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A Dragon's Cry

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Hindsight hurt.


He supposed it was natural, with so many broken bones; not that he could really feel them at the moment, since his body was beginning to go numb from the cold. Anthony Edward Stark stared up the the ceiling of the Siberian bunker, left, betrayed and forgotten by his childhood hero and teenage resentment with no way to call Friday, or anyone, for help. His anger had long burnt out, leaving a vague sense of hurt and bitter resignation that began to slowly numb.

To be honest, he should have seen it coming. Steve Rogers and he had always been unable to click; always arguing, always bickering, unable to compromise. He’d been too caught up in the fantasy the Avengers Initiative had conjured, had ignored the signs in the naive hope that he finally had somewhere he belongs; that he had a family . But now he could see what he’d forced himself to ignore before.

The Avengers weren’t family. They weren’t even friends.

And it had taken this to finally break that barrier of self-delusion.

Looking back now, with clear eyes, it had been obvious that Steve had never even liked him. Too loud, too abrasive, too him. Rogers had put up with him for Howard, dear old dad who never cared a lick about his own damned son, and nothing else. He’d decided from the start that Tony Stark wasn’t worth his time.

But Tony had shoved away his doubt, played nice for the team, hoping they’d accept him because he was trying to be good . He was trying to make up for his mistakes, each and every time. But it was never enough. No matter what, he always did something wrong.

Did as he was asked to find the tesseract, but refusing to be another blind soldier? Rogers took a shot at him thinking he knew everything there was to know about Tony Stark, while Romanoff went on and on about his ego .

And during the incident with the triskelion, he could have helped! But no, they had left him out of it and left the lives of countless operatives out in the cold. Had he not stepped in anyway without them knowing, almost all of those people would have died from Rogers and Romanoff’s brilliant little info dump that put every innocent S.H.E.I.L.D. worker in danger. He and Jarvis had spent countless hours trying to save everyone they could, trying to get them out of the line of fire and safe. And all Rogers and Romanoff got for exposing every S.H.E.I.L.D. agent in the field and nearly getting them killed was a measly slap to the wrist.

Tried to make sure what he’d seen through Wanda’s manipulations wouldn’t come to pass? Ultron awakened, killed Jarvis but not really- instead giving way to Vision, caused mass destruction, and had driven a wedge in the tentative trust the others had in him.

Tried to Keep Wanda safe from the people for what happened in Lagos? Accused of confining her out of spite and finding Vision stuck twenty fucking stories through the floor.

He tried to do what the government wanted and tried to compromise? Rogers turned rogue, caused mass destruction, and divided the team while events led to Rhodey losing his ability to walk, all for the sake of his precious Bucky.

And then, he tried to make up for a mistake, helping Rogers with the Winter Soldiers? Betrayed, lied to about the death of his own goddamned parents , and then left for dead when he couldn’t handle how the truth came out.

And now, he was still there; lost in thought and slowly dying as realization after realization came to him. It was sad, he thought, how long it took for him to take off the rose-tinted glasses.

He had been naive.

Naive, foolish, hopeful, and a dreamer. He had let his hopes take over and willingly ignored the signs and doubt. A broken chuckle escaped his chapped lips, wheezed and rough as his lungs protested the movement. The sound laid heavy with self-deprecation, his eyes burning with tears that refused to fall as his mind shoved the memories of his betrayers to the forefront.

Natasha had slid into his life to spy on him, encouraging his recklessness while he had been dying just to see how far he would go. Then she had played with his feelings by smacking him with that stupid assessment , manipulating him for Fury and S.H.E.I.L.D and playing on his insecurities to make sure he couldn’t see that they were using him like a cash-cow that didn’t have a choice. And then, when he had trusted her, she stabbed him in the back, abandoning him as easily as a snake sheds its skin and making it seem like he was the one playing for the wrong side.

Clint, Clint had been someone he thought he could get along with. They had similar humor, acted like children occasionally, and had spent hours in the lab working on his bow and arrows. But Clint had turned out to be just as two-faced; blaming him for everything that went wrong, snapping at him for trying to help , listening to Rogers without bothering to ask him what was going on, to hear his side of the story, and taking a shot at him using Rhodey for something he hadn’t done. Clint had never been his friend either, only using him for his own gain and throwing him away when he stopped being useful and compliant.

And Bruce . Bruce had abandoned him , left him when he had needed his Science Bro the most. He could have helped , was willing to do anything to make Bruce feel at home and comfortable with him, to trust him . But, he supposed, maybe he had come on too strongly. Maybe he had made Bruce uncomfortable. But it was painful, because he had left without warning, without a reason. And Tony didn’t even know where he was.

Thor, Thor had gone straight to violence when Ultron happened. Tony could still feel the fingers wrapped around his throat sometimes, woke up from nightmares of Thor not stopping, of choking the life out of him. He hadn’t seen the Asgardian since, and a part of him was glad, relieved that he didn’t have to deal with Thor fighting against him just like the others.

