Warnings/Notes: Complete, friendship, post Avengers. The fourth installment in the 'Small Moments' serial.
Character(s): Tony Stark, Charlotte Sparrow
Summary: Charlotte places all her trust in the only genius on her speed-dial.
Obi Wan Tony, You're My Only Hope
Tony takes a swallow of his espresso, studying his friend's face. She was doing a lousy job of hiding her feelings, pretending to be interested in his explanation of his latest experiment.
The lab is quiet, too early for most people to be up, giving him peace, something in rare quantity these days. Tony hadn't expected Birdie to show up, espressos for both them, and the Bear Claws from the little bakery down the block that they both loved. She looks tired, shadows under her eyes, her hair pulled up, held in a knot by a clip at the top of her head. He resists the urge to pull the clip off, letting her hair free. Instead, he drinks more coffee.
"Company left early," he says casually. He's long past pretending he isn't keeping an eye on his friend. But Jarvis telling him that Agent Romanoff had been Charlotte's midnight visitor had taken him by surprise.
Birdie looks at him sharply, before her lips soften a little, looking almost like the beginning of a smile. "The monsters were gone once the sun started to rise," she explains. "Maybe you should give all of the team an apartment here—save on commute time."
"Maybe I should." He scratches the corner of his eye with a fingertip, pushing back a little bite of jealousy. She was allowed other friends; he wasn't five, for God's sake! But still, it rankled. "What? You didn't paint each other's toes?" He allows himself to picture what that would look like, before firmly pushing the mental image aside. Down, boy!
Leaning towards him, a sparkle in her blue eyes, she answers, "We exchanged stories from boarding school." Raising an eyebrow suggestively, she taps his chin with a finger. "You should have been there."
He's torn between laughter and–again—inappropriate thoughts. He contemplates the latter for a few moments before, regretfully, moving on. "You're not a nice woman, Birdie," he accuses. "Besides, I know you never went to boarding school."
"True, but I have taught at one." She laughs, truly laughs, and Tony thinks it is one of the best things he's ever heard. Then she says, "Tasha has become a good friend. But you, Tony Stark, are irreplaceable—best friends forever."
"I knew that," he says cockily. Then more seriously, he asks, "Are you okay, Birdie, really?"
She doesn't look at him. "Really? No, I suppose not. You know what he said to me, that day."
"Loki." He says the name, and she stiffens. He'd had Jarvis record the conversation she had with her former captor, in the hours before Thor had taken him, a prisoner, back to Asgard. "Are you ever going to tell me everything?"
"You saw my debriefing," she counters.
Snorting, he takes her hand. "I know that wasn't everything, and so does Fury. But me, you can trust, so tell me."
"I can trust Nicholas. I just can't trust the Council. It's better for him not to know."
"You're too close."
"Did you tell me everything that happened in Afghanistan?" she demands.
Despite himself, he pulls back. Taking a breath, he exhales slowly. "No."
"Then you have to understand, Tony." She's almost begging.
He had to ask the question. "Did he…did Loki…?" He berates himself for not being able to say the words. But before he can finish the question, she shakes her head sharply.
"No, Tony, no. Despite me having no memories, and him pretending to be my grieving husband, he was—" she pauses, as if remembering something "—a gentleman."
"But?" She isn't looking him in the eye. He takes her face between his hands, making her look at him. "Come on, Birdie, what else?"
Pulling away, she walks around the table, like she's trying to put a wall between them. Picking up a gear from the table, she begins to fiddle with it nervously. Finally, she says, "Just before Loki came through the doorway to Earth, I had a dream, but it wasn't a dream. He threatened to put me back in the snow globe, in reality this time, if I didn't serve him, for as long as it took for me to yield."
He reaches across the table, taking her hands in a tight grip. "He's gone, Birdie. A prisoner. He left here trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey."
"A prisoner, now, yes. But for how long? A decade? A century? And does it even matter? Time isn't a straight line, that's what he told me, told Methos. What if the child isn't a lie? What if he was telling the truth? Loki wants a weapon, and our potential daughter may be it. But in the present, the past, the future; I don't know, and I need to, Tony!"
He was at a loss for words, not something that happened to him often. Letting go of her hands, he walks around the table, putting an arm across her shoulders. "What does the boyfriend think?"
