Paint the Sky Grey

Summary: Tony is having a bad week and attempts to drown his sorrows with alcohol. Steve is there to try and talk him down.

"Listen, Pop, I don't know how you did things back in your time... but this, right here, this is the future."

"Really, Stark? 'Cause to me, this looks like you killing yourself through alcohol."

WARNING: Character death...

A/N: This will be my first time dabbling in the Marvel universe - specifically, the Avengers - so please don't hate me too much if I get it completely wrong. *nervous* Implied Tony/Steve but can also be read as a friendship fic.

Disclaimer: The characters don't belong to me, I'm just playing around with them.

It was raining, large droplets of the wet stuff pounding against the windows of Stark Tower. It could have been Tuesday, or maybe it was Wednesday? Tony had lost track of the days – the time too. But that was easier to judge by how much light made its way through the grey storm clouds that had settled over the city. Like right now, it was probably close to midnight. Yeah, midnight sounded right.

Tony huffed out and raised his glass to his lips, the fumes from the liquor already burning at his mouth, itching to scorch its way down his throat and maybe, just maybe, that would dull the pain in his chest. He took a mouthful and allowed it to linger a moment before swallowing, turning his face up at the taste – or lack of it. He needed something stronger.

"JARVIS!" he called, swinging away from the window and turning back towards his workshop. His vision blurred and he brought up a hand to rub his eyes with his thumb and forefingers.

"Yes, Sir," JARVIS answered, patient and obedient as ever.

"Is there," Tony started as he stumbled forward a few steps before righting himself, "anything, in this place of mine, strong enough to knock out a very, very large elephant."

He held his hands apart in front of him and, deciding that wasn't big enough, widened them further; the amber liquid in his glass splashing over and onto the floor from the erratic movement.

"Given the amount of alcohol you have already consumed, Sir, I do not think it would be advisable to ingest anymore. I believe your body is already fast approaching its limit."

Tony looked up, considering the words for a moment before pursing his lips. "Is that a yes or a no?"

"It's a no, Stark," another voice answered, stronger and more impatient, not to mention a little fed up.

"Cap!" Tony beamed, turning to face the newcomer. A grin settled on his face and his arms opened wide in greeting. He looked the man up and down, all muscle and perfect hair, all tightened jaw and disapproving eyes. "Whatever have I done to deserve such an honour?"

He took several steps forward and Steve mimicked the movement until he was barely more than a breath away. It was when Tony went in for an over-enthusiastic and most definitely drunk embrace that Steve side-stepped him and stole his glass from his slackened grip. The good old captain, stealing another man's drink – a drunk man's drink no less! He had already moved to lean against Tony's desk and had set the glass down on it before Tony truly realised what had happened.

"You've had enough, Tony," Steve instructed.

"There is no such thing as enough," Tony argued. He pushed forward also and leaned over the desk in order to grab one of the bottles he had started keeping there. Steve got there first.

"What are you doing?" Steve questioned, looking Tony up and down whilst placing the bottle out of reach.

It was a simple question with such deeper implications that Tony didn't really feel like addressing at that moment in time. He just wanted to get drunk and stay drunk. He wanted to pass out and forget the world. He wanted the pain to stop.

"This?" Tony questioned, cockiness slipping into his tone as he pointed to the glass and bottle. "We call this 'drinking', and sometimes we call it 'having a good time'."

"Getting yourself blind drunk? That's what amounts to a good time nowadays?"

"Listen, Pop, I don't know how you did things back in your time... but this, right here, this is the future."

"Really, Stark? 'Cause to me, this looks like you killing yourself through alcohol."

Tony stalled at that, his jaw clenching. He rolled the empty retorts around his mouth before settling on snatching the half empty glass from the desk before Steve could. Raising it up to his lips, he opened his mouth to take a swig but paused and pointed to Steve, a sneer slipping onto his features. "What I do is my business. If I want to get drunk, I will damn well get drunk. If I want to swim naked in the middle of the New York Harbour, then by damn – no one will stop me doing that either."

"Just give me the drink, Tony." It was part plea, part order. Either way, Tony didn't like it at all.

"Damn it, Cap!" His throat burned as the words ripped from it and in one motion, he sent the glass flying into a pillar where it shattered with a loud clash. He was already turning back to face Steve before all the pieces had a chance to fall to the floor and settle. "You don't get to tell me what to do. You don't get to do that."

"Then just answer me this – why are you so determined to punish yourself? Because this self-pity thing, it doesn't suit you one bit. It's not the Tony Stark I know."

Tony shook his head, eyes roaming the room, looking anywhere but at Steve. His tongue snaked out to dampen his lips, readying to reply but still attempting to find the right words – stalling for time. His hands formed fists at his side, his heart clenching tightly within his chest and feeling very much like it was being pierced by those deadly bits of shrapnel despite the arc reactor's help.

"I should have been there," he managed to force out eventually, eyes falling to the floor and staying there.

A moment's pause, and then Steve answered. "There was nothing you could have done. It wasn't your fault, Tony."

But Tony knew the truth. If he had been faster, if he had gotten there sooner, if he hadn't gotten cocky and had just done his damn job instead of taunting and playing with the enemy... he would have been there on time. He would have been there like he should have been.

He swallowed thickly and turned back toward the bottle. "I need another drink."

"What you need is to stop. Look at yourself. You're a mess."

"And you're dead!" He swung to glare at Steve, meeting those soft blue eyes of his. His throat worked for a moment and a cold shiver ran across his body. "You're dead... and I wasn't there to stop it."

There was a slight tremble in his legs before they began to give out, forcing him to slide down the side of the desk until he was slumped at the bottom. Steve was there straight away, and for a moment, Tony was sure he felt the man's cooling hand on his flushed cheeks, blue eyes full of worry instead of anger. But the sensation was gone and only the image remained.

His chest tightened and he could feel the first few tears forming, but he forced them back. "You're dead," he repeated once more, the hologram of Steve flickering for a moment, a glitch to prove he wasn't real. "And it was my fault."

He raised his hand, fingers reaching out to brush at the strands of blonde hair that had fallen out of place. His fingertips tingled from the touch of the hologram, a light buzz spreading out before the image faded completely, leaving the room even darker than before. Head falling forward, he closed his eyes and drew in a deep and ragged breath. Alone again, surrounded only by his technology and the sharp stench of alcohol.

A light chink of glass on wood echoed in the silence left in the wake of the confession. Tony didn't look; he didn't even raise his head as a glass was pushed awkwardly into his hand. He knew the all too familiar sounds of Dummy. He knew the all too familiar feeling of despair. He knew if he had just been faster... if he had just been more...

Eyes closed tight, he could still see that moment. He could still see Steve, could still see the white tracings of scars that remained imprinted on Steve's skin from their last battle, and he could still see the blood and bruises that this one had brought. When the wound was too deep, it didn't matter how fast you healed. When the heart had already stopped, it didn't matter how much you screamed and begged. When you couldn't forget, it didn't matter how much you drank.

He opened his mouth to speak, to apologise to thin air, but the words fell short. He wasn't a hero. He never claimed to be anything of the sort. He was just a man in a suit...

"Steve," he breathed, and for the first time, he allowed the tears to fall.

Author's end notes: I'M SORRY! Whilst working on this story, I did think to maybe keep Steve alive but when I tried writing that version, it just didn't have the same impact. I can't believe, my first avengers fic and I go and kill one of my favourite characters!