I can honestly say that while I've read a few comics and own a few, I will be using the movies as a guide. Although there will be a few things from the comics that will pop in every now and then, like the fact that Tony has multiple doctorates.
This story has some pre-Stony which turns in to Stony and a more obvious one sided Science Bros, but I'm keeping them on strictly bro terms. There are many references to suicide attempts/thoughts as well as a few possible mental disorders.
The Avengers belong to Marvel, I just like to write stories about them. Also this for the amazing people on Tumblr, I hope you have many feels :)
As of 3/11/13 this story has been revamped and combined with Not So Vanilla
Self-Loathing and Coffee
Is is hard to imagine a life where the only thing you have to look forward to is death?
"Aren't you going to eat something?" had been Steve's first words to Tony after 'Good Morning!' for the past two weeks since all of them had settled into Stark (read Avenger) Tower after their fight with Loki. Also for the past two weeks, Tony's answer had been the same as well.
"No time, a little SLC is all I need, Capsicle." Of course the 'Capsicle' was always switched out with other, dare Steve call them nicknames? Most of the team had come accustomed to Tony's actions, figuring that it was simply Tony being Tony. Surely, eccentric was also covered in Tony being a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, either way the Steve couldn't help but feel concerned about the older (younger?) man. There was something unsettling about how Tony would ramble on, a strange look on his face and a barely hidden haunted look in his eyes. Of course when paired with Tony's actions two weeks ago, it made Steve wonder if Tony knew that his chances of coming back alive were a near zero, and that it had to be a miracle that that he had survived. A wave of fear washed through him at the thought that Tony did know and really didn't want to survive it. He needed to talk to Bruce now, the doctor could be considered one of Tony's closest friends and if there was something wrong he'd be the first to know. Which was why he was standing at the door to Bruce's lab, thankful that Tony had been called to Stark Industries to go over more green energy plans or he'd have to set back his discussion for another day.
"Dr. Banner?" Steve called out the door opening on its own (well it was actually JARVIS just following Bruce's order to let the other man in.)
"Mr. Rogers, as many times as you tell me to call you Steve, I've told you to call me Bruce." The scientist never turned from the table he was working at, hand scribbling down what looked like gibberish to Steve.
"Sorry, hard habit to break."
"Understandable, so what's on your mind? You don't often come to the labs, at least not willingly." The tone of the doctor's voice had Steve wondering if Tony had been influencing Bruce during their time spent together or if he was just a milder counterpart to Tony's brand of snark.
"I actually came to ask you about Tony." The scribbling stopped instantly, Bruce taking his glasses off and standing to face the super soldier. There was clear message of 'I don't exactly trust where you're going'.
"Why not ask him yourself?"
"We don't exactly see eye to eye."
"Not exactly a secret, Steve."
"I know, but I was wondering if you knew why Tony seems to have so many secrets." Bruce raised his eyebrows at the statement, sure, he and Tony had had a few heart to hearts. Tony had even claimed that Bruce was his new best friend, out ranking Rhodey on the best friend scale and even though Tony was drunk when he said it the sentiment was still there. A sentiment that Bruce had taken to heart, which was certainly proved by the other guy's protective streak when it came to Tony out in the field.
"It's not exactly a secret, but I really can't tell you all the same."
"Then what can you tell me?" Steve sighed mentally; he should have known that it wouldn't have been so easy.
"It's not about secrets, it's about empathy."
"Empathy?" the word sounded strange to Steve as it fell from his lips. It sounded even stranger when paired with Tony.
"Why do you think Clint and Natasha get along so well? Or why Tony and I understand each other? It's more than just dashing good looks, Steve."
"So if I want to get to know Tony, I have to learn how to understand him?" Steve winced at unsure his voice sounded. He had barely begun to figure out the 21st century and now Bruce was telling him to figure out Tony Stark.
"It's a bit more complicated than that, Tony needs more than understanding, but he doesn't need the sympathy or pity that normally comes with it." Bruce's eyes seemed to flare green for a moment as he fixed a glare at Steve, "but I'm more curious as to why you're so suddenly interested in Tony." A slight smirk graced Bruce's lips seeing how Steve flinched under his gaze followed by a blush that went straight to the tips of his ears as he stumbled over how to answer the doctor's question.
"I'm worried, Bruce, I mean he…he's just so infuriating. He acts like he has no regard for anyone other than himself, but then spends most of his time trying to make sure everyone is safe during a mission or has the highest quality equipment." Steve swallowed thickly, trying to gather his thoughts before he broke out into a full ramble. "I can't figure him out at all. He has so many masks, I just can't understand the why, or if he even still knows who he is."
"Sounds like guilt, left over from the Loki incident, I mean what did you say to him? That there were men worth ten of him?" Hurt flashed across Steve's face; if Bruce had blinked a second sooner he would have missed it.
"I didn't know him then Bruce."
