- Explicit Sex
- First Time
– – – –
“Sir, Agent Rossi is approaching.”
He cleared the holographic display of secret projects but left up a few things. The door whooshed open a few seconds later and Rossi walked in. Tony had to force himself to keep breathing normally. Rossi had been disheveled, dirty, and a little bloody the last time Tony had seen him. Now, he was put together and smokin’ hot in jeans and a leather jacket.
“Sentinel Rossi.” Tony gestured to one of the lab stools.
“Dr. Stark,” Rossi greeted, not offering his hand. He shrugged out of his coat then set it and a folder on the seat.
Tony blinked. So few people called him doctor. “Tony is fine.”
“Then call me Dom or Dominic—whichever you prefer.” He glanced around the room, grinning when he spotted the bots. “I recognize Dum-E from his magazine photos. I didn’t realize he had brothers.”
“Their names are U and Butterfingers.”
“May I?” He gestured to the bots who all three made inquiring little chirps.
“Sure…?” Tony had no idea what Dom wanted, but he was willing to go with it.
Dom rounded the work table and offered his hand to Dum-E, who offered his claw after a long hesitation. Tony just stared as Dom shook hands with all three bots.
“Nice to meet you guys.” Then he faltered and turned to Tony. “Actually, I just realized that I was presumptuous. Sorry.” He looked back to the bots. “Do you all identify as male? Do you prefer a specific pronoun set?”
Tony’s mouth fell open, and then he snapped it shut as he met Dom’s gaze. Rubbing the back of his neck, he shrugged. “I’ve never discussed it with them.”
“If I may, sir?”
“What’s up, J?”
“While I feel very comfortable with a male persona, Dum-E has indicated that he’s old enough to have determined that the designation non-binary would best suit. Butterfingers feels too young to have made a choice, and U is most emphatic about being female.”
Tony sat heavily on a stool, flabbergasted.
“Then it’s nice to meet you, miss,” Dom said with a grin. U made a pleased sounding series of chirps.
“Don’t flit with my little girl,” Tony groused irritably.
Dom laughed, holding his hands up in a surrender gesture.
Tony pointed at U. “And we’re having a chat later, young lady.”
U’s response sounded decidedly indignant.
Tony rubbed his hands over his face, resolving to think about this more later. When he could deal with how he suddenly had a little girl. “Thank you,” he said impulsively to Dom, “for treating them like they’re not glorified furniture.”
“Are you really thanking me for not being a dick?”
That surprised a laugh out of Tony. “I guess. So… Super spy wants you to be the new Phil.”
“Did you activate your anti-surveillance measures?”
Tony quirked a brow. “Low level, yes. J, maximum privacy, please.”
“And why are we feeling paranoid?” Tony asked, watching Dom tilt his head in a listening pose for several seconds.
“I never had any intention of taking this gig, but I needed some concrete data to fuel my refusal. Also, and more importantly, it gave me plausible reason to have a private chat with you.”
Tony crossed his arms. “Why’d you need to talk to me?”
“To advise you not to do this. Not in its current incarnation.”
“The Avengers thing.” Dom grabbed the folder from under his jacket and pulled out a few stapled pages. He set it on the table in front of Tony.
He winced at seeing Romanoff’s assessment of him. He pushed it away. “I’ve read it.”
“It’s bullshit. Designed to manipulate you into wanting to be part of the group whether you actually wanted it or not. Even if I hadn’t already come to the conclusion about what a bad idea this is, that level of manipulation would seal the deal on both my bad opinion of SHIELD and my refusal of the job. I get why Fury needs you to be part of this team—you’re the linchpin as far as I can see. And I get why he’d do anything to position the right people in his little club, but I don’t want to see you fall for it. That’s not really my call, but I felt like I needed to say something.”
“You don’t think we can do good? We already saved the planet.” Tony wasn’t even sure why he was feeling defensive.
“I think there’s an obvious need—a need no one but Fury and a few others appropriately appreciated—but Nick has obsoleted himself.” Dom held up a hand. “Just hear me out. It’s more accurate to say that the Chitauri obsoleted SHIELD. I understand why Fury was building this behind the scenes—so he’d have it set when he needed it. But there’s no need for secrecy now. The world knows about aliens. They know about the threat posed by some alien species. The Big Secret isn’t a secret.
“So why would the planet’s defenders be an arm of a shadowy spy organization run by an even shadowier oversight group who shot a nuke up our ass a week ago?”
“Good point…” Tony drew out slowly. And he wasn’t over the nuke thing either.
