This popped into my head in the middle of the night...

This will only be a few chapters, so don't expect a long drawn out story :) Though, I did say that TWL would be three chapters and I've already hit nine... But this will definitely only be short. I think.

In the beginning, Tony hadn't thought he would have been able to deal with being in a team like the Avengers. And not the world saving part either; he could do that no problem. What he was concerned about was actually interacting with these people on a daily basis; he wasn't kidding when he said he didn't play well with others. They didn't make it easy for him either – within a week after the Battle for New York they had all (with the exception of Point Break) moved into the remains of his tower and proceeded to live there despite his protests.

Tony's main concern had been the one and only Captain America. They hadn't gotten off to a great start and once they had learned more about each other it became clear that their personalities did not go together: Steve couldn't bear Tony's apparent inability to take anything seriously, and the billionaire was unable to comprehend how the soldier didn't seem to want to enjoy himself. Combine that with Tony's hatred and Steve's adoration of one Howard Stark and their relationship was going to be strained at best.

But after a while, things seemed to be getting better. Tony figured that he had actually earned some respect from the super soldier with his self sacrificing move during the battle – or if not respect, at least he'd given him cause to re-evaluate his view of the billionaire. And Tony in turn had realised that maybe he should cut Steve a little more slack – the guy had been frozen for seventy years, woken up to find his entire life was dead and gone and unlike so many others, he hadn't let the loss take him down or make him bitter. He was still the same hero he was before his accident, and there was a part of the billionaire that had to respect a man with that much courage.

It had only been two months since the battle but the billionaire thought that things might be looking up. Clint had a wicked sense of humour, Natasha was far less intimidating when she wasn't snapping angrily at him in Latin and Bruce provided the source of the best conversations Tony had had for quite some time. And then there was the soldier, who like it or not was warming to the billionaire.

At least that's what Tony had thought.

Tony wouldn't remember why he was trying to find Steve. He would know that he had been kicked out of his lab by an irate Bruce who had demanded he went to go eat something – apparently not eating for two day was unhealthy or something – and so the billionaire had wandered off to find the soldier. He wasn't hard to find; for all his many qualities, Steve was hardly unpredictable.

He was exactly where Tony thought he would be, only, he wasn't alone. He wasn't sure who else was there but he could hear voices from down the hall; it didn't deter the billionaire who went to march into the room as usual until he heard Steve's voice say his name. Tony never had really been able to control his curiosity and so he paused for a moment to listen – a small part of his mind told him that eavesdropping was wrong, but he politely told that voice to shut up so he could hear. And what he heard made his blood run cold.

"You actually think he deserves to be on this team? The guy's a walking disaster!"

"He saved us during the battle." Tony didn't take the time to identify who that was. "At great personal risk."

"That missile would have killed him too if he hadn't stopped it. He was selfless enough to limit the destruction to solely himself, instead of himself and a city. Not the most heroic thing I've heard."

"He figured out where Loki would be."

"I'm not saying he's not a genius. I'm saying that he will end up making a move that will put one of the team in danger and we shouldn't let it happen!"

"So, what? You want him off the team? Fury won't buy that and you know it. For all his faults, he's useful in a fight."

"Then let him go back to his solo gig. I just want him the hell away from the team; at least on his own he can't hurt anyone."

Tony could hear movement within the room and automatically spun on his heel and began to walk away, making sure that the people in the room didn't hear him. He couldn't breathe. His chest felt locked in ice and even the constant warmth from the arc reactor couldn't seem to thaw him out.

What had just happened? He had genuinely believed that he was making headway with the others, even making friends with them. Steve and him still had his differences, sure, but he had thought that they had at least developed an – albeit grudging – respect for each other.

'Who are you kidding Tony?' He thought to himself viciously. 'Why would the great Steve Rogers like you? You're nothing like your dear old dad – you're just a reminder of a world that Cap misses.'

Tony made it halfway down to his lab before he remembered that Bruce would be down there. How ironic. He had let the team into his home and they had permeated every aspect of his life; now he didn't even have anywhere to hide. Whenever the billionaire was angry or needed space he would lock himself in his lab, his sanctuary and now even that had been taken from him, the bastards. He was trying to tell himself that this wasn't the doctor's fault – he hadn't been talking about him behind his back – but he was too annoyed to care.

"I'm going out JARVIS," he announced out loud, striding towards the lift.

"Very good Sir. Would you like me to ready one of your vehicles?"

"No, I'm walking. Don't tell the others where I am if they ask." This time there was a moment's hesitation but though the AI could talk back and act sassy, he wasn't programmed to outright disobey Tony.

"Of course Sir." When Tony reached the ground floor he suddenly realised that he didn't want to come back to this tower, full of backstabbing, fake-faced friends.

"I want to go home," he murmured to himself, stopping and closing his eyes with a sigh. "JARVIS, where are my jets?"

"One is undergoing repairs Sir and is currently unable to fly. The other has just taken Ms Potts to the board meeting in Singapore. Would you like me to recall it for you?" A very big part of the billionaire wanted to say yes but he wasn't going to leave his girlfriend stranded half way around the world.

