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Them's The Breaks

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With my level of tech, what's the point of writing by hand? Seriously, I only use my pen to sign important contracts. Otherwise, I don't. I spend more time doodling schematics with a digital stylus or, even better, letting JARVIS do the easier parts. My voice-input command protocol is top-notch so the only typing I've done in the past year is all programming and most of it is related to the upkeep of my lab bots.

The thing is I really feel sorry for the poor bastard who’s "destined" for me. For one, we’re ages apart. For two, I never write by hand and my signature is a lie, a careful construction of my father's through numerous tutors sworn to silence. It's a work of art with all the robust flair expected from a Stark.

Guess my old man couldn't stomach the idea that his only son was diagnosed a dummy.

For whatever reason my eyes don't match up with what my brain wants my hand to do. The issue is not as bad as it could be but it's pretty sucky. That's why I have a PA, had one since I entered MIT. Oh no, Dad couldn't let his dummy son take disability accommodations. It would have tarnished the laissez-faire, richer-than-God attitude he'd worked so hard to cultivate. 

Pepper, bless her, had spent months trying to 'whip me into shape' to make me take my job as CEO 'seriously' instead of fucking off and ignoring all the tedious, nigh-impossible busy work it entailed. Applying myself meant that I was that much closer to showing everyone how much of a dummy I was. I thought I was going to have to let her go as much as I liked her.

And then it stopped. The emails changed. It couldn't have been Happy since he knows nothing. I hired him as a deliberate 'fuck you' to Stane. At the time, my old man’s friend wanted me to agree to a personal bodyguard with the highest accolades. I hadn't given it any thought until later that Stane's objective may have been to install a hitman loyal to him. No, on one drunken night of frustration at life, I had JARVIS run a search on all highly recommended bodyguards with the caveat that they had a learning disability. The next morning of groaning hangover I checked over the Top 5 that JARVIS had so listed. On a whim, I picked Numero Dos, a humble prison guard stuck in mid-level management, called him up, introduced myself, and offered him quadruple the salary and the title of Head of My Bodily Security. I had expected disbelief because these kinds of things typically required an interview first.

There's a reason why he's Happy. My right ear rang for the rest of the day.

So, there’s that and then there’s this thing where I have an obsessive need to know. Maybe I just wanted to take control of my destiny.

You’re probably thinking, What has Tony done now.

I don’t know why people are so cynical when I say I’ve made something awesome.

That’s right. I started the largest handwriting repository on the planet. It’s the largest. I keep it up more out of entertainment purposes than anything, now that I know there’s no hope of finding the one whose writing adorns my forearm. With 90% certainty, I already have Pepper matched. She won’t take my word for it, even though I’ve matched 15 Stark employees with their ‘soulmates’ in the last year. Gotta spread some love around when the world’s full of shit.

But you know what really pisses me off about the damn mark? I’m not the only one with a weird one, but somehow I got the short end of the stick. Some people have fucking Sindarin and Klingon and were able to meet up with their ‘one’. And here, I end up with an obscure form of Celtic, where the last native died out in 1973.

They’re trying to bring it back. I threw money at them knowing that it was useless. Last year they had 69 kids go through the full-immersive experience. I’ll be way past my prime before any of them are old enough to check out. JARVIS keeps an eye on things, but he only tells me of hits when they aren’t jailbait.

Besides, if there was ever a time to meet them it would be now after I made the Iron Man suit. Everyone knows who Tony Stark is.

I haven’t touched the embossed writing on my skin in years. Oops, I lied there. I touch it when I’m drunk and lonely and slur the words aloud as if it will summon my mystery person to my side.

Yeah. Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, and what are you?

Over the years I had different answers to that obvious taunt. As I grew older, as I tried to find myself, the answers changed. Honest-to-god thought it alluded to a business suit. Heh, I really lacked creative vision then.

With Viking gods and a thawed all-American super-soldier in my midst, it didn’t register with me until my challenge, my years-held reply had already rolled off my tongue.

“Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Them’s the breaks when you’re impulsive as hell. I had no idea that I had practiced the answer for so long that it simply slipped out when I finally heard the secret code. God, I’m pathetic.

See, it’s not first words or last words someone hears. The words that mark you are memorable ones from the person most compatible with you.

Cap has no idea, of course, that I said nothing else. Not because I wanted to hear what he really thought of me, but because of the enormity of realization. Nothing in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s super-secret files said a damn thing about Cap being a native speaker of Gaelg. That’s Manx to all you English speakers, which is a language most closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic. It’s probably why I have a thing for blonds and redheads.

Even as he was throwing words about how selfish I was, I wondered whether his parents or grandparents had immigrated to America. Probably the parents if Cap had spoken Manx at home.

“—to lay down on the wire and let the other guy crawl all over you.”

“I think I would just cut the wire,” I quipped, having finally caught my balance.

Cap’s eyes changed suddenly as if I had spoken magic words. Sassiness only provoked him under stress, but here a smile gleamed on his face as he glanced over his shoulder at Banner instinctively. Then the mask of a leader slammed down again. “Always a way out. You know, you may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero.”

Everything I had been thinking about Mr. Hero poured out like a case of diarrhea. And then, our ensuing fight was interrupted by Banner’s monitoring alarm, followed by loud, ship-shaking explosions.

I was on my happy little way to suit up and jump into action when Cap grabbed my wrist, looked me straight in the eye, and ordered me to put on the suit.

The retort came out before I could quash it. “Weren’t you telling me how selfish I was? How I should make the sacrificial play?”

He let go and ran ahead of me with his gun out. “Get in the suit, Stark, before I stuff you in it.”

“Oooh. Mr. Hero to save the day.”

God, I hope I don't fuck this up.