This is something that kind of came from no where, using some things from some of my favourite things Tony should do x It's been in the works since the beginning of the month but I onyl just managed to get round to finishing it x Please read and review xx :)
The first time it happened he was nearly five. His extremely expensive and snooty tutor wanted him to do something - he couldn't remember what - and Tony quite insistently told him otherwise. The argument had escalated until Tony had been red in the face and the next thing he knew his tutor had been on the ground screaming and writhing.
The next thing Tony remembered was waking up in his bed.
He'd never seen that particular tutor again.
By the time he was eight he was used to odd things happening around him - things that were about the fall on him in his father's workshop landed an inch further to the left and the guy Tony knew was about to kidnap him was hit by a car. Tony didn't know how he knew about the kidnapping.
Tony himself didn't know why these odd occurrences happened around him - only that they did, and that they saved his life with an alarming regularity. In fact, he wondered if he should be disturbed by how regularly his life actually needed saving.
He wondered if this was what superheroes felt like.
Not long before he turned nine a piece of heavy machinery tumbled off a high shelf in his father's workshop. They had both been working on a proto-type for the arc reactor, a project of his father's - a new type of sustainable energy.
"Tony!" His father had shouted.
He closed his eyes waiting, wondering if his gift - whatever it was - would be able to save him this time. If it would fail him now and he'd be crushed or it would save him and his father would look at him like he was a freak.
Five seconds later he opened his eyes.
The machinery was hovering in the air like it was suspended from an invisible net and his father was looking at it like it was Captain America in disguise.
It's after this that Tony learns what his father is doing now. He's stopped dealing in the nuclear industry as much (the arc reactor is an example of that) but he's definitely made an interesting career jump.
From scientist to spy. It sounds like a book title.
His Auntie Peggy was involved in SHIELD, his father says, before she went missing a few months ago.
Tony isn't sure if he likes the people at SHIELD. They all wear black and they rarely ever smile. It's like a giant army of clones of his father.
Even thirty years later, he never quite forgets this first impression.
Two days after he turns nine (where there is a party with only four other children in attendance, none of which Tony had known) he is taken back into SHIELD. This time they take him into one of the labs. He can't help himself, he rushes to the desk to take a look. He only manages to catch a glimpse of a page filled with equations and notations, most of which he can understand, before he is called away again. His father is talking to one of the scientists, who looks at Tony in a way that makes him wary.
Only a few seconds later, with an attention span hereditary to the Starks, Tony wanders away again to find another piece of paper. The calculations on this one are even easier. He's been doing that kind of work since he was six.
His father sounds angry this time - not exasperated like earlier.
The other man, a tall scientist in a white lab coat, bends down. Tony scowls. He hates it when adults are patronising. After a quick glance at his father he hastens what is surely an unconvincing smile onto his face.
"Hello Tony," he says, like Tony is an idiot or mentally impaired. Tony wishes he could take another look at the calculations - figure out what they're for. "I'm Doctor Damien Carver." He's still talking like Tony cannot understand him. Rather than roll his eyes he looks away, wandering around the room. This time the doctor seems to notice his lack of attention but rather than look disappointed or angry like his father would, he smiles. Tony thinks it's rather sinister. "Would you like to help us with our science Tony?" The doctor says. This almost makes up for his patronizing tone earlier - almost because he's still grinning. Tony can see far too many teeth.
That day father becomes Howard.
He doesn't trust a doctor for another thirty years. In the space in between, if he is injured and can manage it, he'll treat it himself. Later JARVIS and Pepper will help.
They try to figure out what's wrong with him, why he's different. (He's different and they don't like it so it must be wrong.) It hurts. (He is wrong.)
Maybe it will stop if he co-operates (he is wrong).
Sometimes its dark and he can't decide if he's closed his eyes and he screams and wonders if anyone can hear him or if it is all in his head.
When he turns ten Howard thinks that he can't get any more information out of him. Now, he has to try to make sense of the information he has. But Tony is still powerful, still wrong. The last year hasn't cured him of that.
The first time he shoots a gun it is his tenth birthday.
