This was a challenge given to me by someone who PM'ed. If any of you would like a challenge done, it would be an honor.
Sorry if you don't like it!
Tony Stark had many flaws- he was one to admit it, of course he would never tell anyone.
He had a bit of an ego problem, self-confidence lacking that he hid with an abundance of jokes and insults, a playboy attitude created from lack of affection as a child.
One of his larger problems, and most guarded, was that he was a victim of PTSD.
How he hated Afghanistan.
The month after returning, he would bolt awake in bed, eyes wide and panting, trembling in such fashion that Pepper feared for his life. The flash of lightning and the following boom reminding him of something akin to bombs dropping. Pepper found after that, that when any storm was predicted, he would normally stay awake in the lab all night, blaring music loudly enough that the booming roar was only a faint tremble that he could easily ignore.
However, when one problem passed, another occurred.
He wouldn't sleep without the blanket below his chest, even the thickest of blankets he would refuse to lift any higher on the coldest nights, usually forcing him to curl in on himself as his teeth chattered noisily.
Pepper understood not long after, buying a thin enough sheet that the familiar glow of the Arc Reactor casted a muted blue glow on the walls, allowing him to sleep peacefully, a personal night light if one would say. The truth was, he was terrified of complete darkness, reminding him too much of the blackness of the cave, the bitter icy chill, the walls…squeezing….compressing him and smothering him…too close…too close-
Then he would awake, kicking the blankets down to his waist while the blue glow illuminated his room and the starry sky outside.
Of course, that wasn't the only thing that freaked him out.
People shouting in different languages around him caused him to flinch, even if it was an Indian couple at a few stores.
He didn't do hospitals…ever. Even being in a dentist office where the smell of disinfectant was strong caused his head to swirl and memories of screaming to erupt in his ears, leaving him in nauseating headaches and more than one occasion, clutching his Arc Reactor.
Over time though, most of those vanished to a dull discomfort, he could deal with lightning and thunder now, stand outside in the rain and watch it even. He could sleep with a blanket pulled to his chin, still enjoying the freedom of kicking the blanket around much to Pepper's displeasure, but she didn't argue.
He could deal with different languages, often being smacked at how 'the lady's accent is funny!' or imitating words that he found amusing to repeat. Hospitals he still hated, but now no flashbacks were brought to his eyes, and he was able to sit in an office, scowling like a child as Pepper sighed and skimmed through a few magazines that were set out for waiting patients.
However, a small fear never seemed to vanish, and it aroused at the worse opportunities.
Tony had tried so hard, at first, Pepper was dimly aware, but after a few sly words and hacking into the blueprints for the Stark Tower, he had changed it for his liking without Pepper knowing the wiser.
After all, only one panic attack was small compared to the many that happened after those three months.
It was something small, a mistake on his part actually. He should have expected an attack, but yet again, he was tired.
Tony enjoyed baths, large baths with various nozzles that spurted some sort of scented soap with a name he couldn't pronounce, or didn't care for. He liked the ones that had a better use as a Jacuzzi, and gave his muscles a moment to relax.
He moment he stepped into his wanted release, panic struck him, causing his eyes to widen in alarm and he slipped on the bottom of the stone tub, gasping for air and gagging underwater as lavender scented oils flooded his lungs.
Jarvis had alerted Pepper who promptly helped him out, offering a towel for his modesty and quickly soothing him just as she had when he had nightmares. He had calmed, and was more cautious then ever since that attack. Because, he knew in those few minutes, that attack was worse than any he had before.
So he hacked the server that held his blueprints, slyly substituting any baths into a giant shower, he deleted the plans for a rooftop pool and instead created a helicopter landing pad. Jacuzzi's were turned to saunas in the fitness room, and even fountains were given a forced depth of three inches or less.
All homes were forced to bear his new updates, demolishing his Olympic sized pool with a dropping edge In the Rocky Mountains; filling in his fifty people Jacuzzi, he had always been fond of in Florida.
But it seemed that he could never escape from it.
After his tower in New York had been changed to the Avenger Tower, he had settled into a new life that he was mostly nervous off. Waking up and thinking paranoid thoughts like- 'Has Natasha poisoned the bacon?' or 'the moment I step outside, one of Thor's misaimed light shows is going to hit me…I know it…' But after weeks of even thoughts and no fights, he fell into a rare comfort that he had only showed Pepper, Rhodey, and Happy on occasion.
