Title: Wealth of Mind

Fandom: The Avengers (movie)

Summary: Tony reflects on himself, who he is, where he's coming from, Dr. Banner's brand of brilliance against his, and the Captain's skewed opinion of him.

Characters: Tony Stark, Dr. Bruce Banner, Steve Rogers, Pepper Potts, James Rhodes, JARVIS & Jarvis, Howard Stark, Obadiah Stane, Yinsen.

Pairing(s): none

WARNING: Reiterating bits of the Iron Man movie(s), maybe some of the comic back-story(s) mixed in, and the Avengers movie through the eyes of a Tony Stark with remarkably low self-esteem.

Disclaimer: None of the Avengers belong to me, and I was a big on comics as a kid but I'm basing this mostly off just the movies, because that way I've got more freedom with canon.

AN: None of this is Betaed by anyone but me so sorry for any mistakes.

Wealth of Mind

Tony Stark: genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. He knows what everyone thinks of him. Spoiled little narcissistic rich boy who became a 'superhero' for fun, he built a big toy that lets him fly and smash bad guys. Everyone knows he's a lone wolf, doesn't play well with others, pisses everyone off, speaks his freaking annoying mind, and a million other ways to say has poor interpersonal skills. If he were anyone else he'd laugh at the thought of Tony Stark suffering like a normal person, knowing what it's like to not have everything, too. Actually he does anyways, it's remarkable how much someone supposedly narcissistic can hate himself. In fact the only people he can ever remember loving him, no matter what, are Pepper and the original Jarvis, his family's butler when he was a child. Poor little rich boy who never had any real friends, right, don't feel sorry for him though, the way he turned out he doesn't deserve friends anyway.

Cap thinks he's nothing without the suit, well take it away, fine. He'll just build a bigger, better weapon and destroy you. Or he'll put a bounty on your head, or blackmail you into submission, or just hack various things to destroy your bank accounts, credit score, reputation, etcetera, with no more than a phone, or a couple minutes, a few wires, and some tools. He is Tony fucking Stark. He built the first miniaturized ARC Reactor with spare parts in a cave, then he built the first suit with scrap and salvage in that same cave. Sure he doesn't have super powers or military training but that just means he's even stronger, he survived worse than the Captain ever did as a civilian.

On the note of that cave and the Captain's disapproval of him he wants to scream at the man sometimes. Yeah he built armor that'll protect him from the world, but fuck you Cap. So Steve got injected with a super soldier serum and started saving lives left and right. Has he ever been held hostage, tortured, helpless at the hands of his captors, weak, and still managed to think of a way to save himself? No. So what if he got pushed around and bullied before he went all super steroid man, that's life. You think Tony didn't get picked on for being the rich little nerd who must think he's better than everyone else just because he was 14 and going to college with 18 year olds, as if. He's no stranger to bullies, physical, mental, and emotional; he'd seen it even before Afghanistan. After all Howard started it.

The first thing he built, of any real importance, was a circuit board at age four. Circuit board, as in computer. Then he built a couple car engines, then a robot. He built his first AI by the time he was 17. And then he built another one, and another, and another, does anyone else see where this is going? If he had been anyone else's kid, or allowed to make his own choices, he would've gone the route of Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates, he never really cared about weapons. But when you're a child genius and your father is the distant Howard Stark, ruler of a weapons empire, well, Howard homeschooled him. His eighth grade science final? A new missile design for Stark Industries. How do you tell people that your father, a great man in front of a camera, raised you to be a weapons designer before you even hit double digits?

"If you don't want me to get rid of Jarvis you'll have to do better than that."

"You're a Stark, act like one and invent something useful."

"Give me two modifications for this by the end of the week and maybe you can go on that trip with your mother."