He spends over a year and a half in training before he is even allowed to go out onto the field. His trainer is a man called Elliot Mitchell - or at least that's the name Tony is given.
By the end of his first training session, Tony is black and blue and when he returns home his mother is so drunk she can't even tell the difference.
During the time he has spent training, Tony has become good at firing a gun, cracking codes and escaping. He now does science in his spare time and online classes, because he spends the whole time at SHIELD, being kidnapped and tortured so that he learns the correct protocol should that happen in the future.
He hates the fact that there are protocols for this.
He isn't sure if he can kill yet, only that he's been trained to make the attempt. He isn't sure whether he wants to find out if he can manage.
His mutation (that's what it's called) has developed into a variety of things, telekinesis and telepathy being the most common of his gifts, as well as an affinity for electronics.
He takes the computer apart and puts it back together just to listen to it sing.
When he is twelve he goes on his first mission. He kills two men and throws up on the front lawn.
At fourteen he has finished high school and killed more than a thousand people, whether directly or indirectly. He's fired guns and detonated bombs and become an expert in interrogation. With his gift of telepathy and the slight empathy he receives from that, his talent is a weapon to be feared. Or it would be if it ever got out that Howard had his son doing the dirty work for him.
Tony works alone, or in very small groups. Not even Nick Fury, who co-directs SHIELD knows what Howard does with the labs and his home life.
No one cares enough to check.
Tony goes to MIT when he is fifteen, and it makes the missions slow down - Howard cannot pull him out of school too often without causing suspicion. The only reason he'd allowed to go the MIT at all is because the press is wondering what's going on with the Stark prodigy.
Howard can't possibly disappoint the press.
Whilst he's at MIT, Tony goes on missions and kills people and trains. He also gets drunk, has sex and meets Rhodey.
Five of those six things he does on a fortnightly basis. He also learns that when he gets drunk his telekinesis gets horribly out of control. He managed to destroy an entire science lab on two glasses of wine.
He supposes it's good he's rich.
The press spends the next year writing about the achievements of Stark junior. Not all of the things is he proud of.
He is seventeen when his parents die in a car crash. He hasn't seen his mother in over a year and the last time he'd seen his father, Tony had been attempting to leave SHIELD. He'd been slapped for his trouble and he hadn't even managed to raise his powers to defy his father.
He was weak.
(That was what Howard said.)
At the funeral he can't bring himself to pretend he is sad. But he can't show how happy he is either.
That's the first time Tony invests in sunglasses.
(And he knows exactly what the press thought he was hiding with them.)
He doesn't go back to SHIELD.
Damien Carver drops by a few days after the funeral to offer his condolences and order Tony back into the field.
He is promptly delivered onto the road outside the mansion and never comes near it again.
Next time they send Elliot Mitchell.
Over the next twenty years he doesn't use his powers much. The telekinesis comes in handy sometimes when he is too lazy to reach for the TV remote and the telepathy tells him exactly when someone is trying to lie to him about his company, but on the whole Tony tries not to use his powers.
He's seen what he can do and he hates it. He hates seeing the light die in their eyes but Tony's a Stark and it's conditioned into their blood. It's why he stops the missions but doesn't stop the weapons manufacturing. He doesn't have anything else - and if he doesn't have anything he is as weak as Howard said he was.
He meets Pepper - lovely, efficient, gorgeous Pepper - who knows exactly how to tell him no and when to say it. She isn't like any girl he's ever seen before ambitious and knowing exactly where she wants to go but unwilling to tread on any toes to get there.
She's the first PA he has that manages to ignore his advances longer than a week.
She's definitely the first to have slapped him.
He still can't be bothered to reach for the TV remote but his powers remind him of Howard and of the life he left behind.
He builds Dummy and Butterfingers and You and they are always around to pass him what he needs.
He doesn't want to stay in people's heads anymore - to find out what they think of him, because he already knows how much of a mess he is. He doesn't need a hundred people to think it to him, unknowingly or otherwise.
Instead he builds JARVIS, who is as good at getting into people's mainframes as Tony was at getting into their heads and he can also be used as a alarm clock.