Even a year passed, and he had given free reign of all of his homes to the rest of the team, letting them choose which house to visit on occasion.
To be honest, he should have seen it sooner.
So there he stood, looking out a wall-sized panel of glass that overlooked the ocean, and gulls chirping happily as the warm weather lifted them higher in the sky. The waves gently rolling on each other to create the perfect amount of foam, sand as far as the eye could see contrasting deeply against the deep blue of the water…
With combined puppy dog eyes of everyone asking- begging him, pleading, to go to the beach, he couldn't say no.
So there he was, sitting on towels Steve had brought under the safety of a horrible tacky red and white umbrella, balancing a tablet on his legs while his back leaned against the cooler that held countless drinks, from water to vodka (On Natasha's rare and somewhat odd request).
He looked up momentarily, peering behind deeply tinted shades to watch the others splash around in the water, Natasha in a tight red bikini that showed off enough to let her have an excuse to hit Clint and Tony. Steve was in swim trunks in a cliché red, white, and blue while Bruce wore a pair in a slightly strange colour of purple. How he pulled off the look, Tony had no idea.
Thor was over a few meters away, wrestling with large chunks of sidewalk pavement that he used to attempt to skip along the surface. Clint was currently next to Tony, lying back at ease without a shirt, showing bare abs, muscles, and a dark grey pair of swim trunks.
"Why aren't you swimming, Stark?" Clint asked, eyebrows lifting just above the frame of his glasses for Tony to assume the look on his face.
"Eh- don't look nearly as good when wet." He shrugged nonchalant, trying to swallow discretely to hide the sudden nausea that arrived from even thinking about the water.
"Yeah, noticed that when there seemed to be a lack of baths in the houses." Clint sighed with something that sounded slightly annoyed, and Tony found himself giving a snort.
"A bath? The Master Archer has a secret craving for pink bubbles and rubber duckies?" Tony snickered, Clint sighing and Tony assumed he had rolled his eyes.
"You'd be surprised, Stark. Helps a lot after a fight." He muttered back, relaxed on the sand.
Tony went back to looking at his design, he was trying to find a spot to stick an electromagnet pulse emitter on his suit, finding it annoying when other machines could use the same frequency as he and predict his next moves.
Just as he tweaked the overall shape, a shade fell across his screen, causing it to be virtually impossible to see.
Tony grunted it annoyance, looking up to Bruce who was smiling, dripping wet and shaking sand from his hair.
"Come on Tony- the water's the perfect temperature." Bruce pleaded, and Tony tried his best to ignore the puppy dog eyes the other man gave him.
"Sorry Brucey- Bru, there is no way I am getting in that water, I don't do swimming." Tony smirked at the slightly downcast look in Bruce's eyes, feeling an immense sense of guilt at once.
"Come on Stark- the water's not going to hurt you." Steve frowned, having overheard the debate from the ankle depth blue.
"Indeed Man of Iron! These waters are worthy of such praise!" Thor boomed from a distance away, smiling as a few fish came closer and started to investigate his rather large feet.
"No guys! I'm not going in!" Tony shouted back, crossing his arms in finality as he set down his tablet and looked away to complete his act of rebellion.
Unknown to him, Clint had met Natasha's eyes, and she had walked up, crossing her arms to give a so appealing view, her glare turning his anger to a small feeble thing as a wave of terror grabbed him.
"Stark. You're going in the water." She declared boldly, and Tony swallowed, his memories of the water being worse than she is, before he lifted his chin, swallowing and narrowing his eyes in a challenge.
He wasn't exactly sure how it happened- a blur of purple, red, and dark grey before he was somehow strung across the tacky umbrella, spluttering as he kicked and tried to yank away from the brightly patterned beach towels that attached his arms and legs together.
He blinked, dazed and somehow tired- he suspected that someone had stuck a foot in his mouth in the scramble- and feeling like a pig on a spit.
"What- How- Guys! Get me down!" Tony squawked, thrashing furiously and causing his shades to fly off and land somewhere on the sand below.
"Our apologize, Man of Iron, but one cannot let another resist the pleasures of such waters!" Thor boomed, looking over his shoulders as he carried the front of the umbrella.
