Tony Stark is no one's special snowflake. If he ever forgot this, there was a long queue of people flat out eager to remind him. As in if he had a dollar for every time someone had told him, he'd probably be the richest man in the world. Versus the country. Or close enough. But since his father had been the first to tell him somewhere in the vicinity of, okay, on his third birthday, Tony had never forgotten. Instead, even before he felt compelled to add 'murderer' to his list of faults, Tony had embraced the notion that he was an immature, irresponsible, narcissistic (yes, oddly he could hate himself and feel superior to everyone at the same time because he was just that much of a genius) all around not nice person.
Case in point, his best friend was his employee, and while Pepper Potts had far too much integrity to be bought by even the Stark fortune, he did pay her enough to compensate for the hassle of having to constantly deal with him. Most days. His driver enjoyed a similar elevated tax bracket, although not as high as Pepper's since Happy Hogan didn't have to put up with him nearly as often. He supposed James Rhodes could be considered the exception to prove the rule, except the military had paid the lieutenant colonel to be his military liaison until Tony wised up enough to ditch the arms merchant gig. And he'd swear to his dying day that it was pure coincidence that he'd happened to give Rhodey the War Machine armor before he could figure out no one was paying or ordering him to spend any time with Tony. So yeah, second best friend paid in high-tech swag to pretend he liked him. Check.
All of which ignored the Avengers. But not really. They lived in the Tower he'd built. Rent free, of course. Plus he showered them with appropriate gifts like new arrow designs, custom-built labs, art supplies, sharp pointy things and crates of Pop-Tarts. Add to this that in his Iron Man armor he was handy to have around in a fight, and it all equaled they were well-paid, too.
So, to recap, no one who didn't have a vested stake in his continued wealth and/or fruits of his genius endured his company for more than a drunken one-night stand. Which is why he felt perfectly justified in the 'God damnit, it's not fair' that wailed through his throbbing head the moment he came to. Once he got past the whining and the headache to further assess his situation, he added in 'oh, shit.'
While the 'kidnap the only human, non-scary-assassin member of the Avengers' was beyond old after the third time, his current captor had apparently done his homework and learned forcing Tony Stark to 'visit' made The Ransom of Red Chief seem like a grand old time. He'd been stripped of everything but a pair of boxers that were decidedly not his – and did they think he'd woven a circuit board or something into his underwear? And hmmm, yes, if he got out of this he could… No, focus, damnit!
His ankles were bound together with metal cuffs without so much as a link between them, while similar restraints held his wrists over his head and left him dangling a couple of inches off the floor from an attached chain. Shoulders were already screaming their displeasure almost as loudly as his head, and he moaned softly in frustration not seeing much of an escape plan beyond waiting for his teammates to rescue him. He hated that!
Okay, maybe he'd missed something. Him naked, but for a pair of cheap boxers, check. One chain dangling from the ceiling attached to the cuffs around his wrists, check. One set of ankle cuffs to complete the bondage ensemble, check. One otherwise bare room, che – Wait, was that a red light? His vision still cloudy from whatever drug had knocked him out, he had to stare at it for a few moments, but yes, the tiny speck on the far wall had the look of a light announcing something was recording. Probably some wireless feed to a different location so when he was rescued there wouldn't be any soul-satisfying bad guys in the place to punch.
"This isn't going to work," he said, a plan forming in his mind even as he spoke. SI didn't pay ransoms and anyone smart enough to track him until he was the only Avenger left in the city would have stumbled on the absolutely-not-a-secret policy, so it shouldn't be about money. That left leverage against his team. "Seriously, I'm not their special snowflake! I'm a pain in the ass, they'd probably pay you to keep me. They're not going to let you do whatever it is you want to um, do."
He supposed this could be another Ten Rings thing to make him build weapons, but he wasn't exactly in a position to make a yo-yo let alone a nuke. Besides, no one was stupid enough to try that again, right?
"Sure I make them cool toys, but Fury has a list of people who can do it if I'm out of the picture." Twenty names on it. Not his level – no one was – but still geniuses. "Bruce will have to monitor them for quality control, but, totally replaceable. So totally not a special snowflake!"