(After all, in this century, what kind of person didn't leave some trace of their motives on a computer?)
By the time he is captured in Afghanistan Tony has almost forgotten he has powers. (Well, not really. Every time he looks at his hands he sees the blood that's on them and the scars that everyone else can see.)
He is weak by now and can barely remember how to use his telekinesis. He wakes up in the cave and it's like he is sixteen again.
Yinsen has died to save his life. It is the first honestly nice thing that a stranger has ever done for Tony - perhaps the nicest thing anyone has ever done for Tony, because Pepper, Happy and Rhodey don't count.
He thinks he uses his telekinesis to speed up the loading to activate his suit. He knows he used it to get out of there that fast wearing what he was.
It doesn't matter anyway. He was too late.
When he is on the plane coming back from Afghanistan he realises two things.
One, he has become lax in his training. Or lack of it. He is still a billionaire, still rich, still famous. Still Stark. Tony can't believe that this hadn't already happened before. He will restart the training - both physically and mentally. Weakness is something that Stark's do not (cannot) have an abundance of.
(We have iron in our backbones.)
Secondly, he has forgotten how blood feels. Yinsen and Afghanistan have brought the memories back and Tony knows what it is like to carry the blood on his hands.
The weapons manufacturing will not last the week.
He tells the world he is shutting down the weapons manufacturing and then disappears into his mansion. For that first week even Pepper rarely sees him.
She finds it odd how well adjusted he is.
She doesn't know that this has happened to him before.
When the Iron Man suit is built - his first priority, and Tony can fly it moderately well, he gets back into training. By the end of the week he gets back into his intense training and back into his physical work. He exercises his mental abilities and by the end of the month he can extend his telepathy far beyond the walls of the mansion. But he hates what he used to be capable of and rarely goes looking for anything in their heads.
The drinking stops, or at least slows down. He stops bringing the women home and thinks he's finally starting to understand what Pepper means to him - he already knows how she feels. How can he not, with how she projects it all of the time without even realising it?
Obadiah was behind the kidnapping. He's never forgotten what it feels like to be betrayed by someone he'd trusted but somehow time has made the edges of the wound sooth. He knows that Pepper finds it disturbing how easy it is for him to jump from Obie to Stane. He doesn't know how to tell her that that jump is a million times smaller than the jump from father to Howard.
Even Pepper isn't protected from his mind reading now - he's been hurt and people have been hurt. People he cares about - and he'll even read their minds, just to check if they're alright (he tells himself. Sometimes he thinks it's just so that he knows someone cares. It's such a novel idea for him.)
When he finally re-masters his powers he remembers how much fun it was to be a mutant. He gets back into contact, discreetly of course, with Charles Xavier, who he'd met as a child - sometimes when he hadn't known he was a mutant and more times after. At only one of those times had his father been alive and the look Charles threw Howard told Tony he'd been lucky if he ever met with Charles again.
At the funeral Charles told Tony that he'd attempted to intervene with the experiments.
Tony knows he is telling the truth.
For that, Tony knows that Charles is trusted, and indeed trusts him. He reads everyone's minds, picks their secrets up from inside their heads, and does nothing with them, and keeps them like they're his. Tony, for all his faults, cannot fault that.
Sometimes he tries to have that kind of restraint with his own abilities - he even gets off of the sofa to fetch the TV remote.
Other times he thinks of Stane and no one is safe, not even Pepper, two floors down and thinking about her next board meeting (that Tony really should be going to).
One time, when he is still re-training with his powers he actually meets up with Charles. It's like meeting up with a long lost friend or maybe even a guardian - Charles always has been old enough to be his father after all, and he's been running a school for as long as Tony has been alive. He supposes that Charles can't help but treat them like children. That doesn't mean he has to like it.
He's never gotten any better when people speak to him like he can't understand them.
Charles is completely bald now (the last time they'd met he'd at least had a few strands left). But despite the new collection of wrinkles, underneath, Charles is completely the same.
Tony has had very few things in his life that remain constant.
