6


Tony sat there, silent but conscious. He was staring at the man, his chiseled face and thinning hair, his thin, wide mouth going into a curvy little smirk as he wrote something down.

It made him sick to think this guy was really going to dig deep into his memories and translate them into meaningful lessons and themes for him, as if he were some kind of bible expert.

He had one bony ankle balanced on one bony knee, and he began, "So what makes you think you're crazy, Mr. Stark?"

Tony peeked one of his eyes half-way open and gave him a smirk that matched his.

"Oh, yeah, I can tell this relationship is off to a great start."

"But you're still cooperating. To an extent. You must believe there's something wrong with you."

"Aren't I just supposed lay down and say whatever comes to mind? And, if we're going this way, you're supposed run your mouth every so often with the question; 'How does that make you feel?' and then I say some random emotion. You write it down, and we start again." Tony thought over this for a second and laughed a little to himself, "Am I the psychiatrist here?"

"No, you're the one who's eligible for the NY Sanitarium."

"You're really not the happiest therapist I've ever met, you're actually a big ball of supportive sunshine to be honest with you here, Doc."

"Fine, then. Go ahead, spill out what comes to mind, like you said you're supposed to. I'm not the only one not doing my job."

"Fine, maybe I will. With myself. See, I think the problem here, is you. And I think, that this session is over."

He clicked his pen into itself.

"Has it ever occurred to you, Mr. Stark, that you might be hallucinating all of this conversation? Maybe you've been…talking to yourself for the past five minutes."

"No. That's not the way I've been hearing it, actually."

"But what witness do you have that you aren't crazy and making all this up? Hm? I'm the psychiatrist, you're just the crazy patient. Who'd believe you, honestly?"

Tony's eyebrows skid the top of his eyelashes and he looked over to him sharply, digging his nails into the chair he'd been lounging in peacefully. "Are you black mailing me, Dr. Kennedy? I'm beginning to get the feeling that you are. Ya' know with all this talk of…who'd believe me and all."

"Oh, no, I'm definitely black mailing you to an extent. See, Mr. Stark.." The lanky doctor stood, moving his hand across the back of the sofa, "I'm very careful, I'm very thorough."

"So am I, Jarvis has been recording this session since you walked through the door."

"And unfortunately, Jarvis is not with us at the moment, though, I do enjoy his company for a debate or two."

Tony looked cocky, then appalled within a manner of two seconds. He looked up at the ceiling, "Jarvis?…" No answer. "Jarvis, answer me."

No answer.

"If we could stop playing games? Yeah, that'd be nice of you. Look, Mr. Stark, you can choose to either believe me, or not. But the truth is this simple: I can help you. I can stop the blackouts, the hallucinations, the uncertainty of your sanity."

There was quiet tension, but the devious man knew he had him in his grip.

"..How much is it gonna cost me?" Tony asked with a grave voice now, he looked up from his twiddling thumbs and watched his eyes dance across from him as he fished and hooked.

"Simply your…co-operation." He stood and smiled down at him with a wink.

Putting his hands on his hips, he nodded his head to the side and thought over the payment closer, "The agreement that you will one day, answer my call and will do whatever it is I say at that moment in time."

"Or?"

"It'll get much, much worse, Mr. Stark. I'm afraid at the end, you'll be just a shell of what you once were. With my proposal, you'll be cured in the eyes of everyone. Don't worry how, I'll ensure everyone knows you're just fine. Nothing mentally amiss here, I'll tell the world. With my proposal, Mr. Stark, you'll regain your dignity and your status."

"Until you call me.."

"Which risk is harder for you to stomach, Mr. Stark?"

Tony looked at him with a mirrored smile, and Tony knew he was defeated.


"Miss Potts, you really shouldn't be worrying yourself so much. We've done the brain scans, and yes, Mr. Stark does have encephalitis. But, not to worry. It's easily curable. His condition as of now is stable and getting better. Do to his compromised immune system, which is in turn due to the uh-…What is it he calls it?"

"The arc reactor?"

"Yes, that's it. The arc reactor severely weakens his immune system due to the fact that it does much of the work for him that his body or immune system would atypically do. Because of this, it's easy to see how malaria could get past his immune system. It's a non symptomatic parasite as it is. This in turn, caused the encephalitis. It's not unheard of for this occur because of the malaria. We treat the malaria, we treat the encephalitis. He'll be going home shortly. The only thing I'd be worried about, is thanking his psychiatrist. It was a very smart catch. He saved his life."

The doctor gave her one last look and Pepper was breath-taken by the irony of it all. Wouldn't it be the one thing that keeps him alive, that would kill him?

"Thank you, doctor. Thank you, very much." Steve interjected for her, followed by the others and Pepper was relieved to at least have some support.

The weight of the world was beginning to hold her down, and who else could help you lift it if you didn't have Captain America? Or the Hulk? How about two SHIELD agents or a Germanic Pagan God?

Pepper was wiping a stray tear just as Steve put a hand on the opposite shoulder that Bruce put his hand, "His room number is 4-644."

She slipped from beneath their hands and into the elevator, holding the door open with one hand as she looked at them expectantly.


"What's really wrong with me?"

Dr. Garfield Kennedy was in control, and he knew it. He smiled a little from his position in a wooden chair. "And why would I tell you that?"

"Because I asked you and there's not a reason to keep it from me."

"Actually, there is. But I'll tell you this, without this little bottle here with the fake prescription label, you'd be advancing in your illness. This will stop it, it'll pause it, but it won't eradicate it. This isn't the full cure."

He shook the bottle and stood, placing it in the palm of his open hand, "This is just the candy to make sure you follow along. You take one of these everyday for two weeks, and you'll be cured for three months. Before the three month mark, I'll be calling. I'll give you more as long as you just…follow along."

"How long is this supposed to go on for?"

"As long as my boss says it has to."

"So you're not the boss?"

"No, actually."

"Could've fooled me with the cocky attitude and the big game talk. Truth is, you're just a pawn like me, huh? Interesting. You must be compensating for other things that are small."

He pounded a fist on the table, "You listen to me, you little arrogant fuck. You don't do what I say, and you die. How's that for big game talk?"

He slowly reproached and stood over Tony's blank expression, backing away once again, into his corner. Just as he was sitting, the doctor came in and Kennedy looked up at him.

"You gave him the pill bottle?"

"Yes."

"What does it say on the label? One once a day for two weeks."

"Good." The doctor murmured, looking at Tony, "You had encephalitis, correct?"

"As far as I know."

The doctor smiled, "Good boy."