This is based on a prompt from paisley15, who asked that I do a story based on Mouse-size-Dragon's Wealth of Mind. The prompt was that the Avengers read the story with Tony present. I've used the story with full permission from Mouse-size-Dragon. I did do some editing of her text just for grammar's sake. I preserved everything else.
This is a bit different from anything else I've written in this universe. It's rather dark, considering the Tony Mouse-size-Dragon wrote. I tried to keep everyone as in character as possible considering this, but it doesn't really match with my interpretation of these characters. Perhaps in a different universe (like Wealth of Mind) but not my own. Suitably, this is from Natasha's point of view. It's the first time I've done her.
Mining for Wealth: The Avengers read Wealth of Mind after an encounter with a sorceress. What they learn about their teammate is nothing any of them expected.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own The Avengers or Mouse-size-Dragon's Wealth of Mind.
Mining for Wealth
Natasha Romanov was not soft. As a hardened assassin, there was no way she could be soft. But despite what she led people to believe, she was also human. She could form close friendships, love others, and be fiercely protective of those she claimed as her own. It was difficult to get past her outer shell, but those who succeeded – like Clint – were generally set for life unless something happened.
Now she was part of a team. She didn't trust any of them as well as she trusted Clint, who was thankfully also on it, but it was slowly getting there.
Bruce still made her uncomfortable with anxiety, but apologies on both their parts (Natasha's perhaps less sincere than Bruce's) had gone a long way toward helping their relationship. Steve was respectful of her as a woman and a fighter, which was unusual enough coming from a twenty-first century man that she was shocked to have it coming from someone born in the early twentieth century. They got along well, but they weren't friends. Thor was still a mystery to her in many ways, but he respected her "skill as a warrior", so she didn't write him off immediately.
That left the last member of their team: Tony Stark. She knew what he was like. She'd done the evaluation on him after all. He was a classic case of textbook narcissism, arrogance, and rich boy behavior. He could be trusted in a fight, but she wasn't so sure about his capabilities as a human being.
Then Stark invited the Avengers to live in his newly renovated tower. That was the first thing that told Natasha that she might have misjudged him. The second was how he'd somehow managed to customize her floor to her preferences. And it wasn't just her; each of the others also had a floor that catered to their individual likes and personalities. He'd even built a floor for Thor, even though he was a god that no one had expected to see again.
To put it bluntly, Natasha thought she may have made a grave error in her evaluation of the man. And she hated making mistakes. It left too many things unknown and what she didn't know about she couldn't prepare for. So she worked to get to know Stark all over again. It was more difficult this time, given the history the two of them shared. Still, it was also easier because they lived in the same tower and fought together.
But she'd never expected this. This was cheating. And she'd never been fond of cheating, even if it sometimes served a valuable purpose. In this case, the fact that magic was involved in it perhaps made it all the worse. One could never know what intentions lay behind the spell involved; whether it was all true, half-true, or all a lie. It was why she relied on herself to gather information and only half-trusted her informants.
Yet at the same time, magic couldn't lie. It went straight into the heart of you and pulled out all your secrets. Clint would know, and he had told her. And while she relied on herself, she trusted him to the same extent that she trusted herself. Loki hadn't changed that, and there was no way he could.
But what was she talking about now? Magic and secrets? Tony Stark? How would they be related seeing as how Stark was as human as they came?
The answer lay in a fight the team had one afternoon months after originally being assembled. A fight against a sorceress calling herself Amora and also hailing from Asgard. Like Loki, she was capable of using magic to traverse the realms. Unlike Loki, she wasn't half as clever.
But while the team was able to take her down relatively quickly, she'd done something else before finally going down to be retained in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s custody. More specifically, she'd looked at Stark just before the man had distracted her sufficiently enough for Thor to take her down.
"The man of iron with a heart of light. You lie and deceive your friends with a wealth of mind to do so." She smirked, eyes glinting. "What if they knew?"
"We're all liars, honey," Stark had responded, the suit's voice synthesizer giving nothing away as to his emotional response.
"But what if they knew?" Amora asked again, raising a hand.
Then Thor's hammer knocked her down from behind and that was that. Natasha had to admit it was useful to have a weapon no one else could lift save for a god. It certainly saved them money on restraints. Then S.H.I.E.L.D. came with the restraints that had held Loki, and Amora was taken off their hands for good until she could be returned to Asgard.
