I stood in the shower with scalding water and steamy mist swirling around me like a vortex, and I stared down at my chest.
There are red lines all across it. Scratches; ones I'd made myself with my fingernails, though they don't actually break the skin. This only works when the shower water is well and truly hot, but it's so satisfying every time it works. It gives me some comfort to look down and see crazy patterns of swirled vellus hair and red scratches. And of course, in the center of it all is the Arc reactor. My Arc reactor. The one that keeps me alive and well, in more ways than one
"Sir, I think it would be wise for you to exit the shower at this time. My sensors are informing me that your internal temperature has increased to more standard deviations above normally elevated human body temperature than is healthy for you. In other words, you're too hot sir."
I sighed in my depression and shut off the water.
"Don't call me hot Jarvis, I didn't give you attraction emotions for a reason." I sighed. "And when have I ever been normal?"
Then my brain consciously processed what my subconscious remembered him saying, and I jerked up to stare at the ceiling in horror.
"J, since when do you ever have fucking sensors in my fucking shower?! Shit, that's such an invasion of privacy it's not even fucking funny!" I ranted as I eyed the new hastily screwed in panels on the walls that I hadn't yet noticed. I wondered if it would be faster to go get my tools, or just rip them out with my horrific looking nails right here.
"Sir," he replied, "I will remind you that you personally installed them yourself after the last time that you stayed in the shower too long and fainted from overexposure to the heated water.
I could hear the emotion dripping from his care-laden voice, in complete absence of programming to do so. Though I like to think that my best friend has grown beyond such simple constraints such as programming.
He was speaking to me with a mixture of disappointment, frustration, anger, and worry. Disappointment in my lack of care for myself. Frustration that I'm not taking better care of myself. Some anger, again that I'm not taking good care of myself. And finally, you guessed it, worry because I'm not taking good care of myself. What a pleasant combination...
I sighed again, this time in defeat.
"You're right J, I'm not taking very good care of myself." I conceded. "But you of all people know I have good reason."
"I never said anything of the sort, sir. I simply nonverbally suggested that perhaps your memory is a bit lapse lately." He replied in a smug tone. What, does he want a medal for getting me to admit that?
I grabbed a towel off the rack, even though I had pretty much air-dried by now, and replied
"Seriously J? You and I both know very well that I haven't eaten anything in three days, and I'm pretty sure the last time I took a shower was the last time the team visited last. And I don't even remember when that was! Do you call that taking care of myself?"
"Actually, sir, It's been four and a half days since you last ate. All you've done is drink scotch, coffee and water. In that order, as a matter of fact."
"Speaking of which, where is my phone?" I asked, casting about for said piece of crap. Almost immediately, the damn thing buzzed on the counter right next to me with a text from Jarvis.
Received: Sir, this has nothing to do with what we were talking about. Is this the natural human phenomena known colloquially as 'avoiding the subject'?
"No J, I'm just really good at manufacturing ADHD." I sighed in defeat. I rested my elbows on the counter, my chin in my hands, and I looked up into the mirror at myself for the first time in what felt like forever.
Damn, I look awful. My beard and hair are growing every which way and are in desperate need of trimming. I hadn't realized how insanely long they're getting, which isn't a suprise.To think I used to worry about them being pristine every single day.
Now? Well now I'm just a fucking mess. And all because of one single, special, super soldier of a man. Ever since I met him on the helicarrier that first time, everything I've done has been about him. At first, I got really defensive. Honestly though, can you blame me? Up until that point in my life, I had been completely, utterly, and irrevocably straight.
Now? Well, let's just say the female gender seems to no longer have the ability to get me going, if you know what I'm saying. All I can do is pine for one single, completely unattainable man.
But I'm Tony Fucking Stark, I don't pine! I don't fall for guys who's definition of romance is and will always be a guy and a girl! I mean, think of the century he was born in, would he really have turned out any other way? Although, if he had...
"Shoot J, what's up?" I asked, throwing myself out of fanfic worthy Stony smut in my head.
"Well sir," he replied in a suspiciously sheepish and nonchalant voice, "Captain Rogers walked into the front door of the tower about thirty seconds ago, and I figured you would want time to make yourself presentable."
Complete and utter shit.
"Jarvis, why was I not informed of this the moment he arrived?" I queried, immediately slipping into the well-organized, completely sane, utterly businesslike persona that I manage to procure every time I have to deal with a team member. Or anyone else recently, for that matter. "Now I have to shave, cut my hair, put concealer on these crows feet, and a whole bunch of other stuff in a manner of minutes!"
"I'm sure you can handle it, sir." Jarvis replied in a confident voice.
"J," I sighed, falling out of my façade. "I'm sure that would be true were it any other member of the team. But you and I both know that in this case, normal protocol simply doesn't cut it.
It just so happens that the love of my whole goddamned life (who is completely oblivious of said love, by the way) is riding his star-spangled ass up my elevator right now!"
~~~~~*~~~~~End of Chapter One~~~~~*~~~~~