I'm a sucker for tattoo shop AUs (Deep in the Heart of Me is my favorite fic EVER), and I can imagine Tony being the manager of a famous shop, and accepting stray artists that want to find a job and are poor/homeless/lost (among which Bucky, Clint and Nat), and just giving them a goal, a home and a future and ARG
Thank you for reminding me of the beauty that is tattoo AUs!!!! I can’t believe I forgot about this to be honest, I used to adore them in almost every fandom, but I haven’t thought of them in ages until I got your ask! I’m unfamiliar with the fic you’ve mentioned–I don’t read a lot of Stony–but I think I’ll give it a try! But for now, let’s get back to this AU.
I really like the idea of Tony being this crazy, loveable owner of a tattoo shop who hires very questionable people under ridiculous circumstances because he’s insane like that. I also headcanon that said questionable people are very protective of their smol boss because of it.
“What the fuck do you want from me?” the stranger snarls disturbingly animalistic.
“Uhm.” Tony stares at the knife—a real knife and definitely not one for the kitchen—and scruffles a tiny step backwards. Backs against a wall before he has the chance to bring a little more distance between himself and Stranger With Knife.
Damn those walls and the stupid people that build them.
He’s going to die here, alone, in an abandoned backstreet. Where nobody will find his body until they’ll have to hold the funeral with a closed coffin. If they’ll ever find his body.
There’s probably a life lesson in here, about how you’re not supposed to follow unknown men a head taller than you and double your weight in muscles into an abandoned backstreet for one. But Tony’s attention is too fixated on the knife to care much about unimportant details like that.
For once, he hysterically thinks, Rhodey won’t be able to scold me for my messed up priorities.
“I won’t ask again!” the man hisses dangerously. He’s got shaggy hair that could do with a cut and a wash, and his eyes flicker with the same restlessness that drew Tony to him initially.
And fine, he probably shouldn’t have followed the guy. He can see how this could be considered “creepy” by people less fluent in Tony-speak than Pepper or Rhodey. Natasha will undoubtedly slap him—gently, because she’s secretly a poisonous snake who’s adopted Tony as this weird, bumbling kitten that will not get killed by anyone but her—for this later. You know, if there is a later.
“I was wondering if you want to work for me,” Tony blurts out because he can’t think of anything else to say. Also because it’s true.
“I’m not fuckin’ work for hire!” the man growls. “I don’t do that shit anymore, so either back the fuck off or I’ll make sure you won’t need anything anymore!”
Alright. Tony decidedly isn’t going to ask what the guy’s going on about. Nope. Absolutely not. That would just be too stupid, even for him.
“What are you talking about?” he asks and promptly wants to knock himself out. At least that might improve his chances to not talk himself into an early death. Clint will not be impressed if he misses is 8 o’clock appointment tomorrow and he has to cover for Tony—neither will the customer. Clint isn’t useful for anything before eleven in the morning.
The man’s eyes—they’re a cold blue that would look a lot prettier if they weren’t levelling a glacial glare at Tony right now—narrow even further, the knife itching ever so slightly closer towards Tony, and nope, not a fan of that development at all.
“Look,” Tony decides to try and deescalate the situation, “You don’t have to answer that. Actually, please don’t answer that, because this sounds too much like one of those I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you thingies and Natty would not be pleased if you did. You know, kill me. Unless you tell her I called her Natty again. For some reason she really doesn’t like that? But what do I know, women are weird,” he muses with a shrug.
“Right, I was trying to make a point. See, you could just wave your knife around and possibly- probably kill me, which would really suck. Cause I’m not a big fan of being dead before my liver gives out on me and you don’t look like you’ve got another jacket, and blood is a bitch to get out.” Not that it would be much of a loss, with the oversized, worn down thing the man’s wearing. It looks like it’s being held together by stubbornness and nothing else.
He might have said that last part out loud as well, if the guy’s twitch is anything to go by. Tony can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or not.
“Or,” he hastily continues, “you could listen to my gracious proposal, accept it with genuine appreciation and enthusiasm and in two years we’ll both laugh about this moment.” He finishes with a bright smile and a happy clap. Screw Natasha and Pepper, he can be reasonable and mature. He’s not the one waving a butcher knife around after all.