Despite her being physically taken care of, though, she was still there in their minds. Especially once they convened in the living room after being debriefed and finding what looked like a small file lying on the coffee table that was situated between the long couch (long enough for Steve to stretch out on if he needed to or for Clint and Natasha to watch TV together and what that meant she didn't want to think about) and the TV.
They all stopped for a moment, looking at the file. Then they looked at each other, one question in their eyes.
"JARVIS?" Stark asked.
"No one has entered since you left," the AI responded promptly. "The file appeared shortly after you took care of Amora."
"What a coincidence," Clint said dryly.
"Is it safe?" Stark was leaning over the table, peering at the file as if he could force it to reveal all its secrets by just looking at it.
"All scans show that it is simply a file, sir."
"We should still put it through a couple of tests," Bruce said just as Stark picked the file up. "Tony!"
"Relax, Bruce." Stark flipped the file open. "If someone wanted to kill us, they could do a lot better than a file, since the only thing this could give us is a nasty paper cut. As it is—" he cut off as an unreadable emotion – panic? She wasn't sure, and it worried her – flashed across his face. It was gone as quickly as it came and he slammed the file shut. If it had been possible, Natasha was sure she would have heard a slam. His face was now curiously blank. "Never mind. It's a trap."
"What is it, Tony?" Steve asked.
"Nothing." Stark shrugged casually, though the motion seemed forced to Natasha's practiced eye. "Just a piece of junk Fury probably sent over to mess with our heads."
"Can we see?" Clint said.
"It's porn," Stark said as Bruce snagged the file from his oddly protective grip. "Hey!"
"If you don't mind," Bruce said calmly, opening the file now. He looked down at it, a small furrow forming between his eyebrows as he read it.
"What is it, Bruce?" Steve asked.
"I sense magic here," Thor said finally, eyes fixed on the file in Bruce's hands.
"Great. Let's dump it then," Stark said, reaching over to grab the file.
Bruce took a step back, peeling something off from the file. It was a post-it note. " 'Such a shame that no one knows, isn't it, man of iron?' " he read from the small slip of paper. " 'Perhaps a better understanding will be fostered from this experience. It was such a pleasure to become acquainted with your mind. Love, Amora.' "
"Bag of cats," Stark said, sounding rather desperate now. "Look, she's nuts. And it's magic. I say we burn it."
"I suspect that the lady Amora will stir up a great deal of trouble if we do not do as she wishes," Thor said. "It would perhaps be for the best if we see what she has to say."
"We trounced her today," Stark said. "I don't think we need to do that."
"What did she see that you don't want us to know about?" Clint asked, sidling up behind Bruce to peer over his shoulder. "Fancy reading, big guy?"
Bruce's eyes flickered up to Stark, whose face was carefully blank, although there was an unreadable emotion in his eyes that Natasha was unable to discern. "I don't think so," he said, moving to shut the file.
With all the speed of a trained assassin, Clint snatched the file from Bruce. "You heard Thor. If we burn this, the crazy lady will be on our tail again. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather avoid having my bow turned into a poisonous viper again." He opened the file and immediately began reading, jumping backwards out of Stark's reach. " 'Tony Stark: genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.' "
"I will end you, Barton," Stark snapped, eyes narrowed. "Hand it over."
"No, this is interesting." Clint climbed backwards over the couch, still retreating from Stark. " '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.' "
There was a short pause as Clint stopped, and everyone's eyes went to Stark, who was bristling with restrained fury. He stood there for a moment, muscles coiled with tension. Natasha was almost prepared to hold him back from attacking Clint.
Then Stark surprised her. Exhaling slowly, the tension seeped out from his body. He smiled, though the gesture didn't reach his eyes.
"Knock yourself out then," Stark said, moving to flop down in the armchair next to the couch. "But don't say I didn't warn you." A mirthless smile played on his features, one telling everyone that there would be hell to pay given time.
Clint stayed behind the couch for safety reasons, probably appropriate considering how Stark had been raring to go at him only seconds ago. Bruce moved to stand by Tony in a silent show of support.
Steve looked at Tony for a long moment before looking back at Clint. "If I call it, you stop reading," he said firmly.
