Tony almost never left the tower unless he had to do so anymore. She couldn't identify an exact point when it began, but it seemed to happen not too long after the Battle of New York. In fact, it had become so bad that Pepper had simply stopped trying anymore. At first, she'd tried to coax him into going out. To his credit, he tried at first. Then it seemed like he was ever closer to just turning on his heels and running away the minute people began to gather. The Battle of New York was fresh in everyone's thoughts, and everyone wanted to know about it. Tony, however, didn't want to talk about it at all, not even to Pepper.
She was worried when the behaviors seemed to worsen after the first year afterward had passed. He rarely slept, refused to leave except on missions inside the suit, and then refused to stay or be debriefed afterward if he could possibly avoid it. He didn't have anything to do with Stark Industries and Pepper had taken over completely as CEO. Rumors were wild about the media that Tony was in rehab or drowning himself in a bottle again.
That was how she came up with the idea of contacting Fury about making Stark Tower the base of operations for the Avengers Initiative. She thought that maybe, giving Tony something to do would help. It wasn't like they would be there all the time, after all they all went on their own missions, and working together wasn't something they always would do, but it gave them a home to come back to and she thought it would be good for them all.
"JARVIS, where's Tony?" Pepper asked as she entered the common room they'd set up.
"Sir is in his shop, Ms. Potts," JARVIS answered immediately. Surely he hadn't forgotten that today was the day the others were arriving.
"Will you please notify him that the others are arriving soon?" she said with an exasperated sigh.
"Indeed, Ms. Potts, I have informed him several times this morning. He has forbidden me from mentioning the fact again."
She sighed again and rubbed a hand over her forehead. "Thank you, JARVIS," she said, and headed to the elevator.
She went up to the roof to await the helicopter that was bringing Natasha, Steve, and Clint to the Tower. Bruce was driving and Thor was still in Asgard, currently unreachable. The helicopter set down, letting out the three coming from the helicarrier.
"Hey guys, how are you? Been a while," she said, smiling at them.
Natasha nodded. "Yes, it has!" She said, hugging her and then stepping back as the helicopter took off. "You look worse for the wear, Pepper."
Pepper gave her a strained smile. "Let's go in, okay?" she said, leading them down to the common area they had built after the damage to the tower from the invasion.
Clint nodded appreciatively and dropped his duffle by the elevator and hopped over the back of the couch to sit and look around. "Nice, he said."
"Thanks," she said, going to sit over on the loveseat next to the sofa. "Have a seat, I'll let you guys know the reasons for all this," she said, smiling again in that strained way that even Steve could pick up on.
Steve sat down by Clint while Natasha curled up cat-like in the chaise lounge at the end. He looked up. "There's something more on your mind than just keeping the team located in a central location."
She nodded. "Bruce and I already talked, and of course, Fury doesn't know this, I wouldn't tell him such things, but the reason I wanted you all here is because Tony needs it more than any of you guys know," she said, leaning back and rubbing the bridge of her nose silently.
"Tony?" Clint asked with a frown. "I didn't think he needed anything."
"Tony's changed since…since the battle, and I can't help him, I can't reach him anymore, so I thought…you guys shared the experience, and maybe, just maybe you could help him."
Steve looked at her. His first thought was post-traumatic stress. He knew the name had changed since he fought on the battlefields of the forties, but he knew the signs of it. Withdrawal and anxiety was a couple of them. He nodded slowly. Tony had been through an awful lot around that time, and he was sure that the man still had problems from beforehand but he didn't know him that well. In fact, other than passing meetings he hadn't actually seen any of the other Avengers since they'd fought off the alien invasion. While his respect for Tony had certainly increased after he nearly sacrificed his life to save everyone in New York, he had some serious reservations about the self-described genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist. He certainly wasn't what he had expected out of Howard's son.
"We can try to help, but you know very well if someone doesn't want help there isn't much you can do," Steve said standing up and sighing. "I take it we all have assigned rooms?"
Pepper shook her head. "Actually, Tony converted a whole floor for each of you."
Clint and Natasha exchanged looks. "He what?" Natasha asked.
