He could feel his eyes beginning to water the longer he thought about what he’d done.

“God…” Tony mumbled. The faint sound of sirens were the last thing he heard before he started emptying his stomach into the nearest trash can.


Tony sat with his legs tucked up to his chest on the back of an ambulance, orange blanket draped over his shoulders and his head buried in his knees. He could hear Stephen and Detective Danvers talking to each other beside him- Stephen was perched on the ambulance right beside him with a blanket of his own, not that he seemed to need it.

Tony on the other hand, was shaking like a leaf.

“Why do I have this blanket? They keep putting this blanket on me.” Stephen complained.

“It’s for shock.” Danvers answered.

“I’m not in shock!” Stephen snapped.

“Yeah, but some of the guys want to take photographs.” Danvers explained, under different circumstances, Tony might have laughed.

“Right. Can we go now?” Stephen asked, shrugging the blanket off his shoulders. Although Tony made no move.

“Doubtful, you’ll need to be taken into the station.” Danvers answered.

“It was self defense, it’s almost five in the morning- breakfast time. Let’s get a rain check.” Stephen pressed, Tony wasn’t sure why.

“Stephen-”

“I did just catch a serial killer for you. More or less.” Stephen pressed, Danvers was silent for a moment before a soft sigh escaped her lips.

“Fine. We’ll pull you in tomorrow.” She said in resignation, soft footfalls indicating she had departed. Tony didn’t move, even when Stephen clearly slid off of the ambulance and stood before him, waiting.

Although not very patiently.

“....Thank you.” Stephen’s voice came at a low whisper, but with a voice that deep a whisper was really not possible. Tony shifted, looking up and propping his chin on his knees. Brows drawn together as he took in Stephen- who stood in front of him, hands stuffed in his pockets and wearing a strange expression- pun fully intended.

“-I’m sorry, what?” Tony asked, eyebrows raised at Stephen who sighed heavily.

“I said thank you don’t pretend you didn’t hear me.” The man grumbled. “I- would have taken that pill, and there’s a chance I- could have….” Stephen trailed off.

“Been wrong?” Tony finished for him, the man winced, but nodded.

“The odds were at least eighty to twenty though.” Stephen said quickly and Tony snorted. Slowly uncurling himself.

“It was fifty fifty, asshole.” Tony corrected and Stephen huffed, rolling his eyes.

“Yes fine, fine. It was fifty fifty. Do shut up.” Stephen said, pulling one hand out from his jacket, holding out his arm to Tony. Tony looked at him with a doubtful look before his eyes dropped down to the man’s arm- his hand was closed in a fist, clearly intending for Tony to use his forearm to stand up.

The lighting was poor, but this was the first time he could see Stephen’s hands up close. There were small scars all across his hands- white lines that traveled down his knuckles and Tony could only assume they went all the way to the fingertips- the skin itself looked rough and worn- a million different questions filtered through Tony’s mind as he slowly moved to stand up, one hand curled around Stephen’s arm.

“You can ask, most people do.” Stephen said, startling Tony a bit. He looked up at Stephen who’s gaze flickered between Tony and his hand.

There was a moment that Tony considered asking- he was curious. He wanted to know, but looking at Stephen told him that he really didn’t need to know.

For a sociopath- Stephen Strange was hiding a spark of hurt behind his eyes.

Smiling, Tony shook his head. “Okay-” He started, looping his arm around Stephen’s. “Do you always try and die to prove a point?” Tony asked, Stephen looked at him with a mild look of surprise but offered a deep sigh followed by a cheeky grin.

“What’s the point in being clever if you can’t prove it?” Stephen asked, guiding the two of them away from the crime scene. Most people were clearing out by now- the sun was just starting to offer some light and Tony couldn’t say he welcomed it. He hadn’t slept in over thirty hours now- not since he was in California.

The events of the day had been- well, wild. For lack of a better term. When Tony had landed in London the last thing he expected was to be running through the dark streets, chasing cabs and- well, shooting cabbies.

“Oh- shit.” Tony swore, steps faltering.

“What?” Stephen asked.

“I forgot the purse- they probably took it! Do you think I’ll get it back?” Tony asked. Suddenly aware that that bag hadn’t been his.

“You mean Yao’s knit bag that you stole? I doubt it. She’ll be very unhappy.” Stephen tisked, Tony looked up at him, mortified.

