My birth name is of little consequence, here. No doubt, to your tongue it would seem odd, at best, in the rough translation you would use and claim to be so accurate. But, for the sake of continuity, I shall tell you once, and only once. My birth name is Miw-Sher- in my native tongue it translates to ‘little cat’. I was named such by my father, for I was to be his panther, his mighty Bastet, the crown jewel of his army. But I was not so eager to assist, and we parted ways. But I digress.
As I have said, my birth name is not important. It is the name I have chosen for myself that is. The name Nicole Miller is commonplace enough to blend in with your world. But that is not the name I call myself.
My name is Synn.
This is the story of the eldest daughter of Apocalypse. His ‘daughter of darkness’, who is a ‘healer for penance’. I live to right the wrongs he has committed throughout history, to save those who are weak, and helpless- and human.
I was born during the Amarna period in Egypt, to a young slave girl who served in the palace. She was unmarried, and as such, I was a castoff, a throwaway. But I was a beautiful infant, and the Pharaoh saved my life because of it. His Queen had lost a daughter. I would take her place. For fourteen years, I was raised as a human. I was loved, pampered, cherished. I had the best of everything. My biological father destroyed Amarna in a fit of jealousy, setting himself on the throne as Pharaoh Horemheb. He destroyed my family, the only family I loved. Fourteen years of being loved, and raised, and cherished, and they were wiped out within moments. I cried for my family.
My father, The First One, tried to make me assist. For weeks I shut out the terror, the fear- until I felt the shame burn in my gut. I rejected my father, and I swore I would never let him harm another innocent again. That was when he marked me. Both with his symbol, and the hieroglyphics which run down my back- my personal badge of shame. My personal pain.
There is so much like this, in my past. But that is not the tale which I wish to weave. I have cried enough for that, dear friends. I would not wish the same upon you. This tale is a happier one.
This is how I met the only human I have ever loved enough to, willingly, rip the heart from my chest. He would do the same for me, and he has. He is a selfish creature, my human, but he would risk his life to save those who cannot defend themselves, and has done so numerous times. He is petty and vulnerable and strong and wonderful and so very, very HUMAN, and yet he is not. He is mine, as I am his. We would die to protect one another, and we live for one another.
She hated these gala events. They were full of people she didn’t know, most of whom didn’t appreciate the difference in architecture and art from the Amarna period from, say, the Ptolemaic age. Yet they would fawn over these priceless works of art, cooing about how beautiful it was, and yet, know nothing about it. It was enough to make her weary. Yet her smile remained bright, cheerful- never forced or cold- thanks to years of practice. Usually, though, she avoided being so high in social standing, but she was tired of being a shrinking violet. She missed the parties, the schmoozing, the play of being high class. She was no longer just ‘that girl’. She was the top Egyptologist in the world, and as such, a darling of the social media. The press loved the petite but beautiful woman.
She never disappointed.
And, tonight was no exception. She was in a cobalt blue Valentino gown, with a dip in the back that exposed both skin and part of the tattoo that most men found wildly sexy. Her hair was styled, expertly, and she was wearing heels that added about four inches to her tiny little frame. All eyes were on her adoringly- men fawned over her, women wanted to be her. But there was one particular pair of eyes that she felt on her more often than others. And… they were staring. Again. She lifted her chin defiantly, meeting his gaze challengingly now. He sent her an inviting smile that had her heart fluttering in her chest, but she merely gave him a cool, disinterested smile back. She flagged down a waiter making the rounds with a tray of champagne flutes.
“The man over at the bar… who is he?” She asked innocently, taking a dainty sip of the drink she’d collected.
“That’s Tony Stark, miss.” The waiter chuckled. “I’m surprised he hasn’t introduced himself yet. You’re just his type.” The man shook his head. “And by type, I mean you’re very attractive…” he sent her a hopeful look.
“Not in your wildest dreams,” she sighed. The poor kid had it bad for her- or at least a healthy appreciation for the female figure. He walked away, and she looked up again. The handsome man at the bar was flirting with one of the young, attractive waitresses now, being completely charming. She knew the name- he was, after all, quite the playboy and filthy rich to boot- but she had expected… something different. Not at all what she’d envisioned. She’d thought fat and balding, not suave and debonair. Still… she went to the bar to get herself a drink, brushing against Stark. “Oh… sorry.” She didn’t look apologetic in the least- that was a calculated move on her part- and batted her lashes for charm. “Another Cosmo, Nate.” She sent the bartender her most charming smile. While she was waiting, she lightly tapped her foot. Even in heels, she was petite next to the tall playboy. “Thanks.” She handed him a bill, smiling. “Keep the change, Nate. And tell your wife I said hi.” Drink in hand, she sailed back across the room. But she was on his radar, now, she was sure.
“All this… stuff… is pretty impressive, right?” The voice was suave, flirtatious. She turned to see that she’d been joined by the billionaire, so he’d bought that little ‘come hither’ move she’d pulled on him.
“Actually, it’s a replica of the arena, as it once stood.” She sent him a challenging little grin. “A marvel of its time. Amarna was the first to use irrigation. Granted, not as refined as the aqueducts.”
“So, you’re into this ancient tripe, huh?”
“I have more than a passing interest in Egypt, particularly the Amarna period.” She sipped at her drink again.
“And, who better to present a lecture on Egypt than our very own Nicole Miller?” A voice announced, and she blinked as cameras and flashes turned on her. With a knowing grin, she stepped to the podium, smirking triumphantly at Stark with that cocky, cute-as-hell grin.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for coming out tonight, braving the cold for a little warm company and conversation. If I may direct your attention to the screen behind me, we can begin.”
Her presentation was designed to be as informative as it was fun. She elicited laughter at all the right points, having added a few images to make it more enjoyable- and pictures of the awesome power of the desert. It was a beautiful, terrible place. She descended the podium to mild applause and smiles of congratulations. But there was one arrogant smirk that she was surprised to see, waiting for her at the foot of the stairs.
“Do you shoot, too?” He asked, amused, offering her the delicate stem of a martini glass, filled with a Cosmo, just the way she liked it. She was too startled to do anything but accept it. She blinked.
