Half the Man I Used To Be But Twice the Man I Was
Steve wanted to groan when he saw Stark in the corridor ahead of them. He was tired and sweaty and covered in grime; definitely not the mood for dealing with malcontent billionaires. His irritable mood spiked even further as they drew close enough to notice Stark's damp hair and fresh change of clothes. So nice to know that the man who was supposed to be providing them with technical support had had time for a nice leisurely shower while the Avengers were off saving Newark, of all places.
"Did Iron Man make it back safely?" asked Steve, keeping his voice civil.
Stark stopped, his eyes sweeping over Steve with an expression of something, Steve wasn't sure what, before assuming his normal expression of bored disinterest.
"Two of the repulsor units need to be replaced so the suit's not flight worthy. I should have the repairs finished by tomorrow."
Steve stared at Stark, feeling anger at his callousness crackling in his chest.
"I didn't ask about the suit; I asked about Iron Man," he said, tersely.
Stark rolled his eyes.
"Iron Man is the suit," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"I can't believe you," spat Steve. "There is a person inside of that suit who puts his life on the line every day, for you. He is Iron Man, not your fancy armor."
"I made Iron Man," said Stark, leaning forward with his eyes narrowed in anger. "Every nut and bolt of that suit is mine. Without me, there is no Iron Man. I am Iron Man. I don't care who wears the suit."
"You're pathetic," said Steve. He couldn't believe the gall of the man. How could anyone be so dismissive of their people? How could someone so blatantly take the credit for someone else's actions? "Iron Man is twice the man you are, Stark."
Stark gave a sharp bark of bitter laughter.
"Yeah, well, these days everyone is," he said, with an angry gesture towards his lap.
"I-" Steve found himself floundering for words.
"Save it," said Stark. He turned away, retreating back down the corridor.
Steve watched him go, feeling unsettled by the abrupt ending of the argument. He felt someone come up behind him and pause to his right.
"I think that man has more anger issues that I do," said Banner, sounding slightly incredulous.
"I think I said something wrong," said Steve, helplessly.
"Don't worry about it," suggested Banner, clasping a hand on Steve's shoulder. "You can apologize to him later."
Stark was the only one in the conference room when Steve entered. Steve felt a flustered peak of anxiety that he quickly pushed down, hoping as he took his seat that his face wasn't flushed. The last thing he needed around Stark was to showcase his unsettled feelings.
"About earlier," he said, nervously, not looking at Stark. "I didn't mean…"
Stark kept tapping at the flat little device cradled in his hand, but the pace stuttered just enough that Steve knew he was listening.
"I wasn't talking about…" What was he saying? He couldn't just say that. He waved his hand awkwardly. "Your- you know. I mean, it doesn't matter."
The tablet-phone-whatever thing clattered to the table as Stark spun his chair around to face Steve. His eyes were hard and cold, his face twisted into a bitter snarl.
"It doesn't matter?" he asked, the words coming out in a very, very angry form of incredulous. "I'm Tony Fucking Stark," he said, slapping his hand against his chest. "For my entire life, I've had people lining up to throw themselves on my dick. Do you know how many people have wanted to sleep with me since I got back? Not. One. I used to walk into a room and all eyes would be on me; the center of attention, the life of the party; that was me. Now I'm invisible. Oh, people'll stare at the chair, or my lap. They love staring at what's not there, but me, no one sees me anymore. So don't fucking tell me it doesn't fucking matter."
Steve stared at Stark in horror.
"I didn't….I don't…It doesn't matter to me," he said finally.
The anger drained away and Stark just looked tired.
"Of course, it does," replied Stark, flatly. "You're just aware enough to know that it shouldn't matter whether I have legs or not."
"I'm sorry," said Steve, feeling like the absolutely worst person on earth.
Stark waved his hand dismissively, already turning his attention back to his whatever. This time Steve sat quietly and let him, but when Iron Man walked into the room five minutes later, he sighed with relief.