“Rain. It figures,” Tony grunted as the first splashes of rain snuffed out his cigarette. He reached for his waist to pull on his jacket, cursing internally when he found it missing. Probably still in Ty’s car. Perfect. He dropped the cigarette on the ground and crushed it under his boot heel and pulled his sweater up to cover his head. His elbow twinged from where Ty had grabbed it. Come to think of it, his whole body ached. He could already feel the bruises forming under his clothes from the grabbing hands and the ache deep in his chest.
The distance back from the pizza place where he’d met Ty for their date seemed to trail on for hours now that he didn’t have a ride. It was his own fault for being so stupid. What were the odds that Ty would actually be into him? Apparently not very good. At least not as good as the odds of it being a prank, which had turned out to be no less than 100%. In hindsight, Tony should’ve seen it coming. He rubbed his shoulder again. It was lucky it hadn’t been dislocated, considering the amount of force Rumlow’d yanked his arm back with during the ambush. Climbing back into the rear window of the house proved to be a challenge. Without the full use of all four limbs, it took several minutes of pained grunting and incriminating thumps before Tony landed with a dull thud on his back, crushed at an awkward angle between his bed and the wall under the window. Cursing himself for making so much noise, Tony pulled himself onto the bed and collapsed spread eagle, staring at the ceiling. Some of the paint was peeling off above his bed. He threw an empty water bottle at it and sneezed as the flakes fell on his face. With a groan of defeat, he grabbed for his phone out of his backpack, yanking it out from the tangle of garbage that had collected on top of it. On second thought, he grabbed a pack of Newports from the inside pocket of the bag and scoffed. Only two left. He’d have to steal more from Howard tomorrow.
He lit the first cigarette with a flourish and blew rings in the air above him as he opened his messages. He’d missed five from Rhodey. Two were about his date with Ty and the others were sent an hour after the previous texts about the Homecoming football game. Tony sighed. Football was a pointless sport full of hypermasculine ape-men in inexplicably shiny tights fighting over a sack of air, but he loved his platypus and he’d go, if only because he had nothing better to do at this point. Instead of typing out a reply about his date and fielding the barrage of texts that would without a doubt follow, he dialed Rhodey’s number. His friends picked up on the second ring.
“Tones, how are you, man? You didn’t text me about Tiberius. Did it go okay?” Tony cringed, expecting Rhodey’s imminent freakout.
“Not very good, but it’s whatever. How was practice, honeybear?” Tony took a puff on the cigarette.
“Uh uh, no way. You can’t distract me. Tell me about your date,” he said, scrubbing a hand across his face.
“It was a prank, pumpkin pie, alright. He was just messing with me, don’t worry about it.” Tony winced as he heard a crash and a string of cursing from the other line. He held the phone away from his face.
“Are you fucking kidding me? Tony, that’s fucked up. Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” Tony let out a watery laugh. “I told you it’s fine, Rhodey. Just a few bruises from him and his band of cronies. Nothing I’m not used to.” Rhodey cursed again.
“Dammit, Tony, that’s not fine. Anyone hitting you for any reason is never fine. Are you sure you’re not really injured? You know I can be at your house in ten minutes if I need to be.”
“I’m serious, Rhodey. It’s nothing that won’t be better in a few days. Stop worrying. You have a big game to prepare for. We can’t have the star running back off his game, cupcake.” Tony could almost picture Rhodey’s concerned face.
“The game is still a couple weeks away. Besides, you’re always more important than football. It’s just a game, Tones. You’re my best friend. I can’t believe I let this happen. I should’ve known better than to let you go out alone with him.” Tony felt an irrational anger claw up his throat. “What, so you think I’m not good enough for someone like Ty? That there’s no way he’d be into me?” He sat up and kicked his backpack across the room, relishing the bang it made.
“Oh, give me a break, Tony. You know I don’t think that. But I was right, wasn’t I? To not trust him with you?” Tony growled in anger.