Yeah, Howard was a terrible parent, and once he was finally free of the tyrant he was still only seventeen and Obadiah was his guardian. Throughout his childhood Obadiah had been more like a dad to him than Howard, occasionally sneaking him treats like a new phone or computer to take apart, when Howard wasn't there. Which may or may not have been worse. Obadiah introduced him to alcohol, handed him his first glass of scotch at Howard's wake. Treated him sort of like an adult, "you've got to keep pulling your weight in this company now that your father isn't here to do it," but also like a child, "you don't get an allowance if you don't keep earning it; if you want to buy more computer parts you build more weapons." Eventually he got used to it, people want him to build weapons, clearly it's the only thing his father and his second father figure ever thought he'd be good for.

They may have been right. What kind of 19 year old designs a new type of landmine so his guardian will agree to pay for his childhood friend and caretaker's funeral? One who is way too smart for his own good. If he hadn't been quite the genius he is then maybe Howard would have kept ignoring his existence and he could have been normal, made friends with people his age when he was a child, gone to actual school instead of being home schooled before going to college four years before most people do, gotten a job in computers, and not spent his whole life being a pawn that knew it was being manipulated.

But it's not like there's really a market for computerized houses. Or AI butlers and robotic assistants. Still he would have loved designing things like phones and computers, he did still make the StarkPad tablets, the holographic screens in his workshop, and later on things like a better earpiece phone for Pepper. He might have been happy designing new cars or even being a mechanic and getting to work on engines all day. Howard raised him to be a warmonger and Obadiah kept him on that track. Even his best friend Rhodey encouraged it. Who was he to stand against everyone's expectations and say no when he'd been trained to say yes? He wants to yell at people who don't see him beneath the spoiled little rich brat that the reason he learned to be so selfish was because no one else cared about him, so he had to.

He knows the whole Afghanistan thing had to happen for a reason, like making Tony Stark who had time and money and resources into a better person who would use those resources for something other than himself, otherwise a great man died for no reason. It was karma for being a self-absorbed asshole, right? Yinsen was held captive by terrorists, who killed his family, for longer than Tony was and yet he didn't strike back when he had the chance. He saved Tony's life, gave him the spirit and the will to escape, and sacrificed his own life to let Tony live. Yet he never shot back at their captors, Tony built all the weapons capabilities into the suit and even with a gun in his hands Yinsen shot harmlessly into the air. It's given Tony a respect for doctors and their 'do no harm' vow that he never had before.

It also makes him hate himself even more; why was he the kind of man who will sink to the level of his captors and kill them while he escapes when he had the example of Yinsen right there. Tony Stark may not have been an outright murderer before but he definitely was when he came back from Afghanistan. Sometimes in his dreams he still remembers the screams of men being burned alive, and those aren't the parts of the dreams that make him wince. His head held underwater until he can't hold his breath any longer and has to breath in liquid, the car battery shocking him as water splashes on the exposed wires connecting to his chest, the horrible pain of his sternum being cut out, ribs and muscles removed, and an electromagnet implanted. These are the memories that make-up his nightmares. Smashing in a man's skull as he marches his way towards the exit, hearing and watching as he lights men on fire, those memories of the escape comfort him when he wakes up screaming from remembered torture. The fact that he found pleasure in the knowledge that he traded those men back, pain for pain, that he killed them, is unforgivable, he knows it. That's why he never shared the full story of his captivity and escape with anyone.

He flirts with death like she is the ultimate lover. Sure the shrinks at SHIELD might say it's a manifestation of Post Traumatic Stress but he knows better; he's wanted to die on and off since he was about eight and his father had him figure out his first machine gun schematic, then showed him the footage of his creation being used. Post Traumatic Stress was the nightmares and having to get rid of all his bathtubs. Were the insane speeds at which he'd always driven not a clue in? His parents died in a car crash. Alcohol poisoning and him were old acquaintances, if he recalls correctly, and he always does, he had his stomach pumped at least twice a year from the time he was seventeen until Afghanistan.

When he had Palladium poisoning JARVIS told him there were no known elements able to replace the Palladium core. Known elements, please, he knew the periodic table of elements by heart when he was five, of course he could've done some calculations and figured out how to create a new non-radioactive unknown element. He just wasn't planning on doing it, he could've passed it off and no one but him, and maybe JARVIS, would've even guessed that he'd thought of a way out almost as soon as he built the reactor.

