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College is a Bitch

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Tony wasn't popular. Well, that was actually an understatement. Most of the school ignored his existence, which was fine by him, while the people who did notice him only did so when they needed money. Or booze. Or both.

Everyone knew he was a rich kid, but hey, he went to a rich school. The people with scholarships thought he didn't deserve to be there and only bought his way in. And the people who were rich like him hated Howard, and therefore they hated Tony. That’s what you get when half the attendees had parents working for Hammer Tech.

He probably could have bought some friendships here and there, if he had thrown his money around like most rich kids did. But he didn't want that. He rather have no friends than fake friends.

Tony did have some friends though. Bruce for example. His science buddy. Here on a scholarship, Bruce only cared about Tony's brain. They hung out a lot. Jane joined them sometimes, when she took a break from making out with her wrestler champion boyfriend, Thor. And first year student Peter, who was too clever for his own good and stayed home more often than not. And then he hadn’t even mentioned Rhodey and Pepper who already graduated and were both busy with their own lives.

That was about it though, so he might not have a lot of friends, but he'd deal.

The problem wasn't his friends; it was... Well, his enemies? That sounds too dramatic. But bullies sounds too weak. Anyway, Justin Hammer and his Gang of Jealous Assholes© made his life hell whenever they could. Hammer's dad had some sort of problem with Howard, so naturally that meant Justin would have to hate Tony. Yeah great.


Of course, just as Tony left to catch the bus home (his car had been trashed by Hammer and his gang three times so now he had to take public transport to "learn the value of his properties" ~Howard), Justin showed up by his locker.


Tony actually didn't remember much after. Just pain and taunting voices.




He woke up in a corner between the building and the dumpsters. There was blood on his face and everything hurt. Tony groaned and clasped a hand against his throbbing ribs. Shit. They really went all out this time. He probably had some cracked ribs again. Maybe a concussion? Ugh. It was hard to focus.

Just as he tried to push himself to his feet, he heard something. Footsteps. Did they come back? To make sure he stayed down this time?

Tony wasn't really good at staying down, or at shutting up. It's what got him into trouble most of the time. This time though, he hadn't done a thing. So Howard must have gotten a contract Hammer had his eyes on. Happened. Quite often actually.



Shit. Shit shit shit.


Tony carefully looked up through his swollen eye and swallowed thickly when he saw who were approaching.

Steve Rogers, captain of the football team, and his sidekick/right-hand/boyfriend, James Bucky Barnes. The two most popular and hottest guys in this damned school. Both scholarships, and both perfect. Not that they knew Tony existed. But whatever.

What the hell were they doing here?


"Who did this to you?" The brunette, James, asked roughly while Steve was carefully helping Tony to his feet.

"You need a doctor. We can call-" The blond started but quickly got interrupted by the panicking genius.

"No doctor. I'll be fine. I just, need to catch a bus home. I'll sleep it off." He rambled though there was a slight slur in his voice. Fuck he really hit his head hard.

James snorted and shook his head. "Kid, you can barely stand."

"Please... No doctor. I'll pay you. Whatever you want. Please. Just please no doctor." Tony wasn't above begging; it's not like he had any pride left. Or anything to lose.

Steve seemed torn and he and James shared a look. The blond finally focused back on Tony, who he was still holding up. "My mom is a nurse. We'll take you to have her look you over." He said sternly. When Tony opened his mouth to argue, Steve glared. "That is not open to negotiation."

Tony nodded along, already relieved to keep doctors out of it. Doctors meant his father finding out. Which meant a lecture about how weak he was, and how useless. And how he should have fought back like a real man. Nine of them against one of him. Sure. Just fight back.


The worst part was, Tony did fight back. He struggled and threw punches around. He often even carried around a makeshift weapon which could take down at least a few of them. It was just never enough and only pissed them off more. And now he was being half carried to the parking lot by two giant hotties. They were actual giants though.


"We aren't giants, you're just small, Stark."

Shit, he had said that out loud. What else did he say out loud?

"Stark, stop talking and sit down."

Oh, they made it to a car. A rusty death-trap. But it probably once was a car?

"Stop judging our ride and buckle up."

Oh that was Bucky who sounded annoyed. Heh. Buckle up Bucky.

"My name is James. Only friends call me Bucky."

Oh. Ouch. Well.


Tony bit his lip because he was really tired of rambling his thoughts out loud. Instead, the genius focused on the road. They were driving. Steve was sitting next to him on the backseat, probably to make sure he didn't die or something.

Before he knew it, they had arrived at Steve's place. Or so Tony assumed as he was basically dragged out of the car.

He knew this part of town, Brucy lived nearby, it wasn't a good part of town.

"You live here?" He asked Steve curiously, not judging but not expecting Captain Perfect to live anywhere that didn't have a white picket fence.

"Something wrong with that?" The blond asked sharply, making Tony immediately shake his head. Of course he was already pissing the bodybuilders off. Because what was his life?


Life was better when people didn't know who you were.

Bucky snorted. "Stark, I don't think there's anyone at school who doesn't know who you are. They'd have to live under a rock."

Great. He was talking out loud again.


"Steve? What- oh my- set him down on the couch. What happened?" A soft worried voice interrupted Tony's cloudy thought process and he was suddenly pushed down on a clean but worn couch.

There was a soft kind face hovering before him and Tony blinked in an attempt to clear his vision.


"Hello mister Stark, can you tell me your first name? I am Sarah Rogers, Steve's mom.

"Tony..." The slurring had definitely gotten worse. "M' name is Tony." Little bit better.


There was a light shining in his eyes. "Alright Tony, you definitely have a concussion. Steve says you don't want a doctor, so we'll have you rest here for the night alright? I need to clean some cuts before you can sleep though."

Tony understood most words. He almost panicked for a moment because he had to get home. But then again, his parents probably didn't even realize he was gone. And even if they did, he would just say he had spent all night working on something.

There was a light stinging at the cuts on his head and arms, followed by soft gauze wrapped around them. Tony normally did that himself, which lead to less than ideal results really.


It was nice, to have someone else do it. Even if they only did it because they pitied him. Maybe sometimes pity could be a little better than being ignored.