"And you still don't now, if you want to make things right you're going to have to look closer. Since the only thing you do know about him, is that he has just as many masks as he has armors." A soft smile graced Bruce's features; he couldn't play the protective best friend when Steve had such a kicked puppy look. "I'll give some advice to get you started. Never under any circumstance bring up Howard Stark."
The advice seemed rather useless to Steve, he had learned long ago that Tony Stark was fire, uncontrollable, burning fast, not even the man's steel blue eyes could stop the flames. Everything about him screamed of the slow burning energy, the smooth olive skin and oil black hair. A sharp smile that revealed perfectly white teeth that covered an even sharper tongue Stable in appearance, but with the right conditions or lack of supervision and the man would burn himself out. Yes, it was quite fighting that Tony Stark was fire.
Or at least he was in his core, when he was at his worst, when he had been pushed to his limits. Steve Rogers could handle fire, he simply had to become ice. A simple task for a soldier, to shut down emotion long enough to get through. What he couldn't handle was spice, it left a pleasant burn that always made you want more. A burn that even when gone somehow managed to leave a phantom pain. Spice always varied in strength, causing him to always be on his toes. Unsure if it would be a bittersweet ghost of cinnamon or a sharp crack of clove.
Tony was spice on his best days and any other. A burning core of fire enveloped in spice and if that was Tony then Steve was a tame vanilla with an icy core. It simply made sense as to why they never seemed to get along, they were fire and ice at their worst. What didn't make sense was how Steve found himself craving spice, craving for Tony's lips on his. He wasn't sure when it had started, maybe it had been a few days ago in the kitchen when he came across Tony and Bruce looking over scientific journals and comparing notes. It wasn't an unusual sight in any way, no what caught Steve's attention was the sharp scent of cloves in the air.
"Tony are you drinking tea?" he had asked in surprise, he had never seen the man drink anything but coffee and scotch. In fact there was a betting pool at S.H.E.I.L.D. over if Tony was actually a robot or cyborg.
"Chai, a near perfect mix of cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. Bruce and I got tired of all the green tea that everyone insists is healthy."
"Because it is healthy," Bruce chuckled in response a warn smile as he looked up catching Tony's eye. "Although, I will agree that Chai is more to my tastes."
"Which reminds me, there's this cupcake place a few blocks away, Pepper swears that they have Chai Latte cupcakes that are to die for. What do you say Brucie? Want to make it a date?"
Steve hadn't stayed long enough to hear the doctor's reply, he had been caught up in the swell of jealousy he had felt grip his heart. A swell of jealousy that hadn't made any sense to him, he didn't feel that way about Tony so why should he care if the two scientist's went out on a date?
Then why was he catching himself staring at Tony's lips when the man talked? Wondering he he would be able to taste on the other man's tongue. Feel the the bittersweet burn it had left behind, feel it as it over took his senses. Perhaps Tony's olive skin would taste the same, he imagined running his tongue down the engineer's neck. Over the slightly raised scar tissue surrounding the arc reactor, taking time to circle the near seamless edge where skin and metal came together.
A half moan escaped Steve's lips bringing him back to reality. Which lucky for him was in the privacy of his bedroom with a hand down the front of his sweatpants, he hastily removed his hand now frustrated in more ways than one. At least he could solve one way with a long cold shower, a trip to the gym, and another cold shower.
"Hey Cap, movie night, you in?" Tony's smooth voice startled him as he paused from his training to get a drink. Suddenly the smaller man was right next to him, close enough for Steve to catch an oddly alluring combination of coconut, cinnamon, and something else he couldn't quite place.
"Sounds great, just let me grab a shower first." Steve found it hard to breathe as he finally turned around to see Tony, his eyes drinking in the engineer's appearance. He had just come out of the workshop, from welding actually as Steve finally placed the last scent he had been looking for. Tony's hair was disheveled a pair of welding goggles pulled to the top of his head forgotten. A light sheen of sweat coating his skin, causing the already tight black tank top to cling to every curve of his body. Steve hadn't noticed until that moment just how muscular Tony's arms were, nowhere near Thor or himself of course, but each gesture set off a ripple of muscle, reflecting the years of hard work he had added to the Stark legacy.
"See you in the rec room then, it's old school horror night." That was it a quick smile and Tony was making his way to the door. Steve swallowed thickly at the sight, Tony had a certain swagger in his step that only someone with such broad shoulders and narrow waist could pull off, not to mention the hint of hips which swayed in the most tempting way. Another cold shower before movie night certainly seemed like the right idea.
Of course things were never easy and movie night had been canceled, Clint and Natasha had been called in for a mission and Bruce was called in to look over something the Fantastic Four had encountered on one of their expeditions.
It had been a week since Steve had spoken to Bruce and he seemed to be no better off than he had before. Tony's mood had also shifted, he had been even more jumpy and anti-social than usual, his moods in a state of whiplash. Which seemed to grow worse as the Avengers where picked apart for separate missions, it had only been him and Tony for the past day. He ripped out another page of his sketch book, unhappy with how the shading had looked, it seemed like he just couldn't focus a creeping feeling that something bad was about to happen or had happened right under his nose.
