Author: Jilly James
Genre: Canon Divergence
Rating: PG-13 for adult themes and truly terrible language.
Warnings: No beta
Word Count: 3,614
Author Note: Keira and I are exploring using the same specific prompt to write stories in preparation for November RT where we’re going to do it on a novel-scale.
Keira’s Response: What Howard Stark Built
The Prompt: Tony Stark decided to give talking Steve Rogers out of going to SHIELD just one more try.
– – – –
Tony stood in the doorway to the guest room, watching as Steve Rogers packed his duffle bag. He knew down to his bone marrow that Rogers going deep into SHIELD was a colossal mistake, but nothing he’d said had gotten through.
He’d had the team moved to the mansion right after the invasion to let everyone recover. Stark Tower was habitable, but there was no ingress or egress around the area. It was ground zero for the invasion, and it was a hot mess for a half mile in every direction.
The Asgardian duo planned to leave tomorrow, Bruce was staying on and would move into the Tower when it was ready, but the spymaster twins had announced over dinner that they were going back to SHIELD HQ. Rogers was going with them.
“So there’s nothing I can say that will make you reconsider?”
Rogers sighed and shot Tony a look that was bordering on pitying. “Tony…”
Tony kind of wanted to punch him in the face. “I’m not sure who you’re putting your trust in here, Rogers, but this is a mistake.”
“You’re asking me to trust you over everyone else—over the rest of the team.”
“The rest of the team? Like Thor who has zero opinion on the matter. Or do you mean Bruce, who also told you joining SHIELD was a mistake?”
“Bruce is in a difficult position—he’d back you up no matter what.”
“Right. So the only reason why Bruce might see my point of view is that he’s vulnerable and needs my help? Wow, Rogers, that’s some arrogance right there.” He held up a hand when Rogers seemed set to fire back. “Look, I don’t understand why you would want to work for a spy agency. It’s a really odd fit with your high profile, so I’m starting to think it’s me that you have a problem with. So I’m going to give it one last shot here and then I’m done. Would you be willing to consider one other opinion, an informed opinion, before you sign your soul over to Nick fucking Fury?”
Rogers looked more than a little aggravated, but so was Tony. They’d been going round and round for hours. “One opinion. Then I’m leaving.”
“Fine. Wait here.”
It was a matter of having Jarvis put the texts through a heavy encryption protocol and then waiting. The exchange only took a few minutes, but the meeting was set for as soon as they could get to Maryland.
He went back to find Rogers. “Before we do this, I want your word that, no matter what you decide, you will never disclose where we went or who you met.”
Rogers’ brow furrowed. “You expect me to—”
“I expect you to be able to go hear an opinion that someone is offering in good faith and do so without compromising his safety or my integrity,” Tony snapped, almost ready to call this whole thing off. “I’m doing my best for you, Rogers, because my old man fucking adored you, but your self-righteous bullshit is almost past my limit.”
Rogers looked offended. “I’d never compromise someone’s safety.”
“Make the commitment or get the fuck out of my house. I’m regretting all my life choices right now.” Tony waited two beats and then turned to leave.
“I give you my word,” Rogers said, tone stiff and annoyed.
“Then get a move on. I don’t want to waste any more of your precious time.”
It was easy enough to get out. While Tony hoped that SHIELD was too busy to keep tabs on him, he wasn’t prepared to count on it. So they stopped at a private facility Tony owned outside of Philly and switched to an unmarked, lower profile car. Rogers had questions, but Tony resolutely ignored them. The two of them talking hadn’t done much good so far, and he was more than a little annoyed with the Star Spangled Asshole.
When they were about a half hour from their destination, Tony had Jarvis pull up the profile of Tony’s contact on a StarkTab that he handed to Rogers. “That’s his credentials, leaving off his name. Feel free to absorb it now.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the exasperated look Rogers shot him.
A few minutes later, Rogers murmured, “He is quite experienced. I’m not familiar with the agency called Homeland Security other than mentions from Natasha and Clint, but their charter seems straightforward.
Tony rolled his eyes. “You don’t think that’s an issue? You don’t understand how our freaking law enforcement, intelligence apparatus, or system of government even work, and yet you’re willing to blindly sign up to be part of the spy game.”
“Never mind. I get it. You don’t want to hear what I have to say. Just try to keep an open mind and hear from an outsider.”
“I already said I would.”
They finally pulled up to a small cabin in northern Maryland. There was a motorcycle parked out front, and the lights were on inside, making the place feel inviting.
As soon as they walked in the door, he felt tension he’d been carrying from the battle and all the issues since just fade away. He walked right into the open arms of one of his best friends.
