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27 March 2011 @ 09:26 pm
FIC: February Made Me Shiver  

FIC:  February Made Me Shiver
Rating:  PG-13
Characters:  Tony Stark, Steve Rogers
Warnings: Mentions of suicide, alcoholism, death, and traumatic events. Alternate Universe.
Length:  2,900 words
Summary:  Ever get an idea that just doesn't let you alone? This is it.  In this universe there are no superheroes, no Avengers, just a rock 'n' roll band called Avengers Ensemble



“I think we should get the band back together,” the words are soft, barely above a hoarse rasp, and as solemn as a confession.

He inhales sharply – whether it is from surprise at the very idea, or the fact that Tony’s the one suggesting it, he can’t quite be sure.

“…We haven’t played in years, Tony. Not since…” He pulls himself up short – he hardly needs to tell Tony the last time they played together; he’d been there after all.

His eyes flicker shut as the memories come to him in a flash, overwhelming his senses even after nine years of grieving that should have made the pain distant and numb by now.  

‘Hope that bus of yours breaks down,” Clint says in a pale imitation of his usual cheekiness, trying to hold it together just like they all are. The air in the cabin is thick with fear. If one of them breaks, everyone seems to unconsciously agree, they’re all going to lose it.

He looks about the cabin, studying the familiar faces of his band mates with new eyes. Jan’s face is wan, her eyes puffy from the tears she’s still fighting off. Hank is still visibly in shock over the news and watching Jan like she was a grenade about to go off. Thor is probably is coping with it the best out of all of them – his expression is somber, but his eyes are burning with grief.

Then there’s Tony, who’s somehow found a mini bar on a ten-seat plane and looks determined to clean it out before the plane even takes off. He’s been meaning to talk to Tony about his drinking… its progressed far past the point of “just being social” anymore…

He’d been meaning to talk to Wanda too – why hadn’t he? Why had he kept putting it off – after the recording session, after they finished the album, after they finished the tour –kept putting it off until it was too late?

Thor finishes his conversation with the pilot, nodding towards Steve before disembarking. The combined weight of the band and all their instruments meant they couldn’t all fit on the plane – and they couldn’t leave the instruments behind so Thor and he had volunteered to drive the bus back and meet the rest of them in time for Wanda’s funeral.

He’s about to step off the plane when Clint grabs his arm.

“Hey, got room on that bus for one more?”

He looks over his shoulder to find Clint standing behind him, bag tossed over his shoulder. Clint appears stoic, but he’s undoubtedly on edge.

“I thought you hoped the bus broke down,” He asks, raising an eyebrow. 

 “It’s February 3rd… and I have just got a feeling, alright,” Clint snaps irritably, looking uncomfortable. Steve would have never pictured Clint as a superstitious guy…

“It’s going to be fine, besides,” He shoots a meaningful in Tony’s direction. For someone who described himself a ‘social drinker’, Tony often seemed to end up in pretty dark places, psychologically speaking, by the end of the night. The last thing anyone needed tonight was Tony losing it on the plane, not after everything else today.

Clint gives him a disgusted look. “I’m not a babysitter, can’t you watch him?”

“You want to help drive the bus?”

“…fine. You owe me big time though.”

“I’ll see you all in Chicago,” He calls out as the ground crew shuts the door.

Only the plane crashes in a field in Nebraska, the smoldering wreckage flooding the 24-hour news networks for days afterward. Jan, Hank, and Clint are gone in flash – and he knows then that his last conversation with Clint will haunt him for the rest of his life. Clint would be alive if he hadn’t convinced him to stay –one more in the bus wouldn’t have hurt –

Everyone says it’s a miracle that Tony survived –but there are days when Steve’s not sure. Tony spends months in the burn ward; his screams as they clean his wounds become the soundtrack of Steve’s nightmares with Clint, Wanda, Jan and Hank all screaming right along with him in harmony as the flames devour them all.

Whatever demons had driven Tony to the bottle in the first place are now stronger than ever. He spends most of his days either drunk or searching for a drink. Steve tries to help him, but it is just too much for him. He’s lost too many friends already – he can’t watch another slowly kill himself one shot at a time.

