When is the Last Time You Ate?


“When is the last time you ate?”


Tony looks up and the bright overhead light in his workshop catches his eyes and tickles his sinuses. “ahhh-heptchoo! Ah'chuhh!” Irritably, he presses the back of his wrist to his nose and sniffs. “Every damn time!” He sniffs hard and blinks over at Steve. Steve had asked something. What, Tony didn’t know exactly, but the man stood there, arms crossed over his chest, demanding an answer. “Say again?”


“Food, Tony. When was the last time you had food?”


Tony hears the question this time but doesn’t have an answer. He thinks. He thinks hard. He thinks this is the sort of question he should be able to answer. Regular people are able to answer this sort of question, right? But Tony’s got nothing but more questions. “Not sure. Why are you here anyway? You weren’t supposed to be back until Thursday.”


Steve looks distressed. “It is Thursday.”


“No it’s not,” Tony laughs. He bows his head again, focusing his attention back on his work. “It’s Tuesday.” Then, after a short pause, “Maybe Wednesday at best.”


“It’s Thursday,” Steve repeats, walking over to the table where Tony has his work set up and his monitors cycling through with the specs for reference. “It’s been Thursday all day. It was Thursday this morning, it was Thursday this afternoon, and it will still be Thursday this evening. It’s Thursday at dinnertime right now, actually. You should come eat something.”


Tony turns on a tool and a blue laser shoots out of the end, slicing through the circuitry on the table in front of him. He’s so close to getting this new board installed. The change he devised for the logic circuits last week hadn’t been as tricky as he’d thought. Maybe a lesser mind would have struggled, but the implementation was actually quite beautiful when you looked at it closely, nothing at all like his first models. Those really belonged in a museum by now.


“Natasha’s in town, so she’ll be there. And Bruce, obviously, as he lives here in the tower.”


The only problem still to work out was the data loop cycling through and accumulating. But he could probably do one or two test runs before that became a problem and overloaded the circuits. Maybe he could run a simulation just to be sure of the upper limits.


“We’re having fish. You like fish, right? And wine. There’ll be lots of that.”


But a really useful complex simulation would take too long. Programming in all the variables was tedious. Unless he invented a computer that could just read his mind and grab all the specs from there, it was easiest just to put on the suit and give it a try. If it failed, it failed and he’d just tinker with it a bit more. It wasn’t going to fail, though. Because this idea was genius.




Tony’s head snaps up again and, again, the light catches his eye and triggers that quick, involuntary need to sneeze. “hah-CHIH! hahChoo!


“Bless you,” Steve says with a sigh. Then he heads for the door. Once there, he reaches up and flicks off the light switch.


There are too many monitors and projectors in the room for it to plunge the whole lab into complete darkness, but it does away with the overhead light and a half dozen others around the room.


“Hey!” Tony protests, squinting down at the circuit board. He could probably do this in the dark; he’s just that good. But it’s quiet in the room without the buzz of the florescent lights and they can both hear his stomach rumble. So he sets the tool down. “I’m getting a little hungry. Do you know when dinner is?”


Steve mutters something that’s too quiet for Tony to hear, and he doesn’t ask for it to be repeated. He walks past Steve, out the door and into the elevator. They’re in there for a few seconds before Tony turns toward Steve. “I thought you weren’t getting back until Thursday.”