Anthony Edward Stark felt inadequate. He had always felt that way.
It started when he wasn't good enough for his father. Somehow he just didn't live up to Howard Stark's expectations. Captain America did, though, in every way little Tony couldn't. Tony just built things, and sometimes made a mess out of nothing, or talked back a little too much. When Tony was a little, he would have given anything for his father to look at him like he looked at Captain America. The proud look. The look that said, "You are worth something."
But Tony wasn't a toddler anymore.
Howard wasn't alive anymore either.
Tony really couldn't find it in him to find one little bit of remorse for his father's death. Maybe it was because he died while he was still looking for Captain America. Maybe it was because the only thoughts that came to him when he thought about his father was how much it hurt to get hit by his hands, kicked by his feet. Maybe it was because all he thought of was how much his father had broken him. He wasn't really the dad that Tony wanted. But Tony was pretty sure the feeling was mutual between him and Howard. The only thing Howard ever did after his death to acknowledge his son was give him the Stark Industries, and that wasn't exactly what Tony wanted. He remembered being at the funeral, to see if maybe his dad cared, just a little bit.
Everything in Howard's will (sans the company) went to random people, employees, and then there was the shield. He left it to Tony, but Tony found he didn't want to take it. He knew the shield was really left for Captain America. Howard knew that he would take it, just because he still wanted to be good enough it was a reminder of how his life went. The only evidence, other than the security tapes and the scars. But after he died, Tony took every one of those tapes, and locked them up in a safe that he made. He still couldn't bring himself to get rid of them, because other than the scars, they were the proof that he wasn't what everyone said he was. The scars were something he kept to himself though. Yeah, he could get rid of them. But it showed how far he went.
Proof that it happened. Proof that he survived. All a secret.
His mother was different. He truly mourned her death, because even though she would ignore the beatings, she didn't care for Captain America. She often said that Howard was obsessing, and the dead are the dead, and nothing could bring him back anyway. She had a small will, but she left most of her precious things to Tony. And it wasn't like Tony was greedy and just wanted their things, and all of them, just because he was their son.
He just wanted the acknowledgement that he was special enough to be given something precious. That he was trusted.
Then Afghanistan happened. He remembered Yinsen, and how he died, and how Tony wasn't good enough to save him. Wasn't fast enough. Obadiah's betrayal was still fresh in his mind, even after all this time, and it still stung burned like the palladium that was in his heart at the time. He remembered the desert heat, and how much he wanted to just die because it hurt so bad-
His heart was aching, just straining, from the pressure on it, because not every heart can be perfect, and his was already cracked, and parts had to be replaced. It felt like it was in the open, for everyone to see. The bright little blue light that showed through his AC/DC t-shirts. He never gave it to anyone, not even Pepper. Despite what everyone thought, they were only close friends. In fact, contrary to everyone's belief, he wasn't sleeping with anyone either, and never had. To everyone's would-be surprise, Tony Stark is actually a virgin. He had already lost so much, that he wanted to be able to control that part of his life. His love-life. He still doesn't understand why women try to tell him that the baby they are going to have is his, as he has never seen them in his life, let alone touch them. But he let everyone think what they wanted to think. Only Pepper knew, and that's why they're so close. She takes care of him, because sometimes, he knows, he can't take care of himself.
If Tony was being honest with himself, he also didn't sleep with anyone because he didn't want to be a dad. It wasn't that he didn't like children, it was just... What if he was like his own dad? He didn't want to make the kid miserable like his father did him, and everyone knows that Tony gets drunk a lot. He didn't want a kid to be a drunken mistake. Every time before Tony gets drunk, he orders JARVIS to make sure no women (except Pepper) get into the tower. Then he drinks his life away, because he feels like he has nothing left. Pepper is always worried about him, because one time he drank enough to fill a small pool, and she got him to spill about the abuse. She makes him eat when he's not hungry, sleep when he's wide awake, and put the drinks down before he gets permanently hurt. She didn't know about the insomnia, though it wasn't too hard to guess. He had it because he used to stay up all night, hearing his parents argue about Captain America, and it never left him. When he drinks, he can still hear them arguing.