He shakes off the embrace of his memories and refocuses on the man sitting across from him. They each had their own path to take after that night.  Up until a few days ago he’d always felt a slight trill of fear when the phone rang, certain that it would be someone calling to tell him that Tony had finally died.

So when he’d picked up the phone and it had been Tony on the other line, he’d been so relieved to hear his voice after all this time. He’d be lying though if he didn’t say he wasn’t a little afraid too.  He’d seen how his own father had fought and eventually succumb to his addictions – knew that it wasn’t a question of character, moral or physical strength that made the difference between an addict and a recovering addict… if Tony were still drinking would he be able to help him? Should he help him even? Tony had spent every day since they’d released him from the hospital digging for rock bottom – and the newspapers gleefully chronicled his descent – Steve would have sworn that Tony should have hit his all-time low, only to watch him dive deeper into that darkness.

Steve wasn’t sure he could have followed him, even if he had tried.

“I’m sober, Steve,” Tony said after the long awkward pause. “…I just want to talk… can we meet for lunch tomorrow?”

“I’d love to.”

It is only after they make plans and he has hung up the phone that the doubts started to grow. Tony had claimed to be sober, but for how long, and was he really? Steve certainly remembered his father swearing he was sober – for good this time – every time his mother threw him out of the house. She always took him back and his father never could stay clean and in a few months the cycle would repeat itself all over again.

He thought about calling Sam, one of his closest friends in the intervening years since the band broke up, and asking what he thought – but Sam had always been critical of Tony, and besides, Steve wasn’t even sure if he could find the words to explain his unease if he tried.

Intellectually he knew what his father had been a sickness, that his mother had her own illness that allowed her to enable his father up until his eventual death.   That knowledge was cold comfort against memories of his father being too drunk to come up the stairs to their apartment, shouting in the hallway for his mother come get him… of his mother hauling a man almost twice her size up the stairs. He remembers being sat down by his mother at five, seven, eight, and ten-years-old and hearing about all the reasons that his father wasn’t going to be living with them anymore; then watching as his father moved back in and being told every single time that this time would be different.

Could Tony be any different than his father was? He and Tony had been practically blood brothers or closer at one point – was there anything left of that man anymore? He wanted to believe that Tony had finally chosen sobriety, but if he hadn’t could Steve deal with it? Would he do just as his mother had done and allow the cycle to continue? As much as he might want to say no, he knew that his mother had known the same moments of conviction, only to eventually crumble and given in again. 

There was hardly any point in worrying about it, he told himself repeatedly, he would see what he would see tomorrow and make a decision then.

He worried anyway.

He knows Tony has arrived long before he gets to the door, the advantage of a long country driveway. He steps onto the front door step, stomach churning with nervousness as he waits for Tony to get out of the car.  The car is sleek – one of those German sports cars that Steve could never keep straight (give him a good old American car any day), and the sun glinting off the silver paint makes it hard to see Tony get out of the car.

Finally Tony comes around the front of his car and Steve gets the first up close look of his friend in over five years. He braces himself for the worst, for the washed out scarecrow in all the gossip sections of the newspapers. He’d invite him in for coffee and then what… some appointment in town that couldn’t be missed and they’d both be on their separate ways for another five years…

Tony looks – good, his skin has a golden hue that only comes from being outside for long periods of time, and he’s put on weight, muscle weight, and looks healthier than Steve could have ever imagined him being. As Tony comes closer Steve can still see the faint traces of the burns on his arms, watching as Tony self-consciously tugs his sleeves down. 

He smiles at his long lost friend and invites him in.    

They sit in the sunny kitchen, at the old farm table that has seen several generations of the family who owned the house before Steve had bought it, both of them trying to fill in as much time as possible in preparing their coffee.

Finally, when everything is perfectly sweetened and creamed they have nothing to do but stare at one another, waiting for the other to begin the conversation.

“…I’m sorry.”