“Honestly, the World Security Council, whoever the fuck they are, should be before Congress at a minimum for their hasty actions. I’d rather see them in front of the World Court. They were prepared to consign at least ten million people to immediate or slow death when probably only a couple hundred had died at that point. By any measure of risk assessment, the city should have been overwhelmed with no chance of fighting them back before they took the literal nuclear option.
“There should have been hundreds of thousands dead before they tried to kill ten million. They weren’t protecting the planet with their hasty action, but I’m honestly not sure what their agenda was. Because if they really thought they were protecting the planet, they’re ill-suited to be the shot callers. Either way, they shouldn’t be making the decisions or pulling your strings. And they sure the fuck aren’t going to pull mine.”
“So you think the Avengers should report to someone else?”
“If there’s going to be a planetary defense force, it should probably have international funding and oversight. With enhanced humans involved, a sister organization to the Sentinel & Guide Council would make the most sense. After all, they have legal precedent for how enhanced people operate in society. But it shouldn’t be SHIELD or any spy organization.”
Tony considered for several long seconds, unable to find flaw in Dom’s logic. “Why tell me and not the others? From the privacy protocol you requested, I assumed you didn’t tell them…?”
“I was doing an assessment to see if my first impressions were off, but none of this team are field ready. Including you.”
“Is this another manipulation tactic?” Tony asked, feeling like the ground beneath him was unstable. “Get me to do what you want?”
“Quite the opposite. You’re the closest to field ready, in my opinion. But, for fuck’s sake, Tony, you flew into a portal with a nuke on your back a week ago. You need counseling for trauma first, and then to be part of a group that has strict guidelines for returning to field work. I wouldn’t want to see you on the front lines with a bunch of people who aren’t psychologically ready at your back.”
Tony felt tense again. “I have a shitty history with shrinks.”
“I’m not saying spill your guts. You’re a latent guide, so go see Kyle and get some post-trauma help. They have treatments that have nothing to do with talk therapy, and they’re especially effective for guides—latent or online.”
Tony gaped for a moment. “How do you know I’m latent?”
“I can smell it, feel it, hear it. I apologize, but I had no idea you thought it was secret.” He shot Tony a concerned look. “Listen, the point is that you’re as able to avail yourself of the services of the Center as anyone. As I said, there are therapies for trauma that have nothing to do with talking about your childhood or teen angst.”
“Why Guide Monahan?” Tony asked, focusing on the part that made him less uncomfortable.
“There are a couple good people at the Manhattan Center, but I figured you’d be more comfortable with someone who you could be assured would be, uh, sensitive to your public profile.”
“That was very delicate of you.”
Dom shrugged, smiling faintly.
“I gotta test your commitment here… Did you get therapy after last week?”
Looking a bit confused, Dom cocked his head. “Sentinels don’t get PTSD. At least, not in the way others do. They’ve done tests that show we process traumatic events differently. A sentinel who kills in defense of their tribe has no post-action issue with the act. For a sentinel, trauma manifests as primal behavior. They’re usually very protective of their guide or vulnerable members of their tribe. It’s typically a short-term thing, and, when the threat has passed, they go back to normal.
“But we do get the sentinel version of trauma checks after significant events or any kind of fugue state like a feral episode. They want to make sure we aren’t over reacting to threats or showing signs of hypervigilance. Both would usually mean we perceive a threat we can’t address. But if they’re unabated and without cause, they can be an indication of the onset of dormancy. So, yes, I’ve been checked, but not in the way anyone on this team needs to be assessed.”
“Fair enough. So, why aren’t the rest field worthy?”
“Rogers has no idea how the world works anymore. He doesn’t even know what the UN is, for fuck’s sake. He’s lost everyone and everything he’s ever known. Whatever life he envisioned for himself has been stripped away with no hope of recovery.
“He needs to have real connections to living people so he’s fighting for something tangible. He’s so wrapped up in idealism that I question his decision making skills. You don’t want someone on the battlefield making decisions around ideals.
“Also, Fury has him positioned as the team leader but he’s had zero training for that. His tactics are fine, especially for someone with minimal training, but he needs real leadership coaching. He had a few weeks of boot camp and then nothing but a bunch of fighting. He needs time, training, education, and therapy. All the therapy. He does not need SHIELD pointing him at battles and covert missions—especially covert missions. Rogers is the last person you want to find out that he’s done something morally questionable because he’s been mislead, but that’s the nature of the spy game. Unfortunately, his trust in SHIELD is irrationally absolute.”
Tony was stunned, but he couldn’t fault any of the points Dom made. “And Barton?”
