Yinsen was prepared to hate him. He wanted to hate Tony Stark. The man’s weapons had killed his family. He epitomized everything so many in the world despised about America with his deviant ways and opulent, careless lifestyle.
But when it came right down to it, the hatred wouldn’t come. That emotion just wasn’t part of his makeup. He saved Stark’s life because that’s what he did once upon a time. Before the Ten Rings. Before all the death and fear that was his life now. He was a healer and a scientist, a man of peace and learning, although the people he saved now didn’t really deserve it. The Ten Rings were no better than what they were fighting against. They were greedy, small-minded thugs with delusions of grandeur. But Yinsen patched them up and did as he was told, because for some reason he didn’t understand he wasn’t quite ready to leave this world just yet.
When Stark woke up Yinsen realized that he’d been waiting for this moment. He looked into Stark’s eyes and saw a lost, scared little boy trying to be brave. He also saw a wellspring of strength just waiting to be tapped and he knew Stark had no idea it was even there. When Abu Bakaar made his demands and Stark refused, Yinsen started to revise his opinion about Stark not knowing his own strength.
Watching him, helping him create the arc reactor was an almost divine experience. Tony Stark was truly a man of vision. He was frighteningly intelligent, but also brick stupid when it came to the simpler matters of life. Yinsen was beginning to see how Tony came to be the way he was. It was as endearing as it was heartbreaking.
They spent the long hours of the night when it was too cold to sleep talking, planning, and Yinsen began to feel alive again, began to feel a traitorous niggle of hope that all wasn’t completely lost. Tony’s plan was audacious and over the top and so completely him that Yinsen had no doubt that it would work. Because Tony Stark’s will was force of nature and there was little that could stand against it. But Yinsen also knew that plans often went awry once they were put into action, so he made a few contingencies of his own.
When Raza became suspicious Yinsen had the fleeting thought that it was all over and he was saddened that they hadn’t succeeded. He found his own well of strength was deeper than he’d thought when he didn’t crack under the threat of having his tongue burned out. Tony’s flat, “I need him. He’s a good assistant,” should have offended him; he’d thought they were friends, at the very least. But when he met Tony’s eyes he saw the fear and the fire burning there and relaxed, letting him negotiate. He put his trust and his life in Tony’s hands and it paid off.
Their timetable moved up considerably, but they managed. Not well enough for him, but he’d resigned himself to dying in these caves months ago. Five more minutes and things might have turned out differently. Five more minutes and he might not be lying on sacks of grain bleeding out. Five more minutes and he might have been able to see the new world Tony was going to create when he was free.
It was alright, though. Really. He’d be with his family again soon. That’s all he’d wanted since he’d lost them. That he’d found a reason to live again three months ago, that he’d helped create something amazing, that he’d gotten to know Tony Stark and see a glimpse of the man he was going to become, well, that was just a bonus. He was sad to leave his friend, but he was also more at peace than he’d been in a long, long time.
Yinsen was prepared to hate Tony Stark. He was completely unprepared to love him.