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See Beneath His Mask

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Books were quietly being placed into bags seconds before the school bell would ring, dismissing the students for the day. He watched the clock on the wall, focusing on it as if to make time go faster. RING. Without waiting for the teacher's official dismissal, Tony grasped at his satchel and all but ran out of Hell high school. Leaving the gates, his mind began to guide him to his safe place. Whilst directions were coming forward in his head, other lines of thoughts were zipping about his mind. Odd? Perhaps, but that’s just the way Tony Stark, heir to Stark Industries and prodigy of Howard and Maria Stark, worked. His mind was a complex but intriguing thing. He could form blueprints, plans and all sorts within his eidetic mind.

 

Turn left. Straight forward. Then take a right. Walk forward for a three and a half minutes. Take another left. Then a second right. Open the door. Walk inside to the counter. Order drink. Pay and murmur thank you. Find the isolated corner that I’ve totally not claimed as mine. Sit down. Laptop out. Work.

 

Getting comfortable in the corner of the coffee shop, Tony pulled out his laptop and settled back into the large armchair in his isolated and dark corner. He opened up his most recent project and began to work on it. The tension in his body all but vanished as he smiled in success whilst waiting for the loading process of his project to finish. He’d made it another day without being shoved into a locker and beaten up. That was two days in a row!

 

What’s this? Anthony Edward Stark is a victim of bullying? Yes. Yes, he is. See Tony is -for lack of better words- a genius. He skipped a grade and despite only being fifteen (soon to be sixteen), he was finishing his final year of school. That meant he was stuck in classrooms with seventeen to eighteen-year-olds who weren’t as intelligent as he was -no that wasn’t supposed to sound cruel, it’s just the truth- eight hours a day, five times a week. Let’s just say that a lot of people were bitter about that. No one likes a know-it-all, after all. Tony didn’t have any friends either, so he was all alone during school hours and quite frankly he was just alone all the time. He had two friends and both of them were older than him and going to college -they visited and spoke as often as they could at least. Then there was another person that Tony wanted to be friends with but the man never really made the effort. His name was Bruce Banner. He was eighteen, but he was the only person Tony could really talk to about science. He was the only one that seemed to understand and care, (sure Rhodey and Pepper -his college friends- they cared but they never really got what he was talking about). Bruce and Tony would always hang out together in the lab at school doing science experiments of sorts. Bruce, unlike Tony, focused primarily on gamma radiation and the like, whereas Tony really just focused on engineering and making things -that’s not to say they both are clueless in other areas.

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

Snuggling deeper into the armchair, he tucked his legs underneath him and zoned out as he worked on his project. He didn’t hear the door opening. Nor did he acknowledge the voices as a group of five took over the area beside him. It was the section that everyone favoured in a coffee shop. It was the seats in front of the unlit fireplace, there were three couches (two were two-seaters and the other was a three-seater) and in the centre of them was a low but long rectangular coffee table. It was a nice area, but Tony favoured his corner and armchair. Only when he reached for his coffee, did he notice the noise from beside him. His eyes widened slightly and he slumped down in his seat, curling in on himself as he tried to stay invisible. Why? Because the group beside him were the Avengers.

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

The Avengers. Who were they exactly? From what Tony knew (due to listening to conversations, observing and totally not researching them), they were a group of five individuals, all in their senior year.

 

Their so-called leader was Steve Rogers. He had met Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff in their first high school year. The devious duo (Natasha and Clint were always together and were rather terrifying) had become friends with lonely little Steve and stayed with him. Then Bruce Banner joined about six months later -the only girl in the group had all but forced the shy teen to hang out with them. Finally Thor. He was the final member, he had learned of the group's name and been intrigued. He joined and instead of going back to his original school, he remained with them.

