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Rating: 3-3-3

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Thread Contributor: 616 Tony StarkThe First Step Is...
Marvel-616

323 Posts
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Age:35
Job: Director of SHIELD
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Jasmine (starkly-tony)

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#1
Tony woke up at one in the afternoon with a throbbing headache, a foul taste in his mouth, fragmented memories of Safi's lips warm on his skin and a gun to his head, and the memory of a weighty realization that what he wanted from Safi was so much more than he could ever get.

His first thought was that he needed a drink.

His second was that he needed help.

He rolled out of bed, wincing from bruises he hardly remembered getting, and poured himself a scotch with shaking hands.

He took a sip, closing his eyes as the alcohol burned its way down his throat. Then he set the tumbler down on the counter, too hard, so that the liquid sloshed over his knuckles.

God. He needed help.

He couldn't face Wanda, not after she'd enabled the time stop that had kept him here. Steve was out. Any Steve. Justin could barely stand the sight of him on a good day. And Safi--the one person he'd truly begun to care about, to rely upon, to need--had offered him half a bottle of vodka last night knowing full well what that meant.

Tears stung his eyes as he accessed Extremis, seeking the connection to the one person who might actually be able to help if Tony came to him and admitted his faults and lowered himself enough to beg.

He found the phone after a moment, sending along a simple text: "Christian, I need help."

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DC-DCTVU-1

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#2
Holding the soldering carefully. Chris finished his most current project with delicate precision. No automaton or jewelry this time; the object was slender and complex' but strong enough to hold a fair amount of weight. Jonah hovered at his elbow, camera pointed at the sleek robotic arm.

It was a matter of tapping open the new compartment Chris had made and installed a few days ago and attaching it to the little nub he’d made inside, allowing Jonah to control the limb. It was small, delicate work, but Christian was good at it; he knew Jonah inside and out, making sight not entirely necessary.

They were both cheering at the success, Jonah waving the arm about joyously when Chris heard his phone chime. He rarely got calls. Texts were more common, but even then, aside from Belle and Safi and Castiel, it wasn’t a very common occurrence. He was half expecting it to be his sister, just checking in. Maybe inviting him out to the cafe for lunch or something, so seeing that it was from Tony. Not the Tony with brown eyes, either, but the blue-eyed Tony Stark in the mansion.

Help. Tony needed help. The comma and period, being a grammatically correct sentence, helped. Because of Tony was using correct grammar and full words like that, then it meant that he wasn’t in immediate danger. Still, that the man was asking for help, from him of all people, meant that this was something important. Maybe something bad. Okay. It was okay. Chris could help.

His reply came swiftly, not immediately, but quickly enough to imply that Christian both replied immediately and typed pretty quickly. Where are you? I’m on my way.

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Marvel-616

323 Posts
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Age:35
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Jasmine (starkly-tony)

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#3
The reply came faster than Tony had expected. Chris had his own life, after all, and it was busy enough without Tony appearing out of nowhere to ask for help.

He'd expected a little more time, to be honest, and glanced down at himself, distantly aware that he wasn't a pretty sight. On top of being grimy and probably smelling like a liquor store, the remnants of his night with Safi were plainly visible. Not that it was entirely easy to tell which were from the lovemaking or from the choking.

The glass of scotch he'd poured sat on the counter and Tony picked it up, half of the mind to finish it before he replied because admitting what he needed from Chris was going to take all the courage he find, then dumped it shakily into the sink. He couldn't quite bring himself to do the same with the bottle.

I don't want to meet at the Mansion, he responded, thinking the text into being. Safi might still be around. Wanda and Steve came and went. Coffee shop. Half an hour, he added, sending along the address. He could make himself presentable by then. Not that it really mattered.

This wasn't Chris's job. Any fair reading of the situation made it an unfair burden on the man. He wasn't Tony's sponsor. He certainly hadn't signed up for any part of the difficult path ahead. But going to Henry wasn't an option, not when returning to his own universe meant restarting the timeline and resuming his responsibilities as Director of SHIELD. No, he had to solve this problem here, first, and in the end what was another burden on another sometime-friend.

