Warnings for language.
Steve had been avoiding him. Everyone acted like they hadn't noticed but the truth was that the Avengers were trained to notice the little things, and when one of their members wouldn't so much as look at another, it was pretty obvious something was up. No one could quite work out what. Bruce thought he might have a vague idea and he had asked Tony about it once before he hit a brick wall: When Tony Stark didn't want to talk about something, it wasn't talked about.
So when the man in question was wandering through his tower at two in the morning one thing he hadn't been expecting to see was the captain standing on the balcony looking up at the stars. Normally Tony would wander over and enquire what he was thinking about. More recently he would have just left without even announcing his presence. But tonight, there was something about the way Steve was standing, the way he held himself that drew Tony forwards.
The captain looked around when he heard the door open, only to be graced with the sight of a semi-drunk billionaire who hadn't slept for two days.
"You look like shit," he commented softly, not daring to raise his voice in fear of breaking the gentle peace that surrounded them.
"Err, thanks," Tony murmured back, walking over to stand beside him, gazing out at the city below them. For several moments they just stood there in silence, before Steve felt the tension becoming unbearable.
"I don't want to talk Tony."
"I didn't say a word."
"A first for you."
"How is it that I don't say anything and you still insult me?" There was careful annoyance in that tone: genuine but carefully concealed to appear false. Steve hesitated, then sagged in on himself.
"I'm sorry. That was unfair. But the point stands: I don't want to talk to you." At that Tony had to turn to face him, staring him down.
"Frankly? I don't give a flying fuck. We need to sort this out. I'm sick of the others tiptoeing around us like they're walking on glass." That came out a little more venomously than he meant it to, and he carefully drew himself back from the anger that welled in his chest. He really didn't want another argument.
"Then just bury yourself in your lab. That's what you've been doing isn't it? When was the last time you slept?" Tony didn't want to answer that; it wouldn't help his cause any.
"Pepper wouldn't thank you for that remark. And what happened to 'you need to be part of the team Tony?' If I'm trying, then you have to too." He set his feet realising that this might take a while.
"You think I'm not? This isn't easy for me either." Steve looked offended, maybe even a little bit hurt. Tony mentally kicked himself. He hadn't come out here to attack the soldier.
"I know you are. But we need to work through whatever this," he gestured to each of them, "is. Things can't stay the way they are. We need to work together and all that crap that Fury keeps spouting."
"Maybe I just don't want to work with you."
"Maybe you don't really have much of a choice." Tony spat back, a little offended himself.
"Tony, just leave me alone. I'm not your friend, I don't want to be and if you don't leave soon then this won't end well." Steve had turned away to look at the sky again, jaw tight and shoulders rigid.
"What did I ever do to make you hate me so much?" He had only whispered it, hadn't meant for Steve to hear. He let too much hurt leak into his voice, and suddenly cursed the bottle of scotch he had been working his way through. Alcohol never did help in moments like this. But whether it was meant to be private or not, Steve's ears still worked far too well for any 90 year olds and his head swung round to look at him. Saying nothing else Tony turned to leave, just wanting to escape the situation, but a heavy hand fell onto his shoulder pinning him there.
"What did you just say?"
"Nothing Cap," he lied smoothly. "Have a nice night." He tried to leave again, but Steve held him fast turning him around to face him.
"Look... I've lost everything. All that I knew is gone. But there's something: one tiny little remnant. You." Tony's brows rose and he thought he might know where this is going. "I don't hate you Tony. I just... I can't- You look just like him." Instantly Tony felt his demeanour shift from hurt and confused to angry – all sparks and sharp edges. Steve felt the change, even if he still didn't quite understand it.
"I have pictures if you want them. But don't look to me for Howard." He spat the words, trying to leave yet again but the soldier still had hold of him and Tony was only a man when he was out of his suit. He couldn't hope to match the captain with strength.
"You never talk about him."
"There's nothing to say."
"He was a genius, a brilliant man. I could talk for hours about all that he did and I barely knew him."
"And yet you still knew him better than I did." Tony heard the bitterness bleeding into his voice and pulled on his mask, the face that made the world think he didn't care. "And look at that. Now I don't want to talk. How about that. If you'll just let me go, we can both go back to avoiding each other like usual." Steve made no effort to move.
"Why didn't you like him?"
"Never said I didn't."
"No. But that isn't the point. Let me go." He struggled fruitlessly, scowling at the unfairness of it.
