Don't run away
Don't run away
Just tell me that you will stay
Promise me you will stay
Don't run away
Don't run away
Just promise me you will stay
Promise me you will stay

He had waltzed in looking bored, as he was wont to do.

"So what's the deal here?" He asked, nonchalantly, his eyes flitting from one team member to another.

"The deal was that you came with us, and we let them go."

"You don't even have them," Tony pointed out.

It was true. Clint and Natasha had been restrained, and Thor had let go of his hammer and been drugged, and Banner stood trembling, but in control. They only stood down because Steve told them told. Steve who had a gun against his head, who looked vaguely sick, and a bit bloody.

"They are soldiers, Stark. Those who are not are good men, and will listen to their leader. As will you,"

The thing was, Tony knew that when it came down to it, no matter who he was, Steve would always take the route that led to less damage, a smaller amount of collateral damage. Right now, for them, it meant complying to the wishes of this group.

It started when Tony was in Cairo for business, and the Avengers were called out. Steve had been caught, pistol whipped in the head, disorienting him. With the leader with a gun to his head, SHIELD had ordered a stand down to Clint and Natasha, who were captured by default so they didn't threaten Steve's life. With the three of them out of the picture, Banner and Thor had been tranq'ed, and when they had woken up, Banner's sense of justice, and good sense allowed him to realize the Hulk wouldn't help. Steve told Thor to hold, and so, he had. Bruce shook with silent anger, but he had a hold of his emotions. Of course, everyone knew that a gunshot into Steve's head would release the Hulk. That's why there were men poised around Bruce and Thor with tranq guns.

So they had been threatened, and made a phone call.

That's where Tony came in.

With their weapons removed, and forced into a room with gunmen trained on them all, the situation was pretty dire. But what these freaks wanted wasn't the Avengers. They wanted Tony. Tony who had been in Japan on a business trip.

So Tony came. Tired, angry and strung out, he came.

Now they were all defenceless, but Tony would be damned if he didn't go down without a fight. And they didn't know how hard he would fight.

So here he stood.

Clint watched as his friend threw his suit jacket carelessly on the floor and rolled up his shirt sleeves.

"The deal was me for them. I'm fine with that. Makes me feel special." Tony grinned a little. Clint's eyes twitched as Tony dramatically looked around.

"I'm outgunned! I'm outnumbered. I'm in an unfortunate situation because you have my team at your mercy. But you forgot a few things," Tony said conversationally.

"Shut up, Stark," The goon with his gun to a woozy Steve's head growled.

"Would you want me to shut up if when I do, a little girl named Anna, who's playing in her backyard with her mom Sarah suddenly was in this same situation?" Tony asked. The man paled.

"You wouldn't do anything to her," he said, face white.

"No, look, it's funny, sometimes, how people forget things about me. One, I'm a genius. Seriously, people forget that one compulsively!" Tony laughed a little, a sharp, brittle sound that made Clint flinch. A small robot crawl out of his collar, worming its way to the ground.

Tony watched impassively as it wove its way over to a gunman.

"I asked the military to fund me in this project years ago, when I was still the 'Merchant of Death'," Tony said, a little dreamily, another robot scuttling over his fingers.

They were small, and compact, with legs like a centipedes.

"They said 'no'. Most people are deterred by that, but fortunately, I have enough money to fund myself in anything I want. I still make things today that the military would love, but we don't sell weapons anymore," Tony continued. "It's for the best, really. I mean, these are a little angry sometimes." He gave a dreamy smile as a few more crawled out of his shirt.

"I will shoot him, Stark," the man growled.

"No you won't," Tony said confidently. "Apparently you need me. You want me which means you want information or me to do something for you. You won't kill me, and I assure I will kill myself I you touch one of them. And your daughter. And I can tell you're interested. Tony Stark, at your mercy, and willing to do whatever to get you to let them go, even give myself up. You're curious, because you aren't the ones who want me. You're passing me on to someone else, so this just fascinates you. Tony Stark's secret past? That's juicy stuff. I was kidnapped for my brains once. Well, not really," he reconsidered. "They were going to kill and they just changed their mind. The point is, I need you to know, I don't really trust people," Tony said a little quieter, a little dangerously. Clint realized that as much as they all thought they knew Tony, there were depths to the man that none of them realized.

"I mean, I guess it started when my parents forgot me in another country and didn't realize it for a week. My dad gave me cracked ribs and a broken wrist that time for not being able to figure out how to get back home myself. I was four." He said, inspecting one of the creatures. "After that it escalated. I didn't have friends growing up, because I would jump grades, and was sent off to different schools, and never stayed in one place. I didn't have a father most of the time because he was searching for a certain super soldier that I found years later. When he was around he wasn't the nicest person,"

Clint felt a little sick about how Tony was calmly telling this man about his life, things he hadn't divulged to even Clint. He shot a glance at a pale looking Steve who seemed hurt over the fact Tony didn't have a father around because of him.