After a long, borderline clingy hug, Dom held him at arm’s length and mock glared. “You asshole. Watching you fly that nuke through that portal shaved ten years off my life.” Dom’s voice went hoarse. “I thought you were gone.”
Tony went in for another hug, one of the few people he was easily affectionate with. “I’m fine,” he whispered.
“You look like a walking bruise.” Dom sighed and pulled back. “Tell me what’s going on.” He shot a look Rogers’ direction.
Tony jerked his thumb toward Rogers. “Anthony DiNozzo, meet Steve Rogers.”
Dom just nodded to Rogers. “It’s nice to meet you, Captain Rogers.”
“Mr. DiNozzo.” Rogers nodded, frowning. “He called you Dom.”
“We met in boarding school,” Dom supplied. “Both of us going by Tony wasn’t working. I had a negative association with my name, so we agreed that he’d call me Dom and he’d be the Tony in our friendship. I never got anyone else to play along back then, and changing my name was a bother. I use my first name legally and professionally and my middle name with most of my friends. Now, I know you didn’t come all the way here to find out about my name. What can I do for you?”
Rogers shrugged. “Tony seems to think you’ll be able to help me make a decision about whether or not to join SHIELD full time.”
Dom’s eyebrows shot up. “I’d hope you wouldn’t be so lacking in sense.”
Rogers obviously bristled. “I think you know very little about the situation.”
Dom laughed. “Wow. Arrogant much? I think I know a fuckton more than you do.” He looked to Tony. “What is it exactly that you think I’m going to be able to do with someone happily ignorant like that?”
Rogers crossed his arms and glared.
Tony ignored him. “SHIELD has him set to join up as if it were some damn cause. I figure maybe if he ran whatever recruitment speech they gave him by you that you might be able to let him know if there’s anything they’re not telling him.”
“And why would you know anything?” Rogers unimpressed face was a thing to behold.
“Because I work in intelligence?” Dom said dryly. “I’m the best game in the intelligence community—It’s sort of my thing. Not that I think I’m going to be able to persuade you to do anything. My initial read on you is stubborn to a fault.”
Tony bit his lip and looked away. Dom was fucking masterful at leading someone by the nose. He’d turn Rogers away to get him to want to stay.
Rogers crossed his arms. “I said I’d hear you out, and I will.”
“You’re going to have to tell me something if I’m going to offer an opinion,” Dom said dryly. “Because I doubt my opinion of SHIELD as a terrible spy agency and the World Security Council as a group of criminals is something you’d find compelling.”
When Rogers just stared, brows knitted in confusion, Tony prompted. “They gave you some kind of briefing packet, right? Something to persuade you to join up for whatever it is they’re doing? Tell me you didn’t agree to it just because Natashalie asked you to.”
“The report is top secret,” Rogers said stiffly.
Dom burst out laughing, getting an indignant look from Rogers.
“Is something about that funny?” Rogers took a step toward Dom.
“It’s hysterical,” Dom said still chuckling. “Tony and I both have security clearance, but you don’t, of that I can assure you. So if someone passed along something that was actually top secret to you, they committed an act of treason.”
Rogers’ mouth dropped open, and he stared for a long time. “How can you be sure I don’t have a security clearance?”
Dom rolled his eyes and pulled up his phone, tapping away on it for a few seconds. He passed it to Rogers. “What’s up on that screen is the preliminary paperwork you’d have to fill out before we’d even begin a background check to grant you any sort of top secret clearance. Only you can say if you completed any of that.”
Rogers’ brow furrowed as he flipped through the pages on the phone. “No, I’ve never…” He looked between Dom and Tony. “Perhaps these regulations don’t apply to SHIELD.”
“Right.” Dom’s voice fairly dripped with sarcasm. “Because SHIELD isn’t part of the U.S. intelligence community. There’s no reason why they’d have to follow the same regulations as the rest of the government agencies when passing out classified intel.”
Tony leaned against the wall and just watched as Dom and Captain America squared off.
Rogers finally shook his head. “I don’t feel right about showing you the reports I was sent.”
“That’s fine,” Dom said neutrally. “I’m here as a favor to Tony because he obviously cares if someone is trying to lie to or manipulate you. But if your head can’t part ways with your ass, I have no fucks to give on the subject.”
Rogers pursed his lips for several seconds before opening his bag and pulling out a sheaf of papers, passing them over to Dom.
Dom took the pages then walked to the small dining table, already flipping through the info. He hadn’t even been at it a minute before he sighed and looked Tony’s way. “This is crap.”
Tony frowned. “How can you tell so quickly? It usually takes you at least half an hour to even do even a preliminary assessment.”
