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In a pitiful box

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He had tried. He had tried so hard. But that was expecting too much of him. The glass of scotch was mocking him from his desk. He had throw 6 years of soberty away when Steve had told him he wanted a divorce. He was too busy to care, too miserable to try again. He finished his drink.

Friday told him that it was 6 am and that he should get prepared for the meeting he will attend to 2 hours later. It was the second day in a row that he hadn't slept. The great Tony Stark wasn't used to stay up that long anymore.

All of this had stopped when he and Steve had decided to really give a try to something more serious. And it had worked. They had married 8 months later, they had enjoyed their honeymoon, he had got sober, they had adopted.

And then it all went to shit.

A red head entered his office.

"Tony? Already here?"

She was genuinely confused, and then her eyes drifted to his glass.

"Already drinking."

"That's where you're wrong, pep. Still here, still drinking."

He put an emphasis on the 'still' s. There was a time she would have glared at him, shout. Now there was only pity.

"Tony, if you -"

"Pepper. I'll go to a meeting, I promise, but just let me a week. I'll go, I swear."

Pity again.

"Okay. If you need to talk, you know you can call me." he nodded, even though they both knew he would never take the offer. "Here, I wanted you to see this, and work on it. Due for friday."

She was back on business mode, giving her boss a file full of - he could already tell - boring work.

"Friday, like in 'I have 3 days to finish this'?"

"We're Thursday, Tony"

He froze. Lack of sleep had never made him erase entire days from his memory before. Alcohol had. She left to reach the door, when her hand touched the doorknob, he called her.

"Yes?"

He brushed his hands on his eyes, half trying to clear his mind, half trying to hide his shame.

"Can you" he breathed "find me a meeting tonight?"

"Of course, Tony."

She was about to add something when Tony's phone started to buzz and the blonde's head appeared on the screen. Before he could say anything she advised him to answer and the red head disappeared, not letting him the time to protest.

"You better have a damn good excuse to call, Steve." the tone was arsh, maybe his soon-to-be ex-husband didn't deserve that, but the whiskey in his veins decided for him.

"huh dad?"

He was definitely cursed.

"Pete? Peter, why do you have pop's phone?"

He tried to make his voice as calm and reassuring he possibly could, failing miserably.

"I'm sorry I..."

"Hey its okay I'm not mad, sweetie. Why are you awake though? School only begins at 8, doesn't it?"

Tony was struggling to think and didn't want to talk to the most important being in his life while inebriated.

"Well I... I slept with pops because I had a nightmare and... And... If you had been there I... I would have woke you up but you weren't and there was only pops so I went to him and he wakes up early so I woke up at the same time as him but he went for a run but he forgot his phone and I'm alone and and and-"

" hey hey its okay. Breathe. "

Tony used to be there when Peter had nightmare, or when he couldn't sleep. He used to be there. And sober.

" I'm here. Okay? Anytime you need me I'm just right here. A phone call away. "

A lie couldn't hurt, right?

" dad... Are you and pops going to break up? "

The voice was shy, almost sobbing. Like the words would burn someone.

"Why are you asking this?"

Tony and Steve had tried to keep their son out of their stories, out of the grown-ups things.

" You're not home anymore. There's that girl at school. It happened to her parents. And at some point they asked her who she wanted to live with. "a silence." but I don't want to chose. I can't. "

The boy's voice was slightly louder than a whisper.

" Hey we're not... We won't ask you to choose,sweetie. Pops and dad,... It doesn't work very well anymore. But we'll never ask you to choose. We still love you. You're our precious little bean, Pete. "

Because there was no way he could take care of a child on his own, because Steve had been the one who had taken care of Peter-and him at his worst-, because it wouldn't be fair to anyone if he was to keep Peter. The empty glass on his desk mocked him.

"So you're still living with us?"

There was way too much hope in the boy's voice not to make Tony wanting to cry.

"It's complicated, darling", he managed to say.

It was really not. Steve had met someone that wasn't 20 years older than him, that was young and dynamic, and that wasn't a mess. Tony didn't blame Steve. The flame had faded some time ago, but the little hope Tony had to make it work had been crushed when the blond had announced him he was leaving.

At the end of the conversation, Tony had said that he had a ton of work anyway so Steve could stay in the house with Peter and he'll use the penthouse like he used to. Tony had ended up sleeping in the workshop, unable to bare the memory of their first nights in the appartement. Not that he had slept a lot anyway.

"Honey, can you ask pops to call me when he's back?"

"Are you going to fight like last time?"

Tony's gut twisted.

"I'm sorry you had to see that. No, I just want to talk to him."

"Okay I'll tell him."

"Thank you. Hey you had your results for the science test last week?"

He tried light-hearted tone.

"Yeah, it was easy. 94. I had the best grade!"

"I'm proud of you, champ! I -"

"Ah pop's back! See ya!"

"Wait Pete -"

"Tony?"

Oh God.

"Tony you're here?"

"Umh yes sorry. I wanted to call you a bit later. But guess let's do this now."

