Just one drink, he tells himself. That’s it. Just one drink and then he’ll smash the bottle.
Tony leans forward onto his elbows perched on his knees as he sits cross-legged on the floor, his palms pressing against his eyes until he sees spots. A cold sweat has formed on his brow, and all he can think about is the bottle of whiskey just positively calling out for him in front of him.
No, he thinks sternly. He doesn’t need this, despite the part of him that argues yes, yes you do Tony. He lets out a small whimper of frustration, because really, he can’t take this anymore. He’s had enough.
Tony had always been a drinker; ever since he was a young teenager he'd encountered the ups and downs of alcohol. He started drinking as a little “fuck you” gesture to his father; Howard rarely locked the liquor cabinet, and Tony was pissed off after one particular fight. A mere boy of 13, it was love at first sight for Tony; he laughed and skipped and swayed to himself in the confines of his own room, something which he would rarely do. Some would be shocked to hear that a boy that young would get drunk; but Tony was no ordinary boy. It wasn’t proper drinking, he would later admit. Just a few sips would set him off. He rarely did this, only after a particularly nasty fight would he reach for the bottle he had stashed under his bed.
This was Tony’s first taste of alcohol, and soon he found himself wanting more. At first, he had enjoyed the buzz it gave him – he was so frequently caught up in arguing with his father and work and electronics that he sometimes forgot how to laugh. Plus, it gave him the first notes of freedom from his dad. Even though Howard never spent time with him, Tony could always feel this pressure to make himself worthy of the love he never received. Having a drink always unwound these feelings, and Tony absolutely loved it. Drinking was this new high, one which only could be rivalled by discovering how to make a new gadget work. Tinkering and drinking became one of the same; often he did both at the same time. It led to some of his best ideas, and some of his worst actions (he still won’t admit to being the one who started that fire).
As time went on, Tony’s drinking became less about getting a buzz. His fights with his father became more and more frequent, until Tony moved to college and said good riddance to his dad. College lead to the habit of taking a shot of whiskey in his coffee, and if he had multiple cups in the morning he could be drunk by lunchtime. Some people frowned upon his behaviour; but he was Tony fucking Stark, a genius who could do whatever the fuck he wanted to, regardless of the fact he was still in his teens. Only one professor tried to intervene, but his pleas were shrugged off by Tony in his usual manner. Said professor lost interest as Tony continued to deliver project after project of extremely advanced tech.
At this point, nothing was truly wrong in Tony’s eyes, he was at college; of course he was going to drink, have a little fun. It became normality to drink every single day, no matter what time, but as Tony had a liking for working alone, nobody really noticed. Tony was happy with this arrangement; he was happy, nobody bothered him, and alcohol took away the weird emptiness he had inside. It was one of his only constant relationships.
Tony never really understood people; it must be a genius thing. He would always upset people somehow, even when he wasn’t trying to. When he was drinking, this was made ten times worse. An unfortunate side effect, Tony would say. He didn’t really mind, though; people rarely understood or cared about him, so he figured he needn’t bother with them.
For a brief period, Tony started to drink less – he finally settled into college and started working on a big project, which he needed the full use of his hand-eye co-ordination for. He began to get so immersed in his project that he forgot to take his morning shot of whiskey; and although he was still mainly surviving on a coffee diet, he was drinking much less. Tony seemed to get better. That was, until, Howard died.
It’s not like they had a close relationship or anything – more so the complete opposite. Tony had never felt adequate enough when he was around Howard; and he spent most of his childhood desperately seeking his father’s approval, even if he didn't show it. It stung Tony to no end that Howard never told him that he loved him, or that he was proud of him, although Tony would never admit it aloud. Grown men got over this sort of thing; he tries to tell himself this even to this day. Evidently this was not the truth.
After his father died, Tony realised that he would never be able to make his father proud. He’d lost his chance. He’d wasted his time in college when he could’ve been working for Howard, showing him how absolutely genius he truly was. He felt like his father died thinking that he was a disappointment. And that killed Tony inside. So he drank away his sorrow, no longer feeling a buzz, but a numbness that filled his entire body, leaving him empty; feeling nothing.
