|What: Sometimes, you need someone to tell you to stop being an ass and start kicking some.|
Stark Mansion. It's quiet. For once there's no party or no loud music or anything of the sort. Only certain people are being allowed past the gate and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are not on that list. Freedom Fighters of Super Soldier Goodness, though, are likely to be able to bypass the security. J.A.R.V.I.S. is nice like that.
Tony is just sitting. He's got a glass of Scotch in his hand but it doesn't look like he's doing more than just looking at it. He doesn't sip from it. He just sits there on the steps that lead up into the massive mansion and looks from the glass to the ground and to the sky. Unhappy.
Steve's feeling just a little down himself. He's been helping clean up down at Times Square most of the day, but now that he's changed out of his costume and hopped on his motorcycle... well, he'd planned to go home to Brooklyn but he took a different turn, and before he knew it?
Stark Mansion. And he's getting along well enough with the disembodied voice that runs Tony Stark's life that J.A.R.V.I.S. lets him in, so he parks the bike and walks slowly over to Stark. He's frowning faintly, and it's not just because there was a lack of Iron Man helping with the wreckage (Stark people probably *were* there, handing out bottles of water if nothing else). In fact, he's probably unhappy for the same reason Stark is feeling guilty.
So he sits on the stairs beside Tony, resting his elbows on his knees and staring out into the distance. And for a long moment he's entirely silent, but at last he doesn't have a better way to start than:
"Anything you want to tell me?"
"Did you know that even the world's smartest man can be a huge dumbass?"
Tony doesn't even look at Steve the entire time. He's just sitting there. He knows when the Captain arrived. He felt him walk up and stand there. He felt him sit down next to him and now the conversation that's inevitable has begun. And Tony doesn't know what to even say. He's just staring at his glass and swishing the alcohol around inside of it.
Finally, he decides to say something a bit less rhetorical. "People died, Steve. There are people. Dead. Because of me." There's not even a hint of humor in his tone. This is a very different Tony Stark. This is Anthony.
"You can't own that," Steve says softly. "Not entirely." He looks over at Tony -- at Anthony, at the man sitting next to him -- with sincere understanding. Everything about this guy is sincere. Everything about this guy is always sincere.
"HYDRA killed those people. They blew things up and knocked them down and yes, I want to know more about what it is they took and why it was where it was. I won't say you have no responsibility, but tell me. What happened? What did they get, and why were you the only person who knew where it was?"
"Because I'm an idiot. I don't even know what it is. I never had the chance to find out. I got so wrapped up in the mystery of it all..." Anthony just shrugs, swishing around the liquid in the glass. "Look. I put it there. And when I put it there, HYDRA wasn't a threat. I thought it would be safe. I didn't think I'd be washing the blood of people off my hands because I wanted to play with my new toy all by myself." Anthony frowns. "Y'know? I probably just destroyed the world."
Steve's hands clench as he hears this. He takes a deep breath, looking over at Anthony with a growing frown. It's not quite a father's disappointment, but it has almost the same flavor as one: he really *did* think better of the man. But the fact that he is owning this is, at least, a step. "You're not an idiot. What you *are* is a smart guy who didn't think." He doesn't give voice to what can nevertheless almost be heard in his mind: and that's //worse//.
"Okay. Let's start with this. Where did you find it? Why do you think it has the power to destroy the world? What is this thing, as far as you know, and what does it do?"
"Borneo. Don't ask why I was in Borneo." Anthony doesn't want to get into more details than he has to at this point in time. He's still not looking at the Captain, because seeing the disappointment in him would just make having this conversation even worse than it already is. And it's pretty damn bad right now as it is. "I was in the middle of studying it, so I don't know much. But every test I hit it with to try and measure what it was? It blew up the scales. It's not exactly from around here, I can tell you that much. And that usually means it's not supposed to be here. And that leads to Tony Stark: The Man That Blew Up The World."
"So..." Steve takes a deep breath. "You found something in Borneo. You didn't know what it was, but you determined it was hugely powerful. That's... so then, instead of calling in more super science guys, you locked it away in the middle of Manhattan. In one of its most populated districts."
Steve pinches the bridge of his nose. Yes. This is why Tony thinks he's an idiot. It's because he did something impressively idiotic. "Which probably had great security, but you didn't count on HYDRA showing up. All right." Deep breath. Another. He looks to Anthony.
"So what now?"
"I'm done." Anthony pours the liquor out of the glass. "I can't fix this, y'know? Fury wants my head. Sharon wants HYDRA's head. And all I can think about is how I killed a bunch of people. I can't fix that. I can't build a time machine." There's a pause and Tony shows up for a half-second, "I mean, I'm certainly capable but..." And then Anthony's beating him back down with a stick as the liquor continues to pour from the glass. "I wasn't even there to stop them. The hell good is being Iron Man if I can't even protect my own damn city?" Yeah, Anthony's not even sure what to do besides turn the now empty glass back up and stare at it.
This may very well be the first time Tony's ever heard honest to goodness steel in Steve's voice. For a moment, the Star-Spangled Man is *angry*.
"You've never been in a war. You armed plenty, but that was a long time ago and though you felt responsible for those deaths, they were still at a distance. These are innocent people. You did something that brought about their deaths, and you feel responsible. But there is a Grand Canyon of difference between that and //taking// responsibility."
He turns fully toward the man, and though he is obviously angry, he is calm. Controlled. He's not shouting to make himself feel better. He's not shouting at all. But he's got to make Tony see. "I know this hurts. I know how much this hurts. But you've got to take responsibility, or else it'll go on hurting for the rest of your life. You've got to take responsibility to be a man. To say "I messed up, but now I'm going to fix it." To say "Those people died and I can't go back, so I've gotta go forward." Then you go forward. You make a plan and you find good backup to help you carry it out. But you don't sit here and feel guilty because that. Solves. Nothing."
Anthony is silent this entire time. You don't speak when Captain America is dropping knowledge. You listen. And you especially listen when he's not yelling and screaming at you. It's not out of respect or anything as silly as that. It's more out of this guy knows what the hell he's talking about and if you want to fix this shit then you better shut the hell up and pay attention.
"I need you to do me a favor." Tony's voice is starting to come back now. He sets the glass on the steps and pushes to get himself up to a standing position. He still hasn't looked at Steve yet. Not until this moment when he says the next damn thing: "Leave." And it is said with so much drive and focus that he can't really understand why he's even saying it. But he is. And then, a smile. Not a big one. Just a small one that says Tony's got his head on straight. Even as he starts walking up the steps towards the doors of his mansion. "I can't think with all your Star Spangled Sexiness around me."
That's about as close as Tony's going to get saying Thank You.
Steve rises, slowly but smoothly, and a smile flickers very briefly on his face at Tony's very few words. It grows a little more at the very Tony comment and is accompanied with an amused snort.
He walks toward his motorcycle. Pauses. Glances up those stairs, and before Tony heads up:
"When you've figured it out, let me know. You're going to need a crew. And I may have some volunteers."
Without another word, he walks over to his motorcycle, puts on his helmet, and brings the Harley-Davidson to life once more. He raises his head in a brief nod of respect to Stark. The man has a lot of work to do. Later, when all this is done, they can raise a glass to absent friends. Today, someone needs to get to work.