Palladium poisoning is one of the first things that Tony has been unable to defeat. His father is another. His father's memory is a third. But when he starts to struggle with his telekinesis and people's minds start to blur at the edges, he gets JARVIS to do a full scan.
As powerful as he is, he can't lift a finger to stop himself from dying.
All he can do is try to choose when to go.
He considers it once - suicide. In his life he's killed so many people and he supposes that this is his punishment, to die as slowly and as painfully as possible, just when he was starting to think that things were finally get back on track.
Life sucks like that.
He could tell that something was off with Natalie - she was too clean and there was an edge to her mind that wasn't normal. It was like there was a tinge of red to her mind, the kind of red Tony always saw.
It only took a second to read her, to find out why she was there. He found her reasons and promptly acted exactly how she expected. She was expecting a cocky billionaire.
That would be what she got.
Pepper finds out only a few days after Vanko is defeated. He's just got back into training, pushing himself further and further into training when Pepper stumbles in bleary and rumpled, having just gotten out of bed. Knowing that Pepper is a creature of habit, he hasn't expected her up for another five hours, by which time he would've gotten back into bed.
She walks in as one of the guns goes flying across that room telekinetically. He sees her shadow in the doorway, and having not been alerted by JARVIS, swivel's and points the gun at her.
"T-tony?" She chokes, hardly believing her eyes.
"I thought you were still in bed?" Tony says, hardly believing what he is seeing.
"Apparently not. What are you doing?" Her voice rises to a shriek.
"Stuff." Tony is doing awfully at avoiding at the question, particularly for someone as well trained as he is, but Pepper - the one person who had always been there for him - is finding out about his life. He is allowed to be a bit shocked.
"I can see that. May I ask why you are throwing guns around? And pointing them at people."
Tony doesn't know what to say. "This is still not the worst thing you've caught me doing."
"I think it's getting there."
He is still the same Tony.
It had taken a while for Pepper to really understand what Tony was capable of - what he'd always been capable of. Even she, who had seen Iron Man in action and seen under the majority of his mask, couldn't fully understand how dangerous he was to other people. She'd been shaken when Tony had told her what he'd done to other people, even though she'd already known about the weapons manufacturing. She couldn't believe that Tony had managed to hide all of these secrets from the world.
That was the point of the mask, she supposed. If even she couldn't see through the cracks what chance did the world have?
But Pepper was Pepper and Tony knew that he didn't need to go around fixing her memories to that it suited him.
She'd always been the one thing he'd counted on. Because even JARVIS couldn't read people as well as she could.
They've been a couple for seven months by the time Fury calls up the Avengers - a feat he hardly believed because, one, he is Tony Stark and two he has never had a stably functioning relationship before in his life.
It is something of a new experience.
In fact, he is quite enjoying it.
But good things can't last forever, and good things for Tony Stark rarely last longer than ten minutes.
He goes off to fight Loki with an iron (gold-titanium alloy) suit and a hidden gun. He comes back with a team and a whole lot more secrets to hide.
Wasn't this going to be fun?
He wasn't quite sure what to tell the Avengers - he knew not to tell them about his past, and not to tell them about his talents (mutant or otherwise), but his oddities had to be explained somehow. He decided to use the same excuse as he always had - narcissism and daddy issues. If it was good enough to fool Fury...
He doubted he'd ever trust Natasha, she'd attempted to infiltrate his company to get to him and she was a trained assassin. The first thing you learnt was not to let anyone get too close. She was the most deadly woman in the world and had a body count almost as long as his was. Trusting her was very unlikely to happen.
The Capiscle was a reminder of Howard. Tony couldn't even look at the Captain without wanting to throw something at him, even more so when the Captain mentioned Howard. If he'd been that little bit more wound up on the helicarrier...
It was a good thing that Tony had been trained to control his temper. Or the helicarrier would've fallen out of the sky (earlier than it had), and Captain America would've been tested to see if he was bulletproof.
