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Debt

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Tony Stark has never been good at following the rules.

 

It’s a trend that has marked him out ever since he was just old enough to get underfoot and make himself a nuisance.

Tony, baby, don’t go into daddy’s workshop. Tony. Tony, put down those wirecutters! Do not touch that!

Well, OK, he learnt to listen to that tone pretty quickly, after he picked up the loose end of some trailing wire and got zapped hard enough to make his hair stand up all over and his fingers sting. But it wasn’t anywhere near enough to stop him sneaking into the workshop whenever the door was left open long enough. He would slip in and fold himself up in the space under one of the desks to watch his dad work. Really, that’s one of the strongest memories he has of childhood. Squashed under some cramped desk, listening to the humming of machinery and the occasional sharp crackling of electricity when things don’t go quite right. If he tries, he can see his father’s profile silhouetted by his glaring work lamps. In a way, it’s fitting, for him to have been raised with the sounds of machines more familiar than any human voice.

 

When he was older, and had already collected many more mild electric shocks, along with countless burns from soldering irons and caused one very memorable explosion, there was still one order that was emphasised above all.

Tony, for god’s sake, what have I told you? Don’t go into my workshop when I’m not around!

Tony had sulked, like only eight year olds really can, and then he’d picked open the lock to the workshop when his parents went out to some swish fundraising party.

 

This disobedience is a repeating pattern continuing across most of his teenage years. Tony, you’re far too young to drink that. Sneaking whiskey from the bottle kept in the workshop. Don’t stay out past eleven, d’you hear? Blundering in and setting off the motion-sensor lights at three AM. You make sure you focus on studying while you’re at MIT. Don’t get sucked into a wild lifestyle. Spending graduation, like so many classes before, in a fuzz of alcohol. And then a car crash which ripped his life apart, sheared his parents away like so much scrap metal, and he spent a week practically unconscious, because there was no one to disobey other than the voice in his head telling him that he should stop.

 

Tony lives life young, carefree, genius. Then one day, his recklessness, his inability to listen when people ask him Do you really need to go out there yourself? Stay here, the missiles will demonstrate themselves just fine, leads to shrapnel with his name on it inching in towards his heart, and then to his best friend, his mentor, hell, practically his father, betraying him and dying in front of him. He fixes his disobedience around him like a carapace, and laughs in Fury’s face when he’s asked to join a team.

 

“No offence, but I don’t play well with others.”