Tony was down. Steve swore and sprinted to his side, one last look to Loki who smirked smugly and then vanished.
"Tony? Tony, can you hear me?" Steve jostled his shoulder gently enough to not hurt him, but enough that he'd notice through the armour.
No movement. No sound.
"Tony? Move something if you can hear me!" Dread wormed its way up his spine as the tread of the feet of other Avengers approached.
"How fares our friend?" Thor asked.
"I don't know." Steve had to hold himself back from snapping at Thor. It's your brother that did whatever it is he did! Why don't you ask him! "He's not responding. Someone get a vehicle we can load him into—not you, Thor. I don't want a repeat of the last time you drove. Clint. Tasha. One of you guys. Thor, you handle the Hulk."
"Of course," Thor said quietly.
Waiting until they were out of sight and hearing range, Steve swore lowly and then muttered, "Armour recognise Steve Rogers. Override code Uniform-Sierra-Juliet-4-1776. Open helmet."
The helmet of the armour flipped up, letting him see Tony's face.
Steve frowned. That was...Tony. But...not Tony. Looking around, he flipped it mostly closed again and then lifted Tony as the flatbed backed into the clearest area of carnage and then stopped. Natasha leaned out the window and gave him a thumbs-up. He pushed him into the back and then climbed up himself to hold the armour still as he barked the order to head back to the mansion. Tony was breathing, but not conscious. And...not himself. No sign of Loki anymore and Thor was handling the Hulk back towards the mansion. Fury would be...furious. Right now? Not his problem.
Steve was the one who got Tony down to the lab and had Natasha clear one of the tables in order to lay him out on it in favour of the cot which would probably just collapse. And Tony would be too lazy to replace it and end up sleeping on the floor. And then he would complain about his back and... Steve shook his head. "Thanks, Natasha. Would you do the report for Fury, please?"
She nodded. "He okay?"
"That doesn't tell me if he's okay." She gave him a hard look.
"I'll let you know when I know."
"Sir, this isn't a need-to-know basis. This is a team-mate. And as irritating as Stark is, I would like to know that he's okay."
"Nothing's bleeding. I think he just got knocked out. I need to get the armour off him." He felt a little hot under the collar at the not-quite-lie.
She smirked. "Of course you do."
"Stop it." Now he was definitely blushing. "He entrusted me with the code. And I can't very well betray that, can I?"
Natasha would have rolled her eyes were she anyone else. "Of course, sir. Please do fill us in when you have more information."
"Of course. Tell Barton not to worry too hard." He smiled.
Steve waited until the door was shut and sealed behind her before speaking the code for the armour to disassemble. And then set it aside, not thinking about how young Tony looked. He was fine. He was certainly fine; and Steve did not think about the modern innuendo of that terminology. He just looked so young! What was Loki's game?
Fetching the plush throw from the cot, Steve laid it over Tony and then perched on a stool to wait. And watch. And, apparently, think. He just looked so young! Was he the right Tony? They'd had experiences with other universes before. Should he talk to Richards? He seemed to be the expert on that... But Tony looked so relaxed. Mouth hanging open a little as his head lolled to the side. No shadows. No stress wrinkles. Not that Tony would ever admit to that being what they were... It was Tony though. There was no one else it could be. Despite the youth of this face—and body—it was Tony.
"Hey Tony..." He said quietly, laying a hand over the one that curled loosely over the edge of the counter.
The kid groaned, eyelids fluttering.
Steve pulled his hand back. "Tony?"
"Wha'you want..." he slurred and rolled off the counter, somehow managing success despite his eyes being mostly closed and wobbling dangerously. "Shit... Some hangover..."
"Uh... Need Advil?"
"Fuck, where—fuck." Tony blinked around the workshop and then weaved towards the door and was headed up the stairs before Steve could stop him.
Following quickly, he watched as Tony got himself up the stairs and to Steve's room before flopping onto the bed and passing out again.
"Why's he in your room?" Clint asked at Steve's shoulder making him jump.
Clint grinned maddeningly at him.
"I have no idea. I think he's disoriented. Thinks it's his room?" Steve looked back at Tony on his bed and then quickly back at Clint. "I say we let him sleep while he'll sleep."
Looking doubtful, Barton shrugged. "You're the boss."
"I'm going to go read." Steve parked himself in the main room. "JARVIS, let me know when Tony leaves my room."
"Of course, Master Rogers," the AI responded.
Steve ended up reading the same chapter about three times before he gave up, disgusted by himself and flopped over on the couch, much in the same way Tony would when he'd hit a wall or was watching TV. So he flipped it on and watched some stupid cooking show that didn't teach him anything useful for another hour and a half until JARVIS alerted him that Tony was on the move. He rolled to his feet, Natasha, Clint, and Thor materialising from their hideaways as he did so.
Tony, the throw still draped around his shoulders, looked at them, back at the room he'd just exited, and then back at them. "Right. I throw a party last night?" Frowned. "And that's not my room. What happened to my room?"
"To—" Steve began.
"And why are you all old? Since when do I party with old people. Unless you're Dad's friends. In which case that was rude of me, sorry about that, blah blah blah."
Steve blinked, glanced at the others. Thor looked guilty. Easy; this was his brother's fault. Clint looked offended. And Natasha folded her arms, face unreadable. As usual.
"Where are you, Tony?"
"Uh, I'm at home." He looked at Natasha like she was stupid. "Where are you."
"What are you doing home?"
Tony rolled his eyes. "Summer break. Duh."
"And your dad?"