Tony had to be woken at regular intervals to make sure he wasn't dead. Or at least that was Tony's reasoning. When he finally woke in the morning he had a massive pounding headache, but at least the cloudy feeling was mostly gone.

A small groan escaped him as he pushed himself up and felt every injury throb.

He was in a small bed in a tiny bedroom. The many football posters on the wall, combined with the art supplies in the corner, showed it to be Steve's room, most likely. The room was a little messy, but clean. The smell of coffee and eggs drifted through the cracked open door. So of course Tony immediately pushed himself to his feet and stumbled out of the room.

Someone had changed his bloody torn clothes into a pair of too big sweatpants and a way too big shirt. But Tony didn't care. He just headed to the general direction of the egg smell and easily found the small kitchen. Damn this place was tiny.


It also didn't help that Steve, who was the one frying eggs, was a giant. No matter what he had said last night. Or was that Bucky? It was all a little vague.


"Good morning Stark. Sit down. You have to eat." Steve said without looking away from his eggs.

Tony frowned but did sit down on the nearest chair. "I-" Oh his voice was wrecked. He cleared his throat and tried again. "I'm sorry for stealing your bed." Damn. Not much better.

Steve handed him a glass of water and shrugged. "It was no problem. You needed the rest."


The water is followed by a plate with eggs and toast.

"Thanks, look, I-" Tony sighed. "Isn't your mom-"

"She's at work." Steve interrupted while sitting down with his own plate. "She said you aren't supposed to go to school today, she already called Fury. I'll drive you home before going to school. You'll have to sleep though."


Tony wanted to argue. But for what? Going back to a school he hated? Or going back to his own house that was massive but felt so damn empty and didn't have anyone who would bother checking over Tony's injuries. Not since Jarvis had died anyway.

"Sounds like a plan Cap." Tony muttered instead, eating his eggs but not tasting a thing. He felt like shit. And he had bothered the kindest people ever with his shitty problems.





Steve did drive him home, told him not to worry about returning the clothes, and over all looked very uncomfortable driving through the neighbourhood where Tony lived.

Tony was almost glad when they arrived at his house and he could get out of that tension filled rust barrel. "Thanks. For, you know, everything. Can you tell your mom-"


"I'll tell her."


Tony nodded and stepped back from the car, his schoolbag thrown over his shoulder. "Well, I'll- ehm, thanks."

And with that, the genius turned around and headed into the cold mansion that he called his home.



Chapter Text

Howard never found out. And it was better that way. It was. Of course the founder and CEO of Stark Industries could easily sue the kids beating up his only son for everything they had, but he wouldn’t. And Tony knew that.


His father was convinced that Tony should simply stick up for himself. Besides, suing meant the media finding out. And if the media found out the heir to SI was being beaten up on a daily basis, it would surely make stocks drop.


Tony’s safety and happiness simply wasn’t worth more than the company. Which he knew just fine without his dad reminding him whenever they saw each other, thank you very much.


Anyway, now Tony definitely had a problem. He owned the two most popular guys in his school big time.


And a Stark always paid his debts.



There had been a time where Steve was tiny. A shrimp basically. A little firecracker who would beat up everyone who even thought about bullying anyone.


And Tony liked that. He always said hi to the small blond and got a small smile in return, but it never turned into anything more than just that.


The one summer, Tony spent it all working while thinking about asking Steve on a date, they could go get a milkshake together or something. He had it all planned out.


Until school started again and everything went wrong.



First of all, Steve had been working out. Combine that with a giant grow spurt and you got a giant hot popular guy. He even joined the football team and became Captain within a few months.


With at least half a dozen hot girls chasing him at any given moment, Tony knew his chances had been blown to pieces. Kind small Steve had already been a stretch; huge hot kind Steve was so far out of his league he might as well be playing a different sport.


And if that wasn’t enough, Steve’s boyfriend, James “Bucky” Barnes, joined after Christmas break. Everyone knew the story about the brunet who got a scholarship thanks to the metal arm he got after a car accident.



A metal arm courtesy of SI.


And if Tony had actually been the one to design it, no one would ever know. Howard would make sure of that.


And Tony? Tony pushed his pathetic crushes away and focused back on his work, the only thing he was good at.




It didn’t take Tony long to come up with a proper way to pay back Steve, Bucky, and Mrs. Rogers. Money made the world go round after all.


So Tony used his monthly allowance, that he usually just dumped on saving accounts, to pay off both Steve’s and Bucky’s medical bills.



Tony got a lot of allowance.


Of course, they couldn’t simply say thanks and move on. Oh no. That would be too easy.



“Tony!” The genius’ name was called from across the parking lot. He didn’t stop walking towards the bus stop though, if he didn’t catch this one he would have to take the one with the Soccer club. Tony didn’t like the soccer club.


However, he was quickly joined by the big blond who called out his name anyway.


“Tony, hey, hang on a second.”


“I have a bus to catch Rogers.” Tony answered and kept walking.


Steve just walked besides him and talked. “So there has been an anonymous person who paid off mine and Bucky’s medical bills. The day after we, ehm, brought you home.” The captain says a little awkward.


Tony finally stops walking for a second only to raise an eyebrow at Steve, obviously asking “so?”


Instead of just letting it go, Steve avoids eye contact. Which is a shame because those blue eyes are gorgeous. “You didn’t have to do that.”



It’s said so softly Tony almost misses it. The rich kid just sighs and shrugs. “I wanted to. Consider it a thank you for dragging my ass out of there.” He said, feeling just as awkward as Steve looked.


Steve is stubborn though, and stands a little straighter. “We don’t need your money.” He says a little louder, just making Tony cross his arms and look away.


“Well neither do I. So just accept it, forget it, and move on with your life.”



When Steve opens his mouth again to argue, Tony cuts him off. “Look Rogers, most people would have either left me there, or just called an ambulance. And then they would still demand something in return. You two took me home, to your mom, and asked for nothing. So just- just let it be. Please.”



Steve looks torn but eventually nods. “Thank you Stark- I mean, Tony. You don’t owe us anything, but we… we appreciate it.” The captain said so politely, it made Tony blink in surprise.


“Ehm, thanks, I- well I have to go catch my bus. Tell Barnes what I said, it’s no big deal.”


“Will do…” Steve said as Tony started walking. “See you around Tony!”