Even though Tony hated his father, after he died, Tony felt like he no longer had any chance of being loved. He figured that family were forced to care for you, no matter what, and now he had nothing. He knew that people just didn’t get him - he was never one for expression. His machines were the only thing that knew him truly; his drunken confessions slurred to them when Tony was no longer coherent enough to distinguish between man and machine. Tony often felt lonely, and the only thing that was continual in his life was the bottle stashed beneath his bed.
Much later in life, drinking was still a habit for him. Tony had lost reason in life many times, drinking until he made himself sick - Pepper having to bring him to the E.R. too many times for an assistant to have to do. Every time he promised her never again, but by the piteous look in her eyes he could tell that she knew he was lying.
After Tony’s kidnapping, the stress levels drove his drinking through the roof; his first homecoming request was a cheeseburger and a double measure of something strong. In the cave, Tony had the need to keep fighting, not for himself, but for Yinsen. Tony didn’t see the point of saving himself, but he wanted so badly for Yinsen to get out alive. And yet again, Tony failed; which had always lead him to a drink, time and time again. Tony couldn’t save himself from the alcohol, but yet he found himself as Iron Man, saving people. Tony found this oddly humourous; many villains wondered what Iron Man’s weakness was, and none of them yet had tried to throw a drink his way.
Between saving the world and attending press conferences, Tony still drank away the hours in his workshop. Despite being a famous superhero, he had never felt more alone. People loved Iron Man, but yet, Tony Stark was still an asshole; some things never change.
Pepper had freaked out when she found him, yet again, unconscious on his workshop floor. When he awoke in a hospital bed hours later he found his tearstained assistant whispering “I’m not comfortable with you risking your life to save other people, so why the fuck should I be okay with you drinking yourself to death? I’m done, Tony. I can’t stand to see you hurt yourself anymore.”
Pepper walked out, and yet again, Tony was completely alone.
That was, until Tony met Steve. Tony joined the Avengers on probation, with Fury keeping his watchful eye on him. Tony still drank, though sneakily. He hadn’t gone more than a day without alcohol in years. He couldn’t give it up now, especially since he didn’t want his new teammates to know how unstable he truly was. Especially Steve, with his honest nature and can-do attitude. In the beginning, he infuriated Tony; but Tony soon realised that infuriation was his way of expressing infatuation.
Things took off from there, and it went fantastic between them – Steve was so inexperienced, and Tony was there, ready to show him the wonders of the modern world, equally pleased to finally have someone to share them with. The drinking started to dwindle down again, he felt happy enough sober when he was with Steve. Although Tony trusted Steve, he still put up an emotional barrier between them. Steve was patient; slowly coaxing Tony into opening up to him, and Christ wasn’t the man so fucking understanding and comforting. Tony was especially grateful to Steve for hiding his shock towards the news that Howard was a bastard to Tony; Tony knew Steve had known Howard. He appreciated it.
As things became more and more serious, Tony grew anxious and alarmed. Tony knew he had a knack for fucking things up royally with people, and he honest to god didn’t want to hurt Steve’s good heart. Steve was the only good thing in Tony’s life; and Tony knew it was only a matter of time before he let himself get in the way between them. Steve said he loved Tony; Tony wasn’t so sure. Tony truly did love Steve - more than he had ever loved anyone - but Tony always felt like he didn’t deserve love. So he began to drink heavily again, back on the vicious cycle that always brought him nowhere.
Steve worried about Tony; so much so, he gave him an ultimatum. “It’s me or the drink, Tony. I can’t let you do this to yourself.” The words still ring in his head, haunting him.
He lets Steve walk away, because he can’t bring himself to get rid of the bottle underneath his bed. It’s only after Steve leaves him does Tony realise that he’s become addicted to Steve too. His realisation blinds him with rage, because he finally managed to fuck things up between them.
After almost a day of self loathing and internal arguments, feeling too disgusted with himself to drink which in turn makes him want to drink more, Tony snaps. He needs to sort this out, make things right. Tony purges all of the liquor cabinets, satisfyingly smashing the contents into a plastic bin. A part of him screams for each bottle as he smashes it, crying out to save the next one, to keep it just in case – but all Tony thinks is Steve, Steve, Steve with each smash.
