A/N: Short ficlet in response to a prompt from VLeRoux. I'm sorta getting more comfortable with the idea of writing more things from Steve's POV thanks to her.
One of the many things Steve hated about Tony Stark was that he never knew what it was like to be the little guy.
He flew around in a flashy suit with an attitude to match. Yes, it was a marvel of modern technology. Steve couldn't deny that. But Tony acted like it was his God-given right to wear it, to boast about it, to…
…throw parties in it.
That was one of the things that really struck a nerve. Sure, Tony saved the world as Iron Man, but he also wore that suit for attention.
Steve was…something else. He was still Captain America without the suit. He was Captain America before the serum, even. He knew what it was to struggle, to give yourself so wholly to a cause even when you didn't have the physical capabilities for it. He knew bullies, and he knew honor.
Tony had grown up with everything. He had never had to face a school hallway full of kids that hit him for pleasure, knowing he had no other choice than to go back every day. He had never been beat up in his twenties by guys in back alleys. He had never had to fight to do the right thing because of how he looked. He had never been in a war, where the only hope was that tomorrow wouldn't be as bad as yesterday.
But time went on, and Steve began to learn about Tony. At first, it was things he overheard other members of SHIELD say. Then, in roundabout (sarcastic of course) ways, Tony himself.
Steve had had Bucky. Right up until the moment Steve lost him, Bucky had always been there for him. Defending him, looking after him, just being there for him. Bucky always believed him, always was interested in what he was doing, and even after Steve became a hero in his own right, Bucky still followed him into hell.
Tony occasionally mentioned how he was home-schooled by different teachers, how he got the basics of mechanics and science from his father, but most of the time it was things he discovered on his own or with the help of tutors or professors. So no, he had never faced bullies in public school.
Even though he didn't say it, Steve could read in between the lines; Tony had had loneliness as his lifelong companion.
Steve had fought to get to the front, turned away because of how he looked. He had to lie and be deceptive in order to do the right thing, and in the end, luckily, someone had seen his perseverance and his determination.
He heard whisperings around the Helicarrier, even now, from agents that didn't want Iron Man there, that he was too wrapped up in himself to be a dependable member of the team. It had been when Steve was having dinner with Pepper Potts because Tony had locked himself in his lab and he felt bad for her, that he learned a little of what had gone on in that house in Malibu when Iron Man was taking shape. Everyone, even Pepper, had told him not to do it. To go back to the life he had before. And in typical Tony Stark fashion, he ignored them all, did it anyway, and proved himself greater than their expectations.
Steve knew about the horrors of war. Of losing those closest to you, the people you depended on. The bleak future and uncertainty about what would happen if you lost. How men lost themselves, did things they never thought they were capable of doing, because of a combination of fear and training. Fear of not knowing if tomorrow would bring an ambush, a cold, wet day, or a well-aimed bullet that would end it all.
Coulson had given him the files he felt he needed to be familiar with if he was going to lead the team. It was the cold, efficient data at the beginning of Anthony E. Stark's file, detailing his imprisonment in Afghanistan that caught his attention. Fatal shrapnel injuries. Hooked up to a car battery. Physical torture of some kind. One other casualty. Self-escape. Steve could honestly say he didn't know of anyone else who had survived conditions like those for that long and come out of it as…well-adjusted as Tony appeared to be. So yes, even though he hadn't enlisted, Tony had known war.
Steve had finally put the pieces together. They were different, true. They didn't always get along. They had different attitudes. They argued and bickered, had different backgrounds, different lives, different strengths, different weaknesses.
But Steve Rogers and Tony Stark both knew sacrifice. They both knew loss. They both knew right from wrong, good from bad, fear from hope.
And they both knew this team would work, because they both saw their values in each other.