"I assume he's...working. Or whatever it is he does. Why are you asking me these questions. You with the government? Chance is about fifty-fifty. Dad works with the government. So..." He yawned and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Now either tell me who you are or I'm calling security. Jarvis can escort you out."
Steve's heart was pounding a little too hard. "How old are you?"
"Seventeen. Almost." Tony yawned again. "Now who are you?"
"Shit," Clint said.
"I'm Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow. This is Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye. Behind him is—"
"Woah, woah. What is this 'aka' business?" He squinted at them.
Natasha smiled. "We're a part of a team of superheroes called the Avengers. A team of which you are a part. Tony, what year is it?"
"Wrong. It's 2012."
"You're shitting me."
Steve stepped back, rather glad that Natasha was taking point on this. His mind was still reeling. Tony thought he was still in college. No. Tony was still in college. Natasha was explaining Tony's role as Iron Man. Tony was 16. Tony was a kid. Steve's eyes roved over him again, the explanation now making sense with the visual. Tony was shorter. Less muscle bulked up. He wasn't used to the suit. The building. The physical labour. He wore his youth like a mantle of immortality. Nothing could happen to him. He was a young wealthy kid genius on top of the world. Tony must have been a terror in college. MIT, if he remembered correctly. He was jarred out of his thoughts by Tony's demand of seeing his armour.
Tossing the blanket on the couch as they walked by, Tony followed Natasha down to the workshop. "So this doesn't belong to my dad."
"The entire house is yours, Tony," she replied.
"You have graciously invited us to stay here," Thor added in.
"And who are you, big guy?" Tony asked, trying not to make it obvious that he had to crane his neck to look up at him.
"I am Thor!" he boomed with a grin. "A pleasure to re-meet you, my friend!"
"Thor," Tony echoed dubiously.
"Yes. You do not remember me?" Thor asked, his face falling.
"You said it yourself, big guy. You're re-meeting me." Tony looked amused and then strolled into the workshop after Natasha spoke the code to unlock the door. Face slightly flushed, he scowled around, eyes lighting on the red and gold. Then his face appeared flushed for an entirely different reason. "Oh. Oh, hello, beautiful." He had crouched down by the pieces, picking up one, inspecting, setting it down. Picking up another, turning it over, setting it down. He muttered through his exploration until Banner came down frowning.
"What have I missed?"
"Tony's been de-aged to sixteen, doesn't know any of us, and is falling in love with his armour," Natasha said, not turning to face him.
"Who's he?" Tony asked without turning around. "Quetzalcoatl?"
"I'm Doctor Bruce Banner."
"Heard of you. Gamma particles, was it?" Tony stood. Looked at them all. "So this the team? Black Widow, Hawkeye, a scientist, a god, and the boyscout?"
"Actually," Bruce said, "a gamma bomb, and it worked. Kind of. Because I tested it on myself."
"Oh?" Tony's brows went up, leaning forward, hands back in his pockets. It was nice to see that some things didn't change. "So..."
"So when I get angry I turn giant, green, and destructive," Banner mumbled.
Tony only laughed. "Awesome, man! So you turn giant, green, and destructive. Thor... God of thunder?"
"Verily!" Thor beamed. "I also wield Mjolnir and fly!"
"Excellent," Tony drawled. "Black Widow? Some sort of spider power?"
"No. I'm just very good at hand-to-hand combat."
"And Hawkeye?" Tony looked over at him.
"And boyscout is..." Tony trailed off, finally really looking at Steve. He squinted in Steve's direction making him straighten his spine a little and fold his arms across his chest. "No..."
"Shut up," Tony cut Natasha off, throwing a hand up in her direction while he inched closer to Steve. "No way... No way! You can't—it's not... But I recognise..." Tony got closer, circled around, rolled up onto his toes. "No. Fucking. Way. You can't be. My dad... He didn't... Huh." He rocked back onto his heels, face slack in astonishment.
Steve looked over at Natasha and the rest of the team, all of whom had various expressions of amusement on their faces.
"Captain America..." Tony breathed in awe. "You're him. Holy fucking shit, you're him. Captain fucking America is in my house. Holy shit on a stick."
Tony stared up at the man. Good. Freaking. Holy. Shit. This was really him. "Captain America. Steve Rogers. World War II hero, son of Sarah and Joseph, only success in the Operation: Rebirth project lead by Erskine and dear old dad, fought the Red Skull wielding a vibranium shield," he recited, faintly aware of his mouth running on, but really not caring. Captain America was standing in front of him. Captain fucking America.
"Uh... How do you know all that?" the Captain asked.
"Dad's files aren't really secure..." Tony reached out a hand but didn't touch. "To me."
"I don't think you were supposed to know that..."
"You're incredible..." He snapped his mouth shut and then flicked his eyes up to the Captain's face, biting the inside of his cheek as his face flamed up. Oh God. This was better than dad's old reels. He dipped his chin a little and looked up at him through his lashes. Just as an experiment. The Captain cleared his throat and looked away.
He suppressed a shudder. The Captain said his name. "We go on missions together?"
"We all do," Natasha said.
Oh yeah. He forgot about the rest of them. "So how does my armour work?" he asked, aiming for casual while he sorted all of this information through in his head—he was on a team with Captain America. Captain. America.
"You're the only one who really knows that, Tony," the Captain said, once again drawing Tony's attention. Man was he delicious in that t-shirt. God, his pecs...
"You said yourself..." The Captain blushed again. "You're a billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, genius?"