Tony almost snorted as he walked off, yeah right, he would go back to a life of invisibility, he just knew it.




Chapter Text



That was supposed to be it!


The two were supposed to go back to their own lives while Tony went back to his.

Only somehow, for some reason, both Steve and Bucky had taken it upon themselves to change things.


Tony wasn’t sure if he liked it.



It started the Monday after Steve had followed Tony to the bus stop to talk to him. When Tony arrived at school, dark marks under his eyes from a lack of sleep, he had been handed a cup of fresh coffee from the creepy hot redheaded cheerleader; Natasha.

Before Tony had the chance to say anything, her boyfriend Clint (Archery Captain) told him to join them for lunch.


Just as quickly as they appeared, they were gone again. Leaving a very confused genius behind with just a cup of coffee to remind him it really happened.


 During Tony’s next two classes, more weird things happened.


Math was pretty normal. Tony sat next to Bruce, who was working on some new formula while their teacher droned on. But when their teacher asked Justin a question, who had been bothering the poor girl sitting behind him, something odd happened.

 Hammer answered it wrong, which wasn’t too weird, but then… instead of the usual silence, there was a snickering heard from the back of the class.




“Mister Barnes, you think something is funny?” Their teacher asked obviously annoyed.

 “Yes misses Hill, I think it’s pretty funny mister Hammer doesn’t know the answer to something we already discussed years ago.” He sassed, making some other people smother their laughter.

 “Really mister Barnes? So I suppose you can give us the right answer?’ Misses Hill clearly wasn’t impressed.

 “Well if you would just remember that a square root can have both a positive and a negative answer, which mister Hammer seemed to have forgotten, the answer will be either 27,5 or minus 13. And since our domain ends at positive 5, the correct answer would be minus 13, ma’am.”


Tony kind of wanted to clap. Because yes that question had been really damn easy, and someone taking Advanced Calculus should be able to get it right in their sleep. And everyone present knew that.


Justin had a red head, anger and embarrassment taking over.

 Stark couldn’t help but grin, serves him right.


He quickly looked away when Bu- James, winked at him.



Tony’s next class, Art, was one of his least favourite. Not because of the subject, Tony appreciated the value of good art, but because of the teacher.


Mister Borson was an old bitter man who took pleasure in humiliating his students.

 For instance, this week…


“This project will be done in pairs. I expect to see the first drafts by the end of this lesson, you may begin.”

 Tony sighed and dug through his bag for his pencil case. Art sucked. An uneven amount of students sucked even more. It always left Tony on his own, Brucy didn’t take this class, so Tony didn’t even bother getting up to find a partner.


A shadow fell over his table, making the genius look up.

 “There’s an uneven amount of people.” Steve said, grinning smugly.

 Tony looked away and ignored the pang of hurt in his chest. “I know.” He muttered.


Bucky spoke up next. “We talked to Borson, we get to do this thing with the three of us.”

 That made Tony look back to the dynamic duo. “What?” Oh yes, what a genius.


Steve just grinned while James elaborated. “This painting, we can work on it with the three of us together so no one has to do it alone.”


“Yeah I got that.” Tony mumbled suspiciously. “But-”

 “He has a soft spot for Stevie over here.” James interrupted with a wink while Rogers nodded in agreement.


“Alright then…”



So after the weirdest art class of a lifetime, where Tony had to fight really hard to remember that he wasn’t actually friends with the Perfect Couple of the Year, it was time for lunch.

More weird shit.

While chatting with the two, Tony hadn’t realized where he was going until Steve and James had already led him to the canteen. He was gently pushed down on a seat on what Tony always referred to as the Popular Table, and frowned.


“What are you guys doing? I should find my friends to sit with.” The genius said and moved to get up.

 Steve raised an eyebrow while sitting on his left, James tugged Tony back down after sitting on his right.

 “Don’t be silly, Banner went home after Math, which you know. So unless you want to go sit on your own outside like you always do on Mondays, just shut up and eat your lunch.” The brown haired football player said gruffly.


Tony looked down at the table to avoid eye contact while swallowing thickly and ignoring the lump in the back of his throat. Barnes was right, of course he was. That didn’t mean he liked being reminded of how much he didn’t belong here.


It didn’t even cross his mind to wonder how James knew where Tony ate his lunch on Mondays.


“You’re right, I have to-” Tony muttered as he got up and stepped away from the table.

 But of course that’s exactly when Natasha Romanov and Clint Barton popped up, followed by Sam and Scott from Biology, Tony didn’t know their last names.

 Everyone knew who they all were though, the loud group of friends mostly consisting of team captains and honorary students. The elite. And none of them incredibly rich, which confused the hell out of the actually wealthy kids.


“Hello everyone.”

 “Heya Cap, pass me your Economics notes will ya?”

 “Is anyone free on Thursday? I was thinking beer and pizza at my place.”


The rambling of the young adults washed over Tony who kind of stood there in shock. Steve looked up at him while Bucky was focused on defending his desert from being snatched away by Clint.

 “Sit down Tony.” The football captain said kindly.


Tony didn’t sit down though. He grabbed his bag and almost ran out of there.


He didn’t stop until he reached his usual spot, underneath a tree on the far side of campus.

The brunet sat down and clutched his bag close while catching his breath.

 Press he could deal with, he could grin and smile and charm his way through any interview. But this? It was obvious they wanted something. Money maybe. After all, they had helped Tony out and gotten a small fortune in return. So they probably expected to get more out of it if they helped him out again.


Tony sighed and ran a hand through his hair. What to do what to do…


There were two options. Either Tony could ignore their little act until they finally dropped it and left him alone, or…

Or he could go along with it, pretend to have friends, and throw some money at them every once in a while.


Had he really sunk that low? Had he reached the point of buying friends?


Tony looked at the cuts and bruises still covering his arms, not to mention the giant black eye he was probably still sporting. He sighed. He was so tired of being constantly afraid and on edge.

And yes, he had sunk that low.


The billionaire’s kid got up and headed to the bus stop, he was going to go buy himself some friends.


It was a shame he just missed a worried Bucky looking for him.




Chapter Text



The first thing Tony learnt while growing up was that money made the world go round. Money could buy anything. It could buy love, despite what people claimed, and friendship. It could buy loyalty and desire. Anger and joy.