“He’s completely compromised by what happened with the scepter. He needs extensive counseling that I doubt SHIELD will insist on. Also, Romanoff is a blind spot for him; he’ll do dumb shit because of his loyalty to her. He’s also so grief ridden over Coulson that I’m surprised he’s functional. Not a good state of mind for someone you’re planning to send into battle.
“Romanoff herself is a hot mess. She’s okay for the kinds of missions SHIELD runs, but I wouldn’t touch a team with her on it with a ten-foot pole. She reeks of deception, and even when she’s telling the truth, it feels like a lie. There are no skills she brings to this kind of team that can’t be done by someone else. Someone the rest of the team can actually trust.”
“Intelligence gathering would be her strength, no?”
“She might be able to gather intelligence, but her ability to analyze it sucks. Actually, everyone’s ability to apply critical thinking to intelligence briefs was stunningly bad. My assessment of her analysis skills took up seventy-five percent of our time together and she got the good intel wrong every single time. She has huge biases and misses the obvious, favoring bad intel if the source is somehow excessively convoluted and filled with intrigue.”
Tony rubbed his forehead. “I already get the problems with Banner.”
“He’s been living under a rock for years. He’s so used to hiding, it’s going to be hard for him to stop. Going from being on the run to being a superhero is not a reasonable transition. He’s not ready for this. He needs protection by an oversight agency who will ensure he’s not called on for anything other than science unless the world is coming to an end.”
“So you think this whole Avengers thing is a bad idea?”
“No, it’s a good idea. Especially considering what we now know about what’s out there. Though the name is questionable. It sets up loss as a foregone conclusion—hence the need for avenging—but maybe that’s just me. In any case, you’re the best candidate for this type of thing. All of you—Tony Stark and Iron Man—but only if it’s not done in the shadows. Banner would be a good asset because he’s fucking brilliant, but it would also ensure that he’s protected and plugged in, ready to respond, should more aliens come knocking. But, Tony, this should be a volunteer mission for every single participant. No one should be conning you into it. The way Fury manipulated you is ugly as fuck. You should do what you want.”
“But you don’t want any part of this…?” Tony repeated.
“I don’t want any part of SHIELD or the World Security Council. In fact, if you can think of a way to shove a nuke up the WSC’s ass and want a partner in crime, I’m all in. And if you don’t need help, I’ll hold your coffee while you school them in proper behavior.
“But I can’t work for employers I can’t trust. Not even in a ‘consultant’ capacity, which is what Fury offered me. I’d never be able to trust any piece of intel from them, and I can’t work that way. But if you ever need me, I’m there. Even if I didn’t owe you—which I do—I’d do what I could to help.”
“What? You don’t owe me.”
“So that wasn’t you flying the nuke through that portal?” Dom asked wryly.
Tony felt his cheeks actually get hot, not used to being appreciated in such a way. “I did, I mean—” He rubbed his hands over his face.
“Just say, ‘you’re welcome, Dom. It was my pleasure to save your ass.’”
Tony snorted. “Dick.”
“Okay, seriously, do people never thank you for shit?”
“Um, Guide Monahan thanked me the day of the invasion. Does that count?”
“I suppose, but I find it disturbing that you had to flail about for one example.”
“I don’t need thanks,” Tony countered.
“Sort of not the point. Your discomfort with being thanked doesn’t give the world a pass on being a giant bag of dicks.”
“Are you always like this?”
“Well, I’ve been a little edgy the last week. I’m usually pretty chill.”
Tony cocked his head to the side. “Can I get personal?”
“That sounds dangerous, but I’m good with danger.” Dom propped his hip against the table, crossing his arms loosely. “Shoot.”
“What brought you online?”
“Oh. Uh, wow.” Dom cracked his neck, briefly looking uncomfortable.
“No, it’s fine. Weirdly, you might understand why I felt like I had to say something about this whole situation. There are certain things I can’t say, but you can draw the obvious conclusions I’m sure. You’re an intellectual badass.”
“I’m going to make up a T-shirt that says ‘intellectual badass’ and wear it to my next meeting with Fury.” Tony pushed another stool Dom’s way in case he wanted to sit. “By the way, I notice you never offered to shake my hand, and then you set the pages on the table. Was that deliberate?”
“Yeah.” Dom shrugged. “I’ve seen enough videos of you not shaking hands and saying that you don’t like to be handed things. I figure if it’s that reflexive, it’s true. So why try to make you uncomfortable?”
“Huh.” Tony stared at the floor for a second. People always tried to make him feel neurotic for those quirks. “Well, thanks for that. Now tell me your story.”