Pepper nodded. "When I told him about it, before Fury approved it, he'd already started the remodeling. Thor, when he comes here, has the top except for the common room we're in with the platform attached. Tony thought it would be good for him since he uses the Bifrost to get here. Tony of course, also uses the platform. The level below us is your floor Clint, and he wasn't sure what to put in it, so he left a card in your name on the bed in there. He did the same for you, Natasha, your floor is underneath Clint's. Steve is below that, and Tony decorated it in a way he thought you'd like, but he left a card for you to use as well. Then the two floors below that were converted for Bruce, including a lab and what Tony called the Hulk Playroom."
Clint let out a low whistle. "Like, how much is on the cards he left us?" he asked. Natasha smacked him.
Pepper smiled and reached into her bag pulling out a phone and a table. "They're connected to a special account he opened for the Avengers. I'm not sure what he transferred into it, but he said whatever you wanted wouldn't be a problem, just no buying Ferraris or Lamborghinis on his dime. He says he can build a better car anyway if you want one."
"The other thing he wanted was to give you each a StarkPhone and a StarkTab. I've left one of each in your bedrooms. You'll also find small kitchens and lounge areas on each floor, as well as the training facilities located below Tony's level. There's a full Olympic pool down there, and an archery range. I don't think I've seen him spend so much on the Tower before. And he insured it through the roof so if it gets destroyed by another alien force he's not out a bunch again. He even made sure there's a clause for alien invasion or supervillain destruction," she smirked as she looked at them. All three were staring back astonished. Bruce's reaction had been much the same over the video chat they'd had the night before. "Anything you need, ask Jarvis, he's programed with anything you need."
She stood up, putting away her own things and pulled the bag over her shoulder. "Now, if you will, I have a date tonight. I'll see you all tomorrow if I make it by, if not, enjoy the facilities."
Steve stood up as she headed toward the elevator. "Date?" he asked. The last Steve had heard Pepper and Tony were together.
She turned and smiled. "Happy asked me to a dinner theater. Certainly can't turn my boyfriend down, now can I?" she said and left.
Clint turned to Steve. "Oh…wow. I didn't expect that."
"Neither did I…" Steve said, sitting down and looking at the other two.
Just then, the elevator opened and Bruce came out, lugging a hiking pack and smiled at them. "Oh, everyone's already here?" he asked. "I thought I'd beat you guys, but the trip took a little longer than I expected. "Where're Pepper and Tony?" he asked, looking around.
"Pepper left on her date with Happy," Natasha said, getting up and going to the bar to grab a soda water. "And we haven't seen Tony."
"Not much to be done if he wants to be a hermit," Clint said, getting. "I've got some shopping to do," he said with a grin, heading to the elevator.
The others admitted that this much was true and followed suit, heading to their own areas to investigate. What they found honestly amazed them. Each of them knew that Tony had to have put thousands of dollars into what he'd put together, and had surprisingly accurate knowledge of their likes, almost to a scary degree. The kitchenettes were obviously designed to be used often, but were nothing compared to the huge common kitchen he'd built. It was truly amazing. However, it ended up being nearly a week before they had even the barest glimpse of their host, and then, it seemed, only by accident.
Clint and Natasha had been out on a mission with Steve to help clear up a minor disturbance in some nameless foreign country and ended up crashing on the couches in the common area at around four in the morning, exhausted and wired at the same time. They ended up just staying there and talking over what had happened. All three were surprised when the light flicked on and Tony wandered past them, a coffee cup in one hand and a tablet in the other. Everyone just stared in wonder as though they'd found some elusive creature.
"Tony!" Clint said, and he practically jumped out of his skin, his cup dropping and shattering in the quiet room. He turned around, the hand previously holding the coffee cup empty and against his arc reactor and staring wide eyed at them all.
"Oh…um, sorry, I didn't know you'd be up," he said, glancing down as the floor cleaning bot proceeded to sweep up the remains of the cup. "Just ran out of coffee down in the shop," he said, turning and going into the kitchen without another word.
Steve got up and followed him, seeing him rummaging through the pantry and emerging with a package of the aforementioned coffee. He turned around and started again when he saw Steve standing between him and the door.
"Tony, we've been here almost a week and haven't even seen you," he said.
Tony shrugged. "Busy. Science stuff. You know how it is. Gotta get back to it," he said, motioning to the door.