Hawkeye snorted and Tony sent him a cutting look. "Right. So I'm smart. Knew that. That's why I'm at MIT at my age." He smirked.
"Yes, Tony. We all know you're smart," Natasha said. "Now that you're awake and mostly aware of the situation, I suggest that we clue Fury in before he has a coronary. Steve?"
"Right," Captain America said, snapping into business mode. "Tony. We'll need to let Fury know what's going on. We might need to bench you for—"
"Hell no! I'm on a team with Captain America! I'm going on missions."
Captain America looked at the ceiling. "I..."
"I can figure the armour out. I was smart enough to build it, I'll be smart enough to figure it out! You're not grounding me."
"You haven't changed," Captain America said with a smile. "I know you'll figure it out. But we..."
"We can't rely on you because we don't know who you are," Hawkeye said.
Tony frowned. "But you said you worked with me."
"We worked with your older self," Banner said.
"But Captain America—"
"What?" Tony looked at the man.
"My name is Steve," he said, cheeks still a little pink. "Call me Steve."
Tony grinned, fisting his hands in his pockets. "Sure thing, Steve."
"Oh God..." he heard Hawkeye mutter.
"Anyway, Steve said I haven't changed."
"Personality-wise," Hawkeye said.
"Your physical shape has changed, Tony Stark," Thor rumbled. "We have worked well with you, and you are an excellent ally, but we do not know you as a person at this age. You have gained wisdom over the years that you do not possess now."
He frowned. "So you're telling me I'm too young." Nobody said anything. "Captain America—Steve—is..." He did the quick math. "..over 90. You want him to retire 'cause he's too old?"
Captai—Steve rolled his eyes. "Tony. That's not what we mean. There's a team dynamic. While you fit really well before, we're not sure where you fit now."
"So you're telling me I'm not good enough." He demanded sharply, something twisting in his chest. "Fine. Get out. This is my workshop. So get out!" Captain America sent him an almost pleading glance. "Out!"
Natasha sighed and herded the others out, Thor sending a forlorn look over his shoulder at Tony. What the hell was his problem. Banner shook his head and rolled his eyes heaven-ward and Clint curled a lip.
"Go on," he sneered at Captain America. "Never good enough, huh? Can't measure up? Get outta here."
"I don't wanna hear it." He turned his back and walked back to the armour, squatting in front of it. Listening for the click of the door, he turned and watched Steve's back disappear up the stairs through the glass and then kicked the helmet. "Fuck. Fuck you all." And set to work figuring out his—frankly brilliant—armour.
He'd gotten it on, walked and jetted around the workshop a little, dusted by Dummy! and figured out most of the systems when there was a knock on the glass panels by the door. Taking his helmet off, Tony strode over and folded his arms, glaring at Captain America (was he allowed to do that?) who looked a little sheepish and seemed to be holding a sandwich.
"What d'you want."
"You haven't eaten in a while."
"I'm not hungry."
"You have to eat!"
"You made me a sandwich?" He squinted at it.
"Yes. Your favourite. Turkey!"
"How do you know that?"
The Captain—Steve—smiled. "Some things stay the same. Can I come in?"
"...I guess." He turned away and began taking off the armour.
"Need help with that?"
"No! I'm not a genius for nothing, you know!"
Captain America looked hurt. "I know... I just... Sorry." He set the sandwich down on one of the tables and settled himself on a stool. "I was just—"
"You're a lot different from those reels," Tony said, watching Steve's reaction in one of the screens.
Captain America blinked and straightened before a little smile crossed his lips. "Those were mostly for propaganda and advertisement. Of course I'm not always like that. I'm a soldier. I actually fought in the war."
"Did you kill people?" Tony asked, feeling mean.
"Yes," Steve said quietly.
The armour off, Tony hopped up on the table next to the plate with the sandwich and took a bit. "Huh. Really is my favourite. Almost as good as Jarvis' sandwiches. Where is Jarvis."
"Here, sir. Was there something you needed?"
Tony jumped, upsetting the plate, spinning around. "Jarvis?"
"Wha—what the hell!" He glared at Steve snickering and looked around the workshop. "Where are you?"
"I am here, sir. What did you need?"
"What the hell!"
"Tony, JARVIS is your AI."
"Indeed, sir. As you named me, Just A Rather Very Intelligent System."
Tony wrinkled his nose. "I turned my butler into an AI."
"You apparently found it amusing," JARVIS quipped.
"I'm sure I did..." he replied, voice laced with amusement. "Wow... I really am a genius, huh?"
"And so humble, sir."
"JARVIS, do you shut up?"
"Precisely when you tell me to, sir."
Tony snorted. "Shut up, JARVIS."
Tony turned on Steve, glaring. "Do you shut up when told?"
"Not by you," Captain America sniggered.
"Right," Tony snapped. "I forgot. I'm just a kid."
"Tony, I doubt you were ever just a kid," Captain America said quietly, leaning forward, elbows on the table.
Picking up the sandwich again, Tony took another bite. "Alright. It's good. What d'you want?"
"You're bribing me."
Captain America laughed. "I'm spending time with you."
"Stop it," he snapped. "I don't need that." He turned away so he wouldn't have to see the pity run rampant on the man's face. Seriously, he couldn't hide shit. How was it this guy was Captain America. "I'm busy. I don't need lectures."
"Who said I'm here to lecture you?"
Fiddling with the tools, Tony rolled his eyes. "How are you real?"
"You've asked me that before," Captain America said softly.
"Great," Tony drawled. "Now I'm predictable."
"Tony, stop taking everything so seriously! I just want—" The Captain sighed and ran his hands through his hair.