“Pardon?” She managed.
“You know, Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.”
“I’m afraid I don’t.” She arched a sleek brow.
“You’re not was I was expecting.” He laughed, clearly influenced by the drinks he’d had. “I thought you’d be a boring old hag.”
“Funny. I thought you’d be older.” She sipped at the drink. “And tactful.”
“I’m wounded.” He sighed melodramatically, and she had to stifle a giggle. Yes, she had had too much to drink, she decided.
“I’m sure some other woman will come along and fix your poor, broken heart.” But she laughed as she extended her free hand. “Nicci Miller.”
“Tony Stark.” He brought her hand to his lips, and she shook her head.
“Whatever do you mean?” His eyes sparkled with interest and mischief.
“You. You’re trying your best to flatter me.”
“No. I’m trying my best to charm you. Is it working?” His grin was wicked.
“Maybe.” She slanted him a smile. “It’s possible it ‘could’ be working.” She chuckled. “But only possible.”
“Shame, that.” He winked. “Here I was thinking you could teach me more about these fascinating cave drawings.”
“Ah, but would you be able to comprehend what they actually say, Mr. Stark?” She shook her head. The band struck up again, music pouring into the gallery. It was soft and seductive- not blues or jazz, but something similar, and she found herself being tugged in against his tall frame, his hand at the small of her back, the other taking hers, firmly. “What are you doing?”
“Dancing with you, Tomb Raider.” His voice was as seductive as the music, so close to her ear. She let him lead her, but found that their strides matched. She wasn’t hearing the music anymore, she was feeling it in the pressure of his hand on her back, in the way he swayed with her.
“Why?” She looked up, eyes large and luminous. Half-brown, half-gold in this light, they were expressive as they turned on his.
“Why not?” He chuckled, looking down at her. She really was a pretty little thing, he decided. Cameras turned in their direction almost instantly, but she didn’t see them, and he didn’t register them. They were caught in a world only big enough for two. Their eyes were locked, now, and held. “Relax, Tomb Raider. I’m not going to eat you, though you do look good enough to do just that.”
“You’re not making it easy for me, Playboy.” She retorted. But they continued to sway comfortably, and she let him give her a little dip before he righted her. It had been a long, long time since she’d been so close to such a prime specimen of a male. But he was human, and she didn’t usually react so strongly to humans. She relaxed, though.
“There we go,” he murmured. Camera shutters clicked, capturing images of the world’s top Egyptologist dancing with one of the richest, most influential men in the world. They focused on the way their eyes locked to one another, the way the couple swayed in sync.
“The press is going to love this,” she murmured.
“Let them,” he breathed back, his head quite close to hers, now. And her head did one long, lazy spin. He was so wonderfully human and he smelled simply fantastic, and was warm. When the band took a break, she became aware of the media around them, and tore her gaze from his.
“Ms. Miller! Ms. Miller!” The cacophony began, and she sighed.
“I- should go.” She glanced at him. “See you around, Playboy.” She made certain to add some sway to her hips as she began to walk away, glancing over her shoulder once as she headed out.
She sent him a gift.
It was a joke, but still. She’d sent him a rather striking relief taken from a tomb in Amarna, depicting something… rather odd. Recognizable, still. For it was a bulb- a light bulb. In an ancient carving. She’d included a hand-written note. ‘Interesting, isn’t it, playboy?’ With her phone number beneath it. She sent it off with her most trusted messenger, then settled in to wait. She didn’t wait long. Her phone rang, and she answered it coolly, professionally.
“Hey, Tomb Raider.” She could hear the smile in his voice. Her own turned sultry.
“Well, Playboy. Did you like my gift?”
“I’d like to study it in more detail.” She could hear the laughter beneath his tone. “Listen, I’m heading back to Malibu tonight, but they’ve planned this send off party for me that’s just fantastic.”
“Oh.” She was surprised he was leaving so soon- but he was a globe trotter.
“You should come.” He chuckled. “Then after we’ll head to my lab and study this cave drawing in more detail.”
“Aww, are you asking me to come out and play?”
“Yes.” A pause. “It’s a hell of a night, Tomb Raider.”
“I’m sure it is. But what if I don’t just want to play, Playboy?”
“What more is there?”
“If you haven’t figured that out by now, playboy, you never will.” She sighed.
“I’ve sent a car for you.”
“Wait, what?!” She looked down at her jeans and t-shirt. “No. No. I absolutely did not say I was going.”
“What?” His voice sounded distant. “Sorry, I can’t hear you. Bad reception! See you tonight.”
“No you won’t…!” But he’d already hung up. She groaned. Wait- he’d mentioned a car. Damn that playboy! She’d have to get dressed fast. She hopped up and bounded across her little studio apartment. After sleeping in a tent in the desert, the studio was spacious and comfortable. She grabbed the nearest little black dress, whipping her shirt and jeans off, pulling the snug, form-fitted dress on. It skimmed her thighs, and was suitably drool-worthy. She pulled back her long black hair into a sophisticated ponytail. Her accessories were modest, compared to the previous night, and she put on as much makeup as she dared, racing to the door just as the bell chimed.
“Hello.” She smiled at the driver.
“Hello…” the driver looked wary. “Are you Nicole Miller?”
“Yes. Are you the driver who is being sent to kidnap me?”
“Yes.” Now he smiled. “Are you a willing kidnap victim?”
“I suppose.” She smiled. “IF you take the long way around.”
“Of course, Miss.” He chuckled. “Since you asked nicely.”
She arrived fashionably late. His chauffer was polite, attentive, and really rather amusing, and easily amused. They had conversed the whole way there, nothing forced. The party was already in full swing- music, color, vibrancy. Humans were so… free… with their emotions and expressions. She liked it.
The cause for her appearance was surrounded by women- all young, all attractive, and all flirting with the handsome man in their midst. She shook her head. He looked perfectly comfortable with them hanging all over him- and then he glanced towards her, and he crooked a finger, beckoning her closer. She smirked, strutting like a runway model, doing a little turn for him.
“Well, do I pass inspection, Playboy?” Her voice was a purr. His expression changed at her voice.
