Title: Trust Issues
Author: Keira Marcos
Relationship: Pre-Tony Stark/Steve Rogers (if you squint)
Genre: Canon Divergence
Warnings: No Beta
Word Count: 2856
Author Note: This is for the One Sentence prompt on Rough Trade. You can find the challenge here.
Jilly’s Response: Everybody Knows (link to her site)
The Prompt: The only things that Steve Rogers knows about Tony Stark came from a file given to him by SHIELD and he’s starting to realize that’s a problem.
Steve shifted his coffee cup around in front of him and just nodded when the waitress offered him a refill.
“Something wrong, Captain?”
“Steve,” he said. “You agreed to call me, Steve, ma’am.”
She leaned one hip on the table and raised one silver eyebrow. “And you agreed to call me Erin.”
“Erin, right, I did.” He exhaled sharply and focused on his coffee. He’d been coming to the diner pretty much every day since the invasion. It was close to his apartment and convenient after spending the day working with the cleanup crews in Manhattan.
“Saw you on the news.”
“Just doing my part.”
“Some would say you’ve already done your part,” she murmured. “We’d all be dead if not for you, Thor, and Iron Man.” She paused. “And the big green fellow.”
“There were six of us,” Steve said.
“Ah, yes, the two unnamed government agents,” Erin said. “They aren’t saying much about them on the news. Of course, when they can talk about Tony Stark, they’re gonna. That poor man hasn’t gotten much of a break since he was nearly killed and held hostage in Afghanistan.”
Steve frowned. “It was just a couple of days while his company arranged to pay…”
“Days?” Erin frowned at him. “No—it was a few weeks, and he wasn’t ransomed. Practically everyone gave him up for dead, and he had to break out himself. That’s how he built his first suit. To escape being tortured and nearly killed because he wouldn’t build them weapons.” She smacked his shoulder gently. “Who told you that bullshit about a couple of days?”
“Someone I thought I could trust,” Steve said. “Why tell me such an obvious lie? How did you know about it?”
“CNN did a whole series on the organization that kidnapped him and what happened—you know that thing in his chest is keeping shrapnel out of his heart, right? I don’t think that was something he wanted to be known, but it leaked about a year after the kidnapping.”
Steve blanched. “What?”
“For fuck’s sake, son,” Erin muttered.
“They implied it was a publicity stunt,” Steve murmured. “That’d he’d set up it as a …an excuse to stop supporting the military.”
“Stop supporting the military?” She frowned at him. “My son’s in Iraq right now wearing state of the art body armor designed and built by Stark Industries, Steve. They have bomb sniffing robots, too, from Stark. He has a whole tech-division dedicated to protecting our soldiers in the field. He just stopped building weapons, and I can’t say I blame him considering what the news said about them ending up on the black market and used against innocents.”
“Could I get some of your pastries to go?”
“Sure, kid,” she said and rolled her eyes. “No strawberry, Mr. Stark’s lady is allergic.”
“How do you know that?” Steve asked.
“Read about it in Cosmo. That’s a woman’s magazine. You need to expand your horizons and your reading material. I’ll make you a list.”
* * * *
Forty minutes later, Steve had managed to get through the construction area and to the front gates of the mansion that Tony Stark had moved to after the invasion had ruined a large portion of his tower. He stood in front of the gates for a few moments before searching for a bell. He pushed it hesitantly.
“Good evening, Captain Rogers.”
“Hello,” Steve said and cleared his throat. “Jarvis?” The existence of the artificial intelligence program that acted as Tony Stark’s life manager was actually the most interesting part of the briefing regarding Howard’s son.
“Yes, I’m Jarvis. Sir is currently in his lab, but an interruption would be timely. Please come through the gates, and Dum-E will meet you at the door.”
Dum-E turned out to be a robot. He followed the contraption to an elevator and stared at it until he realized he was being rude and averted his gaze.
“Dum-E is a construction bot, he specializes in small mechanics builds for Sir. There is another bot in the lab named U. She was also built for construction but spends most of her day in the manufacturing when Sir is working on concept designs.”
“That’s…really weird,” Steve confessed. “Tony won’t mind the interruption?”
“Your timing is impeccable, Captain, I assure you.”
The doors open and Steve stepped out into a large room. Tony was on his back on the floor under a schematic that seemed to be floating in the air. A quinjet, Steve thought and cleared his throat.
“Rogers.” Tony motioned him forward. “Come talk to me about this thing.”
“It’s amazing—effortless to fly. Did you build it?”
“My dad designed and built the first generation,” Tony said. “I’ve consulted a few times for SHIELD on the current generation, but no it’s not mine. I’m currently preparing a report on some much-needed upgrades.”
“Well, the security is crap,” Steve said.
“Come down here, Capsicle and talk to me.”
Steve slipped under the floating picture and sprawled on his back beside Stark. “What’s this anyway?” He poked one of the lines.
“Oh, it’s a hologram. Jarvis is projecting for me,” Tony explained. “He said you brought what looked like food?”
