Gift Horse - Chapter 1

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Gift Horse

by trulywicked

Libraries: Drama, Male/Male - Yaoi, Misc Movies, Romance

Published on / 1 Chapter(s) / 1 Review(s)

Updated on

There's a reason you never look a gift horse in the mouth. The majority of the Avengers realize that a little too late and then have to fix what's been bruised. Steve especially has apologies to make.

This is based on a headcanon post from here and will EVENTUALLY be Steve/Tony. I blame all bot feels and cuddles on Scifigrl47 and her amazing Avengers fics and that one 'good boy' scene in Iron Man. So I hope you enjoy this attempt at Avengers fic.

WARNING: Tony feels, kinda insensitive Avengers, Coulson lives, Science Bros implied.

Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers nor any characters or locations thereof. I make no money from writing this.



Coulson quirked a brow at the neatly filled out report Stark handed to him, scanning it quickly, brow knit as he tried to find where it was wrong or what Stark had done on it to be irritating and he found nothing. It was filled out to exact specification, right down to the mistake Stark had made in the middle of battle. A mistake, oddly enough, that had been exactly part of Cap's plan against the Doombots. This was the fifth time Stark had handed in a precise report and also the fifth time he'd followed orders to a T, and it had wound up being a disaster.

Coulson narrowed his eyes. Something was going on and he did not like it. True Stark as he usually was drove him demented and until now he'd never have even thought that a Stark who followed orders and did what he was 'supposed' to would annoy him more than an irresponsible and wild Stark but it did. It really and truly did and he found himself missing the old Stark and wondering just what the hell had happened to bring about this change.

He watched Stark murmur something to Banner, getting a nod in return, then leave the room and he snapped the report folder Stark had given him shut sharply, drawing everyone's attention.

"Sir?" Barton tilted his head in question.

"Any of you want to tell me what's going on with Stark?" He noticed Banner's shoulders tensing before returning to their usual hunched position.

"Going on sir?" Cap looked honestly confused and earnest.

"Yes Captain Rogers, going on. The last five missions, as compared to the previous eight, Stark has not gone off on a tangent once, verbally or physically, he has ceased his usual running commentary over the radios, and has been filling out his reports with a complete lack of attitude, exactly as he's supposed to." He saw Barton, Natasha, and Thor all get it right away and frown to different degrees, Banner's expression didn't change, furthering Coulson's suspicion that he knew what was going on. Cap on the other hand was frowning in more confusion.

"I'm sorry sir but isn't it a good thing that Stark's following procedure?"

"You tell me Captain. Comparing the success rate, defining success by speed of neutralization, casualties, and amount of property left undamaged, of the last five missions to the eight previous, which missions were most successful, and what is difference between those missions?"

Thor spoke up, "The Man of Iron has not been focusing on his strengths nor using his agile tongue in battle and..."

Barton's boots clunked down from where he'd had them propped up on the table and he looked troubled, "He doesn't try and get us all to eat somewhere together after missions anymore."

Coulson twitched, team bonding was important, without it a team went all to hell. "Stark's tendency to think on the fly is being suppressed and so is his usual conviviality and I want to know why because it is negatively affecting the missions. Leave your reports and see what you can find out. Dr. Banner, I want to speak with you privately please."

The others, including a now concerned looking Captain America, filed out, leaving Coulson and Banner staring at each other.

"What do you know about this situation Dr. Banner?"

Bruce studied the SHIELD agent before relaxing, "You're worried about him, about Tony I mean, not just the missions."

Coulson's mouth thinned just a bit, "The last time Stark began acting to any extreme he was suffering palladium poisoning."

Bruce nodded, "He's not sick."

A demanding brow lifted and Banner sighed.

"You know about the plan Tony had for Avengers Tower?"

"Yes, Director Fury actually gave over the other Avengers' profiles to Stark in order to best facilitate it." He was still shocked about that.

