Pairing: None (could be considered Steve/Tony)
Summary: Steve Rogers reflects on the conflicts between himself and fellow teammate, Tony Stark.
Note: This is a Steve perspective to Hero by hellsperfectlie, which is written from Tony’s perspective. You may need to make an account to read it, but it’s definitely worth it and I would suggest reading it before reading this.
“You are pretty spry, for an older fellow. What’s your thing, pilates?”
“It’s like calisthenics. You might have missed a couple things, you know, doing time as a Capsicle.”
The words could come across as a joke, but Steve knows better. He hears the bitterness in the tone, the underlying taunt, the mockery. Part of him wants to call Tony out on it, but he settles for, “Fury didn’t tell me he was calling you in.” Partly because Steve feels the need to insult him back, even subtly, to remind Tony that he was the last person S.H.I.E.L.D. wanted to call in for the job, but mostly because Steve really doesn’t want to start a fight. He doesn’t even want to bicker. Not just with Tony, but with any of them. They were his teammates, after all, and while Steve liked choosing the people he worked with, some things were just handed to you in life.
Like waking up from a 70 year coma to find everyone you knew and loved dead and gone.
But no one cares about that. The closest thing to personal concern Steve has received since waking up was Fury asking him if was going to be okay after he ran out into the crowded, noisy streets of New York. No. He wasn’t going to be okay. He felt like his brain was going to unhinge, perhaps already had. But no one at S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to hear about your culture shock. They don’t want to hear about your feelings, they don’t want to hear about your regrets, and they damn sure don’t want to hear about how you wake up every night from nightmares of things you can’t change. They don’t care that the plane crash alone didn’t knock him out because the serum prevents his body from unconsciousness sustained by trauma. They don’t care that Steve Rogers only blacked out weeks after the crash, cold and alone, starving with no signs to show it. They don’t want to hear how he tried to break free but despite his strength he was unable to. They don’t want to hear it. So Steve doesn’t tell them. He’s only a soldier to them. The only thing they do seem to want him to do is get back into battle. So he agrees, despite the fact that he feels just as bitter as the other men of his generation who fought in war. They don’t want to hear this either.
But Steve tries to be patient though his patience already feels stretched thin, he tries to be sympathetic towards Tony after everything Fury has told him. Steve had not only asked about Peggy when he’d been debriefed (very briefly) but had asked about Howard. They may not have been close enough to be considered friends, but Howard Stark had never sent a harsh word Steve’s way. When he learned that Howard spent half his life searching for him in frozen wastelands - leaving behind his son - only to give up in an alcoholic rage, he becomes angry. Not so much at Howard, but at himself. He also wishes Howard had managed to find him, because then he’d be in a familiar world with familiar faces, so that Howard didn’t have to neglect his only son. Partly because Steve feels guilty, though he know he shouldn’t, and partly because he just can’t stand the result of Howard’s neglect: Tony’s abrasive personality.
But as the hours pass Steve grows less sympathetic and becomes more irritated by Tony. He can’t stand his scientific babble. He can’t stand how he trivializes everything. He can’t stand his sarcasm. He can’t stand his bragging. Tony Stark is everything that Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. expect Steve to adapt to; modern. And he can’t stand it. While Steve reminds Tony of the past, he supposes Tony reminds him of the present he wants nothing to do with.
So he snaps at him.
“You’re not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.”
“I think I’d just cut the wire.”
“Always a way out. You know, you may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero.”
“A hero? Like you? You’re a laboratory experiment, Rogers. Everything special about you came out of a bottle”
Steve wants to hit him, especially when Tony gets in his face, an almost victorious glint in his eyes, like he’d been wanting to say those words to him for years. Steve would hit Tony if he didn’t know a good hard punch to the face would probably kill the guy, so he tells him to put on the suit, to go a few rounds. It’s only fair. He isn’t aggressive by nature, but Steve won’t be pushed around. Not anymore. Because Tony’s right. Everything special about Steve Rogers did come from a bottle. Steve was nothing before being injected with the serum. Sure, he may have been a good person, a fair artist, but he was sickly, he was weak, and he was defeated despite his refusal to run from a fight. Steve often thought that had he not been genetically enhanced, he would have died young somehow from illness. Nothing. He would have amounted to nothing. Steve had known this even before the procedure. It had been one of the reasons he’d tried to enlist so many times. If he was going to die young, he wanted to die doing something, fighting for something. He didn’t want to go broken and alone. He didn’t want to be some forgotten kid from Brooklyn. He didn’t want to die as nothing.