“I’m not a damsel in distress, Rhodey. I don’t need your permission to go on a date. Besides, what difference does it make if he and his goons beat me up? It’s not like Howard isn’t already.” He panted from the outburst and Rhodey sighed.
“Tony, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I just worry about you. All the shit with your parents is bad enough. I just want to keep you as safe as I can. I feel so powerless with Howard. At the very least I want to be able to keep you safe from my own fucking teammates.” Tony laid back down on the bed, the fight drained out of him.
“Sorry I snapped, honeybear. I know you’re just trying to help me. Right now I just want some rest though. I’ll see you later?”
“Of course, kid. Sleep well.” Staving off the burn behind his eyelids became an impossible feat once Rhodey hung up. He flipped over violently. If he cried himself to sleep with his face shoved into the pillows, well, Rhodey didn’t have to know that. It was going to be a long year.
Waking up to the sound of birdsong was never a good thing in Tony’s mind. All it meant was that it was too goddamn early. He blindly patted around the bed to find his phone and fished it out of the blankets. 6:47 am. Thirteen more minutes of peace before his alarm. Figuring it wasn’t enough time to get more sleep anyway, Tony dragged himself out of bed, even achier than the night before. He cringed at the blackening bruises on his body, layered over the faded ones. The dark blotches littered his arms and torso, too deep and numerous for makeup to hide, and purple handprints encircled his neck. With a rattling sigh, he grabbed a turtleneck sweater and jeans off the ground and tugged them on. At least it was fall. It would be months before he wouldn’t be able to get away with wearing long sleeves anymore. Just to be safe, he layered a scarf over the turtleneck to hide his bruised throat. As an afterthought, Tony dabbed a touch of concealer under his eyes and added a few swipes of mascara before putting his glasses on. At least it was something. He glared into the mirror.
“I guess this is fine.” He cringed at how hoarse he sounded. Getting choked by a football player really did a number on the larynx. After a brief moment of self-pity, he shoved his feet into a pair of scuffed combat boots and headed to the kitchen. The knot of tension in his chest loosened a tiny bit at the sight of an empty room. He glanced at the fridge and quickly turned away. Coffee was fine. He glanced around the room out of habit, and once he was satisfied that he was alone, dumped a packet of instant coffee grounds into a travel mug and filled it with hot water as quickly as his shaking hands would allow. He looked at the fridge a second time, once again turning back to screw on the lid to the mug. He’d eaten a turkey sandwich the day before, the shaking was probably just from stress.
The ride to school was just as much of a nightmare as he’d imagined. The yelling and laughter surrounding him was hell for the headache he’d been sporting since the night before. The pounding behind his eyes and temples increased with every bang and shove. Stumbling off the bus and into the school felt like a fever dream. He rested his head against the cool metal of his locker, just long enough to ease the crushing pain in his skull. He felt his stomach cramping from the beating and hunger pains as he stood straight and keeled back over against the lockers, torso curled over his textbooks.
Tony gritted his teeth as his abs tightened to get him purchase on the slick floors. Once the worst of the pain subsided, he gulped the last of his coffee (cold) and shuffled to class with his head ducked and books hugged tight to his chest. His first two periods slipped by in an unshakeable haze. No amount of mental calculations could clear the fog clinging to his mind. A throat cleared beside him. He spared a disinterested glance around the room. Finding nothing to concern himself with, Tony traced the tip of the pen over the back of his hand in a maze of swirls. He looked at the clock. Only ten more minutes until the bell. Or maybe class had only started ten minutes ago. Either one was equally possible in his mind.
“Well?” Tony startled, staring up at the disapproving face of the English teacher. She pursed her lips.
“I figured since you’ve spent the whole period staring into space you must know all the answers already, Mr. Stark.” His eyes flicked away from her gaze, frantically trying to comprehend the question on the board. “So, would you care to explain the passage we just read? Unless of course, you don’t know the answer.” The words jumbled in his head, thoughts moving like molasses. Tony hugged himself and shook his head. The sudden snickering in the seats behind caused his cheeks to flush darker.