"What. What do you want."
"I just want to be friends!"
"Frien—Friends." Tony spun on his heel and leaned up against the desk, staring down Captain America. "You want to be friends with me?"
"I thought we were friends."
"Yeah, but I don't know you." Captain America...was pouting. "But..." He looked so hopeful. "But. I could get to know you. Thanks for the sandwich." Maybe... maybe he could give the guy a chance.
Tony Stark could afford a chance. Tony Stark could afford a lot of things. But considering this was Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, in the fucking flesh, Tony Stark could definitely give this a chance. He was a fucking genius. And richer than his dad, for sure. Hell, he had a house that talked to him.
"Do you still do breakfast?"
"Not as such, sir. You would be required to build me the physical capability to do so."
He snickered. "Shut up, JARVIS."
"You are much more polite in your later iteration, sir."
He hummed, staring up at his ceiling—his ceiling, the house was his now. Not his dad's. Though his dad was dead. That was a weird thought. And his mother. And that was enough to set him off sleep for the evening. Worrying his lip, he shifted on the bed. Big. Just what he would have chosen. Soft. Just what he would have chosen. High thread-count sheets. Just what—okay. Who was he kidding. This was all exactly what he would have chosen. Nice to see his future self has good taste. Or...the same taste. He grinned. His house totally rocked.
And he worked with great people. Correction: gorgeous people. That Natasha chick was hot. And the god...? Well. He was a god. Maybe Tony could visit where he comes from. If they were all as fine as Thor, then hey... There's some good times to be had! Banner was a little... Well. Nerdy. But he could get behind that. And Clint... Well Clint seemed like a saucy little bitch.
Then there was the main course: Captain America. He grinned and shifted on the bed. Oh hell. Yeah. He pulled one of his hands from behind his head and shifted it to his chest. A tease. Shifted it lower. He shouldn't. Bit his lip. Fuck, he shouldn't... Forget that. He was totally gonna.
And he didn't really feel guilty afterwards.
This could happen. Tony stretched on his bed, grinning. This could totally happen. The guy seemed to like him, God knows why. But Tony could work with this. This could work. Now he needed a plan. He snickered. A man with a plan. He just wasn't so star-spangled...
Steve glanced at his watch. Again. Tony still wasn't up. And it was approaching one o'clock. So Steve knocked lightly on Tony's door before entering. He couldn't help the little smile that settled on his lips as he took in the teenager sprawled on Tony's bed. Thinner. He was definitely thinner, now that he saw him without a shirt. "Hey, Tony. C'mon. Get up! You've slept enough! And there's something I never thought I'd say." When Tony still didn't move, he walked over to the bed and sat, jostling the kid's shoulder gently. This was definitely weird. Look at that. A bit of five o'clock shadow. "Tony." His eyes wandered Tony's chest, bare of the arc reactor. Bare of a lot, actually. Standard muscle from everyday use. Little chest hair to speak of. While off-putting, it was kind of exciting to see what Tony was like when he was younger. He rarely talked about it. It was like a separate part of his life completely. "Tony. Come on. It's time to get up."
"Uh-huh..." Tony mumbled and rolled over, the sheets slipping down to his waist.
Steve cleared his throat. This was awkward. "I'll make you breakfast if you get up. Though it's more like lunch. Come on. We've got business."
"Do I have to dump the mattress?"
Tony cracked an eye, gaze assessing. "Let me tell you... Captain America in my bed? Dream come true number one."
Steve stared, his face heating, standing quickly. "Get up!" Well shoot. There was that smirk. Oh boy.
"Don't leave..." Tony stretched out a hand.
"I... I'm not."
"What're you makin'?" Tony stretched his arms above his head, arching off the bed—that couldn't have been planned—before flopping over and sliding out of the bed.
Oh. Naked. Steve's eyes flew towards the ceiling.
"Oh come on. Tell me you've seen guys naked before. Not a big deal," Tony said with a wave of his hand.
"I uh..." He leaned away as Tony brushed by.
"Well shit. I dunno if any of these clothes are gonna fit me..." Tony said. And then crossed the room nude again.
"I've got a robe you can borrow for now!"
"Great," Tony said with a grin. Boyish charm. Crap.
"Hey Cap, how's the kid?" Clint asked, pausing in his doorway with the paper.
"Hey, you okay?"
"I'm fine." Steve could do this. Calm. "I think we need some clothes for him to use."
"Doesn't he have a tailor on speed dial or something? I'm sure he ruins more suits in the armour than we ever hear about."
"Oh. You're right... Thanks, Clint."
"In the meanwhile, he can use a pair of my jeans if he wants. Or better yet, ask Banner. He's smaller than me."
"When he's not green," Natasha said, passing them into her room. "We should probably alert Miss Potts. This is something that concerns her, after all."
Steve echoed Clint's groan. "Great."
"Can you tell me when you tell her? I'm either going to have a camera or be very far away. On second thought, I will try for both."
"Lend me a set of clothes," Steve said dully. "Then go practise. Your short-range could use some work."
"Whose short range could use some work!" Clint protested, affronted.
Grumbling, the man disappeared.
Steve turned to Natasha. "Fury want to see him?"
"Of course Fury wants to see him. And we should tell Pepper."
"I'm not disagreeing with you." He sighed. "I just... what do we do with him?"
Natasha shrugged. "He's still Tony Stark."
"Yeah..." He was still Tony Stark. Just without all of the polish. The uncut diamond. Steve found the robe and returned to Tony's room, knocking hesitantly.