"Later I just figured it was who I was. I kept secrets because that was the only part of me that stopped me from going crazy. The media had my life displayed for everyone to see, and I had nothing of myself left. So I made secrets and an identity to give them, and I made the real me be the part that helped stay grounded. Problem was the real me was depressed and suicidal." Tony sauntered closer and held out a wrist. A strange, bitter smile twisted his lips.

"Scars are still there," he said, gesturing to his wrist. Clint's face was white, and Natasha was looking horrified, her normally impassive mask cracking.

"When I finally got the company, I got Pepper." A dreamy smile crossed his face when he thought about Pepper. "I got to be happy for the first time in years. But then I had a company to run, and Obadiah was great, really. He was like the father I never had. So, I have to admit, it was a little hurtful when he hired a terrorist group to kill me, and then tried to kill Pepper when I came back. I had to kill the man I considered to be closer to me than my real father, you know. Rhodey stole my suit, I mean I set it up that he would, because people are so predictable, but having your best friend betray you, even if you plan it hurts a bit, you know?"

Tony scuffed his shoe. His dark eyes flickered up.

"So what I'm getting at is I don't really trust people. There are so many people I trust with my life," he said quietly. "Every day I go out I trust people with my life. That's not a big deal. There are precisely four people in the world I've ever trusted with my heart," he said a little quieter. "Now you," Tony pointed grandly at the man standing in front of him, who swallowed. His grip on Steve slackened a little, and Clint grinned. "You have the audacity," Tony snarled, "to kidnap two of them."

"So I have trust issues, I'm suicidal, and I have more issues with family that Oprah has followers." He smiled a little maniacally. "But the thing is people forget things about me a lot.

"For example. I killed people. A lot of them, indirectly, with my weapons before I was Iron Man. People know that and hate me for it. Fine, whatever. So the worlds things I was a bad person then. Well, they're idiots. I built a suit and killed people directly with the suit. And suddenly I'm a hero. I escape Afghanistan by blowing up a terrorist cell, which had a hell of a lot of people in it. I come home, and the first thing I do is kill a bunch of people in a town, and blow up my old weapons which took out a fair number of people with them. Second thing I do is kill a father figure in my life. So I kill more people knowingly now than I did before and people love me for it."

He grins a little.

"Before, I was the Merchant of Death, and now I'm a hero. I'm a hero because I killed a lot of people. People think that I'm sensitive to death or whatever. That's not it. I've killed without abandon. I killed my first person when I was young. Took self defence classes, someone tried to hurt me so I stabbed them to death with a screwdriver."

Tony gestures to his teammates.

"They stood down because they are good soldiers. Bruce doesn't Hulk out because he's a good man." Tony's grin goes gleeful, and Clint sees his rock forward on the balls of his feet.

"They stand down, but what the hell made you think I was a soldier? I have problems with people in authority. And I know for a fact that I sure as hell am not a good person. What's stopping me from killing you?"

"You can't," The man looked a little nervous.

Tony's eyebrows shot up. He pulled out a gun and pointed it at the man. His hand was steady.

"Bad idea," the man said. "You can't shoot, you'd hit Captain America here."

Clint felt a cold chill creeping over him at Tony's next words.

"Another misconception. I didn't become a weapons manufacturer by not knowing my way around weapons. I didn't spend hours at a shooting range when I was young to watch other people, I did it to learn how to shoot, and sometimes, envision people I hated stood in front of me. I didn't learn martial arts and karate because I needed something to get me away from my father, I did it because I would get beat up if I couldn't defend myself.

"And Iron Man doesn't fucking shoot itself! I aim to kill every time I go out with the Avengers." Tony exploded. "That's not the point though."

He gestured to the robots scuttling on the ground.

"Your guards didn't see these little buddies scale the walls behind them. They also got through because I killed them. Your guards, that is." Tony looked at him mockingly.

"Want to know what these babies really do?" He smiled dreamily again. "They're really beautiful." Clint watched as his friend made a small gesture with his hand, sending the robots up the legs of gunmen.

His smile was frightening.

"They eat you." Stark sounded eerily calm while Clint started. "From the inside out," Stark gave a short laugh. "I took an anatomy class in MIT, because I was bored. I know what nerves attack to get the most pain from an attack, and I know how to kill someone slowly and painfully from the inside out. But I also know how to program these lovelies to only attack my enemies. Like this," He said brightly. A robot plunged down the mouth of a gunman.

His gun clattered to the ground. His knees hit, his hands flying up, eyes huge with pain.

Even Natasha flinched at the scream that followed. Thor's eyes were round watching the man cough up blood, watching the man writhe in agony, screams tearing out of him.

A gunshot cut through the horrified tension, getting the man in the middle of his forehead. The screams had been cut off so suddenly that the silence that followed was almost overwhelming.

"Like them? They also restrain people. Pain without death," Tony looked thrilled as the robots took down the other hired guns in the room with screams and shrieks cutting through the air. They laid moaning on the ground. Only a few remained standing.