He'd was already under the hot stream of the shower before it occurred to him to say, Thank you.
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DC-DCTVU-1

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#4
Sure, Christian was busy. He still worked at Lexcorp, though he had cut back his hours enough to allow him to spend a fair amount of time here in Hub. He spent time with his sister, visited his friends around Hub, and worked on his projects.

Thing was, Tony reaching out to him, telling him he needed help? Christian was a worrier, and this was Tony, who didn’t even want Christian in his workshop, way, life… Being asked for help by him… Chris sort of assumed this was a ‘I’m bleeding to death and you’re the nearest person’ sort of help that he needed. So yes, based on that, Christian wasn’t wasting time.

Tony’s response was an unexpected one. What did he need help with that he wanted to meet about later? See you there. Looking down at himself, it was easy to realize that it was probably a good thing that Tony had wanted to delay their meeting a little bit. It would have been embarrassing to meet with the billionaire dressed as he currently was; stained jeans, baggy t-shirt that was a far ways from clean… Instead, Chris used the time he’d been given to clean himself up; a quick shower first, then dress himself in one of his quieter suits, darker with a light blue shirt, forgoing the tie. Tony wanted to meet for help, there was no need to show up looking like he was going to work.

Surprisingly, considering how quickly he’d replied to the first two text messages Tony had sent, there was no immediate reply to Tony’s gratitude as Christian also prepared to head out for the day. It wasn’t until he was nearly ready to leave that he saw and replied to Tony’s message. No problem. The man might babble out loud, but at least he knew how to be succinct via text.

Chris arrived at the coffee shop promptly on time, exactly thirty minutes from when Tony had given him the time to be here. The man who was Christian’s childhood hero, the one he could relate to the best, had asked him for help, given him this time, and Chris would be damned before he showed up late.

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Marvel-616

323 Posts
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Age:35
Job: Director of SHIELD
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Jasmine (starkly-tony)

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#5
Tony got to the cafe a few minutes early. Six minutes, exactly, Extremis told him. He wanted to get a seat before Chris got there.

He'd cleaned up. Changed into a long-sleeved black shirt--no need to show off any more of last night's bruising than necessary--and jeans. Brushed his teeth. His healing factor was starting to take care of the hangover, though his head still pounded dully. He hadn't had time to shave. And there was no disguising the dark circles shadowing his eyes or the bruising on his neck. He wished, distantly, that Safi had just gone through with it.

This was a terrible idea. The simple fact loomed as he sat at the small round table and wrapped his shaking hands around a coffee cup and wished it was more fucking scotch. No problem, Chris had said. Clearly he didn't know what he was in for.

A bell on the door tinkled as Chris arrived, precisely on time, and Tony raised a hand in a gesture of both "welcome" and "over here."

As soon as Chris sat down he said, "Can I buy you a coffee?" and was surprised at how steady his voice sounded. Years of practice, he supposed. Then he cleared his throat. "I mean. Thank you. Again. You didn't have to come."

He knew it wasn't great, keeping Chris in suspense, but he couldn't bring himself to spit it out. Chris could still leave, after all, and probably should.

Tony closed his eyes, reminding himself why he was there, why he'd messaged Chris in the first place. He was too fucked up to deal with his problems on his own. Well. With this particular problem. Then he opened his eyes, fidgeted with the cardboard around the coffee cup and said, "You must be wondering why I asked you here."

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DC-DCTVU-1

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#6
The walk to the cafe was pleasant, and now that he was away from his newest project, Christian was happy to be outside here in Hub. He felt safe here; he wasn’t back home where muggers were a real danger, he wasn’t through one of the myriad portals beyond which who knew what dangers might await him. He was here, in Hub, in a city that was so much kinder to him than any he knew back home. Even Central City, as safe as it had been hadn’t been like this. Here, he felt free. He could do his magic, and few would gape at him, let alone fear him. He could bring Jonah out for a walk, and none thought to question an intelligent roomba.