 

Their name? The ‘Avengers’ is a peculiar one at that, but it fit the group perfectly. Steve had a thing about bullies -sure no one likes them, but Steve would always, always have a go at bullies if he saw them. This often resulted in him being badly injured... at least that was until Natasha and Clint appeared, though that didn’t make things easier as the trio stopped bullies. Sure many speculated that Clint and Natasha were assassins in a previous life or something, but despite their incredible fighting ability, Steve was too...small, sickly and frail. Or at least he was until Junior year when he...well changed doesn’t cut it straight. He had a huge growth spurt, his illnesses all but faded and he spent hours changing from a skinny short twig into a gigantic muscular handsome man. His ideals and personality didn’t change though. He still stood up for the little guy and was able to stop bullying much easier. So their name? They were the Avengers because they would avenge victims of bullying. They always stood up and protected anyone who was having a hard time. Every single victim in the school…except for Tony Stark. The genius didn’t really know why, but quite frankly he wasn’t surprised. A little upset, yes. But, not surprised.

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

Getting back on track. Tony remained hidden and after failing to continue his focus on his work, he decided to pretend and eavesdrop on the group by him.

“This is a lovely little coffee shop.” Murmured the redheaded girl, “How’d you come across this place, Bruce?” 

“Tony told me about it after I asked where he got his coffee from -I had accidentally taken a sip of his and it was really nice.”

“Tony? Who is this Tony you speak of? Is he your friend, Bruce? Should we invite him?” Thor asked,

“Let me guess, Stark?” Steve grunted

“Yes…”

“Ugh!” Moaned Clint,

“I do not understand, who is this son of Stark?”

“An obnoxious twat,” Clint grumbled,

“Captain, are you going to allow him to speak in such a vulgar way?”

“Well, he is right. Thor, the guy’s a dickhead.” Eyebrows were raised towards the large blond,

“…alright, but who is he?”

“He’s the younger boy with the dark hair and glasses. You’ve seen him before when you’ve come down to the lab with me.”

“Ah! The exhausted boy with the robotic contraption?”

“That’s him.”

“He seemed an interesting character. Very hard working and talkative too.”

“He’s a nuisance. Dunno why he hasn’t asked daddy dearest to have him homeschooled.” Clint muttered bitterly,

“You have a lot of hatred for someone you do not know.” Thor murmured though out of the corner of his eye he was watching Bruce clench his fists angrily and he wanted to know why.

“Don’t need to know him. He’s always acting better than others and being cocky. Thinks everyone should bow to him because he’s a genius and the heir to a multi-million dollar company. I bet the moment he takes over, the company crashes to the ground!” Clint tutted oblivious to Bruce’s discomfort (and Thor’s growing frown).

“I have to disagree with you, Clint.” Surprisingly it was Natasha who said this, “I reckon he’ll improve Stark Industries. Probably change it from a multi-million to a multi-billion dollar company. Even you can’t ignore how incredibly intelligent he is.”

“I can and I do,” Clint muttered with narrowed eyes and that was that. The conversation was done…expressions Steve and Clint were giving them that clearly stated they didn’t want to speak about it anymore.

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

Tony had, of course, heard everything…and he was hurt. Although, the large long-haired blond seemed nice, maybe he’d even try to get to know Tony…but truthfully that was just a foolish wish of Tony’s. Moving quietly and quickly yet somehow discreetly, Tony packed his things away and threw his hood up before leaving the coffee shop. Once outside he exhaled heavily, not realising he had been holding his breath in. Sighing, he made his way to the house he lived in…it was most definitely not a home.

 

And unfortunately, for him, the Avengers kept going back to the coffee shop. Despite this, Tony still went. It was, after all, his ‘place’ first. Still, no one really noticed him there, which was good…and if they did then they didn’t acknowledge him. Either way win-win for Tony Stark.

 

But…he would be lying if he said nothing changed since he overheard their conversation about him. Even though it had only been a few days.

Chapter Text

 

“Friend Bruce, I have significant subjects to converse with you!” Thor exclaimed as he barged into the empty lab. It was rare, but today it was just Bruce occupying the room. Said man was looking down at several vials whilst making notes. He barely glanced up at his friend. He pointed to a chair and gestured for Thor to bring it over and sit in it.

“Fine. Take a seat. But cut the dramatics, I have an experiment running that I need to put most if not all of my focus on, therefore I can’t waste time deciphering whatever Shakespearean thing you say.” Thor agreed knowing his friend wasn’t trying to be rude, 

“I was wondering of your friendship with Anthony Stark.” Bruce’s hand abruptly stopped from where he had been writing and he turned wide eyes obscured by glasses towards Thor. Placing his pen down, he removed his glasses and with his normal nervous tic, he began to clean them.

