At first glance the kid sitting at the bus stop with the lumpy backpack looked normal. Dark skin, dark hair, a little scruffy, maybe a couple of burn and grease marks on his clothes, but for Tony that was normal so it didn't really register. He was maybe fifteen or sixteen years old and was fiddling with an elastic band, a pipe cleaner and a paperclip.
Nothing odd about that, not at all.
Of course, that was until the objects in his hand suddenly took flight, looking for all the world like a miniature helicopter.
Tony couldn't even do that.
He sobered immediately (aha! So he could claim perfect vision after all!) and was about to go and demand how the kid did it before offering him a job when a horse landed right in front of him, right where you would expect the bus to park.
Some might even say it was a Pegasus.
"Come on, Repair Boy, we gotta go!" yelled the blonde girl sitting on the horse. Pegasus.
Tony frowned. Something about that girl was familiar, like there was something in his mind but he couldn't quite grasp it.
It was odd - normally he had perfect recall.
"Give a guy a moment, will you?" exclaimed the kid, grumbling as he grabbed the 'copter out of thin air and stuffed it in his bag.
"Got the stuff then?"
"Yeah, thank the gods Home Depot stays open this late."
"I wasn't aware that it was open this late."
"Well then, thank the gods they use simple locks."
"You didn't! Oh - never mind, why am I not surprised?"
"Hey, I left money! And besides, if I hadn't been able to get my hands on a-"
"Yes, yes, we all know you're the 'Master Builder'. However it would be so much easier if you'd managed to keep a hold of your mount!"
"It's not my fault! None of the damn horses like the smell of Festus-"
"I'd be careful if I were you, Blackjack is easily insulted."
The Pegasus neighed in agreement.
Wait, what? What was Tony thinking; this thing couldn't possibly be sentient. His drink addled brain was just making things up. Perhaps next time he should stay away from whatever it was Thor was passing around earlier…
Where was Thor anyway?
Oh, that's right. They'd decided to have a race from SHIELD to Stark Tower, to see who could really fly the fastest, but then Tony had stopped because something about the way the kid was fiddling drew him in.
But looking at that girl and the Pegasus and all the strange things happening and the fact that the girl had a - oh god she had a knife - just suddenly jolted something into focus and then he remembered-
"Oh my god," groaned Tony. "No way."
But by now the kid, Repair Boy or whatever, had jumped onto the Pegasus and the creature was bending its knees, spreading it's wings and-
Okay, so despite the mass-to-wing-span ratio the thing really could fly. Right.
The decision was not hard. Tony put his suit in stealth mode and followed.
Despite looking a little ungainly in the air (and surely those legs were not very aerodynamic) the horse was actually pretty quick, and its dark colour made it difficult to spot in the night sky. But luckily JARVIS' targeting systems were very advanced if Tony did say so himself and he had little trouble following them.
They flew straight over the city and angled towards the ocean. For a second Tony was worried they were going to fly to Great Britain or something, because he was way too tired for a flight of that length, but instead the horse just went over Long Island.
It didn't take long. Soon enough the horse and the two kids began to descend, aiming for what looked like a strawberry farm, of all places. How very mundane.
Perhaps they had a secret underground base. Perhaps they were simply trying to throw him off. Or maybe the farm was an illusion-
The moment Tony had that thought he crashed into some invisible barrier. His armour crackled with electricity and short-circuited, and before he knew it he was plummeting to the ground and landed with an almighty crash into a bush.
What the hell was that?
His first thought was a force field. Then he dismissed that and tried to come up with another option. Possibly a large dome, with an image painted on the side to look like a strawberry farm…
No, the children got in. It must be some kind of force field that could be programmed to allow entry to certain people. And horses.
At that Tony became rather irritated. How come they had a force field when he didn't? Well, he'd just have to invent one. A better one.
Just as he was about to pull himself back up he paused, hearing somewhat familiar voices.
"…must have followed us from Manhattan."
"Damn it, Valdez, this is your fault."
"Is not. You were driving."
"Quiet, both of you. It might still be out there," said a new voice.
"Doubt it, Jason. It's fled by now, repulsed by my pure awesomeness."
"Yes, you are quite good at repulsing people."
"Shut up, Owl Eyes. This is my moment."
"Whatever. Go back to your ship."
"Gladly. Festus doesn't insult me at every chance he has."
"But you make it so easy!"
After the voices had faded, Tony pulled himself out of the bush. Well, he tried to. His power was out.
"Fantastic," he groaned, wiggling his fingers inside the glove in the correct sequence to initiate emergency ejection from the suit. The moment he was out he was able to reach his phone from his pocket, which was thankfully not fried.
"Um, hey, Pep… no, I'm not in trouble- well, not really. I- yes, I'm fine, I just need picking up. Please. Long Island. Near some strawberry farm. But it's not a strawberry farm, there are these kids that make stuff out of nothing and fly horses and one of them is the one that saved- uh, helped me before - I wasn't mugged, honest, I- No, I'm not drunk!"
Unfortunately, Pepper didn't believe him but she sent Happy to pick him and the suit up anyway.
None of his teammates were convinced, simply stating that if he had stopped during a race then he really must have been drunk. Honestly, how could they not believe after what had happened with the Chitauri? They knew that there were Others out there!
After he mentioned that they at least listened, but when he showed them the video footage from the suit all it showed was him staring at a kid by a bus stop who was then picked up in a taxi - a taxi he then followed until he flew into a tree on Long Island.
Then none of them listened, not even when he asked them how a tree could possibly make his entire suit short-circuit. Even Thor, who'd seemed more open to Tony's story than the others, eventually commented that Asgardian mead could do odd things to those unaccustomed to it.
No one believed him.
And fair enough really, he hardly believed it himself.
But something definitely had happened… and Tony was going to get to the bottom of it eventually.