Tony Stark had never been one to admit that he was broken. He didn't deal with his emotions; it just wasn't his forte. So he always did the same thing whenever he found that he was losing himself and drowning in the pain he called life.
He ignored it.
That was exactly what he was going to do now that he and Pepper had ended their relationship.
The billionaire had seen it coming from the moment the two had officially gotten together. He had tried to be good to Virginia, he really did. For a while, it seemed as though things were working well for them, but as the days passed, even months, Tony found himself constantly pushing the red head away. And after the events that took place in New York, it had become even harder for him to truly verbalize what it was that was going through his mind. He shut himself away and built up walls in order to protect himself from the world; by doing so, he had built a wall from Pepper. And the woman—she had grown tired of trying to put the ashes of their dying love back together.
Pepper was precious to Tony. He truly loved her, but that was the exact reason why they had broken up. He refused to be the reason why Pepper would lose herself and die inside. That was what Tony did. He killed the good in everyone. Maybe it was because the good in him had died years ago. He wasn't sure. The only thing he was sure of was the fact that Pepper was truly one of the most amazing people he'd ever known, and she deserved the best. She deserved someone who brought the best out in her, and though she had brought the best out in him, Tony could never and would never bring the best out in her.
So, the two talked and ended things on a good note, though scars had been left and memories would always haunt the two of them.
And that was when Tony's binge drinking began.
At first, no one dared to approach the Iron Man. Though he pretended he was as cold as his suit of armor, Tony was much more fragile than that. He was lucky to have such understanding teammates, though. The members of the Avengers Initiative began to reside in the Stark Tower—which was now the Avengers Tower—a few months after the attack on Earth from other worldly creatures.
Each member received a floor, which was designed specifically to meet their individual tastes. Even Thor had received his own floor, and though he rarely visited Earth, when he did he always had people waiting for him. Besides Tony, the only person who was a day-to-day resident of the tower was Bruce, who also had a lab of his own just in case he and Tony had interest on something separate. After that was Steve; he spent most of his time in the tower and was thankful for Tony adjusting his personal floor to a more "old-fashioned" sort of style. When he was spending time in the tower, he spent a lot of time in Brooklyn, exploring and reliving his past and living in his futuristic present.
As for the two assassins, Hawkeye found himself spending more time at the Avengers HQ than Blackwidow. He, of course, was given the floor at the top of the structure—due to his like in heights. He was surprised Tony had been so thoughtful; then again, Tony did always surprise people. And even though he refused to admit he had been slightly traumatized by the events with Loki, Fury had been understanding enough to give him longer breaks between missions so he could mentally recover from the mind control he had been put under.
He was secretly happy about that.
Natasha rarely appeared at the tower, but when she did, it really did feel like a whole family had been reunited. She was never used to having only one place as a living space, but after everything she had been through in her entire life, the tower became a stable and warm place to go back to. She'd never tell the others that, though; the boys would give her too much for it.
Tony had been unlucky enough to have almost all the Avengers present when the breakup had occurred, so there was no getting around letting them know. The four other residents had been respectful enough to give the genius space when it first happened. They knew how Tony functioned after working with him for as long as they had. A week had passed and then two, and when the third week passed, Bruce had tried to reach out to the man behind iron. He had failed miserably, getting locked out of the lab after his first attempt.
So began the many failed tries to get Tony back on a regular eating and sleeping schedule.
Each of the heroes had tried but to no avail. It wasn't until Steve forced his way into the lab with his brute strength, promising he would help piece the metal door back into its hinges. At first, the two stood in silence, Tony avoiding his gaze and pretending he wasn't there and Steven letting his existence go unnoticed. After ten minutes, the captain finally spoke up, telling him about the time his mother had died. He explained in detail just how he felt and how he had cried for days and how he had felt like his world had crumbled completely beneath his feet when he had first realized there was no going back to his own time. Then he went on to say he knew Tony knew how he felt because Tony too had lost his family tragically.
The two had stood in a stiff silence for a moment as Tony pondered on what Steve was trying to get across. His thoughts were left unfinished as the man of America spoke, "You know, Tony…You and I, we've never really seen eye-to-eye on everything." Had the engineer been in a better mood, he would have replied back with a snarky sort of reply; he just had no fight left in him. "We've always done things a little differently, and we clash a lot." Steve chuckled as he shook his head, staring at the back of Tony's head.