“We…we're not friends, Thor. I… I don’t know why you…why you would think that.”

“Banner.” Thor cut through his friends rambling, “I could tell from your actions earlier this week that it bothered you when the others were being cruel. I know you wanted to follow him when he left.”

“You knew he was there too?”

“Subtle, he was, I am used to such actions. From what I have seen, he’s much like my brother, Loki.”

“It doesn’t help that the others are rather blind.” Bruce paused and glanced back at his experiment, though he knew he’d have to start it again, “I…I would love to be his friend, Thor, he seems like a lovely kid, but…you know I hate confrontations and arguments…I don’t want my friendship with him to cause any issues.”

“I find myself wanting to be his friend, Bruce. Maybe we should both introduce ourselves as friends and hope things work out. If the others have a problem, they will have to deal with me.” The two stared each other down for a few minutes before Bruce slumped down slightly in defeat and shook hands with Thor.

“Fine. Deal. But, you need to know he has many many masks and facades. If we’re going to try and become his friends, then we both need to keep in mind that anything offensive or rude that comes out of his mouth is not him trying to be mean.”

“I understand, Bruce. You forget my brother. I do not know Tony, but I can already see the similarities. They both have defensive walls surrounding them.” They shared a smile before Bruce shooed Thor out so he could continue aka redo his experiment.

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

Throughout the next week, Tony found that his luck had run out. The bullying continued. Only this time he had a large muscular saviour. One of the larger bullies had bashed his shoulder into Tony rather harshly. The younger boy became unbalanced and as he felt himself leaning too far to the right, he prepared himself with clenched eyes to meet the ground. Only, he didn’t. A large hand gently sat on his shoulder, allowing him to regain his balance. His eyes looked up the arm to the face of his rescuer. It was Thor. The blond wasn’t looking in his direction though. He had his other hand gripping his bullies shoulder harshly.

“Apologise.” He growled and the bully muttered an apology before wriggling out of Thor’s grasp. The blond turned to Tony and removed his hand, “Are you alright, Anthony?”

“I…yes. Thank you.” 

It was little things like that, that gave Tony hope. A small bubble of hope was growing inside him. He thought, just maybe, Thor wanted to be his friend. 

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

Not only did Thor rescue him whenever possible, Bruce also started to initiate conversations with him!

“Hey, Tony!” The mousy haired teenager greeted as he entered the workshop and spied Tony working on his robot.

“Hello, Brucie…” He replied voice full of suspicion.

“How’s your robot coming along? You called him… Dum-E, right?” Just like that Tony’s face lit up and he excitedly started to talk about his robot.


That too continued. Whenever they were in the lab together, they’d talk like friends about their projects and everyday lives. Bruce even began to talk to him in the hallway!

 

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

Now seven days had passed since the Avengers started invading Tony’s personal space going to the coffee shop and Bruce along with Thor began to act…kindly to him. It was Friday. Tony had been working in the school lab during the last two periods of the day, both of which were free periods for the genius, much to his delight, and as he was so caught up in his work, he barely registered that it was the end of the day…at least that was until Bruce came in. The pair of them (along with a couple others) were allowed to work in there after school hours, which was why Bruce had arrived and why Tony had made no move to leave.

 

Bruce, who was working silently, kept glancing at him and then the door. Tony was confused but tried to ignore it. Until the door opened and in came Thor.

“Ah, Anthony Stark, I wish to converse with you!” Tony slowly looked up at the large man, he pointed at himself with confusion evident on his face,

“Me?”

“Yes. I wish to be your friend.”

“I…eh?”

“You seem like an interesting fellow and I wish to befriend you. As does Bruce.”

“…why? You…neither of you cared beforehand. It was only when Bruce took you to the coffee shop.”

“Tis true. But, I did not know of you before. I had seen you many a time within this workshop, but I never conversed with you. I watched you work sometimes whilst waiting for Friend Bruce and you always intrigued me. I am ashamed of my other friends as they have been most unfair towards you. But, I hope to make amends.” Thor exclaimed, “Also, do not blame Bruce for not acting on his desire to be your friend until this past week. He feared the consequences within the group.” At Tony’s confused look, Bruce spoke up.

