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Fanfic - Avengers: Falling into the Void Together
steve tony film meeting
lil_shepherd
For the first time in simply ages, ladies and gentlemen, a fanfic by me.

My thanks to my fanfic folk who commented in the original locked post.

This is set in the Marvel Movie Universe, post The Avengers basically gen, though it can be viewed (by me) as Steve/Tony and is a simple attempt to get the voices of those two characters and to point up one or two things about the movie that few seem to have appreciated. Angst and fluff. If I warned, I sure as hell wouldn't warn for this.

Except HERE BE MOVIE SPOILERS




Falling into the Void Together by Lil Shepherd


If it hadn't been for the beacon of light that was Stark Tower, Steve would have found it difficult to make his way through a nighttime New York that reminded him uncomfortably of wartime Blackouts. At least there were no buildings in flames to distract him, and the headlight on the Harley was perfectly legal, though he would probably not have considered weaving his way down the wrecked streets if he hadn't had enhanced senses and reflexes.

It had been five days since he had last seen any of the other members of the Avengers Initiative. Fury had sent Natasha and Barton off on some mission or other, Thor was somewhere in Asgard (and boy, was he having problems getting his head around that), and Bruce had, apparently, taken up Tony's offer and was now quartered in what was left of Stark Tower. Steve himself had ignored Fury's orders and, in Army fatigue pants, combat boots and t-shirt, had spent his time helping to clear up the mess that Loki and his minions had made of New York.

So he'd been surprised when he'd gotten the call on his cell phone – and the Howlers and the SOE sure would have loved those – about an hour ago. Even more surprisingly the call had not been from a member of SHIELD or the Avengers but from Jarvis, whose very English-sounding voice made him nostalgic for Peggy and Falsworth but who Tony Stark had said was some sort of intelligent machine. Whether or not Tony was joshing him about that, Jarvis had, most deferentially, demanded that he come to Stark Tower at once. His – its – voice had sounded almost panicked, as if a machine could be panicked.

The hidden doors to Tony's private garage opened before he had even slowed the Harley to a crawl, and he parked beside a line of sports cars that looked as if they might take off and fly, all painted the most outrageous colours; scarlet and electric blue and chrome yellow. Which made the black or grey of the fleet of limousines opposite look almost odd; Steve had a sudden urge to paint pictures of Iron Man in full flight along the sides.

Once again, he found it difficult to take in the extent of Tony's wealth.

"Thank you for coming, Captain Rogers." Jarvis again. An A.I. Tony had called it, after grinning all over his face at Steve's discomfiture, and making a crack about something called Big Brother. Steve had looked that up on the Internet, and sat stunned and horrified at the TV program that topped the Google hits. Did people actually behave like that in their own homes? And did other people admire them for it?

Oh, and the TV show had apparently been named after a character in a StF novel called 1984 by George Orwell (at least there was one familiar name.) Steve had downloaded a digital copy and been horrified that someone could write with such conviction about such an oppressive society so soon after his war had ended.

One commentator had said it was meant to be a picture of the USSR in 1948, the year it was written. That was disconcerting too. Sure, the Soviets had switched sides, but they had hated the Nazis. When he had ... gone missing in action ... the Nazis had been outside Stalingrad and the Russians resisting as best they could.

"You said it was urgent, Jarvis," Steve replied, deciding to picture the AI as a balding, slightly rotund man in a butler's formal suit, as it made it easier for him to talk to the... thing.

"Yes. Mr Stark needs help."

"Avengers help? Why the heck didn't you tell me? Is Stark hurt? Have you called the other—?"

"It is not an Avengers matter, Captain. Mr Stark... needs a – human. Would you please follow the lights?"

Shaking his head, Steve did the only decent thing he could do in these peculiar circumstances and followed the dance of light across the floor, until the doors of what appeared to be a private elevator opened to admit him. As he stepped inside and the doors slid silently shut, Steve thought to ask the question that he should have asked immediately: "Why call me? Miss Potts—"

"Ms Potts isn't here, Captain."