There were few indications that Chris had been working on anything when Tony had texted him. He was dressed sharply, freshly shaved, his hair somewhere between neat and a fluffy mess. But there were shadows under his eyes too dark to be the lighting, his suit was just a bit too big for him, though Tony had seen it before and it had fit last time.

His eyes landed on Tony as the movement drew his eyes, and Chris smiled. Tony looked okay, he was whole, he didn’t seem to be in danger, he…

Had bruises around his neck. The magician moved quickly to the table, “Of course I came, Tony. We’re friends.” That was the agreement they’d made, and that hadn’t changed. He had learned what friendship was from the comics that Tony said weren’t real, weren’t true. But that lesson had been an important one for Christian. You helped your friends. Selflessly, no matter what it was, what it took, how hard it was, you helped your friends.

Like always, Chris held himself with proper posture and pose, hands clasped together and resting on the table lightly, brown eyes watching Tony as he worked up to something. He could be patient and he always tried to be kind, so he said nothing, letting Tony take his time. Sometimes it was hard to ask for help. “I am, yes. I’m a curious person.” He offered Tony a smile, a real one, the sort that softened his eyes, “But I also understand that sometimes saying something can be hard.” He considered, “Are you…” Blinking, Chris reconsidered his phrasing and tried again, “How can I help, Tony?” He didn’t stare at the bruises, but he was so vividly aware of them…

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Marvel-616

323 Posts
12 Threads
Age:35
Job: Director of SHIELD
Ship Status: Open to shipping
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Jasmine (starkly-tony)

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#7
Tony cleared his throat. Resettled his hands on the coffee cup. Took a deep breath, and let it out. He'd never been good at this part. Admitting he had a problem he couldn't solve.

But Chris was waiting and over the past year Tony had gotten very good at committing loudly, and publicly, to statements that made him want to shrivel up inside. Really, this was no different.

"I'm drinking again," he said flatly.

He couldn't meet Chris's eyes. Chris knew exactly what that meant, because someone somewhere had thought it a good idea to make comic books detailing his messy, pathetic spiral into alcoholism and all it had entailed. God. Chris had probably seen, with illustrations no less, how Tony had pushed away every single person who'd tried to help, preferring to crawl back into the gutter with a bottle.

He forced himself to swallow, and add, "I--understand this isn't your problem. You're not my sponsor. You didn't sign up for this and it's... It's not easy." Tony looked into his coffee again, and still wanted it to be scotch. There was plenty at the Mansion. He couldn't do this. He cleared his throat again. "I, uh. I know things haven't always been good between us." He'd been more or less intrinsic to Safi breaking the man's heart. (And God, did thinking about Safi clench his chest in an entirely different way.) "But if you're willing. I mean, if you're really--really okay with it, I...I don't think I can handle this on my own, and you're the only one. Ah. The only one I can turn to." He just hoped to god Chris wouldn't ask why not Safi.

When he was done he pressed his lips together, his throat tight. He was weak. He'd always been. If Chris had any sense at all he'd cut and run and leave Tony's problems behind before Tony ruin him too.

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DC-DCTVU-1

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Nyte

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#8
Tony shifted and fidgeted. He was, if Chris didn’t know any better… Was he… Was Tony Stark nervous? Why on Earth (or Hub) would he be nervous? Was ‘help’ some kind of thing Tony thought would be too much? Or… What else…

”I’m drinking again.”

Oh. Yes, Chris knew what he meant. He understood how it was likely to go. Which was badly. Oh hell. But…

”The good news is… Through all of this.. I never took a drink! And if I didn’t drink during this, I’m probably never going to… So there’s that….”