Steve blinks as he tries to put Tony’s words into some sort of context that made sense…

“Its part of my recovery process,” Tony adds, “To make amends with those I’ve hurt.   I have not been a good friend to you,” Tony looks up through his eyelashes and the glance hits Steve like a punch in the gut – how many times had he hoped his father would have said similar words?

“It’s alright.”

“It’s not.   I disappeared because I was a coward and never even thought that you were grieving just like me. I should have been there…” Tony’s fingers dance nervously on the table and his gaze refocuses on his coffee, gazing into the dark fluid as if it held the answers to the universe.

He reaches out and places his hand on top of Tony’s, stilling the movements.

“I’m just glad you’re here, Tony.”

Tony faces him fully then, a smile on the edges of his lips.

“Me too.” Tony nervously tucks a piece of hair behind his ear. “So what have you been up to?”

The truth had been not much… he’d had offers to start his own solo career… and maybe it was because those offers had come mere days after the crash, but the idea had never seemed appealing to him.   He had not given up music – he didn’t think he ever could, but performing in front of an audience had never been a big draw to him. It had only taken him a few months to decide to move away from the limelight of the city to a place where he could be left alone.

Not that Steve has been living a sort of lazy retirement – as much as he enjoyed the clean air he had no aspirations of being a gentleman farmer. Over the years he had come out in support for a large number of humanitarian causes – Darfur, Hurricane Katrina, music programs in schools – lobbying publically and donating large amounts of his own money.  He would have the fame, whether he liked it or not, so he might as well do something good with it.

He’s surprised when Tony takes an interest in his charity work – Tony had never seemed like the kind of guy interested in… well, interested in things outside himself. As harsh as it was, it had been true… maybe this whole experience had changed Tony for the better? At least something had, maybe…

Then, just as things are starting to become comfortable, Tony changes everything. 

“I think we should get the band back together,” the words are soft, barely above a hoarse rasp, and as solemn as a confession.

He inhales sharply – whether it is from surprise at the very idea, or the fact that Tony’s the one suggesting it, he can’t quite be sure.

“…We haven’t played in years, Tony. Not since…” He pulls himself up short – he hardly needs to tell Tony the last time they played together; he’d been there after all.

 “I know,” Tony says, leaning forward, his elbows resting on his knees as he looks up at Steve intently. 

Trust Tony to be unable to let sleeping dogs lie...

“Why?”

What would be the purpose of getting the band back together – what was left of them anyway? Just Tony, Thor and him – less than half of the original line up of Avengers Ensemble… It wasn’t like any of them needed the money; Thor was doing quite well as a music producer, Tony had come from money, and Steve had invested wisely and had no desire to lead the extravagant lifestyle  of his peers…

What other purposes could there be other than remind them of everything they’d lost – all over again? Steve had coped and moved on in his own way – not by trying to drown himself in liquor and drugs – and he didn’t want to go back there…

Being onstage without Clint, or Jan, or Hank, or Wanda… it wouldn’t be right. If this was one of Tony’s stupid marketing ideas --

 “I never got to go to their funerals, Steve,” Tony’s eyes are bright with tears, and Steve feels ashamed for thinking Tony would ever be so shallow to try profit off of the death of their friends.    “I never got to say goodbye to any of them – none of us did,” Tony’s jaw clenches and he exhales raggedly. “It’s going to be the tenth anniversary of the crash this year, and of Wanda’s suicide… the media is going to turn it into the usual sob-fest like they always do. They’ll air the footage from the crash every 15 minutes– and I don’t think Jan and Hank or Clint or Wanda would want to be remembered like that. They deserve a concert celebrating their lives instead of more dirges about their deaths.”

Steve had long ago learned to avoid the television news the week leading up to anniversary – bad enough to have lived through it once without having to relive it again in high definition. It would be an opportunity to bring something positive to that day…

“Who would we get to fill in…,” Steve asks, stomach twisting. Avengers Ensemble had been a 7-piece band – their music wouldn’t sound the same without Wanda’s violin, Jan’s rhythm guitar, Hank’s accordion, or Clint on drums – but the idea of someone else stepping into their spots makes him sick to his stomach…

Tony shook his head sharply. “Just what’s left of the original Avengers… you, me and Thor.” A twisted smile creeps onto Tony’s face, “Besides, where would we find a drummer that could lose the rhythm after two beats like Clint could?”