Clint, Clint was a possibility. Tony could tell that the pair of them were very similar and would either get on like a house on fire or loathe each other to the ends of the Earth. He wasn't quite sure which one yet. But he was also a well trained assassin (and an expert marksman) and trusted Natasha - for reasons Tony couldn't quite understand. Sure, he trusted Pepper, but she had no experience with this kind of life, she wouldn't spill all of his secrets or be able to truly hurt him. But Natasha was trained. She knew exactly where to strike to hurt Clint. And he let her.
Thor was simply too alien.
Bruce thought, Bruce was an option. He was a fellow scientist, someone for Tony to actually talk to for once. He knew what it was like to do something you couldn't control, to kill and not be able to stop yourself. To lose control.
The only difference was that you could see monsters like the Hulk.
Then, the inevitable happens. Fury sends the Avengers to stay in Stark Tower so that they can learn how to be a better team and not attempt to kill each other on sight. Tony thinks that it was just Fury's way to keep an eye on them - he won't trust Natasha to keep her mouth shut as far as he could throw her (in or out of the suit).
"Stark, you need to start pulling your weight," Rogers whines for yet the fourth time that day - as far as Tony is concerned.
Tony rolls his eyes - it's his house and he'd offered to hire cleaning staff. His temper is frayed due to his need to stay constantly aware of the fact that other people are now living in his house. He can't let off steam the way he was used to and it is making him even more irritable than usual. Even Pepper is beginning to show her frustration.
"I don't know how Pepper puts up with you."
"I don't either." Tony swivel's around and marches out of the room.
He needs the chance to be himself - and fast.
Two days later he finds himself in Malibu and destroys two floors and seven guns.
"Where have you been?" Bruce asks.
Because Tony knows that Bruce is just curious, not fishing for information (like Natasha) or being nosy (like the Captain), he answers.
And this time he is not even lying. After all a home is where you feel safe, where you have good memories, and sometimes bad ones. And he doesn't know anywhere that does that better than Malibu.
By the time he has been with the Avengers for a year he trusts Bruce, he know him inside out (literally) and knows that he will never betray someone he feels is a friend. Thor, he gets on well with, when the alien is on Earth and Clint he gets on even better with. He knows that if he decided to spill his secrets then he and Clint would be even better friends (he hopes).
These three have gotten to him faster than even Pepper managed - though it was mainly because of her it happened.
Natasha he still does not trust - and she has not given him reason to.
Rogers he still hates for every time he likes at Tony and expects to see Howard.
Coulson hovers somewhere between Clint and Natasha, for the disappearing act he pulled during the Battle of Manhattan (as the press called it). Tony knows it was Fury's fault, but he doesn't like surprises because most of them have ended badly for him.
Somehow even Fury and Hill have ended up on the list, because he can hear their thoughts and knows exactly what they think of him and it isn't as bad as he'd feared. In fact Fury quite enjoys their spars - it's the most competition he's had in years. And this one isn't even a risk to the world (he hopes).
A year and a half after they become a team, Tony is stranded in one of their villains lairs. Before he can even get round to escaping Natasha bursts in, guns blazing. She is alone.
He thinks maybe he can start trusting her.
He knows that if his story comes out without her knowing about it, she will never forgive him. Surprisingly, the thought upsets him.
These people have gotten too close.
Unsurprisingly that thought upsets him too.
But he doesn't even know how the start pushing them away.
At the two year mark, the Avengers have fought in over sixteen battles (major), twenty eight scuffles (minor) and three cats stuck up trees. It seemed like they were the superhero equivalent of firemen - called on for every little problem.
He and Steve have become closer - closer than Tony likes but not as close as Steve wants. Steve wants a 'proper' team. When Tony asks what a proper team is Steve looks at him like he is an idiot. "People who work together because they want to, who like each other and trust each other.
Tony gets by on two out of three.
Some nights it gets harder to handle than others. He sits in the kitchen at three o'clock in the morning with a bottle of vodka and a gun in his pocket. For the first time in his life he knows with absolute certainty that he won't use it. For the first time in his life he has too much to live for.