Christian blinked, mouth moving before finally settling on firmly closed while he considered what he should say versus what he wanted to say. Was Tony from before or after that point in his life? Again. He’d said he was drinking again, which meant. Oh, no. “How long?” His voice was warm, concerned, but not judgemental or disappointed. He didn’t look at Tony with pity, either No, Chris empathized with Tony. This was his hero, whom he had looked up to, not for being an alcoholic, no, but for fighting to overcome his addiction. Now, he was being asked to help with that very problem, and Chris knew, he just knew, that Tony could do this. He needed help, yes, but Tony could overcome this, he could get and stay sober again.

“You’re right, I’m not your sponsor, but I am your friend, Tony. So yes, of course I’ll help.” He offered Tony an encouraging smile, “I know it won’t be easy. But you can do this. I know that.” Because Tony had done this once. Because Chris wasn’t going to give up on him. “We had a rough start, sure. But I’d like to think I’ve gotten over myself a little bit by now. And I’m really… Tony, I wish you wouldn’t be facing this, but I’m not going to stop helping you. This will be hard, we both know that, but you can do this.”

The only one he could turn to? That wasn’t true. Tony had people in his life, good people. Safi and Steve. Wanda. But of all of them, Tony had chosen to come to him for help with this, and Christian was determined not to let him down. Not to make him regret his decision. He gave Tony a small, apologetic smile. “I’d… Well. I’d hug you, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t enjoy that, so..” Instead of hugging, Chris offered Tony his hand.

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Marvel-616

323 Posts
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Age:35
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Jasmine (starkly-tony)

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#9
"A few weeks," Tony answered, his voice soft and more or less steady despite the way his hands were trembling. He didn't want Chris to know this. He didn't want anyone to know this. He fisted his hands on his lap and added, "Last night I, uh. I got really drunk. For the first time since, well. A long time." Five years, six months, four days.

Then Chris was not only offering his help, but professing a level of faith in Tony that was altogether unwarranted. Tony would accept, of course. He was selfish like that. Weak. He swallowed, and dredged up something resembling a smile. "Thank you," he said, clenching his hands harder where Chris couldn't see them. Chris thought he could do this. Well, Chris was probably going to be disappointed. He hadn't even been awake for an hour and all he wanted was a fucking drink.

He shook Chris's hand, feeling utterly inadequate. He didn't know how to respond to the effusive support and praise Chris was showering with, because the only thing he could think to say was that Chris should probably temper his expectations. His head still throbbed. He wanted a drink. He took another sip of his coffee and was disappointed.

"Yeah, I, ah." He cut himself off, because there was no point in explaining why exactly Chris was right about how little he was looking for a hug right now. Even aside from the fact that he wasn't much of a hugger, at least outside of a select few who had made it into his innermost circle, he was still sore. "Thank you," he said again, awkwardly, rubbing his neck uncomfortably. An action he regretted immediately, though he was fairly sure he managed to suppress the wince before Chris could make anything of it. He went on regardless. "So. What I mean by help specifically. I...I could use having someone to talk to. You know. When I'm having trouble. Also. Accountability. I'll... I'll tell you if I drink. Or if I almost drink. Is that. Okay?"

He cleared his throat again, hating how halting he sounded. He was almost never lost for words. It was part of being Tony Stark. But that was the thing, wasn't it? How quickly the drinking stripped him of everything that made him Tony Stark. He couldn't even pretend that wasn't part of the appeal. Tony Stark was miserable. Tony Stark had killed the man he'd loved and was drowning in the aftermath. Tony Stark had somehow managed to fall for a man who looked exactly like Steve and could love him back just as well.

God. He let out a short breath, and forced another brittle smile. "Really. I can't thank you enough."

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DC-DCTVU-1

511 Posts
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#10
It couldn’t be easy for Tony to talk about this, Christian knew that. It was one of the reasons he kept his voice even and quiet. If Tony had drank last night, which was probable or he wouldn’t be asking for help today, then he probably had a hangover, which meant a headache. Probably a bad one. So yes, nice and even and calm and quiet. He nodded slowly, absorbing what Tony was saying. Thing was, if it were only a few weeks, then Tony was getting help pretty quick, which meant that Tony didn’t really want to be drinking.

