Acknowledgments: Thanks so much to scifijunkie for the beta–I’m always nervous dipping my toe into a new fandom and a good beta can take a lot of the edge off. Which you most certainly were. 🙂
Note: I had originally intended to make these two cousins, but they were just too much alike and hated each other too much not to be brothers. *g* Title is taken from Genesis 25:34, the King James version.
“You know,” Tony Stark announced, shedding his suit coat as he strode into the room and tossing it carelessly onto the pristine sofa. “I’m getting rather tired of coming home to find unwanted guests in my living room. If the million dollar security system isn’t doing its job, maybe it’s time to invest in the two million dollar one.”
The unwanted guest in question greeted him with a dry smile. “Hello to you too, big brother.”
It was a remark designed to rankle: Nathan Stark had a good nine inches on his older half brother and never passed up a chance to rub it in.
Tony gave him the requisite glare before crossing to the bar and pouring himself a drink, pointedly not asking Nathan if he wanted one. “What are you doing here?”
Even without considering their disparate heights, the two brothers could hardly have looked less alike: though Tony was the legitimate son and heir apparent, it was Nathan who took more after their father, a fact that even Howard Stark had acknowledged by giving his bastard son his name. They had the same dark hair, but even standing side by side most people who didn’t know the convoluted family history would have named them cousins at the closest, and only that because of the shared last name.
Nathan raised an amused eyebrow at the question. “Asks the man who just six months ago was trying to recruit me to run the San Francisco branch of Stark Industries: can’t a guy just drop by once in a while to see how his big brother’s been doing since he got home from Afghanistan?”
“Now, if you’d actually come by right after I got home, I might have bought that excuse,” Tony answered dryly, gesturing with his glass of Scotch to emphasize the point. “You know, instead of almost a year later. If you’re here about the generator, the answer is still no: you can’t have it.”
Nathan chuckled. “Trust me, if I needed an arc reactor, I know plenty of people who could build one with one hand tied behind their backs. Myself included.”
“Except, you see, there’s this pesky thing called a patent, which I happen to hold.”
Nathan didn’t even blink, just shrugged casually, as if to say: ‘And I have a Nobel Prize: your point?’
Tony took a drink. “How’s Alli?”
“How’s Pepper?” Nathan fired back.
The older Stark brother shook his head. “Now how do you like that? I ask about your wife, you ask about my assistant?” he deflected the question.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Should I have inquired after the latest string of one night stands whose names you can’t remember instead?” Nathan asked a little too sweetly.
“Based on the cattiness of that remark, I have to assume you’re still estranged,” Tony perched himself on the arm of the sofa, not about to concede the war of words any time soon. “Pity. You always were more interesting when she was around.”
“Only because you were more interested in her than me. Unless, of course, by ‘interesting,’ you mean that I don’t appreciate other men hitting on my wife: in that case, yes, I suppose I was.” Nathan rose smoothly from the couch, crossing the room in a few long strides to help himself to the contents of the bar, since Tony still had no intention of offering. “You, on the other hand, have gotten much more interesting of late.”
Tony didn’t even have to ask what he meant. “You can’t have the suit either.”
Nathan laughed. “That’s quite all right–I think I stopped wanting to be the Tin Man when I was nine.” Lifting his own Scotch to his lips, he glanced at Tony over the rim of the glass and asked skeptically: “A superhero? Really?”
“World domination through superior weaponry loses a lot of its charm when those weapons are turned against you,” was the dry response.
“And the advantage of turning yourself into the superior weapon is…?”
“Control,” Tony answered simply. He tapped his chest, where the miniature arc reactor glowed faintly through both an undershirt and a dress shirt. “The suit won’t work without its power source, and for the moment I’ve ensured there’s only one of those. Anyone wants the suit: they have to take me with it. Package deal.”
“All the more reason it seems like kind of a stupid idea to announce to the world at large where they can find you,” Nathan pointed out.
“I didn’t know you cared,” Tony drawled.
“Oh, I don’t,” Nathan assured him. “I just don’t want to have to drop everything to come pull the family business out of the fire if you go out in a blaze of glory.”
“I’m amazed you managed to tear yourself away from the charms of small-town America long enough to come deliver this little lecture. Speaking of which, as the older brother shouldn’t I be the one haranguing you about all your terrible life choices?”
Nathan smiled. “I have the sense to keep all my terrible life choices classified.”
“Well, I’m not going to take it back.” Tony shrugged. “Not to make your life easier, certainly. And even if I did, no one would believe me.”
“Hey, you’re the one who let Schroedinger’s Cat out of the bag,” Nathan demurred. “If you’re prepared to face the consequences, who am I to try to keep you alive? All I’m asking is, with Obadiah gone, you find someone other than me to pick up the pieces when it all explodes in your face. I’ve got better things to do with my time.”
“If you wanted me to disown you, all you had to do was say so,” Tony offered with mocking generosity. “I’ve been looking for an excuse to do that for years. I only kept the job offer open this long because it was Dad’s dying wish.”
“No,” Nathan corrected. “You did it because you knew no one other than me would be able to pick up where you left off. It took, what, half your staff to build the other prototype for Obadiah? And even then they still couldn’t figure out the miniaturization for the power source.”
Tony shook his head, but not in denial. “You have a very high opinion of yourself, you know that?”
“What can I say? It runs in the family.”
“Touche,” Tony acknowledged the hit with surprising grace.
“So, do we have a deal?”
“I think so. On one condition.” Tony held up a finger. “You call me even once to help defuse the latest technological apocalypse in that science experiment gone wrong you call a town, and the deal is off.”
Nathan smiled as the brothers clinked glasses together in a grudging toast. “I think I can live with that.”