First Avenger fanfic, and no beta. If I'm perfectly honest, this has been done a billion times before, but why not add one more to the mix?
Warnings for mentioned child abuse, and implied alcoholism. Also, some Tony!Whump.
Steve brushes it off as another failed team bonding moment. Failed meaning, Tony left the room practically vibrating with nervous energy and loudly proclaimed that he was too sober for this shit.
They had done it a lot, back when Steve was in the army. Sort of a 'work through issues as a team' activity, where everyone gathers together and just talks through the problem. Steve had somehow corralled everyone into the living room of Stark Tower (now the Avengers Tower) and announced that this was an intervention.
Nobody looked comfortable.
Least comfortable of all, Tony Stark.
"It's a matter of safety," Steve explained in a no nonsense tone. "Staying sober on the job. Just because we aren't on a mission, doesn't mean that at any time we could be. We should spend every moment as though we could be called out to duty."
It was obvious who this was directed to. As expected, Tony loudly voiced his displeasure.
"This is ridiculous," he said with a frown. "I am not going to drain my entire bar on the whim of Capsicle here." He looked about furtively, and growled a little when no one backed him. His voice grew louder, causing everyone to wince slightly. "There's no way. Sorry." He didn't sound very sorry.
He was expecting for that to be that. But Steve was having none of it.
"Listen here Stark," he barked, ignoring the man's childish scowl. "Just because you're rich and privileged, doesn't mean you can just drown yourself in alcohol whenever you want! You put all of us in danger every time you bring a bottle to your lips!"
Silence. You could cut the tension with a butter knife. Steve suddenly got the impression that he had gone too far. Tony opened and closed his mouth, seemingly unable to retort… which was a first. He seemed to shut down before his eyes, mouth setting in a frown and eyes dimming.
"I'm too sober for this shit," he said, abruptly standing and surging out of the room. The door closed with a click, but to Steve, it was as though he had slammed it in his face.
Steve looked wildly around the room, but only saw impassiveness on the faces of his team mates. For all the crap Tony gave everyone, the team seemed oddly protective of the billionaire.
"Are we done here?" Natasha deadpanned, looking down at her nails. Steve wasn't fooled… she was pissed. He had crossed some line that he wasn't aware of, something that seemed to trigger the ire of his friends.
"Yeah," he sighed, running his hand through his hair. At this rate, he wouldn't be surprised if he started coming out of his head in clumps.
The team filed out, and the last one out was Bruce. He shot Steve an apologetic look.
"Start with Pepper," he said, before turning on his heel and leaving the Captain alone to his thoughts.
It looked as though he didn't know Tony as well as he thought he did, if at all.
Pepper was a few floors down, Jarvis informed him politely. It seemed like the AI was a little colder, a little less personal in his interactions with Steve. He had no doubt that Jarvis had seen the entire disastrous conversation a few days ago.
"Thanks Jarvis," Steve said uncertainly to the ceiling. Even though Tony had told him Jarvis didn't live in the ceiling, Steve couldn't help but instinctively talk up to Jarvis. Unfortunately, it made him feel a bit insignificant.
"My pleasure," the AI retorted, sounding as though it wasn't his pleasure at all. Steve wondered how a machine could understand the nuances of speech so impeccably. He decided to file it under his ever growing compilation of 'I don't want to know'.
He stepped into the state of the art elevator, thinking back on the intervention. He surely hadn't said anything that was too offensive, right? It was only what everyone else was thinking, after all. But it seemed to have rattled the genius considerably. Steve hadn't seen him since.
He was lost in his thoughts, and before long, he found himself outside of Pepper's office. The door was completely glass, and he could see the red haired woman intently focused on some sort of paper work. Just as he was about to have second thoughts, Pepper looked up and smiled in recognition.
"Steve!" she said, slightly muffled by the impeding wall. She motioned for him to come in.
There was no turning back now.
"Miss Potts," he said, stepping carefully into the neat room. Pepper smiled a bit ruefully.
"Please, Steve, call me Pepper."
"Pepper," he amended, "I hope this isn't a bad time."
"Not at all. In fact, I could use a bit of a reprieve," she stated, gaze wandering to the massive stack of paperwork. "What can I do for you?"
"It's about Tony."
"Oh God," she groaned, reflexively going for her checkbook before stopping herself. "What did he do now?"
"No, it's not like that." Steve said a bit too quickly. Pepper frowned slightly, waiting for Steve to continue. "I just want to know more about him. I think I may have judged him a bit too… quickly?"
Pepper put her hands on her hips and looked at Steve appraisingly. He relented immediately.