There was a silence, the two of them waiting for the other to speak. Steve went first.

"Is everything alright?"

No.

"Yes. Sorry. Lost in thoughts. So. Yes."he tried to gather his thoughts together. "I'm gonna send someone take my stuff, and my lawyers will arrange something so that you keep the house and have the custody of Peter. And keep the car too."

"Tony he's your son too, let's try share custody, you don't have to -"

"I don't want him. Not now. I can't Steve."

Maybe he was sounding like a dickhead. Like the worst father in history. Maybe even worse than Howard. That was something. But then again, was he so different in the end?

"Peper told me."

Great. Tony shrugged.

"Of course she did."

"I'm sorry Tony, this is my fault, I should have call someone or, or,-"

"Don't bother. Steve, this is nobody's fault but my own. Not your problem anymore anyway."

I'm not your problem anymore.

"I'll have the paperwork delivered at the house. I gotta go, bye."

The phone shut down and crashed on the wall. The empty glass followed soon after. And his all desk learnt to fly across Tony's office. He took a minute to calm the spasms in his hands and to slow down the shaky breaths.

"Friday, transfer the file on my personal server, gonna work in the workshop."

He hadn't gone to the board meeting, nor did he to the aa one. He had locked the workshop down, had opened his hidden cabinet near the tool table and popped a few pills with his scotch. The project due to the next day was slowly taking form, not near as far as it would usually go.

Tony was pissed at himself, at Steve, at his past-self for keeping the cabinet full, for drinking so much that now he needed a full bottle of whiskey to be slightly drunk.

Even though he hadn't had a drink in 6 years, he was now halfway through his second bottle and still didn't feel that comforting haze that the booze used to give him. It had only made his anger grow.

Even the booze had abondonned him.

He stood and the whole room started to spin. His stomach followed. Tony fell. He heard himself throw up. Everything went black.

 

Distant voices woke him up.

"Is he..."

"I don't know if... Why... May be better... If..."

"Why would... Because you..."

Someone groaned. He thought maybe it was him.

"Hey don't..."

He knew that voice. Familiar tone. He had known this voice all his life, maybe.

"Tones, don't move."

He was sure the voice was usually less angry. Less sad, maybe. Maybe.

"What... What happened ?"

He wasn't sure himself. He had tried to work. To distract himself from something. He didn't remember what.

"This is all my fault."

That voice. He knew it too. In a different way. More intimate. More intense. That voice was what he tried to distract himself from. Why would he, though?

Ah, yes.

Failed relationship and divorce, treason and disbelief, distrust and disillusions. Love somewhere in between. A hand squeezed Tony's. He didn't return the gesture. He wanted to go back to sleep, into coma maybe, that would be great. No one to ask you anything. No one to expect explanations and apologies from you.

His breathing accelerated, his heart too.

The blurry world around him faded into darkness once again.

 

The next time he woke up, his head hurt, his stomach was wrecked, or so it felt. Tony was exhausted, and had no idea why. There wasn't voices anymore, only silence.

He slowly opened his eyes. White lights appeared, burning like hell. He forced himself to keep them opened. When he had accommodated to the neons, he turned his head to the left, to see a sleeping colonel.

He looked worn-out. Deep bags under his eyes, skin greyer than usual.

Tony wanted to go back to sleep. He would ask where he was or why his friend had traveled through the ocean latter. He closed his eyes, slowly drifting away.

He heard a soft knock, then a click, and the air being moved by a door.

He kept his eyes closed. He didn't want to deal with anything, or anyone. He heard steps getting closer, going to his left.

"James. James, wake up."

A mumble. A yawn.

"Mmh? What are you doing here?"

"Go home, take a shower, sleep. You've been in there for two days."

"I don't really want him to wake up and see you, Rogers."

The conversation was a whisper.

"Don't, not now, please."

"I will, actually. This... This is your fault. You did this."

The volume was rising. Tony lied still.

"James, If I had known that he would relapse, I -"

"Ow come on! You cheated on him, and then left him! What did you expect?!"

Shouting now.

"You think I -"

"Will you too shut up?"

His throat ached, his mouth was dry, something itched in his arm. An IV maybe. Oh. So hospital.

"Tony. You're awake. How are you feeling?"

The colonel sat on the bed, his hand resting on Tony's arm. Steve was hovering behind.

"Like shit. What happened?"

Rhodey's hand squeezed his arm.

"You blacked out. Friday called Pepper, and she called me when they found you." he paused,.You've been out for 2 days, Tones."

"Ah."

He kept his eyes shut.

"We need to talk about this, Tones."

"No we don't."

"Tony..."

That voice. That damn voice that made his heart clench every time he heard it. That voice that drove him to tears.

He felt James turn to glare at his husband.

Not husband.

Not anymore.

He kept his eyes shut. His heart beat rose. The machine he hadn't noticed until now started to make a horrible noise.

"Get out Rogers."

The colonel turned back to Tony

"Hey you're alright, man. Calm down".