“By consequences, Thor means arguments and any confrontations the group might cause. They don’t really like you…”

“I know. I was there when they said all that last week.” They stood in silence for a few minutes, Tony looking down at his feet before looking up at them. “I would…I would like to be your friends…please.” He asked shyly and the others grinned happily causing a smile to slowly spread along his lips.

 

Chapter Text

Slowly but surely as the school year continued, Thor and Bruce became good friends with Tony. They hung out whenever possible. If they passed by each other, they’d share a smile. If someone was bullying Tony, Thor would step in and stop them, Bruce would too if he was nearby but he didn’t do confrontation…upon saying that he managed to terrify people with a single look. Though that could be because everyone had heard what Bruce was like when he became angry…for lack of a better word, he was like a monster.

 

Yet somehow, the other Avengers never realised or at least they never said anything, which meant that they hadn’t noticed as explosions would probably be kicking off had they known. 

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

A month and a half had passed before Tony gained a new…friend. He had been walking out of school when he was grabbed from behind.

“Stark.”

“Hammer.” Before Tony could say anything else a punch was thrown his way and smashed into his eye, he stumbled to the floor and curled in on himself as the older boy went to kick at him. He peeked up when no pain came and a high pitched shriek rang through the air. 

“Piss off Hammer. Next time you won’t be so lucky.” It was Natasha Romanoff. Tony spied her slim hand in front of him and hesitantly grasped it allowing the redhead to pull him up,

“…thank you?”

“Just so you know, I don’t agree with what Steve thinks. I never spoke to you before because that’s not the type of person I am. However, I don’t believe you are a dickhead…okay, I do believe you are one but it’s really just a mask. You’re not the only one with facades, Stark.”

“That…that doesn’t explain why you helped me out now though…”

“No, it doesn’t.” She didn’t explain herself,

“…so why did you?”

“Thor and Bruce have started hanging out with you. I wanted to see what the fuss was about.” She shrugged carelessly, “Apparently I have maternal instincts and now I have adopted you.”

“What?” He was surprised when she started to chuckle,

“You’re under my protection now kid. Just like Thor and Bruce. Dunno if Steve’ll ever get over his view of you, but Clint might. He doesn’t really believe what he preaches when he rants about you.”

“…I am so lost.” Tony muttered rubbing at his eyes, this had most definitely been the strangest year of his life, he suddenly had two new friends and quite possibly a third. She just smiled though,

“See you tomorrow, Tony.”

“…okay then…”

 

Just like that Natasha would join the trio in the lab and they’d all talk like friends whilst Tony and Bruce worked on their projects. It was…nice. Tony for once felt happy and in a way free.

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

Thor was away with the drama club. They had a performance and wouldn’t be in school for a couple of days. Bruce had been asked by one of the science professors to help with an experiment for one of the younger classes. Natasha was also away, she had a ballet performance and wouldn’t be back for a few days too. Even someone as foolish and moronic as Justin Hammer and his goons knew to take advantage of this. With no one to protect him, the bullying kickstarted instantly.

 

A shove. A punch. A kick. A slap. And repeat. Dazed and bloody, Tony barely even registered them picking him up and tossing him into a locker like someone's unused school books. The door slammed shut and he could faintly hear the bullies walking away and chattering as though they hadn’t just beat up some kid that was younger and smaller than them. He was small enough to slump down a bit in the locker. His heart was racing. Eyes wide in fear. Air running from him as he tried desperately to inhale. His chest tightened. What was ringing? His mouth dry as he lost all sense and began to yell as loudly as he could. Something was choking him. The darkness around him somehow swirled. Disorientation. Was he sitting? Was he standing? He couldn’t tell. 

“Oh god. Please. Please. Please. Let me out! Let me out! I’m sorry. Sorry. Please. Please. Help! I can’t. I can’t. Breathe!” He barely noticed the door opening as he came close to fainting. The world spun. Lights flashed. He gulped in air. Heaving and panting heavily. A voice? A heartbeat? Was that his heartbeat? 