Sometimes one of them will join him - and it's usually Natasha. They bond over alcohol and secrets and the blood on their hands and red in their ledger. They only talk about it in vague terms, but Tony now knows far more about the KGB and Natasha knows that Tony hides more than he lets on. Tony doesn't attempt to hide it from her and she respects him for that, even though she can't believe that she missed it before. She doesn't attempt to pry - they're friends now, something she hasn't got an abundance of - but she can't help but notice things about him she hasn't before even if she can't quite put the puzzle together yet.
It's on one of those nights Tony actually gets the gun out and puts it on the table and when he hears Natasha coming he doesn't put it away.
When she enters the kitchen she tenses for only a split second before continuing on her path to the table, perching beside him. If Tony wasn't as good or as talented as he was he wouldn't be able to see the concern and even more deeply hidden fear in her eyes.
She eyes the gun like it both the devil and her saviour, before smiling gently at him. She reaches for the bottle, both to take it from him and to pour herself a glass. When she puts in back into the cabinet he doesn't protest.
They sit in silence for a few long minutes, silently appraising the other and Tony thinks it's odd how she's the one he trust the most. They are too similar.
Maybe its fate.
Or maybe its irony.
"You can tell. I know you can."
"The secrets I hide, you suspect." And Tony knows she can, he can read her mind and her emotions, and (more importantly) he can read her, in a way that her mind can never express.
"Yes." She doesn't try to lie to him.
"I was twelve the first time I killed a man face to face."
Natasha does not flinch.
"I'd killed before then, indirectly, building weapons for Stark Industries. That started when I was seven I tracked the bomb to the Middle East and it was shown on the news. Eight people died instantly, six later on."
She takes his hand gently, knowing that it means more to both of them than he can ever express. He loves her, not like Pepper, who is innocent in ways they've never been, but like people who have shared experiences, shared battles and jokes and curled up on the sofa watching silly movies and drunk vodka with (the only way to drink vodka is with a Russian, she says). She is like his sister.
That night he cries in her arms, the first time he can remember doing so since he was a child.
She becomes Tasha.
The others can see the shift in the balance. Natasha gravitate towards either him or Clint now in a crisis, and the two understand each other. Clint sees but does not fully understand. He understands enough not to take it up with Natasha, but he does not see Tony.
Bruce simple shrugs and goes back to play with his toys in his lab.
Thor doesn't say anything either, but instead gives them a knowing look. He is thousands of years old and has seen more than they can imagine. Most of the time they forget that.
When Tony takes her hand after sixteen civilian casualties Steve throws them a look that says exactly what he thinks. He does not understand and looks positively furious when Tony sweeps Pepper into his arms when they return home. Clint sees this as well and takes him to one side and tells him that it is not romantic and they simply are. Steve will never understand, because although he lived through World War Two he is far more innocent then the rest of them.
That is why he is their leader.
Tony tells Tasha little bits of his past, whether they are drunk or sober but always at night. They pretend they don't count the bodies but the number is always there at the end of the bottle, reminding them of how much they have to make up for.
So Pepper and Tasha know and that's two more people than he'd ever planned on. He might tell the rest of the team - but not yet. Clint will listen if Tasha talks to him and Bruce and Thor won't care as much. Steve he doesn't really worry about.
He's happy with life.
And, as usual, life has change that.
You've got some mutants dropping by today," Fury says in his usual tone at the morning meeting. Tony freezes for a millisecond, and even though Tasha doesn't see it she knows what's just happened.
"Who?" Clint asks.
"Charles Xavier and some of his X-men."
Tony freezes yet again. Tasha throws him a slight look. He thinks maybe it's time. After all he trusts them (most of them) and they won't say anything. But he isn't sure if he wants Fury to know - and if the Captain knows, so will Fury. But he can always sort that out later.
"They'll be arriving at the Tower in about three hours."
Its too soon and yet it's never been so far away.
They get into the Tower and Tasha doesn't let go of him for an hour, as they make their way through a bottle of whiskey (that isn't enough to get either of them drunk).
When one o'clock arrives, Tony thinks he's made up his mind.
Does it matter if Fury finds out?
Maybe it's time he learns just how wrong he can be.
At five minutes past JARVIS announces that the lift is moving but doesn't tell them who is in it. In the few seconds that are eternities, Tony wonders who Xavier could've brought with him. He hopes it isn't Scott - the two of them had never gotten on well.