Chris offered his help and support, and Tony seemed uncomfortable with it. But that was why Tony had asked to meet him, wasn’t it? To enlist his help in his endeavor to get sober again? “Of course, Tony.” He gave the man another small but supportive smile. It wasn’t as though Christian thought that this was going to be easy for either of them, or that Tony would succeed on the first try with this. Oh, the man would put forth the effort, was already doing that, he knew. And he might even do pretty well for a short time, because he was focused on it. But things went wrong, people grew stressed or depressed, and drinking would look better and better because of it, and… Well, he knew this wasn’t going to be an easy or straightforward road. Not that he expected Tony to fail. Tony Stark never failed, not all the way.

Shaking hands seemed so formal, but it was what Tony would be the most comfortable with. The man really wasn’t a hugger, and beyond that, as he’d pointed out, they hadn’t had the smoothest start to their friendship. They weren’t terribly close (no matter how Chris had thought he’d known about Tony, or how he could guess what would be acceptable to the man now), and Tony had never given any indication that he was more affectionate or physical than he’d been in the comics.

There was no pushing from Christian, no need for Tony to find his words right now. The magician paid attention to what Tony said, taking his meaning from statement, context, and body language and putting together a basic understanding of what Tony wanted from him. What he might be able to do to help, what would be expected of him. Listen. Hold Tony accountable. Nodding to Tony, Chris wasn’t somber, but he was still serious. This was important and he grasped that. “I can do that. I won’t let you down.”

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Marvel-616

323 Posts
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Jasmine (starkly-tony)

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#11
Tony's face was starting to hurt. He nodded, the media smile still in place, and said with what he hoped was an appropriate amount of wryness, "You letting me down is not what I'm worried about. Believe me. But again, ah. Thank you." He was starting to feel like a broken record. He hated that.

For a few seconds he just sat there, not entirely sure what to do next--neither of them were close to finishing their coffees and he was fairly sure it would be rude to stand up and leave after he'd asked for so much. On the other hand, he wasn't exactly feeling up to small talk. Not without a-- well, he wasn't going to go there, was he? God. He wanted-- he wanted-- No.

He was staring at Chris and he'd probably been staring too long.

The ersatz smile he'd pasted on faded as he took in more of Chris's appearance. He had been too focused on asking for Chris's help that he hadn't noticed how tired the other man looked, or the way his suit hung off his frame. He looked worn. There was something familiar about it, and Tony blinked before realizing that it was the same sort of worn that he'd seen in the mirror for months, when he'd been trying his hardest to work himself to death as Director of SHIELD.

Oh, no. As usual, he'd been so wrapped up in himself it hadn't occurred to him that Chris might not be in any shape to give the kind of help Tony was asking for.

"Chris," he said slowly. "Are you...all right? I mean. I didn't pull you away from anything too important, did I?"

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DC-DCTVU-1

511 Posts
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#12
The way Tony was smiling was...uncomfortable. Shifting in his seat, Chris looked down to the table, “Well, I’ll make it continue to be what you’re not worried about, then. And… You’re welcome.” Honestly, he just wanted Tony to stop… Smiling like that. And maybe stop thanking him. They were friends, of course Chris would help. But, remembering the comic books, and knowing what he did of Tony, maybe Tony didn’t really realize that.

There was a long, awkward silence after that last round of gratitude, and Chris could feel Tony’s gaze, heavy and maybe expectant? Breaking the silence was something the magician wasn’t sure how to do, and so instead he focused on his coffee. Drinking it quietly. Finally, after maybe too long of knowing Tony was watching him, wearing that terrible smile, Chris glanced up. And yes, Tony was watching him. “Tony?” He asked softly, a request, “Maybe… Since we’re going to be doing this, I mean.. You could maybe, not, um, smile like that?” It was so...forced.