He breathed heavily, trying to concentrate on his friend's voice, trying to ignore the steps getting farther every second, the door knob clicking, the door shutting down.

The machine stopped.

"There."

He brushed his fingers against Tony's skin.

"Why?"

Tony shrugged. Why what? Why was he on the verge of a panic attack when he heard the love his life? Why did he try to drink himself to death? Why did he abondonned his son? His friends? Why was he still alive?

"Why what?"

He still has his eyes close, but he could feel the glare on him.

"Why didn't you call? Instead of... This. Pepper told me about Steve. What he did. Why didn't you call?"

Silence.

"Have you seen Peter? He's grown since you last saw him. He wants to be a scientist now."

"Didn't he want to be a comic artist?"

"That was four months ago, it's an eternity in child-time."

"Is it?"

"Between that he wanted to be a ballet dancer, an astronaut and a doctor. Now he does ballet on Thursdays."

"Not astrophysics?"

"On Wednesdays."

"Good."

"He's nailing it, you know? He's clever."

He opened his eyes. Rhodey was staring at him, a saddened look on his face. Tony raised his hand to land it on the colonel's arm.

"I'm sorry Rhodey."

Maybe it was a bit too solanel, but it felt necessary. A soft smile appeared on his face.

"Don't worry. You got me out of a very boring mission in the middle of nowhere."

"Did I?"

"Don't do that again, though."he patted his shoulder.

Tony nodded.

"Get away from my bed now."

Both of them chuckled while James stood to get back on the chair he had slept earlier.

"In all seriouness"

"I hate when you start sentences like this."

"We found your cabinet."

"Witch one?"

"Tony..."

"Sorry, just kidding."

"When did you relapse?"

Tony let his gaze wander off the hospital room.

"When I found out that... My marriage was dead. When Steve told me he wanted to stop."

"Why would you keep so many bottles in your workshop, Tones? You know you're..."

"An alcoholic? It's... Do you know what it's like not have control over your life? I kept this cabinet full to prove myself that I could have control over this. Everytime I saw it, I took the decision not to open it. It was my call, James. I got to chose. I made the call. And it worked. "

"Until now. "

"I didn't plan on getting dumped for a 30-years-old brunette."

"He blames himself for... You being here."

"Yeah I heard. He should know that's stupid. After all those years."

James gave him a look he couldn't quite decipher.

"I mean. I was still drinking when we got together. When we married. The three fist years it was Steve, me and a bottle."

They heard a knock, and a redhead appeared in the room.

"Hey boss."

She waved, and accompanied her gesture by a weak smile.

"How are you feeling?"

"Better."

The colonel faked a pained face.

"So I get the 'like shit' and she gets the 'better' ? I feel betrayed, man."

"Tony."

Pepper took a seat at his right, keeping hers hands on her lap.

"The press heard about your hospitalisation. So as far as they're concerned, you overworked yourself."

"Okay."

"Tony."

She said his name too much to expect a good mood.

"Make a press conference when you're discharged."

There were something she wanted to say, but she pressed her lips together in a thin line. She exchanged a look with James.

"Get yourself together, Tony. For Peter."

She patted his hand and left without a word.

His gut twisted. Peter. How could he have done that to his kid? What his drunk self had thinking came back to him. Worse than Howard, worse than the worst. James must have noticed, maybe guessed what he was thinking, because he put a hand on his friend's shoulder.

"Hey. It's alright. He loves you."

It was even worse. He was his father. Of course he loved him. He had loved Howard, at some point. He had tried so much to impress him, to be good enough for his old man.

He couldn't do that to Peter.

The colonel's phone buzzed. James looked it up and a worried look appeared on his face.

"Tony I'm sorry I have to-"

"It's alright don't worry. Tell your boss I'm sorry."

"He won't believe it. You sure you're gonna be okay?"

"Not like I could put myself into a coma here so yes."

"Don't do anything stupid."

"You know me. You have too many expectations here."

James disappeared. Tony knew he wouldn't see his friend for months.

He wanted to sleep again.

The day after he was discharged. He gave the press conference, to announce that there wasn't anything to worry about, that he just needed time for himself.

He was craving for a bottle of scotch.

He didn't answer the questions. Pepper appeared in his office with a box. All his stuff in a small, pityful box. He was craving for a bottle of scotch.

He didn't open the box. He poured all his bottles into the sink. He had done that before. He had just bought new bottles, in the end. This time, this time it would different. This time, it was the last time. He tried not to think about all the times it had been his last time. He sat at his desk, working on the things that had accumulated during his absence. He was craving for a bottle of scotch.

At some point, someone appeared in his workshop. It was Steve. The last person he wanted to see. To talk to. To think about. Steve noticed the untouched box. He asked. Tony didn't answer. He was craving for a bottle of scotch.

Steve wanted to talk. He was craving for a bottle of scotch.

Steve told him once he would go to rehabilitation they'll try share custody. He was craving for a bottle of scotch.

He didn't answer.