"You were the one that wanted to talk." Steve snapped back. Tony could see how angry he was, even if he couldn't comprehend it; what the hell did the soldier care if he hadn't liked his father?
"We just didn't get on. The man's been dead for over twenty years, why the hell should it matter?"
"Because he was a good man. I'd always assumed that any decent person would be proud to be his son." That was cold and Tony couldn't help but flinch. It wasn't even the words that bothered him, it was the way he said it with that same disappointed frown that his father had perfected. Steve wasn't even really aware of what he was saying: all he knew right now was that he missed home, and the people in it, and for all his genius Tony could offer any solutions to get him back there.
"I think that we've already established Cap," he bit out, "that I'm not a decent person." Even through the well of self pity Steve could hear the way his voice had hardened and he could feel the tense lines of his shoulders. "And for the record, neither was he." He'd only said it because he knew that it would piss Steve off. He didn't believe it for a second but he just needed to lash out and hurt him because how dare this soldier tell him that if he didn't idolise the man who had practically abandoned him then he was a bad person?
But even knowing – intending – the reaction that the comment would get, the fist slamming into his jaw was still a surprise. He was flung backwards, landing awkwardly and all that ran through his brain was 'super strength indeed' for a moment until the pain hit and then his thoughts blanked out for a good few seconds as he rubbed at his jaw. It was a miracle that it wasn't broken.
For Steve's part he just stood there shaking with rage, taking a moment to truly comprehend that his hands were in fists and 'oh god you just hit an unarmed man.' As soon as the understanding hit he was on his knees next to his team member, apologies falling from his mouth incomprehensibly.
Blood was leaking from a split lip and you could already see the beginnings of a bruise forming along his jaw line.
"Shit, Tony? Tony!" Steve felt horrible, but the billionaire was just staring into space, ignoring the soldier entirely. He shook his shoulder but let go immediately when the younger man flinched from under his hand, eyes snapping to look at him warily.
"Well now that's out of the way..." He murmured after a second. Steve frowned.
"What do you mean?" Comprehension dawned. "You wanted me to hit you?"
"Not exactly. I wanted you to get whatever was on your chest off it. I'd hoped that you wouldn't need to rearrange my face, but there it is." He shrugged as if he wasn't in any way bothered but he was still on the ground reminding Steve of a wounded animal – lashing out as best he could, coiled in anticipation.
"What do you want me to say?"
"I don't really want you to say anything."
"Are you going to tell me about your father?" Tony glared at him for a moment then huffed.
"My father wasn't much of a father. That's all there really is to it."
"Your father would have loved you. You're exactly the kind of son I can imagine him wanting," Steve offered with a small smile. He wasn't just trying to apologise for punching him, he genuinely believed it, so when Tony flinched again he didn't understand it.
"Howard never wanted me as a son. In his head, I think he already had one. You." Tony smiled grimly, wincing as it pulled his split lip. "It's why I hated you when we met. Well, it's why I wanted to hate you. And then you had to go and be such a decent person. Everything my father told me and more."
"Howard talked about me?"
"All the time." Tony pulled himself to his feet suddenly, sober enough to realise that he was about to delve into a treasure trove of childhood issues and he really didn't want to have to talk about them with Steve. "I remind you of Howard, that's understandable. I know you miss it Cap, all of it. It's why you're out here looking at the stars because they're the one thing that haven't changed a bit and you want to hold onto that. Trust me, I understand. I even get that you blame me for it all – though I don't really know how you're rationalising that one. People think I don't notice, but I do. You're lonely Cap and you have to get your head straight if you're going to cope with this."
For a moment Steve just blinked at him, trying to remember when Tony had gotten so smart. Oh, right, genius. But still. It was unnerving to realise that he'd observed so much and Steve hadn't even noticed.
"I need some ice; remind me to be thankful that you're on our team the next time we have to beat up some aliens. Good night Cap."
And without another word, Tony wandered back inside, nursing his face, whilst Steve just stood there staring after him, shocked into stillness. It wasn't for several more hours that Tony, who had been lingering nearby, heard the soldier come back in quietly and head to bed.
"I never could hate you Steve," he murmured to himself quietly. He knew that he wouldn't be heard, but he hoped that the captain at least knew that.
Everyone was out of character, I know. I just wanted to build a situation involving Steve punching Tony, so this happened. I'm tired, Ok? OOC-ness is bound to happen.
The storyline here is also flawed at best. I've not seen Captain America yet (it's on my to-do-list) so there may be errors in here too.
I hope you at least got something out of this...