Tony gestures to an empty seat, opposite of the straight-backed executive chair that has a red cardigan draping over the armrest. The cheapest item Steve could find in the spaciously uncluttered office.
“I don’t know how SHIELD did it, but they found a way to squeeze you into my daily planner. A remarkable achievement. Is Miss Potts the de facto liaison officer between your bosses and SI now?”
Steve folds his hands in his laps. “Miss Potts has been most helpful. Director Fury –”
“I’ll have to stop you right there.” In three strides, Tony retakes his seat and scoots closer to the desk. “Director Fury and SHIELD have no stakes with the company – financial or otherwise – and therefore no business interfering with our management. I’ll let this trespass slide, Captain, but I must say I can’t be gladder to see the back of you, or anyone else from your side for the matter.”
Steve doesn’t immediately reply, and Tony lets the silence plough on for the next uncomfortable seconds.
“Mr Stark, I think this might interest you.”
And Steve pulls out a pen drive – seriously? – and holds it out for Tony to take. Which he does, while also thinking if he has a device with a USB port in the entire Tower that can read this thing. Wireless rules, what can he say? Bytes riding on EM waves across time and space is titillating.
“I don’t like to be handed things.”
Steve raises an eyebrow, but eventually points to the CPU on the table. This is where Tony feels he should clarify once and for all that that hunk of metal is there for sentimental value.
“May I?” Steve raises the pen drive like he’s toasting at a banquet. Tony nods.
There’s only one file on the drive and it goes direct to the holograph pad. Tony admits, he thinks it’ll be another copy of Steve’s CV, or some propaganda slideshow about everything SHIELD, hell, maybe porn, who knows – point is, he’s ready for anything Steve is about to show him. Anything under the sun.
Anything, save for a fearsomely detailed blueprint of the Tower, all the way from the deepest foundation to the lightning rod on the rooftop.
“That is confidential – where did you –”
“The same way Director Fury gained access to your home in Malibu.”
Tony smirks, and it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Digital interloping, how quaint.” He straightens up in his seat and rests an elbow on the table. “Give me one reason why I should not call for security, right now, have that pen drive confiscated and your ass in jail for wrongful possession of P & C materials and information theft.”
“Believe it or not, Mr Stark, we’re not here to make enemies. Your safety is our priority,” Tony scoffs openly at that, and Steve presses on, “I agree the method is… questionable. Things will be a lot more straightforward if you and Iron Man are two separate entities.”
“Mm. Sweet advice. First-hand experience?”
Steve cracks the vaguest hint of a smile. “I’m not a superhero, Mr Stark.”
“You may have heard a lot about me. Not all are savoury. But cowardice is not one of them. I don’t hide behind masks and secret identities.”
Steve’s lips grow thin, and Tony mentally gives himself a pat on the back.
“Director Fury is concerned that you’ll be victimised by anti-vigilantism movements. These can be pre-empted.”
“… Your past experiences speak of valour, Captain. But I’m not having SHIELD agents parked on this premise for just-in-cases. We're running a business here, we don’t need to remind our customers of the occasional grenades launched through our window –”
“You misunderstand me. We’re not here to offer you such services.” As if on cue, the holograph blinks and the original skeleton of the Tower is now superimposed with various other structures, red against the building’s blue. “I’m here to advise you on Stark Tower’s building security.”
Tony gives the flickering image a cursory glance. “What's next? A free makeover on my house?” Tony plucks the pen drive from the back of his CPU. “I assume I can hold on to this for a while? Run it by some simulations, get a better understanding of your proposal.”
Steve nods and gets to his feet. Their half an hour is almost up.
“I’m not an unreasonable man. I do value the safety of my employees. I’ve been thinking of overhauling the security systems, and if this,” he waggles the pen drive between his thumb and forefinger, “offers me solutions, I’ll make time for a second discussion. Send my thanks to Fury.”
They shake hands, and Steve motions for the door.
“Uh, wait up!” Tony quickly ducks under his desk and Steve hears him doing some serious rummaging. “Mind giving this a look over?” And he holds out a roundish model made of plaster of Paris, whitewashed without colour, but so detailed that Steve can see every brick on the cobblestone walkway.
“This is the Stark Expo. A miniature version of it. There’s a microchip stuck on the underside, pretty sure SHIELD has a reader for it. I just gave ‘em one hundred last month. I would’ve given you something less bulky of course,” Tony claps his hands and flakes of plaster sprinkle all over his desk like dandruff, “I didn’t know you were coming. There’s a strap on it somewhere, makes it easier to carry.”
Steve smiles wryly. “Of course, Mr Stark.” With practiced ease, Steve slings the model across his shoulder and lets the gloriously fragile hemisphere drape over his back. “I look forward to our next meeting.”
Even after the entire afternoon has passed and there’s nothing left to remind Tony of his morning appointment, he can’t shake off the feeling that he knows Steve Rogers from a time before.