"Well, surely Dr Banner—"

"Dr Banner is in his laboratory, sir, running a critical experiment which he said he could not leave."

There was something in the AI's voice that made Steve ask, "Is that all he said?"

There was a long pause. Then, "He said it was better if he did not get involved."

"Then why should I?" He knew though, that he was not going to leave until he had satisfied his curiosity; what was wrong with Tony Stark?

"You are the Avengers team leader for a reason, Captain. Their welfare should be your priority."

Even if there still was an Avengers team, Steve wasn't sure that was a good enough reason. He worked well with Iron Man, and they had agreed to forget words spoken in anger under Loki's influence, but faced with Stark's blazing intelligence and arrogance, he tended, he knew, to give in to his combat instincts and strike back – or even strike first.

"Surely I'm not the obvious person—" Tony, he knew, didn't have a family, at least one he cared to associate with. The SHIELD security report on his cousin Morgan had been scathing and one of the few things about Tony that had merited its approval was his contempt for the man. "Why haven't you called his friends?"

"I cannot reach Colonel Rhodes, sir, and I do not think the other Avengers would be ... suitable."

Before Steve had time to work out the implications of that surprising statement, the elevator doors opened into an extraordinary room, huge and filled with a cacophony reminiscent of that that had greeted Iron Man's appearance in Stuttgart and which surely could not be called music, bouncing and echoing off grey concrete. It was also filled with equipment; giant freestanding screens that were probably for computers rather than television, a forge currently cold, machine tools, and the line of Iron Man armour against the far wall that looked more like sculpture than machinery. The Iron Man might be gaudy, but it was also beautiful, with the elegance of form correctly following function.

The man who had designed it sat slumped on a tool chest, leaning his back against the wall, with three very odd machines clustered around him like giant dogs. He had a full highball glass of some amber liquid clutched in both hands, and the whole room stank of alcohol.

As the noise abruptly cut off, he raised his head and snapped, "JARVIS, I told you—" breaking off abruptly as he recognised Steve. For a moment he looked startled, and possibly a little worried, but the welcoming smile appeared genuine and there was no slur at all in his voice, as he said, "Hi, Cap. What're you doing here? No, never mind. It's good to see you. Grab yourself a drink."

Steve let out a silent breath of relief. Tony was, it seemed, merely drunk, and an amiable rather than an aggressive drunk at that. Except, in the instant before he had looked up there had been an expression of such intense misery on his face that it made Steve catch his breath. Jarvis was right; Tony needed help, though he almost certainly would reject anything Steve offered.

Glancing around the room, he spotted a sink with a cupboard above it and one of those coffee machines that seemed to do everything except make an ordinary cup of java besides it. There were several mugs on the drainer, all bearing the Stark Industries insignia. Steve turned on the hot water, gave one a final rinse, and ambled back to where Tony was sitting. Propping the case containing his shield against the side of the tool chest and ignoring the threatening whirr from one of the machines, he picked up the half-empty bottle of whisky resting beside Tony, filled his mug, then folded into a sitting position at Tony's feet, where he was completely unthreatening, his eye level well below the other man's. He figured he could probably finish the bottle before Tony needed a refill or at least keep his consumption below danger level. Of course, that depended on how much Tony had had already.

Did he normally drink alone like this?

"So, what are we celebrating?" he asked, because that was most certainly the exact opposite of what Tony was doing, and the answer might be illuminating.

Tony cocked the glass at him. "My renewed 'most eligible bachelor' status?"

What had Jarvis said? That Pepper Potts wasn't here?

"I thought you and Miss Potts were ..." What? Engaged? Miss Potts did not wear a ring. "That she was your ..." He had a feeling that 'mistress' was almost certainly offensive. He'd heard 'significant other' which sounded ridiculous. "That she was your special girl."

Tony snorted. "Pepper would tell you she wasn't anyone's 'girl'. She certainly isn't mine any longer. Nor Stark Industries CEO." He waved his hands wildly, spilling whisky on his worn jeans, the floor and Steve, but not appearing to notice. "In fact, she isn't anything to do with it... me... us. Not anymore."

