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How Not To Be Nothing

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If Tony ever wrote a book- y’know, in his abundant spare time between talk shows and press conferences and making the next best thing since sliced bread- it’d be ‘How To Survive as Tony Stark: A Guide.’

The first line would be:

Good fucking luck.

Then there would be a lot of bullet points, and the first few would be:

  • Ever heard the saying, ‘fake it till you make it’? Commit it to memory. Make it your own personal motto. Say it in the mirror at night if you have to.
  • In reference to the first point: learn how to fake a smile. And everything else. Except orgasms. Always have genuine orgasms.
  • Alcohol helps with the thinking process. Or whatever excuse you can come up with (make said excuses many and varied).
  • Lower everyone’s standards very, very quickly. It makes life considerably easier.

After that, it would probably just be pages of equations and drunken babbling until he passes out.

In the classic Tony Stark way.

Oh, and lastly:

  • Don’t kiss him.


Say what you want, but Tony didn’t get into Harvard at 16 because his dad’s loaded. When they say Tony’s smart as fuck, they don’t say it to piss you off.

Tony is legitimately as smart as everyone says- childhood prodigy, built an engine at 3 years old, got into high school at 11, corrected the teachers about astrophysics- Tony is smart to the point where he can’t get to sleep because the numbers won’t let him.

Hence why he is awake at 4 a.m. in the laundry room underneath his building, scribbling equations absentmindedly on the dryer he’s sitting on.

He’s still sort of drunk, and also completely folded up in his own head, which he takes as a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why he doesn’t notice the guy standing about a meter away from him until he finally clears his throat.

Tony startles, and the guy is saying: “Uh, sorry, it’s just- well, that’s the only dryer that isn’t being used, and I-”

Tony looks down, and yep, apparently he’s sitting on a dryer. Huh.

“Sorry,” Tony mumbles, and is sliding off when he focuses on the guy’s face.

If there is a God, Tony thinks blurrily, he’s either an asshole or he has a sadistic fucking sense of humour.

“Thanks,” the guy- Steve- says, smiling awkwardly, and Tony feels like he’s been punched, because maybe it’s the light down here, or the lack of it, or how he hasn’t slept in a few days, or what the fuck ever, because Steve is beautiful.

But he manages a nod and steps back, shoving a hand though his hair and then wincing, because he’s just smeared engine oil into it and that’s a bitch to wash out.

The guy’s hand hovers over the lid of the dryer, before he turns around, his basket of clothes still in his arms, looking like he’s going over something in his head.

Tony waits a few seconds, and okay, now the guy is blushing, what.

The guy looks at him almost guiltily, and says, “Uh, excuse me if I’m being rude-”

Tony shouldn’t be as disappointed as he is. He shouldn’t, he isn’t, he doesn’t care, but the words are too familiar and the guy’s going to say them like everyone else does, and-

“-but you’re Tony Stark, right?”

Tony wrestles his internal whining to a halt and manages his famous shit-eating grin. “In the flesh.”

The guy keeps blushing- and seriously, what- and ducks his head. Then he seems to get a hold of himself and straightens up, hefting his shoulders, and o-kay, then. “I heard you were coming here. To Harvard, I mean. Which is, um. Here. Like I… said.”

Tony’s smiling against his will. An actual, genuine smile and he should really stop it, damnit, because this would make it easier for people to tell the difference, but Steve is fucking adorable. “Indeed I am. Rogers, right?”

Steve’s smile deflates a little. Fuck. “I- yeah. Steve, actually.”

I know. “I’ve seen you around. Art major?”

“Yeah.” Steve shifts , rearranging the bundle of clothes slightly in the basket, and Tony watches as the leg of a pair of jeans is shoved back into the pile. “I, uh. On TV, you always look- I mean, I didn’t realize how young you are.”

Tony bristles, and Steve splutters: “I mean, I know you’re really smart, so- you’re only a few years younger than most of us, so that’s-”

“Two or three,” Tony says through the forced stretch of his lips, but it’s fine, he’s good at this. “I make up for it, believe me.”

“I’m sure you do,” Steve says, nodding furiously, looking like he wants to be anywhere else but here. “I’m- I didn’t mean- uh, I’m only 18, so. Uh. I should really just- stop talking, huh?”

Stop making me like you. I’m trying really hard not to. You almost had it. “No, no, you’re doing fine. Classy. Honestly, it’s usually me babbling, but you’re forgiven.” He flashes another grin. “Not everyone has a celebrity on their campus.”

Steve’s smile falters again, and this time his expression flickers. “I- yeah, I guess.  I mean, I’m not going to ask you to sign anything, you’re- when you get right down to it, celebrities are just… you’re a person, I mean, you’re not just. Um.”

