So, this is sort of partially based on that leaked footage that takes place at what is, apparently, Barton's farm (and that never fails to make me snicker...), as well as my impressions from some rather obsessive viewings of the trailer. So if you're really, really paranoid about spoilers, I guess avoid this? I dunno, your call entirely. I will say, in an effort to avoid confusion further down the page, that the most interesting thing that footage implied (to me, at least) was that Banner might be partially responsible for the creation of Ultron.

The usual disclaimers apply, as always.

He'd been eight years old, rooting around in a closet in his dad's garage the first time he met Captain America.

In a battered wooden chest at the back of the closet, half-hidden and long-forgotten beneath a mountain of old car parts, a lonely little boy found a hero spilled all over the pages of dusty vintage comic books. He'd never heard of this particular superhero before. But someone had been reading them, because they were all worn at the spine, and some of the pages had coffee rings and oil stains on them, or were torn or dog-eared at the corners. Howard was the only one who left coffee rings and oil stains all over everything (Tony heard Mom complaining about it all the time), and it surprised him, because somehow, he had never thought of his dad as ever being a kid. A kid like him; a kid who read comic books, and looked up to imaginary heroes who did all sorts of great, impossible things. And boy, was Cap a hero who did all kinds of great, impossible things. Strong and brave, he always saved the day, and Tony decided he wanted to be like that when he grew up.

Howard found him in the closet a few weeks after that, sitting with his back against a wall and one of the comics open on his lap. So engrossed in Cap's adventures with the Howling Commandos was he that he hadn't noticed the shadow looming over him, and when he did realize who it was standing there, he braced himself for yelling, for anger, for scolding and for all of the comics to be taken away.

Instead, Howard sat down on the floor next to his son.

"I'm sorry, Dad, I didn't mess them up, I promise, they were already-" Tony began, but Howard put a hand on his shoulder and smiled sadly.

"It's fine, son. You want to hear a story?"

Tony had agreed, hesitantly, because it had to be some kind of a trap. Dad never told stories

He made a singular exception and told his son a rather tremendous story about a scrappy kid from Brooklyn named Steve Rogers, who had become the world's very first superhero.

"It's not real, though," Tony said at the end of the story, looking down at the faded panel laid out across his lap, Cap throwing a punch to the jaw of a man in an SS uniform, "No one can do that stuff in real life."

"You'd be surprised," Howard laughed, "What if I told you it was real? What if I swore on my life that everything I just told you really happened?"

"But how can you know?" Tony persisted, eyeing his father suspiciously.

"Why, because I was there, son. Dr. Erskine was a friend, and a colleague, and Captain Rogers… he was the real deal."

Those words reverberated in Tony's mind now. The real deal.

Yeah, he thought sarcastically, a real pain in the ass too

There was some saying; something about never wanting to meet your heroes, because they'd inevitably disappoint you. Well, that was the truth, wasn't it? The problem, of course, wasn't that Steve Rogers hadn't lived up to his father's fantastic stories. The problem was that he was, in fact, every bit the hero Howard had said he was; and every inch the man Tony could never be.

He'd wanted to be, once, but not anymore. Not now that he had become familiar with the reality of Steve Rogers. Rogers, the walking anachronism who held them all against some ridiculous standard of morality that had been born of another time and place. The man who put on that innocent, 'aw-shucks' mask even as he fired off passive-aggressive jabs that he knew would set Tony off. If that was what a hero was, how a hero behaved, then Tony supposed he really wasn't one. Maybe they were just too different to ever really get along. And in the end, maybe Rogers would never understand why he and Banner had done what they did. After all, where was Rogers supposed to go now? What was he going to do? Without the military, without SHIELD, without any semblance of a life to return to, what else did the man have? Tony understood, he really did. And he had tried to give Rogers the benefit of the doubt.

But as one of the majority of this team that did have a life to return to, who had a girlfriend who worried about him, who had other responsibilities to tend to, was it too much to ask for a light at the end of this tunnel? Because that was what life was like now, what their lives had become since SHIELD fell to Hydra: save the world, risk your life, risk the lives of the people you love, listen to politicians debate the results on the evening news. Rinse and repeat. And he was tired of it. How much was enough? How much were they expected to sacrifice before someone finally patted them on the back and told them they could go home?

And he wasn't the only one who was looking for a way out. Romanoff had never had much choice in the matter to begin with, and now that she and Banner's secret was out, he could already see her eyeing the door. He wasn't sure if Banner would follow her or not, because he was still wrestling with his own issues regarding the Hulk, but it was increasingly looking like he might bolt the second he had the chance. And Thor... well, hadn't Thor already made his position clear the moment he took off? Tony didn't know what exactly that girl had shown him, but he would bet a sizable chunk of his fortune that it had been a brutal remainder of the responsibilities he'd abandoned on Asguard. Aside from Barton, who was hard to read even in the best of situations, Rogers seemed to be the only one ready to hold onto this team they ostensibly comprised.

Of course, he could admit it when the problem was more in his own head than anything else (even if that admission would never find its way into words spoken aloud). Maybe he was just whiny and defensive because he was as angry with himself as he was with Rogers. More so, even. Because he could never live up to the hero of his childhood. Because he never seemed to be able to live up to anyone's standards, even to his own. Because even though Banner had helped him, the fault for their current mess fell more-or-less squarely on his shoulders, and he didn't know what to do about it.

And being judged and questioned at every turn by the team's very own personal Boy Scout was far from helpful. Tony didn't need a self-righteous lecture about preemptive strikes, not when Rogers had no real solutions to offer. He might have come out of Wanda Maximoff's whack-job dream world smelling like fucking roses, but that didn't give him the right to judge the rest of them for their respective demons, not when he had none to speak of himself.

Tony couldn't help it. He just couldn't trust a man without a dark side.

Review if you feel like it.