It might not be the best strategy convincing his captors that he was worthless, but his only hope of getting the hell out of here was a live person in this room. "And the Tower? That's not mine anymore. I signed it over for as long as the Avengers exist. Which is a bummer if they suddenly decide they want to be called Fury's Fabulous Five or something because lawyers love loopholes like 'hey, changed your name and the contract says Avengers,' but if they can live with it, they get to stay rent free no matter what happens to me."
He waited a few minutes after that and figured if nothing else the huge 'no reaction' thing confirmed he was alone in the building. Took things to a whole new level of embarrassing that he couldn't escape and he tended to babble when he was embarrassed. "Look, I'm a total asshole," he said, then he started telling stories about how he didn't sleep or eat enough so one of them, almost always Rogers, had to play nursemaid and drag him off to bed or force feed him. "Who wants a genius around who's too dumb to take a nap or nibble on a piece of toast? And did I mention the caffeine thing? I mainline the stuff and no one wants to be within ten miles of me if I don't get my daily fix. Again, not a special snowflake!"
He went on for what felt like a couple of hours, and damnit where were these guys? Surely someone should have been sent by now just to shut him up? He glared at the light, then noticed the smudge above it. His eyes narrowed. No, not a smudge, a shape. With tentacles and multiple heads. "Are you fucking kidding me?" Hydra. As in the guys who hated Captain America not the Avengers. "You grabbed me to get to Cap?" That was so beyond stupid words failed him for a few moments. Any moron should know they'd want Barnes, or the SHIELD agent who looked so much like her great-aunt Peggy that it made Rogers blush every time he talked to her. Or hell, Coulson had at least warranted a 'so glad you're alive' hug, but they'd kidnapped Tony? All they ever did was fight! "Rogers hates me, damnit!" he shouted absolutely indignant he'd been kidnapped by the dumbest Hydra cell in the universe. And he was none too pleased to explain why the man he sort of kind of probably okay, did have a crush on hadn't even given him permission to call him by his first name. "I'm so far from being his snowflake that I'm the guck in the parking lot six days after a snowfall!" And everyone this side of the tropics knew that was just nasty. "Come on now, I thought you guys were supposed to be smart!" Honestly, epic levels of suckage here.
Given how his luck was running, he decided he had a perfect excuse for being surprised when the wall exploded with a roar. Hulk, he thought a second before a piece of flying debris caught him in the side of the head.
To Tony's dismay, his head hurt even more than it had the first time he came around, but he supposed the substandard bed beneath him and the all too familiar SHIELD ceiling above him was an improvement to dangling from a rafter. Still, out of pure principle, he groaned and threw an arm over his eyes to block out any light trying to slip beneath his eyelids.
"Great, he's awake," Clint said in a cheery tone at odds with the follow up of, "Now, we can kill him."
What? How was any of this his fault? There had been chains and near nudity and not nearly as much fun as those things together in the same sentence should imply. He risked cracking an eyelid and ow. Plus, not worth it given the murderous scowls his teammates fixed on him. And weren't there rules about how many visitors a poor abused billionaire could have? "Fine, I shouldn't have ducked BDSM Escape Techniques 101," he muttered. "My bad, sign me up."
Thor crossed his arms over his chest and upped the wattage on the scowling. "You have dealt us and yourself a grievous insult."
How had his day gotten even weirder? And he assumed it was the same day because if he'd been out for days or weeks he'd expect more relief and less hostility from the peanut gallery. "Don't I even get a 'congratulations on your 25th kidnapping' cake?" he whined, wanting to stave off the yelling and ranting until his headache had dropped below pounding. More scowling, so no such luck. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for worrying you and I'm sorry for 'grievously insulting' you by getting my ass snagged again, but hey, every team has to have a token kidnap victim and better me than loved ones, right? Can I have an aspirin now?"
"There is a list," Natasha said in a voice that he would swear to his dying day gave him instant frostbite.
"Of scientists. Fury showed it to us and the Tower lease contract." Bruce went for utterly disappointed versus the deep freeze, but he had the puppy eyes to make it almost as lethal.
"What?" Because it so bore repeating. This was about what he'd said? Sure it wasn't his best plan, but in his defense, he hadn't known the light meant Hydra was streaming the video to them. And talk about giving evil geniuses everywhere a bad name! There wasn't a signal in the world JARVIS couldn't track down. No wonder they'd found him so fast. "Are you seriously standing there looking all glowery because I made sure you were taken care of if I died? How does that even make sense?" And ow! Raising voice, bad idea.