"Sure." Clint's tone told Natasha that he probably wouldn't listen. He'd always enjoyed a good juicy piece of gossip, but she had the feeling that this might be too much for even him.
Forcing herself to relax, Natasha sat down on the couch, eyebrow raised at Clint. Her partner hesitantly moved over the couch to sit beside her. Steve and Thor ended up being the only ones who were still standing – one with a clearly disapproving look in his blue eyes and the other with a rather wary expression.
Clint cleared his throat slightly before beginning to read, starting over from the beginning.
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.
The original Jarvis? Natasha had never known that the AI had been based off of anyone Tony had known. Eyes flickering up to Tony, she found him to have a carefully blank expression on his face.
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.
There was a sharp exhale from Bruce.
Cap thinks he's nothing without the suit. Well, take it away, fine. He'll just build a bigger, better weapon and destroy you.
Steve was looking rather like someone had just punched him in the gut.
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 superpowers or military training but that just means he's even stronger; he survived worse than the Captain ever did as a civilian.
Clint was looking rather apprehensive as he paused to take a breath. But his pride was probably coaxing him to continue despite what his instinct was telling him to do. Natasha had never been so glad to not be a man ruled by his ego.
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.
This time there was a sharp exhale from Steve, who was rather white by now. His eyes were riveted on Stark, who was steadfastly ignoring everyone in the room and simply staring at a point on the wall opposite of where he was sitting.
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?
And now Clint's voice changed to something harsher.
"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."
"Tony—" Steve's voice was hoarse.
"Quiet." Stark's response was sharp. "Get on with it," he told Clint, curtly waving his hand.
Clint took a shaky breath and did, no sign of his uneasiness as he read.
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.
"No," Bruce said quietly.
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 an actual school instead of being homeschooled 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.
Clint stopped, looking down at the file as if it would bite him. The momentary reprieve gave Natasha the time to look at the others. A tendon was jumping out in Stark's neck, signaling that his jaw was so tense he would probably end up with a jaw ache tomorrow. Steve seemed rather unsteady on his feet; in fact, he was inching backwards to sit on the armrest right by Natasha. Bruce's lips were thin, and Natasha could see him doing his meditative breathing to keep calm. Possibly the only person remotely calm was Thor, but even he was flexing his fingers as if he would like to punch someone.
As for herself, Natasha wasn't quite sure what she was feeling. She'd known that Stark hadn't had the best of childhoods, but she'd never quite understood the details. Was it worse to have been put into training to be an assassin at a young age and knowing there was nothing to be done for it because you were alone or to be manipulated by those who were supposed to love and be there for you?
"Keep reading." Stark's voice was soft.
Clint's throat muscles rippled as he swallowed, looking back down at the file from where he'd been staring at Stark. And despite what Natasha was silently telling him and what his own instincts must be screaming at him, Clint continued.
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.
And that put a whole new spin on Stark being a narcissist. How could she have neglected all this? Simply because Fury had relied on a pile of old tapes?
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.
"Victims of circumstance," Bruce said hollowly.
Stark tilted his head to the side, but said nothing, eyes now fixed on Clint.
He flirts with Death like she is the ultimate lover. Sure the shrinks at S.H.I.E.L.D. might say it's a manifestation of posttraumatic stress disorder but he knows better; he's wanted to die on and off since he was about eight—
There was a choked sound from Steve.
—and his father had him figure out his first machine gun schematic, then showed him the footage of his creation being used. Posttraumatic stress disorder 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? 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.
Self-destructive? Natasha hadn't even known.
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.
Natasha's eyes flew from Clint's white knuckles to Stark. There was a small half-smile on his face as he met her eyes. And Clint continued reading, his voice echoing in her ears.
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.
"That isn't true," Steve snapped, cutting Clint off. "Stop reading that garbage."
"It's true, Cap," Stark said calmly, leaning forward to clasp his hands between his knees. "Barton, don't stop."
"Stop," Steve said immediately. "We don't need to listen to this."
"Does it bother you?" Stark's tone was curious. "To know the truth? To know what a shitty guy Howard was? To know what actually happened?"
"But it's not true," Steve said sharply. "We care, Tony. If you'd died—"
"If I'd died when I was supposed to," Stark interrupted, "then you wouldn't have known me. You would've known the man in the tabloids." He gave a small twisted smile. "There's nothing to miss if you don't know what it is you're supposed to miss. Barton, read. You insisted on it."