He thinks that Agent Romanoff knows. She knows a lot of things though, and, she can keep a secret. He wasn't so worried about her. He hacked into Shield files, and he knows everything about her too, which he knows she knows, so she won't be doing anything any time soon.
Then they found Captain America in the ice. That hurt. He hadn't gone to personally see him, unlike Agent Coulson, who was fanboying the entire time. He feared the way he might've reacted. Hell, if they ever managed to unfreeze the guy, and he even went to Tony to ask for directions, he might have just spilled out what was left of his heart to the kind-looking man.
Then Loki happened. The Avengers Initiative was brought to him by Coulson, and it was then, when he put up the hologram, that he saw the reason he was the way he was. Captain America. He felt so cold, and he froze, just staring at the footage. Pepper put an arm around his shoulder in support, while Coulson stared at him curiously. At the moment, all Tony could think of was all the moments Howard had spoken about the Captain, and how many insults, punches, were thrown at him while he had been doing it. He didn't see the footage of the other 'Avengers'. He only saw the man in the spangly outfit, fighting for his country with a fierceness in his usually kind baby blue eyes. Suddenly he saw everything his father had drilled into his head, and understood.
He wasn't good enough. How could anyone beat that? But what made it worse- he knew that the Captain had a heart of gold, and would never intentionally cause someone pain.
He distantly heard Pepper saying, "Jarvis, shut it off, please," and he shook out of his stupor. "No, it's okay, Jarvis, I got it."
"Sir, are you sure?" Tony paused. Was he sure? No. "Yes, I'm fine."
"Alright, sir." A hint of concern showed in the AI's voice, and Tony smiled a little bit. Jarvis cared about him, and Tony didn't even care that he was a robot, because, not that he could really explain it, but he wasn't just a robot. Jarvis never really was. He had always been real.
Tony looked back to the footage, barely noticing the Hulk (though he did make a note to talk science with Dr. Banner), the assassins, and the Demi-God. He kept thinking about him.
They did manage to unfreeze the Capsicle, and Fury wanted to bring him straight to Tony. Fury didn't know about the abuse, nor the grudge he held against a man he had never met, but he wasn't sure that Fury would have done anything anyway. It's not like Tony was one of his favorite people in the world. In fact, not many people liked Tony. He knew it was because he protected himself by hiding behind cocky remarks, but was it protection, or just being a coward?
The first time he actually met Captain America, he was kicking Loki's ass. He was mad at himself for admiring how the super-soldier managed to do it gracefully somehow, even with all that muscle. He worked diligently, weaving his way around attacks that Loki threw at him, throwing a couple of punches in, then dodging again.
Tony decided to interfere when Loki got dangerously close to harming the Captain (for no other reason than politeness), tackling him to the ground, then quickly getting up, aiming missiles at the dumbstruck god.
"Make a move, Reindeer Games," he threatened.
Loki stared at him, calculating, then set down the staff, his electric blue eyes following the missiles as he surrendered, his hands slowly coming above his head. His armor shimmered, then disappeared.
"Good move," Tony commented. He stared in Loki's eyes, and saw something odd. It was just an odd feeling that he got about Loki, and it concerned him that it wasn't necessarily a bad one. Then Loki smirked at him, as if he knew something Tony didn't, and it ruined Tony's train of thought.
Shaking his head, he walked back to the Quinjet with Loki in tow, the metal boots clanking on the cement as the Captain followed closely behind him. While he greeted him, Tony didn't dare look the Captain in the eyes- he didn't want to break just yet. But god, Steve was so close, so close Tony could smell him. Of course, it wasn't like Tony was trying to be so close, he swore that the Captain was moving closer, inch by inch.
But it was probably just his imagination. He looked over at where Loki was sitting silently. Why was he so silent? He listened, realizing that the only sound was the rumbling of the thunder outside, and the occasional whirring sound of the quinjet. Usually, Tony would be the one to break the silence. But Tony had a lot on his mind, especially now that he was around Steve, his back had felt like someone was trying to rip out of his skin, inside-out. It had been there all morning of course, but he had a large pain tolerance due to Afghanistan. But his patience was wearing thin now.
Steve broke the silence. "I don't like it."