"You didn't tell us." Clint again.
"So? I don't like talking about 'in the event of my death.' No one does." Damn, that had sounded more petulant than the indignant he'd been going for. Fucking headache. Fucking teammates.
"Don't try to play us, Stark," Natasha hissed. "You didn't tell us because you didn't think we'd keep you around if you did."
Well, yes, that, too, but it totally did not negate the nobility of the gestures in the first place. He tried glaring back. Nothing. Fine. "All right, it sucks to know you can be bought without even knowing it, but I've been buying friends since I was in diapers." Not much of an exaggeration when he thought about it. "Means I'm good at it so don't feel bad about yourselves. Now, about that aspirin?"
She stalked over to him, jabbed her finger into his shoulder with enough force to make him momentarily forget all about his head, and said, "If you ever tell anyone again that you're not a special snowflake, I'll kill you with a spoon." She whirled around and stalked out of the room.
"A dull one," Clint added, then followed her.
"Covered with rust," Bruce put in as he left.
"And I shall hold you down for them." Tony decided Thor got the most style points for his exit as his cape swirled in his wake.
And oh, great, that left him alone with Rogers. "My head hurts," he whined. "Can we please put off the yelling for another day?" Although he supposed one of Cap's 'you are such a liability out of that suit' rants would be the icing on the shitcake.
"No, you're not," Rogers suddenly ended his silence and told Tony he'd muttered the last bit instead of just thinking it. Hey, who said Cap couldn't multi-task? "I get on you about not taking better care of yourself, including being more aware of your surroundings."
Same difference. He knew he hadn't said it, but apparently his expression did, because Rogers sighed. "If I could go back in time just once, I'd beat Howard to a pulp."
Tony blinked. Why would he say something as stupid as that? "No, you wouldn't. You'd keep your date at the Stork Club." No need to go back to save Barnes, since Bucky had done his own version of the frosty-freezy-resurrection trick, but Tony could see the regret over the missed date with Peggy Carter every single fucking time Rogers looked at Agent Sharon Carter.
Rogers shook his head. "You really think I'd choose a dance over stopping your father from hurting you?"
Oh, guess he must have mentioned Howard's birthday 'gift' while he was babbling at the camera. Or maybe the time he'd hit Tony when he was home from boarding school, or … Never mind. "Why shouldn't you? No one else ever chose me." Not even his mother, and wasn't she sort of required to like him at least a little?
"Because I don't hate you, Tony."
Something warm skittered through him at 'Tony' instead of 'Stark' and, hey, it only took four months to get him to use his first name. Maybe in another two he'd let Tony call him Steve.
"Every time I yelled at you for not sleeping or not eating or getting hurt, I was trying to tell you that."
Seemed to Tony there were less loud ways to get that message across, but he sucked at people skills so what did he know? "You were?"
Rog – no, damnit, if he could use Tony's first name, Tony at least got to think of him by his – Steve nodded, moving over to the bed. For a moment he worried he was going to get another painful jab, but Steve settled his hand on Tony's shoulder instead of poking him. "I was trying to tell you something else, too."
He leaned down, slowly, like he was giving Tony time to say 'hell, no' and honestly would anyone be dumb enough to do that? The man was gor — Lips pressed against his, a gentle brush more than a kiss, but heavy with promise.
Tony sighed softly as Steve drew back, then looked up at him in confused wonder. "You … like me."
"The others like you, Tony. I'm kind of beyond that," he answered with a smile.
"How far?" he asked, careless in pushing his luck as he noticed the pinched, tired look around Steve's eyes.
"It's worth it." The lack of hesitation made the warmth surge again, this time settling in for a long stay.
"Hmm, maybe you should take a nap though," he said scooting over as much as the hospital bed allowed.
Steve didn't argue, he simply climbed into the bed and slipped his arm around Tony as he settled against Steve's broad chest. "Tony?"
"Snow and I don't have the best relationship. Even if we did, I would never call you something Howard used to hurt you, but, you're really special. To me, to all of us. We'll keep telling you until you believe it."
In that moment, snug in Steve's arms, Tony almost did. He figured it was a start. To a lot of things. And he smiled.