"Are you..." Of course he was still naked. Steve stuck his arm through the door, robe in hand. "Here."
"How were you a soldier if you're afraid of nudity," Tony laughed. "Get in here."
Steve pushed the door open, faintly wondering if it was worse to see Tony wrapped up in the terry-cloth robe that had, ironically, been a kind of...welcome-to-my-house gift from Tony. "Good morning."
"Morning yourself, sunshine. So you here to fill me in on what's on today's docket? What's goin' on? What's happenin'?" He grinned, belting the robe before heading into the kitchen. "Damn! Do I have good taste! Is this what we do on off days? Morning, big guy!" He bumped a fist against Thor's shoulder on his way by and headed to the coffee machine. "Aw, and it's already brewed! This is sweet!"
"I like this!"
"Tony you have to meet with Fury," Steve said, grabbing his bicep. Arm. Smaller. Thinner. Younger. He shook his head.
"Who's this Fury guy? Is that a nickname? Seriously?" He sniffed the fresh mug of coffee like it was something sinful.
"That's your—well. Our boss. You do consulting work for him. As well as be a part of the Avengers. You've got a couple projects going for him, I think? You never really told me. And... there's the issue of Stark Industries."
Tony frowned at him. "Woah, what?"
"Stark Industries? Your company."
"My company." Tony stared at him over the rim of the mug.
Steve's heart swelled. So familiar. "Yeah. Uh..."
"Don't scare the poor boy," Natasha said, breezing through to the coffee maker.
"I'm not scared. I just... Wow. Wasn't aware that I owned a company."
"Surprise," she drawled.
"Okay. Now it's a lot to process." Tony leaned against the fridge. "I own a company. Pay for a superhero team of which I am also a member. I own my dad's house. I have...how many cars?"
"Eleven," Steve said absently.
"Eleven," Tony echoed, the corner of his mouth quirking in a way that always said amused. "Any other surprises? Hey! Do I have a girlfriend?"
"Not currently. The last..." Natasha paused. "Didn't work out."
"Really?" Steve asked. "I thought you'd be more upset."
Tony shrugged. "Whatever. Not exactly like she'll like me when I'm prepubescent."
"You're not prepubescent."
Tony smirked at Steve. "No, but I bet I'd be young enough to be her son..."
"Not likely," Natasha said. "Now. Pepper's on her way over with some clothes."
"Will they fit? Who's Pepper."
"They'll fit perfectly," Natasha said, giving Tony a once over. Tony leered back. "I'm excusing that because you're young and you don't know me. If it happens again, I will throw you out the nearest window."
"The same goes for calling me 'ma'am.' Be polite to Pepper. She's your greatest ally."
"I thought that was Steve," Tony said innocently, grabbing on to Steve's arm. "Wow you're ripped."
"Ripped?" Steve echoed.
"Yeah. Built. Really muscular."
"Oh." And hoped he wasn't flushing. "Uh. Thanks."
Tony laughed. "No problem, Cap."
"Missed you calling me that."
"Alright, boys. Enough," 'Tasha said. She lifted her phone. "Pepper's here."
"Anything else I need to know," Tony asked, hands slipped into his pockets artfully. Seriously, how old was Tony when he learned how to do that? Block himself off from being read.
"Tony!" Pepper called as soon as she was in the door. "I hear there's a problem! Why don't you tell me there's a problem! I need you to—oh God!" Pepper dropped her briefcase, hands flying to her face to cover her mouth. "Oh my God, Tony!"
"Uh... yeah. That's me."
"Let's cut this short: I don't know you."
Pepper gaped and Steve leaned forward to intercede quickly. "He doesn't mean it! He's been...uh...de-aged. So he thinks he's in college."
"I'm sorry—think? I am in college, as far as I know!" Tony jerked his head and glared at Steve. "Don't tell me what I mean and what I don't mean! I'm old enough to know that much. No matter what my father says." He pushed at Steve's arm and then smiled charmingly at Pepper. "What he means to say is that I think it's still 1986. I don't know anything my future self knows. The self you know."
Natasha stepped back, an amused smile playing over her lips as Pepper shuffled forward and touched Tony's shoulder. "Oh God. I've seen pictures... Tony! You were an adorable child!"
Steve winced as Tony's expression promptly soured. He'd already appeared to have a knack for botching things with the kid—should probably nip that habit in the bud.
"I'm not a kid."
"No, you were never a child, Tony."
"Interesting," he drawled, sending a look to Steve. "You're not the first person to tell me that. Did I grow up jaded?"
"You're already jaded." Pepper swatted him on the shoulder. "Come here!" And then pulled him into a hug. "You're gorgeous. Here. There's clothes in the bag so you don't have to wear that ratty thing."
"Hey!" Steve protested. "Tony gave me that 'ratty thing.'"
Tony blinked at him. "I did?"
"Uh... Y-yeah. You did..."
Pepper shook her head, tsked, and then bent to pick up her suitcase. "Come on. Let's get you changed, and then we'll get down to business."
Steve read the 'you stay here' in between the lines and shook his head.
"You're fine," Natasha said.
"No! I'm screwing everything up!" Steve plopped himself in a chair at the kitchen table and dropped his head into his hands.
Natasha actually laughed. "You're hardly screwing anything up, Steve. Relax."
"No! Tony hates me!"
"You do know you're acting like a thirteen year old girl."
He lifted his head to glare at Natasha. "This passes your lips to anyone else, and I will have you train Clint for a month."
She threw up her hands with a smirk. "Of course."