“My partner was murdered in front of me by a terrorist.” The blunt delivery was shocking.
Tony blinked, feeling a glimmer of guilt for putting the sentinel through having to say that. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about asking the question. If I didn’t want to answer, I wouldn’t. People stopped getting away with forcing me to do shit I don’t want to do a long time ago.” Dom took a deep breath before continuing. “Kate was standing in front of me when the bullet went through her skull. I’m sure you can imagine what the outcome of that was.”
“I have my own personal proof that being a sentinel changes how you process traumatic events because feeling her blood spray across my face went woke me up every night in a cold sweat for months. Then I came online and it never happened again.” Dom glanced away briefly and blew out a breath. “It as actually harsh to feel like I ‘got over it’ all at once. For a while, I thought it was a weird betrayal of some sort.”
Tony felt even worse for asking the question.
“Anyway, they think that event should have brought me online, and it possibly started an inevitable cascade that led to my onlining, but a sentinel or guide will not come online if wakening will harm them. I was recovering from a bioweapon attack a few weeks prior to Kate’s death, and Blair has theorized that the condition of my lungs would have been agonizing for a newly online sentinel, possibly leading to immediate sensory collapse. So, it didn’t happen then.
“But then, uh, we got a new director while searching for the terrorist. He was some sort of double or triple agent or something who had actually changed sides and was working for Hamas. But his agency swore he wasn’t responsible for Kate’s death. Right up until we had proof that he was a traitor. He was eventually killed during the manhunt. That should have been the end f it.
“Then, one day a few months later, his sister and handler—the woman who profiled our team for him, who profiled Kate as being my boss’s emotional weakness on the field team—walked into the bullpen with orders signed by our new director, assigning her to our team, putting her at Kate’s desk.”
“Fuck,” Tony whispered, utterly appalled.
“I came online instantly, feeling an overwhelming threat to my tribe. I went after her. My spirit guide went after her. She got quite a few bumps and bruises, but my coworkers managed to restrain me before I could do too much damage. My care for them prevented me from putting them in harm’s way. Then she threw a knife at me while I was being cuffed by my boss.” Dom touched his left side. “I went feral and nearly killed her. There was an investigation, and I was asked to let the whole thing go to save several people embarrassment. Long story short, no one involved closely in that situation, myself included, is still at NCIS.”
Tony could easily see why Dom wouldn’t want to work for people he couldn’t trust. “Thank you for answering. I kind of regret asking, and I’m sorry that all got dredged up.”
“Don’t worry about it. Nick Fury stirred all this up when he showed up yesterday and reminded me why I keep telling SHIELD to get fucked.”
“Why have they recruited you so aggressively?”
“I honestly don’t know. There are some things the Council has kept out of my public records, but I’ve always had a hunch that SHIELD got access. But that still doesn’t explain why they’ve been after me since I came online.” Dom shrugged and drummed his fingers on the table. “Listen, this may be talking out of turn, but I feel like I should tell you that Coulson’s not dead. At least, not completely. Or not yet.”
“Excuse me?” Tony was utterly flabbergasted.
“I don’t doubt that Coulson’s injury was mortal, but SHIELD can put people in stasis, and who knows what tech they have that no one knows about? All I know is that I could smell Coulson on Fury yesterday. The scent was fresh, and there was no smell of decomp. Although, to be fair, the smell wasn’t quite…right, but I couldn’t determine exactly what was wrong with it. I can’t imagine why Coulson’s survival would affect your decision one way or the other, but I didn’t want to leave you with incomplete data. Especially since it’s a piece of information Fury is withholding.”
Tony didn’t even know what to do with that except figure out a way to get JARVIS further into SHIELD’s systems and give them a deep and thorough probing. “Thanks for the heads up. I’d certainly rather know than not. Though I have no idea what I’m gonna do with that info.” He steered the conversation back to the original agenda. “So…you think I should try to get an Avengers-like initiative launched at an international level?”
Dom held up both hands, shaking his head emphatically. “I offer no opinions. That would be advising you to put your life on the line all time, and I won’t do that. But if you need assistance, I know a lot of people who can help you figure shit out. Jim and Blair, Kyle and Scott, Richard and Jeremy…”
“The heads of the Sentinel and Guide Council?
“Yep. I even know the current Secretary-General of the UN.”
“Well, aren’t you a useful fellow.”
“I’ve never considered knowing people a particularly useful skill, but I’ll take what I can get.”