The doors slide open and out wheels Charles Xavier, accompanied by (Agent) Coulson and Ororo, as well as Jean and a man with sideburns and ripped jeans that Tony doesn't know. He tastes like metal.
It's now or never.
"Charles. It's lovely to see you."
Charles can read him. "Tony. How have you been?"
"I can tell." Clint looks distressed at the thought that Charles has already begun reading them like books - not that he knows.
"It's lovely to see you."
"You too. You haven't dropped by the school recently." Charles can tell what he wants.
This is it.
"I haven't needed to. I have perfect control."
"Not even to visit an old mentor?" There is complete silence in the room.
"I'm perfectly fine."
"Wait a second?" Clint chokes.
"Mentor?" says Bruce.
"Well, I never actually went to the school."
"Not for lack of trying on my end."
"Sorry." Tony didn't actually seem to be sarcastic. "It wasn't for lack of trying on mine either."
Trying to shake off those thoughts, which he knew would be coming back in torrents by the end of the conversation, Tony turned to the other X-men. "Ororo. Jean. It's lovely to see you."
"You too Tony." Ororo smiled at him and hugged him gently. Jean just shook his hand, maintaining a distance, what with how poorly Tony and Scott got on they didn't interact much.
Charles gestured to the others, "This is Ororo Munroe, known as Storm, Jean Grey and Wolverine."
Natasha is the only one composed. "Lovely to meet you."
Charles turns to Tony. "We've got a lot to catch up on."
Tony doesn't reply, merely walking into the living room and sitting down.
"How have you been?"
"Joined the Avengers. Became a superhero."
"You always had the potential." Charles smiles gently.
"No I didn't. Too much red on my ledger."
"What is going on?"
Tony is surprised the rest of the team managed to be quiet for this long. Even Coulson - unflappable, emotionless Coulson - looks shocked. And they haven't even started yet.
"I thought it was obvious." The rest of the team looks at Natasha like she's insane.
"Obvious? In what way is this either obvious or normal?"
"I never said normal. We're Avengers. We don't do normal."
"Tony is supposed to be doing normal more than the rest of us!"
"Why is he?" Natasha is honestly curious about how they'll answer her. She knows they've guessed there's more to Tony than they know - they wouldn't get along as well as they do otherwise - but none of them seem to imagine how much red there is on his ledger, more than Bruce's and Thor's and a thousand times more than Steve's. She finds it amusing how Tony is almost considered the innocent one, in terms of life, when she thinks that maybe he's beating her. None of them can see that.
Perhaps that's why he's good at what he does.
"Because he's Tony Stark! He goes out, gets drunk, sleeps with women and occasionally saves the world."
"I think you're losing your sight Clint. You can't see at all."
"He can see. But he doesn't know what to make of it. Tony is too good for that."
They all turn to Charles and then back to Tony who is sitting on the sofa, in an odd position half way between relaxed and rigid.
"Good at what?"
"You really can't see it?"
"See what?" Steve for all his capabilities, is perhaps the most blind of all of them.
Tony finally speaks. "There is a lot more to my life than what is on record."
Tasha perches herself beside him, in an odd parody of when she found out about him, only without the vodka and with many more witnesses. He skims the thought of the others, Tasha is worried and soothing; Ororo and Jean are also worried, but for him; the Wolverine is confused with a kind of undercurrent of red that is not at all like Tasha's, and the Avengers are all completely confused with a hint of concern bordering on the edges. Charles is the only one who is completely neutral. He knows Tony has made his decision and he will stick to it, no matter how it turns out.
"What do you mean?" Bruce asks cautiously, catching the dark gleam in Tony's eyes.
"No one digs deep enough. There is so much more to me."
His eyes are glittering now, and despite the audience Tasha placed a comforting hand on his soldier.
"You liked my father, didn't you?" Tony asks Steve, most of them bewildered by his topic change - never mind what he'd changed the topic to. Everyone knew that Tony didn't willingly bring up Howard Stark, never mind refer to him as his father.
"He was a good friend."