Ah. This he could deal with. Dear John letters and their effect were something he knew about, had learned very quickly as the leader of his disparate band of cutthroats...

Angrily, he blinked back the tears that still came to his eyes at the thought of his old unit, keeping his face turned away from Tony until he was under control again. Not so long ago, they would have been tears of anger, but that had been blown away in the wreck of Manhattan. The people of his city had needed him, as had his new teammates.

"I'm sorry," he said. Normally he would have added that if Tony wanted to talk he was here to listen, but Tony was incapable of remaining silent in company, so he just drained his mug, wincing at the taste, and helped himself to more whisky, moving the bottle out of Tony's reach as he did so. He, at least, could not get drunk.

He sipped the alcohol and waited.

After a while, Tony said, "Out there, beyond the portal, I saw... I saw the stars in all their unblinking glory, the swirl of the galaxies, and the aliens' mothership. Jesus, Cap, it was huge and ugly. I sent the nuke into it, and it exploded and, do you know the quote about, 'I am become Death, destroyer of worlds'? Because that's what the guy who set off the first nuke ever said. And I get to be Luke Skywalker – you must see those movies. Only instead of Darth Vader for a father I had Howard and I'm not sure which was worse, and you were the one frozen in carbonite anyway... And all I could think of was how beautiful it was out there, and how glad I was I'd seen it, and how if I hadn't been there it wouldn't have been the aliens or Loki who killed the most humans, but fucking SHIELD and its masters. That was worth dying for."

"What you did was probably the bravest – and most reckless – thing I've ever seen," Steve said.

Tony didn't seem to hear him. "When the nuke exploded and I was falling back into the portal and I was sure I was gonna die, I called Pepper on her cell and, whaddya know, there's reception in Outer Space or interdimensional portals or something. Who knew? But Pepper was too busy watching you being heroic on the TV, being baddass and saving the world, so she didn't pick up. An' today she'd finally gotten around to checking her missed calls an' noticed when I'd called her, and that was fine. She cried on me a bit, then asked me why I didn't leave a message an' y'know I couldn't give her an answer. So I told her I was at a loss for words."

"Ouch!"

"She didn't buy it."

"Tony, I've known you less than a week and I don't buy it either."

"So she asked me what I'd have said if I had gotten through to her, and I didn't actually remember – so I said I'd've thought of something—"

Steve put his head in his hands and groaned theatrically. "Playboy, did you say? Most eligible bachelor?"

"Hey, saving New York, right? And dying, don't forget that." Tony's grin was manic, but there was pain behind it. "Thinking I wasn't going to be able to say, 'See? Wrong about Stark?' to you."

Steve sighed. "You're not going to let me forget that, are you? Are you sure we can't blame it all on Loki and the Glowing Blue Crystal of Making People Say Stupid Things?"

Tony looked down at the glass in his hands. "If you hadn't said that... maybe I... maybe I wouldn't have thought I had to prove you wrong. So as I fell I was thinking about you and the gang and New York and that I really hoped Hulk had pasted a good one on Loki and then JARVIS suggested I call Pep—"

"Tell me you didn't tell her that too?" Steve might be hopeless around women but Tony – well, he had thought Tony suave, charming and a bit of a lady-killer though a tad eccentric. It was beginning to look as if he was wrong.

"And it seemed to complete the parallel," Tony continued. "You know, between you and me. We'd both been remade into superheroes and both sort of died and Rhodey hadn't given up on me and Dad never gave up on you. You'd flown that abomination of a plane straight down into the Arctic Ocean, saving New York and God knows how many other cities, all alone, knowing you were going to die – and right then I was falling too, and not exactly alone because, well, I had JARVIS, but I'm not sure he counts..." He lifted his eyes to meet Steve's. "Did you have problems figuring out what to say to your girlfriend? While dying heroically, I mean." He pulled a face. "I can't believe you had the nerve to date Margaret Carter, though from her wartime photos, I can hardly blame you for trying. Boy, was she hot."