“Tomb Raider?” He immediately brought her into his personal space, pressed against her back. “Gotta say, you were stunning last night, but this…” his hand lightly skimmed her hemline.
“Satisfactory, then?” She was enjoying his proximity.
“More than satisfactory, Tomb Raider.” His arms wound around her waist, pressing into her more fully. His words were purred into her ear. “Relax.” He nipped at her jawline. “It’s fun.”
“Says the man who’s already had a couple.” She closed her eyes at the gentle nibble to her skin.
“Want a drink?” He chuckled. “I could use one…”
She had a good buzz going when he laughed and pulled her with him into his jet. They were both deliriously drunk, and deliriously happy. She had crawled into his lap, nuzzling into his jaw and giggling. His hands were everywhere. And they were both laughing and stroking and touching, until she finally decided the cushions looked more comfortable, and promptly put her head in his lap, instead, demanding him to play with her hair (which had come loose at some point). She’d never been to Malibu, but then, she was a mutant. Granted, the public didn’t know that, but still. She giggled again.
“You’re such a bad influence,” she managed between giggles. “But I like you anyway.”
“You need me to shake up that stable little world of yours,” he laughed, twisting her long black hair around his fingers. “What would you have done tonight?”
“Work.” She sighed. “Some of us do have to punch a clock, you know, Mr. I’m-rich-as-Croesus Stark.” She giggled.
“You punch a clock?”
“Have to, playboy. No one funds trips to Egypt to dig for Amarna treasures.” She sighed. “Everyone wants the tombs. No one cares about the different periods anymore.”
“You’re passionate about the Amarna period.”
“Yes. It’s underrated. And Tutankhamen was the last of the Amarna kings.”
“What if… figuratively… a wealthy benefactor decided to fund your trip. What would you need?”
“I have a small team. Four of us. We’d need food and shelter, of course.”
“What would you do?”
“Uncover the ruins of the palace. And the Arena. And the gardens… hell, I don’t know.” She sat up. “Why?”
“What if a certain playboy billionaire has developed a taste for Egyptian artifacts?”
“What?” Her eyes widened. “You’re crazy. Crazy.” She ran her hands through her hair. “Incorrigible. You’re insane. People don’t just… throw money away.”
“Wrong.” He titled her chin to face him. “I’d be lending it. You’ll unearth something huge for me and return on my investment.”
“You’re insane!” But she threw herself at him anyway, kissing him hard. “Gods, I can’t believe you.”
“Shall we have a drink to celebrate our new association?”
Those were some of my happiest days. He was a human, but I didn’t care anymore. He was MY human. But he became so much more than that- he became the one man I could ever love properly. And, by the gods, I do love him, and I did love him, even then. He told me to quit my job. He funded another trip to Cairo for me. We made plans- oh, so many plans. He was going to buy a flat in Cairo, move some of his factories overseas to be closer to me, where he could keep an eye on me. He set me up in style, close to the dig but in the city, where I would be surrounded by the culture I loved.
We spoke nearly every day. He became my solid anchor, my rock. After a particularly grueling day, I could count on him to make me laugh. But our happy days were not to last. He had to make a trip to Afghanistan. Why, I asked, not come to Cairo on your way back home?
She looked at her watch for the upteenth time. She had been sitting here, alone, for the better part of an hour. Her Playboy had made the reservations for seven. It was now nearly eight and he hadn’t shown, or called, or contacted her in any way. That wasn’t like him. She flagged down a nearby waiter.
“Excuse me, have you heard anything about my dinner companion?” She asked it softly in Arabic.
“No, miss.” The waiter softened, then. She was dressed very beautifully, after all. “What is his name?”
“Stark.” At that, the waiter’s eyes went wide.
“Tony Stark? But you have not heard?” The waiter took her hand, tugging her. She rose on shaking legs. He led her into the bar, where a newscast was running. The caption made her gag, nearly falling over.
“No.” She whispered it. “No, this can’t be happening.” She didn’t register when she passed out.
I came to in a hospital, curled into fetal position, wanting to die. An old colleague of mine, Deadpool, was by my side. Not the face I wanted to see there. I wanted my human, my playboy, the one thing in this screwed up world that I could cling to. But ‘Pool had been there for me, many, many times. We were lovers, occasionally- we had married back before he became what he was. I felt no attachment to him, but, then, he was not my Wade any longer.
He made me start working again, living again. We fell into bed with one another- he was a distraction. He helped dull the pain I felt without my playboy. He pulled me out of the pit, and I was grateful to him. So grateful. We dug up the Arena, and its awesome wonder transported me back to being seven years old, watching the horses run with my adopted father… laughing. He’d laughed and laughed. I’d done it. I’d brought a dead city back into the light. I was going home.
She shaded her eyes when she stepped down, amid flashing cameras and excited reporters. Could she tell them what it was like? Had she found another tomb? Was the trip okay? Was she happy to know that Tony Stark had arrived, safe and sound, on American soil yesterday?
“I’m sorry… could you repeat that?”
“Are you happy to know your benefactor, Tony Stark, is back on American soil?”
“Yes. Yes, of course.” She was sure she looked as shocked as she felt. She was hurried along by her teammates, before the press could catch even one tear falling.
She’d waited two weeks. Two weeks, and she still hadn’t called him. Well, he hadn’t called her, either. Still… she missed him. Horribly. She just wanted to hear his voice, even if he didn’t want her around. That made up her mind. She pressed the button on her phone, eyes closed. ‘Please, please answer. Don’t you dare voicemail me.’
“Stark.” The voice was professional, for once.
“Playboy…” her voice quivered.
“Tomb Raider…” his voice softened with affection.
“Oh, Playboy… it’s good to hear your voice.” A rogue tear escaped her, but she didn’t care.
“It’s better to hear yours.” A pause. “Why don’t you…”
“I’d like to…” They spoke at the same time. He laughed weakly.
“I… I need to see you. To see you’re alright, I mean.”
“I need to see you, too, Nicole.” It was one of the rare times he used her first name. “I’ll send a car for you.”
“No. No. I’ve got a teleport device.” She sighed. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“’Kay.” He sounded beat. “Tomb Raider, jeans are fine.” He paused. “I know you. You’re worried about your clothes and your face, and your hair. I just… I need to see you.”