Hopefully, Tony wouldn’t take offense to the request. If he were lucky.

Chris hadn’t been trying to work himself to death. He’d just been… So… Engrossed. And he was tired of having nightmares. And… And there was this tiny little voice in his head that had some of the best ideas, and how could you just ignore your creativity?! Chris couldn’t, not when it was ideas like how to make a little arm for Jonah, or a new piece of jewelry for Belle, or a compass for.. He wasn’t entirely sure who, but it was a good idea!

Blinking at Tony’s question, Christian shook his head before smiling brightly, “Oh, no. I was all finished. I made an arm for Jonah, I was just finishing up installing it for him when you texted me.”

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Marvel-616

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#13
"Smile like what," Tony said, at once both annoyed and defensive. He was trying, here. Of course he wasn't happy. He was holding on by a fucking thread. But he wasn't so much of an ass that he'd sit here and scowl at the person who was trying to help him, except, apparently, that wasn't good enough either.

He clenched his teeth, feeling absurdly like he was going to start crying, then pinched the bridge of his nose, bowing his head for a moment. It gave him the second he needed to compose himself, and when he dropped his hand, he was able to say in an even voice, "Sorry. Habit, you know."

Chris's explanation seemed a little... off. Through the fuzz of the lingering hangover and the roaring in his mind--he wanted a drink he wanted a drink this was pointless when a drink would solve all his problems--it was hard to put a thought to exactly what seemed off. He rubbed his forehead, willing the desire away, and said, "But you're...I mean. You're doing all right?" God, he hoped whatever was going on wasn't about Safi, because that made it Tony's fault too. "You know. In...general."

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DC-DCTVU-1

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#14
“Like it’s painful.” Chris shifted, uncomfortable not for himself, but because he didn’t want this to be more difficult for Tony than it had to be. “If you’re going to confide in me, count on me, trust me, then you shouldn’t have to pretend for me, either. If you’re hurting, you’re hurting. If you’re angry, you’re angry. And when you’re happy, I’d like to know that, too. But I’m not going to judge you for hurting or raging. And if you…” He steeled himself visually, “If you came to me for this, then I’m hoping it’s because you already knew that.” He offered Tony a small, tentative smile, “You have to pretend enough without having to do it with me.”

Habit. Yeah, Chris actually did know. He smiled when he didn’t feel like it. When he wanted to cry or scream, when he was too tired or hungry. “Yeah, I know how it can be.”

Chris was legitimately happy when he was working on something. Creation was a beautiful thing. Often he made jewelry or little automatons, but the repulsors and now the arm for Jonah had brought him a sort of satisfaction and joy that he couldn’t really describe. “Oh yeah. I mean, I could probably do with a nap later on, but Jonah’s thrilled and it’s nice to be able to do this for him, you know?” His smile turned gentler as he spoke of the little roomba, but he acknowledged Tony’s final statement, too. “I mean.. I went to the end of the world, you know? I don’t like thinking about it. But I’m okay. We all came out of the whole mess okay.”

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Jasmine (starkly-tony)

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#15
Chris meant well. Tony was absolutely sure he meant well. But Tony would never take him up on the invitation to unleash in front of him. He couldn't. God, for a million fucking reasons he couldn't.

He didn't force another smile, but only said in a tight, controlled voice, "I don't think that would be a very good idea." He needed--control. More than anything, now, he needed it. Nothing good could come of a release like that anyway. Steve was dead. Tony was fucked up. There was no point in thinking about how it felt. He'd already broken down, in that tiny room beside Steve's body and again at the funeral and again when he'd seen how happy they could have been. It had never left him feeling anything but hollowed out and alone. He swallowed, fighting to keep his tone impassive, but finding his voice hoarse. "I trust you. Believe me on that. I wouldn't have come to you otherwise. But I don't want--I can't--you understand."

