There was nothing like it; cruising along the California coast at twilight, the soft light of day’s end and night’s beginning caressing the horizon. This was true freedom, and Tony thought that this must be what a bird felt as it took wing, looking down on all God’s creation. No interruptions, no work or obligations to intrude on this moment of peace. Though the suit had brought a whole new set of complications into his life, it had also brought him this; solitude, and maybe… grace.
But that peace was shattered by sensors clanging a warning as bolts of lightening arced towards him. “Jarvis! I thought you said the weather was clear!”
“Sir,” the ever-patient voice of his AI majordomo replied, “there is no inclement weather reported by the National Weather Service.”
“Then what the hell was that?” he demanded, narrowly missing yet another shower of lightening.
“I am at a loss, sir.”
“You’re at a loss? Perfect, just perfect!”
As the third jagged wave of electrical energy reached for him, Tony realized that the lightening was coming from the ground. The ground? What the hell? Using the instruments at his disposal, he began a scan of the surface below. He wasn’t imagining it — the disturbance was coming from the canyon below. But how and why?
“Jarvis, we’re going down.”
“Of course we are, sir.”
If Jarvis were corporeal, Tony would have given him a suspicious look. But he wasn’t and that was one more reason why the computer program couldn’t possibly be… snarky? But that thought was quickly supplanted by what he found on landing at one of the many isolated Malibu canyons that dotted this section of coast.
A man stood in the clearing, supporting himself on a very substantial sword, pushing himself to his feet. A few feet behind where he stood was a body. As the sensors of Tony’s suit scanned the area, he realized that the body was headless. And it didn’t take a genius to connect the rest of dots.
The man shook himself, like someone waking up from a bad dream; still not noticing there was company. He pulled himself erect, almost as if he were unfolding his tall, spare frame, inch by painful inch.
“Come here often?” Tony’s mechanically enhanced voice suddenly boomed into the night. The other man flinched, but barely. He was a cool one; Tony had to give him that.
Eyes that were curiously unconcerned gave him the once over. Then a softly accented voice said, “Oh, great, the superhero.” Then a sharp shake of his head accompanied by a long-suffering sigh. “Just bloody perfect!”
Tony wasn’t accustomed to that tone of voice, especially from a murderer he’d caught red-handed. He was used to a very predictable set of reactions from those that came into the orbit of Tony Stark: obsequiousness, nervousness, or lust, or some combination thereof. There were very few people in his life that displayed none of those. But this man, this man was different. It piqued his curiosity.
The stranger turned his head, closing his eyes for a moment before looking back at Tony. “So what’s it to be? Death-rays versus sword?” Again that impatient tone.
There was something oddly familiar about sword guy, and the memory tugged at him…. Wait a minute! He raised his visor, exposing his face. “I know you!” he exclaimed.
Sword guy looked surprised at that. In fact, it was the most reaction Tony had got from him so far. “I’m sure I haven’t had the pleasure,” he replied, almost without missing a beat.
“Yes!” Tony practically shouted, finally putting the pieces together. “You were a friend of my parents! You came to the house for dinner a few times.” He would have snapped his fingers if they hadn’t been encased in a gold titanium alloy. “Matthew Stone, Dr. Matthew Stone, the historian!”
“I’m afraid you have me mistaken for someone else,” he replied with total confidence.
“Nice try.” He pointed at himself. “Genius. Perfect recall.”
“Oh, for god’s sake!”
Tony continued, “You taught me to curse in ancient Greek when I was four!”
The smallest hint of a smile touched sword guy’s… Matthew’s, lips. “You were a natural,” he commented, no longer denying the truth.
“And then my mom found out,” Tony recalled, his voice tinged with sadness at the memory of his late mother.
“She was slightly peeved,” he admitted.
“That’s an understatement!” Tony declared, laughing. “But you taught me something I always remembered.”
“Oh, and what was that?”
“That charm can go a long way in mollifying a woman.” He snickered. “By the time you were through, Mom thought it was the funniest thing in the world.”
“I’m glad you took my life lesson to heart,” he replied dryly.
“You have no idea.” Then he considered. “On the other hand, maybe you do.” Tony’s life was a tabloid feast, after all. Then, it hit him, finally. “Wait a minute! You haven’t aged a day!” The belated realization knocked the breath from him.
Mathew snorted. “Score one for the genius.”
The withering tone set his teeth on edge. “Considering your present situation, you don’t seem worried. That’s pretty damn stupid, don’t you think?”
Shrugging, he looked at Tony with eyes that were full of secrets. “Oh, I’m not concerned.”
“Why’s that?” he asked almost defiantly.
“Simple.” He took two steps closer. “You’re a curious man. Sex, booze, fast cars, the superhero suit; none of those match the high you get from solving a mystery, from finding out what makes the universe tick.” Now he was standing right in front of him. “You’re an addict, Tony Stark.” The last was whispered, the words seeping into the damp California night like mist.
Taking a breath, his heart beat in anticipation. He was right, this man from his childhood. Tony wasn’t sure anyone had ever quite seen that about him. All his vices were just surrogate sensations for what he really craved. And the man before him was a mystery that Tony needed to solve. He could almost taste it, the knowledge dangling right there in front of him
There was, in the end, only one choice. And sword guy knew it. “Come by for a drink tonight, Dr. Stone. We’ll talk.” For all the world, it sounded like he was inviting a colleague over for a casual Saturday night get-together. But they both knew it was much more than that. “Jarvis will text the directions to your cell phone.”
Matthew searched his eyes, then seemed to come to a decision. “See you in a few then.”
“See you in a few,” Tony agreed, lowering his visor with a nod before launching himself into the night sky, the sound of the surf pounding at him like his own heartbeat. Something told him that his addiction was going to be sated tonight.
Tony Stark meets Methos, Iron Man/Highlander. I was asked, well harassed really :) to write this after I wrote my first Iron Man fic a few weeks ago. Hope you enjoy it.