"Methos?" She laughs. "Methos is very carefully not committing himself. He tells me what he thinks I need to hear: that Loki is the God of Lies and Mischief, that everything he says is convoluted and definitely not to be taken at face value. And while he tells me all this, he's going through every book, every scroll, every rune inscribed stone, that makes even the tiniest mention of Loki and the Norse pantheon."
There was still something else, Tony could feel it like a presence between them. "Tell me all of it, Birdie," he demands softly, almost a plea, needing her to trust him, even when she trusts no one else.
She swallows, closing her eyes. Her eyelashes lay dark against the paleness of her skin, like the shadows of feathers. "No one knows, Tony."
"And no one else will." His promise to her, one he will never break.
Looking up at him, eyes seeming almost too big for her face, she nods. "All right." Gently, she breaks his hold, slipping onto a stool. "He told me and Methos, during our imprisonment, that we, Immortals, had a power we were unaware of. He experimented on Methos and Duncan, using some sort of scanner to measure the energy that healed them."
Tony sits on the stool next to her. "That was in the debriefing I saw that night. What wasn't?"
Her finger traces a pattern over and over on the surface of the table. "Loki used an Immortal's Quickening as….a power source, for his scepter. He controlled it, used it, before it entered Methos." She lets the full import of what she's saying sink in before continuing, "What if that power is something we can tap, use? It would change everything. And if we could, there are those of our kind who would use such a power for ill; mortals who would attempt to use us for their own ends. You can see why Methos didn't share that with SHIELD."
"He wouldn't be happy with you telling me either, Birdie," he points out the obvious.
"No, but that's because he doesn’t know you as I do, Tony. There are a thousand reasons for Methos to keep this secret, and most importantly, it is in his nature not to trust; and not without good reason."
"What can I do? Whatever it is, I'll make it happen."
She looks at him sidelong, reaching up to kiss him on the cheek. "You aren't going to like it."
"I already know that! Spill, Birdie."
"The mirror, Loki's enchanted mirror; I controlled it, Tony. He was surprised, not that I had the ability, just that I'd figured out how to use it. I need to know if I can use that power again; it may be my only weapon should the future that Loki claims is mine…ours, comes to pass." She takes his hand in hers. "I need you to recreate Loki's experiments. Figure out how I use this power to protect myself, my family, and my friends."
He feels her hand shake in his, and he knows the idea terrifies her – reminds her of events in her past that she has tried to forget. He also knows she's right. "The thought of hurting you—" his voice cracks.
"This time, I'll be unconscious. You can't hurt me, Tony. Just the opposite, you may be saving me, if you can figure it out. If there's even a chance that there may be a child some when, some where, I won't let her be a weapon; help me to protect her. Please, you're my only hope."
He nods, the tension in the room almost suffocating. "Somehow, I'm thinking this would have been cooler if you were a hologram," he says, poking a finger into her shoulder. "Me being your only hope and all."
Her eyes widen, and then she giggles till she's breathless. Exactly the reaction he hoped for.
"Obi Wan Tony?"
"It has a ring to it."
"Yeah, well you are my only hope, Tony—only genius on my speed-dial."
"About that." She's not going to like this at all. "I'm not."
"The only genius; best, yes, but not only."
"Tony, you promised—"
"Just hear me out, Birdie. I need help with this, and Bruce is the guy I need. This sort of thing is right up his alley."
"No! I don't know Dr. Banner, not really—"
He interrupts again. "But I do. You can trust him, Birdie. If there's anyone who understands what it's like to be used as a weapon, it's him. And he'll do everything in his power to make sure that doesn't happen to you—whether it's Loki or our own people who try it."
He can see she's beginning to relent, so he pushes his advantage. "This isn't like hooking you up to an EKG, Birdie. I need to create new instruments to monitor whatever energy it is that makes you tick. It's going to take some time, and some help."
"You trust him?"
"With my life." She can see the truth of that in his eyes.
She studies his face, deciding. "I don't like it, but okay. If it's the only way, then so be it."
"I promise you, we will figure this out. As of this moment, it's my number one priority."
"I believe you." She sighs. "I may even be able to sleep tonight."
"And if you can't—"
"You're just upstairs."
"I'll even paint your toenails."
She throws her arms around his neck, laughing. "Only if I get to paint yours."
The events surrounding Loki take place in White As Snow, Red As Blood.
A Life Safety Issue
Still What We Are
Next Up: Project Tortuga