At Chris's explanation, he nodded slightly. Perhaps he was wrong, then, projecting his own weariness on a man who was simply enjoying sometimes sleepless process of creation. He'd certainly enjoyed his own share of engineering binges. He started to put on another smile, reflexively, before letting it die on his face. "I'm glad to hear that," he said honestly, then added, "but I hope. I mean, not that I'm in much of a position. But if you ever did need anything." He let the offer hang, aware of how absurd it had to seem, but couldn't shake the intuition that it was needed. "You can trust me too."

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DC-DCTVU-1

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#16
Unleash? Well, maybe not quite that far… But… Chris blinked and leaned back just slightly in his seat, unobtrusively giving Tony a little bit more space. “What I meant was… You don’t have to put on the happy face if you’re not angry. You can tell me when you’re angry or sad or frustrated.” Tony with Extremis wasn’t a Tony Christian wanted to be a punching bag for. Sure, it would regenerate his magic very quickly, but he was rarely in need of that much energy. “You can say, “This is a bad day, Chris,” and I’m not going to mind or judge you for it.” He smiled sadly at Tony’s words, understanding, yes, and empathy in them as he nodded slowly. “I understand.” He trusted Safi with his life, his safety, and Belle’s, too, but he couldn’t, just couldn’t, tell him how he was really feeling most days. It was too hard, and it would be too cruel.

Christian was thrilled to be able to create so expansively. Before, he had to learn new designs, find new ideas and then figure out how to enact them. Now, the wondrous orb he’d found in that dying world fed him new ideas, new designs along with the blueprints for how to make them come to life. It was exhausting work, sure, but Jonah was so happy with his new arm! It was a great feeling to help his little buddy like that, to provide what he wanted and improve his life that way.

It was also nice to see Tony not forcing smiles anymore. That meant a lot to Chris; the genius hero might not want to be angry in front of him, but at least he wasn’t pretending that he was happy in front of him now. That was a huge step forward, in Christian’s opinion. If he needed anything… Christian’s smile all but glowed. Tony had been his hero since he’d been a little boy in the group home, to hear that… It was just so much. “Thank you, Tony. Thank you. And I… I do trust you.” Maybe not as much as he should have, considering their past, but well, that had changed.

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#17
"Chris was pulling away from him. God. Tony wanted to protest that he didn't hurt his friends, that all he'd meant was that a big show of emotion in his part wouldn't be good for anyone. But then, Tony had hurt plenty of his friends, so that wasn't exactly true.

He tried not to grind his teeth together as he said, "This is a bad fucking day, Chris." They were all bad days, since the war, since he'd become Director. Except--well, Safi had brightened his life for a while, but that was over. God. It had to be, if he was going to get through this. He knew it wasn't Safi's fault he'd been drinking last night--he'd started weeks ago, all on its own--but that didn't change the fact that Safi had wanted him drunk, had gotten him drunk, knowing exactly what it meant. Tony wondered what he'd done that Safi had stopped caring for him. (He was pretty sure he knew.) He wondered if he should be horrified at himself that that fact didn't make him want Safi any less, but then, he'd always wanted the things that were the worst for him.

He scrubbed a hand down his face, as if that could push those thoughts from his mind. But somehow without ever fully deciding to do so he found himself asking Chris, "You trust Safi. Don't you?"

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#18
Chris wasn’t afraid of Tony, not by a long shot; the man was a hero. But everyone needed space sometimes, and Tony had enough people, events, and issues pushing in at him, into his personal space without Chris adding to it.

A bad day. That Christian could relate to. Nodding slowly, Chris gave Tony a small smile, “I understand, Tony. I wish it were a better day.” He glanced away before looking at the other man almost shyly, “Thank you for saying so.” Because it helped, actually. To know that Tony would tell him that. It meant something to the magician.

