I got friends locked in boxes

Tony had let them into his home; he had opened up Stark tower to the others (under coercion from Pepper who no doubt got the idea from Fury, the bastard), but that didn't mean he trusted any of them. No. He stayed away, using a number of false and semi-false pretenses so that he wouldn't have to spend time with any of them or to get to know any of them: work, inventing, board meetings, anything to keep the team at arm's length.

He even managed to keep the identity of Iron Man a secret, even from Fury. True, he had thought about telling the world, if only to see Miss Brown's shocked expression at the press conference, but he decided to hide behind yet another lie. Yes, he built the suit to be his bodyguard. No, he was not the pilot. Wasn't the point of having a bodyguard was that so someone else would protect him? No, he would not tell you the pilot's identity. End of press conference. Questions can be fielded to the ever competent trash can or taken to the nearest incinerator.

His life was full of so many fucking lies (I'm fine… I'm fine. Just fine fine fine. Peachy. Golden, even, with a mix of hot-rod red and unwanted crazy-ass Tetris tattoos), he didn't even know where his true self went half the time, and of course, ever since Afghanistan, the insomnia made it really hard to keep all these lies straight.

Just another reason to stay away from the rest of the Avengers.

But Pepper… Sweet, dear Pepper forced Tony to come out of his lab to have dinner with the others, and so, there he was, trying to hide a strained smile under his flawless, billionaire mask while his mind multitasked between solving his palladium poisoning problem and keeping pace with the conversation and the twenty-some other projects he had going.

"How's Iron Man doing? After… After, you know, the whole missile thing? We haven't spoken with him since so…" The Captain trailed off and Tony had an urge to start laughing and never stop, but he swallowed down the laughs by literally downing some alcohol. He could feel Pepper's frown but one of Tony's best skills was ignoring her. Still, best not antagonize the woman further by speaking rudely to the Star Spangled Captain. After all, the Billionaire did want her to have some good memories of him…

"He's fine." – So fucking fine. Just peachy. Golden… – "Space was overwhelming for the guy so I let him have a long vacation. He deserves it." Pepper lightly snorted into her wine glass. Of course, she would know Tony was lying… Wait, had he told her the truth? He must have. Why wouldn't he? He hadn't told her about the palladium that was for sure…

"That's… good…" But the good Captain was scrutinizing Tony, his eyes shifting between the billionaire and Pepper, and had it not been for Tony's mask, he would have shifted uncomfortably under the soldier's stare. The last time they had a stare down… well, that argument had gone well, hadn't it? ("Big man hiding behind a suit of armor? Take that away and what are you?")


"Are what?" Tony got up from the table to refill his drink.

"Nothing…" Rogers seemed to be considering something if the slight furrow of his brow was any indication, but Tony didn't give it much thought; after all, he had other things on his mind, like how was he going to make Pepper CEO without making her suspicious?

So much to do, but so little time, and Tony could feel his time winding down.

I don't normally write Avengers fics, but I just had to. Sorry if it suckssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss and sorry for the weird timeline. My brain vomited something and my hands typed it.

Totally forgot to mention, because I'm a dumdum.. Title is from One Foot by Fun.