Steve is surprised when a chuckle bursts from his lips. Clint had been an excellent drummer, but that hadn’t stopped the drummer jokes. Steve was fairly sure they were mandatory for any band… How long had it been since he’d thought of Clint, not the last time he saw Clint, not Clint’s death… just about Clint, the man that become something of a younger brother figure to all of them… far too long.

“See what I mean,” Tony asks, “Just one concert – all the money should go to charity, or maybe we could set up scholarship programs in their honor – I don’t know, we can figure it out later – but I can’t do it without you. It wouldn’t be right… so are you in?”

He takes a deep breath – and then another. Could he really get back on stage after all these years -- he hadn’t touched his guitar the day after the funerals… Could he stand on the stage and be okay that Clint wasn’t laying the beat – that Jan wasn’t falling into harmony by him –

It would never be like it was… but if he waited until they could all play together again, they’d all be dead. Hank, Clint, Jan and Wanda had all loved being a part of the band… even if it hadn’t been enough for Wanda in the end.  They were all performers at their cores… they would have wanted the show to go on, at least one last time.

“…I’ll do it.”

When Tony beams at him, Steve knows he’s made the right decision.

****///****///****

Author’s Note: This fic was inspired by Don McLean’s American Pie and Waylon Jennings last words to Buddy Holly on February 3rd, 1959: “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.”
 
 
 
Dinah Queen: Cap and Iron Man 3dinahqueen on March 28th, 2011 06:44 am (UTC)
:O This was amazing. Bizarre, and really unexpected. And sad. My teeth were clenched through the whole thing (that's a good thing, by the way, extreme emotional response; me trying not to cry!)

Thank you so very, very much for sharing.
MostePotentePotionsmostepotente on March 29th, 2011 04:59 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you liked it and had an emotional response to it. Thanks for reviewing.
cat_13145cat_13145 on March 28th, 2011 07:01 am (UTC)
Hugs Tony and Steve. it's sort of comforting to think even with everything that's happened, things are still better in 616 than in this universe
MostePotentePotionsmostepotente on March 29th, 2011 05:00 am (UTC)
xDDDD....Shh, don't say that too loud or Fraction might hear you! Yeah, of course the only way it GETS worse than 616 is when you kill half the original line up in a firey plane crash, so it goes both ways.

Glad you liked the fic and thanks for reviewing!
Olleeollee on March 28th, 2011 12:43 pm (UTC)
Aww, I didn't know how much I wanted this until now! I'm usually so anti-AU... I loved it. You should write more in this universe. :D
MostePotentePotionsmostepotente on March 29th, 2011 05:02 am (UTC)
I'm glad that I managed to convert you on this AU!

... and curse you because now I've started thinking about more little bits of this universe...

Thanks for reviewing, I'm glad you've enjoyed the fic!
Beckyewanspotter on March 29th, 2011 06:21 am (UTC)
Such an awesome idea. Great job!
MostePotentePotionsmostepotente on March 31st, 2011 07:57 am (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you think so. Thanks for reviewing.
fictivorefictivore on March 29th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
Wow. This was good! Very *ouch*. But in such a good squirmy way! ^_^b

It's unexpectedly amazing how well the Avengers fit into a band!AU premise. Now I really want to see more. (prequel, sequel anything works!)
MostePotentePotionsmostepotente on March 31st, 2011 07:59 am (UTC)
I know -- it's weird isn't it? It's so hard to get them to fit into a band too -- hence why I went gypsy/rockibilly with them because so many people and not enough classic rock instruments.

As for sequel/prequel... now that I've finished this other fic, that will probably be next.

I'm happy you enjoyed the fic -- thanks for reviewing!
LadybBlkRose: Marvel Heroesladyblkrose on March 31st, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC)
This...this...I need a moment. I promise to comment more coherently later but right now I need a moment.
MostePotentePotionsmostepotente on April 1st, 2011 12:55 am (UTC)
Eep! I don't know if I shouold be pleased or terrified...