Said knife is slowly lowered by the stranger who tilts his head to one side in a show curiosity. He seems—amused, almost. Or maybe that’s Tony’s screwed perception of reality talking. Clint’s mentioned he has a problem at one point, something about seeing a ravaging monster and cooing over it and wanting to pet it. Which is nonsense, Tony doesn’t want to pet anything. Except maybe the guy’s hair, once it’s been properly cleaned. And that’s not his fault, it looks like it could be fluffy.
“I’m listening,” he drawls, almost like he’s humouring Tony. The joke’s on him though, because Tony is used to being humoured.
“Do you know Stark Tower? What a stupid question, of course you do, but just in case you don’t, it’s the best tattoo studio in the entire country, trust me on that, and it happens to also belong to me. You’d look great with a couple of tattoos by the way, really help round off that assassin-gone-rough vibe you’ve got there, and I’d totally do them for free or maybe not free. Pepper says I’m not supposed to give people things all the time, but you wouldn’t tell on me, right?”
“Anyways, I saw this,” Tony lifts the crumbled paper he’s rescued from the garbage at the café he’s first noticed Mr Tall, Dark and Knifey—and hadn’t that led to a fun conversation with the waitress—and waves it around as if to stress his point, “and you’ve got some real talent with the abstract design there, because this is amazing and I’d want it as a tattoo, wich says something, my taste is fantastic. Also I’m missing a designer because that asshole Wade keeps running off to do one thing or another and I’m not allowed to hire Peter until he’s legal.”
The guy stares at him in bemusement while Tony tries to catch his breath. Admittedly not an uncommon reaction.
“You’re offering me a job?” he asks after a moment in disbelief—and damn, this guy is catching on to Tony-speak real quick, he’s the right choice all right.
“Yup,” Tony nods. He’s thought he’s been fairly obvious.
“You’ve been following me for two subway stations, three bus stops and a couple of dozen street corners to offer me a job because you saw something I’d scribbled down at a café,” the man repeats incredulous.
Tony shrugs. “I didn’t know how to talk to you. Clint says I come on too strong usually.”
“And you thought stalking me would make me feel more at ease?”
“Well, no.” Tony frowns. “Maybe? I wasn’t—but doesn’t prolonged exposure get you used to someone?”
“Prolonged- never mind,” the guy shakes his head. “You’re crazy.”
A pause, then, “I don’t need a job.”
Tony scoffs. “Have you looked at yourself lately?” he asks, mulls over his words for a moment when the man tenses. “Alright, that might have come across as offensive but seriously. I don’t care if you need a job or not, it’s yours if you want it. Just show up sometime next week and tell Natty I hired you and if Clint is there please throw your knife at him, he’s an ass and screams like a banshee.” Tony searches his pockets for a moment before he finds one of his, admittedly worse for wear, business cards and offers it to Mr Death By Blade.
“You’re crazy,” the man states again, but he takes the card.
“Get used to it,” Tony smiles is sunniest smile because take that Clint, he can hire new staff without getting anyone killed.
“Have you ever even held a tattoo gun in your life? It’s not a real gun, for fuck’s sake! Tony!” Clint is heard screaming in exasperation through the studio a couple of days later. “What the fuck where you thinking when you hired Bucky?!”
Tony doesn’t look up from where he’s carefully drawing the worlds’ prettiest butterfly onto a young woman’s shoulder when he yells back, “Who the hell is Bucky?!”
[Bonus: “You’re taking all this surprisingly well,” Bucky comments at one point.
Clint shrugs. Takes a look at one of the designs over the newbie’s shoulder.
“Tony’s as fucked in the head as they come, but he’s a freaking genius at finding the best. If he’s hired you than that’s what you are. He wouldn’t settle for anything less.”
A moment of thoughtful silence follows, before.
“In three weeks, I’m gonna tell you how he hired Tasha.”
“Why in three weeks?”
“Studio rule. If you’ve made it three weeks without killing anyone, you’re part of the team.”
“Inside the studio or in general?”
“…you’re gonna fit right in.”]
I think I’m having way too much fun with this…