Because yes, he'd known back in that cave that prolonged exposure to Palladium would kill him. But he'd also known that the world didn't need or want Tony Stark around, with Rhodey as Iron Man and Pepper in charge of Stark Industries everything would've been fine. If Rhodey hadn't been stupid enough to turn the suit over to Hammer SHIELD wouldn't have needed Tony to be Iron Man and the world would already be rid of the man it loved to hate. Now he's always going to be the one flying the missile on the one-way trip into space. He will be the one cutting that wire so that he'll be there to lie down on the next one because as far as he's concerned Tony Stark lost the right to let someone else make the sacrifice play when he watched Yinsen bleed out, for him, on the floor of that cave. His terrible privilege indeed.

Although he doesn't care to think too deeply about it, there's something significant about the fact that when he shut down the weapons division he was still feeding them ideas he first had almost ten years before. He doesn't like to think about the what if of a world where he'd actually given the company all his ideas when he had them, not just enough to keep them firmly ahead of everyone else. As much as he tells everyone he loves being smarter than them he hates his mind most of the time, usually just as much as he hates the person he is. Sometimes it's painful to be so far ahead of everyone else. It's like a computer, his brain, constantly pumping out new ideas that get more and more advanced by the moment. He wasn't kidding when he said he became an expert on Dr. Banner's work and gamma radiation in general overnight. One of the reasons he never sleeps, or stays in bed after the sex with any of his one night stands is because he can't sleep, his brain really only turns off when he drowns it with enough alcohol to knock himself out or stays up long enough for his body to crash.

He's not brilliant in the way Dr. Banner is, but god does he wish he was. The kind of genius that can keep up with him, in Banner's area of expertise and probably a few more areas given some time to read up on them, but also the kind of genius that needs to sometimes write things down, that doesn't have calculations about everything running through his head all the time. Dr. Banner is a normal genius. While it's great to finally find someone he can hold a conversation with that doesn't involve dumbing himself down he still finds himself leaving the man behind in how widespread his knowledge is. He is an expert in science, all science comes as easy as breathing to him, and he hasn't yet found anyone else with that same versatile ability, curse.

Other scientists, normal scientists whose brains let them do things like take breaks and sleep, find a few connected subjects to specialize in and focus on those. Somehow no one ever understands that he's not trying to act conceited when he tells them that he can't settle with just a few areas of science. He's already far beyond everyone in the fields of computer programming, engineering, and energy; he needs to keep finding new subjects to occupy his thoughts. Otherwise he'll find himself building a working time machine or tearing an inter-dimensional rip in the space-time continuum or cloning himself or any number of the other insane, advanced, bad ideas that run through his head.

When he meets the Avengers he's already calculated the possibilities of a successful team being formed with these individuals, which combinations will be most successful, which are doomed to fail, and what sort of push they will need to actually bond enough to work together within moments of shaking everyone's hand. Him and Captain America are doomed to never, ever, get along, with Howard standing as the biggest unseen barrier between them. And he already predicts that they need a full-scale attack where everyone's talents are needed and showcased or a significant emotional blow to bring them together enough to become a functional team. He actually really hates when he's right.

Then there he is, waving to death as she skips past him, again, and wondering whether this group of misfit heroes will last much longer now that the battle's over. He doesn't have to ask if they need him, no one really needs Tony Stark, they just need someone whose life doesn't matter to fly the Iron Man suit into battle.

Maybe he does have everything. Anything that has a price tag he can buy. A man who has everything and nothing. The problem is nothing that really matters has a price tag, and those are the things he doesn't have. Tony Stark might have everything, but when it counts he is worth nothing.

AN: Everyone loves Tony Stark angst, especially when it's Robert Downey Jr. playing him. Also Captain America was a huge jerk when they met, seriously, if he'd read any real reports of the Stane incident he'd already know that Tony made the sacrifice play up on that roof when he told Pepper to fry the huge reactor with him right above it, knowing it would probably kill him too.

Read and Review because I've got my stories already, but if someone likes one or asks for more then I will post more for them.