"All work and no play," Jan teased him, when she caught Tony at the boundary of the timefog again. From anyone else it would have been a lot more cutting, but Jan knew how hard he worked while playing.
He had a scanner going, and he was in the suit, more for everyone's peace of mind (including his own) than because the timefog had ever seemed particularly dangerous. It didn't reach out and grab you; it never encroached back once it had been cleared. It just stood there, billowing up against an invisible barrier occasionally.
And sometimes, if he was near the edge too long...
"That's me, the original dull boy. I taught Captain America how to do it," he said, and she covered her mouth, mock-shocked.
"You're awful," she told him. "That's mean."
"It's what we dull boys do," he agreed, shooting her a grin.
"You don't really think he's dull."
"No, of course not. But if he thinks I think that, he might try pepping things up a little, and then we'll have a lot of fun." He turned back to the timefog. Sometimes he thought he could see shadows moving in it, when he was flying over it. Usually only when he was alone; if he brought Sam, either he was too distracted or the shadows kept still.
"Come away from it, Tony," Jan urged. "The dance party at Club A's about to start, it's not the same without you. And we need you there in case Drax tries to literally destroy the dance floor again."
"Yeah, I'll be there in a minute," he replied absently. Jan rolled her eyes but left him to his readings.
He set an alarm for three minutes, to make sure he didn't forget to go dance, and kept working. His scanner showed an odd blip, blink-and-you'll-miss-it, so quick it didn't even record in the system --
His head snapped up as something moved in his peripheral vision. There, in the fog...
The shadow resolved itself, slowly, and Tony locked up, frozen in place. It was an armor -- a little bigger than his, burlier somehow, but the same scarlet-and-gold, the same basic plating structure and blue glow of the chest reactor.
The helmet was off, and he could see a shock of dark hair, then the shadow of a nose and a beard --
Whoever he was, he'd taken a serious injury, Tony thought, detaching the observation from the fact that really the man could only be one person. He had a scar running from the edge of his jaw on the left, up across the corner of his mouth, cutting through the beard and taking a thick chunk from the bridge of his nose. His left eye was a vivid blue, but his right eye was pale and unseeing, and the scar ended in a twisting gnarl above his bisected eyebrow.
Tony tapped a command into the scanner, calling up an image of the Iron Man helmet kept in the very back of the SHIELD archives. The holo settled over the man's face, the rent in the mask aligning precisely with the scar.
"What happened?" Tony blurted.
The other man didn't appear to hear him; he was studying the barrier, fingers drifting over the billowing edge, single blue eye darting around. Finally, with a thoughtful frown that tugged at the scar along the corner of his mouth, he flicked two armored fingers at the very edge of the barrier.
A single curling plume of fog drifted out, and Tony jerked backwards. It twisted and whirled up like smoke from the cigarettes Gamora thought nobody knew about, dissipating in the air.
Where the other man's fingers had touched, a pinpoint of blue light appeared, coalesced, and then dropped to the ground, tumbling across the grass to Tony's feet. He bent with one knee to pick it up, and found himself holding a tesseract shard.
He scratched his head. He already had a couple hundred of these. Not enough to recruit anyone right now, but --
When he looked up, the other Iron Man was gone, but there was a little timer floating above the point the shard had fallen from. It read 3:58:27. 3:58:26. 3:58:25...
"Thanks, I guess!" he yelled, just in case the other Iron Man was still around. His own timer went off, startling him, and he tucked the shard into his armor's cargo compartment, blasting off for Club A.
He set a timer for 3:57 while he was in the air, and landed just in time for Loki to challenge Steve to another dance off (Steve always won).
3:58:01, 3:58:00, 3:57:59....