Takes place a few months after the Avengers.
Tony stood on the edge of the landing pad, head down, hands in his pockets. From here everything looked so small. Small like he was.
"…a man in a big suit. Take that away and what are you?" Steve's question still rang in his head, even after all this time.
"I'm nothing," he whispered. And honestly, compared to the rest of his team he was. Steve was Captain fucking America. Super strength, healing factor, enhanced senses and reflexes. Thor was a fucking god, 'nuff said. Natasha and Clint were trained assassins with all that entitled. Bruce was indestructible thanks to his green friend and was a genius to boot.
'And I'm nothing but an egotistical, self-centered bastard with a fancy weapon,' Tony thought sadly. All he ever did his entire life was hurt people. He may not have pulled the trigger but he created guns and missiles and bombs that killed thousands of people, enemy and friend alike. Sometimes he still woke up in a cold sweat, the images of broken and battered and dead bodies still fresh on his mind.
That was his punishment. At first it was a sick sense of curiosity that caused him to look at the aftermath pictures. Pictures of the damage his weapons had created. But then he saw the bodies. So many women and children and men who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tony had thrown up what little substance was left in his stomach after seeing the first disfigured, burned body of a young boy no older than six. Then he drank himself into oblivion.
After that the nightmares started. And he figured, fuck it I deserve it, and kept looking at the pictures and didn't tell anyone about the dreams. He drank so much that JARVIS had actually locked Tony out of the bar room at one point because the A.I knew it wasn't healthy.
So he found other ways to deal with it. Tony remembered being fascinated the first time he cut himself. It was oddly hypnotic watching the blood ooze from his wrist. It became a tradition for him, in a sick way. And nobody knew, except JARVIS of course, but Tony had ways of keeping the A.I silent, nobody knew about the turmoil he felt. No one knew about how much he suffered.
Tony was surrounded by five incredible, extraordinary people. People who would lay down on the wire and let the other man cross. And yet…
He was alone.
Tony touched his face and stared at the wet substance on his hand. He had not realized he was crying.
"God it would be so easy to jump," he said out loud to himself.
"You're right," a voice said right next to his ear. "It would be."
Tony jumped at the unexpected guest and was saved from falling off the building by two pairs of hands. He looked to see Bruce and Clint on either side of him. Clint was trying his hardest not to cry and by the way his lip was quivering, it was a losing battle. Bruce was openly crying as he pulled Tony into his arms. He stiffened at the contact, not moving as Bruce whispered "Why, why, why?" in his ear over and over again. Over Bruce's shoulder Tony saw Steve, Natasha and Thor looking at him. Natasha was in the same state as Clint, trying and failing not to cry.
Tony decided he didn't like it when Natasha cried. It made her look bad.
Steve and Thor just stared at him, each wondering where the signs were. Thor was thinking about how much Tony reminded him of his brother. They were both snarky, hiding their pain behind walls of cruel words and self-inflicted solitary living. Thor had already lost one brother; he refused to lose another and silently vowed to do everything in the power of the Nine Realms to help the Man of Iron.
Steve thought back on everything he had ever said to his now dead friend's son.
"I know men with none of that worth at least ten of you.
"…a man in a big suit. Take that away and what are you?
"And you're all about style aren't you?
"Come on suit up. Let's go a few rounds.
"The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You're not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.
"You know, you may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero."
Somehow Steve had always missed the hurt, broken look in the genius's eyes after every comment. He missed that one of his teammates, one of his friends, had been so low and that he had done nothing but make it worse.
Natasha had dealt with death and suicide before. But it was never personal. Tony wasn't just her teammate, he was her drinking buddy, the only one besides Clint who could hold his own against her in a drinking contest, and he was her friend. The jokes, the jabs, and the way they made life hell for each other. She had seen him on the launch pad and had almost screamed in terror. She saw the signs in his body language. The sag of the shoulders, the way his feet sort of hung off the edge; he looked like he had given up.
"Tony, you're so stupid." Everyone could hear Bruce, loud and clear. It was tense and deathly quiet. Tony just shrugged. "Do you honestly think, that even if you had jumped, that me and the Other Guy would let you fall?"
Tony let out a small laugh that turned into a choked sob. He could barely stand he was crying so hard. Bruce lowered the two of them to the ground, cradling Tony gently against his chest. Clint sat down, tears flowing freely at this point, and joined Bruce in hugging Tony.
The three of them had become thick as thieves, or at least that's what Bruce and Clint had thought. If one hurt, the other two hurt. And Bruce and Clint were definitely hurting with their friend right now. Clint had been the one to notice the not so faded scars on Tony's wrist, the one to notice that some of them still looked fresh. Bruce had been the one to confirm their fears by hacking into JARVIS and finding the footage that Tony had desperately tried to hide.
The three friends sat there crying, holding each other, and needing to remind themselves that Tony was still here. He didn't jump. They held him until Tony cried himself asleep. Finally finding an opportunity to feel useful, Steve carried the sleeping man to his room and laid him on the bed. Steve placed a hand on the arc reactor; feeling reassured by the humming and light it let off.
The five superheroes sat around the living room in silence, none of them knowing how to handle the situation. Steve glanced at Bruce and Clint. "Why?"
Bruce looked the Captain straight in the eye.
"Because he thinks he deserves it," Bruce said.
"I will not lose another brother," Thor stated.
"And I refuse to lose one of the best men I've ever worked with," Steve proclaimed.
"I won't lose my drinking buddy," said Natasha, choking on her own tears.
"I refuse to let my best friend die," whispered Clint.
"The Hulk won't let Tony go, and neither will I," Bruce said, his hand resting on Clint's shoulder.
When Tony woke up the next morning, he was surprised to find himself next to two warm bodies. Bruce and Clint had climbed on to the bed and had curled up next to him. Bruce had his arm wrapped around Tony's waist while Clint was sprawled out over their legs.
Looking around the room, Tony found the other three Avengers sleeping in various positions against the walls and floor. They were here with him. They were worried about him. They didn't leave him.
As Tony cuddled closer to Bruce, with tears unashamedly running down his face, Tony thought,
I'm not alone.