Disclaimer: I do not own, simply borrowing the characters for my own nefarious purposes. Man-Man loving don't like, don't read.
Story: "They found Captain America, the Captain America… the legend himself." The Captain's thawing had brought up an entire wealth of emotional baggage Tony had thought he'd buried long ago.
Author's Note: So this was the first story I ever wrote for the Avengers, it's a lot of sap and fluff and Tony feels…like the majority of my stories. I think Tony takes a lot of heat in some stories. Anyways enjoy! Million thanks to raving beauty getting this beta'd for me!
You're No Hero
Prologue: So very close
"Woohooo!" a small boy of no more than seven hollered with abandon as he ran through the house. His costume was too small for his growing frame and faded from overuse, but still his favorite. A homemade blue hood with paper wings circled his head. As he bounded down the stairs, he waved a cardboard shield sporting the red, white, and blue – the colours of his favorite hero, Captain America.
Small, socked feet pranced as he parried imaginary foes up and down the polished wood. He would crush the evil Hun! Whatever they were. With youthful exuberance, he chased the enemy into his father's study. Slipping as he rounded the corner, he knocked the table his father was working at.
"Anthony!" the man shouted angrily. He glared down at the small, dark haired boy, his own image looking back up at him.
"Sorry, dad," the boy lowered his shield meekly, wincing at his father's anger.
"Get out of here. You know better than to come in my study," he growled and turned back to his work, ignoring the now cowering boy.
Shoulders slumping in defeat, little Tony Stark trudged down the hall to his own room.
"Tony!" his mom slurred and he froze. "Get to bed," she dismissed him callously as she headed to the living room for a refill.
He resumed the walk down to his own room at the end of the hall. Despite the size of the mansion, his room was small. Bunk bed, toys, clothing, and gadgets were all piled together in organized chaos.
At his age, he was hailed as a prodigy. He attended the best schools, had the most expensive tutors. He was destined to be the lasting legacy of Howard Stark. The boy was a genius; he manipulated technology like a sculptor did clay.
He would one day change the world, but for now all he wanted to be was a hero.
Gently he set his cardboard shield and cowl by his bed, climbing into matching sheets, sporting the same motif as his pajamas.
Dark eyes glanced at the poster on the wall; the large figure saluting him with a smile, all the while watching over him in his sleep with those kind blue eyes.
A hero, a champion.
Small hands reached under the bed and pulled out a flimsy metal shield, one of the few things of sentimental value his father had given him.
It was old, with paint peeling and what looked like bullet holes; stars and stripes painted on its tarnished surface. Despite its battered appearance, skinny arms held it close as Anthony Stark closed his sleepy brown eyes.
Tony woke with a start, rubbing tired eyes – soft chocolate brown eyes that had aged so much.
He was still seated at his workbench, his back protesting being slumped forward in an uncomfortable position for so long. He ran a callused, worn hand through thick, dark locks; a little longer than his normal style, it had begun to curl slightly.
The man frowned, wondering why he had dreamed of the past. "You know why, Stark," he mumbled, moving to tap at the screen. The unconscious form lay just as he had before Tony dozed off.
"They found Captain America, the Captain America… the legend himself." The Captain's thawing had brought up an entire wealth of emotional baggage Tony had thought he'd buried long ago.
"You were saying something, sir?" the ever-polite voice echoed in his tower lab in New York.
"No. Thank you, JARVIS," Tony answered as he left the monitor running and pulled up an old file. One he'd not looked at in years.
He remembered discovering these in his teens, buried in a file his father had. Since then he'd transferred dozens of the old films to digital in an effort to preserve them.
Tony hit play, eyes avidly watching the black and white footage scroll across the screen. The dashing blond pointed and motioned; Tony knew the Captain was talking, commanding the room, yet these were silent. A familiar pang thrummed in his heart as an old feeling returned.
Tony remembered it all too well.
He'd spent his life trying to impress his father and win his love, only to have his parents die so young, leaving him defenseless. Scared and alone, he'd built himself an image, a shell around his heart, not letting anyone in save a select few – Pepper, Happy, Rhodes… and once he'd thought he had an uncle.
He'd created a persona, almost an alter ego, a playboy billionaire without a care in this world. He'd had a new partner every night, women always on his arm, all for show.
Pepper was the only one who knew the truth, why his run in with terrorism and the subsequent birth of Iron Man had provided him with an escape. Pepper was his buffer, his out; he couldn't love her anymore if she was his real sister.
All he'd ever wanted in life was to be loved for Tony, to have someone love him… for him. The problem was that the only person he'd ever truly fallen for was a man that had died heroically saving the world, the famous Captain America.
Tony had spent a lifetime imagining the man from another time, holding him up as a measure for all others. It had been hero worship in his tender youth, though in his teen and adult years it had turned into something more.
He'd dreamed of what the man would have been like, of being there with him as he stormed a fortress… of holding him at night. The Captain had been so far out of his reach, spanning decades of time.