“Okay. Alright.” She disconnected the call before meandering into the bedroom she was sharing with Wade. “I need to borrow your teleporter.”
“What? Why?” He tilted his head curiously.
“It’s important, alright?” She snapped it back. He tossed it to her, and she caught it deftly. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it, baby doll.”
“I’ll fix your image inducer when I get home.”
“Sure.” She kissed him on the cheek.
“I promise.” She pressed the button. It knew where she wanted to go.
Welcome back, Miss Miller. The polite voice made her smile when her vision cleared.
“Thank you, Jarvis.” She inhaled the familiar scent of this place- it was like a second home to her, and she had missed it. But she had missed HIM more than this place, and when she caught sight of him she rushed to hold him, face against the crook of his neck. Her was alive and solid and warm and… there was something hard pressing against her chest from his. His own arms were holding her close, nose buried in her hair.
“Hey… hey, Playboy…” she held him tighter than she should have, perhaps. But his own arms were around her as if she were the only thing he could cling to. “Hey…”
“Do you have any idea, any idea, how much I missed you?” He pulled away to cup her face in his hands, looking down into her eyes.
“Yeah. I think I do.” She murmured softly. Now that there was some distance between them, she could see that there was something GLOWING under his shirt. Curious as she was, she could feel that he still had some bumps and bruises, and that was when she forgot the rules. He had ceased to be ‘human’ in her mind, but was rather ‘her man’. Her hand ghosted over his heart, avoiding the disk- and she gently pushed her energy into him, so gently it would have been nothing but pleasurable for them both. The tattoos along her spine began to glow, faintly- she pulled back just in time. “I’m… I’m sorry….”
“Don’t you dare turn away.” His voice was like steel, now. He caught her by the shoulders, forcing her to look at him. “Mutant.” The word wasn’t spoken with hostility, just blatant curiosity.
“Y-yes.” Her eyes looked up, half-wild.
“Healer.” He kept one hand on her shoulder, while the other began to stroke along her arm, reveling in her softness. “My little healer.”
“Miw-Sher.” She said, softly. He looked at her, curiously. “My real name. It’s Miw-Sher.”
“Miw-Sher.” He tried it, found it rolled off the tongue pleasingly.
“It means ‘little cat’.” She sighed. He suddenly held out a hand to her. She looked at him questioningly.
“Come on, little cat. I’ve got something to show you… and I swear, dummy misses you.” He tugged her down to his lab. She only hesitated for a brief moment, but his tug was insistent. He should have thrown her out, called the national guard, something! But, no, he was taking her with him.
He was the first human to accept me, no questions asked. We sat up until the early hours of the morning, just talking. He asked me about my abilities, and I was honest and straight with him. In return, he explained his arc. We ended up crashing on the couch, with his head in my lap and my head on the backrest, too tired to make it any further. But he wasn’t ready to commit to one person- not yet.
By the time he was, it was almost too late.
We both knew the risks he took with the arc. Whenever I was around, I would ease the toxicity in his blood, but he pushed himself more and more with each passing day. I was gone when he found a new element. I was gone when he came back to himself.
She was jealous, no two ways about it. The way Stark was wrapped around that redhead was almost obscene. He had barely even said hello to her- she had contented herself with flirting with another partygoer. Until he had slid seductively up behind her, nuzzling into her jaw. “Tomb raider! You made it! Didn’t even see you come in, where have you been hiding?” Before she could answer, or even really process that his arms were around her waist and he was pressing into her, he spoke again, this time directed towards the other man. “Vanish.” He giggled stupidly. “Oh, come on, Tomb Raider! You’re not jealous, are you?” He laughed.
“Jealous? Why would I be jealous?” She scoffed.
“Come on, Tomb Raider…” he nosed into her hair. “Loosen up. Let me get you a drink.”
“No. I’m fine.”
“You’re tense,” he chuckled. “You’re not nearly liquored up enough for me to convince you to go upstairs with me for a good snog.”
“I’m fine, playboy.” She rolled her eyes.
“Come on… it’ll be fun.” He tried to coax but he was laughing and, gods, she wanted to be angry at him but she just couldn’t. There was nothing about this man that didn’t do something for her. “Please? Come on, it *is* my birthday.” A sigh. “So much for this being the night I finally get to snog you.”
“I think you’re trashed enough for both of us, playboy.” But it was strained. She turned to face him, noting the lines of strain around his eyes. She reached up, cupping his neck in her hand, cringing somewhat. “Gods, you’re blood is almost critically toxic!” Her voice was a whisper, but it was clearly serious.
“I’m fine.” He laughed, but there was strain there.
“You’re bloody well not fine!” She snapped. “Why didn’t you call me?” She lifted her gaze to his, eyes brimming with unshed tears.
“Honey, I’m fine.” He tried again, but she shook her head. She turned on her heel. “Honey… Tomb Raider… c’mon, don’t leave…”
“Call me when you sober up.” She said it over her shoulder, stalking out the door. Rhodes tried to convince her to go back in- she was one of the few people who Tony would always listen to, even when he was about to self-destruct- but she refused. She couldn’t watch him self destruct.
“You’re Nicole Miller, aren’t you?” The young redhead Stark had been wrapped around seemed to melt out of the shadows. “And before you try to deny it, I’m not here to cause trouble.” She looked towards the door. “You two are close.”
“I suppose.” She shrugged. What did the woman want?
“There is some speculation that your association goes beyond friendship.”
“That’s the rumor,” she sighed. “Look, I’m not about to stay here and be interrogated by the likes of you.” She smirked. “He’s been through a long, long line of women who looked as good as you, honey. You’re not his first, you certainly won’t be his last.”
“Then perhaps you’ll be interrogated by me.” The new voice was masculine, and she whirled around. He was powerfully built, tall, dark-skinned with an eye patch- and unfamiliar. “My name is Nick Fury, and I‘m here on behalf of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“S.H.E.I.L.D.?” Now she was curious.
“Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.”
“That’s a mouthful.” She chuckled.
“It is.” He smiled, briefly. “I’m here to speak with you about the Avengers Initiative.”
