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The Kid and the Deadbeat Drunk

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It’s unusually quiet this time of the day, and Tony Stark relishes the peace of mind he finds in the cool morning mists that greet him. The constant movement of the city seems to slow in the early morning haze, and pink tinged skies greet him as he makes the long trek through the neighborhood back to his cramped apartment. The Brooklyn Heights neighborhood is familiar to him, and he picks his way through the streets easily, hardly bothered by the light drizzle that blankets the city.

Fumbling with his lighter, the object clinks loudly in the silence between the buildings, but it soothes him, really.

Clink.

He’s almost home.

Clink.

What was that broad’s name? The one with the blonde hair?

Clink.

Shirley?

Shelia?

He can’t remember, and he puts it out of his mind.

Clink.

Oh, great, where is he now?

Clink.

Bakery. Okay, that doesn’t help. The street sign is blurred, but that’s more due to the fact that Tony is more than a little buzzed.

Clink.

He’ll get Hap back for that later.

Cli—

His thoughts are interrupted by a groan. Barely audible, but there all the same. Tony stops, his trenchcoat heavy as it begins to rain a bit harder now, rain bouncing viciously on the pavement. Turning, he spots the source of the noise. The kid can’t be more than twenty-two, but even then Tony would be surprised. Barely big enough to pass for a teenager, the kid is scrawny and his clothes hang off of him like they are three sizes too big for him, and as Tony approaches, he noticed that they are at least three sizes too big. Tony crouches down, nudging the kid’s shoe with his hand, and winces when the kid lifts his face. Bruised and battered, it’s clear the kid had gotten into some trouble with someone, and Tony’s heart stutters when he sees the swelling around his left eye.

“Hey, kid. Hey, wake up,” Tony encourages, watching as the young man’s eyes— or rather, eye, opens.

“Don’t wanna— jus’ leave me.”

“Hey, I didn’t waste my time to just leave ya here. Get up, kid.”

Tony leans forward, offering his hand as the young man tries to lift himself away from the wall, slapping Tony’s hand away.

“S’fine, I got it. Gotta get home.”

“Hey, not everybody’s out to get ya, alright, kid? Can you stand?”

The kid nods, a lock of dirty, blood-matted hair falling forward, as he stands shakily, only to go weak in the knees.

“Hey, hey, hey, woah, bud, slow down, or you won’t be going anywhere.” Tony reaches out, putting a steadying hand on the young man’s shoulder in an attempt to help. The kid just nods.

“I think—” The kid looks around for a minute, as if assessing the area and then lifts his chin confidently. “Yeah, that way,” he points down the street Tony had just come down.

“Do you want me to help ya home?”

The kid looks at Tony like maybe he’s a kook, and Tony is struck with the thought that maybe he is— picking up a beat-up kid on his way home and carting him home is not on his list of to-dos.

“Take it or leave it, kid, I got places to be.”

Testing his weight gingerly on his right ankle, the kid winces, muffling his pained cry with sealed lips. Pale-faced and woozy-looking, the kid nods quickly. With that, Tony loops his arm around an impossibly thin torso and begins the long, hobbling journey down the street.

*

When the mist finally clears and the pinkish sky turns orange with the rising sun, the buildings press in on the two figures, and Tony hefts the kid closer as the kid starts to nod off, his head bobbing to the side.

“Hey, kid, enough sleepin’. Gotta tell me where you live.”

The kid’s eye snaps open— the swelling around the other eye hasn’t gone down, and Tony notes that the bruising is red and puffy, the edge of the nasty wound purpling slightly. The scrape on his jaw looks a bit nasty, but a quick once over affords Tony the time to assess the damage. It might scar, but then, the kid’s young, he heals faster. Judging by the labored wheezing in his companion’s chest, the kid isn’t breathing well.

Tony rolls his eyes. Looks like he’ll be spending a little more quality time with the kid than he thought.

“Jesus, kid, somebody fucked you up good, huh?”

Wincing at Tony’s brash language, the kid pulls his head up, glaring at the older man.

“Saw them trying to pick up on a dame. She didn’t wanna—” The kid goes a little green then, and Tony is worried he might hurl.

“Yeah, yeah, I get it. How many were there?”

“Three.”

Tony pauses, lurching to a stop on the pavement.

“Jesus. Three? And you took them on by yourself?”

“Well, she got away, right? Worth it.”

A pained smile twists the bruising rimming his eye, and Tony can tell the kid’s proud.

“There,” the kid points to his left, “home sweet home.”

A rundown, brick apartment building looms in front of the pair, and Tony sighs.

“What floor?”

“Fourth.”

Of course.

By the time they get up to the fourth level, Tony’s huffing a little, and the kid’s even worse, his breaths coming in short, stuttering gasps, and Tony’s arm tightens around his middle.

“You okay. Take a few breaths. Got a key?”

Metal presses into his palm and the kid slumps against the wall and Tony has to jiggle the lock a couple of times as he turns the key. The door swings open with a creak and Tony peers into the small apartment.

“You gonna be alright, kid?” Tony nods towards the open door and the small guy pushes himself away from the wall, standing in the too-big-for-him doorway, and bobs his head gratefully.

Tony grins at him, pleased that the kid has enough strength to smile back and turns to leave, his foot hitting the first step down before the kid speaks.

“Hey, thank you… I don’t even know your name.”

“Tony, Tony Stark.”

“Steve Rogers.”

Tony has to ignore the way his heart beats a little faster at the way the soft tones of Steve’s voice trip over his last name and grins instead, skipping down the stairs.

“See ya around, Steve.” Tony tosses back over his shoulder, and smirks as his goodbye is met with the dull thud of a door shutting.

Maybe he would take a detour every now and again.