"Wha? Really guys! Let me down! I don't like water!" Tony protested, feeling sickness already rising in his throat as he hurriedly thrashed again, pulling something in his wrist as the towels refused to slip off.
"Stop it Tony, you're going to hurt yourself." Steve playfully scowled from the other end of the pole- walking along calmly as if the weight of he and the umbrella was a mere stick.
"Besides, it'll only get you wet." Natasha smirked, somehow managing to sit on the umbrella without straddling it.
"No! I- let me down! Let me down right now!" Tony cried out, eyes widening with slight panic as he felt a slight dip in the ground, knowing that the water was only a few feet away.
"Guys." Bruce asked, feeling slightly…off, by how Tony was reacting, and the water swelled around Steve and Thor's ankles, slowly gaining ground towards the now practically terrified Tony.
"Relax, it's just water." Clint rolled his eyes, still on the beach, looking shortly up at Bruce, who scratched his head, detaching a clump of wet sand that stuck to his temple.
"I know…but he seems kinda'…scared?" Bruce frowned, and Clint sighed, lifting himself to watch.
"Well- Tasha is on top of the umbrella. I'd be scared if I was stuck like that too." Clint provided, and Bruce frowned as Tony thrashed yet again, nearly knocking Natasha off into the knee-deep water.
"That's not it; Tony doesn't care for Natasha…Oh crap." Bruce suddenly stated, causing Clint to look at him, suddenly interested.
"You think he's afraid of water?" Bruce asked randomly, causing Clint to lift his eyebrows in surprise.
"Hydrophobic? Seems a little wrong for Stark, doesn't it?" Clint frowned, getting to his feet and swiping the shades off his face as he squinted into the sunlight, seeing the group walk further into the surf.
"He doesn't have any pools or tubs in all his houses- I saw one in his original home, the one he and his parents lived in. Took me there when he needed some old files on Steve or something. So I don't think it was from a child or someth-" Bruce stopped talking as they saw Tony now completely stiff, pressed tightly to the umbrella with an incredible amount of abbs and thigh muscles. His jaw was tight and head pressed to the side of the umbrella, trying to remain as far as he could out of the water that now lapped gently at his back.
"That hydrophobic to you?" Clint asked, now seeing the problem, breaking off into a run just as Bruce kicked up sand, practically burying the cooler in the fine sand.
"Okay guys- hold it steady." Natasha ordered, twisting to easily untangle the advance knots she had created in the towels.
As soon as she released his legs, he pulled them up further, trying to hug the pole tighter as he was suddenly free. Natasha frowned, turning to his arms and untying the cloth, watching as he scrambled to hug the pole with more secure grip.
"Friend Tony?" Thor rumbled, the state of their friend concerning them now as they could see his obvious distress.
"Stark? Stark, can you hear us?" Steve frowned, hiking the pole onto his shoulder so he could prod at the still man, who flinched away, causing Steve to pull his arm back suddenly.
"Natasha!" Clint shouted sharply, causing her to strain her neck to the side, watching the two running men.
"Hydrophobic!" Clint barked out, immediately Natasha flipped off the umbrella, landing with a slight splash in the water next to Tony's face, snapping a few times before taking note of how fast his breathing was.
"Get him out of the water." Natasha ordered firmly, staring at Steve and Thor's confused faces before sighing in annoyance.
"He has a horrible fear of water- move!" Natasha snapped, and Steve hurriedly tried to take a step back to start moving towards the shore.
"Natasha! Wave!" Bruce shouted from the edge and Natasha spun, eyes wide as she spotted the wave, practically on top of them and easily over Thor's head with rolling foam.
Tony kept his eyes locked on the sky, trying to control his breathing and not think of the water below him.
He breathed, and just as he was about to inhale, he heard a horrible roar and a slapping force causing his hands to slip, even as he scrambled desperately for a hold.
'No!' his mind shrieked, eyes flaring open, seeing something dark and hearing shouts in garbled languages.
He coughed, gagging and eyes rolling back as salt water rushed into his mouth and lungs, down his throat as he kicked, clawing desperately at the sand and thrashing, causing the dirty to burn his eyes.