“We’ve watched you for some time, Ms. Miller.” The redhead smiled. “You are one of the few calming influences over Tony Stark.”
“We’re friends.” She shrugged. “I’m sorry… what is this Avengers Initiative? And what does it have to do with me?”
“Come with me, Ms. Miller. I’ll explain all.”
I don’t know why I trusted Fury so easily.
Maybe it was because seeing Tony self-destruct hurt, or because I was tired of denying everything I am. I helped them develop something to help him, you know. He never asked- I never told him. But I avoided him, personally and professionally.
When the Avengers first assembled, I blended in on the bridge. I hadn’t seen Tony since that disastrous night at his house in Malibu. Thankfully, I had help distracting that sharp playboy’s gaze away from me. Two seats down, Agent Wilson was playing Galaga- and I had to stifle my giggles when Tony pointed it out. I MISSED him terribly, but I had resolved to stay out of his life. He didn’t need me.
Two months later Fury decided they needed someone to watch over them. I got stuck with the leash.
“Hey! We could use a little help!” The voice that shouted over the intercom wasn’t winded, but she could hear the tension in his tone.
“Well, Agent Synn… you’re up.”
“You know he’s going to kill me for this, right?” She laughed as she did a mental check of her weapons. Blades? Check. Guns? Check. Flash grenades? Check.
“Agent Synn, good to go.”
“We can’t keep this going much longer.”
“Hey! We need backup!”
A flash of black and scarlet whipped by. She hit her knees, bending backwards, blades extended as she took out one guard skillfully. The fighter stood, then, eliciting a laugh from Thor.
“She’s puny! What good will she…” he trailed of as she went into a back handspring, a blade in the neck of the nearest HYDRA agent- and he hadn‘t even seen her move. She turned, winked with the eye that wasn’t surrounded by the Eye of Ra. “Oh, that’s what good she’ll do.”
“Aww, big tough demigod like you can’t handle the heat?” She laughed, twirling. “Okay, boys… let’s dance!”
“Bringing the party to you, guys.” She recognized the voice immediately. Crouching low, she tapped the Earth’s natural nexus of power, letting her adrenaline surge. Her body could handle it- she was designed for it, after all. “Hey, Hawkeye?”
“Ever want to shoot a beam of energy at something?”
“Huh?” He turned. The new girl was GLOWING now, along her spine- he couldn’t make out what it was, but it was scarlet and beautiful.
“Ever want to shoot energy?”
“You can do that?”
“I can. Rather, YOU can.” Her hand slid up over his shoulder. “Trust me.”
“What the hell was that?” Stark’s voice was insistent. He hadn’t even caught a glimpse of the stranger who had helped them out, and he was disappointed. Apparently, if the reactions of Thor, Cap, and Hawkeye were any indication, she was a class-A babe.
“A vision of beauty that would not be out of place on Asgard.” The demigod breathed.
“I don’t know about that.” Nick Fury spoke. “Gentlemen, meet your new keeper, Synn.” At the name, she turned, dark hair a fall of silk midway down her back. It was loose, unlike earlier. Gone was the skintight uniform, replaced by a simple baby doll t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. She looked like the average girl next door, but her eyes twinkled in amusement and intelligence.
“In other words, gentlemen, I’m your new boss.” She smirked. “And that goes for you too, Stark.” She said airily as she sailed out the door.
He found her on the bridge, looking out over the bay with a smile on her face. Yes, she would be comfortable here, surrounded by technology. But it was primitive compared to his home. She seemed to be enjoying herself… maybe he should just go… “So, what relic did you leave behind this time?”
“Well, took you long enough, Playboy.” There was that voice, again. “Thought maybe you’d forgotten about me.” She turned then, meeting his dark gaze with hers. “Hello.” Her voice was soft.
“There isn’t a man alive who could forget you, Tomb Raider.” He crossed the floor, hesitantly- surprised when she wrapped her arms around his neck, pecking him on the cheek. “Scared me,” he admitted into the dark halo of her hair.
“Scared me too,” she whispered back. “I thought you were going to drink yourself to death, if the toxicity of your blood didn’t get you first.”
“You didn’t answer your phone. I tried to call you.” He laughed sheepishly. “The house in Malibu is trashed, by the way.”
“I heard.” She smiled faintly. “Something about you and Rhodes going one on one.”
“Yeah…” he chuckled. “He hits like a bus.” Then he sighed. “You were avoiding me.”
“No, I was working. There’s a difference.”
“For S.H.I.E.L.D.” He waited for confirmation. “I haven’t seen you around.”
“I thought it best if I gave you some space.”
“You’ve been in New York this whole time…?”
“No. S.H.I.E.L.D. has bases everywhere. I was with Coulson.” She sighed. “That mess in New Mexico? I was part of that. I was lucky enough not to be around when they found poor Rodgers.” She shook her head, silky hair shifting with the movement. “If I hadn’t been on board, Coulson would have died…”
“You saved him.”
“Yes.” She sighed. “I… I need to go give a debriefing to the new agents.”
“No… stay.” He reached for her wrist. “We haven’t seen each other in so long.” Bravado dropped, pride abandoned, he met her gaze with his. “I missed you.”
“Oh, I wish I knew if that was serious, or just clever.” She muttered under her breath. Her pocket beeped, suddenly. “Really, I have to go.” She sighed, though. There was no way she was not affected by that man, even now. Their time apart had not changed that. “I’ll see you around, I’m sure.”
Thus began our awkward phase.
Deadpool and I had continued our association. It was convenient, I suppose, having a man to return to most days. He enjoyed coming home to me, as well. But while we were comfortable, casual, there was never that spark. We never argued, never fought. Stark and I fought quite frequently, both in personal and professional settings. There was no avoiding him now- he was in my face daily. And I HAD missed him, and his companionship. He was my intellectual equal, despite not being a technopath.
He invited me to Stark Tower, and I fell instantly, madly, in love with the place. He included me in his training sessions. He would take things out of my hands, despite his dislike of being handed things. And he was attentive.
But Wade was in our way. Wade had always been in the way.