“Hmmm, donuts and some other pastries. No strawberries since Miss Potts is allergic.”
“Ah, Pepper is California,” Tony said. “But thanks for making the consideration. She’d be really pleased. Now, what about the security?”
“Well, we stole one during the invasion with absolutely no problem, so that’s actually an issue. I mean…” He shrugged. “At the time it was a relief, but we don’t need some asshole getting ahold one of these that easily.”
“Jarvis, add a security system upgrade to the list—passwords or authorized users.” Tony used his hands to spread out the hologram. “How did it handle?”
“Like a dream actually,” Steve said. “Not that I’ve had a lot of experience in modern aircraft, but this was like something out of science fiction.”
“Hmmm, we should make them space-capable,” Tony said.
“Considering the looming alien threat, I agree,” Steve agreed.
“Why are you here, Steve? You said no to moving into my mansion.”
Steve flushed. “Yes, well, it’s come to my attention that I don’t really know much about you and what I do know has been…carefully edited.”
“Ah the far-famed footage,” Tony said. “What did SHIELD show you?”
“Clips from press conferences—each one showing you in the worst possible light. Some stuff from a party where you’re obviously drunk wearing the Iron Man suit.” Steve sighed. “They told me the whole thing in Afghanistan was a publicity stunt and implied that the arc reactor…isn’t really in your body.”
Tony stood up rapidly. “What?”
Steve came to his feet and found Stark glaring at him. “It was never overt—they kept the details minimal and let me come to all the wrong conclusions on my own. Every single thing Natasha told me about you was designed, I think, to make me think the very worst of you and I don’t know why.”
Tony took a deep breath then jerked the black T-shirt he was wearing over his head. The arc reactor looked like the pictures he’d seen but the scarring…Steve reached out, before he could help himself, and touched on thick ropey scar trailing out from the reactor and across Stark’s chest. The older man jerked, and Steve pulled back.
“Jesus, sorry. I didn’t…”
“It’s fine, Cap, it’s just the only person who’s ever touched them is Pepper.” Stark fisted his T-shirt. “So Fury wants you to hate me or at the very least trust me as little as possible.” He pulled the shirt back on with shaking hands. “You’d better have something with cream cheese in that box.”
“I do,” Steve said. “They told me you were consulting with the Avengers because you weren’t interested in doing the right thing if you couldn’t get publicity for it.”
“They told me that Iron Man is perfect for the team but Tony Stark isn’t a team player,” Tony said shortly. “Jarvis, close the plans and send Fury what we’ve already done. I won’t be offering them any more free advice so the next time they send a project your way—refer them to the contract department.”
“But you are Iron Man,” Steve said. “How can they separate the parts of you like that and expect…” He trailed off as he realized they’d done the same thing to him. “Oh.”
“Well.” Steve exhaled. “It’s just they don’t have much use for me, but Fury told me that they had a special operations team that I could work with. Not as a full member but as essentially muscle. I’m not a fit to be a SHIELD agent like Barton or Romanoff, but they could use me in the field to fight for them.”
It reminded him of the year he’d spent selling war bonds and punching a fake Hitler. His stomach twisted and he took the donut Stark passed him as he sat down on a stool at the work table.
“Captain Rogers, if I may—when you woke up after being recovered did you ask any questions, ask for anyone specifically?” Jarvis asked.
“I asked for Peggy Carter, but I was told that she’s in a facility and…probably won’t remember me. Then I asked for Howard Stark, and they told me he was dead.” Steve frowned. “I didn’t find out that Howard had a son until I was briefed on the Avengers Initiative and what Romanoff called the Iron Man Situation.”
Tony huffed and shoved half a Danish in his mouth. “I ought to bill them for the work I’ve already done.”
Dum-E came to them at that moment precariously balancing a tray with two coffee cups on it. Stark lurched forward and grabbed the tray with a glare toward the bot.
“Thanks, Dum-E,” Steve said and took one of the cups.
“Wait,” Tony said. “Jarvis, is this actually coffee?”
“Yes, Sir, he made it perfectly,” Jarvis reported.
Tony scowled at the bot as he rolled away. “The little asshole never makes me perfect coffee when I’m alone.” He took his cup though and tossed the tray on the table. “The search for you was one of my dad’s pet projects when he was with SHIELD. He wanted to bring you home and give you a proper burial. But based on what I’ve heard when I was on the Helicarrier—Fury and Coulson expected you to be alive when they found you and I don’t know why. They obviously had reason to believe the serum would keep you alive in sub-zero temperatures.”
“Suspended animation,” Steve murmured. “They said it more than once when they were explaining my survival, but I don’t know…” He huffed. “I don’t know enough about this world to function, Tony, and they’re leading me around by the nose, and I was going to let them because it was easier than asking questions. I feel like a fool.”
“You’re young,” Stark said. “And you might as well be on a different planet—the leaps we’ve made in technology and social customs are staggering. You need time to adjust to all of that, and I don’t think SHIELD is going to give you that.”
