Ninetails found him curled up in the corner of his room, crying and for once not trying to stop the tears. Tony hadn’t even noticed him there until his rough tongue was licking at his face.
“H-hey,” Tony not-protested meekly. He just licked his face again, and he almost smiled. “F-Felix! Stop that...”
He didn’t, of course, and Tony really didn’t want him to.
He licked his shoulder next, before pointing with her nose to the middle of the room, where his battered trophy sat with a hammer right next to it.
“I know,” Tony said. “It was stupid.”
Ninetails cocked his head.
“I just...I was hoping Dad would...”
Tony couldn’t finished the sentence, but he didn’t have to. He let off a whine of understanding and leaned over, his snout over his head as he cuddled into his chest.
“I j-just wanted him to be proud of me,” Tony said. “I won first place. How come that wasn’t enough?”
He tried to sit back to look up at Ninetails, but he held him there, and Tony didn’t try again, wrapping his arms around his shoulders as best as he could.
“How come we’re never enough?” Tony asked. “Dad never talks to us, he never plays with me, he never trains you...why doesn’t he like us?”
He snuffled against Tony's ear, and Tony shut his eyes as he buried his face into his fur.
“I’m enough for you, right?”
He nudged Tony's neck in what he took to be a yes.
“Do you think Dad would notice if we ran away?”
He pulled away to point her snout to the little tray of snacks sitting cold and forgotten on his desk. Tony laughed. “Yeah, Jarvis would probably get upset.”
Ninetails jumped onto his bed and lay down on the end, curling up around Tony when he followed his and lay his head against his stomach.
Stroking his shoulder absently, he said, “When I grow up, I’ll train you. Will you let me?”
He huffed another yes, and Tony smiled.
“I’ll treat you better than Dad ever did,” Tony murmured as he started to drift off, his battered trophy hidden by his nine tails. “Promise.”