And Steve. Good Ol’ Steve Rogers, Captain America, Defender of the fucking ‘little guy’. Steve’s betrayal hurt the most.
He added Wanda to the team after Ultron. Wanda: the psychotic bitch who’d played around in his head just to see him scramble around in fear, who had caused Ultron by making him terrified . The one who blamed him for killing her parents when a defective bomb wearing his name hit her home, when Stane had been selling his weapons under the table to the highest bidder. The one who had hurt Bruce, who had killed and killed without remorse. Who had sent Vision twenty stories through the fucking floor. She wasn’t a ‘kid’. She was a psychopath with no morals or reason, who willingly joined H.Y.D.R.A. just to get revenge on him for something he had no part in.
He’d known about Tony’s parents, what really happened, for two fucking years , and had kept it from him because he had needed Tony to find the murderer , and thought he wouldn’t do it because he wouldn’t understand that Barnes had been brainwashed . And then had the audacity to lie to his face about it.

Steve Rogers, who had left him for dead in a Siberian bunker bruised and broken without any means of communication or a way to stay warm, with the added threat of H.Y.D.R.A agents appearing any moment and finding him.

The world had coined him as a hero. He had joined the Avengers to prove he could do something right , he could be good.

But the Avengers were a joke.

They weren’t a team, they certainly weren’t a family, and Tony had wasted years with people who thought he was worse than the dirt beneath their shoes.

And now he was alone. His only friend was in the hospital, not even knowing where he was.

He had no one to call for help.

And it’s this thought that makes him remember: remember violet hair, wild and long, remember a silver gaze that always looked at him with warmth, mischief hidden in their depth. It made him remember the one person who had never willingly left him behind.

When he had been a child, disappointed and alone, that person had appeared in a blaze of fire and a brush of wind, bumbling and cursing up a storm. He had been scared, because the male hadn’t looked human, but the man had treated him with respect and joy, had known not to treat him like a stupid kid as soon as he'd spoken, and who had paid attention and given praise for the things Tony had shown him in order to encourage him in his passion. That man had frequently disappeared and reappeared, sometimes bringing back souvenirs from where he went; some from Earth, and some from places only he could go and what Tony still couldn't understand but had kept hidden. And Tony had adored him. Every time he was alone, the male would appear and actually listen to him, would talk, even teach him anything he could understand; and never looked down on him for not understanding something right off the bat like Howard had, the rare times he'd taught Tony anything. And Tony kept his existence a complete secret. No one knew even a hint of his existence; not Howard, Not Obadiah, not even Rhodey or Pepper. Because the man had been his, and he hadn't wanted to share him with anyone.

By the time he went to MIT, his friend had spent seven years around Tony, popping in and out frequently because he had responsibilities to his own home and he couldn't spend all his time with Tony despite wanting to. But he promised he would come if Tony asked the wind to get him, if Tony had really needed him.

And then his friend had popped in one more time just before he left for MIT to warn him that he very likely wouldn’t be able to come for a while, because war had appeared in his home, and he had to defend the innocent people who lived there because it was his fault they were in danger. Tony had understood, and he had made his friend promise to stay alive, to come back whenever he could.

But when Howard and Maria had died, he’d called, needing him and forgetting his warning; spending days after in misplaced anger and betrayal, only to remember in his one moment of sobriety and feeling ashamed when his friend could be bleeding out in some unknown battlefield.

Afghanistan had forced him to call for him again, scared and in pain with a car battery attached to his chest. He didn’t received an answer then either, and Yinsen had been the one to make him buckle down and get to work, rising from his own ashes and creating his own means of escape. He left with Yinsen’s ghost attached to his soul, weighed down by grief but filled with rage and determination to set things right.

He lost hope during the palladium poisoning and had called in order to say goodbye. No answer. Eventually, he was given the puzzle pieces and synthesized a new element, curing himself and once again rising from his own ashes in order to fight to protect the people closest to him. Rhodey became War Machine and his life slowly started to look up again.

Until Loki had brought an army to New York. He didn’t called during the Chitari invasion, except once in his own mind as he was flung out of a window by the crazed god; noticing discrepancies after when he'd reviewed the video footage but too late to call them out. And still he rose, taking a nuke through the portal and defeating the enemy with his new ‘ team’.

He hadn’t call during Ultron either, having quietly lost the hope of his friend still being alive. He had worked through it like usual, defeating his worst creation and losing Jarvis while creating Vision and gaining a whole new bucket list of nightmares and PTSD; the others ignoring him whenever he voiced worries as usual, since Wanda had rekindled his fear of the invasion and what he'd seen through the portal and the nightmare vision she'd forced him through

He had had no choice but to call during Extremis, the last resort he could think of as he struggled to find a way to stabilize Pepper even if he had no hope of if actually working. And, miraculously , his friend had appeared; bloody and barely conscious with injuries far and wide that were barely healing but stable enough to assist as he explained and helped Tony, just like before. The war of his home had grown, becoming a disaster that had spread across his world in a massacre, and he had only just gained a moment of reprieve from the frontlines, leaving soon after to rejoin the fight once Extremis gained a small drop of his blood in order to dilute the substance to a level humans could handle, his friend having an affinity for fire strong enough to weaken the drug so Tony could keep Pepper from spontaneous combustion. Tony was still marveling over that, and his friend had promised to make it back to Tony when the war had finished to catch up and explain things.

28 years after he’d vanished the first time, Tony had had his hope restored at the reappearance of his friend, though his worry had also grown at the sight he was met with of his friend caught in so much devastation and pain.

And now, 3 years since then, Tony had needed to call for him again, praying and hoping that his friend was still alive and unable to squash the small bit of hope he held to see him again.

What he didn’t know, when he spoke to the wind for his friend just like so many times before, was that Katashi had his own plan.

He didn’t know Katashi would not be alone in his arrival.