With the air of a man going to his own execution, Clint read, knuckles white from the viselike grip he had on the file.
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 S.H.I.E.L.D. 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.
Designs from when Fury had managed to have control over Stark's house in Malibu and gotten him to remanufacture vibranium flashed through Natasha's head. Designs of weapons of unimaginable mass destruction that had vanished from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s mainframe soon after Stark had successfully defeated Vanko. Had it been a warning?
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.
"Tony—" Clint started, picking his head up to look at the man.
The ice in that tone had Clint stumbling over the next several words until he found his rhythm again.
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.
Bruce's grip on the backrest of the armchair Stark was sitting in was so tight that his knuckles were white. He had his eyes closed, but even from here Natasha could tell how perilously close to the edge he was. How telling was it that the man wouldn't Hulk out when Stark poked him in the side with an electric stick, but was so close to losing it when he heard about what ran through his friend's mind?
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.
Surprisingly, there was a snort from Bruce. "Thank God. We don't need another Reed Richards."
Stark smiled up at him, the gesture cold. "And that's why Richards is an idiot and a fool."
"Tony." Clint had straightened from his faux casual slouch over the file. "I'm not—"
"You're still not finished," Stark cut him off, an eyebrow raised as he nodded at the file. "I'd love to hear what else the lovely Amora pulled out from my head."
Clint's eyes flickered over to Natasha, who arched an eyebrow. There was virtually nothing she could do to help her partner. He'd dug this grave for himself.
Fully aware of this, Clint looked back down to the file, back ramrod straight as he went on.
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. He 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.
This time when Clint stopped to say Stark's name, Stark rolled his eyes and got up to snatch the file out from Clint's hands.
"You wanted to hear what I think, didn't you?" Stark's voice was hard. "If you can't finish it, I will."
And he did, the words coming out tight and clipped and furious.
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.
He clapped the file shut with a final definite motion to show that it was finished. It was then dumped on the coffee table.
"I hope you're satisfied," he said lowly, looking right at an abashed Clint. His gaze flickered over the rest of the silent Avengers – skittering right over an ashen Steve. "Were all your questions answered?"
Steve pushed himself off the armrest, reaching out. "Tony—"
"I'll get started on helping you send Amora back to Asgard," Stark continued, talking to Thor now. "I still have those readings from the last time."
Thor seemed rather bemused, but was aware that he was treading on rather thin ground. "Thank you, Anthony."
Stark smiled mirthlessly, glancing down at the file. "As for that…keep it or burn it. I don't care. But if Fury gets his hands on it, JARVIS and I will make sure that you regret it." His eyes were on Natasha and Clint as he said this.
And now that she had listened to Stark's thoughts – had heard what exactly went on in that mind of his – Natasha knew that he was fully capable of carrying out that threat. Perhaps he was wary of her like how he had acted around her for all these months, but he was also infinitely more dangerous than she could ever be.
His danger lay in the insidious nature of technology and the power of his mind. Where she could destroy with a few blows or a well-placed knife, he could destroy with the power of words or his sheer intelligence. There was no taking away such an advantage.
So she inclined her head, silently acquiescing to his unspoken order to keep this from S.H.I.E.L.D. and only within the Avengers.
Moments later, Stark left the room, leaving a noticeable hole where his formidable presence had been scant seconds before.
Steve slumped back onto the armrest, slouched forward with his hands buried in his hair. Bruce moved forward to collect the file, coming to Thor's side to murmur something to the god while passing the file to him.
Natasha didn't pay attention to whatever it was the scientist was saying; her attention focused on Clint, who was staring down at his hands.
"I didn't know," he said quietly. "God, Nat, I didn't know."
"I know you didn't," she said just as quietly.
Clint hadn't known, and neither had Natasha. None of them had.
She'd wanted to fill in the blanks on Stark's personality, but she'd never known the cost of such a wish.
She hated cheating.
Liked, loved, and/or hated it? Let me know! I seriously think that's the last time I take a prompt like this... (Unless I really love the story.)
And in case you didn't know, you should check out the original text by Mouse-size-Dragon. She's written other stories that are just as introspective of Tony's character. Go check her out!
Stats: Word Count: 5,739; Pages: 12