"Right. Well Tony finished it just after that last good mission and called everyone together. He got to 'rebuilt ten floors as residential for us, going to rename it Avengers Tower' before he got shot down. Hard."

Coulson didn't like the sound of that.

"Thor was nice about it after the rest had already shot it down I guess, said that he preferred to spend his time on Midguard in the company of his lady but that he appreciated Tony's offer."

"And the rest Dr. Banner?"

"Natasha said she already had a place to live and she liked her neighbors more than the team, Clint snorted and said his feet were too itchy to stay in one place,” Bruce noticed Coulson’s brow twitch and wondered but it wasn’t important really, “but it was Cap's reaction that started them off and I think killed it for Tony," he took his glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose, "said he wasn't about to become a kept man, especially not to Tony then stormed off."

Yes, Coulson could see how that might bruise Stark's ego but there had to be more to it for this protracted reaction and he said as much to Dr. Banner.

"Tony put more effort into building the team's floors than he does anything except the Iron Man suits. He stayed up five days in a row alone to design Steve's floor, and none of them were even willing to hear him out. According to Pepper it's like the file Natasha put together on Tony says, 'Iron Man: Yes, Tony Stark: Not recommended' and to Tony getting shot down like that means to him that all the team wants is Iron Man, so now all they're getting is Iron Man, just the suit and not the man inside. Business only."

Phil sat down, Tony's report in one hand, a deep frown on his face.  "Ten floors?"

"One: communal living area, Two: Gym and training area, Three: my floor, complete with lab, Four: Natasha's, Five: Tony's floor, Six: Cap's, Seven: I'm not at liberty to say, Eight: Barton's, Nine: a floor for Jane Foster and Darcy Lewis , and Ten is Thor's. Tony thought of everything, everything. If there is even one situation that didn't at least cross his mind I'll eat the next slimy thing we have to fight."

In other words, Stark had put his heart and soul into making a home for the Avengers and gotten it thrown back in his face. Phil had no idea how to go about fixing this now. "Thank you Dr. Banner."

Bruce nodded, "I've got to go. Tony's wanting pad thai for dinner and he hates waiting."

That made it clear that while the rest of the team had been shunted firmly to the 'professional' slot, Banner remained Stark's friend. How were they going to fix this before it blew up in their faces?


Tony peeled his sweaty tank off and tossed it into the chute that would send it to the laundry pile. He hurt everywhere, could swear that even his eyelashes hurt, after that training session. Pepper had conned him into martial arts lessons and though he was a fast learner even with that, it hurt like hell every time his guard slipped and he was thrown to the mat. Still it was paying off. He'd even developed a chest guard that was light enough to wear under his band shirts without being detectable by the naked eye. It gave him another level of protection for the arc reactor beyond the passcoded lock he'd created not long after he'd synthesized the vibranium core.

So hey yeah all was good in the land of Stark and if he occasionally got faced with some pieces of tech in the gym that he'd designed for other people and just didn't feel like dismantling yet, well he was a big boy he could handle it. He wasn't getting yelled at over the coms anymore because he was following orders like a good little metal man and Coulson hadn't scowled at him for paperwork shenanigans in weeks so yeah he was just as happy as a pig in slop.

And he hated it.

He hated going on missions and knowing that all he was to the people he was busting his ass to help was just a mechanical suit. He hated filling out the paperwork just so in order to keep from having to hang around the rest of the team longer than absolutely necessary. He hated the six empty floors of the tower. He hated seeing just the A on the outside because he hadn't gotten the heart up to make it say STARK again just yet.

He wasn't a hero, he knew that better than anyone else in the world, but he'd thought, for a little while, that maybe he could be an actual friend.

When was he going to learn that practically no one wanted Tony anywhere near them. Bruce was an exception, a big one, just like Pepper, but he couldn't shake the feeling that sooner or later he'd wind up alienating Bruce just like he had Pepper when he was dying.

