This plot-bunny has been torturing me. 'Nuff said.
Tony Stark was standing on the platform beside the recently destroyed containment unit when Steve found him. To be honest, the soldier hadn't expected the billionaire to care overly much about the death of one SHIELD agent, but apparently the two had been closer than Steve had thought. It wasn't necessarily shocking. It was just…Unexpected.
The usually snarky billionaire was silent. He stood, staring blankly at the decimated room and Steve could tell from his brief time with Howard that the man's son was processing something, eyes staring fixedly into the wreckage of the ship.
For a moment the super soldier contemplated leaving him there to sort through his thoughts but something about that seemed…wrong. He couldn't bring himself to go. Instead Steve ventured a question.
"Did he have any family?"
Stark, obviously having somehow registered the other man's presence, wasn't surprised or startled by the inquiry. Distractedly, he seemed to recall something before replying, "No."
Then the torrent of words ensued, the rambling the babbling gushed out of Tony's mouth and Steve was shocked to find that he was significantly relieved by the genius' endless yammering. As long as Tony Stark was talking things would be alright.
"He….Idiot!...Should have waited-" Suddenly, Steve's senses were on high alert. Something wasn't right. The other man's matter-of-fact tone wasn't present, his words were tumbling out of his mouth uncertainly. Shaky and unstable.
Tony's rambling wasn't calculated or organized. It was erratic. Uncontrolled.
Then Steve noticed something vital. Tony's eyes weren't focused. They were glassy, staring at something that wasn't there.
Steve's eyes narrowed. Tony was somewhere else in his head right now. He'd seen these signs before. He'd seen that look in enough men's eyes to know that Tony wasn't just talking about Agent Coulson. It was unsettling to see Tony like this. For him to lose control like this...
Whatever he was reliving right now… It couldn't be good.
"He should have listened! It wasn't worth the sacrifice! The plan- he should have stuck to the damn plan and-"
Steve approached Tony quickly, but cautiously. He wanted to stop whatever was happening, but the last thing he wanted was to further upset an already distraught Tony Stark. Tony was leaning heavily on the railing in front of him with both hands and Steve didn't fail to notice that the man's entire body was trembling slightly. As Steve got nearer what he noticed made his blood run cold.
Tony was looking straight through him.
There was something very, very wrong. Slowly Steve reached for Tony's arm.
It as a bad move.
The instant Steve's fingertips brushed against Tony's skin the tirade stopped and Tony lashed out, nearly clipping Steve in the jaw and recoiled like a wounded animal. The usually intelligent brown eyes were dull. Clouded by confusion and panic. The clarity, the recognition was gone. Steve's heart plummeted.
Quickly, Steve spread his arms wide and raised them above his head in a surrendering position to demonstrate to Tony that he was no threat, but his hopes sank at the man's eyes, they held no familiarity. This Tony wasn't sarcastic. This Tony wasn't annoying. This Tony wasn't provocative. This Tony was terrifying Steve.
"Stark," he began haltingly, but stopped uncertainly before he began again,trying to sooth him, calm him down, "Tony. Its...It's okay." Still no response, no spark. Tony's chest was still heaving silently, muscles tense, eyes still panicked and empty. He was silent.
God, what Steve would have done to have the man break into a fit of laughter and tell how much of a gullible boy scout he was.
His one step forward was immediately answered with a hasty retreat by the other man. Obviously anticipating pain. Tony's eyes darted around in panic, breath quickening. Steve flinched, he- he hadn't meant to….
Tony's one hand was gripping the metal railing so tightly his knuckles were even white. His face looked as though all the blood had been flushed out of it.
He had to fix this. He couldn't stand to see Tony, the irritating loud mouth so... broken. Steve was pleading now.
"Tony…come back to me. Come on, snap out of it Tony." He coaxed gently, "Please. It's just me- Steve, remember?" Desperately he added. "It's alright. You're going to be fine, Tony, I promise. Let me help you..." Well, the billionaire was obviously far from being "fine", but Steve was on the verge of panic himself and he was losing hope quickly.
Fortunately, Tony's labored breathing was beginning to even out. After a moment of tense silence his death grip on the rail eased and his shoulders seemed to sag almost wearily, but Steve didn't dare give in to the almost crushing wave of relief just yet. The blonde's heart was still hammering and his mouth was still bone dry. Watching Tony warily, Steve waited.
Tony bowed his head, raising a shaky hand and pinched the bridge of his nose, rubbing his eyes as if he was trying to erase what he and nobody else had seen.
When he raised his eyes to meet Steve's the intelligence was there. The sparkle was there. Dull but it was there. Tony was there.
Steve practically deflated in relief. Something uncoiled in his chest so quickly a rush of air left his lungs and heat pricked the corners of his eyes. His face split into a small, relieved grin. His knees felt a little weak, but Steve couldn't suppress the almost overpowering relief that rushed through him.