The genius shivered at the sound of his voice, and wondered when these feelings started happening to him. Tony didn't look at him as he replied, "What? Rock of Ages giving up so easy?" Steve quickly replied, "I don't remember it ever being this easy. This guy packs a wallop." Tony knew what he was talking about. It did seem to easy, although since the thunder started, Loki had been a bit subdued. He studied Loki again as he replied cheekily to the Captain, "Still, you were pretty spry, for an older fellow. What's your thing? Pilates?"
Steve sounded annoyed and confused as he asked, "What?"
"It's like calisthenics. You might have missed a couple things, you know, doing time as a Capsicle." Tony quipped. Steve sounded even more annoyed as he said, "Fury didn't tell me he was calling you in."
Tony finally looked the Captain in the eyes. "Yeah, there's a lot of— "
Suddenly, the pain in between his shoulders was worse than ever, and Tony's eyes became wide, alarmed, as he dropped to the ground screeching in agony. He desperately scratched at his back, not even noticing the pain of his fingers scraping down the metal of his suit. He heard Steve yell out, "Get him out of his suit! Somethings wrong!" Every breath Tony took wracked his body with pain. Jarvis immediately took off the suit, as quickly as the system would allow him. Once the pieces were off, surrounding Tony in a circle, he kept scratching, hurting, it was such pain he wished he wasn't alive but he was and the pain just wouldn't stop—
He feels someone take off his shirt that he had on underneath the suit, and he felt a bit of relief but it wasn't enough so he kept scratching and scratching until—
RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP, a loud, grotesque noise sounded through the quinjet, and then, silence. The only thing that could be heard was Tony's panting breaths. Everyone else was silent.
Tony didn't like that.
"Well, hey, I thought I was going to die, but I guess not. I wonder what that was."
"Uh, Tony?" Steve asked. Tony ignored him and kept talking, standing up, testing his legs. A bit wobbly, but it could be worse. He took a couple of test steps, and when that went fine (other than a tinge in his back), he walked back to the wall, and tried to be discreet as he leaned against it (he wasn't). "I mean, yeah, it still hurts a bit— "
"—but I'm sure it's fine, I mean, it can't be that bad, just a— "
"TONY!" He finally turned to Steve, annoyed, and said, "What?!" The soldier looked at him in surprise, as he wasn't actually expecting Tony to acknowledge him. His cheeks were tinged red. "Um… Tony, you have wings."
Tony laughed, "Yeah, right, that's funny Steve. Why would I have—what the…" As the genius reached a hand back to prove Steve wrong, his hand met something soft, and he was stunned into silence as his hand came back with a solitary feather. He was silent in shock, turning his head as far as he could to see where it came from, but found he didn't need to. Bright, brilliant electric blue wings that just glowed as they fluttered into his view, and somewhere in the room, Tony heard a gasp. Maybe it was Tony himself. Truthfully, Tony wondered how something so beautiful belonged to him.
He looked up to see awe in the Steve's eyes, and in that moments where eyes met, another feeling rose up in him, on that was unnatural than the normal feelings he usually had, they were just animalistic. It said mine mine mine and mate mate mate and he couldn't shake off the feeling. It over-ruled every thought he had, and he had to fight to think for himself. Strangely, though the inner voice was possessive, it was submissive. It bugged Tony that that might be what he needed, but only because of his massive pride.
He heard a small voice say, "Beautiful…" quietly, and he preened. Another snappily said, "Quite," and he felt what would have been the equivalent of hackles rising. He turned to the odd voice, growling like a feral creature, but it felt natural to him. He was graced (not) to the sight of Loki, who was grinning at him like a maniac, but Tony's brain didn't see that. Instead, Tony's inner creature saw another… well, him. Except Loki's creature had wings that were a solid gleaming black color, with emerald and gold feathered streaks sticking out of random spots. It looked like chaos. To top it off, he saw a thin layer of frost encasing the wings, so thin it was almost invisible. They perfectly represented him. He found it annoyingly beautiful, but wouldn't admit it.