“Ssh. It’s alright. Listen to my voice. Listen to my heartbeat. Ssh. Close your eyes. Breathe. In. Out. In. Out.” Came a soothing voice as Tony slowly regained his awareness. He found his face buried into a purple t-shirt with some kind of pop culture reference, slowly moving away to look at his rescuer, he found his eyes once again widening. “Hey, welcome back. Come on let’s get you to the nurse's office or would you rather go to the lab? Though I would prefer you not be alone.” But Tony didn’t answer, he was too surprised, “Okay, nurses office it is.” 

“…no, please. Lab.” He whispered.

“Alright, kiddo, but that means you’re gonna have to put up with me being there too.”

“Why?”

“Because I ain’t leaving you alone after an anxiety attack, that would be a dickish move and I’ve been a jerk to you enough.” Tony didn’t reply and the pair made their way to the lab, the older boy helping him as Tony’s movements were a bit shaky.

 

Once they entered, the pair took a seat by each other. Tony clutched Dum-E’s arm for comfort. 

“How about a fresh start? I’m Barton. Clint Barton.” That made Tony glance at his t-shirt and chuckle a bit. The purple top had ‘007’ on it,

“James Bond fan?”

“Defo!”

“…Hi Clint. I’m Tony Stark.” The pair shook hands. Thus the start of a fourth friendship. One left to go, but Tony doubted that would ever happen. But, then again, he doubted he’d be friends with four of the Avengers, so who knows?

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

Steve, oblivious as ever, never knew that his friends were hanging out with Tony. That is until he came back from visiting a friend for a week as it was the holidays. He had decided to surprise his friends by going to the coffee shop when he knew they’d be there. As he walked in and said hello to them, he froze. Sitting beside Bruce in the normally empty spot was the boy he hated to the core. Anthony Edward Stark.

“The hell is he doing here?” Steve hissed in disgust,

“He’s our friend,” Thor said standing up slowly,

“That’s not-“

“If the next words out of your mouth are that we can’t have other friends, I will dismember you. After all, who just spent a week with their friend instead of us?” Natasha growled

“That’s different, Bucky’s -“

“Your childhood friend. Big deal.” Interrupted Clint,

“Steve, come with me,” Thor all but demanded, leading the other blond out of the building. The group turned back to Tony, who was curling up into a ball by Bruce’s side. Their eyes softened as they saw how upset he was getting. They’d finally convinced the younger teenager that they wouldn’t hurt him and that he could let his walls down. Then Steve had to come back and ruin that.

 

“It’s alright, котенок.” Natasha murmured but her focus was mostly on the argument that they could see between Thor and Steve, though they couldn’t hear it.

“I…I should go. I don’t want to cause anything between you guys.”

“Steve…he needs to get over whatever issue he has with you. Truth be told, I don’t understand his problem.” Clint stated, but that didn’t stop Tony from getting up and grabbing his bag, “Tony, you don’t need to leave.”

“…I…I should. I’m sorry. Thank you for being so kind to me these past months.” They watched as the younger teenager walked outside and started talking to the previously arguing pair, even from inside, Bruce, Natasha and Clint could see just how nervous and shy Tony was.

Chapter Text

The moment Thor had led Steve outside, the shouting started…much to the entertainment and interest of several passersby.

“What the actual hell, Thor? Why are you guys talking to him?” Steve yelled angrily,

“Because he is a good person. You are the one in the wrong, Steven.” Yet the other blond just snorted in disbelief,

“As if! You’ve seen how he acts around school -thinking he’s better than everyone cause daddy dearest is rich and famous. Then the news reports, you can’t seriously tell me that he’s a good person. He’s cocky. Arrogant. Selfish and vain.”

“It is but an act, Steven. See beneath his mask, my friend.” But Steve didn’t want to and continued ranting and raving about Tony. Thor could barely get a word in. Then a quiet voice pitched in.

“I…I wanted to…to apologise for any and all…umm…issues I’ve made…I’m sorry.” He whispered looking down at his feet before glancing briefly at Thor, “I…thank you for being my…my friend over the past…past months, I’ll… I’ll leave you…all of you alone.” Thor called his name but Tony just continued to walk away, Steve remained frozen in surprise, only snapping out of it in time to see the group standing by him glaring.