Tony wasn’t the only one wondering about Safi. Chris was very focused on not thinking about it, about the conversation they’d had. About what Safi had said to him. Because what it came down to was that Safi and Tony… He just wasn’t thinking about it. He was determined, but the fact of the matter was that it was hard not to come back to it, especially while he was sitting here with Tony. Where was Safi? Why wasn’t Tony with him instead? Safi was supportive, attentive, caring…

”You trust Safi. Don’t you?”

The question lanced through his thoughts. Though it showed that he had been considering something else, Christian replied immediately, not quite by rote; there was faith in his voice, “Absolutely. With my…” he might have said life, but it was so much more than that, it was his life, his heart, his… “With anything.” He trusted Safi completely. "Don’t you?” They were… Together. That had to mean they trusted each other, right?

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#19
Tony's grimace intensified slightly at Chris's acknowledgement that it was a bad day. It wasn't like he'd been looking for agreement. He knew exactly what kind of a state he was in. But Chris seemed mollified, somehow, so he shoved down the reflexive desire to say something sarcastic and instead just pretended Chris hadn't said anything at all.

This type of thing, he was well aware, was one of the reasons he didn't have many friends left.

Chris faltered at the question, like he'd wanted to say something more specific and had stopped himself. Hadn't made it any less clear that for Chris the answer was a clear and resounding yes.

Tony should have kept his mouth shut. He'd caused enough problems for the two of them. Chris didn't need to know Safi's involvement in this, when there was no angle that could make Safi look good. It wasn't like Safi had made him do anything he didn't want to do it the first place.

"Last night--" Tony began to answer, then bowed his head again, pinching the bridge of his nose. He wasn't going to cry out in public, in a cafe of all places. He was--marginally--stronger than that. And he wasn't going to put the blame on Safi. It wasn't right. Even if Tony was still struggling to understand what had happened. "Forget it," he amended in a gravelly voice, sipping his coffee. All he could think about for a moment was the taste of vodka on Safi's tongue as he'd smiled and pulled him in for a kiss. "I mean. Of course I trust him. I shouldn't have said anything."

Nice going, genius, he thought bitterly to himself. He could only hope Chris would let the matter drop.

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#20
Everyone had bad days. Christian certainly did, there were no exceptions, none at all. It was absolutely normal and fine that Tony was having a bad day today, that he was struggling. That he needed help today. There was no judgement from the magician, no disappointment. There was concern for Tony, for a friend who was hurting and being an empathetic individual, Chris only wanted to help.

Tony didn’t say anything about it, and Christian let it go just like that. He understood that Tony didn’t need to be pushed, especially not on a bad day. The fact was that Chris trusted Tony to say something if it needed to be said and that was enough. Tony might not have many friends, but he did have Chris amongst those he had. The magician didn’t have so many friends that he would throw one away, especially when that friend was his childhood hero.

The question about trusting Safi was one that took Chris by surprise, leaving the man wondering why Tony would have asked that. Did Tony think that Safi and he were on the outs? That they weren’t friends anymore? Or did he think that trust was an issue between them?

Last night. What happened to Tony last night that he had gotten drunk? Sure, he said he had been drinking for a few weeks, and Chris accepted that as the truth because Tony had no reason whatsoever to lie to him, but he had said last night he had gotten really drunk for the first time in a long time, which lead to the smaller man believing that it had to be the first time since he’d gotten sober.

Forget it. Ha, ha, hardly.

Christian Verglas was an intelligent man. He was observant and canny, but his trust for Safi lead to some hefty blind spots. Were the question about anyone else, even Steve Rogers, Christian would have asked just how Tony had gotten those bruises around his neck, doing the math quickly, viciously, and he would have defended Tony to the end. The thought that Safi might have done something to harm Tony never crossed his mind, never came anywhere near it.

The little magician would have been furiously angry if it had.

“Tony, you…” the man stopped himself, not sure what might be welcomed and what might only upset the genius more. “Safi is safe.” There was a deep, warm belief in his voice, the word he chose to use meaning so much more than just ‘safe’ but it meant home and warmth and comfort, too.

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