There was nothing money couldn't fix.


And even though Tony had always tried to prove his father wrong, to show you could make friends and find love without handing out money, he finally realised his dad had been right all along.

And so Tony pulled some money out of his savings account and made sure to carry some cash with him when he went to school the next day.


The sunglasses on his face didn't just hide his black eye, they were a shield, a piece of armour. Something to hide the emotions on his face.

There was no hot redhead waiting with coffee this morning. There were however, two giant hot guys waiting for him next to the bus stop.


"Tony, can we talk?" Steve asked carefully.

Tony grinned, his press masks firmly in place. "Well of course Mon Capitaine, how can I help you?" He asked with a big wink, charming like he usually never was at school.

Bucky frowned and crossed his arms, looking obviously annoyed. "Look Stark, I just wanted to apologize for yesterday. We didn't mean to put you on the spot like that. Just wanted you to join us for lunch that's all." Even though he was basically apologizing, James still sounded like he was blaming Tony for something.

Which -naturally- confused the hell out of the genius.


He shrugged it off though and simply grinned a little broader. "Don't ya worry James, no harm done."

Steve immediately saw an opportunity and took it. "So you won't mind joining us today then?"

When Tony opened his mouth to inform Steve that he did in fact had plans with Bruce and Jane, the captain just smirked.

"Bruce and Jane are welcome to join of course."


James huffed amused and elbowed his boyfriend playfully. "Thor will be there so Jane is probably going to join us anyway."

Tony sighed but nodded. "Fine, since you already kidnapped one of my friends, I guess I'll join your Boyband during lunch." He carried the tone of someone doing someone else a favour, which made Steve's smirk drop a little and only deepened Bucky's frown.


Not that Tony cared, if it's money they wanted, they would get the press Tony along with it.



Tony did actually join them for lunch. Bruce only joined for a moment before the large amount of people present made his anxiety flare up and he left. Jane was joined to the hip with Thor and spent all of the time making out with the wrestler. Tony felt a little guilty about not following Bruce, but instead he paid for everyone's drinks and flirted with Scott.


He ignored the angry glares James kept throwing him and didn't focus too much on the weird looks coming from Steve.



A lot of time actually passed this way.


Tony slowly joined the group of popular friends more and more often, while also casually paying for more and more of their stuff.

He took them out to movies, paid for dinner, hosted small parties with plenty of alcohol and the occasional recreational drug, and slipped them cash whenever he could.

They were actually really friendly, great actors really. Tony could pretend he had actual friends most of the time. When he was laughing with Sam, playfully flirting with Scott, pranking people with Clint, or even chatting about guys with Natasha.


Steve and Bucky were a completely different story. They both acted strangely around the genius, switching from being really affectionate and close, to distant and grumpy on an almost daily basis. Tony didn't know what he was doing wrong, but he didn't like it.

He pushed it aside though, it was already enough trouble keeping his stupid crush hidden while those two were being so affectionate.


Sometimes it hurt though. There would be sudden moments where Tony got a reminder of why they actually spent time with him.

Like now. It was about a month after Tony started spending his money on his new 'friends', and they were out for lunch.


"So we should probably get back to campus if we want to catch our afternoon classes. Don't you guys have Economics in half an hour?" Natasha asked calmly while redoing her perfect bright red lipstick after eating.

Both Clint and Sam groaned, they hated Economics. Tony never quite figured out why they even took the class in the first place.

Natasha did have a point though, Tony himself had a Physics class to go to. Everyone got up and grabbed their coats, heading to the door while their waitress walked over.


Tony was the only one left, the others chatting and laughing as they made their way to their cars.



The genius was startled out of his thoughts by the waitress. He smiled at her as he handed her some cash, enough to cover the entire bill, including a huge tip.


He left the diner and headed to Steve's barrel of a car, slipping in the backseat besides Bruce and remaining silent during the ride. Neither Bucky nor Steve noticed though, too busy talking with Bruce. Why would they even talk with Tony? Their walking and talking bank account had done his job.



It was reaching the end of fall, which meant a week off after their exams. Tony was excited. Rhodey was coming over for the week, and the genius had the whole week with his friend planned out. They were going to watch a bunch of movies, get drunk at least twice, and probably exchange some embarrassing stories for the heck of it.

But most of all, Tony was going to enjoy being himself around his best friend. The millionaire was going to savour his friend's protests whenever Tony offered to pay. And even those few times Rhodey would pay before Tony could. It wasn't like Tony needed the money, and he gladly spent it on other people, but the sentiment... the idea that Tony was worth more than just his chequebook, meant the world to him.


"Tones! Over here, you idiot!"

Said brunet spun around and grinned broadly at the sight of his best friend heading his way. "Platypus!"

There was no shame when Tony ran forward and hugged Major Rhodes in the middle of the airport.

"Good to see you Tones." The older man says as he returns the hug, grinning at his smaller friend.


The two walk side by side towards the exit where Steve is waiting. The blond was kind enough to offer a ride so they didn't need to take the bus since Tony still wasn't allowed to buy a new car.


"You gonna introduce me or what?" The other James asks while bumping his shoulder against Tony's.

Tony grins and nods. "Cap, this is Major James Rhodes from the US Marine." There was obvious pride in his voice at the title. "And Honeybear, this is Steve Rogers, captain of the football team."


Rhodey raised an eyebrow as he offered Steve a hand to shake. "Pleasure to meet you Captain." There was a hint of mocking in Rhodes' voice. After all, he worked really damn hard for his title, if he kept going like this he would make Lieutenant Colonel in a few years, Colonel just after. And this kid was carrying the title of Captain just because he could throw a ball.

Steve didn't seem too intimidated though, he simply shook Rhodes' hand and nodded. "Thank you Major, the honour is all mine." The blond said and squeezed just a little tighter. The two stared at each other while Tony had no idea what the hell just happened.


"Ehm, right, let's just go alright? I have plans Sourpatch, big plans." Tony quickly changed the subject while hiding behind his sunglasses.


He led the way to the car while ignoring the tension between his best friend and his whatever Steve was.


This was going to be a good week and nothing could ruin Tony's good mood.



Chapter Text


It wasn't a good week.


To be honest, it wasn't a terribly bad one either, not the worst anyway. It just kind of sucked.