“I’ll think about all this. Listen, I consider myself allergic to being serious, but thank you for being straight with me.” It was refreshing for Tony not to feel manipulated by people. “Since I’ve already asked obnoxious questions and gotten too personal, I’m gonna admit I’m rabidly curious over your spirit animal.”
Dom ginned. “She’s kind of big, so she usually only hangs around when I’m at home unless I need her.”
“Like elephant big?”
Laughing, Dom shook his head. “No. You want to meet her? She’s pretty graceful for her size. She’s not going to knock anything over.”
“I definitely want to meet her.”
A huge white tiger suddenly appeared next to Dom, and Tony took an involuntary step back, his fight or flight immediately kicking into gear. He took a breath and forced it down. “She’s abnormally large,” he managed. “I mean, that’s not normal.”
“Yeah, she thinks she’s a tiger horse, don’t you, pretty girl?” Dom leaned down and kissed her head, scratching behind her ear. “Go say hi.”
Tony watched, wide-eyed, as the tiger prowled closer, nudging his hand. He cautiously stroked her big head, getting several pleased chuffs in reply. “Why Kali?”
“I decided she was a goddess and deserved an appropriate name. I laid out pictures of about a hundred goddesses and she picked Kali.”
“That’s…terrifying.” Tony scratched her head with both hands. “But you’re beautiful and majestic.” Kali reared up and planted her paws on Tony’s shoulders and licked his face. He laughed at the sense of pressure and warmth, but it wasn’t wet.
“Kali, you incurable flirt. Get off him.” She dropped back down on to four feet as Dom grabbed his leather jacket, draping it over his arm. “If you ever need anything, you know where I am.” He turned to where the bots were resting in their charging docks. “Dum-E, Butterfingers, great to meet you. Miss U, it was an honor.”
As his bots chirped away, Tony impulsively asked, “Want to grab something to eat?”
Dom turned and blinked a few times. “Uh, sure. But you know that we’d have to walk out, right? Still closed to traffic for four blocks in every direction. We will not go unnoticed.”
Tony considered that and made his second impulsive offer in a minute. “We could fly out.”
“There’s no chopper on this building. I would have noticed.”
“True, but I, uh, have a suit that JARVIS could pilot for you.”
Dom’s mouth fell open, and he just stared.
“I mean, if you’re interested.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? Of course I’m interested.”
Tony felt oddly pleased. “Good. So, then, uh…” he gestured toward the door then looked back at U. “And when I get back, we’re having a long talk, young lady.”
U’s beeps sounded sort of snippy to Tony’s ear. Dom’s laugh confirmed it.
He took Dom up to the penthouse level where the suits ready for flight were kept.
Dom was nearly bouncing with excitement. “I’m surprised you have a suit that would fit someone of my height.”
“Actually, I made couple suits in the event anyone needed to be evacuated from the tower. They have no armament.”
“Huh. Okay. And JARVIS will do everything? Because I know nothing about flying.”
“He’ll handle it all.”
“You okay with flying me around, JARVIS?” Dom asked.
“I’d be delighted.”
“Cool. I don’t know what this will be like from a sensory perspective, but if you think I’ve zoned, just do your thing. Your voice is very guide-like, so that should be enough. Although, all things considered, I’m most likely to zone on sound. So, if necessary, make my limbs cold or something, change the scent if you can.”
“I shall endeavor to stimulate your other senses should you fail to respond. If that should fail?”
“Just get me out of the suit and give me at least fifteen minutes before calling in the cavalry.”
“Is this dangerous for you?” Tony wondered if he’d been too impulsive with the offer.
“No. I haven’t zoned in years. I mean, I figure if I don’t zone during a battle with aliens, I’m good. But it’s better to plan for the eventuality when it comes to new sensory experiences.”
“But you had your guide with you during the battle.”
“I’m not bonded to Dana. She’s one of my agents and helps me when I have to extend myself in the field. Our connection during the battle was pretty nominal. I’m more stable than most bonded sentinels, so we’re good to go.”
“Well, then,” Tony rubbed his hands together, “all that remains is to decide where we’re going.”
“How do you feel about Italian?”
“Are you kidding? I love it.”
Dom rattled off an address in Brooklyn so JARVIS could navigate. Then they worked to get Dom into the suit. The sentinel was like a kid in a candy store, and the reaction—his awe and wonder—made Tony feel lighter than he had since before the battle.
As they left the tower, Tony made a mental note to have JARVIS get into what had gone down at NCIS when Dom had come online—even the Top Secret stuff. He didn’t analyze why, but he wanted to know about any threats that might be lurking in the sentinel’s past.
– – – –