"I understand that you were the bosses in this," Tony said softly. Dark eyes flicked up. "And I understand that you underestimated me. I told you a lot about my life up to now. Shall I tell you something else? SHIELD's on its way here. All your other guards have been...removed from the picture currently, and they will enter shortly and take everyone into custody." He looked a little thoughtful. "I don't think I've ever talked to anyone and distracted them enough that they forget they have a job to do and also forget that I would be stupid to come without reinforcements."

Two guards dragged themselves into the hallway, but Tony ignored them.

The robots scuttled to the now guard-less Avengers. Clint flinched as one crawled over his arm, but it just inserted a claw and unlocked the handcuffs. Natasha and Clint struggled to their feet. Tony passed them his guns. Tony was standing impassively in the middle of the room as SHIELD personnel swarmed the room. Dark eyes flicked up to Clint's for a minute before they blinked and suddenly they saw a mask slide over Tony's face. Coulson strode in right to Tony, who now looked a bit sick, his face pale. But Clint saw the knowing glint in his eyes. The robots had somehow scrambled back up into Tony's shirt.

"Your robots were told to stand down, Tony."

"I stalled for as long as I could, Phil! I was running out of stories, and they were threatening Steve, and I didn't know what to do!" Tony seemed like he was panicking a little, a bit like a billionaire philanthropist would if he was pushed into a frightening situation.

"Agent," Tony said, sounding shocked. "Your two assassins seriously freak me out. They got out of their cuffs and took down everyone here," he sounded genuinely freaked out, and suddenly, Clint was pinned with two pairs of eyes.

"Is that true, Romanoff, Barton?" Coulson asked. Steve was watching Tony, who was in turn sending a piercing stare at Clint.

"Neither confirmed nor denied, sir," Clint said, grinning at Tony. The same Tony who murdered almost everyone here in cold blood for him and Bruce. And damn if that didn't make someone feel special.

They were all pulled apart, separated and questioned. Tony had known that the story he told the Agents initially wouldn't hold, and he was correct. But at least he had a few hours. A few hours where he spent in Fury's office.

"That story you told to Coulson was bull," Fury said bluntly. "We have the recording from the comm in your shirt."

"Yes." Tony replied. "But I need you to understand that everything I said in there wasn't true. All fabricated to stall for you to get there. I knew that the guards would be slowly disabled. That was the plan, wasn't it sir? To stall until you could extract?"

Brown eyes mocked Fury.

"Damn it Tony, the plan wasn't to kill most of them." Tony shrugged.

"You let me in, you knew there would be collateral."

Fury looked at him wearily.

"I sure don't, and I know they won't believe you saying that you made up all that shit. That was real, Tony, and I heard the recording. That was you being honest for the first time."

Tony glared.

"Hey! I resent that! I'm more honest then you!" He said, looking affronted. Fury's lips twitched.

"Regardless. We'll keep this contained, but SHIELD can't stop stories going around within the agency, right now we can only prevent fallout from outside of the agency. Even that isn't a guarantee. A couple of the people holding your team we've had to let go on bail. Not the ringleaders, but they heard enough. They might sell the information about your childhood to the highest bidder."

Tony sighed.

"If that's what it comes down to, fine. I can deal with the fall out later."

"Was it worth it?" Fury asked, voice cold. Tony felt like he was being judged. He returned the glare steadily.

"It has to be."

Coulson had told them about how Tony was denying the truth behind what he had said. So they didn't mention it. But Thanksgiving was coming up, and they wanted to prove that Tony was special to them, and that regardless of his past, which they knew was true, they wanted him there. They had found the two men who had escaped, but they had divulged that they had told someone about Tony's stories.

They knew that the last act of these men would be to destroy Tony Stark. Even if it was only his reputation.

So it didn't surprise them to much when a news report about 'The Avengers' was advertised.

Bruce was watching National Geographic when the first commercial had come on.

Pictures of them fighting in the first battle flashed across the screen.

"The Avengers. All we know is stories thrown at us by the Paparazzi. All we know is that they saved us, that they continue to do so. All we know is the mask. But who are the Avengers really?"

A picture of Natasha flew into the screen.

"Not American, a spy, fighting for us now, what made her change her mind?" Another picture of Natasha shooting a gun and looking amazing, overlaid the other one. Next a picture of Clint, an arrow pulled back on his bow, eyes serious.

"What path made this circus performer turn to Government Agency's and work with the military? Who is this man really?" A laughing picture of Clint with Natasha, on one of their trips around New York, showed the other side of Clint Barton.

A picture of Thor. "Claims that he's a God from another world, and we have no choice to believe him. But why would he keep returning?"

A picture of Steve, smiling bashfully, from the 40's, and another right next to it, the same expression on his face in the new uniform from just four weeks ago. "The super soldier who was frozen for 70 years. How has he adapted, and what brought Steve Rogers to the point that he was willing to do anything for his country?"

A picture of the Hulk, roaring into the sky. A shot of him catching Tony falling from the portal. "This beast's mild mannered alter ego, and the humanity that leaks through into his other form, and what brought Bruce Banner to the Avengers."

