Tony Stark didn’t want to move forward anymore. He had enough. All his life he had done nothing but try. And now he was tired. So tired. Like pretty much every morning, he wished he didn’t have to get up in the morning.
It all started before he was even born. When his mother told Howard she was pregnant and he did nothing but nod his head to show he had heard. When Maria went back to her room wishing she could drink even tough she was pregnant.
When nobody but the nurse was there to hold him on the day of his birth. His father wasn’t even in the same country as him.
It wasn’t until he was four that he understood that his family wasn’t normal. That his mother should not spend every free moment that she had in her bed popping pill and emptying alcohol bottle. That his father should not hit him every time he tried to show him something. He was four when he created his first mask to hide all the pain he was feeling. It would only be the first of many.
He understood when he was four that he would never be enough for his parents, that he would never be loved by them, no matter how much he tried. But that didn’t stop him from trying. He learned Italian by reading books so that his mother would have someone to practice her mother thong with. He builded circuits board so that his father would see he wasn’t useless.
It wasn’t until he was seven that he understood that it didn’t matter how much he tried, he would never get his parents attention. Another mask was added to his collection.
The first time his father looked at him for more than a few seconds, he was ten years old and he had just gotten his soulmark. He loved his soulmark, he thought it was beautiful. But he only loved it for about two hours. He hated his soulmark, he thought it was ugly and wished he had never gotten it. But Captain America shield was on his skin no matter how much he wanted it gone. There was no way to remove. It. He knew because his father had tried them all. Removing the skin on top of the mark, pouring acid on it, burning it, making it freezes, having it covered with black ink, no matter what his father inflicted upon him, his mark was there to stay. He didn’t want the only person to love him unconditionally to be dead. But as his father told him, he deserved it.
He went to MIT at fourteen years old, way too young to be thrown to the sharks. But there was nobody there to care about what happened to him. After all, everybody there thought that at the smallest problem he would run and cry into his rich fathers arm. They didn’t know that those arms had taught him nothing but pain. His mask were too good for anyone to think that Howard was nothing but a perfect, loving and caring father.
So when people gave him pill that made him forget everything, he took them. It didn’t matter that he didn’t remember what those people did to him while he was under the influence, it didn’t matter that he woke up with bruises in place he didn’t want them, because he had deserved it. And if one time he took to many pills not exactly by accidents, there was nobody there to notice except the doctors at the hospital. Even them were quick enough to accept money from his father to bury the story to do anything about helping him. He didn’t deserve to be helped.
But then, there was a boy that started to talk with him and hang out with him. Tony tried to drive him away, but no matter what, Rhodey came back. For the fist time in his life, Tony wasn’t alone. It didn’t take long for Tony to fall in love with him even tough he knew Rhodes was a straight as they come. And Rhodey still had her soulmate waiting for him. So he just created another mask to hide how hurt he was each time Rhodey presented him his new girlfriend. He deserved it.
He graduated with the highest honour possible the same year as Rhodey. But his friend knew him to well to ask him why his family wasn't there. At least he had been able to sneak Dummy in, one of his school project, a learning AI.
After MIT, he started to work for the R&D department at Stark Industry, under the supervision of Obadiah Stane, one of his father closest partner. Even when Rhodey told him he was enrolling in the Air Force, when Rhodey told him he was leaving him all alone, he didn’t show any emotion. It didn’t matter that it made Rhodey think he didn’t matter to Tony, his masks were too good to let any emotion seep trough.
He created JARVIS, so he could have a friend that would not leave him. Just how pathetic was he that he had to build his friends himself? Dummy also got two new friends, U and Butterfingers. They helped Tony in his workshop, but neither of them were even close to JARVIS level. Tony loved them all the same.
He continued to party every night, got used to wake up every morning with a hangover. Anything to make him forget. Even though he didn’t deserve to forget.
He was just shy of his twenties when he learned of his parents death in a car crash. Not that anybody had tried to call him to tell him. He learned it through the news like everybody.
While the world was mourning the lost of the great Howard Stark, Tony was alone getting drunk of his ass. He didn’t show up at the funeral.
He was used to living in the spotlight since before he could even talk, so he didn’t care anymore about what the press had to say about him anymore. He deserved it anyway.
He continued to design weapons for Obie, and didn’t care about what they did as long as they brought money into his bank account. Even when he had more money than someone could spend in a lifetime, he didn’t stop. He continued to make his weapons stronger, deadlier, because Rhodey approved of that. And Tony would do anything to get Rhodey to approve of him.