"Alright, harshly. But it's just- I feel like I'm being left out of some secret! I tried to chew him out for laying it on the booze too thick, but he never listens to me!" All of his aggravation was surfacing all at once, and the soldier found himself pacing around the room. "Whenever I speak to him, he just back talks. And when I finally called him out for it, he just had some temper tantrum and left the room. He's buried himself somewhere, and nobody's seen him for days! Sometimes he can just be such a pain in the neck, and he's nothing-" he trailed off. Like Howard. He had almost said, but it wasn't appropriate. Nothing he had just said was. You shouldn't rant about a man in front of his girl. It wasn't proper.
Pepper looked to be deep in thought.
"What did you say to him, exactly."
Steve was getting a bad feeling. He frantically ran over the conversation in his head.
"I told him to stop drinking all the time, and he refused. So I told him just because he was rich and privileged, doesn't mean he can do whatever he pleases and put the rest of us in danger." Pepper's face crumpled at his words, and Steve's stomach plummeted.
"Oh Tony," she sighed to herself.
"What? Please don't keep me in the dark. Stark is a mystery to me. I feel as though everyone understands him to some degree but me." He slouched as he saw Pepper look at him stonily. There was a pause as the fiery headed woman considered what to say.
"Tony doesn't drink because he doesn't care, or childish, or because he's irresponsible or 'privileged'," she stated methodically. "He uses it as a coping mechanism."
"A coping mechanism…" Steve's mouth set in a frown. He knew nothing of Stark's past; the SHIELD file was minimal at best. Tony had apparently gone in and erased all of the data on himself before joining the Avenger's initiative, way before Steve had woken up. "A coping mechanism for what?"
He was aware that he was prying, but he considered it to be for the well being of the billionaire and the team as a whole.
"Tony's a genius." She sighed, resigned to Steve's dogged curiosity and sat back down into her over priced swivel chair. "The way he interacts with people is an enigma to most of us. But what he seems to do, is give everyone a piece of the puzzle, of the larger whole. Small enough that it doesn't give away too much about himself, but big enough that nobody looks deeper or asks questions. If you look at that piece very closely, you can get a teeny glimpse for a split second of who he really is." She smiled sadly. "As you may have gathered, he doesn't trust many people."
"To a certain extent. But the tentative trust does not extend to SHIELD."
Understandable. Only fools would place their trust is in an organization made up of cover ups, secrets, and conspiracies. Steve was a fairly open person, and even he was careful in working with the agency.
"I need to understand." For the team. For Tony. For me. "Help me understand."
"It won't be easy," a worry line blossomed on her previously unmarred forehead. She was worrying her lip, and Steve felt a stab of guilt. "He won't be happy with me, or with anyone. But you'll have to put the puzzle together, and find all of the pieces."
Steve felt as though he was being assigned to an impossible task. He wasn't even sure that it was worth it. But before any more doubts could come to fruition, he found himself agreeing.
"I'll do it." His back was ramrod straight. The army training that was drilled into him lead him to recognize Pepper as his superior. She held the intel. Listen to orders.
"Alright Captain," she said with a wry smile. "I admire the enthusiasm."
"You're the first piece," he said. Pepper, out of everyone, probably knew Tony the best. But if what she was saying is true, he only gave her a small look into the tangled web that made him the quirky inventor he is today.
"Tony doesn't like to be handed things."
"You've got to be joking." He had heard him say it a hundred times. It was ridiculous, a petty attempt at aggravating people. It was effective at making people want to pummel him, Steve included. But one look at Pepper made him reconsider.
"I'm dead serious. And if you want to make any headway in this, you'll have to drop that attitude." Steve gulped.
"Okay," he breathed out. He nodded. Inhaled. Exhaled. He could do this. "The least you could do is explain."
"Tony has been handed bombs that were meant to take his life on four separate occasions since I started working for him. Possibly even more before that. Three, in briefcases. One was in a cell phone. Every time was by someone that he previously trusted. Friends, colleagues. Most of them were discovered before detonation..." she trailed off.
"Most?" Steve prompted with a sick feeling.
"All but one. Tony set the briefcase down at a park bench near a playground and wandered off to take a call on his phone, and while he was away, it went off. There were two kids that were killed, and it was a PR nightmare. All of it was swept under the rug. Naturally, Tony wasn't to blame but-"
"But he blamed himself," Steve said numbly. "Of course."
Steve left the office, deep in thought. Saying Tony had trust issues was an understatement. Even if they were valid. It's not paranoia if people are really trying to kill you, after all.