Tony clears out his apartment frantically, hands shaking by the end of it. It takes him a moment to realise that his hands aren’t shaking due to anger. He’s had alcohol withdrawal symptoms before, but this time it hits him the worst. Even worse than the time he was held captive in a cave, only having a drink when one of the men foolishly left a bottle of cheap alcohol lying around, Tony mercilessly draining it dry. Even then the withdrawal wasn’t that bad; in the days Tony didn’t drink, at least he had purpose - it was a matter of survival.
This time, his heart feels like it’s trying to beat itself out of his chest, his head pounding with a headache. He feels faint, but he needs to get to the last bottle underneath his bed, so he could finish this once and for all.
Tony makes it to the bedroom slightly breathless, a feeling of nausea sweeping his body. He sways over to the bed, dropping to his knees on the soft carpet, before reaching under and grabbing his emergency bottle of whiskey by the neck and dragging it out. He leans back against his dresser, crossing his legs and stares at the bottle his hand is so desperately clutching to. He drops it to the floor, pressing his palms to his eyes.
Just one drink, he tells himself. That’s it. Just one drink and then he’ll smash the bottle.
Tony groans, he’s made it this far, and yet all he wants is to reach over and grab the bottle and make it all go away. But he can’t let himself do this.
It’ll probably be warm, he tells himself as a feeble excuse, but alcoholic side of him doesn’t even care at this point. Tears of frustration slowly roll down Tony’s cheeks as he grabs fistfuls of his own hair.
Do it. Don’t do it. Do it. Don’t do it.
Tony is slowly weakening; his earlier rage evaporated. The clock on the wall behind him ticks out another second, another minute gone by without taking a drink; Tony knows it’s not going to be long before he caves in. His hand is outstretched, halfway towards the bottle, his eternal demons rejoicing.
He lets out a choked sob as he hears a key turning in the front door, letting his hand drop down to the floor, and banging his head back against the dresser. Tony hears his name being called, but he can’t find his voice to answer. Footsteps approach the room.
Steve stands at the door, observing the scene before him. Tony looks up at him with tearstained eyes, pleading. “Steve.” It’s a croaked whisper, but Steve is there beside him in a heartbeat, entwining one of his hands with Tony’s and letting the other cradle his face.
“I’m so sorry. I love you Tony. I love you so much. I shouldn’t have left yesterday - I just can’t bear to see you destroy yourself like this. You deserve so much more.” The concern in Steve’s voice makes Tony shy away.
“But I fucking don’t Steve! I’m an absolute mess. Always have been. I did this to myself and I hurt you because of it. It’s my fault. It’s always my fault. I’m worthless and I just need to take that feeling away, Steve.” Tears were freely rolling down Tony’s cheeks, his voice cracking, all self respect lost long ago.
Steve plants a fierce kiss on Tony’s lips at these words, and Tony’s surprised to see tears in Steve’s eyes when they pull apart. Steve fists his hands in Tony’s shirt, shaking him slightly. “Don’t you dare think that Tony. You are an incredible person. If there’s anybody who deserves happiness, it’s you. You don’t need that drink, Tony. You don’t.” He adds sternly as Tony starts to give him a retort.
Steve pulls Tony into an embrace, and Tony takes a few seconds before he slides his hands around Steve. It’s not long before Tony is sobbing into Steve’s jumper, trying to choke out apologies and excuses between shaking sobs.
“I love you Tony. We’re going to get through this together. You and me. You don’t need liquor. I know you can be happy without it. You just have to allow yourself to be happy.” Steve whispers into Tony’s hair, kissing him on the forehead.
Tony reaches around Steve, grabbing the last bottle and throwing it into the bin with a final smash. He lets out a sob, and Steve just holds him tight against him. It’s not long before Tony is soothed by Steve, exhaustion suddenly hitting him.
The last thing Tony remembers before he passes out is Steve whispering to him “You’re not alone, Tony. Let me help you.”
Tony looks up into Steve’s eyes. “Together?” he pleads.
“Together.” Steve confirms, squeezing Tony tighter, kissing his hair. “You deserve love. Just let me take care of you, Tony.”
And for the first time in his life, Tony does.