But he also found another thing quite peculiar. No one else saw it of course, how could they? But when Tony wasn't focusing at the wings, he saw something that made him understand Loki a little bit better. He stood up, and approached the man carefully, waving off the other Avengers that looked at him in concern.
He looked at him somberly. "Why didn't you ever say anything?"
Loki looked a bit shocked at this question, but knew what he meant, Tony could see this in the trickster's eyes. But the god's mouth was not as revealing.
"I do not know what you speak of."
"And you know I will not specify details here. It is against our laws, Loki."
Somehow, Tony knew what he was talking about. Since he had seen the wings, he knew everything there was to know about what he was. For istota skrzydła there were old Norse laws that they were bound to follow. One such law, was that you couldn't tell about another's kolega. And even if he were not bound to those laws, he would not exploit how a man became bitter.
"I care not for these laws. You do not seem as someone who follows them anyway."
Tony had to chuckle at that. He was right, and at one point, he had even said that he wasn't one for following rules, but this was a much more serious situation. One that needed to be private. He flicked a wing, and the area around him and Loki was encased in a private, magic bubble. The magic was new, yes, but it seemed as if Tony was now just greeting an old friend. The magic seemed as a real person, and he couldn't help but compare his new magic to JARVIS. They were both a reassuring comfort to him, and could never be replaced.
But as soon as Tony did so, the Avengers were in an uproar, banging on the invisible shield-like bubble, other than Steve and Natasha, Steve with a look in his eye that resembled curiosity, and Natasha because she was steering the jet. He knew that she could just put it on auto-pilot, but Natasha seemed to understand that they meant no harm. That woman knew everything, he swore.
With another flick of the wing, the bubble became opaque, shielding their faces from Natasha, and her lip-reading abilities. Tony wasn't stupid, and he wasn't born yesterday. Lip-reading was one of the first things you learn as a spy.
When he turned back to Loki, who was looking at the bubble with satisfaction, and then he regards Tony, "You were telling the truth," with obvious surprise. Tony glared at him playfully, "Hey, I'm not the God of Lies here!" But then he was back to seriousness. "But Loki, why wouldn't you tell him?"
Loki snorted. "Would you tell your Captain over there?" At Tony's hesitant look, he laughed, saying, "No, you wouldn't. Why would I, if you wouldn't?" Tony glared at him. "That's different," he simply said. Loki stared at him. "How so?" Tony stared at the magic wall, willing himself to see through it. He did, and Loki watched him watching the Captain with scrutiny. Finally, Tony answered. "Steve feels nothing for me. Thor is different. Even if I only saw him on footage, I could see his love for you." Loki scoffed. "If you don't think Captain Rogers feels anything for you, you must be blind." Tony replied just as fast, "Then you must be blind as well."
Loki fell silent.
And Tony waited. They were both tuning out the ruckus outside of their bubble, instead turning towards their thoughts. But Loki only had one thought on his mind.
"If Thor loved me…"
Tony looked up, putting his full attention on the god. "Yes?"
Loki took a seemingly deep breath, swallowing a lump in his throat as he turned towards Tony. "Why would he be with Jane?"
Tony's breath caught in his throat as he thought about it. He didn't get to think for long though, before a boom sounded through-out the Quinjet as the glass-like shield rippled, shuddering with the jet. The thunder outside rumbled loudly, and Loki knew.
He was here.
And he was angry.
Tony quickly turned to Loki, saying, "Look, I really don't know why he's with her, but we can't jump to conclusions. We aren't the only thing out there to worry about. But if we're going to figure this out, I need you to think more clearly, and stop being a douche." Loki glared at him when he called him a douche, but then he appeared to be thinking about the idea. After a few minutes of contemplating, he agreed, nodding.
Tony sighed in relief. "Good. But, uh, they aren't going to be as convinced. I'm pretty sure your brother is really angry." Then a thought crossed Tony's mind. "Is he like us?" he asked Loki.
Loki looked at him oddly. "Not that I know of. I am still wondering how only you could see my wings. I've hidden them for many years. Not even Thor has seen them."
Tony's cocky billionaire ego made him stop and grin. "Really?"
Loki's lips twitched into an amused smile. "Yes. It's either because you're a newborn, or because you received a gift."
