That’s not what he expected. He was hoping for a high-security hospital room similar to those they passed by the way. Whereas, they found themselves in an exclusive, minimalist apartment, with screens imitating windows with breathtaking views. Easels and paints. A punching bag in the corner. What else to wish for?
Apparently, however, the man who lived there had a slightly different opinion on this subject. Beard covered half his face, and his greasy hair hid his eyes. The loose sweater and pants were so sweaty that Tony thought they could only be thrown away. He sat on the edge of the bed and stared blindly through the false window.
“Captain?” Fury repeated.
That was enough for the missing cog to snap into place and for Tony’s brain to start working at the speed of light.
If he was anyone else, he would never have thought of it. But it so happened that he was the son of Howard Stark, and as a kid, he loved to dig through his father’s old photographs, the more secret, the better. That’s why the image of Captain America in his memory differed so much from what most kids had imagined about the hero from World War Two. He had the incredible privilege of seeing him when he was unshaven, dirty and bloody. When he was tired and wounded. When he was starving and mourning.
And now he also seemed defeated.
Natasha claimed that he needed time. Carter didn’t want Tony here. And Fury thought he had tricked and trapped them all.
What’s the use of Captain America who was broken, just staring at the wall?
“Captain Rogers, I don’t know if you remember, but we talked about Howard Stark recently.”
No reaction. Fury took a deep breath and tried again.
“His testament clearly suggested that you should be treated as a family member.”
“His will also states…”
“I don’t care what you settle with the lawyers.”
A hoarse and aching voice dispelled Tony’s doubts. This human wreck was really Captain America. Or rather what’s left of him. All that remained after years, when in suspicious circumstances, one by one, died those he cared about. He was all alone, except for Peggy Carter, who probably more than anyone else had made him realize how much he had lost.
When did they find him? And, above all, why did they need him so desperately?
“I withdraw,” Tony muttered before fully understanding all the consequences of his decision.
Fury and Coulson looked at him as if they were disappointed. They weren’t first and definitely they won’t be last. It didn’t matter.
“You didn’t even let us…”
“Who is this?”
Everyone’s eyes focused again on Rogers, who seemed to wake up from his trance. Now he was looking at Tony and slowly getting up from the bed. Damn it, he was huge. No wonder no one was able to stop him when he was tempted to look at the city from the roof.
“Anthony Edward Stark, Howard’s son,” Coulson introduced Tony, apparently sensing his chance in Rogers’ sudden interest.
Clint and Natasha didn’t seem to share his opinion, because they prepared to shoot the Captain as soon as he could try to do something disturbing.
“You haven’t told me he had a son.”
“Your therapist stated that we should gradually provide information about…”
“I’d rather you told me everything.” His face twisted in fury. Another argument for running as far away as he could.
“Everything this more than you could work through, Captain,” Coulson remarked patiently as if he was talking to a child. Well, the Captain didn’t seem to like it because he frowned and asked through clenched teeth:
“Is there anyone else?”
“I don’t think so.”
“I said I withdraw,” Tony snapped.
He didn’t want to be here. And it wasn’t that Steve Rogers was looking at everyone as if he was trying to kill someone. No, it was absolutely more complicated. This broken man was scooping out the memories that Tony had overflowed with tears and alcohol. He worked hard on it. Too hard to just now, without any warning, have to deal with the echoes of sleepless nights filled with the voices of his parents, Aunt Peggy, soldiers who had the honor to support Captain America in the war against Hydra.
Once, he only dreamed of getting them out of his house and his life. Now he would give anything to keep them back even if for a while.
Fury was right. Tony Stark was arrogant, self-centered and irresponsible. No power would stop him from using the Captain to satisfy his own childish desires. And probably he could even convince them both that it was alright, that it was necessary. He would scramble his own and Steve’s wounds like a stubborn madman, and eventually one of them would bleed out to death.
No, that man needed someone who would be the absolute opposite of Tony Stark.
“You said he could leave at any moment,” Tasha added, intuitively separating Tony from Coulson and Fury.
“I’m so sorry.”
Tony involuntarily glanced back at Rogers, who now looked like an abandoned dog.
“Not your fault,” Tony muttered. “They are playing…”
“If only I…” The captain closed his eyes and shook his head. “I should’ve been there. Be with them and not let anything happen to them.”
He should hear that no one can predict accidents. That’s the case with accidents. Hear that misfortunes happen. Sometimes one after another. Sometimes to the same people. But that’s the way it is because life is a filthy bitch. He should also know that Tony has long since grown out of waiting for the great Captain America to appear one day in his life and, with a snap of his fingers solving all problems. The world just didn’t work that way. Villains were swarming everywhere, but heroes were only humans.
He should have told him everything was going to be fine.
Instead, he spat out like an asshole:
“It doesn’t matter. I want to go back home.”
“Let it be so,” Fury agreed with such indifference that Tony snuffed a trick. “Coulson will make sure you get back safely. And if you ever wanted to visit…”
“I will consult with Aunt Peggy,” Tony cut off and headed for the door, nodding discreetly to Natasha and Clint. He had no idea what role they were playing in all of this, but they might have saved him from becoming Fury’s puppet and they deserved some thanks for that.