The shitstorm started the second day Rhodey was there, Sunday. Clint called.

"Hey Stark, some of us are going out shopping for the Christmas gala shit this afternoon, you wanna join?"

Tony sighed and looked at Rhodes while telling Clint to hang on for a second.

"What do you say Honeybear? Want to go out shopping for some suits?"


Never let it be said Major Rhodes was an idiot, because he immediately realised something was off. His strange best friend, with a heart too big for this world and a generosity bound to get him into trouble, looked tired and a little regretful. So Rhodey wanted to know what the hell was going on and exactly whose ass he had to kick.

"Sure thing, I can use a new tux." He said casually while looking at the movie they had been watching. "I didn't know you were going to the Christmas Gala, I thought you hated that shit?" Rhodes made sure to keep his tone light.

It took a while before Tony answered. "I'm not sure yet, but it never hurts to be prepared."


Again, Rhodey could just hear something weird in Tony's voice. When he looked over, the small brunet was already talking to Clint over the phone though, setting a time and place to meet up.


"Alright, see ya later!"


James didn't know what was wrong, but he just knew he would find out later that day.


And he was right.



"I would definitely go for the blue, it suits you much better than the black." Natasha told a lightly blushing Steve as she walked around him, judging and nodding at what she saw.

Tony grinned and winked at the blond. "She's right. The blue really brings out your ass. I mean, eyes." The genius teased amused.

Barton rolled his eyes and threw a tie at Tony. "Stop flirting with Bucky's boyfriend."


Rhodes noticed the way Tony's smile twitched a little, but didn't say anything. There was a weird vibe coming from these new 'friends' and he wasn't sure if he liked it.

That's when Barnes walked out in a full black suit, including black shirt and tie. And even Rhodey had to admit the guy looked good.


An appreciative whistle came from the redheaded cheerleader while Steve just stared at his boyfriend with wide eyes.

Tony just smirked right through his heart pumping. "Looking good James, I think you broke Stevie over here."

Of course, Bucky grinned at that and walked over to steal a quick kiss from the blond. "Keep breathing ya punk." He joked.


Steve blinked a few times before turning to the saleswoman (who was pretty busy ogling the two herself) and speaking up. "I think we'll take these." The captain said with a dry mouth.


Rhodes snorted amused and rolled his eyes at the way Tony tried to hide his staring. He wondered how long it would take before the two partners would realise their younger friend was absolutely smitten with them.


Everyone had picked out a new suit, with a matching shirt and tie, Natasha approved, and so they headed out. Rhodes lingered and frowned when he watched the group chat happily among each other, leaving Tony behind.

The Major looked around confused and frowned even deeper when he saw his best friend standing behind the counter paying for everyone their stuff. He casually leaned against the counter and looked at Tony. "So, your new friends seem nice."

Tony got his card back from the saleswoman and smiled at Rhodey. "They are."

James wrapped an arm around Tony's shoulder and the two of them walked out together. "They must be really grateful, with you paying for their clothing."


It hurt. Because how could Tony tell Rhodey that no, they weren't. They never even said thanks these days. And at days like these it just felt like he was only invited to pay, not because anyone actually wanted him to join. And how could he explain that he knew everything about them. From their favourite colour to their life stories, and they knew nothing about him.

Because Tony bothered to learn all that stuff about them, because he cared. But they never even asked.

"Yeah... Yeah they are." Was all he muttered as they joined the others, hoping Rhodey would drop it.


He didn't. Instead, Rhodey kept talking, drawing the attention of the whole group. "I'm sure they are, after all, you did just buy them all designer suits. I must have just missed their thanks." And just like before he kept his tone light and casual. Though there was an edge, it mostly showed in his eyes as he stared at the group while keeping his arm still wrapped around Tony's shoulders.

Tony was avoiding everyone their eye contact and muttered something about it not being important.


He missed the guilty and shocked expressions everyone wore. However, it was basically impossible to miss the scandalised look on Steve's face as he spoke up shocked. "Oh my god, he's right, we didn't even- while you- how could we-" The captain stuttered as he mostly seemed angry at himself.

Bucky rested a hand on Steve's shoulder to calm him down and spoke up himself. "Tony? We're sorry, we didn't realise-"


Tony frowned and shook his head. "There is no need to apologise. I have more than enough money, it's no problem."

Rhodes glared at the others, feeling a wave of protection for his friend who gave because he thought he had to and didn't expect anything in return.


"That's not the point Stark." Natasha said sharply. "We have been taking advantage of you. We have come to expect you to pay for us without even saying thank you." Her voice softened and she looked straight at Tony. "You deserve better Tony."

The genius started to panic, not having expected the kind words he freaked. "It's alright really, I don't mind. I know you guys don't really want me around but... I- I-" Tony took a step back, away from Rhodey, and rambled on much to the shock of everyone else.

"You saved my ass and of course I had to pay you back and then you all started acting nice and- and I started spending money on you all and you acted like you liked me more and more. And I get it, and it's fine. I knew all along and I don't care."


He fell silent and stared at his shoes, wrapping his arms around himself.


"I haven't gotten beaten up as much since I started hanging around with you, and neither has Bruce. I-" The genius swallows thickly, the others staring in silent shock. "Brucy gets enough bruises as it is." He whispers. "Can we please pretend this never happened? I'll keep paying for your stuff but don't push Bruce away. He- He is the one who deserves better."


That's when Tony turns around and runs off, quickly disappearing in the crowds of the mall, leaving behind shocked friends and one seriously pissed off Major.


"You are all going to follow me and fucking explain what the fuck just happened..."



Tony wasn't feeling good. With Rhodey coming over he had been pushing himself to finish all his work to have a week off. He managed it, barely, but was left feeling worn down and exhausted. It didn't help of course that he had ran all the way home from a disastrous shopping trip. 

The genius had locked himself in his room and curled up on his bed. He had really fucked up. The facade had been broken. If they had any brains they would simply take his money and ignore him. Tony just hoped they would keep backing Bruce up. His Science Bro could use some friends who weren't pathetic assholes like him. Fuck. Here he was wallowing in self-pity. If his dad would see him right now...


Speaking of the fucking devil.


Just as Tony started to relax a little, he heard his father's voice call out.