“Aw, look at the little fag. He’s fucking blushing. Hey, I thought you were supposed to be a genius or something.” A chorus of obnoxious laughter followed, earning a shush from the teacher. For the second time that day, Tony felt his eyes burn as much as his cheeks. He blinked back tears and pretended not to notice the whispering coming from the peanut gallery behind him. He didn’t hear anything but that for the rest of the hour.
By the time Tony made it out of fifth period, he’d been lulled into a false sense of security. Aside from the incident in English class, it had been a pretty quiet day. He hoped it stayed that way. Maybe he’d feel good enough to work on his blueprints when he got home. He wandered into the cafeteria and before he could finish the thought, a pair of rough hands grabbed him from behind. Tony’s heart dropped to his stomach.
“How was your date last night, Stark? I can’t believe you honestly thought he liked you.” The boy laughed as his friends egged him on. One of the others ripped the scarf off his neck, inciting another series of howls from the group.
“Look at those handprints! You like getting choked, bitch?” The boy dug his fingers into the bruises as Tony gagged from the pain and pressure on his windpipe. “I bet you do. You’re probably getting hot for me right now, huh?” Tony squeaked in surprise at the slap on his ass and crossed his legs on instinct.
“I just want to go home, okay? I don’t want to cause any trouble here.” He winced at how hoarse he sounded. It seemed his plea had only made it worse.
“Oh my God, listen to that voice, Brock. The little cunt likes sucking cock too. You sound like a paid whore, Stark. You like getting dicks slammed down your throat until you’re raw?” Tony choked on a sob. In a moment of desperation, he wrenched himself free from their grip and sprinted out of the school. He’d get in trouble later for skipping sixth period, but all he could think to do was get as far away as his legs could carry him.
It turned out to be not that far. The school was only just out of sight when his legs gave out and he crumpled into a heap on the sidewalk, wheezing and trembling. The hollowness in his stomach was even more pronounced after his sprint, as were the aches and pains that never quite seemed to fade away entirely. After a few minutes of gasping, he was able to limp to a gas station nearby. It was New York. Nobody paid him any attention. That was good. He wasn’t sure if he could have handled it if anyone had stopped him to talk. He yanked a diet Coke and a bag of sunflower seeds down from the shelf and paid as quickly as possible. Not able to face the idea of public transportation, he shuffled to the bathroom and sat in a stall, pulling his feet up to his chest. The tears flowing from his eyes ran over his lips. The sunflower seeds tasted saltier than usual.
Just a word of warning: Steve acts more like a high school student than Captain America in this chapter. Peer pressure gets to him a bit, but I promise I love him and he'll get his redemption! Either way, I enjoyed writing this chapter, so enjoy 1am angst!
Tony hoped Rhodey realized how lucky he was that Tony loved him enough to come to a football game. It was still only October, but since the sun had set and a frigid breeze had picked up, Tony was forced to wrap his windbreaker tighter around his quivering body. He blew into his hands and tucked them into his sleeves. The ref called another touchdown and Tony winced at the thundering cheers of the students around him. It must’ve been for their team then. He squinted down at the field, searching for Rhodey’s number twelve jersey. His puffs of breath had fogged up his glasses, but he was finally able to pick him out of the group as he clapped the quarterback on the shoulder.
Tony sighed. Maybe in another universe Steve Rogers wasn’t the quarterback and football captain and Tony wasn’t the world’s punching bag. Maybe in that universe Tony’s crush wasn’t so hopeless. He let his face flop into his hands with a groan and stayed there until he heard the game begin again. This time, Steve was all Tony could see. The bulk of his shoulders and broadness of his chest under the pads, all the way down to his ass in those unreasonably tight football pants. He bit his lip and shifted his bag into his lap to prevent anything incriminating from showing. The game drug on for what felt like hours, but Tony was too enthralled in his fantasy of Steve looking at him the way football players looked at the cheerleaders. He didn’t even realize the game had ended until the disappointed booing and cursing rose up around him. He stumbled to his feet to avoid the angry stampede of disappointed fans and allowed the crowd to push him off the bleachers and towards the exit. Once he was able to break free from the crowd, Tony darted off to the side and headed for the locker rooms. He’d learned his lesson about waiting in plain sight, so he ducked behind a hedgerow beside the entrance and waited for Rhodey. Once most of the players had made their way inside, Tony slipped out from his cover and wrapped his arms around his friend from behind, startling a grunt from the other boy that quickly morphed into a grin.