So we continued our little dance for the next two years, until everything changed. He told me what had really happened to him in Afghanistan. He trusted me with that information- and I had forgotten the rules. I laid across him, my head on his shoulder, stroking his chest to soothe and comfort. And I realized that, yes, I did love him, far more than I had loved anyone, or anything, before. Fury started sending me out more and more with him- and with Thor.
I liked Thor. He was likable and affable. He took me under his wing without qualm, and began calling me ‘little Eir’, after the demigoddess of healing. I soon found myself adopted by him, which I found was not so strange- he had several step-children. I grew to actually like Captain Rodgers, despite the nickname I’d given him. I don’t know if he knew I was joking with him or not, and I never told him. I found Bruce Banner charming, polite, if socially inept. And I had others- I have Xavier’s at my disposal too.
But, over it all, I had Stark.
“What, do you have a death wish?” The voice was strident. The woman was stalking down the hall, before one insistent hand grabbed her wrist, forcing her to stop, spinning her into his and banding his arms around her. “Idiot.”
“Oh, you’re one to talk, Mr. I-have-a-cluster-of-shrapnel-in-my-chest.” She glared. “Tell me again, why exactly did you decide to get into the saving the world business?”
“Oh, that‘s right. Because you don’t want to die with the blood of thousands of innocents on your hands.”
“I said don’t.” He pulled her in closer to him, his voice dropping to a low growl. “Do you know what it was like, standing back and watching that thing come at you?” His anger dissipated, eyes on hers full of worry. “Watching it, being too far away to get there before it was on top of you?” Her own anger ebbed to a slow.
“I’m fine, Playboy.” She said it softly. “Look- not even a scratch.” She shifted so both his hands were on her shoulders, and he ran them down her arms. “Someone had to do something. I knew you’d come for me.” She admitted quietly.
“I’d always come for you.” He admitted quietly.
“I know.” She murmured softly. They were standing close, she realized. Very, very close. If she tilted her head just a little, and he leaned down a whisper, their lips would be locked. His right hand had shifted, she realized, running down her hair. She was the one to break away. “We need to brief them on the incident.” She stepped out of his arms, ignoring the fact that she immediately missed his warmth.
I wanted to kiss him in that moment. I truly did. But I knew I couldn’t.
She woke up with a silky sheet dragging across her neck, to a dark room and a bed that wasn’t familiar. She rolled over with a groan, before a familiar scent reached her nose, and she happily burrowed into the pillow then. It smelled an awful lot like Stark, and if it smelled liked Stark then she was perfectly safe in his Tower. The last thing she remembered was passing out- Tony must have opted to bring her with him. He didn’t exactly like or trust hospitals, and he was more than capable of looking after her following a faint. Then she sighed- was she still clothed? Her hand slid down- yes, yes she was, and there was no impression from where his body would have been to indicate he’d slept beside her, either. Yawning, she rose- the lights flickered to a dim, cheerful glow, and she chuckled.
“Why, thank you.”
“I am only doing what comes naturally,” a voice spoke, and she shrugged. She was used to it, by now.
She was still in her tight-fitting uniform, minus the usual boots and gloves, and padded barefoot to the door. She’d spent some time here, of course, but this was Tony’s domain and she wouldn’t be surprised if he was sleeping in the lab and…
No, he wasn’t sleeping in the lab. In fact, he was sleeping on the couch. Shirtless. With all that muscle exposed and that beautifully glowing disk in the center of his chest. She padded closer quietly, taking the first real look at the circlet of light. She knew it was there, of course- it glowed through clothing. But it was beautiful and alien… and she wanted to touch it. But she wouldn’t because it might hurt him and the last thing she wanted to do was hurt him.
His eyes were open. And her hand was INCHES from his chest. She blushed, caught in the act, and tried for an innocent expression.
“Ah… this is awkward…” She may have been blushing, in fact. “Sorry… you know how I get when I see something and I’m curious and I just want to touch.” She rushed through it- he was the only person who could make her jumbled her words so much. “Or maybe I should just shut up…”
“Go on, touch it,” He told her, “It’s not hurting me so why would it hurt you? It’s doing the opposite of hurting,” He told her with a grin on his face. “If it wasn’t for this disk keeping me alive, I wouldn’t be here right now.” His eyes were fixed steadily on hers, though they flicked to her hands once, as if contemplating pushing her hands against his chest. His gaze assured her it was safe to touch, but she still hesitated. What if it didn’t tolerate an outsider touching it? What if it was unstable and reacted differently to her touch? She was a mutant after all.
But, still, she had a mostly naked, half asleep Tony Stark looking up at her half-amused, half-adoring, and that look was, and would be, her undoing. She pulled over an ottoman, perching at the edge of it, still leaning close, eyes flicking between his and the disk.
Was he being serious?
Carefully, she brought her hands back to his chest, gently resting her palm over it, while the other palm had landed somewhere on his skin. She took care with her adamantium infused nails, so as to avoid nicking him, and looked at him with mild surprise. “It’s warm… I didn’t expect it to be.” Her voice was a delighted half-whisper. But then he just had to go and mention that it kept him alive, and before she could register it she shifted to drape herself against his side, using his shoulder as a pillow, her hand still resting on his chest, over that damned (and loved) disk. She inhaled his scent to comfort, and took reassurance in the steady beat of his heart, which she could clearly feel pulsing under the disk.
“I missed you,” she murmured, softly, into his shoulder. Her long hair spilled across her face and his chest, helping to muffle her words. “You weren’t even Iron Man then, but I still noticed you. You were so damn brilliant, how could anyone not?” They had always been in the same circles, after all. “I was so worried. I almost went after you, but ‘Pool wouldn’t let me.” She sighed. She hadn’t even been with Wade, then, but he was still protective, even then.
“Then you came back… but there were shadows in your eyes.” She lifted herself, then, looking into his eyes. “They still linger there. What happened to you out there, handsome?” She lightly traced hieroglyphics on his chest with a finger, still very careful not to break the skin. She sighed. “I was so close… I was a short flight away.” She took solace in his warmth. “I was in Thebes… Cairo, sorry.” A shiver. “When I heard, I wanted to race to Afghanistan but they wouldn’t let me. There was the dig, and there was Wade, and all I could think about was you. If you were alive. If you were safe.”