Tony’s staring, stuck between taking it as an insult and just staring some more, but Steve is blushing again: “Not that you’re not- uh, I mean, it’s- you’re very- you’re standing next to a dryer looking like you haven’t slept in a week, and your shirt’s kind of ripped, and I can still imagine you in front of a billion people because you keep using that face that you use in front of the camera, not that- you’re still gorgeous, I didn’t- you just look- uh, tired- I don’t watch the interviews, like, religiously, but it’s kind of hard to miss them every once in a while, and you’re on magazines and everything, and you’re Tony Stark, but you’re- you’re still a person, under all that. Is what I, um. Is what I mean.”

Tony’s still staring, and maybe he’s gaping a little, he doesn’t care, and Steve is shifting horribly awkwardly now, blushing insanely, the clothes in the basket trying for suicide dives to the floor.

There’s a muscle fluttering in Steve’s jaw. “Christ, I’m- that was really, really inappropriate, I’m so sorry.”

“Ghhh,” Tony chokes, and then, getting his vocal cords to co-operate: “It’s- it’s fine, S- Rogers. I’m- I’m just really tired, I’m gonna-”

“Oh!” Steve starts to shuffle out of the way, saying, “Sorry, I’ll just-”

“Have fun with your washing,” Tony hears himself say, and internally slaps himself, because fucking smooth, Stark.

But Steve smiles, albeit nervously. “I will. Sorry, again, abo-”

“It’s fine.” Tony waves his hand a bit too hysterically. “Just kind of intense for a guy that I’ve known for less than 80 seconds. Uh. It’s fine, really. And you’re right on the ‘me-not-sleeping’ account, so I’m going to go and, uh. Sleep.”

A few seconds pass and Tony realizes that they’re both just standing there, so he jerks into motion, making himself walk down the line of washing machines towards the door.

From behind him, he hears: “Bye, Tony.”

Tony slips over his words- he almost says Steve, and that would be bad, because he’s trying so, so hard not to like him and this would make him think that Tony liked him, and that would be bad because Tony’s not- “Catch you later, Rogers.”

The door swings shut behind him and Tony just stands there, feeling heavy and tired and more lonely than he should be.


“You are very definitely not supposed to be here.”

Peter tilts his head in the sarcastic-yet-gangly way that 11-year-olds do. “Bruce said you lived here. Would you rather I left?”

Tony breaks out into a grin, closing the door behind him. “Maybe you can stay a while.”

Peter fist-pumps, and before Tony acknowledges it, he’s being tackled in five feet of eleven-year-old enthusiasm. “Fuck, I missed you, Uncle Tony!”

“Language.” Tony wraps his arms around him and pulls him down, tumbling them both over the couch so Peter squeals as he’s pinned underneath.

“Hypocrite,” he says, his voice muffled into Tony’s chest, and wriggles out, falling onto the carpet. “Ahhh! Freedom!”

Tony watches him fondly, trying to tamp down on the warm twisty feeling that’s currently curling in his chest. “What’re you doing here, kid?”

Peter bounces up, and Tony loves him for it- he always bounces up, energetic and grinning and stupidly smart, as sarcastic as he is- enough like Tony to relate to, but not enough to make him hate him.

“I told Aunt May that you invited me over for the holidays.”

Tony blinks. “I thought you said you didn’t want to come over for the holidays.”

Peter throws his head back and groans loudly. “I didn’t mean it! I was mad! You were 11 once, a billion year ago-”

“Hey, hey.” Tony flicks him in the ear, and Peter makes an enraged squeak. “Only five years older than you, bud.”

Peter raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, but that’s aaaaages in teenage years. I’m still pre-pubescent.”

Tony stifles a laugh. “Damn straight. How are you going on the armpit hair?”

Peter lights up. “I thought I felt one yesterday, but it was just cat hair.”

“…Right. So, what do you think of my new digs?”

Peter scrunches up his face as he looks around. “Jeez. Where’d you get this dump?”

“It’s a dorm,” Tony says. “It’s supposed to be shit. It’s, like. The full college experience.”

Peter rolls his eyes. “Whatever you say, Uncle Tony.” He perks up as he catches sight of the hot-tub outside. “At least you kept the necessities! Can we use it? Pleeeeease?”

Tony bats him softly on the head. “Pshhh. You only love me for my money.”

“No, I love you for you.”

Tony might turn to look at him a bit too fast, but Peter’s looking at him with that stupidly earnest face, looking young and honest and it makes Tony’s chest clench, makes him remember back to Steve’s blush: you’re still a person, under all of that.

Tony swallows. “Uh. Yeah, we can use the hot-tub.”

Peter whoops and hugs him again, and if Tony holds on too long, neither of them says anything.