“Tony, hey! I’m glad you could make it.” He looked exhausted but pleased nonetheless.
“Anything for my platypus, platypus.” Rhodey laughed and picked him up, swinging him around before Tony had the chance to protest. Once he sat him back down, Rhodey looked at him intently. Realizing that he was waiting for a reaction to the game, Tony fumbled for something that would indicate that he’d been paying attention to anything besides Steve Rogers’ butt. “You did great, honeybear!” Rhodey rolled his eyes.
“I knew you weren’t paying attention. I fumbled the last pass and lost us the game, Tony.” He glared, but his eyes were soft.
“Sorry, buddy. I guess football doesn’t do much for me. It’s hard to keep track.” Rhodey smirked.
“Really? Are you sure it wasn’t because you were staring at Steve Rogers?” Tony blushed, unable to protest. “See, I knew you looked a little dazed. Your eyes glaze over when you stare at him too long.” Rhodey grinned and got a good ruffle in his friend’s hair before Tony could slap his hand away.
“You’re such a hypocrite. I know you missed that pass the other day because you were making goo-goo eyes at Carol.” Rhodey flipped him off as Tony laughed.
“Hey, not cool, man. At least it’s mutual goo-goo eyes.” Tony stifled his laughter and pushed the other boy toward the locker room.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Get to the showers, you reek of sports. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Alright, I’m going. Are you sure you don’t want a ride home? It’s a long walk back to your place and I’ll only be a few minutes.” Tony shook his head.
“Nah, it’s fine. The walk is good exercise.” Rhodey furrowed his brow.
“I dunno, man. It seems like you’re getting more than enough of that. Have you lost weight?” Tony shrugged, not meeting his eyes.
“I haven’t checked. Maybe a little,” he lied. That wasn’t true. He had lost weight. Seven and a half pounds to be exact. Tony was always exact. Rhodey didn’t seem to buy it, but didn’t push, much to Tony’s relief.
“Okay then. Be safe and text me when you get home.” Tony mock saluted him.
“Aye aye, captain.” Rhodey flashed him finger guns and disappeared into the locker room. Before Tony had even made it to the main entrance of the school from the football field, his path was blocked by a group of red jerseys. Tony cringed internally, probably externally too if the laughter from in front of him was anything to go by. Once again, he was faced with Rumlow and Tiberius, but now with even more groupies than the last time, a majority of the team at this point. Including Steve Rogers.
“Hey, Stark. How are you feeling? You up to a second date yet?” Ty laughed as Rumlow clapped him on the back and the others cheered him on, all except Steve. He was silent. He looked uncomfortable with his hands shoved in his pockets. Ty didn’t let up.
“I bet you’re still getting off on the last one. Rumlow said you like to get choked. Is that right, bitch? You get off on that?” Tony shook his head and looked at the ground, trying to walk past the group. An arm shot out and stopped him. Tony cringed at the impact to his ribs. Bumps like that had gotten more painful over the last few months. Or the last fifteen pounds, however you wanted to look at it. The sudden blow had him sprawling on the ground. A sharp pain shot up his spine and wrists on impact with the grass. Tony blinked back tears from the throbbing in his bones. It hurt more than it should’ve. He looked up again. All the boys were laughing. Except for Steve. Steve was silent.