The thought of receiving a gift awed Tony (being called a newborn didn't, but he chose not to linger on that). He never thought any of this would happen, or that he would be so lucky. He used to be just Tony. Now he had something that kind of felt like family, oddly enough. He just kind of sensed it, when he was talking to Loki. If he had to pin it on anything though, it was the scent. Loki smelled of home, something he had never felt on his own. He thinks Loki might feel it too, by the way sometimes he would smile, but then catch himself, and scowl, confusedly sniffing then starting the process all over again.
But they didn't have much time. Tony could smell Thor by the Quinjet's entrance, and he knew that the thunderer was looking for Loki. With a quick flick of his wing (which had been tucked into his back), the shield became clear again, but was still standing, and the Avengers were clearly relieved, but confused at the ruckus outside the Quinjet entrance.
He heard the door slam open, and saw the glint of Mjolnir reflecting the lightning, a flash of a royal red cape. His heart raced as he changed to a protective stance in front of Loki, who was trembling at the emotions, feelings, and scents. Tony was a bit overwhelmed as well, as it was first time he would meet more family. His senses kept telling him that the two Asgardians were his. His family.
Thor was getting closer very quickly, his boot-clad feet seemingly eating the ground they walked upon, until he reached the shield. Thor's eyes glinted angrily, glaring at Loki, ignoring Tony's stance.
I'll teach you to ignore me, Tony thought, as he watched Loki shrink back into the seat he was strapped in. Tony stepped closer, and Thor turned to him just as he flung his wings open wide, covering Loki's form with the massive wingspan, a symbol of protection. Thor's eyes went wide as he saw the wings, but he dropped his hammer when he saw Loki peeking shyly from behind Tony, waving his dainty hand at him as if it were completely normal behavior for him.
Well, Thor thought with sadness, it used to be.
As he gazed at the Midgardian mortal that was defending Loki with what could only be curiosity, Tony opened his mouth in shock. Loki, noticing this, settled his head on Tony's shoulder, and murmured, "What?"
Tony leaned in closer as he whispered, "Don't you feel it?" Loki looked at him confusedly. "Feel what?" he asked. Tony shuddered—with happiness, relief, or anger he didn't know— as he told Loki shakily, "A… A familial bond."
Loki looked back between Tony and Thor, Tony, Thor, Tony, Thor, Tony, Thor.
"I don't feel anything." Loki said bluntly. Tony smacked his forehead. "Of course you don't feel anything, you're not related." At Loki's hurt look, Tony's face softened, and he turned more so he was facing Loki. "I'm sorry Loki, I shouldn't have said that." Loki furrowed his eyebrows and said, "It's confusing." Tony sighed. "What is?" Loki swallowed again, taking a deep breath through his nose, before blowing it all out in a puff of breath. "Thor."
Tony was intrigued. "Why?"
"For so long I looked to him as family, and I was hurt because I was always in his shadow. Then the Jotunhiem accident, and I find out he wasn't my family, and I was some peace negotiation, and that even if I was with my real family, they would have abandoned me anyway. No one wanted me." He paused, mouth pursed. "Then one day, everything changes when I get these," he gestures to the wings. The engineer saw the tears welling up in Loki's eyes as the god looked up at him, almost begging him for comfort. The tears spilled over as Loki finally said, "And now when I need him most, he doesn't love me the way I do him."
Tony purred to comfort him, another instinct he was following, and Loki buried his face into Tony's shoulder, wiping his eyes furiously on Tony's bare skin, and Tony simply shielded him with his wings, which had turned from their electric blue to an armored black, these feathers sturdier than others. wrapping them around the god's small frame as he turned to face the rest of them. He caught Natasha's eye and the look of sadness on her face, and knew that she had known what they had been talking about.
She inclined her head to Thor, asking, 'Do you want me to tell him?' He shook his head vehemently, and silently mouthed, 'Fury.' She got the message and got out her phone, speaking in Russian to Fury (something Tony didn't know the pirate could do) and making up excuses.
Because Tony wasn't letting Loki get locked up just quite yet.
But what Tony didn't notice was the look of horror on Steve's face as the Captain stared at the scars that were no longer hidden by the wings.