“No, they won’t.” Steve ate his donut as he considered that. “I’ll just have to take it.” He wet his lips. “Can I still move in here?”
“Fury might have a plan in place to prevent that.”
“I wonder how many people he’d send.”
“I wonder how many people it would take,” Tony said with a laugh.
Steve flushed. “Probably at least fifteen unless I have serious room to move then they’d need more or they’d have to shoot me with a heavy caliber round.”
“Let me send some people to clean out your apartment and avoid that situation entirely,” Tony suggested.
“I don’t have much—it came furnished. So just my personal stuff.”
“Jarvis, get someone on that.” Tony opened the box up and surveyed the options. “Where did you get these?”
“The Better Days Diner down from my apartment. I was there…and I was speaking with the owner who waits tables though I think she probably shouldn’t due to her age, and she made me feel like a complete idiot for not knowing much about you since we’re on the same team. She also said she has a son in Iraq wearing body armor made by Stark Industries.”
“Great—I hope it’s doing well for him. I should visit her and get his personal opinion on it. I only get general comments from the DOD. Maybe I’ll send out a survey and ask the guys in the field to fill it out. We also build armored vehicles and bots for field operations.” Tony cleared his throat. “Your new suit is built out of Stark armor.”
“The one SHIELD said they made for me?”
“Right,” Steve sighed and rubbed his face. “I don’t…what’s the point of a grossly ignorant asset?”
“You don’t have to educate a weapon, Captain Rogers,” Jarvis interjected. “And SHIELD prefers that their weapons be biddable. When they couldn’t make Sir follow the rules—they sought to marginalize and control them through other means including a manipulative psychological profile that they gave him access to.”
“Why go along with any of it then?” Steve questioned.
“I didn’t know…until after the fact. I got curious because I tried to arrange for Phil Coulson’s funeral. I didn’t know what his next-of-kin situation was and I didn’t want him to end up in an unmarked grave. Fury told me that his body had already been cremated and the ashes dispersed per Coulson’s wishes but…” Tony sighed. “That felt fucked up and wrong. I feel like we should’ve been there for that and we weren’t.” He waved a hand. “Anyways, I got curious, and Pepper had left for California, so I did a little bit of digging and came across a plan to get me entrenched in SHIELD operations—it’s the DOD’s idea. They want to me build weapons again, and they figure I’ll do it for SHIELD and they can filter the tech out into other organizations as needed.”
“Shady as fuck,” Tony supplied.
“Shady,” Steve repeated. “Yeah, that works.” He cleared his throat. “Did you find anything regarding their plans for me?”
“I didn’t look. Should I?”
“Yeah.” Steve frowned then nodded. “Please.”
“Jarvis—launch Friday. I want the two of you to dig into SHIELD like you own it,” Tony said. “We might as well get comfortable and make Nick Fury deeply regret all of his fucked up life choices.”
Steve picked out Danish. “Should we save any for Miss Potts?”
Stark frowned. “We’re…well, we’re taking a break. She didn’t take the whole portal thing well. Me being Iron Man has been difficult for her, and she wants me to retire the suit.”
“Without you—we’d have lost,” Steve said quietly. “Does she get that?”
“She does,” Tony murmured. “But she doesn’t…well. Pepper’s world is small, and maybe I’ve been overlooking that because I love her, but I think it’s reached a point where I can’t ignore that anymore. I have a world to defend, and something big is coming our way—we all know it. I can’t ignore that to keep her happy.”
“Maybe it’ll be too big for us,” Steve said.
“Us?” Tony questioned.
“Yeah, us,” Steve said. “We’re a team.”
“I don’t do well on teams,” Tony pointed out. “I’m apparently too arrogant to be a team player.”
“You took a nuclear weapon into space,” Steve said flatly. “I had to look it up, you know. I had no idea what it was but now I know so don’t try to play it off, Tony. You made the sacrifice play, and I won’t forget it. I won’t be letting anyone else forget either.” He crossed arms when Tony huffed a little. “And if you’re nice to me I’ll even take care of you while you get sloppy drunk and cry about your girlfriend dumping you.”
“Ha, you missed that—Bruce already dealt with that portion of the break-up.”
“I owe him one then,” Steve said with a laugh. “Where is he?”
“Two floors down—meditating or some shit,” Tony waved a hand. “He’s decided to get to know the Big Guy and try to make friends. I guess it’s going well—the mansion hasn’t been torn down, yet.”
“Sir, Director Fury is on the line and is requesting to speak to Captain Rogers.”
Steve frowned. “Tell him to kiss my ass.”
“With pleasure, Captain.”
“He’s going to blame me for that,” Tony informed him. “Jarvis, launch the security grid so they can’t hack you and get access to the place and tell Happy amp up physical security. He’ll probably send Romanoff around to collect one or both of us for a conversation eventually.”
“I guess we can cross the bridge when we get to it,” Steve said and snagged the last donut. He tore it half and offered it to Tony.
Tony accepted it and took a bite. “Agreed.”