Now, though, he was so very close.
And any day he could wake. It was as exciting as it was terrifying.
Finished with the movies, he shut the file down and moved onto his latest little pet project, the redesign of an iconic suit. He grinned a little; maybe he could bring the Captain up to date. A hand reaching out, absently touching a faded shield briefly before fingers began to move almost independently across the keyboard.
Tony had never been so nervous in his life.
He had met him; the him.
And the best part was he'd been wearing the suit Tony had helped design. As they stood shoulder to shoulder in the courtyard in Germany, his heart had thudded noisily, his ever-present arc reactor betraying his emotions with its bright flickering light.
They had caught Loki together, worked together.
And he was even better in real life than the movies, every inch a solider. Impossibly blue eyes, firm jaw, and lips… those lips made Tony's mind a hot mess.
As they headed back to base, the usually chatty genius had wracked his brain for something to say – something that wouldn't come off badly or make him sound like an arrogant git. Before they could speak more, though, the god of thunder had stolen their prisoner. The ensuing battle royal had soon devolved into Tony rather stupidly, he thought later, going head to head with a demi-god.
If he was being honest with himself, he'd been trying to impress Captain America.
Later he winced as he pulled his armor off. "Dumb, Stark," he mumbled to himself in the cargo hold of the ostentatious flying carrier.
Now the others sat waiting in the meeting room for the first meeting of the Avengers. It was time to go big or go home. Dressed to impress, he donned his persona like he did his Iron Man suit. An arrogant smirk falling easily into place as he headed for the bridge.
Tony was trying not to hyperventilate; things had gotten a little heated in the lab. His first impression with Captain Gorgeous had not turned out the way he'd wanted.
The big man's words cut him deeper than he had thought possible.
You're no hero…
It made his chest ache, more than the reactor ever had, his blue light dimming noticeably.
There was no time to try and correct what he'd done. After the explosion things moved fast, his shoulder still tingling where the Captain had touched him helping him to his feet. Right now he had to push emotions aside; get this thing going before they plummeted out of the sky.
"Tell me what it looks like," he spoke calmly, despite the pounding fear in his chest. Things were bad. A lot of people were going to die if he couldn't get this sorted fast.
"It appears to run on some form of electricity…" came the frustrated reply.
Tony wanted to laugh; that telling statement was just plain cute. His lips quirked in a smile. "Well, you're not wrong," he mumbled, getting down to business.
How the hell did I get here?
The thought kept repeating in his mind, as he wrapped battered arms around the nuclear warhead.
Tony was drained, emotionally, physically, and mentally. He was going to end this, though.
"Tony, that's a one way ticket…" a soft voice said, a voice he had hoped to get to know better.
He said nothing in return, chocolate eyes fixed on what he had to do. Hell, even Pepper wasn't answering him. The thrusters burned and his aim was true as he rocketed through the tear in the sky.
Power failing his slack arms fell from around the warhead. He watched until it hit. Closing his eyes then, his mind began to fade.
You're not a hero…
Cap had been right.
The hero got the girl, lived to fight another day. One last coherent thought floated around inside his hazy mind as he fell; they'd damn well better close that hole, he thought as the blackness claimed his mind.
A sudden roar jolted him awake. The arc reactor in his chest sputtering to life with a dull blue glow.
There were faces above him – Thor, Hulk… and Steve; he chose to focus on that last one. Good god, the man was beautiful, the most wondrous sight his bruised ass had ever seen.
"Hope no one kissed me," he joked weakly, secretly hoping Captain America had tried to revive him with a little mouth-to-mouth. Pain in the ass he wasn't awake for it, though.
They grinned at him in relief.
"We win?" he asked.
The world was suddenly eerily quiet. Steve was all but glowing at him when he nodded.
"Oh, yeah?" Tony asked. "Let's get shawarma. I've never had it but there's this place-" He was babbling and he knew it, but lord, those blue eyes were playing hell with his addled brain.
"We are not finished yet," came the booming voice of Thor, and they all looked upward.
"Oh, right… And then shawarma."
They never quite managed to get there, though. By the time Loki had been rounded up and Fury had blasted them, something akin to pride in his single eye, it was late.
Tony offered the team lodgings in his newly destroyed tower; any room still intact was fair game.
Unfortunately for Tony, his personal room had seen better days; the bed was a charred mess and the far wall was gone. He sighed, limping a little as he headed for his still intact dresser collecting a blanket-wrapped bundle from one of drawers, before heading to his lab.
At least the lab hadn't sustained much damage. Groaning, he settled on the small couch, vowing to install a bed down here for emergencies; he'd slept here more than once in his life.
Settling in, Tony pulled the old shield from the blanket and leaned back against the couch. It had become a security blanket of sorts; he took the thing everywhere. Since the return of the real Captain, though, the shield represented more – a small part of the man he could have and hold.
After all, the real thing was too far out of his reach.