A huge thank you to my beta, dysprositos, for reassuring me that this is not terrible. And also for making the cover pic. Thanks!
Tony Stark knows he's fucking awesome. The physical manifestation of his awesomeness is the Iron Man suit.
It can do almost anything, and the things it can't do, well, Tony's working on that. Give him a year or five and all the problems will be gone.
Iron Man hides Tony. Gives him a mask to shelter behind. He would say Iron Man protects his identity, but he blew that out of the water two years ago when he announced his identity to the whole fucking world.
But what Iron Man does is covers up Tony's inherent need to be good, just every once in a while. He's not totally self-destructive. Everybody's got a little hero complex. It just takes a big man to admit it. Like Steve Rogers. But that's another story.
Tony could go on for days about Captain America. But this is about him (he's narcissistic like that) so he won't.
Iron Man shields Tony from the public. He can't count the number of times he's retreated home to lick his wounds in private, exhausted after maintaining the facade of imperviousness in public. Because Iron Man can take anything, damn it, and get right back up.
But Tony can't. He's had more scratches and bruises than he can count (pretty sure the number's up past infinity by now). He's broken twelve ribs, three of those twice, and one three times. He's fractured his skull. Broken fingers, his left arm, his right tibia and foot. Severe contusions on his face. His windpipe's been almost crushed four times. Burned his back once. Almost drowned (as if he didn't have enough reasons to hate water by now). The arc reactor's been compromised twice in the field, and Tony's learned to keep a spare on him at all times. His longest coma was two weeks, three days, eight hours, forty-seven minutes, thirteen seconds, and two milliseconds. JARVIS counted.
In short, Iron Man hides Tony. But he can't protect him. Not from everything.
But being Tony Stark has its privileges, though. The time some genius made a motherfucking huge magnet to draw him in, he was able to buy off all the media, and no other villain had gotten wind of that brilliant idea.
He spent a week in the lab without surfacing after that, making the suit non-magnetic. Pepper almost went crazy until JARVIS set up a video feed, so that she could check on him.
One of the few good things about being Iron Man is that Tony doesn't drink as much.
A little girl died the time he attempted to respond to a distress call while drunk.
Throwing money at her family did little to make him feel better. He still has nightmares about that little body, broken and crumpled and inhuman. Nobody knows this, but he visits her grave in secret once a month, leaving a simple but colorful daisy arrangement.
Iron Man is a symbol, a legend, but Tony's just a man. On his worst days, he locks himself in the sensory deprivation chamber until he can't think anymore. He's battled depression all his life, un-medicated, and how SHIELD doesn't know about that is a mystery to him.
He's a narcissist, sure, but that's because he's the only person who has always been there for himself. Everybody else, even Pepper, has let him down. He doesn't blame them, her, he really doesn't. But subconsciously, there's an awareness.
He shuts himself off to protect himself. Nobody's ever cared before, so when he has these people living in his Tower, making him food and hanging out with him and asking him, "Tony, are you okay?" it's such a fucking strange feeling. The funny part is, he knows they mean every word of it.
They're all fucked up sons-of-bitches. Well, daughter-of-a-bitch, in Natasha's case.
They get each other's pain. They make an effort to be jovial, most days, but there are just some times where one or more needs to grieve, be down. The team supports that member, offering them consolation, but giving them the space they need.
One of the only days they all crash together is the anniversary of Phil Coulson's death. The whole team is inactive that day. Fury knows better than to send them anywhere that day. That was one of the few times Tony has seen Steve lose his temper. The really fucking sad part is that Fury just stood there and took it.
Tony thinks Steve angry is scarier than Bruce angry. That's really saying something, considering Bruce's anger issues.
The whole team celebrated the first time Bruce and Tony had an argument where Bruce yelled and carried on without going green. They knew what an accomplishment that was.
But really, the Hulk's not that bad. Kind of nice, actually. He works well with Tony and takes direction from Steve. He's intelligent too, just laconic. When he talks, it matters.
All said and done, Tony's in a good place now. He's got an aegis and a team. But he's still human, and humans make mistakes.
Because I'm insecure and all, I'd appreciate knowing what you think. And so would Tony.