Lastly, pictures of Tony checkered the screen. First large photos, they shrunk to fit in a checkerboard pattern over the screen. As pictures of him as a child, growing up, to recent pictures, the voice when intense.

"And the true, heartbreaking story of who Tony Stark really is, and what drives him to save the world. The look behind the public stories, lies fed to the media, and a shocking new take on Anthony Stark."

A picture of the team.

"Fractured pasts, betrayal's, abandonment and hurt brought this team to where they are now. Find out who the Avengers really are, and how they just might be more broken than anyone else out there. Learn how they overcame their oppression and came out better, stronger, and the team you know today."

Bruce had frozen, his eyes wide. It was true, lately people had asked strangely personal questions about the team in the last months, but they hadn't thought anything of it.

Fury called, yelled at them for letting their stories be leaked to the television stations, but said that it would be good for publicity, and anyway, secret identities were ruined anyway.

As the date drew closer for when the show had to air, commercial's got more specific, hinting at Bruce's past abuse, at Clint's broken family, about the act of mercy that convinced Natasha to join SHIELD, the struggle Steve had adjusting to the 21st century, about Tony's family and betrayal's, and how Thor's broken family.

News stations were picking up the story before it even aired, people theorizing about the pasts that the heroes had, and Tony scheduled a meeting in another country for when the show was to air.

A special, three-hour show.

It was the weekend before Thanksgiving.

All of them except Tony were gathered in SHIELD headquarters, watching one large television. On screen a man was explaining they went for truth, not the stories that were fed to them. That they went back through the Avenger's pasts and found inconsistencies. Explained that there would be theories, there would be guesses, because some parts only the Avengers could fill in for them. Had old friends and family members talk to the news about each person.

The whole agency was quiet as the reporters systematically went through Natasha's life, telling them about her father, and her life in Russia, or what they could gather. Told about how Clint had saved her on a mission, and that act of trust was 'the one thing that has been true and real for this woman'.

"She's mysterious, she's an assassin, she's a spy. She is now in the Avengers, and she hasn't even told us her name. This woman is Natasha Romanoff. She has a past drenched in blood, and she is a good person."

The segment on Natasha finished abruptly. One tailored eyebrow was raised after her story was spilled, and a commercial played loudly throughout the room.

"How did they access that information?" She asked icily. Coulson shrugged. "Records, past missions, people you worked with, connections to Government, I don't know."

When the section about Clint's circus past, his brother, and their orphanage started, Clint shifted a bit closer to Natasha. His eyes were shadowed.

"Although he was a killer just like his best friend-" a picture of Clint and Natasha arm in arm talking to each other flashed across the screen, "-he fights for us now. Both of these people took orders and followed them. The both have tragic pasts, hurts and a distinct lack of trust. But they both fight for a good cause and it is something respectful. Both Clint Barton and Natasha fight on the team as simple humans. No armor, no godly strength, no super soldier serum. They are skilled, highly dangerous individuals. They are good people."

The report was taking the spin that although the Avengers had done terrible things, they had redeemed themselves. Yet, they were still bringing out painful subject for everyone involved. Another problem was that it was in fact the truth. Out there for the whole world to know.

When the segment with Bruce came on, it was longer than the other two. People who worked with him at the university spoke about Bruce, and old neighbours did as well. They explained how Bruce's father killed his mother, how Bruce had opportunity and means to kill his father. How he was abused, and how he made a life for himself. They even talked about Betty Ross and General Ross, showing the heartbreaking story about how they desperately tried to stay together when they were being torn apart. Showed how Bruce moved on, but never forgot her.

It showed Tony and Bruce prominently towards the end. How Tony Stark was seen out most with his 'science bro', and the easy camaraderie they have. The people speculated on the wisdom of having such a volatile man near Bruce, but they wrote off the concern saying that Tony was different with Bruce, tried to get him to stay instead of driving him away.

"Also, the Hulk saved Iron Man. That's a sign of affection if I ever saw one," The man on the TV said with a wink. They showed how Bruce was a good person, and they ever proved that the Hulk was doing more good than he ever did bad. It was touching, and it was shockingly different from the media stories before. This station was supporting the Hulk, and that was comforting.

Thor's section was mostly about the feud between Loki and Thor, and Jane Foster, and the incidents in New Mexico. About how the God functioned astonishingly well in a different world.

When Steve's picture cropped up, the first thing that was said was a cheerful, "The man out of time! A leader, a soldier, and fitting in not nearly as well as we imagined." But they showed the inspirational story of Steve's past, showed sickly pictures of him, and clips of the serum injection. They touched briefly on the strangeness Steve must have felt knowing Howard and now being friends with Tony. They showed his promotional tours videos, and pictures of his trading cards.

Clips of fans, and of Steve's documented life were thoroughly explored. Modern pictures gave them room to explain that although he was understanding this world, it must be hard to leave behind everything he'd ever known.

They touched on his life then, and now, and even suggested that Steve wasn't as pure as everyone thought.