“Sometimes there isn’t a way out, Tony.”
“Right…I’ve heard that before.”
“This the first time you’ve lost a soldier—?”
“We are not soldiers!”
It’s the fear in Tony’s eyes that makes Steve understand. There’s no wire to cut, no control to be had. They differ that way. Tony fears the lack of control while Steve accepts it. He supposes it has something to do with their histories. Steve has never known control, so much of his life had been out of his hands, from his dad’s alcoholism induced death, pneumonia taking his mother from him, to being used as a piece of propaganda. And Tony…well Tony controlled nearly every aspect of his life. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
But they fight like soldiers anyway. Flashbacks aside, Steve throws himself into war again. The battle is long. The battle is brutal. After what seems like hours the feeling of defeat starts creeping in again like the days before. But like before, Steve refuses to call it quits until it’s actually over. Yet he can’t deny the foray is taking its toll on him.
So when Natasha says she can close the portal, Steve doesn’t hesitate to tell her to close it. But Tony interjects with a quick, “No, wait!” Steve starts questioning not only the man’s personality but his sanity. Steve stops questioning it and knows him to be insane when he tells them a nuke is headed their way and he knows just where to put it. Part of him wants to believe Tony is joking; his tone – after all – is casual. But Steve knows he isn’t.
“Stark…you know that’s a one way trip.”
Steve tries to put every ounce of authority he has into that sentence, tries to make it clear to Tony that the chance of there being a wire to cut is slim to none. But Tony ignores him. Steve supposes he deserves the silence. All he wants to do is yell at Tony, tell him his idea is ridiculous, but even Steve knows there’s no other way but for someone to make the sacrifice play.
He just hadn’t expected it to be Tony who made it.
Steve watches in horror as the black rift in the sky glows orange. The nuke has made its mark. The creatures collapse. A moment passes and no sign of Tony. Thor looks at him, a silent question: ‘Are you going to call it?’ In that moment Steve remembers the reasons why such a large part of him dislikes being a leader; he has to call the shots. And in this case calling the shots means possibly killing – if he’s not already dead – Tony Stark, who despite the way Steve feels about his attitude, doesn’t deserve to die. He doesn’t want to make the call, hopes that someone else will, but he’s the Captain. He has no other choice.
He looks away as the Tesseract’s energy breaks away from the portal, knowing he might as well be burying a man alive. Steve feels guilty as it is because, despite the things said in his moments of anger, he knows that Tony Stark isn’t a heartless person. He’s seen the footage, he knows better. He wishes he could have said so sooner, apologized at least. But Steve knows that even if he did, Tony would probably just insult him as a result; a surefire way to get Steve to take back his spoken regrets.
The portal closes with an unearthly screech and relief washes through him; Tony’s made it.
“Son of a gun.”
He can’t help but smile slightly. Apparently there was a wire to cut.
A flicker of panic returns when Steve notices Tony is free-falling. It vanishes when Hulk catches him and brings him to ground, only to return again when the helmet is removed and he sees that Tony is unconscious. Steve leans over him. Tony is not breathing. He places a hand over the dimmed arc reactor. He might as well be feeling an unbeating pulse. The guilt sets back in. He feels physically ill. He remembers the words of the doctor from far too long ago:
“Whatever happens tomorrow you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”
Steve feels nothing like a good man.
He feels like a horrible person.
He considers striking the suit of armor with a fist – partly out of anger and partly out of hope that it would somehow fix everything – when Hulk lets out an angry roar and Tony awakens with a yell. Steve doesn’t bother hiding his relief. He can’t even be annoyed by Tony’s trivializing comments, his jokes, as if he hadn’t just nearly died. He even finds himself trying not to laugh at them (he blames it on the fact that the other managed to live). Steve wants to start spewing apologies but that’s not the kind of guy he is and now is not the time. Thor’s right; they’re not finished yet.