“W- I’ll just buy her a new one.” Tony said.

“She made it.” Stephen replied, earning a pained noise from Tony.

“She’ll understand- right?”

“Maybe….” Stephen drawled, shrugging his shoulders. “She did love that bag…”

“Stop!” Tony groaned, dragging his free hand down his face. “I’m the worst person alive.”

“I believe that’s my title- find your own.” Stephen quipped, drawing a laugh from Tony. But his laughter paused at the sight of- someone quite familiar. Once again Tony’s steps slowed and he leaned in closer to Stephen who raised an eyebrow at him- clearly confused at why there was sudden hesitation.

“That’s him- Stephen.”

“That’s who?” Stephen asked, brows pinched.

“The man- your enemy.” Tony explained quietly, Stephen looked up, humming thoughtfully.

“Ah- I know exactly who that is.” He said with a deep sigh, pulling Tony along with him as they approached, as they drew closer, the man from the warehouse began speaking with a light hearted voice and a sly smile.

“So! Another case cracked. How very public spirited of you. Though that’s never really ever your motivation, is it?” He asked, arms crossed- beside him stood the same woman from the car. ‘Scarlet.’

“What are you doing here?” Stephen asked.

“As ever … I’m just concerned about you.”

“Yes. I’ve been hearing about your concern.”

“Always so aggressive. Does it never occur to you that you and I belong on the same side?” He asked, shaking his head. Stephen snorted.

“Oddly enough, no.”

“We have more in common than you like to believe. This petty feud between us - it’s simply childish. People will suffer. And you know how it always upset Mummy.” The man said and Tony had to do a double take- what? Mummy?

“I upset her? Me? It wasn’t me who upset her, Victor-”

“No, sorry, wait wait- backpedal a bit here. Mummy?” Tony asked. Eyes wide.

“Mother. Our mother. This is my brother, Victor Strange.” Stephen explained, “Have you been putting on weight?” Stephen asked, Victor frowned.

“Losing it, in fact.”

“He’s your brother?” Tony asked, still bewildered. Stephen nodded.

“Of course he’s my brother.” Tony shook his head at him, rolling his eyes.

“Of course- it’s so obvious. Fucking assholes.”


 

When they returned to Baker Street, the first thing Tony did was slink over to the small couch and sprawl himself across the slightly uncomfortable cushions. Lumpy or not he was exhausted and welcomed the sudden relief that laying down offered him.

“Wong! You missed quite the adventure today.” Stephen exclaimed- Tony had barely noticed that Wong was back at the desk, typing lazily. The man looked up at Stephen with a look of annoyance.

“Save it, Strange. Nothing you do is exciting- it’s madness.”

“What’s the difference?” Stephen asked just as Yao appeared in the doorway.

“Stephen, I’m glad to see you’re well.” She said, arms crossed. Stephen looked at her and smiled- “Mr. Stark on the other hand is looking a little tired. Would you care for some tea?” She asked Tony, who groggily sat up.

“Or perhaps a nap?” She asked.

“I think I need to sleep- thank you though, Yao.” Tony said, smiling at her and moving to stand up. “I’ll just, book a hotel…” He mumbled to himself, pulling out his phone. The likelihood of him flying home tomorrow was- high, unfortunately.

Stephen took all of three minutes to listen to him talk and was clearly unimpressed with his case.

“Why not just stay here?” Stephen asked suddenly, drawing Tony out of his typing. He looked up at Stephen, eyebrows raised.

“I- well…”

“You can sleep while I look through your files-” Stephen said gesturing to the duffel bag dropped in one of the two armchairs.

For a moment, Tony wasn’t sure if the man was serious- but, he clearly was. And when the realization hit, Tony’s lips pulled into a wide smile.

“That’s nice and all but he’ll have to live on the couch.” Wong spoke up again. “We’re out of rooms.”

“That’s fi-”

“Just take my room, it’s through the kitchen.” Stephen cut in again, dropping himself down into his armchair. Tony frowned, staring at him- actually all three of them were staring at Stephen, who was much more interested in Tony’s bag than realizing how weird an offer that was.

“Well…” Yao said, voice full of amusement. “There you go, Mr. Stark. I’ll have some tea for you when you wake up.” She said. Tony looked at her and nodded silently.

“Alright..” He said, voice coming out much weaker than he had anticipated.

He had the feeling that this was only the beginning of a very interesting trip to London.