"Have you even slept anytime recently, Tony?" he asked, noting the pallor of his face and the deep circles under his eyes.
Tony shrugged, tucking the coffee under his arm. "Yeah, you know, I just have been working on stuff and get absorbed in it you know."
Steve frowned. "How long since you've slept, Tony?" he asked, his voice sounding more stern.
Tony rolled his eyes. "Totally don't need the third degree, dad. Now, I'm going back to the shop," he said, moving to walk by him but Steve noted when he brushed against him the flinch that went through him. He turned and watched him go, frowning. That wasn't a symptom he was familiar with… His fellows that had suffered from Shell shock, battle fatigue, PTSD, whatever you wanted to call it, had been anxious, had nightmares, but he'd never seen them react like that to someone.
Steve stepped out and looked at Clint and Natasha. "What is going on with him?" he said, brows furrowing. "I know Pepper said she thought he had post-traumatic, but…"
"The symptoms don't quite fit," Natasha said, finishing the sentence. She too, had seen people with the conditions. However, what she saw just then was symptomatic of a completely different type of trauma than what she knew that Tony had endured. She'd seen such things before, many times. She didn't expect to see them in Tony. She looked at both of them.
"What happened to him after the Invasion?" she asked. "He wasn't like this before, and I don't see the portal he almost died in causing this type of reaction. Anxiety, yes, but this…this is more…"
Clint nodded. "Yeah, I know," he said, locking eyes with her.
Natasha stood up and headed toward the elevator quickly. Clint looked after her. "I don't think he'll tell you," he said.
"I'm going to try," she said as she turned and pushed the button in the elevator.
The door opened and she saw Tony sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by what appeared to be an Iron Man suit but exploded all over the place. She opened the door.
"Dammit, Dum-E!" he chided the yellow one armed bot. "I told you not to hit the button. You know that's the one that blows the suit apart! I've already put the Mark 35 together four times because of you!"
The robot beeped and Natasha shook her head. Mark 35? How many Iron Man suits had he built over the last year? He'd been in the mark five when they were fighting the alien invasion, she thought. Or was it six?
"Tony?" she asked. As she expected, he turned and looked at her without a flinch or start.
"What's up, spider?" he asked, snapping the pieces of what looked like the leg together.
"Just checking up on you, you seemed in a hurry to get back down here," she said, kneeling beside him and looking over the suit.
He grinned lopsidedly at her. "Yeah, I knew this stupid bot," he said, and the bot chirped sadly. "I knew he'd mess this up for the millionth time. I have to finish it before I lose the train of thought I have for it, you know," he said picking up another piece and pushing the fittings together.
"What exactly are you doing?" she asked.
"It's a suit that is really light weight that is like the briefcase suit. It's supposed to be faster in flight, but I made it breakaway since it won't be as sturdy as my other suits," he said, holding up a wafer thin piece of metal. "I mean, it will hold up better than your standard airliner hull, but compared to some of the others I've done, it isn't that well made."
She nodded. "Any chance you'll tell me what's really going on with you, Tony?" she asked.
He froze for a second, and anyone else wouldn't have noticed. "Dunno whatcha talking about, spider. If you want any new toys, just shoot me a message on my phone. I'm already working on some new arrows for bird brain."
She nodded, patting him on the back and noting the lack of reaction as she stood up. "Okay, Tony. If you want to talk, you know, you can come talk to me."
He waved her off and nodded, immersing himself once more in his work. She knew by the set of his back that she wouldn't get anything else from him. She nodded, more to herself than anything else and headed back up and into the common living room where Bruce had come out and joined Clint and Steve after coming down for a cup of tea. He was sitting on the sofa beside Clint.
"Find out anything?" Bruce asked, as she came in, her face set in a deep scowl.
She shook her head. "Not really. He doesn't react to me like he did to Steve and Clint earlier. Didn't even startle him when I walked up behind him. I don't know if it was because he's comfortable in his shop or because I'm a woman…" she said, flopping down into the chair wither her arms crossed.
Bruce shook his head. "You should know trying to analyze Tony Stark's behavior is going to get you nowhere fast, Natasha. No one knows why he crawled into a bottle to start with, and no one understands why he keeps going back to it. He's an eccentric billionaire. He does weird stuff. Who knows what's going on in his head?"