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

A couple of weeks had passed and Tony realised that by ignoring Thor, Bruce, Natasha and Clint (who surprisingly continued to acknowledge him in the hallway and whenever they were near each other) he was probably proving Steve Roger’s point of him being arrogant, selfish and vain, but by this point Tony was just so done with the world that he could care less.

 

Without his ‘bodyguards’, Hammer and his lackeys just got worse whenever possible, though Tony did notice that it was rather rare for the group of bullies to get to him. It was a rather obvious that the Avengers excluding Steve were still looking out for him…Tony didn’t understand why, though. 

 

He had a black eye that was gradually fading and a sore cut on his temple, the bruises on his torso were a sickly yellow but they were healing. Tony was making his way to class, hoping beyond hope, that Justin didn’t see him. Of course, luck was not Tony’s friend…or was it? 

 

He found himself promptly shoved against a locker, nothing strange as he and the lockers were practically friends with the amount of connection Tony had with them over the…well over his entire high school life. Out of his peripheral vision he could see a punch coming towards him and he braced himself. The pain never came. He squinted ever so slightly to see why the punch never connected. There was a large hand tightly wrapped around Justin’s fist. Tony’s brown eyes wandered up the arm to find Steven Grant Rogers. The man, who probably hated Tony more than his bullies was protecting him…What the hell? The only logical conclusion Tony could find was that he was either concussed, unconscious or dead.

“Leave him alone, Hammer.” Came his authoritative voice as he looked down on the whimpering bully as he slowly released the hand, which caused Justin to grab it as though it had been crushed…then again it might’ve been. “You ok?” Steve asked though he didn’t look at Tony,

“Yeah…thanks.” With that said the shorter boy quickly fled to his class, trying to ignore the confusing situation that just happened. Steve didn’t stop him.

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

School finished for the day. Tony’s mind was still in chaos as he tried to understand why Steve had protected him, therefore meaning he wasn’t prepared to be grabbed from behind and slung into an empty alleyway.

“The Hell, Stark? How’d you get Rogers to protect you?”

“Still trying to work that one out, Hammer.” Tony snarked as he stood up from where he had fallen onto the ground,

“Wasn’t their a rumour a while back that he was a fag?” One of his lackeys said and a malicious smirk flitted across Justin’s face,

“Oh yeah, I remember that.” He turned back to Tony, “So Stark, you taking it up the arse for them? Is that how you’ve convinced them to help you out? Huh. You must be one good fuck.” Tony was shoved to the ground again. Kicks came from every direction as the group shouted vulgar words at him. Bloody and beaten, Tony was surprised when the hits suddenly stopped. Peeking out from where his arms had protected his face, Tony was confused by the extra five pairs of feet he could now see…or maybe he was hallucinating.

“I’d back the fuck off if I were you.” Was that Clint’s voice?

“When will you learn that you don’t just get away with hurting people, Hammer?” Science Bro, is that you?

“You think that hurting my котенок won’t result in your deaths?” Natasha? Terrifying as usual…

“You will face the wrath of Thor Odinson!” Oh so that’s his last name…how odd and yet fitting.

“Honestly, Hammer.” Oh God. Tony had heard about the Steve’s ‘I-am-so-disappointed-in-you’ voice and sigh, wow it works well. After that Tony’s really not sure what happened as he blacked out.

 

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

He blinked slowly as he heard hush voices around him. Moaning quietly, Tony reached up and rubbed at his eyes.

“Hey, sleeping beauty.”

“Damn right I’m beautiful.” Muttered Tony in response to Clint’s remark,

“Easy.” Someone murmured helping him sit up properly, it was Steve.

“The bloody hell’s going on?”

“Well…we saved you. You passed out. Natasha almost slaughtered Hammer and his worshippers. Thor picked you up and carried you to the car. Steve drove us back here. You woke up.”

“How the hell did Thor pick me up? Where exactly is here? How’d you fit six people in that small car of yours, Rogers?” 