Refusing to rise to the bait, which he recognised as pure Stark distraction, Steve said: "No, I couldn't tell her how I felt. I'm not sure I would have been able to tell her even if Howard and the Colonel hadn't been listening. Peggy and I just told each other we'd keep the date we'd made. She was going to teach me to dance -- and no, Stark, that wasn't a euphemism," he added, inwardly wincing at the sight of Tony's smirk.

"I wouldn't bet on that. From what Dad had to say about Carter, she knew how to get what she wanted..."

The words cut Steve like knives. He bit back his angry retort, because that was what Tony wanted, to fight him, to keep him at arm's length...

Stark wouldn't let himself be vulnerable to anyone. Probably not even Miss Potts. Steve said, carefully, "You mean your girl walked out on you because you couldn't explain what you were going to say to her when you thought you were dying? And she knows you better than anyone on Earth? You know, I think she might just come back, Tony."

He was answered with a wry smile and a headshake. "No. No, it wasn't just that. Pep could give you lessons in going for the jugular – well, she learned from me, I guess. She said it was bad enough that I had an obsession with creating robotic friends with weird personalities and locking myself in my workshop to mess with tech when I should be glad-handing shareholders and paying attention to her, and being a superhero and drinking which she also said affected my performance in bed which is so not true and nearly dying on her far too often—" Tony finally took a breath and a mouthful of whisky, presumably because he needed both to continue. "She also pointed out that I hadn't actually given up building weapons, just taken up building them for myself and my friends, which is also not fair as Rhodey stole that armour and stuck fucking Hammer guns on it, which failed just like I knew they were going to at the wrong moment. Never buy Hammer tech, Rogers, it'll let you down every fucking time.

" And now, she said, I'd started bringing home friends who were just as destructive and obsessed as I was without even asking her... I'd acquired one too many obsessions, apparently. Final straw, and all that." Tony drained the highball glass. "I knew she'd leave me eventually. Everyone does, if not always voluntarily. Where's the bottle—?" Steve caught movement out of the corner of his eye and was halfway to his feet with his shield out of its case when confronted with the sight of one of Tony's attendant robots, which seemed to consist of a metal arm on wheels, waving the whisky bottle in its ... hand? Pincers?

What's more, while Steve was still staring at this apparition Tony had retrieved the bottle with what sounded like muttered thanks – and had he called that thing 'Dummy'? – and was concentrating on filling his glass, the neck of the bottle jittering on the edge of the glass as his hands shook.

Carefully, Steve put his shield down and reached out to take the bottle while Tony was concentrating on holding the glass steady on its way to his lips, ignoring the annoyed whirr from the robot arm, and looked up into his teammate's eyes. "Tell me who left you, Tony."

Tony began counting off on his fingers which was awkward with one hand still clutching the whisky glass. "Pep, an' Happy's gone with her, Rhodey's been ordered not to associate with me, Mom and Dad and Jarvis – the original Jarvis I mean, who was our butler an' I used to hope was really my dad – Yinsen, Phil Coulson, Ty, Obie, Bethany –"

"Obie as in Obadiah Stane? Who tried to kill you? And steal your company?"

"Yeah. And my tech. Even the thing keeping me alive. Well, Pep says I'm lousy at judging people. Like Obie. And Phil. And Natasha. And Thor. And you. Jury's still out on Fury..."

"I got Fury wrong too."

"You're entitled to one strike."

"Two. I got you completely wrong. Though you were being—"

"Obnoxious. Yeah, Cap, I know. Well, you'd been annoying the fuck out of me for years. I hated you right the way through my childhood because, hey, who likes to be compared to Captain America and found wanting by their own father?"

Damn! Steve thought. Oh God, that explained so much. And left him stranded, because Howard had effectively locked Steve out of the life of the most astonishing man he had ever met. All he could think of to say was, "I'm sorry."

"Why? It isn't your fault you're you. Or that my Dad was right about someone for once in his life." Tony didn't sound angry, but the resignation in his voice was dreadful. "Or that I couldn't see past that before it was too late."

Steve was wishing that Thor was here instead of him, because Thor wouldn't have worried about offending Tony, just hugged him without over thinking the consequences and that, he was almost certain, was what Tony needed. And he'd just learned it would not be acceptable from Captain America.