Steve looked at them and sighed. "What do we know?" he asked. "I mean, I know next to nothing about him, to be honest."
"Other than his genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist shtick, neither do I," Clint said with a shrug.
Natasha sighed. "Well I know a little bit from what Pepper told me. I know that he graduated MIT at seventeen summa cum laude, and rumor was half the time he was drunk or high and still managed nearly perfect grades. His parents and Jarvis were killed when right after that…"
"Wait, Jarvis?" Steve said. "Isn't that the AI?"
She nodded. "That's who he named it after, his butler, the man that pretty much raised him since Howard was off searching for you in the arctic most the time when he was young," she said with a shrug. Steve frowned and nodded. "Let's see, his god father Obadiah Stane took over and helped him with the company after he took over at twenty one."
Bruce looked up. "Stane, isn't that the one that tried to kill him a few years ago?"
Steve arched his brow. "His godfather tried to kill him?"
Natasha nodded. "He was in Afghanistan demonstrating the Jericho missile for the US troops when his caravan was attacked and he was kidnapped. He had a missile blow up in his face, shrapnel embedded in his chest, and I don't know all the details, just that he busted out with his first Iron Man suit that he made in a desert cave and had that thing, the arc reactor, in his chest. He was beat the hell up when he came back, and that's when he announced Stark Industries was dropping weapons manufacture. Before that, he was known as the Merchant of Death, just as Howard was before him, because they both sold weapons world-wide. It took Tony seeing his weapons used against us to realize this." She ran a hand through her hair. "Unfortunately, when he came back, it turned out Stane was the one that ordered the hit on him. The Ten Rings, though, saw opportunity and kept him alive to make missiles. I know they tortured him to get him to work for them, and Pepper said he never did work on it for them, he made the Mark 1 suit instead."
Steve shook his head. "That's horrible."
"It gets worse," she said quietly, Steve jerking his head up to look at her wide eyed. "Stane made his own suit, but he couldn't do what Tony did in that cave, he couldn't make the miniature arc reactor. So he decided to steal Tony's, knowing it would kill him within minutes. See, the thing keeps the shrapnel that's lodged in his heart from going all the way through it. His R&D is working on the necessary technology to actually do the surgery without him dying, but it hasn't gotten there quite yet. So taking out the arc is a huge death sentence. I know you knew that, but I also know you didn't know exactly why or what it was put there for. Tony was never military, Steve, and he went through worse a few months than what a lot of our military goes through in a decade."
Steve nodded. "Wow, I didn't know all of that…"
Bruce looked up. "They cut his chest open in the middle of a cave and did what exactly? I've looked at Tony's files, but they're blank."
She shook her head. "They used a car battery to power an electro magnet to keep him alive. The arc reactor replaced the battery. I saw the footage of when they had him kidnapped. He looked like hell." She grinned at him. "He has a habit of wiping his files from the SHIELD databases. We're not even sure if what we have is true anymore. No one can figure out how he gets in and out."
The discussion was left there, and the group went about their lives. There were a couple Iron Man call outs, and Tony went out, but always ditched them as soon as he could get away. He worked on different gadgets and inventions for the group and they kept asking for more, and he'd just add them to the list and work through them diligently. Pepper would come by infrequently, often rebuked and sent away within minutes of coming by.
Then the world exploded one Saturday morning when Tony came out of the elevator almost at a dead gallop toward the kitchen with Pepper on his heels. Steve and Clint were sitting at the kitchen table while Bruce and Natasha fixed breakfast for everyone. They tried to have breakfast together on the weekends if they could. Of course, Tony had never come. Everyone looked up as he stormed into the kitchen.
"No, I'm not going, they can kiss my rich ass," he said, waving at her with one of the Iron Man gloves on his left hand. His right was wearing a safety glove, and he had the welding goggles hanging around his neck. Wires and things were sticking out of the half done glove.
"Tony, we can't get out of this one. If you don't show, the stock will tank. We can't afford it. You haven't been on a public appearance in months. People are doubting that you're even alive, and the majority think you're in rehab or a psych hospital!" she said, keeping pace with him but noticeably avoiding the left arm. The repulsor was probably active, knowing Tony.