It took him twelve years to fall out of love for Rhodey. Not that his friend ever noticed it in the first place.
Pepper came into his life one night, when he thought he the only one left in the office. It took two years to convince her to become his personal assistant, but he eventually succeeded. He now had two friends and a family made of his bots. Even tough he wasn’t happy, it was more than he could ever had asked for.
He went through his life that way, mostly alone and never happy, but he knew he deserved it.
Afghanistan happened, and he got the arc reactor and a whole lot of new scars were added to the collection his father had left him. Yinsen died in the cave, and Tony added him to the list of things that he would never forgive himself for. But he escaped.
When he was rescued, he spent a lot of time thinking about Yinsen’s last words.
“Don't waste it... don't waste your life...”
He decided that he owed him to a least try to be happy. So he shut down SI weapons department. It hurt when Rhodey, Rhodey that had always stood by him trough everything, sided with Obie and told Tony he was insane and he needed to change his decision. But now that he had seen what his weapons were doing, he wasn’t going to change his decision.
The Iron Man suit was next on his way to redemption, and he spent countless days and night without sleep making sure it was perfect, flawless. The PTSD he had from Afghanistan sure didn’t help him.
If he hadn’t be so tired, he would have easily stopped Obie, no, Stane, from ripping his arc reactor out of his chest. He considered just waiting there, on the ground, literally without a heart, for death to take him, but he couldn’t let Stane get away with this. He would learn the hard way not to get on Tony bad side.
He only realized how much he cared about Pepper, although in a platonic way, when she was about to die. But they both escaped without a scratch. The same couldn’t be said about Stane.
He didn’t know what he would have done if Rhodey hadn’t come back to apologize, because it was Pepper’s turn to leave him. She too had realized how much she cared about Tony, only it wasn’t in a platonic way. She didn’t believe him when he tried to explain to her that it wasn’t her, he just didn’t like girls that way. She chose to believe his false reputation as a playboy rather than him.
When Nick Fury came into his house, believing that he had succeeded in deactivating JARVIS, Tony was eager to accept his offer about being a consultant for the Avengers Initiative. After all, it was a way to pay back for all the harm he had done.
He still wasn’t happy, but a least he was trying to help people, to be better. Than maybe he would have a shot at happiness.
He started back all his old habits he had gotten rid of when he learned that Captain America was found frozen in the Arctic, but alive. His father had been right all along. His soulmate was alive. But Tony still knew he didn’t deserve him, he never would.
When he was alone, celebrating his new tower, Agent Coulson came into his house, he too fooled into believing he had hacked JARVIS.
When Tony arrived at Stuttgart, he took a moment to analyze the situation
from up high before coming in in the most obnoxious way possible. After all, it was the first time he would meet his soulmate.
Tony thought there was something a bit off about Loki, altought he didn’t have time to think about it too much, because he had just met his soulmate for the first time. He still noticed how his eyes were constantly shifting from a light blue to an emerald green.
“Big man in a suit of armour, take that off what are you?”
Even tough their first encounter hadn’t exactly been good, Tony hoped they would be able to move past it. After all, he had said some pretty mean things too, even if he hadn’t started it. They were meant to be together, so Steve would learn to see trough the masks, right? Maybe Steve mark just didn’t show as clearly who his soulmate was as Tony’s mark.
Before going in the wormhole with the nuke, he thought about telling Steve. Instead, he recorded a message that JARVIS would give to Steve. Because he was sure Steve would figure out who he was even if he died before telling him.
“I’m sorry about what I said to you in the helicarrier. I didn’t mean any of it. I wish I had the chance to get to know you. But I loved you since the day I got my mark. It kinda suck that I won’t get to know what’s its like to live with a person who understands you better than anyone else, but I’m. happy dying knowing that you will be safe. Hopefully it won’t be too hard on you.
I love you,Steve”
It was all he got the time to say before JARVIS went offline and he was left alone in the dark in cold emptiness of space. He could already feel the nightmares and the PTSD coming if he survived this.
When he woke up, he hurt everywhere, but it didn’t matter, because Steve was smiling at him and telling him that they won. Hulk was turning back into Banner and Clint and Natasha were slowly making there ways toward them.
Realizing what they could become, the potential that they had if they stuck together, he invited all of them to live in his tower. He never for once thought that he would be the only one left out of the family they would become.