Tony leaned back against the glass of his workshop wall then slid down, eyes closed, lifting a hand to run his fingers over the joints of Dummy when the bot squeaked over to pluck and nudge at him. God he was pathetic but that was par for the course. He let himself drift off into a light doze with the happy whirring of his bots playing a lullaby that didn't quite chase away the weird tightness in his chest.


Steve stared at the third punching bag he'd sent flying across the SHIELD gym then moved to sit on a bench, thinking. Guilt rolled around in his stomach like in greasy wave of nausea. What sort of leader was he that he hadn't noticed that something was wrong with Stark? That he'd been so relieved to have the change, to have the infuriating man actually following orders and behaving for once, that he'd ignored that common sense said if someone stopped acting like themselves then something was probably wrong? Honestly it said he was a crap leader.

He sank his fingers into his hair. Actually the fact that he refused to even think of one of his team by their first name probably said he was a lousy leader too. It was just painful, to be faced with how similar in looks and surface attitude Howard's son was to him and then for something to remind him that it wasn't Howard. So he balked and refused to see Tony. And it was unfair and wrong.

"Can't sleep Cap?"

He looked up at Fury, brows knitting as he saw a StarkPad in his hands, "Is there a mission sir?"

"No. I just thought you should get this. Been meaning to give it to you and kept forgetting. Should have gotten it to you after the Chitauri attack really." He handed Rogers the StarkPad. "I think you'd be better off spending the sleepless nights with that than down here." The director's eyes took in the ruined punching bags and a few other significant dents and dings meaningfully.

"Right. Sorry about the damage sir."

"We're covered for it, mostly. See you again soon Cap."

He watched Fury walk out then turned his attention to the gadget. He'd learned how to operate the technology of the time he found himself in so it wasn't hard to turn it on, he nearly dropped it when as soon as he did Tony's image came up and the rapid fire words he was known for spilled out of the StarkPad.

"We recording Jarvis? Yeah? Good, great. Um well Hi there Captain Rogers, the name's Tony Stark. I guess you knew my Dad. Anyway, I just finished the packet Agent dropped off and saw that you were being brought in to lead all the crazy and I sort of figured you might need like a crash course in pop culture since you went down to get references and stuff. So I came up with this, 'Steve Roger's Introduction To The Decades Dumbass Hydra Made Him Miss' kinda long and stuff but I'll probably come up with something better or maybe not at all cause you know, you might not be interested. I haven't really met you yet and with a whole lot of luck maybe we won't meet while trying to track down this tesseract thing. But um I started off with kids TV shows, not cause I think you're stupid or anything, I read about the flag thing and no one who figures out the trick to the Legune flag  is stupid really, but cause kids shows and stuff is where we all in the 21st century start so...ack! Dummy!"

Steve's lips twitched in amusement when he saw Tony getting nudged and poked by something that looked a bit like an assembly machine arm that clicked and whirred at the genius.

"Okay, okay I get it, I've talked long enough. You big Dummy," his tone was affectionate as he pet the robot, "I put more sciencey shows first, then a few samplings of younger kiddy shows cause you'll HAVE to know about Sesame Street and the Muppets, after that is a few music documentaries then movies that are quoted a lot, and then history documentaries on anything SHIELD probably kept from you. Um the StarkPad holds all of it and it can plug in to your TV. Since my bot here is getting pushy I'll sign off and let you get to it but um, only if you want to. If you don't it's fine, perfectly cool and all. I mean I'd get it if you didn't want to. Er bye."

Steve watched Tony fade from the screen, taking note of the time stamp. It had been recorded before that first meeting, before the Capsicle and pilates joke. Seventy years of pop culture and history was a lot and Tony had spent time before even meeting him to compile it while also learning about thermonuclear astrophysics for the mission? It made him twinge a bit in guilt and he hit the play button, listening as a cartoon began playing.

'Cruisin on down Main Steet, you're relaxing feeling good-'

Maybe watching what Tony had compiled here would be a good step toward figuring out how to get the man back to normal.

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