He turned and ripped the black glove off his right and yanked the metal one off his left and threw them both at the counter. "No!" he said, putting up both hands and shaking his head. "I told you, I'm not interested in going to a fucking event! You go, you do the CEO stuff I'm paying you to do. I'll…give you a bonus, buy you a house, don't care, just take care of it."
Pepper sighed. "Tony, please. The company is going to fall apart. You won't go to board meetings, and the board is already teetering on their loyalty. You rarely leave the tower without the suit on. There's debate that its even you in the suit anymore. I'm afraid we're going to end up at the receiving end of a hostile takeover, Tony! If you lose the company, you lose everything. No more toys, no more suits, no more fancy playthings for the Avengers and Fury. You try and get Fury to fund something like those stupid gold plated arrows you made last week."
Tony turned his back to her. "They weren't gold plated, they use gold as a…you know what, it doesn't matter, I'll go, you're right," he said finally with a sigh.
"You can't ignore your duties…oh…" she said, suddenly realizing he'd agreed finally. "It starts at seven tonight. Black tie, please, and if you want, you can bring the others along. I'm sure you have suits for them too, and I know Natasha has fancy dresses. I'll be here to pick you and whoever else is going at six. Be ready Tony," she said, turning and clicking out in her heels.
Tony leaned over the counter and took several steadying breaths before he turned around and looked at the others. He was visibly shaking, but no one commented. He swallowed. "Yeah, if you want to go, there are suits in your closets," he said, and pushed off the counter and grabbed his gloves and went back to the shop.
Clint and Steve exchanged a look and then glanced into the kitchen to find both Natasha and Bruce staring back with the same look. They would all be going. Tony had asked, in his own way, and they weren't going to deny him this right now. Whatever was wrong, being in public was a problem for him now, for whatever reason
At exactly six, Tony stepped out of the elevator in his suit and looked very much like Tony Stark. The only issue was his eyes were wider than normal, and the fake smile didn't come close to reaching them. The others came out about the same time. Natasha was wearing a long black dress and had pulled her hair down around her face and worn a pair of silver rimmed glasses. Clint, Steve and Bruce were all similarly dressed in nice black suits like the one Tony was wearing. They had obviously all been tailored for each of them. Pepper came up a few moments later to retrieve them all.
Tony was silent as he slid into the back seat of the limo with the others. Pepper sat beside him and put a hand on his leg.
"Tony, you'll be accepting an award from the mayor's office," she said. "That's the reason you have to be here, you don't need to make a speech, just go take it and say thank you," she said as they took off.
The look of absolute horror that passed over Tony's face was apparent even to Steve before the mask of indifference replaced it quickly. "What?"
"It's an annual award for philanthropy in action. Since you practically rebuilt New York three years ago on your own money, they're giving it to you. I'm sorry, but I knew you wouldn't come if I told you that…" she said.
Tony had paled considerably but nodded. "I guess that's why it's so important. If I can't turn up for an award like that they'll think I really am dead or something…"
Natasha exchanged a look with the others at the reaction. He slumped in his seat and clenched his hands together. Natasha had an idea so she moved to sit on the other side of him and took one of his hands.
"Hey, if you're worried, you can pretend I'm your date for the night. I can fend off any advances by gold digging women," she said with a smile.
A strange look seemed to come over him for a moment and he nodded. "Yeah, sure, you're a good actress," he said, not really looking at her directly. "It might help keep the majority of annoying people away if I have a deadly assassin on my arm, even if they don't know you're a deadly assassin."
Natasha noted the tremble in his hand as he looked around. "I hope that they have an open bar…I think I'll need it."
Pepper cringed. "Um, another thing I forgot, Tony, the event is dry…"
Tony sighed. "Things can't get much better," he muttered. "I'm guessing you took my stash out of the limo?" he said, looking at her sadly. She gave him a strained smile. "Thought so. This is going to be a long night," he muttered, and Natasha wasn't sure if he even realized he did it but his hand tightened around hers where she'd left it. She frowned a bit but they had arrived.