The next few minutes were felt like an eternity. The occasional shove or kick punctuated the insults being spewed at him. Tony curled into a ball on the ground, a million miles away. Even the hardest of the hits felt strangely dulled. Tony wasn’t sure how long it was before he realized that he was alone. His eyes peeled open, scratchy and slightly out of focus. He fumbled for his glasses and slipped them back on. The glass was cracked.
“Shit,” Tony whispered under his breath. Whatever, he would deal with that later. He went to push himself up, but cried out in pain when he moved to sit up. He collapsed back to the ground with a thud, crumpled in an awkward heap. With more care this time, Tony rolled himself over until he was on his back, limbs spread in the shape of a snow angel. Everyone had gone home, it was quiet except for the chirp of the crickets and his own labored breathing. He gazed up at the stars. The lights pulsated like lightning bugs as his gaze swam. He reached out for them with a shaking hand. In his pocket, his phone pinged, breaking the trance he’d been in. It was from Rhodey.
‘I didn’t hear from you. Did you make it home?’ Tony sighed dreamily and looked back to the stars.
‘Yeah, I did.”
Tony woke up the next morning to his alarm blaring and the sunlight beaming down on his face. He grunted and threw one arm over his eyes and used the other to mute the alarm. He shivered from the autumn chill and looked around. Fuck, he’d stayed there all night. The morning dew had soaked his clothes where the windbreaker hadn’t been beneath him and his jeans clung uncomfortably to his legs. This time, he was able to pull himself into a sitting position. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. His phone was still lying beside him on the ground by his backpack with water droplets collecting on the screen. He shook it off and dried it on his sweater. It was barely six in the morning. Getting up took longer than he’d hoped, but at this point he didn’t have a choice. There was no time for him to go home and change, and he didn’t really want to be at home anyway. The more time he spent away from Howard the better. He’d rather face the humiliation of going to school in the muddy, wet clothes and cracked glasses from the night before. Tony staggered up from the ground and limped to the bathroom. The school hadn’t opened yet, but he was able to pick the lock with a paperclip off the ground anyway.
Once he was in, the bathroom was only a few doors down. He slipped inside and looked in the mirror, cringing at his appearance. There was mud smeared on his cheek and he was sporting a pretty decent black eye. The smeared mascara around his eyes really added to the prominence of his dark circles. Wiping the dirt off was fairly easy with a damp paper towel, but the makeup was there to stay. Figuring it was a lost cause, Tony kneeled down under the hand dryer and made a sorry attempt to “blow dry” his matted curls under the gusts of hot air. It was more of a success than he’d expected. His hair was still more unruly than he’d prefer, but it was better than before. At least the now-dried grime was easier to brush out with his fingers.
Tony wiped what he dirt he could from his clothes, but the grass stains and particularly muddy patches were there to stay. By the time he’d finished his emergency makeover, students had begun to stream in. Tony did his best to blend in, but his appearance stuck out like a sore thumb. He just prayed he wouldn’t run into any of the football players today.
When he arrived in physics class, he slunk to the back and took his seat. Mr. Richards took his place at the front of the class as the bell rang.
“Alright, guys. We’re going to be trying something different today. I’ll be assigning seats for the remainder of the year. Those of you who have asked me for extra help outside of class will be seated with one of your more mathematically inclined peers. Tony had to bite back a horrified choke as Mr. Richards began to assign seats. There was no way he was getting out of this without tutoring some bonehead jock for the rest of the school year. “Okay, Tony, I need you to come sit up here please, next to Steve.” Tony’s heart jumped up his throat. This was easily the worst case scenario he’d hoped to avoid. Heart hammering in his chest, Tony slid silently into the seat beside Steve. He didn’t make eye contact, didn’t even look over except to catch a quick glance. Steve looked deeply uncomfortable and a brief flash of emotion (shame? Horror? Regret?) washed over his face. Although it couldn’t be that. Guys like Steve didn’t feel bad about making people like Tony miserable. Tony spared another defeated glance at the boy beside him. His bulky frame took up a bit too much space at the desk to be entirely dignified. Tony sighed quietly and rested his chin in his hand. This week just kept getting better.