"So, someone better fill me in on what happened or so help me-"

"Hammer happened." Bucky interrupts with a scowl. "We found Tony passed out behind a dumpster."


As Rhodes pales, Steve continues. "He panicked when we talked about the hospital, so we took him to my place. My mom's a nurse." The captain explains. "We took care of him and brought him home the next day. Next thing we know; we get a phone call saying our medical bills had all been paid off by some anonymous donor."

"We quickly figured it was Tony who must have done that." Bucky takes over, running a hand through his long hair. "I mean, who else has that amount of money just laying around?"

Steve swallows thickly before continuing. "My mom was in shock, she wanted me to go make sure there wasn't any mistake made, wanted us to tell him to take it back, that he didn't need to pay us for being decent human beings. So I went and talked to Tony. He admitted it had been him, told me to accept the damn money, and I just thanked him and let it go."

Natasha is the one to continue, looking at Rhodes while doing so. "They told us what happened. We had misjudged his character... We assumed he was some spoiled rich brat, like most assholes at school, and simply ignored him. But the way he had reacted made us realise he wasn't like that at all. So we wanted to do better."


Clint wants to take over but Rhodes raises a hand to silence them. "So to recap, Tony got beaten up, you brought him to your home because he refused to go to a hospital, then he pays off your medical bills, and you suddenly decide you like him?" The major asks annoyed and clearly pissed off. "No shut up Barnes." He snaps as the brunet opens his mouth to argue. "You ignored him until he gave you money. What the hell did you think that would look like? So let me guess. You were generous enough to give him a chance to befriend you all? On the one small little expectation of him paying for all your shit of course." He snapped, anger obvious as his posture screamed military.


Bucky got up and glared back at the other James. "We didn't mean for that to happen! We just wanted to be nice. And then we got to know him..." His voice trails off and he shares a look with Steve before seemingly steeling his resolve. "We are his friends, even as he seems to think we are just bought."

Clint finally gets enough of this shit and gets up as well. "Look, we fucked up alright. Because the Major is right, we shouldn't have accepted Tony's generosity so easily. We should have gotten to know him first, befriend him. And at least fucking thank him for all the shit he puts up with." Even though Rhodes seems ready to interrupt, Barton continues. "But we didn't do that. He thinks we don't like him and he's probably talking himself into a bad place right now. So instead of sulking like assholes, we should probably go check on him."


Steve's eyes widen but he immediately heads to the door, let's see how fast his shitty car can go.




Chapter Text



Just as Tony started to relax a little, he heard his father's voice call out.





Howard was drunk a lot. It had only gotten worse since Maria spent most time abroad and Jarvis had passed away in that stupid car crash.

It led to Tony avoiding being alone with his father at all costs. He was pretty good at it, but not perfect...


Most of the time Tony managed to only see his dad about once every two weeks, to talk about work. Or actually, Tony showed Howard what he had designed, then Howard told Tony it was all shit and he was completely useless and should work harder, and eventually Howard would leave again to pitch Tony's work to the board as his own.

It didn't matter that Tony was almost legally an adult, the keyword being almost. He had tried running away in the past but it... it didn't end well.

So he and his dad came to an agreement. Tony would work, and in exchange Howard would mostly leave him alone.


Except today apparently.


"Anthony! Get down here!" There was barely any slurring in the old man's voice, even though Tony knew he must be at least a whole bottle down.

Practise makes perfect and all that.


Tony silently walked into his father's office, feeling drained and empty already. He wasn't sure if he could handle his dad today. Not that he had any choice...

"There you are, where the fuck have you been?" Howard snapped while pouring himself another glass of scotch.

"Just out with Rhodey." The student muttered while keeping his distance from the drunken man.

Howard huffed. "I don't get why he wastes time on visiting you. He should be focusing on his career." The billionaire says casually, not even noticing the small flinch his son showed. "Anyway, I just spoke to the board about that new toy of yours, and they're interested." The elder Stark said bitterly, adding a muttered "fuck knows why".


Something warm bloomed in Tony's chest. He had been working on the gadget for ages. He called it Stark Reality. It was a pair of glasses that allowed you to watch videos and play games as if they happened right around you. Even though SI's entertainment line was pretty small, Tony had hopes they would still see the economic potential this had and start producing it.

"Care to explain how that pathetic design landed between the new missile drafts I told you to deliver?"


Oh. Shit.


Tony could recognise that tone out of a million. It was the "oh boy you fucked up now" tone. The "pull out the foundation because you're going to have some more bruises to cover up" tone.


"I- I thought they could make easy money out of it..." Partly true, but Tony sure as hell wasn't going to tell his dad he was planning on changing SI completely once he took over. Phones, gadgets, clean energy, prosthetics... cool stuff and no more weapons.

The student was snapped out of his thoughts when he saw Howard walk over, a deadly glare on his face. Tony took a step back, instinctively raising an arm to cover his face. But it was too late.


A loud slap was heard in the otherwise silent office. Tony's head snapped to the side. A bruise immediately started to form underneath the soft tissue surrounding a mean cut on his cheekbone.

Tony took another step back while covering his cheek with a trembling hand. "I-"


"Not another word." Howard snapped before grabbing Tony by the collar and lifting him off the ground, pushing him against the wall.

The youngest Stark grabbed his father's hands, fear in his eyes while staying silent. Howard was breathing deeply, a hint of insanity visible on his face.


"Your stupid thing isn't even working properly yet, it's barely a sketch and now I have the board demanding a prototype. So guess what?"

Tony's eyes just widened in response right before Howard roughly threw him on the floor. "You are going to bring me a completely working prototype by the end of the week. If you don't..." He crouched down beside Tony, grabbing his hair and tilting his head back painfully, looking down at his son with hatred and disdain. " will regret it." The billionaire got up, kicked his son in the stomach -making him double over- and left with a fresh glass of scotch in his hand.



Tony didn't move for some time. It wasn't too bad really, his cheek was throbbing and the kick to the gut left him a little nauseas. But compared to the many marks he had received at the hands of Justin Hammer, this was practically nothing.

He knew this wasn't normal, knew some people had loving families and all that fluffy stuff. Tony just... wasn't one of those people.


Eventually he dragged himself to his feet, feeling way older than he actually was, and stumbled towards his room.