"He's a soldier, he's been exposed to bad things. He wanted to fight in the war so badly he let an untested substance be injected into him. I'm not saying Steve Rogers is a bad person, no, in fact, I've met him. He's genuinely one of the greatest people I've ever met. I'm just thinking he isn't as innocent as people seem to think."

An inside source on the early tension between Steve and Tony was talked about, explaining the argument they had, their jabs at each other. But instead of demeaning the two, the station commented on how 'it's good to see that they get in argument; that they don't have a perfect friendship, or perfect lives. It's good to see that they aren't perfect, because that means they are only human. We can relate to them now.'

With Tony's section, the mood set by Steve's story, a pure, good vibe was promptly shattered. The first thing showed was a picture of a little boy grinning at the camera.

"We were told about a happy family. A genius boy, and proud parents. But that's probably the opposite of the Stark situation."

A friend came on and explained how she had sat through Maria's rants after the media found out she was pregnant.

"Maria would say to me, 'I wish no one knew. Now we can't have an abortion, the stock prices would dip'. I thought it was the saddest thing. Those two had a child so their stock prices would be good."

The report explained that Howard and Maria didn't care for the child, except in public. Explained that Howard left to try to find Steve, and became depressed and angry when he couldn't.

"The child always had bruises on him," a friend of the families was explaining. "'He would do his best to make his parents proud, he made his mother a robotic dog when he was four, trying to make her less lonely. She smiled a little and then ignored it. Howard told Tony why it was a terrible creature.' A picture was held up, the little boy standing morosely next to a completed dog, fur and everything. It looked like a dog. 'It was the most impressive thing I had seen in years. Even out of adult work. And they threw it away like it was trash.' "Tony Stark was underappreciated."

The show showed pictures of a bruised and battered Tony, smiling for the camera regardless, an unhappy look in his eye. A psychologist was brought in to explain how she thought that his behaviours made sense for someone neglected, and emotionally, physically and sexually abused.

"'Obviously we can't prove anything'," She said "'But Howard Stark had a child for the stock market, and we have heard rumours that he sold his child's body for the stock market as well.'"

Pictures of Tony with awards flashed across the screen.

"A genius, underappreciated. Sent to boarding school, Tony must have considered it a great thing. In MIT at 15, he was already making patents for his father's company. A company that he was an important component to." Showed more accomplishments, but then explained about Tony's slide into alcoholism.

"His parents think he's worthless, he has no friends, no connections where people hate a child who is smarter than them, a place where he's just trying to survive. He got depressed. Went drinking, partying. His first recorded suicide attempt was jumping from a roof at MIT."A picture of a bloodied Tony being loaded onto a stretcher.

"His parents didn't even visit him in the hospital, but they certainly paid the money to cover it up."

More pictures of Tony's life, mapped out. Video's of him, brown eyes dark and hateful, smile planted on his face, drink in his hand. More stories of suicide attempts.

The story of his parents deaths. How Tony then made himself an image, and a reputation.

"We have good reason to believe that what we are told about Tony Stark, approximately half isn't true. What he says about himself has never been a lie, but what the press says has not always been 100 percent honest. Even if they were just mislead." A girl, pretty, was sitting, explaining how Tony took her back to his rooms, his house, wherever he was at the time, and paid her to tell people they slept together.

"'He took me back to his room. As soon as the door closed he closed off completely. Asked how much I wanted to tell people we had slept together and that it was good. You name a price, he gave it without hesitation. It was weird. I didn't know people could make money from not sleeping with someone. He gave me things to do, new technology to try, and worked the rest of the night.' Of course, he isn't an innocent either, but these revelations make us wonder if Tony Stark is a much better person than people think he is."

Showed him on his rise to power, taking over the company, still winning awards, making weapons, changing the world, and making it his. Showed pictures of him golfing with the Presidents, shaking hands with the major political players, charming people at parties. Showed him at the prime of his previous career.

Showed pictures of Tony, clean shaven with short hair, and his friend Rhodey, crouching next a boy from Kenya. They had shovels in their hand. The reporter mentioned how Tony took time and built wells and schools with Rhodes, generously giving his money and time to those less fortunate.

They showed the impact Tony had on charities, and rebuilding the city. The dollars Tony spent on charities alone was obscene. And that was just confirmed. It was suspected he gave to more than the confirmed organizations. Philanthropist indeed. The show outlined how Tony had been giving since he was fifteen, slipping money discreetly where his father wouldn't notice. Spending big to hide his tracks of giving to the poor, so Howard couldn't disapprove of something he didn't know about.

Then the mood shifted again to the long three months when he was missing. Even had the clip of Tony being sat in front of a camera, speaking to Obadiah Stane. Showed brief, soundless clips of Tony being tortured, of the surgery. Grainy images said to be recovered from the actual cave he was held in. Photos of him laying silent, still, blood covering his chest. A doctor, working to save him. Pictures never seen before.

Showed x rays of Tony, from before Afghanistan, normal bone structure, and after, where a gaping hole was cut through his ribs, and how the reactor settled in. It even showed shrapnel suspended in his body.