Lavish wasn't the word for it, they all thought as they got out onto a red carpet. There were flashes and reporters yelling questions and people screaming at Tony. Steve got a few cries of various endearments as well, as everyone recognized the super soldier. Bruce tried to blend in where no one could see him, and Clint kept his eyes open for anything suspicious. Natasha stayed on Tony's right side, clasping his arm tightly, and Pepper walked on his left, keeping him between them. From the outside, he looked fine and like he should. They stopped so Tony could appease the media.
"Tony! You've been out of the public eye for a while, have you been in rehab?" one of the microphone wielding reporters yelled.
"I hate to disappoint the rumor mill, but no, unless you think I need rehab for working too much. I've actually been working on several projects for SHIELD and the government, as well as for Stark Research and Development. I think you'll be pleased when these projects are released," he said with a wink at him.
"Tony, Tony, who is your date tonight?" yelled someone else.
Natasha smiled, putting on an Australian accent. "Ramona Styles," she said with a smile. "Visiting from Sydney."
Tony smiled at her gratefully. "Thanks, I might be back, if not, take lots of pictures, I will be buried in work again. The world needs my genius, after all, so I can't spend all my time partying." He waved at them and they headed into the hall.
Things seemed to be going well. Tony stuck to Natasha's side like glue, and everyone, including Pepper noted his reluctance to leave her even for a moment. The first part of the evening was a formal dinner with a few speeches by various dignitaries for the city. The presentation went off without a hitch, as he accepted the award and thanked everyone before returning to his seat. Natasha and Clint, though, didn't miss the pause and look of...something…that crossed his face as he looked out into the audience. After the philanthropist's award, there were several others presented for various things, and Tony seemed to be acting relatively normal.
His team noted one difference that others wouldn't have noted. He didn't shake hands, and he didn't let anyone into his personal space, making sure to step back if anyone did get that close to him. He didn't take drinks or anything from the passing waiters as they walked around. Then the thing that set the team on alert happened.
Many had come up to congratulate Tony on the aware among other things. He tended to avoid anyone touching him rather smoothly. A man came up behind him in a pinstriped suit, though and dropped both hands on Tony's shoulders suddenly. Natasha turned and glared at the man, who looked to be in his early forties with a mop of bright shaggy platinum blond hair and blue eyes. Tony's body went rigid as soon as his hands touched him. Then he leaned over and spoke close to Tony's ear.
"Hey Tony boy, didn't expect you to come out," he said in a deep voice.
Natasha swore if she had been a lesser woman, Tony would have broken her hand. He'd been clinging to her all night as people came and went. But this was different. She could feel his pulse skyrocket through his skin and she knew something was very wrong. He turned his head and didn't even try to smile.
"Jason," he said. "Couldn't avoid it…"
Steve could tell something was wrong. Tony's eyes had changed and he could see sweat beading on his lip already. It was unlike when he'd cornered him accidently in the kitchen that night. The man stood up, not removing his hands and looked around.
"Good to meet you, name's Jason Contrail. Tony and I went to MIT together. My father is the deputy Mayor, so I have to attend all these events. Run into Tony quite often, until he decided that his work took priority over his social obligations, right Tony?" he said and Tony looked like a trapped animal. Steve's brow wrinkled at the way Jason's fingers dug into Tony's shoulders. There was more to this than the other man said.
Tony cleared his throat. "Um, yeah, Jason, I'm sure you know Steve Rogers, and Bruce Banner, and my date is Ms. Styles, and of course Pepper…and Clint Barton…" he said tightly.
Jason turned and smiled at Natasha. "Ms. Styles, yes, from Sydney, yes?"
Natasha's eyes narrowed. "Yes, my father owns a small company in Sydney, and we were looking to work with Mr. Stark on a few things. He was kind enough to invite me to the event tonight. Of course, I could not say no," she said with a perfect Sydney accent. She knew when she was being tested.
He nodded, apparently accepting what she said. "Ah, well watch out for Tony boy, here, he has a tendency to love 'em and leave 'em, right, Tony?" he said and Tony flinched.
"Those days are over, I've got more to do with my life than wasting my time on one night stands," Tony said as someone else walked up behind him.
"Mr. Stark?" a younger man said from behind.
Jason smiled and leaned over and spoke into Tony's ear again, but loud enough the others could hear him. "You're busy. We'll meet up later, Tony boy. Have some catching up to do, you know," he said and left.
