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Circles of Rust

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He figures there's enough blood and tissue to make the scene look realistic enough. Supposing someone comes looking, anyways, and bothers to see if that red splatter over there used to be him. There's plenty of it, enough that the general assumption is that one doesn't make it out alive after losing chunks of bone and muscle this big. It's especially convincing if there's a big explosion that conveniently tears everyone else to pieces, too.

If they don't go looking for pieces of Tony Stark in blown up terrorist cells then they'll have to assume he died somewhere in Buttfuck Nowhere Important, Afghanistan. That's okay with him. He doesn't want to go back to being billionaire weapons designer Tony Stark. He doesn't want to deal with the public backlash of returning from the dead. He certainly doesn't want to see Pepper's face if he comes back broken, wrecked as he is now. Tony Stark died with Ho Yinsen, died with the good man who was killed for Stark's plan to build a suit of armor instead of the missiles Raza wanted. Now Tony, just Tony, is alone, has been alone for two weeks, and they've kept up with the beatings and the torture just because they can and somehow he's still expected to build their missiles and Tony is just so done. So tired.

He wants to be free.

There's banging on the solid metal doors of his portion of the cave, and as he struggles with the chest piece attachment while the programming finishes up he glances to the right and sees the razor Yinsen used in its little cup. For a moment he pauses, thinks of how the other man shaved every day without fail, how even if his hands were raw or bruised or bloody they never shook, not once. Thinks of how he inspired Tony and kept him going. Thinks of the expression on his face when he died.

He steels himself, and pinches the skin on his wrist pushing the final bracket of the chest piece into place. The screen of the nineties' box monitor flashes green and the suit powers on in acknowledgement. It's convienient, he feels, that the moment the suit releases the chain attachments is the moment the door explodes. Serves as a nice dramatic beginning to his escape.

They obviously weren't expecting a robotic suit of armor, no matter how primitive or patchwork it may be. Woefully unprepared, these people, for the genius eccentricity of Tony Stark. He almost finds it amusing that they're trying to shoot him down with handguns and rifles. Can you shoot down a missile with an M9? The answer is no. So, logically, can you shoot down a suit made of missile parts with an M9? The answer is, again, no.

Can you shoot the armor enough to bruise the body inside the armor? Unfortunately, yes. It's a very good thing Tony has a high threshold for pain now. One of the greatest gifts the Ten Rings gave him, backhanded as it was. The bullets don't do any damage, not really, so he has a good time walking through the mess of terrorists - there's the guy who shoved his head in the water the first time, and he was particularly vicious so Tony makes sure his skull meets a wall - and moving them out of his way. There really isn't enough room in this cave-hallway (cave-way? cave hall?) anyways, so he makes room for himself and damn everyone else. This is his time for revenge.

It doesn't take long to find Yinsen's operating room. Off the table and relatively clear-headed six weeks later, he sees how crude it is and fights the cringe on the doctor's behalf. He wastes a precious minute scanning the area and sees blood smeared on the wall, on the corner of the table. Tony knows for a fact that he was the last person operated on since he arrived and feels sick. There's more of it on the ground, too.

The parts that used to fill the hole in his chest are in a jar, in the back of a freezer. He's not sure why they have a freezer in this room until he finds organs with names, genders, and ages on their jars. He stares at his own and remembers that they tried to make him eat its contents, once. Eat your heart, Stark. You have no need of it. Though the jar is opaque now, covered with ice crystals, he still sees the raw flesh, the white shine of his sternum obscured by meat. His muscle, his skin. An involuntary shudder works its way through him and he swallows, hard. The blast will defrost it. It will be enough.

The rest of the cell finally realizes that all the screaming and gun shooting can't have come solely from their only prisoner, and find him by piling into the cramped operating room. Tony wraps one protective arm around the fragile jar, gentle through the metal suit, and fights his way out.
Raza is there, at the entrance to the cave. Tony’s never actually been this far without a blindfold or a concussion, so it’s a bit embarrassing to get turned around in the caves he’s lived in for three months. But he imagines Yinsen directing the way, taking smooth, perfectly measures steps with that sense of casualness that only he had mastered. He walks beside Tony even as men fall around them, broken and bloody as Tony himself when he first arrived. However, unlike him, they’ll die here. He’ll make them all burn.

“Stark,” the man sneers, as though he’s still got a head on the man in the metal suit. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Uh, escaping.” Tony’s words are sure, cocky even, spoken in impeccable Dari kudos to the dead doctor to his right. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“You will not escape,” Raza hisses, poisonous even in the face of death. Because, yes, he’s gonna die too. For Yinsen.

“He’s stalling.” His conscience’s voice is now smooth, soft, faintly accented. “You should end this before it gets out of hand.”

“Right,” he mumbles to himself, and that’s it. Out come the flamethrowers and the metal fists and really, none of these assholes never stood a chance, did they?
Raza goes down in a spray of blood and a strangled cry. Tony watches with nothing in his heart. He steal’s his captor’s knife and pries open the jar with it, smears it around in all the thawing blood and flesh, drops it. Tips over the jar into his hand, and thanks the stars that he can’t feel his parts even as the sickening squelching sounds make his stomach turn. He arranges it artfully, cleverly, along a wall in such a way that when he blows the roof off it’ll look like it was a person once. And yeah, it was. Once. It was Tony Stark. But soon, there won’t be a Tony Stark anymore. He locates the tie he wore to this godforsaken country, drops it over by the mess so that it’ll get singed just enough to be realistic. Poor billionaire, killed in an explosion after months of captivity. A real American hero, he sneers. Or a tragic villain. He supposes he’ll have to watch the news from a different country and find out.

He stomps out, sets the place on fire. There are a few of his older model grenades in the piles and he drops a few through the entrances, getting out moments before they blow. It’s all really fast and painless work, almost not worth the amount of time he spent planning it. The only thing that makes it worth that time is, he gets to watch them all die. He stands from a safe distance and eyes the explosion with a critical eye, saying nothing. There’s a lot of silence, leaving his ears ringing after all the crackling and screaming.

“Stark.” If Tony turns, he can almost see the man there just on the edge of his vision, sleeves rolled up and glasses reflecting the sunlight. “Tony. Don’t waste your life.” And he disappears.

Hearing the words again, real or not, is like a slap in the face. He reveled in being Tony Stark too long after he physically let go. He shakes his head at his own stupidity, turns, and trudges away.

He should have thought of a cooling unit to put in the suit, jesus christ.