The show went on to show how they dug up the lie of the accident surrounding Obadiah's death, and what really happened. They sympathized with him for the betrayal of someone so close.

They said how after all these troubles Tony had suffered, they were astonished that he was willing to let a team in his house, near him at all.

"Badly injured, tortured, fighting for his life, he made the most advanced piece of weaponry ever."

"He fights for us, and I don't think calling him self-obsessed is fair. He flew a nuclear bomb into space for the people of New York: people who don't even support him."

"He's a genius, and a billionaire. He had a mask and facade that we see. It makes us wonder who Tony Stark really is. Makes us wonder what we don't know, wonder why he's done the things he's done. What drives Tony Stark? I don't know if we'll ever know. I don't know if he'll ever be comfortable putting his true self out for the public to see. Tony has had his body and soul abused and tortured and manipulated enough that I doubt he will trust anyone anymore. Not completely. Not with everything he has, and with his life being on display for everyone to see, he certainly can't afford to let us know all his secrets. But despite all this we have evidence that the Maria Stark foundation donates almost half a billion yearly to improving our world. Stark funds many other programs, and he's even personally travelled with his friend to volunteer in third world countries, building wells, schools and houses. So Tony Stark? He is undoubtedly, a good, good man. Now we just have to get you and him to see it."

"Clint Barton. Natasha Romanov. Steve Rogers. Thor Odinson. Tony Stark. Bruce Banner. All with broken pasts. All with a future of no rest, a future with risk. A future where they put their life on the line for us. We cannot repay that, we can only support them. Support the goodness that is such an integral part of them, they are willing to give us everything to save us. They all have hurts, and betrayals. Angst, and a past no one would want. Let us never say they are no heroes. Let us never say they are weak. No one who is weak would be able to have lived their lives and survived. Let us pay them out respect, and give them our thanks. Let us understand the truth behind who the Avengers truly are."

A picture of the Avengers flashed across the screen, before it went dark.

Bruce's hands were clutched tight in his lap.

"How is it," Fury said from behind them, "that news crews dug up this much information on the lives of my team?"

He glared at them, before turning and leaving, a tense silence left behind him.

Will you love me? ohh
Everybody's got a dark side
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?
Nobody's a picture perfect
But we're worth it
You know that we're worth it
Will you love me?
Even with my dark side?

The media fallout was disastrous. They were followed by reports shoving microphones into their faces and asking question about the news.

How did they deal? How did they adjust? What got them through?

Bruce and Pepper called Tony constantly, until he was scheduled to fly home. They watched the live news of him looking tired and pale, sunglasses stuck on his face, shoving his way through the crowd of reporters, not saying anything.

When Bruce turned off the TV, he was surprised by Steve sitting next to him.

"I was wrong about him, wasn't I?" He asked. Pepper gave him a small smile.

"Tony keeps things close. Quiet. It's not your fault."

Bruce watched silently as Tony was welcomed home by a team who gave him space to go up to Pepper. She apologized.

"I'm sorry. I don't know where they got the pictures, or the information." Tony shrugged.

"Not your fault, probably was going to happen sooner or later." She looked at him a little strangely, and they had disappeared. That night Bruce wandered up to the roof where Tony was lying on his back. He was staring at the stars.

"I'm sorry that your story was outed to the world," Tony said softly. Bruce shrugged.

"Yours was worse," he said matter-of-factly.

"I don't think there is a worse, Bruce, just bad or not bad. They're both bad. I told Clint to come up, by the way." Bruce nodded, settling next to his friend. They stayed silent until Clint arrived.

He glanced at them and settled down too.

"I worry, sometimes." Tony broke the silence. "What they said on the news, it was all true. That's fine. But you know the messed up part? I saw it in my hotel, and I didn't care that the rest of the world suddenly knew most of the things about me. I cared what this team thought. What Pepper and Rhodey would do. And that's terrifying. I've never been actually dependent on other people before."

Clint stayed silent.

Bruce didn't. "Don't be stupid Tony, we wouldn't leave you because we learned about your past."

"But that's the thing, I thought you might. Even Pepper, but the first thing she said was that she loved me. The last time I worried about things like that was with my parents, when I was young. Whether they would be proud of me or not."

"You're worried we're too close." Clint stated. Tony shot him a look.

"Like family," the billionaire agreed. "And that's the worst. I never wanted a family again. My first one let me down. It scares me, how close you all have gotten in such a short amount of time."

"You're my friend," Bruce said a little viciously. "Tony, you're the only thing keeping me here." Tony shot up, his eyes wide.

"Bruce, you love life here. You like this team, your lab, the people, being able to be free again, of course you wouldn't leave."

"I love the life I have here, because you're here. If you weren't here Tony, I wouldn't be. I would call Clint, probably, check in with him, but out of everyone, you're my best friend. And I get what you're saying," Bruce kept saying, his voice unsteady. "Because it scares me. How close you've gotten. How I'm staying here because of you. Clint and Pepper too, but mostly you."