"I'm sure he was. A good friend. But as a father... He was never a father."
"What do you mean?"
"Well what kind of father takes their child to work?"
What? The thought resounds across the Avengers.
"So you worked in green energy?"
"So I did that. Before it was weapons manufacturing. I'd built my first engine by the age of four and I was smart enough. When I was seven Howard had me making and designing bombs."
No one breathes.
"The first one Howard sent out I tracked. I was nearly eight. It exploded in the Middle East and killed four people."
"And then he started another business on the side. A little known fact."
"What fact?" Bruce isn't sure if he wants to know - not like this.
"He founded SHIELD."
Tony actually smirks. "Bet you didn't know that, did you Bird Boy?"
"Did you end up there as well?"
Tony tenses. "I did something and it caught Howard's attention. I got taken in to SHIELD. Began training aged eight. First mission aged twelve when I'd completed most of the training. It was the first time I'd actually killed face to face."
Steve looks weary, eyes tired and older than they should be. He might be the youngest but he's seen a lot as well. The others are just better at hiding it. "Training?"
"Learning how to shoot. How to evade capture. How to withstand torture - and believe me they take those lessons seriously. Mum didn't even notice."
Desperate to get off the topic of training, which brought back memories of his own, Clint interjects, "What did you do?"
Tony knows the others are confused but answers anyway. He can see clear as day what Clint wants to know. "I levitated the machinery. Complete accident - but it was about to fall on me in the workshop so I stopped it. It was the first time someone else found out what I could do. If I'd have had my way it would've been the last."
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Tony knows what Charles is apologizing for, but he doesn't need it. At least Charles tried - and that was more than anyone else had done.
"Tried what?" Steve honestly doesn't know - and doesn't want to guess, not with Tony sounding like this, like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"This was what, twenty, twenty-five years ago? People hardly knew anything about mutants - especially the government."
Bruce, of course it is Bruce, understands. "They experimented on you."
Tony shrugs. "Charles came by once. I didn't see him again until after Howard died."
"When I tried to get you removed from the facility I got stopped by about six different branches of the government. Money goes a long way, right?"
Tony smiles darkly and clenches his fists. Tasha holds onto his shoulder, fingernails digging in, grounding him. It is over. It has been over for twenty years.
But it never stops hurting any less.
They sit in silence for a while longer, processing.
"Wait a minute! Why doesn't Fury know about this?"
"He never digged deep enough. He was at SHIELD when I was a kid you know? Over looked some of the paperwork for his missions. He was the closest to the top - to Howard - than anyone else, except maybe Peggy and she disappeared when I was eight. And he never looked. Not once."
Steve doesn't hear much of that sentence, only the names Peggy and Howard, dancing inside his head and distorting his memories of them with spies and assassins and dead eyes and both of them without him.
"It's why you don't like SHIELD, isn't it?" Some have forgotten Coulson is there, hiding in the corner, not quite out of sight.
"I walked into SHIELD eight years old. Everywhere I look there were men like you, in suits, just doing their job. Even when their job constituted torturing an eight year old. Sometimes, Agent, you're not too bad. But I won't ever trust you."
"So why am I here?"
"Because either way you deserve to know. I won't make Clint keep a secret from you."
"But you'll make Natasha?"
"She's been keeping it already."
They all turned to the red-headed assassin. "You knew?"
Clint throws her a mock hurt look that she knows conceals true hurt.
"He asked me to keep it secret. You'd want me to do the same for any of you, wouldn't you?"
"I imagine I would," Coulson says, giving her a measuring look as though wondering how loyal she still is to SHIELD, or has the Avengers completely replaced that.
He isn't entirely sure. He isn't sure if he wants to know either.
She gives him a long look, knowing exactly what he's thinking. They've known each other too long.
Clint can't be hurt now - he knows that if he'd asked Tasha to keep quiet about something, he'd like to hope that she would, as close as he is to the rest of the team. "I'm hurt Tasha." This time they all know he is joking.
Tony watches them all and smiles this has gone better than he'd ever hoped.
(But he still won't trust Fury with the information. Not this.)