"Captain Rogers your presence is requested in sir's workshop immediately." JARVIS's crisp accented voice cut through the air in way that sounded panicked.
In a matter of seconds in which he couldn't remember leaving the rec room and entering the workshop his heart dropped at the sight before him.
"Tony?!" his voice hit a high pitch in his panic to find the engineer, catching sight of a leg and scuffed sneakers just behind one the tables. "JARVIS what happened?"
"An over consumption of alcohol, my sensors indicate that there is no risk of alcohol poisoning, but I fear that was sir's goal."
"All right Tony, hang on, let's get you cleaned up and in bed." Steve gingerly stepped over empty bottles and broken glass, rolling Tony on to his back so he could carry him princess style to the man's floor.
"JARVIS, can you get someone to clean this up?"
"DUM-E and BUTTERFINGERS are already working on it Captain Rogers." Steve was only half listening, more focused on the man in his arms, Tony seemed so small to him now. Dark circles under his eyes, hair wild, and skin pale and streaked with black oil. It was disturbing to see Tony in that way, and just picking him up he could tell that Tony had lost a fair amount of weight.
"S-Steve?" full, dark eyelashes fluttered, opening just enough for Steve to catch a glimpse of warm chocolate-colored eyes.
"Don't worry Tony, we're going to get you cleaned up and back together in no time."
"Should've left me alone." The words were spoken so softly that if it wasn't for the serum, Steve would have missed it, but before he could even reply, Tony's eyes closed just as quickly as they had opened.
"Oh, Tony why would you do something like this to yourself?" Steve asked mostly to himself as he propped Tony up on the headboard so he could get a washcloth to at least wash some of the oil and grease from the engineer's skin. He couldn't help but feel guilty over this as he pulled off Tony's black tank-top the light from the reactor filling the room, trying to ignore the scent of alcohol that clung to it. His eyes widened at the sight of Tony's torso, he had never seen the arc reactor so close before nor had thought there would be so much scarring he knew there would have to be some, but it seemed like there was more than what should have been there. For a moment, he was completely transfixed by the smooth metal of the arc reactor and how the light bathed everything in various shades of blue. He quickly shook it off, disturbed by how white the scars looked under the light.
"I wish you'd stop hiding everything and let someone help you for once." Steve whispered taking hold of Tony's hand to begin scrubbing his arm. There were scars all over his hands as well, that peppered out up his arms, but most of these were faded, a closer match to Tony's skin tone. It was weird knowing that Tony was a billionaire, but still had such calloused and scarred hands that showed years of hard work. It was as if Tony had never had help from anyone growing up and had learned to do everything himself, but even if that was true it didn't explain why Tony spread himself so thin trying to take care of everyone else.
"Now that I know you've made armor before, I wish I knew why." He paused suddenly losing his trail of thought on how Tony had built up armor to keep people out, noticing a few scars that seemed out of place. They were old, but they weren't random, in fact they were perfect straight lines that ran right over the inside of Tony's wrist. He frowned trying to ignore the thought in the back of his mind and leaned over to check Tony's other wrist, where he found identical scars. His heart fell in that moment Bruce's words echoing in his mind.
Why do you think Clint and Natasha get along so well? Or why Tony and I understand each other? It's more than just dashing good looks, Steve.
"Oh, Tony…what could ever have made you get so low?" the guilt was overwhelming him now, those scars the only proof he needed to know that his fears were true. He finished cleaning the oil and grease as quickly as possible, finding a new tank top for Tony with the help of JARVIS. (He didn't bother with Tony's jeans, not wanting to know what type of underwear Tony wore especially not after the laundry incident when a red thong ended up with his clothes, a red thong that certainly didn't not belong to Natasha.) Steve sighed once more, trying to push his guilt back long enough to pull Tony's shoes off and flip him over so that the engineer wouldn't asphyxiate on his own vomit when the alcohol decided to express its more unpleasant side effects.
"Dr. Banner will be returning from SHIELD in two hours. Sir's workshop has also been cleaned and I will be monitoring Sir, would you like to know when he wakes Captain?"
"Yes, thank you JARVIS. Could you also block Tony's access to any alcohol he has in the Tower?"
"I've already done so, Captain. Might I suggest you try to relax before the Dr. Banner's return?" Steve didn't respond. How was he supposed to relax knowing that Tony was conscious of his own self-destruction? That Tony didn't care about himself in any way? Steve felt sick, all of the petty arguments he had with Tony, he had been telling Tony exactly what he didn't want to hear all because he believed that it was true. All the times Steve had trying to knock Tony down a peg he had actually been burying the man instead.
Steve continued to pace the hallway lost in thought, looking over at Tony's door every so often. Unsure of what to do, part of him wanted to be right my Tony's side and another part of him told him to keep his distance. That if he began to hover and try to help Tony the man would react badly and the reckless behavior would simply increase. But the overwhelming amount of guilt won out, he had allowed Tony to drink himself into a stupor and would see it that Tony wouldn't feel the need to do it again in the future.