She’s eleven and she’s miserable. Not for any particular reason, Danni’s just generally miserable whenever she’s not at home. She doesn’t really relate to her peers.
Right now she’s in a bush. It’s a well-manicured bush, with a large hollow space in the middle, just the right size for a shy girl to curl up and read for the duration of recess. Maybe it’s a little lonely, but she’d rather be lonely alone than in a crowd.
She’s halfway through her book when something happens. It’s not a dream, exactly, but she doesn’t know where it comes from.
It’s an image. An image of a man with dark hair and a goatee, puttering – there’s just no other word for it – around in a workshop. There’s nothing significant going on, and it only lasts a few seconds, but she’ll never forget that face.
She finds out who it is when she sees him on the news the next day and can’t stop staring because it’s Tony Stark, and from then on she finds herself ripping pictures out of magazines and taping them to her wall.
She’s eleven and she thinks she’s in love.
She’s sixteen and he’s hiring an assistant. Danni’s not sure why she knows this, but she’s seen three interviews – not really through his eyes, but as a sort of uninvited observer. She finds herself cheering this one on, though, this redhead that can match him snark for snark and won’t take his crap.
“This one,” she thinks at him, even though there’s no evidence that she’s telepathic. “Hire this one, this is who you need.” The more Tony Stark is in the news, the more she worries about him. Most of the time she can’t recognize the man from that first vision in his public face and that hurts. She’s never met him, never will, he has no idea she exists, but the man in the workshop has somehow become her best friend.
She’s sixteen and she wants him to be taken care of.
She’s twenty-one and she’s bored. Danni has a liberal arts degree and a dead end job and spends a lot of time cruising the now hiring page on the Stark Industries website.
She should have tried harder to get into electrical engineering, apparently.
The man in the workshop is still somehow her hero, and she only buys Stark brand electronics. It’s a good thing for her that they really are superior; otherwise she’d have to explain herself. Thankfully nobody knows that she keeps the barcode from her first Starkphone in her wallet.
Then one night Danni finally agrees to go out with her coworkers and gets drunk. No, not drunk. Absolutely, completely, climb-into-a-fireplace-and-try-to-get-to-Diagon-Alley wasted. Or alternatively, wake-up-with-a-Starkphone-barcode-tattooed-on-your-lower-back wasted.
Why was she even allowed in the tattoo parlour?
But the tattoo isn’t the worst of it. Oh no. It’s the hangover. For the first time she curses whatever it was that made her a mutant/psychic/whatever, because she’s pretty sure that normal people don’t have to deal with swirling images of people they don’t know and garbled snatches of conversation on top of the head splitting agony, nausea, and the whole world being too FREAKING LOUD and BRIGHT. There are also vague memories of the night before and that’s not helping. At all.
There’s one image, though, that keeps coming back. SHIELD. Strategic…something. She heads for Google as soon as the room stops spinning, takes a deep breath, concentrates, and slowly types the words in.
Danni’s not at all surprised when the bland faced man in the suit shows up on her doorstep the next morning with his “shoot or recruit” offer.
She’s twenty-one and she’s not bored anymore.
She’s twenty-six and she wishes she had just had a nightmare. Instead she’s calling Agent Coulson with her heart in her throat.
“Phil!” Thankfully he answers right away. “Tony Stark’s been kidnapped!”
“Afghanistan.” And now the images are coming fast and hard, missiles -car battery – cave – smoke – blood. His blood. And that’s all Danni sees for three months.
She recognizes the arc reactor when he builds it. Of course she does, she knows almost everything there is to know about Stark Industries. “That’s my boy.” She whispers watching him work. “That’s my genius.”
Danni sees him working, building something that’s not a missile, hears snatches of his voice and someone else’s: “Palladium.” “Fifty lifetimes.” “Fifteen minutes.” But she never, not once in three months, sees anything to tell her where he is.
When he’s brought home she locks herself in a supply closet and cries for an hour. He’s home. He’s safe. But he’ll never be the same again.
She doesn’t see him at Gulmira, but she knows it’s him. She’s seen him working on the suit.
She likes the suit.
Her next major vision coincides with a phone call from Pepper Potts. Obadiah Stane has been dealing under the table, they know this, Danni’s been seeing it for years, but now they can finally get proof. He’s building something and she knows that he’s going to attack Stark.
Phil divides their forces. He, Danni, Barton and a couple of junior agents to the house, Sitwell and his team with Potts.
Danni’s out of uniform but she’s armed. She’s always armed these days. It’s very satisfying to hold Stane at gunpoint.
And then she’s sitting next to Tony Stark, holding his arc reactor, touching his chest – oh. That’s awkward. Her brain is a little scrambled because it’s TONY STARK, and the little girl in her is squealing. She thinks she has a handle on it until Coulson tells her – HER – to talk to Stark, that he’s been training her for this. Then she makes a fool of herself.
She ends up staying at his house until past midnight, and doesn't get to bed until nearly two, but he’s agreed to join the Initiative on a trial basis and she’s giddy.
She’s twenty-six and she just met the man in the workshop.