Of course, because that's just his life, that's when the doorbell rang.


He would later blame his clouded mind for the decision to actually open the door. It was probably just some delivery.


It wasn't some delivery.





Oh shit.


"What the hell happened to you??"


Steve, Bu- James, Clint, Natasha, and Rhodey were standing in front of him looking worried and shocked.

Tony suddenly became incredibly aware of how he looked, with a bleeding swollen cheek and red eyes. "What are you guys doing here?" He asked, aiming for charming and casual but missing by a mile.

Rhodey immediately stepped forward, gently reaching out for Tony's face and wincing when he flinched slightly in response.


"We were worried." Clint speaks up from behind Steve.

Rhodey looks around, and when he doesn't see the bastard responsible for the marks on his best friend, he pushes them all inside. "Your room, come on Tones, we need to talk."



"Ah that stings." Tony mutters, receiving an apologetic grimace from Steve who is cleaning the cut on the brunet's cheek as gently as possible.

"Well we can't let it scar, wouldn't want to permanently mark that pretty face of yours." Bucky says with half a smirk, though there is a pained edge to it.


Rhodes glares at Barnes, he doesn't appreciate these two morons messing with Tony's emotions. And when Tony seems to blush just a little and avoid eye contact, that glare only intensifies.


"Well since it's my pretty face and not yours, I get to complain all I want." Tony shot back while Steve put a Band-Aid over the cut and pressed an ice-pack wrapped in a towel against the bruising.

"Anywhere else he hurt you?" Steve asked softly, worry in his eyes as his hands lingered on Tony's arm.


The genius hesitated just a little too long.

"Spit it out Tones." Rhodey muttered with a stern look.


"My stomach." Tony muttered before hesitantly pulling his shirt up to reveal a nasty bruise on his abdomen, shaped suspiciously like a shoe.


Rhodes muttered a curse while Clint visually flinched and Natasha swore in Russian. Both Steve and Bucky fussed over the small brunet, prepping another ice-pack and asking questions about where it hurt and how much it hurt.

Tony thought it was pretty nice, to have someone worry instead of licking his own wounds in private. Not that he could allow himself to get used to this... Rhodey would leave at the end of the week and Tony would be alone. With a few classmates he didn't want to bother too much.


"Antoshka, we are sorry for the way we made you feel." Natasha shamelessly interrupted the fussing. "That was never our intention, we simply wanted to befriend you."

Tony threw her a skeptical look before focusing back on prodding the ugly bruise on his stomach.


"She's right Stark, we enjoy hanging out with you, not your wallet." Clint added while throwing a ball he found to the wall over and over again.

It wasn't until Rhodey sat down besides Tony and wrapped an arm around him, muttering an explanation, that Tony started to maybe believe them a little. If his best friend was to be believed they at least didn't start all this with the idea of getting some cash out of it. Which was at least something.


Actually, as he looked at his two crushes so worried over him, and his other friends looking on edge and protective about him, Tony decided that the least he could do was pretend.


Even if it turned out they were just lying to get more money, at least he would get some more time of 'friendship' out of it.


It would be worth it.




Chapter Text



Like many things in Tony's life, things got a lot better after Pepper got involved.


It had been a few weeks since the entire debacle, Christmas was drawing near, and things were both better and worse.


On one hand, Tony slowly started to figure out his friends were exactly that, his friends. Which, though terrifying, was also kind of nice. They didn't act any differently -after the initial groveling at least- still kind and good company. But they no longer expected his generosity. They actually showed that they were grateful whenever Tony got them something, and made sure to actually thank him a million times. But the millionaire never felt as if he got invited just to foot the bill anymore. Which, really, was an amazing experience. Especially since Bruce started to become more comfortable around them and joined them most of the time.

The problem was the other thing that changed.


Steve and Bucky.


They, well... They flirted a lot. Like, almost all the time. And it was driving Tony insane. Because he liked them and they were obviously either toying with him (not so likely) or looking for some fun between the sheets (more likely). And while Tony was all for a nice threesome, he couldn't. Not with them.

He really liked them both a lot, and couldn't bear the thought of having to step back afterwards. To let them continue their relationship without him. Better not to even think about ruining their shaky new friendship.



Pepper had learnt exactly what happened because Rhodey, the traitor, had told her. So rude.

Naturally, she had immediately Skyped him and demanded to know exactly why he never told her about any of this.

Tony didn't really have a reason aside from, I didn't want to bother your busy life with my stupid college problems, so he just kept silent and tried not to be too bothered by Pepper's teary eyes.

"When I come over, there will be ice cream." She had promised before saying goodbye.


Tony knew she and Rhodey had plans in place for oncoming May. The 29th to be precise. When he would turn 18 and Howard couldn't do a thing to stop him from leaving and getting the hell out of this fucked up house. But until then, there wasn't much they could do aside from support him and comfort him.


Anyway, since Pepper had gotten some incredibly important job somewhere, she had been really busy, and Tony hadn't expected to see her until his birthday. Maybe, if she had a day off, they could meet up for Christmas.

What he didn't expect was her showing up at the beginning of December with arms full of bags filled with junk food. She claimed him for the weekend and all they did was eat and cry while watching bad movies.


It was nice. He had missed this, just the two of them hanging around without stupid life things bothering them.


Speaking of life... "I really should get back to work, the board wants an updated version of Stark Vision by Wednesday, and I'm not finished yet." Tony muttered as the end credits of Princess Bride played on the background.

Pepper raised an eyebrow and sighed softly. "And does the board know it's you making their precious new glasses?" The strawberry blonde business woman asked tightly, already knowing the answer but hating how her friend was used so badly.

Tony just smiled sadly and shrugged. "Doesn't matter. How about this, I'll get a head start now, and then we can have lunch tomorrow? I don't have any classes until two."

Virginia Potts wished harder than ever before for time to move just a little quicker so she could give that precious young man everything he deserved. "Of course dear, don't work until too late." She said as Tony already got up.


He smiled and headed towards his workshop. And Pepper knew he wouldn't sleep at all this night.



"So I said, unless you're planning on grovelling for the rest of eternity, I would keep Natasha out of it." Tony rambled to Pepper, telling her stories of his friends.

"Sounds like a smart decision." Pepper said amused at how relaxed Tony seemed.