'No! Let me up! Let me up I need air!' His mind shrieked, and he gasped-
Icy water tore at his throat, electricity zapping his chest causing his chest to slam painfully into the edge with a large rattling noise that caused Tony's head to scream with pain from the lack of air. His eyes burned, and thoughts he couldn't understand raced through his mind- air air air…Need air…ai-r…where is air...
Then a burst of bubbles parted his lips with a tickling sensation, as he couldn't help the shaking of his lungs- he laughed. Laughed underwater as he couldn't breathe, vision turning black and face so numb he wasn't sure if his jaw was open or close.
'I'm dying…this isn't so hard!' He laughed, insanely thinking how horrible and yet funny it was.
'I'm drowning!' he giggled- thrashing against the people holding his head in the water, pain as one struck him in his already twitching chest, could a chest have a seizure while his head didn't? Maybe he was having a seizur-
'AIR! Air air air! Air- bubbles. Cold…I'm so cold….drowning…drowning dark- Pepper…where's Pepper?'
He heard noises and he was lifted, the air was cold, just as cold as the water. He was twitching- was he? Was his jaw open or closed?
'Hold him down! Make sure he stays in there!'
"Can you see his eyes?"
'Hold him down!'
He thrashed, catching one of them with his fist and felt satisfied with the crunching noise- he was dropped on the ground roughly- burning into his arms and legs.
'Get him! He's escaping!'
He crawled, gasping and using one arm to drag him inches at a time while the other fumbled, fingertips bloodied, in search from the handle for the battery which still periodically zapped him.
Another reached for him, he could see the scraggily beard and the dark malicious fingers reach for his throat.
He recoiled, slamming out and snapping his teeth sharply into the man's hand, not letting go until he tasted something that burned his mouth and crunched beneath his teeth.
"Thor! You all right! Guys get away! Get AWAY!"
They were charging in, trying to get him, guns going off everywhere. HIS guns, his fault. His fault for everyone being dead, fault for Yinsen dying- Yinsen, Yinsen, Yinsen….
"No! Get away! GET AWAY!"
"Tasha! Can't we tranquilize him or something?"
They were ripping him open, blood was everywhere- they wanted to split him apart.
It hurts. Hurts hurts hurts. Kill me…kill me now.
"Tony! Tony listen to me! You're fine!"
They were grabbing him- water…water everywhere-
"Anthony Stark! Listen to me right now!"
Tony flashed his eyes open, trying to gasp for air before coughing- so much water rushing out of his lungs.
Someone grabbed him, and he flailed out, landing a hard kick to someone, he felt them crumple and tried to drag himself away- vomiting up salty water before curling in on himself, was he trembling? What was wrong with his eyes?
Tony flipped open his eyes, what was wrong with them? And looked at a figure in purple trunks as they slowly walked towards him, hands up to show he wasn't armed.
"Wha-" Tony rasped, coughing and gagging more water before vomiting it up as coughing wasn't successful.
"It's Bruce- we're in Malibu. Do you remember where that is?" Bruce questioned with a low voice, slowly walking closer as Tony's hand swiped at his eyes- oh, he was crying, that's why he couldn't see.
Malibu- he was taking the Avengers there for a getaway.
Avengers- Bruce, Thor, Clint, Natasha, Steve-
Everything came back and he was trembling even worse- he had shown weakness in front of them, a sobbing spineless mess of messed up Tony.
"Hey, it's okay. You landed a few good shots- but its okay. You're okay." Bruce spoke softly, gently moving Tony over, who flinched slightly, but started to thrash as how a few pats on his back made an insane amount of water gush out of his mouth onto the wet slimy sand.
"Hey- you're okay. It's okay." Bruce murmured, trying to comfort Tony as he glanced around, looking at the others.
Thor's hand was bleeding, and two crescent marks betrayed that Tony had bit him. Clint was pressing one hand to his nose, blood dripping onto the ground but he seemed to be ignoring it. Natasha was on the ground, one hand on her hip, was it dislocated?
"You're with friends, we aren't going to judge you, okay? You're fine." Bruce shushed once again, before Tony turned, burying his head in his science friend's chest and giving way to sobs that caused his previous trembles to look like shivers.
"Let it all out- it's fine." Bruce repeated, smiling at his friend.
And suddenly, Tony knew that it was.
Please review! Thanks!