"And a half."
"So you're serious. I get it. I—" Natasha broke off, folding her arms. If Steve knew better, she would have whistled.
He turned and found himself staring also. "Wow..."
"How do I look?" Tony said, spreading his arms and doing a turn.
The suit was a deep blue, thin red stripes. Over a pale pink shirt that accented Tony's colouring perfectly, of course. All tied together by thin black tie. "Great... You look great..." he said softly. Well, open mouth insert foot.
"Hey thanks, Cap." Tony smiled at him brightly. "That's what I think."
"Your ego hasn't shrunk with your age, it's grown." Pepper shook her head. "Now what do we tell the board..."
"Hey, I can play grown-up. Who usually steps in for me when I get sick and am off on business? Isn't that Obi's job?" When nobody said anything, Tony groaned. "What, he died too?"
"Yeah," Pepper said quickly. "Sorry, Tony."
"Fine. It's fine," he said with a toss of his head. "Alright then."
"At least I age well," Tony mumbled after dinner, after Pepper was gone. Pushing back the laptop he'd gotten used to scarily quickly, Tony flopped back on the couch, sprawling with the ease only a teenager could accomplish. "Gonna come in, Cap, or hover in the doorway."
Steve shook his head and settled on the foot of space that Tony didn't take up on the couch and hunched over his tea. "You can call me 'Steve,' you know."
"Really?" Cracking an eyelid, Tony smirked at him.
"Yeah. How'd everything go with Pepper?"
"Oh she's great. She's... she's hot stuff," Tony said, flopping his arm over his face.
"Yeah, I thought you always liked her."
"You think I'll remember all this stuff when I'm back to my original age? God, will I stay like this?"
"I hope not," Steve said, earning himself another glare from Tony.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I just mean... Well, you're my friend, Tony. And I miss you. You're still you, but..." He hoped he could salvage this. "But I like older you."
"How old are you?"
Tony looked up at the ceiling, considering. "Just curious. Don't worry. I won't take offense that you don't want me."
"I do want you!" he corrected quickly.
"Do ya now?"
"Tony. Not... Forget it," Steve mumbled, face hot.
"You know..." Tony sat, leaning on his elbows. "You are the most frustrating person I know."
Steve started. "I'm sorry?"
"Yeah, you should be." Tony shook his head and got to his feet and strolled around the back of the couch. "Man, why is there no booze in this house."
"Tony, you're too young to drink."
"Never stopped me before."
"It's a bad idea..." Steve shifted. How to explain to your teenage friend that he has problems with liquor.
"Don't tell me what to do, Steve," Tony warned.
"Hey! Hey Tony! I just heard, man!"
Steve was on his feet at the sound of the slamming door and James Rhodes voice echoing through the main hall.
"Where are you?" Rhodes stopped in the doorway and stared. "Wow, man. I... don't even know what to say."
Tony squinted then his eyes flew wide. "Oh my God! Rhodey! Lookit you! You're... You look—"
"You say 'old,' I break you," Rhodes warned, stepping forward.
And just like that, Tony looked young. Watching him rush forward into the hug, Steve smiled and shook his head.
"Hey guys," Rhodes said when he pulled away from Tony. "Aw man! Look at you! Man, I forgot you were ever so—"
"Charming? Young? Gorgeous?"
"Aw, Rhodey! You always say the nicest things." Tony grinned, rocking onto his toes. "Take me out like you used to?"
"You used to take Tony out?" Steve was a little embarrassed at how high his voice jumped. "He's under age!"
"Wow, really?" Tony rolled his eyes at him. "Fine, Mom."
Rhodes snorted. Steve looked heavenward.
"You guys are no fun.." Tony groused and threw himself on the couch again. "Rhodey, you used to be cool!"
"Tony, I am cool. You're just too young to know it."
Steve left the room, heading up to his own, Tony's smile still fresh in his mind. And if he pulled out a little charcoal before bed...? Well. The paper might always get lost in the bottom of a drawer.
Tony rolled out of bed around ten thirty, prowling around his house. His house. He eventually made his way down to the workshop and tinkered. There were lots of neat things on his hard drive, and his interface system was fricken sweet. Running through the specs of Captain America's uniform, he smirked. Maybe that crush hadn't gone away. The thing fit him like a glove and looked damn fine. Tony, you dog, you. He messed around with the armour some more until around two when his stomach alerted him to the necessity of food. Taking the stairs two at a time, he paused in the doorway to what was apparently a gym. New addition. Capta—Steve was working out. Dancing around the punching bag. Tony skirted through the doorway, leaning against the mirrors to watch. Cap had his shirt off and was sweating. It was a good ten minutes before Steve noticed him.
"Tony! You're up."
"Been up." He sauntered towards the other, letting himself smile as he took in the sights.
"Oh?" Cap began unwrapping his hands.
"Yeah. I was down in the workshop. Wow. You must have really worked out in order to get yourself so...sweaty." Steve really blushed a lot. And it was so easy to set him off. Tony grinned.
"Uh... I've been here a while."
Tony nodded. "I was hungry. Wanna get some lunch?"
"You paying?" Steve smiled.
"I'll buy you whatever you want, gorgeous."
"Tony..." he reprimanded. But his cheeks were flushed and he angled away a little.
"Get yourself showered and dressed. I'll take ya out." Tony leaned forward and looked up through his lashes, smiling the smile that always got him an extra week on assignments when he was too bored to get them done on time.
"Um. Sure... That's uh great. I'll go get ready." Steve wound his wraps and then fled the gym.