Natasha didn't miss the fact that Tony's grip relaxed completely as soon as his hands left his shoulders and he left. It was like every muscle in his body had been wound tight and they all let go at once. He panted for breath a couple times and collected himself slowly before he looked at the young kid that came up. He was a teenager and wanted Tony to sign something for him. Tony grinned, releasing Natasha's hand completely as he offered him a paper.
"Put it there, kid," Tony said with a soft grin.
The teen put down the paper and Tony signed it quickly and handed it back. He grabbed his water goblet as the boy left and drained it completely before he stood. "I'm going to get some air, be back shortly," he said and headed to the where the stairs led up to an area with a balcony on the second floor.
As soon as he was far enough away, both Bruce and Steve got up and followed. Steve had a very bad feeling about what just happened, and he needed to find out if it was founded on reality or not. Bruce knew something was wrong but he didn't know what exactly it was as he followed Steve. When they got to the top of the stairs they heard Tony's voice from the balcony so both of them stopped to see if they could hear what was going on. The glass doors were shut but someone had left one of the windows cracked, and they could hear very clearly what was being said.
Tony needed air. He didn't have any other way to explain it, he needed air right that moment and the only place he knew that was somewhat private was going to be the second floor balcony. He couldn't go out the front because it was still packed with reporters and photographers. At least the balcony would have no one snapping pictures as he fell apart. He knew the moment he closed the doors he was going to have a panic attack. Damn him, he thought to himself. Months had passed, and he still couldn't get past it.
He was leaning on the railing, taking deep breaths and trying to slow his heart rate down to something close to normal and hadn't heard the door open and close. He nearly screamed when he felt hands grab him around the waist. He stiffened and looked behind him to see that Jason, as he feared, was standing behind him.
"Tony boy, why so wound up tonight?" he said softly, hands stroking his hips in a deceptively gentle manner. "You jumped out of your skin when I went to talk to you with your latest fucktoy. Pretty thing, love a red haired woman, myself."
Tony swallowed and shook his head. "Go away, Jason, I can't deal with this right now." No matter how hard he tried, he was shaking. He gripped the railing as hard as he could, hoping to stop it. His touch and smell brought it all back, though, and with vivid detail that only someone with a mind like Tony could give it. It was one of those things that sucked about being a genius with a photographic memory. Every detail, every smell, sight and sound stuck with him. It happened every time he smelled the cologne that Jason wore. That detail never changed, not since MIT. He smelled of Drakkor Noir, and Tony hated the smell.
"Tony, Tony, you're such a little tease," Jason said, leaning over him and putting his hands over Tony's. "I saw you look at me when you were up there on the stage."
Jason stood nearly six foot four, and Tony hadn't worn his lifts, his five foot nine frame overshadowed completely by him. Tony gritted his teeth and swallowed nervously. Surely he wouldn't…not here….
That thought was shattered when Jason ground his hips hard into Tony's backside and Tony gasped and shook his head. "Get off, Jason," he said with far less strength than he wanted. It was quite obvious that Jason would.
"But Tony boy, we had such fun last time," he said, putting his chin on Tony's shoulder and biting at his ear. "You screamed a lot, more than the first time," he said softly.
"The first time I was seventeen and high as a kite," Tony muttered. "And I told you no that time too," he said shakily.
"Didn't stop me then, won't stop me now," Jason said, pressing into the shorter man harder, pinning him to the balcony painfully. "Don't pretend you don't like it, Tony. As many women as you've been with, you enjoy it, the release, the…"
"Don't…" Tony said, shaking his head and trying to pull away. "Let me go, the others will be looking for me, I can't…"
"You always say you can't, Tony boy," Jason said, letting go of his hands and wrapping his arms around his chest, sliding them along him under the suit jacket. "And you know I can. I told you then, and I told you the last time we met, you can't get away, Tony Stark. I own you in this way. You are mine in a way no one else can have you, and I'll take what's mine when I want."
"Jason," Tony said, really shaking now. "I don't want this, I never have," he said tightly. "Please, just…stop this."
