For once, the answer comes easily. Tony looks up at the kid, a hand moving to press against the scar on his chest like he can ease away some of the pressure Billy put there.
"I want to help you because I don’t want you to end up like me."
[God help him, he’ll choke on the word.]
"…yes. Maybe more."
"I think I would have sucked at it."
[Tony laughs, looking down at his hands.]
"But I’d die from the clap or dysentery or something, if it meant I got to see you and the Pearl together…"
[The smile comes with gritted teeth, Tony’s jaw clicking in an effort to keep from saying the words. But he can feel the compulsion heavy on the back of his tongue, and there’s no stopping it.]
Tony has already mourned for Coulson, he’d only had a few hours to mourn for Fury before the world saw fit to spit him back out. But the grief was still there, raw and desperate and clawing at his throat.
His voice is surprisingly even.
"I’m going to seduce him." A vaunted truth, but not the whole truth. The whole truth was messy, wrapped up in words like trust and honor and respect.
It was easier when people thought it was about the sex.
[ oh yeah, it’s always a personality these men are after. ]
“Since I’m off the clock, flat fee. Two fifty for forty five minutes. No barebacking. Everything’s on the table— as long as you’ve showered recently.”
[Good. He wouldn’t pay for any idiot who fucked without a rubber. Tony wasn’t looking to pay for HIV. He looks the guy over for a moment and holds out a hand to shake.]
"Tony Stark. Blackmailing me is pointless, everyone knows I do this. Welcome to the most fun you’ve ever had on the clock.]
"Of course I do."
But that’s not enough of an answer. Even Tony knows that. He sighs, fingers dragging across his lips.
"I miss you. Every day, Pep. But I’m not…I can’t be that guy. Not anymore. And I don’t expect you to waste your life waiting for me to get my shit together."
[ he sighs. he does have bills to pay, after all. ]
”——What are you looking for?”
"Depends on that sparkling personality of yours. Do you do flat fee, per act…what’s the scale here, kid?"