“I know the asset who wrote the original reports. Paranoid motherfucker. He has a specific way he terminates the pages in his reports. Only a few people he trusts know what to look for, but it’s obvious that this was stitched together from several of his mission briefs. There are page terminations in the middle of middle of the page or a paragraph. There’s even one in the first paragraph on a page. I don’t have to read it to know this is crafted to create an impression. An impression of a terrorist threat that may not even exist. While he has recently written reports about terrorist threats, this is compiled from reports over decades, focusing on at least half a dozen different groups. The reports they pulled from on the first page are about two terrorist threats that were dealt with more than a decade ago by a whole different government.”
Dom pinned Rogers with a look. “Someone is manipulating you. Just like they tried to manipulate Tony. I cared enough about Tony to stop him from falling for their shit. I don’t know you and I don’t care what you do.” He got up and shoved the papers back at Rogers. “Go work for the guys who lied to you in your first mission brief.”
“Dom,” Tony said rubbing the back of his head.
Dom glared at him.
Tony sighed and glanced at Rogers, who was looking like he couldn’t make up his mind what to believe. “Steve, you said they showed you a tape.”
“On the helicarrier, you said you’d seen ‘the tape.’ What tape?”
Rogers blinked a few times. “Fury provided me with briefing packets for all the potential team members. Yours in particular had several videos.”
Dom made an annoyed sound, but Tony tuned him out for now.
“And you based your opinion of me on a briefing packet SHIELD put together. SHIELD who is lying to you. That’s great.”
When Rogers seemed confused, Dom made a sound of exasperation.
“They’re fucking manipulating you, Rogers. Why can’t you see that?” Dom snapped. “They’re using your closed-mindedness, stubbornness, seeming patriotism, and likely 1940s values to get you to do what they want.”
Rogers’ jaw was set in a particularly stubborn line.
“Tell me this… How many of the videos that they shared with you had Tony either partying when he was younger or were part of those sex tapes that his first lover put online?”
Rogers blinked, obviously surprised.
“I’d guess about 80%.” Dom got to his feet. “You’re a fool. You probably deserve the level of manipulation that they’re putting forth, but I’m not sure the rest of the world does. Here’s an opinion you probably don’t want: You’re not ready for this century yet. Not to live in and sure as hell not to act as a spy in. You need to figure out how the world works and catch up on all the shit you missed before you take a dumb-ass mission where you, Captain fucking America, illegally infiltrate a foreign government wearing the Stars & Stripes on his damn chest.”
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“I know quite a lot about you, actually. You think SHIELD is the only group that’s assessed you? None of the other agencies would touch you with a ten-foot pole because you’re a damn liability the way you are now. I have no doubt that SHIELD’s team briefing packets pointed out the strengths of the team members they wanted you to trust while playing up the supposed negatives about the people they wanted you to distrust. I would think that Agent Romanoff’s status as a former Russian spy and assassin would be more relevant than Tony’s sex life, but yet I’d bet money you don’t know much about the former. You fell right for their con, and that’s disappointing as hell. Because you should have enough moral fiber to question them giving you personal information that had nothing whatsoever to do with the mission you were going on.”
Rogers opened his mouth then snapped it closed, brow furrowing in clear thought.
“Why don’t you stew on it. Think about how you’ve been carefully fed information to help you form your opinions from the very moment you woke. I’m taking Tony for a walk.” Dom caught Tony’s arm and led him out of the cabin and to a trail leading to the woods. Tony knew it was only a short walk to a small lake.
“You were a little harsh,” Tony observed.
“Maybe,” Dom conceded. “But my assessment was that trying to persuade him, even with logic and evidence, wasn’t going to help. He needs to be jolted out of his deeply entrenched belief.”
“Which belief is that?”
“That he’s right. He’s very invested in it.”
“You just met the guy.”
“Yeah, but it’s not hard to see that his identity is practically rooted in being on the right side. And SHIELD somehow convinced him that they’re it.” Dom stopped at the end of the trail and stared out over the lake. “I heard Coulson died.”
Tony felt a deep pang of grief. “Yeah. Stabbed through the heart with some alien weapon.”
Dom turned and met Tony’s gaze. “I happen to know that Coulson didn’t want the Avengers under the SHIELD umbrella. That Romanoff was ordered, and agreed to help break the Avengers from SHIELD should anything happen to him.”
Tony frowned. “But she’s leading the charge to get back to SHIELD…”
“Yeah. Curious isn’t it?” Dom crossed his arms. “You know you can’t trust them, Tony. I know you believe in this mission, but if the team walks away and goes back to SHIELD, please don’t follow.”