Tony's eyes were focused on him with an intensity that should have made Steve uncomfortable but, instead, gave him a strange warm feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Why are you here, Cap?" he asked.

Well, he could give it a shot. "Captain America isn't here. Just Steve. Who is worried about his friend Tony."

There was a trace of delight in Tony's voice now. "Oh, deflection. Using my own tricks against me. Oooo-kay, how did you come to be in my workshop in the first place?"

Steve bit back, "Jarvis tricked me," and "There wasn't anyone else." Instead, he looked straight up at Tony, and, without trying to control his expression or the emotion in his voice said, "Because someone very clever worked out how much I know about losing people. And what it's like to be totally alone."

Tony drew a sharp breath. "Oh, God, I'm sorry. Me, I deserve all this for fucking up every good thing in my life, including the Avengers. All you did was save people and you lost everything. And none of it was your fault." He slid off the bench, so he was sitting close to Steve, and tentatively held out a hand. Even as the other man hesitated, Steve shifted his body weight towards him, and Tony's arm went comfortingly across his shoulders. It took only the space of a breath for Steve to turn it into a full-blown hug.

For an instant, Tony's muscles tensed, then he was hugging Steve back and it wasn't in the least tentative or awkward.

"What am I gonna do, Steve?" he asked after a while. "Pepper's gone, and for nothing. The Avengers are falling apart before they've even come together."

"Not true," Steve retorted automatically, though he wasn't sure if it was or wasn't; he'd assumed the others would be there if and when he needed them, just as he intended to be there if they needed him. He just hadn't thought it would be like this.

"Thor's in Asgard, and who knows if he'll ever return," Tony went on as if he hadn't heard him. "The Widow and Hawkeye are back with SHIELD. I offered to get StarkLegal to break their contracts and they laughed at the idea."

"Hush. I'm sure they didn't laugh."

"I can tell when Nat's laughing at me. And Bruce says he can't risk staying here, and once he has the results from the experiment he's running, maybe he won't even be the Hulk any more. You're back with SHIELD too..."

"No," Steve said firmly.

"No?" Tony pulled back so that he could look into Steve's face. His eyebrows were up.

Steve smiled reassuringly. "Though you may have to get your hotshot lawyers to stop Fury thinking he owns me," he admitted. "Things between us are a little tense right now. I still haven't forgiven him for Phase Two. Or for that prison built for the Hulk. Or for the information he gave me about you."

A grin began to spread across Tony's face. "Oh. I need to hack his computers again to find that data"

"Thor told me that he intends to come back, if Odin will permit it. I'll talk to Barton and the Widow – and we'll tackle Bruce together," Steve promised.

Tony settled himself against Steve's shoulder. "Thass com'rtable," he said, suddenly sounding far less sober. "Dad ... was ... right 'bout you. Really."

"I truly don't know why he was obsessed with me, Tony. We weren't that close."

Out of the corner of his eye, Steve saw Tony's mouth twist. "Th't wasn't how he saw it."

"I admired Howard, but I was never quite sure if he regarded me as a friend or an interesting experiment carried out on a naive fool." For the first time since hearing of Howard's decades-long search for his body, Steve wondered if the man hadn't felt guilty – or if, perhaps, other people hadn't made him feel guilty.

"He couldn't've be'n that stupid," Tony said, with what almost sounded like disappointment in his voice.

"We'll never know now."

There was silence for a time. After a while, Tony slumped more and more heavily against Steve, until he slept, or had possibly lapsed into unconsciousness, but his breathing and pulse were steady. With any luck he would be okay in the morning, though he would need watching for the rest of the night to make sure he didn't vomit and choke.

Steve shifted Tony into a fireman's lift, rose to his feet and said, "Jarvis, can you show me the way to a spare bedroom. Preferably one with glass in the windows and no leaks." He doubted very much that Tony wanted to wake up in the bedroom he had shared with Pepper.

"Yes, Captain. Or I can show you to your bedroom."

"My bedroom?"

