Okay! So, first go around, this fic fell short of paisley15's expectations, and I apologize for that. This is a fanfiction for the fanfiction The Cupboard Under the Stairs by Rikkamaru, and so you should probably go read that first.
No, seriously, shoo, go read it.8)
Anyway, I hope this is more to your liking, Paisley!
It must be a Sunday.
These kinds of things only happen to him on a Sunday.
There might be a little irony in that, the sort that would make Clint chuckle obnoxiously and Thor actually smirk-the real this is as unsettling as it seems, believe him-but it's honestly just too damn early to be dealing with anything that isn't 'find coffee, sustain self'.
He's been in the workshop for-three days? Whatever, he hasn't looked at a calender in a while, things are sort of hazy.
He walked into three spare bedrooms and a guest bathroom before he finally managed to make his way into the kitchen.
He paused just outside the kitchen doorway, hand suspended over a tablet as he finally picked up on the words being uttered. After a moment, Tony realized it was Steve talking.
"In the dark places, he was Tony Stark. Not Ironman. Not Howard Stark's son. Not a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Not The Merchant of Death. Not an Avenger. He became a man that was just a man, stuck in a dark place with only his thoughts and his opinions.
He was free."
"Jesus Christ," Clint muttered, ragged. Very carefully, Tony lowered his hands until both arms were lax at his sides.
"There's more," Steve went on, sounding sick, voice breaking just a little. "I... I can't. Tasha-?"
Natasha spoke now, each word carefully pronounced as if she were weighing each one's credibility. "If Captain America says something cutting about him and compares him to his father, Tony goes to that room. If Bruce doesn't want to be near him because he's been drinking too much, Tony goes to that room. If Fury tries to contact him, Tony goes to that room. When Pepper broke up with him, Tony went to that room."
"Who wrote this shit?" Clint burst out, and out of all the damn ninja assassins in his house, Barton was always the loudest, the one prone to fits of noisy disbelief over Thor having beat him in a game, outrage at Tony's comments-he was, well, he was open, and maybe not all of the time it was real, maybe he was the real one they should be worried about, but he was honest, at least, he spoke the truth about things at hand, and it was surprisingly Clint's opinion that made his stomach suddenly drop.
That was until he realized Bruce still hadn't spoken a word.
"Who the fuck-who wrote this? It can't be-they're not serious."
"Someone by the name of Rikkamaru." Natasha's voice was flat.
"Is this-why are you on a fanfiction website?" Clint demanded, suddenly suspicious. "That means it's not real, right? Weird, fucking weird, but not real."
"Aye, I agree with the Hawk," Thor said, much more solemn and withdrawn than his usual boisterous booming. "This is fiction from a fan, surely it is nothing we must concern ourselves with, not folly such as this..."
Bruce's voice spoke up, calm and unhurried and quiet, and at the sound, Tony felt some of his anxiety slide away. And then it registered what he was saying. "Not necessarily. Don't you see the... Well, the similarities? What does Tony do when you two get into a fight?"
There was the sound of shuffling. "He leaves. I thought he goes down into his workshop." Steve admitted. "I..."
"What did he do when Pepper broke up with him?"
"...He disappeared." Steve said quietly.
There was a pause, distinct and contemplative where not even Clint spoke up.
Tony took three numb steps forward, entering the doorway and catching the attention of all its participants.
The team was all there, Thor, Clint, Steve and Bruce all huddled over Natasha who was propping up a Starkpad. All eyes were trained on it.
As soon as he entered the doorway, five pairs of eyes were looking up, as one, to train on him.
"Have-have you guys been practicing that?" He asked after a moment, in which no one said anything. "Because fuck you guys either way, that was creepy as hell."
There was one way to manage this, the only way he could actually survive this intact, and as much as it grated on him, as much as he revolted against the very idea, he had to play dumb.
He managed to make it to the coffee maker without gnashing his teeth, and kept his movements smooth and unhurried as he took the pot from the machine and got down a cup. He finished pouring, then turned to them all, steaming mug raised to his lips and eyebrows arched as he watched everyone who, in turn, watched him.
"Okay," he said, after he'd taken a huge drink that left fire all the way down. His voice rasped. "Okay, this is a little weird. Did Dummy draw on my face again? Am I missing eyebrows?" He made his eyes widen. "Is my beard gone?"
"No," and it was Steve who spoke first, careful and definitely, yes, definitely avoiding Tony's eyes, posture hunched and so, so guilty. "That's, um, not it."