“You are not at all heavy, my friend. We are at Steve’s house. And we fit in the car rather easily. I sat in the passenger seat alongside Steve whilst Clint, Bruce and Natasha sat in the back with you across their laps.” Thor answered causing Tony to respond with his mouth open as if to say ‘oh’ before he turned to face the blond, who stood to the side looking shy,

“Why did you help me?”

“Because I realised I was wrong and was a…a bully to you.” He looked up to Tony, sincere regret in his blue eyes, “I’m sorry, Tony.”

“Plus we told his mum.” Natasha added with a smirk and there were chuckles as Steve visibly shivered before rubbing the back of his neck,

“Yeah…she’s terrifying as it is and was…was really disappointed in me…”

“Then -and this was even more hilarious- she called his childhood friend and let me tell you, he fucking tore Steve a new one. I kid you not, the guy just exploded and I swear Steve visibly shrunk! I recorded it if you want to see later!” Clint exclaimed with mischievous glee.

“Despite that, I did come to the realisation that I had become everything I stand against. A bully. I was wrong and cruel and I am so sorry.”

“I…I admit it hurt a lot. But…the fact that you -all of you- helped me and all means so much…I’m used to people being mean. I’m not used to people making up for their actions, apologising and becoming my friend. I forgive you, Steve.” The smiles he received made him feel something deep inside. It was as though their smiles were fixing his broken heart. He smiled back.

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

Fast forward a couple more months and it was summer. Things had been great for Tony. His new friends were incredible and they’d all gotten into the same college. Tony had the option to go to MIT or the place they were going to, it was called SHIELD. He didn’t know where to go. Until Rhodey and Pepper came to the rescue. Sitting in the coffee shop with his two older best friends.  

“Tony. The thing is. How do I say this?” Rhodey muttered looking to Pepper for help as the two held one of Tony’s hands in their own. It was a thing the trio always did, it was ‘their’ thing.

“What Rhodey’s trying to say is that you need to go where you want to. Not where your dad does. Not where you think you have to go. Where you want to go.”

“Don’t laugh at me for saying this Tones, but go where your heart tells you to go. Where your heart wants to go.” Tony smiled softly at his friends,

“Honey as much as we want you to go to MIT and be with us, we realise that you…you don’t want to go there. We can clearly see that.”

“Tones. Go to SHIELD. Be with your Avengers.” Rhodey murmured. As if summoned, the five Avengers walked into the coffee shop seconds later. The group smiled and made their way over to Tony and his two friends. 

 

“Hey guys, this is Rhodey and this is Pepper,” Tony said greeting the group before allowing them to introduce themselves,

“What you three up to then?” Steve asked as they sat down after introductions,

“Just telling our moron to go to SHIELD with you guys,” Rhodey answered before chuckling as Tony punched him at the insult,

“That’s great Tony!” Thor exclaimed in clear happiness.

 

The group chattered away for about half an hour before Tony excused himself to answer the phone

“Before Tony returns, we have something to say.” Rhodey started before looking to Pepper and allowing her to go ahead and speak,

“If you hurt him again, nothing will stop us from killing you.”

“And we will have no problem with burying your bodies,” Rhodey added seconds before Tony came back in,

“What’d I miss?” He asked but no one answered him,

“Sorry, Tones, we’re going to have to go now. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks?”

“Oh, alright, yeah, cool,” Tony said before standing and hugging his best friends,

“Remember you can always call us if need be.”

“And we’ll see you before you head off to uni.”

 

——LINE BREAK——

 

“We’re so happy you’ve come to SHIELD with us,” Bruce said as Tony curled up into his side in the coffee shop closest to SHIELD that the Avengers (now including Tony),

“Me too. I’m glad you guys are still my friends.”

“Tony, I don’t think you realise that you’re stuck with us now.” Clint informed him with a grin,

“He speaks truthfully, my friend!” Exclaimed Thor,

“Tony, everyone loves you in this group. You’re one of us.” Steve said gently,

“Besides, I told you, you’re mine now and I will kill everyone if they think they can steal you from us.” Natasha mentioned in her own way of showing that she cares. Tony just smiled at the group. They were family. The family he chose and joined. Things were finally running smoothly and all anyone had to do was look beneath Tony’s mask.