His eyes were moist.

"I would be gone, Tony, if you and Clint weren't friends like you are."

They didn't say much of anything for a while after that, Tony resting his head on Bruce's shoulder, staring at the stars. Clint lay quietly, his ankles over Tony's, arms behind his head.

He felt warm that they invited him up to their roof hang out, which they'd never done before. It was a place that Bruce and Tony hashed out their lives together, and would talk freely. It was where they were comfortable.

And he was a part of it now. Tony shifted.

"Do you know why I like the stars?" He asked softly.

Bruce murmured, "no," and Clint shook his head.

"When I was in Afghanistan, it was one of the few things I wanted. Obviously to go home, but I knew that if I could just...get outside, see the stars, I would be a little bit better. They wouldn't let me, and I hated them even more for that." Tony said softly.

Clint rotated his shoulders.

"This one time I was on a mission, and it was in these underground caverns, and I literally almost cried with joy when I saw actual grass again—"

The news was all over the lengthy report on the Avengers that had shown. They showed clips of reporters trying to get the members of the team to comment after, and all of them pushing them aside. Videos of Tony returning to America, being escorted to his car, of Clint and Natasha pulling down a hat to avoid the flashes of cameras, of Steve giving a sheepish grin and retreating as quick as he could. Thor beaming and telling tales of Asgard, but cleverly avoiding deeply personal questions. Bruce didn't even bother leaving the tower.

Tony had returned back to his house and promptly avoided everyone except Clint and Bruce, and none of them had talked about the stories, except for Clint saying, "Well, that sucks now that it's out there, doesn't change anything, right?" and then leaving.

Fury came in once, and Tony emerged briefly, looked the director of SHIELD in the eye and said,

"It was worth it. Everything. And if you disagree, I don't care." Fury just gave a frightening smile.

"It was worth it Stark."

When Tony finally emerged from his lab he was waving an arrow above his head and yelling Clint's name.

"BARTON! What have I told you about using the vents for pranks? I will tear them down and find a more efficient air distribution system! You can't hide from me!" Spinning around, brown eyes landing on Steve and narrowed.

"Where is he?" He demanded.

"What? Why would I know?"

"You're the leader or whatever, aren't you! Shouldn't you know where people are?"

"I mean, he's fine, obviously. JARVIS would tell us otherwise, right?"

Yes sir, I would. Mr. Barton is currently above you in the air vent listening to your conversation.

"Thanks JARVIS!" Steve grinned at a triumphant Tony who was looking ridiculous currently trying to climb the wall to tear the ceiling down to get at Barton. A scuffling noise came from above, and the genius shouted up when he couldn't climb.

"I'll get you Barton! You'll find everything dyed purple by tomorrow! Tasha can't save you...well, probably she could, but she won't because you broke her new weapon!"

"That's cheap, Stark," Barton's muffled shout sounded.

"It's true!"

Clint scurried away in the vents. Tony turned and scowled at a disapproving Steve.

"What? He'll hate everything being purple."

"Don't do that, Tony," Steve pleaded. "He'll just get you back worse, and then it'll be a war."

"What am I supposed to do, Steve?" Tony asked. "He'll just get this sense of entitlement, and then he'll never stop!"

"Look, I'll talk to him. Workshop out of bounds, right?" Tony nodded sullenly, and turned to leave.

"Hey Tony?" Steve said quietly. Tony shot him a questioning glance. "It's good to see you again." Remembering what Tony had said in the hostage situation, he added quickly, "And you are a good person. Really good." Tony looked a little cornered, and he nodded swiftly, backing away. Steve wanted to get him to understand how much of a good impact that Tony was for everyone, even him. Even though they hadn't always gotten along, Tony always was willing to help Steve when he needed it.

In the weeks that followed, Tony would reappear more often. Clint and Bruce finally convinced him to come back to the movie nights.

Finally, the whole team sat and talked about the news report. Steve felt bad that his old friend had changed so much, but understood that the Howard he knew, and the Howard Tony knew were drastically different people.

Natasha and Clint took a night and sat up talking, finally divulging the secrets that they had kept so close, thrown into the light by the news. They talked, and became even closer.

Bruce and Tony had a new bond, the former pushing back his friend's sleeves during the team chat, and everyone stopped to watch as the scientist gently rubbed a thumb over the engineer's scars.

Tony finally started to interact more with the rest of the team, especially connecting with Steve. They spent more time together, still not close friends, but reaching an understanding, and enjoying each other's company.

They knew Tony finally trusted everyone when he walked in to get coffee, shirtless and yawning. Scars littered his back and chest, but the most prominent feature was the arc reactor. He leaned past Steve to get his 'life saving drink', allowing the others the first unguarded look at the device in Tony's chest, glowing softly.

Thanksgiving solidified the team feel, and the battle afterwards, they never fought so smoothly together.

Unguarded, genuine smiles were granted to one another, and even Pepper had never looked so radiantly happy.