"…Didn't know you had such great observational skills, Cap," Tony finally retorted with a scoff, finding himself growing tired with Steve's prattling. "If that's all you came down here to do, then—"
"It's not," Steven quickly stated; he was refusing to let Tony push him away any longer. "Just let me finish, Tony." The tone in his voice was gentle and pleading, something the brunet didn't usually hear when Captain America was speaking to him.
"…Although we're almost completely opposite in every way that I—or any other person that knows us—can think of, in some ways…we really aren't so different." Tony's hands had balled up into fists at that point while Steve took a step forward, toward the genius. "You and I both know exactly how it feels to lose the most important things in life…" Steve had never been open about his past, and although he wasn't sharing anything specific with Tony, the man of iron found himself understanding his counterpart just slightly more than he had before.
"You and I know how it feels to lose everything that matters to us." The words packed a punch, so much that if felt like Tony had just been hit in the chest with a bat. He hadn't thought someone like Steve could feel what he felt so well. Then again, Steve truly had lost everything that mattered to him, just like Tony.
"And as terrible as it is for us, we both have to learn to move on. Or else it'll tear us apart. And I think we've already been through enough."
After that, the two stood in a pregnant pause before Steve stated that his dinner would be ready in 15 minutes. Tony didn't reply, though. He merely closed his eyes as he felt a gentle hand give his shoulder an assuring squeeze before the captain's heavy footsteps began to fade up the stairs, the sound of glass crunching underneath his boots making the genius smile weakly and shake his head.
Tony didn't cry. He merely had a sudden onslaught of allergies that just suddenly started to kick his ass and make his eyes water; that was the story he was going to stick with until his last breath. And after recovering from that, he cautiously made his way out of his lab, heading to the communal floor he had built for the team to use whenever they please. Like promised, a fresh plate of lasagna and mashed potatoes had been placed neatly on the island counter, a cup of water placed beside it. He was glad that it had been Steve who had offered him food; the man was the only one who knew how to cook a meal that wouldn't poison anyone.
After the first couple bites of his dinner, a small stack of crossword puzzles from the newspaper was placed in front of him, Clint walking around the counter and grabbing a water bottle from the fridge. He had received a confused look from Tony before he shrugged and stated that he knew how much the genius liked doing them, though he wasn't sure why since he always solved them with such ease. Then, with a tiny smile, he gave the man a nod and walked out of the kitchen without another word. Tony was thankful the archer hadn't said much else. He was also thankful to know that the man cared.
Once he devoured his meal completely and rehydrated himself with water instead of Bourbon, he drowsily trotted to his room where he barely managed to get his shoes off before he collapsed on to his bed and fell into a dreamless sleep. He was happy for the lack of dreams because that meant his entire mind was finally at rest. It meant he would actually get a full night's sleep, which was exactly what he needed.
Awaking the next morning, Tony was confused at how he had been neatly tucked into his bed, and then caught the faint smell of mint. That was how he knew Natasha had stopped in. It was a vague memory, but he thought she was to be sent off on a mission that day, so he knew she must have crept in while he had been passed completely out.
He was grateful for the people that were the closest things to friends that he had.
Tony released a refreshed yawn as he stretched and stood to his feet, making his way to the bathroom to finally wash the oil and dirt from his body that had cultivated during the time he had locked himself in his lab. After, he changed into a fresh pair of jeans and a Black Sabbath shirt, making his way to the "recreational floor" as JARVIS called it. He strode into the kitchen, a pot of coffee already in the making thanks to his handy A.I.
"I see the beast has risen from his cave."
Tony glanced over his shoulder as he smirked at his fellow scientist—who was making his way towards the counter, taking a seat on the stool. He grabbed another mug out, pouring Banner and himself a cup of coffee. The gamma ray specialist nodded "thanks" as Tony took a swig of his mug. "I get slightly claustrophobic when I'm in there for too long," he replied back with a wily tone in his voice.
Bruce smiled at that. "Good to have you back," he said gently as Tony nodded and smiled slightly.
"So, I hear Pepper's been looking for a new assistant for you?" It had been the first time anyone had talked about her so casually, let alone mentioned her name, but Tony was glad for it. If he was going to at least try and move on, he was going to have to face the end of what could have been, one step at a time.