"Yes. Mr Stark is in the process of completely rearranging the building so all of the Avengers will have personal suites, among other things. It was one of the things he and Ms Potts disagreed about. He did not consult her about that – or the renaming of the tower."

And suddenly so much more made sense. Astonishingly, one of the confirmed lone wolves of the Avengers, Tony Stark, liked being part of a team. So did Steve. Neither of them had family, either.

The mechanisms at his feet whined, and the robot arm waved threateningly at him. "Don't worry," Steve said, feeling foolish but oddly happy. "He has family now. We'll take care of him."

"Just so," said Jarvis. "Welcome to Avengers Tower, Captain."

And the final piece of the jigsaw clicked neatly into place.



End


Notes:

The StF is me being overly clever. The phrase 'science fiction' comes from the Hugo Gernsback term 'scientifiction' which was abbreviated to StF or STF, and some people were still using it in the 1960s, having had to look it up myself after encountering it in the lettercols of Astounding Science Fiction (which started life as Astounding Stories and only acquired the Science Fiction in 1938.)

Steve, who in comics canon is, at the very least, a LotR fan and assumed to have an interest in SF, would have grown up with Amazing Stories and might well have hung on to StF...

Steve would have encountered the Blackout in Europe - particularly London - in 1941/2. However, there were also blackouts on the Eastern US coast.

Comments, whether adverse or not, most welcome.

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I haven't seen the movie, but I'm not especially worried about spoilers. This is excellent! I especially like it that Steve is consciously not up-to-date on idiom, and has trouble figuring out how to describe a nontraditional relationship without using derogatory terminology from his own era. That's the sort of thing a lot of people writing time-travel stories get wrong.

This is also exactly the kind of fanfic that I most enjoy reading -- backstory, filling-in-the-blanks, and aftermaths, the sort of things that don't get told in the main story because they're digressions. But if you're willing to accept that the stories are about people who might have been real, then they do have backgrounds and side-issues and the story doesn't just end with a happily-ever-after. And I get curious about those things! So if/when I get around to seeing the movie, this is going to be in my head-canon for what happened after the credits rolled.

That is one of the best comments I've ever had. It's what I aim to do a lot of the time,

Thank you.

OMG you write Avengers fic too! Now if only we could get ladyofastolat to join us... :-D

I love this. I'm a huge sucker for stories where Steve and Tony confront the elephant in the room known as Howard. I definitely hope to see more from you!

Thank you. I've been going, "Oh, look, it's evilmissbecky!

May I friend you?

I still like this very much. The line about someone very clever figuring out that Steve knows what it's like to be alone made me well up.

Thank you, m'dear. Your input was appreciated, believe me.

Wonderful story! I like the way you kept us in the dark as to why Jarvis summoned Steve and then it all unfolded in heartbreaking detail. Your use of detail and shading of emotion was excellent.

Steve and Tony click because they are very much alike under the surface: alone, lonely, and wanting very much to be part of a team.

Thank you so much, particularly the comment about shading of emotion. *blushes* Long, long ago (and I mean pre-internet and even pre-computers) I had a rep for over-indulgence in these areas. My reform is a indifferent at times.

I signed up for cap_ironman big bang and then thought "I don't even know if I can get these characters' voices and I don't write American fandoms and Ulp!" This is my toe-in-the-water. I'm glad you thought it okay.


Very enjoyable. Thanks.

Thank you. Didn't realise you read fanfic! Do you want to go on my custom fanfic list? It is mainly occasional discussions and the odd rec, though there may be more fan fic written by me in the not-so-distant future.

I don't really read fanfic much unless I stumble upon it. I've read some in the past that was excellent and other stuff that... well... frankly should never have been let out of its box. I'm always dubious, but happy to be on your list, thanks. Recommended stuff has always been good.

I'm just not interested in some unknown person's Mary Sue sexual fantasies being aired in public.

this was heartbreaking in a good way! loved that jarvis knew to send steve ! and I loved the ending, even if that piece with pepper and tony was sad! (they are the few het couples that I like to ship )

Thank you! I love movie-Pepper too, but I love comics Pepper even more...

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