Steve didn't feel quite so alone.

He watched as Tony argued with Natasha, a grin on his face as he pointed a screwdriver at her. Pepper glided past him smoothly taking the screwdriver, and turning to kiss her boyfriend-now fiancé. The ring glittered beautifully on her finger, and her smile lit up the room.

Tony gave her a happy smile, and hugged her, sticking his tongue out at the red headed assassin behind Pepper's back as he did so. Bruce grinned, his demeanor finally relaxed with the others, and not just Tony and Clint.

Bruce was volunteraly coming up from his lab, like Tony was now, and spending time with the team, even when Clint and Tony weren't there.

Steve was welcomed to the labs now, and the archery range.

Jane Foster and Darcy moved in, Darcy's infectious enthusiasm a little overwhelming, and Jane's shy stability a relief.

Finally, Steve thought, grinning at his, his family's antics, and they grinned back at him. Finally, I have a home again.

Clarissa breathed in the coffee smell from her regular corner in the coffee shop. She turned the page quietly in her newspaper, and watched as her friend Melina cleaned a little while there was a lack of costumers.

"How's the break, doll?" Melina called back. Clarissa grinned and waved to her cheerily. Her response was cut off a people trudged into the shop.

"I swear, this is the best place for miles," One man was saying, gesticulating wildly. His brown hair was short, and his t-shirt didn't cover his truly excellent arms. A grin was on his face, and he looked like he was having a great time. The woman at his side snorted, and elbowed him swiftly. He grunted in pain.

"Tash!" She smiled, a look Clarissa didn't think she must wear often. Her hard eyes softened and her lips twitched up. A mild looking man pushed his glasses up a shrugged.

"He practically lives on coffee, and he knows what Tony likes. I'd trust him." His curly hair and soft voice made him look warm and soft.

Melina was watching them curiously.

"He knows what I like? Well, good. He knows I like coffee to drink, not to have spilled all over me, Rogers!"

"Hey, it wasn't my fault! Darcy pushed me!" The gorgeous blond one protested to the good-looking dark haired man. The girl by their side scowled.

"Look man, I was trying to avoid the two lovebirds." She said matter of factly. "This was the best outcome," The tall beautiful man by her side looked sheepish, while the small dark haired beauty by his side blushed.

"I'm sorry, Tony, Steve, we weren't watching," she said apologetically. Tony waved her off, he turned and Melina dropped her cloth she was wiping the tables with, and Clarissa almost choked. That was Tony Stark. And that meant this was the Avengers. In her coffee shop!

The first man stepped forward to the counter where Melina stood now, recovering.

"Hi," he said, charmingly.

"Hey," she choked back.

"So, my friend Tony here spilled his last batch of coffee because he's and idiot and didn't buy more-"

"-hey! Tash drank mine!"

"I was thirsty." Natasha Romanoff scowled. Tony grinned, but Clarissa thought she would give the lady anything she wanted under that glare.

"I need it to live, Tasha!"

"Verily, the man of Iron is surprisingly dopey—"

"Thor! I taught you that word to use when Steve was thinking about Peggy or something! Not on me! And I'm not dopey!"

"I don't look dopey ever," Steve protested.

"You give a hurt puppy vibe," Stark snarked at him. The soldier looked mildly confused but didn't protest.

"Anyway!" The first man said again, "we desperately need coffee or we'll all kill each other soon." Melina nodded dumbly and pushed a few packets forward, and poured cups for them all.

Stark threw a bundle of cash at her, and they all gave them a quick smile, a left, bickering again amongst themselves. Clarissa pulled out her phone and snapped a quick picture of them leaving.

They were all close, Jane pulled up to Thor, who was walking behind Steve, who was giving Tony a perplexed look. Tony was sidled up next to Bruce, and reaching for the quiet redhead who had been waiting for them outside. Bruce was laughing at what the billionaire had said. Clint was walking with an arm slung around Natasha who wound an arm around his waist, her face relaxed, and turned to Darcy. They all were laughing or talking, moving, but they looked happy.

"Nice picture," Melina said approvingly. "We could hang it up. Draw costumers or something,"

"They don't look anything like themselves." Clarissa argued. It was true. None of them were wearing anything like their uniforms, or even clean, expensive clothes. Tony Stark was in a t shirt and dirty frayed jeans, his beard growing in a little, and everyone else was in sweats or jeans, and casual shirts.

"That's why it's perfect," Melina said. "Because they aren't perfect. And they know it, and push themselves to be better anyway. We'll use the picture. It's a good one, relatable and good. They aren't picture perfect, Clarissa, maybe. They aren't styled perfectly, or looking their best, but they're here, and they're in it for us all the way. They're what we need."

The end!

Thanks for all the awesome reviews, and I'm sorry it took so long to get this out.

I appreciate everyone sticking with this story. I wanted a more team feel, but I just feel like Tony has a really mysterious past, and that he's a really interesting character, so I kept writing for him, and not so much for other people, but oh well.

Anyway, read and review!
Thanks for everyone reading.