“I’m not going to. I’m not letting Fury lead me around by the nose. Well, any more than he already has,” Tony added, still feeling put out by how successfully Fury had manipulated him. “But I had to give it a shot…getting through to Rogers. For my old man, you know?”
“Yeah, I know. I’ll help however I can, but he’s got to bend and admit that he needs the help. Pointing him at a war right now is a terrible idea.”
“He’s not going to accept help from me. Not easily. He’s formed an opinion…”
“He’s smart enough to let go of the crap SHIELD fed him. And if he’s not willing to, that’s a character flaw, and it’s not your lookout.”
Tony stared at his shoes. “I know.”
Dom stepped close and squeezed Tony’s shoulder. “Tell me how you’re doing otherwise.”
Tony shrugged. “Pep wants me to stop being Iron Man. Said the stress of it is driving her crazy.” Dom was quiet for so long, Tony looked up and found his jaw clenched tight. “You’re angry.”
“She keeps asking you to…not be you.” Dom looked away and blew out a breath. “Let’s talk about something else.”
“No…” He grabbed Dom’s arm, stopping him from turning away. “No. You’re literally my oldest friend, and we’ve kept the world from knowing for both our sakes, but I value your opinion. Yet you never seem to want to talk about Pepper. Just say what’s on your mind.”
“I don’t doubt that you care about each other…”
“But…?” Tony prodded.
“Why is it you that has to do all the changing?”
“Compromise makes relationships work, right?” Tony wouldn’t really know. He’d always been shitty at relationships, but that’s what he’d always heard.
“There’s a difference between compromise and telling someone they’re not okay the way they are.” Dom took a step back. “Only you can say which this is.”
“You see me more idealistically than you should.”
Dom barked out a laugh. “Don’t start acting like an idiot, Tony. I see you just fine. You brought Rogers to me because you have faith in my perspective on things. It’s funny how your trust in that wavers when it comes to you.”
“Let’s get back. Make sure the Star Spangled Ignoramus hasn’t called SHIELD to my vacation retreat.”
Tony stared, watching as Dom headed back up the trail. He caught up to Dom just as they entered the clearing where the cabin was and caught his friend’s arm again. “I do trust you. Always. And I’ll think about it, okay?”
Dom met his gaze and seemed to be seeing straight through Tony. “I’m tired of seeing you turning yourself inside out for other people. So, I’m gonna hold you to that this time.”
Tony frowned, puzzled at how upset Dom seemed, but put it aside for now and followed Dom back into the cabin.
Rogers was sitting at the table, the report in a neat pile in front of him. He looked kind of lost when he looked up at them. “Can we start over? I’d like to try to understand all this…” He waved toward the report.
Dom took the seat opposite Rogers, obviously ready to dive in.
Before anything could be said, Tony shoved his hands in his pockets and got their attention. “I don’t think my presence is going to help. I think Steve’s preconceived notions of me are going to cloud the issue. Can you get him back to civilization, Dom?”
Rogers blinked. “Tony, that’s not true—”
“That’s fine, Tony,” Dom interrupted. “I’ll make sure he gets home safely.”
Tony looked to Rogers. “You know where I am if you want to talk.”
Dom shot Tony a speaking look. “I could say the same.”
Tony nodded, feeling oddly confused and unsettled. “I’ll be in touch.” He got in his car and stared at nothing for a long time. “What in the world is going on?”
“If I may, Sir?” Jarvis said, sounding oddly gentle.
Tony started the car. “Say what’s on your mind, Jarvis. It’s that kind of day…”
“I agree with Master Dominic. The people in your life do expect you to change to suit them.”
“I…” He considered as he pulled out onto the main road. “Dom doesn’t.”
“Agreed. He’s always appreciated you however you are.”
Tony blinked a few times, a realization dawning on him that felt like getting doused with ice water. “Ah hell. How did I not notice this?”
“Self-reflection isn’t your strong suit, Sir.”
“Harsh, J.” Tony blew out a breath. He wanted to flip the car around and ask Dom… Ask him if they were going to be a them. But he had a life to get straightened around first. “He’s been waiting for me, hasn’t he?”
“I believe he was waiting for you to be ready, yes.”
Tony smiled faintly, feeling something warm settle in him. “I’ve got a lot to do.”
“Yes, Sir. I’ve started a list.”
Tony laughed. He felt hopeful…that this thing with Rogers would get sorted but, more importantly, that something good was on the horizon.
– – – –
Note: You can answer this prompt if you’d like (and link to us both) and share your link with me but you do not have permission to continue my work on this prompt.