"That's what I said! But did he listen, of course not. So now Nat refuses to talk to Clint until he earned her forgiveness. Not that anyone knows how he can do that, but whatever."


Pepper raised an eyebrow when their table at the cosy diner was approached by two incredibly hot and giant guys. Tony didn't seem too surprised though, just grinned happily and waved. "Hey Stevie, hey Buckaroo, what brings you two here?"

Both of them smiled back warmly at Tony, though their smile was surprisingly less warm when aimed at Pepper.


"Oh hi Tony, I didn't know you had a date." Steve said with an innocent vibe that could fool anyone who didn't know him very well.

Tony snorted amused. "This isn't a date, this is Pepper. Pep, these are Steve and Bucky." The genius introduced his new friends to his old friend. When both guys recognised the name of Tony's other close friend, they relaxed visibly.


Of course Tony was totally oblivious while Pepper noticed what was going on right away.

"Don't worry." She said with a kind creepy smile. "I wouldn't even dream of taking your boyfriend away."

Tony chuckled and shook his head amused. "Don't be so silly Pep, they're dating each other, not me." Even though I'd love that, he added silently.

What drew his attention though, was the fact that neither football player denied anything. They were suspiciously silent.

"Guys? You know she was joking right?" Tony asked carefully. Oh fuck. What if they thought Tony had told Pep they were dating? Or what if they realised Tony liked them and didn't want anything to do with him ever again? They were probably disturbed and disgusted and-


"What if we wanted to though?"




Tony froze and stared at Bucky with wide eyes. Of course it had been the brunet who spoke up.

Pepper cleared her throat and got up. "I think you guys should talk, Tony, I do expect to see you at dinner." She said before disappearing out of the door.

Tony just nodded mutely while looking from one student to the other.


"What- I mean- You can't-"


This time it was Steve who responded. He sat on a chair next to Tony and pulled Bucky down beside him. "Look Tony, he is right. We would love to actually date you. Of course... only if you're up for it. Otherwise we would rather just forget this and stay friends but Natasha said you probably liked us and-"


"But you're already dating. Each other, may I add." Tony said still partly shocked.

Bucky reached out to grab Tony's hand and squeezed gently. "We are, and we want to date you as well, as out third. All together. Stevie here has been crushing on you since his first year." James says, making Steve blush which only proves his words.

Tony looks very sceptical, so Steve nods. "He's right. I was small and sickly, and you were- are Tony Stark. I didn't think I'd stand a chance."

"That's why I reacted so grumpy and cold to you at first, I was jealous and acted like a dick. Sorry for that." Barnes mutters guiltily. "I thought that if you'd get close to Steve you would take him from me."

Now both Tony and Steve stare at Bucky like he'd gone insane.


"I'd never-"


Both Steve and Tony spoke up at the same time.

Bucky grinned smugly. "Ha, I knew you both cared."


Steve huffs amused and looks fondly at his boyfriend before turning back to his hopefully new boyfriend. "I know this must be hard to believe, but please, if you want this, give us a chance? Please? I know we haven't really... behaved decently at first. We kept making each other jealous while spending time with you. It wasn't until Nat informed us that we were idiots, that we realised we both like you."

"Once we figured that out, we knew we wanted to date you." Bucky adds while squeezing Steve's hand tightly. "I'd understand if you didn't want to date me, because I really was a dick to you. I'm- I'm not really good with affection."

Steve snorts this time. "That's one way of putting it." He mumbles, but the fondness in his voice is so strong it makes Tony blink in surprise.

"So what do you say Tones?"


And really, it took the genius a lot of control not to panic. "I, I don't know." He whispered in shock. Was there some sort of manual about what to do when you got offered everything you ever wanted just when you started to accept you'd never get it?

The two football players looked so sad, and that's not what Tony wanted. "I want to. But a lot of things have happened lately. Until a few weeks ago I thought you only talked to me for my money. I- I need some time." He finally decided out loud. The genius took a deep breath and looked straight at the couple.

The two smiled softly and nodded. "Take all the time you'll need Tony, we'll be waiting for you." Steve said fondly, making Tony relax and smile in return.


He owed Pepper a new pair of shoes, big time.



Chapter Text



Tony still couldn't believe how his life had change so drastically in such a short amount of time.


He had turned eighteen just a month ago and his life had done a full one-eighty. He was dragged out of his house on the day of his birthday by his new boyfriends, and led to his new car.


A few hours later he stepped into his new apartment, most of his stuff already there. It was close to Pepper's place, and still within driving distance of campus.

There may have been a few tears involved. Not that Tony would ever admit that of course.

His friends had been waiting for him, wishing him a happy birthday as he walked in.


He had the bestest friends in the whole world.



When he graduated at the end of the school year, in about half the time of the regular students, Tony was grinning broadly. He did it. Of course, he wasn't ready yet. He still had a few more degrees to get. But he could do that while working on his own company. Pepper agreed to work for him which was amazing. They had big plans.


Stupid, risky, but fuck it, they were going to take over the world.



Even though world domination was tempting, they stuck to just setting up a fortune 500 company within two years. They probably broke some records along the way, but no laws, surprisingly.

With Tony's arc reactor working perfectly, they could offer clean energy to everyone.

Of course, once that started, it didn't take long until people started to realise Tony had been the brain behind a lot of SI products.


Tony loved reading the news articles about it when feeling down. SI was quickly losing value now that their main supply of new designs had gone solo, and Tony knew Pepper had plans of buying whatever would be left of the company for a bargain price. After all, the staff couldn't help it that they were working for an asshole.

Naturally this also meant Bucky finding out about who really made his arm.


"I still can't believe you didn't tell me sooner." Barnes grumbled while Tony tinkered on the piece of gorgeous engineering.

Steve rolled his eyes and fondly kissed Tony's cheek. "Stop whining you punk, now you get amazing free upgrades whenever you want." The blond said, quoting Tony's argument.

Tony grinned in agreement and closed the arm up. "Alright, try moving your thumb again."

Bucky did and grinned at the response time. "That's amazing, thanks doll." He purred before pulling Tony close for a grateful kiss.



Tony looked back on the past few years and grinned. He had two perfect boyfriends, a group of amazing friends, and a company he built himself.


He was happy.


The End