"Okay..." He drawled, kicking the corner of his lips up in a lopsided smirk. "Then what is it? You all are looking at that tablet like you found that lawsuit I-" He made a disconcerted noise, cutting himself off as if he realized oh, no, yeah, they probably shouldn't know about that. From the corner of his eye, he can see Bruce tense, shifting his weight from foot to foot as he, Tony knows, debates whether to intervene or not.
Striding over, Tony plucked the tablet out of Natasha's hands, silently grateful and a little freaked out that she let him do so, to scan the page in a quick once over.
Tony paused, going back to the beginning of the page to reread it again, and set his mug down on the counter with a click that was deafening in the heavy silence. His face felt frozen, and he was intimately aware of the eyes strained on him.
It was different, it was so different hearing them talk about it, read from it, but it's all there in front of him now-black and white and muted blue-and his lips are moving before he realizes exactly what he's doing.
"Because that room accepted him; accepted him in ways no one had. The walls seemed to hug him as he tested metals and created sturdier alloys; the silence encouraged him as he whispered his thoughts to it; the lights swung away politely if he couldn't stop a sob from escaping him; the echoes agreed whole-heartedly with him as he shouted his anger at the people around him to it." He reads, voice dry as dust and, he remembers at the last second, to inject a bit of disbelief into it. "You all are buying this, really?"
The want to disappear, to have something extend from the earth-or have the earth itself-swallow him whole was not a new feeling for Tony. In fact, it was one he's intimately familiar with; it never happens, of course, he has to claw his own path to freedom, but it is-it's like an old friend, one you've known for years and who appear to have your best interests at heart, be there when you need them, but who're just as deadly as any blade and twice as sharp.
He was free.
Tony took a deep breath.
"The hell is this?" He asked mildly, noting with a sick satisfaction how Steve and Bruce jerked as if shocked. "No, seriously, where the hell did you dig this up from?"
"It's-" But Steve stopped himself, hands clenching and unclenching in front of him, head bowed. Bruce didn't say anything at all, and something in Tony's chest clenched, hard.
"A website," Natasha spoke up for the first time, and Tony turned to her, eyebrows raised incredulously.
"A website." He repeated.
"Someone wrote it." She went on, and Tony could see, and it didn't matter if she was only allowing him to or not, he could see how ridiculous the situation was to her, but how-he could actually see the puzzle pieces falling into place-how some of it actually made sense.
And this, this would not do. People couldn't know. He was Tony Stark, playboy, philanthropist, Howard's son, Ironman, they couldn't know about this, about him, couldn't have this intimate knowledge about him. They couldn't.
"You all-" He snorted, and he was forced to set the tablet down or risk dropping it as he doubled over and shook with the force of his laughter. If it was a little hysterical towards the end, no one said a word.
"Oh Christ," Clint muttered. "He's snapped. We're fucked."
After a few moments, he straightened, eyes filled with tears of mirth and mouth twitching uncontrollably.
"You all," he choked, then composed himself. "Jesus, I thought it was something serious. But you all-do you even realize how ridiculous you look right now? Seriously."
He leaned against the counter, reaching for his forgotten mug and smirking at them all. "I figured by now you all would have stopped believing everything you read about me on the Internet."
"We apologize, Man of Iron." Thor rumbled apologetically. "We were merely taken aback at the... Similarities we interpreted."
"It wasn't meant to-" Bruce began, peering at Tony in a way that made him ache a little inside, around the arc reactor casing, and he flicked his eyes to the scientist and then away. Bruce stopped, and didn't finish.
Over the rim of the cup, Tony's eyes danced. "There aren't that many," he said, and his voice had a hint of frost in it, a subtle but unmistakeable dismissal. "Maybe you all should go read a book, instead."
Steve coughed, cheeks tinged red as he gave a short, sharp nod-meeting his eyes now, Tony notes in amusement-and marched out, Thor and a doubtful Clint on his heels. After a hesitance, Bruce followed, purposefully brushing his arm against Tony's as he left.
Quietly, so low that he actually had to strain to hear, Bruce murmured, "I didn't mean anything by it." Tony lifted one shoulder slightly, let it drop, and that was that.
Natasha was he last, sparing him a brief, penetrating stare that he silently returned before she, too, was gone.
Raising the cup back to his mouth, Tony's eyes go cold, smirk falling until he was staring hard at the wall.
He had destroyed every blueprint of that room, every paper he had scribbled on about its making, deleted every hint of it, every suggestion. As far as the documents on the structure of the Tower was concerned, there was no room, no quiet space he could escape to, crawl into and just let go and just be himself-
He had built it himself.
This room was everything.
This room was nothing.
It was his, god damn it.
He was going to find out, find out who else knew about it. Who decided the world needed to know of his one only sanctuary. Rikkamaru.
And he couldn't be happier in his own morbid way.