He revised the footage of his discussion with Loki in the penthouse, and zoomed in on his eyes. Having the confirmation he needed, that Loki had most probably been brainwashed like Clint, he gave the data to Thor, so that his brother would not be wrongly accused.
It didn’t take long for all of them to each have their own floor. Tony was more than happy not to live alone for once. Sure, some of Clint remarks about him being a selfish ass stung, and Natasha “Iron Man: Yes, Tony Stark: Not recommended” was still fresh in his mind, but the fact that he was living with his soulmate was more than enough to make him forget.
One night, when sleep was particularly difficult to find, Tony went up to the roof. He expected to be alone, so he was surprised to see that Steve was already there.
“You know you can’t fly if you jump, right?” He asked jokingly. He hadn’t expected Steve response.
“What if I don’t want to fly, what if i would rather just fall?” Steve answered, with a tone too serious to be joking.
“Why?” Tony simply asked. “Why would you do that?”
“Why not ?I’ve lost everybody. The world doesn’t really need me anymore. I’ve got nothing to live for.” Sadly answered Steve.
“Trust me,I know it’s hard to keep moving forward sometimes, but still, there must be something, someone for who it’s worth to keep moving forward.” Tony tried his best to not let his panic show in his voice.
“I don’t expect you to understand what it’s like, but I lost more than you could ever imagine” Harshly answered Steve.
“What do you mean?” Asked Tony, not letting Steve tone affect him.
“You just don’t know when to quit, do you? Alright then, I’ll tell you. His name was Bucky, and I knew him since I was 5 years old. He was my best friend. Our birthday was exactly the same day. So when we turned ten, we each got a soulmark. Mine was a red star on my shoulder and his was a red, white and blue shield with a star in the centre. Even tough we didn’t
understood their meaning then, we figured out that we were soulmates. We had to hide our relationship and our soulmark, because of the time we were living in. So congratulation, you’re the only living being that knows about this. Even during the war we fought side-by-side. He died a few months before I crashed the Valkyrie. So no, I don’t have any reason to keep moving forward without my other half.” Steve left right after finishing his story, not sparring a glance toward Tony who was shaking like a leaf.
Tony kept repeating in his head that it wasn’t possible, that one way soulmates didn’t exist. But if they existed, of course it would happen to him. He didn’t know when he forgot that he didn’t deserve anything good, but he swore himself that he would never forget again.
Heading down to his workshop, he asked JARVIS to load all the information that shield had about Steve’s soulmark and Sergeant Barnes.
He had already read all that information, but he went trough it again just to be sure. He also did something he had promised his teammates not to do, he had JARVIS spy on the Captain and do a full body scan for any soulmark. Only the red star on his shoulder came up. He had tough that Steve didn’t have a soulmark in the 30’s and the 40’s because he hadn’t been born, but it turned out that he had just hidden his, and that Tony was destined to be alone.
If JARVIS hadn’t been there that night, Tony Stark would not walk among the living anymore.
He still stayed holed up in his lab for two weeks. When he came out, he had designed a body paint that could last for month without needing to be applied again. He made sure that Steve would never find out about his mark. It helped that Howard had gone to such length to make sure that nobody knew about his son mark.
Thor only came back from Asgard a few months later. He announced them of Loki life sentence with no chance of ever getting out. When Tony asked him about the data he had given him, Thor only shrugged and told him that Loki had gotten what he had deserved and that if he had really been brainwashed, the All-Father would have known it. The others looked at him like he was insane for suggesting Loki’s innocence. So he let it go even tough it felt wrong.
It still took Ultron to make Tony realize that he had never really been part of the team. After that, they stopped pretending to have any kind of respect or friendship for him and just put all the blame on him. It didn’t matter that Wanda and Bruce had equally helped in Ultron’s creation, and that the United Nation had cleared him of any guilt in Ultron case. The team also moved out of the tower and into the brand new compound, leaving Tony alone once again once it was made clear that he wasn’t welcomed into his own compound.
The first time Loki appeared out of thin air next to him, he was so drunk that he thought it was only one of his numerous hallucinations. He often forgot that JARVIS wasn’t there anymore to protect him from any real intruders.
The second time, he wasn’t exactly sober, but he still wasn’t drunk enough to miss him. He quickly aimed his repulsor watch at him, even tough he was aware it wouldn’t do much if Loki was in full possession of his power.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Asked Tony, still keeping the repulsor directly aimed at his head.