"Stark. Thank God."
Said man seemed to regard Steve critically for a moment. Then he straightened, turned and began walking away as though nothing had ever happened leaving Steve gaping. His mind caught up with him he blundered after the wealthy man's retreating form.
"Wait! Wait- Stark!" Steve spluttered.
The supersoldier jogged to catch up with him, arm outstretched to grab Tony and spin him around so he could properly talk to him face-to-face, but suddenly the image of Tony's terrified, animalistic response to Steve's previous contact stopped his advance and he retracted his arm as if it had been caught in something, fingers curling apprehensively at the all too fresh memory.
"Stark- where are you go- TONY!" At the sound of his first name Tony's swift retreat stopped. Sighing heavily he turned to face Steve. The last person he wanted to see right now. Of course the heavily righteous super soldier would be bent on squeezing every juicy detail out of poor defenseless him. Tony didn't want to see the pity in the other man's face.
Instead of pity what Tony saw stopped his thoughts in their tracks.
Steve was... scared.
He was well and truly freaked and… was that worry he detected in those blue orbs? Tony blinked, stunned. Was Steve actually concerned about him? His brow furrowed as he observed the man before him, his scrutiny obviously making the good captain uncomfortable. Steve was avoiding Tony's eyes, instead opting to glance around the room nervously. Tony was slightly amused by his shiftiness, but his smirk vanished when Steve finally broke the heavy silence. Concern? No, not concerned. Captain Superior couldn't- wouldn't be concerned for him.
"What…" Blondie paused as if debating whether to continue, jaw working nervously.
Tony wished he would just drop the subject and walk away. Just. Walk. Away. Go! Play Frisbee with your shield or something. Beat the tar out of a punching bag, maybe? But the probabilities Tony had calculated didn't look to be in his favor and, as usual, he was right.
"You weren't talking about Coulson, were you?"
And there it was. The direct, fearfully worded question. Ding, ding! We have a winner!
Tony inwardly winced, but kept his expression expertly schooled as he'd been conditioned to do since he was old enough for the paparazzi to assault him. It didn't surprise him that Steve had been able to put two and two together, but he wished the man wasn't as perceptive sometimes.
"Of course I was talking about Phil." Tony said dismissively, he waved a hand as if the gesture proved Steve's claim to be ridiculous before turning for his second escape attempt of the evening. Steve spoke again, his tone harsh, demanding. Halting Tony's footsteps.
"But it wasn't just Coulson."
The way the super soldier said this left no room for denial, daring the billionaire to argue with him. However, the other man didn't respond at all.
Tony stood there, head hanging, fists clenched tightly by his sides. He wasn't sure why he did it. Or why this situation had even- how had he let this happen? He hadn't reacted like that in almost a year and for it to happen now…and in front of the great Captain America. The argument in the hellicarrier was looping over and over in Tony's mind, replaying everything the Captain had said. He wanted to smack himself, and he didn't want to talk about it...This. But somehow…somehow it felt like an insult to his memory and his sacrifice to simply remain silent. Being silent didn't make it so that it hadn't happened. It had. Tony woke up every day knowing it had. He released a shaky breath before the words came, slowly trickling from his mouth almost against Tony's will.
"His name was Yinsen. He… he sacrificed himself to save me. Saved me twice actually." A tortured bark of laughter left the billionaire's throat and he shook his head and continued hoarsely. " We were imprisoned together in Afghanistan. He was the kinda guy to lay down on the wire, Cap, not me. But for some reason the bastard died for me anyway." Tony stopped, shoulders tense. Steve could tell the man was struggling to maintain control of himself.
"He was a no genius, but he was pretty damn smart. Didn't have a dime to his name either and I doubt the man ever took advantage of anyone in his entire life, especially a woman… Yinsen wanted to change the world. He never got the chance…But he changed me. Yinsen was the kindest man I have ever met. He was worth way more than just ten of me."
Tony spat the last words like they were venomous. The Captain's heart lurched at their cruel familiarity.
Steve watched silently as Tony walked away, head raised. He looked as proud and confident as he always did, but Steve understood now. It was false. Tony never looked back. He didn't get to see the devastation on Steve's face as he stood watching Tony until the man slipped around a corner- vanished. Just like the demons no one was ever aware that he had.
First shot at this.
How' I do? ;P
I can't help but notice a reoccurring theme in most Avengers fics and as much as I love reading them and seeing the different variations of said themes, they get tiring after a while and when I was watching the movie all I could think of in this scene was, "HE'S TALKING ABOUT YINSEN!" o:
I haven't seen anyone write about it though and I thought it was so obvious... So I fixed that. ;P