A/N: This is based solely on the Marvel Cinematic Universe live-action films. Nothing from comics, animated films or animated shows with barest hints, if any, to the live-action shows. The MCU and all recognizable characters are sadly not mine. I only own my tweaks and my characters. If they weren’t in the movies I made them up.
It is being simultaneously posted on fanfiction.net under the same title and penname.
Tortured. It was all Iris could think as he turned, thanking her with a terse almost-smile as his gloved fingers closed around the key she had just handed him.
She knew it was probably a bad idea to rent out the apartment just like that to a random—and dangerous looking—guy who essentially walked in off the street looking for a place to stay, but she hadn’t even considered refusing. Not really. There was something about the way he’d looked at her, or rather, tried not to look at her directly, that for some odd reason reassured her. She knew it was a foolish thing to do, both renting out the rooms and (mostly) trusting him based on that look alone, but her brain wasn’t agreeing with her gut on that.
Besides. She needed the money. She wasn’t ready to sell her aunt’s house yet but she couldn’t quite afford the payments to keep it unless she rented out the apartments on the bottom two floors of the skinny old townhouse. And that meant staying on as the landlady her Aunt Lynne had been. On top of that, there was no way selling it would bring in anything close to what she would have needed to pay off what was owed on the house anyway. Not the way the neighbourhood was trending. No. Keeping the house and making the payments was actually the more manageable option just now.
So here she was, accepting this man as a temporary tenant when, judging by the look of him, her instincts should be screaming ‘definitely not, lock and bar the door fast.’ But they weren’t; though keeping her wary, her instincts were for the most part unconcerned with the scraggly appearance, the wrinkled multi-day old t-shirt under a nearly ragged hoodie, the unshaven scruff, the solid and muscled bulk, the tangled dark hair shielding his eyes and the bone-tired but desperate look this man possessed. He looked like he’d just been through hell. Though, considering the chaos that had gripped Washington DC the last couple days, that perhaps wasn’t surprising.
She knew the sorts of people who were looking to rent a small apartment for cash in this neighbourhood were usually bad news. She’d had a few. There was one, even, that she’d had to call the cops on…hadn’t that been fun… But maybe this guy was just down on his luck after the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier fiasco. Maybe his place had been destroyed and his insurance was simply refusing to pay. God knew he wasn’t likely the only one. She knew from others she was friendly with at work that that had very much been the case with people displaced after the alien thing in New York.
But on that her instincts disagreed. There was more to this guy’s backstory than his place being trashed by a Helicarrier falling from the sky. It was one thing years in the restaurant industry had given Iris; she’d come to be a pretty good judge of character. She knew she was right when she pegged this man as dangerous. It was all in the way he moved and the way his eyes automatically darted to exits and resources and disadvantages of her house’s hallway. But she also knew she was right when she read his concerted effort not to make eye contact as a mix of nerves and a desire not to be noticed. And shame. Shame and grief. She could all but feel the two emotions swirling around him. Though for what she couldn’t even begin to guess.
And he looked so lost…
So she’d agreed to rent him the second apartment when he’d knocked and simply handed her the ad she’d placed in the paper, mumbling after a moment to question if it was still available. The paper cutting had the look and feel like it had been out in the rain, which made her wonder if he’d been forced to scrounge for a paper through the trash. Sympathy had flooded her when she’d considered that.
Not even a few minutes later she was handing him the key. Then she’d gotten a good look at his face. More specifically his eyes. They were dark and fathomless…and tortured. One look at those blue eyes nearly had her shivering at the intensity in them. But she shook it off, placing a hand on the door to close it behind him when a thought struck her that suddenly had her scolding herself at letting this puzzle of a man distract her.
“You didn’t tell me your name,” she said as she followed after him, brushing a hand against his left shoulder to get his attention even as he took a step down the stairs that led from her part of the house. She gasped as her fingers brushed against him. What should have been warm, firm muscle was hard and cool. It was metal. She couldn’t help but gape as she realized there was metal beneath the worn fabric of his hoodie.
He paused, his head cocking slightly in her direction as she took an unconscious step back. But he didn’t look at her, and he only paused long enough to respond with a short, clipped and unmistakable despondent tone.
“It’s better for you if you don’t know.”
And then he was gone.