Chuckling to himself, Tony went back to his room and put on one of the soft polos and slacks Pepper had brought him. Easiest lunch date ever... He waited in the lobby, poking at the security system. Damn, was he good.
"Tony? What are you doing?"
Tony blinked, looking at what he'd done. "Uh..."
Steve just laughed. "Geeze, look at you. I thought we were going for lunch?"
"Aren't we?" He looked at the mess of wires and screws that he hurried to put back together. "Sorry, JARVIS!"
"Quite alright, sir. I have faith that you would put me back together whole again."
Steve grinned. "Get that done and then let's go."
Steve blinked at him. "You...have cars. Want me to drive?" And then grinned a little too hopefully.
"I never let you drive, do I?"
"Oh I drive all the time!"
"Liar! You just want to drive my Maserati!"
"Uh, the Mustang, actually."
"Well. The Mustang. I think I can let you drive the Mustang..." Tony drawled. "What do I get in return?"
"Not getting arrested?"
Tony snorted, putting the last screw in place. "You're funny. Captain America is funny."
The man looked a little hurt. "I told you to call me Steve."
"Oh right." Tony grinned, rocking forward on his toes. "Steve."
"Tony," he warned, flushing slightly.
"Yes, Steve?" He slipped his hands into his pockets and brushed past the good captain to head towards the garage.
"Stop what?" Tony turned, widening his eyes to give his best innocent.
Steve sucked in air.
Tilted his head down, looking up through his lashes. Tony hoped those photos of him standing next to Captain America on the internet weren't lying. He wanted to be taller.
Steve muttered something that sounded a lot like 'oh mercy, give me strength.' "Never mind. Let's go." And then it was his turn to brush past Tony towards the garage. Tony didn't miss the reddened flush on the back of his neck though.
As he buckled up and Steve started the car, Tony turned to look at him, giving him directions when needed. If he didn't think about it, Steve was just another really attractive guy. When he did think about it, it was really hard to believe (and breathe), because Captain America was driving his (future self's) car. And they were essentially, if Tony read him right—which he was pretty sure he was because he was good at that, going on a lunch date. Steve liked him at least a little bit. Or. Well. He liked his older self. He was rich, made his dad's company better, had a rockin' goatee (it wasn't working for him at this age...), could get all the ladies he wanted (that wasn't any different), had a brilliant PA who was doing everything she could, he and Rhodey were still friends, and he was on a superhero team with Captain Fucking America. If that wasn't a dream-life come true... Well. "Hey. Hey, Steve."
"You still haven't told me what I get in return."
"For me allowing you to drive the Mustang."
"What?" Steve's hands tightened on the steering wheel.
"Easy, Cap; don't do my car lasting damage! Left here."
"Tony, where are we going?"
"You'll see. After three streets, take a right and then park in the first parking lot on your left."
Steve frowned. "Isn't that where that Italian place is?"
"I've taken you there!" Tony blinked.
"Huh. I must really like you." He grinned when Steve flicked a look at him. "I only share that place with people I like."
Steve spent the rest of the drive carefully looking at the road, only looking at him when he'd turned the car off.
Sighing, Steve dropped them in Tony's open hand. "I assume you called ahead?"
"While you were prettying yourself up!" Tony got out of the car and headed to the back door. Steve's footsteps followed him.
"Ah, scusi, sir! You cannot—"
Tony ignored the guy following after him and continued through the kitchen like he owned it. "Jonas!"
A man stepped out from behind the pans and frowned at him. "Uh... Tony?"
"You know me?"
"And Steve!" The man's face brightened. "How are you both. What happened?"
"You know Steve." Tony frowned at the man. "Who are you."
"You're kidding me."
"Uh, Marc, Tony's in college," Steve explained.
"Marc?" Tony echoed.
"Uh yeah. I'm Jonas's son."
"Tony? You okay?" Steve's voice asked next to his ear, hand warm on his shoulder.
"Uh. Fine. Fine, why wouldn't I be fine? This is just... a little weird." He maybe gripped the counter a little tighter than necessary to steady himself in this world. Steve's face edged into his peripheral.
"I feel like it'd be really inappropriate to say 'now you know how I felt.'" Steve smiled at him softly.
Blinking a few times, the laugh burst out of him and then took over until he was shaking and bent over.
"Mr. Stark?" Marc said. "A glass of water?"
"Oh fuck... That was...a trip. Yeah, water..." Mr. Stark. That was sobering. Mr. Stark had always been his father. Mr. Stark. Tony straightened and caught his breath. "Uh, our usual table?" he asked when Marc returned.
"Of course, Mr. Stark."
And if Tony shivered at the name, well. No one was going to comment. Lunch went on as Tony had planned in his head. Steve frowned fiercely at him when the glass of wine Tony signalled for arrived at their table.
"You don't drink."
"Sure I do."
Steve rolled his eyes. "No. You don't."
"Oh. But I do. Lay off, geeze." He sipped the wine and then looked back down at his plate, reaching for his fork. Steve's big hand clamped down on his wrist. "Uh, Steve?"
"Tony. You don't drink. It..."
"It what, Steve. Spit it out. Geeze."
"It became a problem."
"A problem," Tony repeated flatly, setting down the knife. "And what does that mean?"
"It means..." Steve took a deep breath and then looked him square in the face. "It means that you have problems with liquor. You were... It was an addiction."
Squaring his shoulders, Tony narrowed his eyes at Steve. The thought dashed cold water all over his good mood. Like father, like son, huh. "I was alcoholic."