"But you never do anything about it afterward, do you?" Jason said, sliding one hand down into the front of Tony's pants. "You scream and cry and you don't want it, but when all is said and done, what do you do about it? Nothing. You go home and work on your silly little bots and you try to forget it happened, don't you? Or do you dream about me? Maybe when you're alone in the shower you feel my hands, huh? But you can't forget me after the last time, can you? How long before your ribs healed? I was a little rough on you, but you just were so damn stubborn. I promise not to do that again, Tony boy," he practically purred into his ear.
"No, no," Tony said, trying to squirm away from him. "G-get off…"
"You've got that pretty suit and could come kill me anytime, but you don't. You could've gone to the cops, Tony. I left enough evidence behind, god you were a mess when I was done with you. I'm actually surprised you didn't end up in the hospital. I was surprised you could leave on your own, and a little disappointed, I'd hoped I'd have to take you home for the weekend with me, maybe this time. Let me guess, embarrassed? You're fine with being a playboy as long as it's you doing the fucking, but when it's the other way around you're embarrassed and don't want anyone to know the secret. You enjoy it, that's it, right? And you want this, me finding you at these events and taking you and fucking you senseless while everyone else waits in their suits and dresses, never knowing what's going on under their noses…" Jason said, tightening his grip.
Tony was trapped. He wasn't a trained assassin; he didn't know any fancy moves to get him out of this, just like the last time. His suit wasn't with him, and there was no one that would bother trying to help him. Pepper would wonder where he went, but she wouldn't come up here, and even if she did, the door was locked from the outside. Maybe the rest of the team would look for him, but Pepper would think he took off and went home. He couldn't reach his phone without Jason seeing, but he didn't want this to happen.
He threw his head back and cracked Jason's head hard with his own. It sent his own ears ringing but Jason stumbled back. Tony scrambled to get his phone out and get to Jarvis to tell him to get the others. He didn't have a chance though because Jason grabbed his wrist and twisted it, forcing him to drop the phone and gasp in pain as he felt the bones snap.
Before he could react again, he was slammed up against the building hard, his already throbbing head bouncing off the bricks and sending stars and black patches shooting across his vision. His knees tried to buckle and when the world swam back he realized that Jason was trying to get his pants undone. Tony slapped at his hands and pushed backward on him. Jason looked up and growled at him before grabbing him by the jacket and turning him and slamming him into the building again and yanking the jacket down around his arms, pinning them behind him. He could feel warm wetness dripping out of his hair.
"We're going to do this again?" he asked, pressing him into the wall and holding his cheek against the bricks.
Time seemed to freeze for Tony because he pinned to the left side of the double doors leading out onto the patio, his right side of his face grinding painfully into the bricks and he could already taste blood running down the back of his throat. It was strange because he knew he'd heard the lock click, but the door opened and things blurred out for a moment, and he found himself struggling to get his hands free because he didn't know what was happening, and his brain wasn't really working on all cylinders. He heard voices, and realized he was on the ground and someone was pulling his jacket off his hands and he panicked and scrambled backward away from them into the corner where the balcony met the building. Dammit, he thought as he buried his head in his hands. He had been facing the wrong way and now he was trapped again. He couldn't think right, and the world was blurring in and out still.
"Tony!" a familiar voice cut through the fuzz in his brain. "Tony, look at me!" he heard and looked up into Bruce's eyes. "Come on, there we go, Tony, you know me? How many fingers, Tony?" he said, holding up two, but Tony's vision was doubling.
"Four…" he said, eyes crossing a bit as he blinked.
"Okay, it's okay, Tony," Bruce said, cupping his cheek and trying to keep his eyes on him. "Look at me, Tony," he said when Tony tried to turn his attention onto the motion to the side. "Don't look over there," he said again. "Look at me."
Tony had no idea why he was supposed to look at Bruce but his ears were ringing. Other than Bruce's voice he couldn't pin down what else was happening other than there was noise and talking, or yelling, or something. He jerked away when someone else kneeled beside him, his heart racing.
"Tony, it's Steve," came another familiar voice and Tony blinked and locked his eyes on Steve's blue ones. "You're fine now, okay?" he said, not moving toward him. There was noise and he heard motion and Pepper's voice but his fight to retain consciousness was quickly being lost. He teetered and fell into someone's arms, Steve, he thought, caught him, as the blackness finally won over the color. It was a war, but in the end, the color lost and he slipped into a sweet, dreamless sleep.