“And then we dug up a tomb full of treasures, and they flew me back to New York the day after you set foot back on American soil. I wasn’t there when you needed me.” She sighed, this time sadly. “I just about died when I found out you were alright and I hadn’t been there for you.” And she had.
“You don’t have to say anything,” she added, cuddling closer. Really, she was fine with him just holding her right now. “But I’m here for you, if you ever need a sympathetic ear.” She was still tracing those symbols on his chest, writing nonsensical words to him, though had he been able to understand Egyptian, well… thankfully, he was keen on the modern, not the ancient.
The sleepy male gave a wicked grin as he felt her hand touch his disk, if she hadn’t he would probably grab her hand himself. He gave a slight chuckle, when she said it was warm.
“I doubt you would have been able to find me, their location was top secret. Well it was until I blew it up," he gave another grin before wracking his brains to remember the story. “Well, I guess it started when I had to go over to see our troops, over there using our weapons or to test the latest ones, I can’t quite remember the exact reason why I went over there.”
He told her, a little pause for thought. Before he carried on, shifting into a better position.
“Then our convoy got blown up, on our way to the next base camp, and I witnessed our men being blown up, by my own weapons.” She instantly shifted up to stroke along his face. His face had gotten serious as he remembered and he found himself sitting up right on the sofa, hands pressed together staring ahead of him.
“I got kidnapped after the blow up and forced to make weapons of mass destruction for the other side, which I refused a few times in which I got tortured. Then I gave in. A man I had met in the cave made me the disk, he said it would stop the shrapnel from going into my heart.” Her eyes flashed then. How DARE they harm him?
He stopped again; he looked outside and saw the sun coming up he shrugged it off and continued.
“But then we found that we could both escape, and instead of building weapons for them, we built a suit for me. To escape, which I did. But I left a man to die.” He was getting agitated now, and he got up a little to quickly and turned away from the sofa steadied himself a little, wait was Tony Stark crying?! A finger went up to his eye and felt the tear.
”I left him to die, because I wanted to save myself,” his voice was raw with emotion, and she all-but threw herself at him, whispering.
“No, no… you did what you had to. You had to. War’s not pretty, it never has been.” She soothed. But he was crying now, angry tears. He picked up his cloths from the floor and headed upstairs to sort himself out. He needed a drink. When he returned, his voice was cold.
“I’ve called a cab for you.”
“That’s great, but I’m not leaving.” She planted her tiny frame with that challenging tilt to her jaw. He needed someone to keep an eye on him, even if he didn’t think he needed it. But it was not good for anyone to be alone, and ‘Pool was off doing god-knew what- she was as lonely as he was. He chose to drown it in whiskey- she chose to throw herself into work and study, but right now he NEEDED her and she’d be damned if she left him alone.
He didn’t care what time of day it was, he just wanted to get drunk and forget everything, but with this stupid disk glowing on him, that wasn’t going to happen in a hurry he still wanted to drink. Out of frustration and shaky hands, he had dropped a few glasses before finally pouring himself a whiskey. With every drink, he could feel himself getting drunk, this was good this was what he wanted, he was Tony Stark and was allowed to do as he pleased and wanted. Staggering away from the bar, he heard the elevator ding and Nick Fury stepped out. Ah yes, the conference tomorrow. Stark was in no fit state to talk about he it now, instead he giggled at Nick, who was slightly taken aback, and looked from him to Synn.
“What the-?” Fury said.
“ Hasn't She gone yet!?” Tony called, before leaning on the wall and laughing in nothing in particular.
“How long has he been like this for!” Fury partly shouted, “You do realize he has a conference tomorrow!? The press will be all over him! And I am not letting you stay in here with him and I’ll call Deadpool myself and he can collect you. He’s bloody dangerous when he is like this.”
“You don’t pay me enough to keep him on the wagon, Fury.” She laughed. “Besides, Tony would never lay a finger on me, drunk or sober.” Because she was fast and unimpaired, while he was drunk. But he would never, ever harm her. How she knew this was a mystery. But it was true. She felt that in the depths of her soul. “And he needed it. You’ll note that I didn’t leave him here.” And she had no intention of leaving, despite Fury’s insistence.
But Fury and Stark where shouting at each other now, about nothing in particular, before they had a little scuffle at the end. Fury slammed Stark by the wall wrestled the drink from his grasp, (somehow, Tony was putting up a tremendous fight to keep his drink) turned him round and handcuffed him so he couldn’t do much damage to himself or others, and let him slide down on to the floor.
“You’re an idiot Tony.”
All Tony could do was sit there and giggle while spurting a bloody nose, black eye and cut lip. Fury on the other had had suffered very little. She stuck by them until Fury literally carried her away from her playboy, and even then he had a fight on his hands.
He refused to see her for two weeks, until another gala caused them to cross paths. She was escorted by Hank McCoy this time, and when she spotted the human she waved with a smile, going to her toes and pecking the furry blue cheek sweetly. “I’ll be right back, Hank.”
“Go on, my dear.” He smiled indulgently as she left. The crimson evening gown was beautiful, setting off her skin and dark hair, and the back showed a hint of those beautiful tattoos. She tracked him to the bar, and before he could order her voice spoke. “One martini, make it dirty, and a Crown.” The bartender dutifully got their drinks, and she met his gaze. “You’ve been avoiding me, Playboy.”
“I’ve been working. There’s a difference.” He met her gaze through the dark-tinted shades he wore- one of his intimidation factors, she knew. But it didn’t intimidate her. In fact, she thought it a rather entertaining quirk of his.
“Oh, I see.” She smiled indulgently. The press already began creeping into better vantage points, trying to take the most provocative picture to prove, once and for all, that Nicole Miller and Tony Stark were an item. Then she laughed. “Take those ridiculous shades off.”
“Okay, take those ridiculously expensive shades off.” She quirked a brow, her lips threatening to rise- and he laughed, taking them off as she requested. “Better.” She could see his eyes now, and handed him the whiskey she’d ordered, tapping her martini to it before taking a dainty sip. “Missed you.”