"You will be."
"I wish you wouldn't curse so much."
"Great. Anything else wrong that you can fix about me?"
Steve straightened in his chair. "What?"
"So I'm an alcoholic."
Tony scowled down at his plate. "Fuck."
"What did you mean 'fix you,' Tony?" Steve asked quietly.
"You know, I try and I try, Steve. I like you, you know." He threw himself against the back of his chair, folding his arms. "I like you a lot. You're kinda my hero." There went his mouth. "And I wanna like you. But you're making it really fucking hard."
The other man blanched and looked like he'd been slapped. "What did I do?"
"You always have to bring up my father."
"Tony..." Steve said slowly. "I've never mentioned your father. You don't...didn't...won't...shoot. You always get this look—yeah, that one—whenever I mention your dad, so I don't."
"I get this look, huh? Well maybe it's because I find out that I turned out just fucking like him."
"Jesus, Tony." Steve looked around. "Look, if we're going to argue, can we do it somewhere else?"
"And now you're embarrassed to be seen with me." He threw up his hands.
"No, you're causing a scene, and I'd rather air our dirty laundry in private," Steve pleaded.
"Oh awesome. Because I'm not good enough, and I'm just a dumb kid who doesn't know any better and can't get control over his life!" Tony shouted, jumping to his feet. He inhaled sharply, looked around and then stalked out of the restaurant towards the car. Fuck. That's not how he wanted that to go. That wasn't... He swore long and low, dragging a hand over his face. Pulling out the cell phone he'd been told was his, he scrolled through the contacts, realising that he knew next to none of these people and then threw himself into the car. He was just starting up the engine when the passenger door flew open and Steve slid into the seat, folding his arms after he buckled in. "What are you doing."
"Waiting for you to either talk or drive us home."
"I don't have a license," Tony retorted.
"Doesn't mean you don't know how to drive," Steve said calmly, not looking at Tony.
"I could crash the car."
"Oh yeah? Beca—"
"Yeah. Because I'm in it," Steve said, fixing his blue eyes firmly on Tony.
"And you said so yourself; I'm your hero. You're not going to kill your hero."
Heart beating fast, Tony sneered at him and then backed the car out and sped home, fuming the entire time. When he parked the car, neither of them moved—Tony hunched towards the steering wheel (lowered because he wasn't as fucking tall as Steve), the aforementioned jerk-wad relaxed in his seat except for the crease on his forehead and his still-folded arms.
"You know what!" Tony blurted, making Steve twitch. "Fuck you."
Steve didn't move.
Tony angled towards him. "Fuck you and your perfect hair and world-saving, condescending smile and perfect body! Fuck you and your world! Fuck you and your little team of superheroes who all think I'm some sort of joke! Fuck you for thinking that you need to fix me like I'm some anomaly that you need to correct! Fuck you and...and..."
"Are you finished?" Steve turned to look at him, face blank.
"Screw you, Steve Rogers," Tony mumbled, dropping his gaze to the steering wheel again.
"What's the matter, Tony," Steve said quietly.
He growled and dropped his head to the steering wheel.
"Tony. What's the matter." Steve's hand was warm on his shoulder.
"Get offa me."
"I just... I want to help. All that stuff you said at the restaurant. Listen, I'm sorry if I make you think about your dad. I am. I don't mean to."
"But everything you say, Steve, is always...God. It's everything my dad told me. And now you tell me I end up a drunk bastard like him?"
"No! You're nothing like your dad, Tony! You're smart, you're witty like him, but nothing else. You stopped weapons production at Stark Industries. I mean, you're the guy that privatised world peace!"
Steve shook his head. "Come on; let's get out of the car."
Feeling somewhat mollified, Tony sighed and kicked the door shut after he got out, tossing the keys to dummy. Who missed and dipped his robotic head to find them. "Geeze, why do I still have that thing..."
Steve laughed. "You may pretend not to, but you're actually really sentimental. Look, over here is your Pepper Award."
"You were involved in an accident. And you were in a cave in Afghanistan, and you had to create a mechanism to keep shards of metal from entering your heart. So with nothing but a cave of scraps you created an arc reactor small enough to fit in your chest. This was the first one." Steve picked up the box and handed it to Tony.
"Oh God. This is in my chest? What the fuck is wrong with me?"
"Nothing's wrong with you, Tony. You're a genius!"
"'Proof that Tony Stark has a Heart?' What the hell!" He shoved the thing back at Steve, feeling over his own smooth chest, everything where it was supposed to be.
"Tony... Okay. Maybe that wasn't the best thing to show you... I... I'm screwing everything up again, aren't I?" His face flushed again.
"Uh, yeah you are, boyscout."
Steve flushed more.
"Alright. Alright here. Let's just... You like me?"
"Yeah. You're my best friend."
"Of course." Steve frowned slightly, measuring Tony.
"Okay. Then let's give this a go. You stop trying to make things better and just let them be. I'll try to stop flipping out on ya about stuff my dad says. Capiche?"
"Um. Yeah. Yeah, okay."
Tony waited a moment and then nodded, stuffing his hands back into his pockets. "So uh... friends. Do we ever..." He waggled a finger between them, really actually enjoying the deep red colour that Steve's face was becoming.
"Wh-what? N-no! We never—"
"Do you wanna?"
"Tony!" Steve's jaw hung loose, eyes wide. "You're under age!"
"Interesting. Not a 'no' then." Tony grinned at him and sauntered out of the workshop, leaving Steve slack-jawed and dumb-struck behind him to watch his ass walk away.