Since Pepper had been promoted to Tony's CEO, she had begun to work more with the company itself, though she basically continued on with her work with Tony, making sure that his days were in order and that he was taken care of. The two knew once the breakup happened that she could no longer go on doing that. So, Tony agreed to let Pepper find him a new assistant, and then she'd start focusing completely on the company.
"Yeah. I'm curious as to what this one'll be like." Bruce scoffed with a smirk as he nodded.
"That makes two of us. She's in for it."
"Hey," Tony snapped, though there was no bite to words. "I'm not too bad."
Bruce shook his head as he smirked, opening the paper for the day. "So you say."
Virginia Potts dealt with stress well. Hell, she'd worked for Tony for far too long to not know how to. Still, she was dealing with her broken relationship with her former boss worse than she thought she would. She refused to let that stop her from focusing on her work and her goals, though. Tony still meant the world to her, and she wasn't going to let the break up change that. She'd march on and keep smiling because at the very end of the day, that was just who she was.
Pepper had been traveling across the U.S. so she could promote Stark Industries' newest product; clean energy. She started her work in New York and began to move her way to the west coast. She'd end in California—where it all started—and then she'd spend a few days there to relax and unwind. During the time she traveled, she was supposed to find a new assistant, which stung Pepper the most. It made her breakup all too real, but what's done was done. Finding Tony a new assistant had been her idea, she just wished there wasn't a reason for her to do so.
Sitting in her hotel suite in Chicago, Pepper looked through resumes and papers. She stared at the 12 point font for a few minutes before she released a stress-filled groan and pulled her phone out to call Happy. He appeared at the front of the hotel within seconds, which pleased Pepper very much, and he immediately drove the strawberry blonde to the nearest coffee shop. When the car stopped, the CEO found herself in front of a small, cozy café and she smiled to herself.
Walking in, Pepper found a bit of a lengthy line waiting for her, but she was more than glad to wait so she could order herself a cappuccino; she had the patience for it. She flipped through a few more resumes for Tony before she shook her head; Tony was a specific case, and she really wasn't sure if she was going to find the…right match for the billionaire.
Sighing, Pepper glanced to her right where she caught sight of a few teenage boys aiming spit balls at random people that walked in through the door. She rolled her eyes as they snickered but before the mother inside of her could react, she watched as a honey blonde approached the boys. She wore a hat with the shop logo on it, her hair pulled up in a low pony tail and her jade eyes narrowing at the boys. She slammed her hand on to the table, causing the miniature delinquents to jump slightly as they looked up at her.
"I see you little gremlins haven't bought a single thing." Pepper blinked as she watched the barista handle the situation. "Pretty sure you boys have all passed the first grade or are all smart enough to read the sign we have." The woman pointed at the tiny sign in the corner of the window saying 'no loitering' before she smiled dryly at the five teens. "So, unless you plan on actually buying something, you're going to have to get out. Now."
The boys quickly stood to their feet as they mumbled under their breaths and rushed out the door, the bell ringing as the door swung open and shut. Pepper stared at the blonde for a moment as she watched the woman dust her hands off and smirk at her work. The CEO blinked before her lips spread into a wide smile. She approached the barista with confidence and watched as the unsuspecting woman turned to her and blinked.
"Hi there," Pepper began. "I was wondering if you had a minute to talk?"
"O—Of course!" Clearly, she knew exactly who Pepper was.
"I'm Virginia Potts."
"I know exactly who you are!" the woman said with a smile as the two shook hands. "You're CEO of Stark Industries and girlfriend to Tony Stark." Pepper tried not to wince at the last half of the statement.
"Yes to the first, no to the second." The color from the blonde's face drained away as her hand fell limply to her side. She gaped for a second before she cleared her throat, shifting uncomfortably.
"I am so sorry. I—I didn't know."
Pepper smiled at that; thankfully, she wasn't such an awkward person. "No worries—um?"
"Oh, Silver. People just call me Silver."
"Silver, I was actually wondering if you were interested in taking a job in New York?"
"New York?" Silver blinked before a timid smile appeared across her lips. "What's the job?" That was a good sign, right?
Pepper smirked slightly. "Have you ever babysat before?"