"No. Book me a flight to Malibu, small airline, as soon as you can. Buy out the plane."

"Very good Sir. And should the others ask where you are?"

"Don't say a word until I'm back in California. After that, tell them what the hell you want. Text me details of the flight," he called before he strode out the door. Tony wasn't paying attention to where he was going; he just wanted to get away. Despite the act he put on for the media, in truth he was a bit of an introvert; every now and then he just needed to be alone and in the tower there was no chance of that happening.

The billionaire had the distinct impression that he was being followed and it made his skin crawl; damn Fury and his agents. He wasn't a child; he could manage a stroll down the street without causing an international disaster. His phone beeped in his pocket and he yanked it out to see flight details flash at him for later that evening – it was good timing. He could wander about for a while and then call Happy to come and pick him up to take him to the airport. In the reflection of his phone he saw the figure in the background that was the S.H.I.E.L.D agent assigned to trail him: far away enough to not look suspicious, dressed in jeans and an unimpressionable hoodie. Well, a suit and dark glasses would look a little conspicuous he supposed.

When he thought about it, he realised that he hadn't changed out of the clothes he had been wearing in the lab: a battered ACDC top and worn jeans, both with smudges of grime and motor oil on them. His face was no doubt similarly marked. Not exactly the look associated with a billionaire super hero.

'Well fuck the lot of them,' he thought to himself. 'I don't have to prove anything.'

He felt the anger building inside him again and forced that line of thought to shut down immediately, taking deep breaths of the fresh air (well, as fresh as it ever got in the centre of New York) and enjoying the solitude; he was avoiding the more populated streets in favour of the quieter ones. He wished that it was silent – up in his soundproofed lab the noises of the city were shut out entirely – but he supposed that he couldn't have everything.

Where was Pepper when he needed her? What he wouldn't give to just be able to hold her right then, tell her about what had been said and just forget the world for a while. She would understand; she always did.

'But she isn't here. Stop wishing that she was,' he reprimanded himself harshly. It was just as he thought that when he passed the shadowed alley. He paid no mind to it; there were plenty of alleys in New York and up until now he'd never had any cause to notice them.

He yelped as a weight smashed into his side, knocking him to the sidewalk heavily. His right arm was trapped under him and it scraped against the rough surface, the skin tearing to release warm blood into the cracks while his head smacked against the concrete with a sharp snap and his vision twisted dizzyingly. The weight that had caused him to fall was on the ground beside him and acting on the training that Happy had provided, Tony smashed his free elbow up and into the shape, eliciting a grunt of pain. The arms that were pinning him down went slack and the billionaire used the increased freedom to lever himself up on his injured arm and roll away, biting his lip to stop the cry of pain that tried to claw its way free.

'Where the hell is that S.H.I.E.L.D agent? Did he get bored and wander off?' Tony cursed under his breath, blinking rapidly to try and clear his distorted vision; the world was a swirling mass of grey permeated with brightly coloured spots that danced around wildly. It took him a moment but eventually he could see enough to watch the man that had been following him running towards them, only to stop about ten metres away. 'What are you doing you asshat?' Tony mentally screamed at him. 'Can't you see I need help?'

His distraction had been enough time for his attacker to regain his breath and launch at the billionaire a second time. With strong hands he grabbed Tony's chin, forcing his head backwards and cracking it against the concrete for a second time while simultaneously throwing a fist into his ribs.

The last thing Tony was aware of was shouting and unknown hands lifting him from the ground.

"JARVIS, where's Tony?" Bruce didn't look up from his experiment as he shot the question at the AI.

"I have been instructed to keep Mr Stark's whereabouts a secret Dr Banner. My apologies." The funny thing was, he sounded genuinely sorry. This time Bruce did look up; that was unlike the billionaire.

"When's he coming back? He only left when I started threatening him; I figured he'd be back as soon as he could."

"I cannot comment Doctor," the AI responded.

"Can you tell me anything about his whereabouts?"

"I am afraid not Doctor." Bruce huffed, annoyed at the billionaire. He reached for his phone typing in a message rapidly and hitting send; Tony should know better than to just wander off – then again the billionaire hardly conformed to what was good for him.

By late evening when Tony still hadn't turned up the doctor was just plain worried; this kind of thing wasn't the billionaire's style. He liked to make an impression, to be noticed. So how was it that a tower full of superheroes, trained to notice even the most subtle of details had no idea where he was?

The call from Director Fury came through just as the clock passed eleven.

"Is there a situation Sir?" Steve asked, calm and collected.

"Something like that. I'm sending a quinjet to pick you up." What really alerted Banner to the problem was the way that Fury sounded worried. Directors of massive spy organisations weren't allowed to get worried, about anything; Bruce was fairly sure that if the apocalypse was nigh Fury wouldn't even blink.

"Sir... Does this have something to do with Tony?" Bruce inquired gently, the worry that had been clawing at his insides all evening rearing up and thrashing. There was a long, pregnant pause.

"...You'd all better come in."