His hands were shaking. Tony stared down at them, swallowed, balled them into fists. This was pathetic. He needed … he needed not to be doing this. He needed to get a hold on himself. He needed—
He didn’t need to hear Steve coming down the stairs, his tread distinctive as always, firm and measured, like he was walking into battle or about to give a speech. Tony sank his head into his hands, but he managed to get his head up by the time Steve was knocking against the wall of his workshop, then poking his head in. ”Hey, fella, mind if I come in?” he said.
"Sure," Tony managed, "why not? Make yourself at home." He stood up, crossed over to pick up a wrench, a screwdriver, moved them across the room. They had places they could go, he would just—
"Thank you," Steve said, as improbably sincere as ever. Then he was crossing the room, laying a hand on Tony’s shoulder. Tony froze.
"God, Tony, you’re trembling," Steve said, and Tony cursed. He would have pulled away, but Steve used that hold to pull him around before he could, put his other hand on his arm. "What is it?"
"Nothing," Tony told him, shortly. "It’s nothing, Steve, I swear."
"Really?" Steve said. "Because I know what I’m looking at, and it sure doesn’t look like nothing."
"It’s nothing," Tony muttered, knowing it was unconvincing. "It’s just cold down here."
"It’s all right to be scared," Steve said. It sounded like the beginning of something.
"Oh, great, a Captain America speech," Tony said. "I’m so glad I’ve rated this special attention."
Steve looked hurt. ”Tony,” he said, softly, and damn, if that wasn’t the worst thing. You know you’re awful, Tony’s mind suggested, and he turned away, running his hands back into his hair. He was, which was why Steve didn’t need to be here.
He couldn’t do it. Not when Steve was being so kind, coming down here to check on him, not—not right now. ”Sorry,” he said, burst out, frustrated with himself. ”I’m just—it’s not a good time right now.”
"I kind of gathered that," Steve said. He put his hands on his hips. "I know it’s rough on you," he said. "You don’t have to hide it."
"Oh, yes, sure, it’s rough on me. Just having the entire international media knowing I took a drink. It’s not like I didn’t bring this on myself. I asked for it. I mean, I’m the alcoholic, I was the one who—”
Steve reached out, caught Tony’s wrist in mid-gesture. ”First of all,” he said, his face very grave, “you didn’t ask for anything. You took that drink to help us, and I don’t care what anyone else says about it.” He ran his thumb, slowly, carefully, over Tony’s pulse, and Tony swallowed hard, felt himself going hot, then cold, then hot again. ”Second,” Steve said. ”Have you had a drink since you got back from Asgard?”
"I drank a lot more than I needed to while I was there," Tony said. He ran a hand back through his hair again, trying to figure out how he could say it. "I—I was drunk nonstop, Steve, I—"
"But you’re sober now," Steve continued, inexorably. "Aren’t you?"
"Well, yes," Tony said, "but—"
"And have you taken a drink since you got back?" Steve pushed on, of course, the way he always did.
"No," Tony said, tugging at his wrist, "but I wanted to, Steve, I wanted it so badly I—”
"But you didn’t," Steve said, and pulled Tony toward him. "Tony," he said, blue eyes boring into Tony’s until he felt like he couldn’t look away. "Do you know how much I admire that? I can’t pretend that I know what it’s like, but I know the strength it must take. It’s a strength—" he swallowed, hard, licked his lips "—a strength my father never had," he finished. "Tony, I know it’s hard. But you can do this. You have done this. And I’m with you. You don’t have to do this alone. Not a second time.”
Tony swallowed. He couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. ”It’s okay, Steve,” he said, finally. ”It’s not your problem.”
Steve shrugged, smiled a little, let go of his wrist. ”You’re my friend,” he said. ”Of course it’s my problem. Come on. You’ve got a projector down here, right?”
What? Tony wondered. ”Yeah, of course,” he said.
"I’ll make some popcorn after the press conference," Steve said. "We can watch a movie down here."
"… Really?" Tony said.
"Hey, I know it’s going to be hard," Steve said, and he was all sincerity, again. "But I’ve got your back, Shellhead. You’re going to go out there, and turn that thousand-watt charm on them, and have them eating out of the palm of your hand."
"Steve," Tony said, smiling a little despite himself. "Come on."
"You’re a charmer and you know it," Steve said, and squeezed his shoulder. "Now come upstairs with me. The others want to help you get ready."
"They do?" Tony said, confused.
"Of course they do," Steve said. "You’re going to show the world that you have this under control. And we’re going to help you. And Tony—"
"What?" Tony asked, still reeling from that little bombshell.
Steve reached out, cupped Tony’s chin in his hand, and smiled at him. Tony felt warmth crawling over his face, into his ears. He swallowed hard. ”You’re not going to take a drink,” Steve told him. ”I know you. You’re going to beat this thing. You always do.”
"Steve," Tony said, strangled. "You don’t—"
"I do," Steve told him, and dropped his hand, let it move down to squeeze Tony’s shoulder again. "You’ve got this," he said, and nudged Tony in the direction of the stairs. "Now come on, Avenger."
It was stupid, because more than anyone else, Tony knew his weaknesses here. He could still taste the alcohol on his tongue, and he knew it was just in his head, it had been weeks, but that didn’t stop it. Could still feel the crippling shame welling up inside him. The horrible wanting, the knowledge that he could make it go away if he just—took a drink. But all the same, damn if he didn’t feel stronger.
Steve was right, he decided. It was just like it had been before, when he’d beaten it the first time. And the second. And, well. Yeah. He had to want it himself. But having someone at his back—like Rhodey had been for him, then, pulling him through, making him want to, was being now, like the team—it really helped.
He could do this. Maybe he could do this.