“Did you?” He chuckled as a young woman slid up beside him. “Oh, this is Candy.” The blonde clearly came from a bottle, and her dress emphasized her assets.
“Oh.” As the blonde sauntered away after a flirtatious stare up at her escort, Nicole sighed. “On the young side, isn’t she?”
“Twenty.” He watched her walk away- anything to distract him from the stunning woman in front of him.
“Friend of yours?” She leaned in charmingly, batting her own lashes mockingly. “Oh, Mr. Stark!” She melodramatically fell against his chest, and he caught her by reflex alone, before his smile lit with wicked humor. He pulled her in even tighter, almost dipping her back, eyes on hers.
“Say uncle.” His eyes were mischievous. Cameras were poised, ready to capture that perfect shot.
“Never.” She felt him lean her back, but trusted him to support her weight. If she didn’t, she never would have let him do this in the first place.
“Never?” He leaned in, and her eyes went wide. Oh, gods, he was going to kiss her. She could feel the sexual tension between them rise. He laughed silkily. “I think I like having you at my mercy, Tomb Raider.”
“Do you?” She asked in a similar tone.
“Oh, indeed.” He leaned in to whisper in her ear. “Should we give the morning press something to write about?” In that moment, she would have let him do anything. But she was speechless. He righted her suddenly, buzzing her cheek with his mouth. “Some other time, perhaps.” He left her standing in a ring of reporters, who descended on her like starving wolves.
Her ringtone went off, and she glanced at the clock. 4:03 AM. Who in their right mind would be calling her at this hour? She yawned, intending to let it go to voicemail, when it cut out- only to ring again. This time she did answer.
“Hey. Tomb Raider!” A laughing voice greeted her ears, and she rolled away from Wade, who made a sound of protest before shifting into a more comfortable position. She kissed his shoulder, gently, before easing out of the covers, padding down the hall and into the living room.
“What the hell are you doing calling me at this hour?” She snapped it once she was out of earshot. “It’s four’o’clock in the fragging morning!”
“Huh?” He sounded confused. But this was the happy, drunk Tony she had on the line. “Oh. It is.”
“What do you want, Stark?” She asked it softly.
“I was a dick earlier.” He said it with a little laugh. “An’ I’ve got this amazing new… thing… that you’d just love, and you should come over.”
“I’m sure Candy would love that.” She huffed.
“Candy’s sleepin’.” He laughed. “I wore her out.” His voice took on a wheedling tone. “Come on, honey. You know you’re curious… my curious little cat.” He giggled. He only called her that when he was truly shit-faced, or in an exceptionally affectionate mood. “I can have a car there in… five minutes. Well… ten, if I get someone else to drive.” Another set of giggles. “I probably shouldn’t drive…”
“Can’t it wait until morning?” She yawned.
“It is morning,” he chirped brightly. “I’ll even swing breakfast.” He coaxed. “Eggs Benedict, just the way you like them.”
“And what do I tell Wade?”
“Tell him I need to bounce a theory off you.”
“At 4:00 AM.”
“Science doesn’t have a window of time.” He scoffed.
“It’s late…” she rubbed her eyes. Was he really going to do this NOW?
“It’s early.” He countered. “I just woke Happy up. He’ll be very upset if you don’t come over, now.”
“Jesus, you just can’t take ‘no’ for an answer, can you?” She sighed. “Fine, I’ll be there. Give me ten minutes to get ready.”
“I knew I could count on you, Tomb Raider. My little cat is too curious to stay away.” He laughed. “And wear jeans. As nice as the Anna Karin was on you last night, I wouldn’t want it to get dirty.” Which meant that he really wanted her for company, nothing more.
“Alright. I’ll see you soon.” She padded quietly down the hall, opening the drawer silently- but Wade woke anyway.
“Baby?” His voice was concerned. “What’re ya doin’. It’s early.” He yawned.
“I know. Stark needs my input on his new project.”
“At this hour?!” He sat up, then. “Dammit, Nicole, why do you even bother coming home?” He snapped it.
“Wade, there’s nothing going on with Stark and I.” She shimmied into her jeans. “He needs someone to bounce his theories off of. He trusts me more than anyone else- I’m almost as smart as he is.”
“Because friends try to go into the f****** desert to find each other.” He sighed. “Look… you and I… we had a good thing going. We did. But maybe it’s time for us to stop.” He rose then, cupping her cheek in one big palm. “I know we were married, princess. But I’m not that man anymore, and it’s unfair of me to keep you to myself. No-” he added when she looked about to speak. “No. Let me finish. I’ve been thinkin’ about it for awhile. I know it’s not fair. But, baby, you and I just… there ain’t no passion anymore, baby. You and I used to have drive… but not anymore. It ain’t anything you did, or I did… we just drifted apart. You- you’re a celebrity, and me? I’m just a merc.”
“Don’t say that.” She slapped his hand away. Then, quieter- “What are you saying, Wade?”
“I’m sayin’ ‘goodbye’, baby.” He leaned down, kissing her quietly. “Just know that leavin’ you is the hardest damn thing I’ve ever done.”
“Wade…?” She wanted to cry, wanted to scream, break something- but she couldn’t. Because it wasn’t breaking her up inside as it should have, watching him leave. “Wade…?”
“You’ll be fine, baby.” He smirked. “You’ll still have me as your shadow- if any asshole decides to rough you up, I’ll kill ‘em.” He smiled. “Now, go on. Get to that billionaire of yours and tell him how you really feel about him. And I mean it, girl.” He kissed the tip of her nose. “You two have more passion in your fights than we do in bed.”
“Part of me wants you to stay, Wade.” She sniffed. “Part of me will always belong to you.”
“I know, baby. But you don’t belong with me- you belong with him.” He ran one hand down her hair. “Besides, I have to head out to Istanbul tonight. I was going to tell you later, but… well…”
“I don’t know.” He sighed. “Look, baby, I was going to say this either way. This isn’t how I pictured it, but maybe it’s for the best. The apartment is paid up till the end of the month, anyway.”
I never made it to Stark Tower that night.
None of us even saw it coming. When it impacted with me, my whole world went black- and I found myself in a world that was stranger than my wildest dreams…