Tony never stops crying when he is born. He cries and cries and no one holds him, too annoyed by his constant shrieking.
Tony is two weeks old when Jarvis holds him and he stops crying. Stubby fingers with no motor control reaching out and wriggling closer to him. Jarvis calls him “young sir’ and takes him home.
Tony is a year old, eerily silent and listless and always, always reaching for Jarvis.
Tony is two and three years and toddling around, reading more and more and faster and faster and constantly moving .
Tony is four years old, and there’s a wave of bad coming from Sir and the hand that digs into his shoulder. The circuit board lays smashed on the floor, but the wrongness coming from Sir chokes him, makes it hard to breathe. He clumsily dodges the bottle and leans into Jarvis’ warmth as he cleans the cuts.
Tony is five and he avoids his parents much as possible. Being around Sir makes him angry and scared, and being around his mothe-Maria leaves him heavy and tired.
Tony is six and knows to be silent and still, quiet and hidden away from Sir’s anger . Learns to avoid Maria’s sadness . He builds an engine and comes away with bruises on his shoulders.
Tony is seven and it gets worse . He’s sent to boarding school and he chokes. There’s so much emotion and its messy and it leaves him gutted . He’s drowning, sinking beneath waves of deceit and hatred and resentment and loneliness .
He has to.
Tony is eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve and he’s empty .
Tony is thirteen, drowning in the toxic sludge of people’s emotions. Their greed chokes him, envy strangling him and lust making him dizzy. He lets himself be used, lets them chip away at his core and he is an open wound, left raw and aching. Ty and Sunset are lessons he’ll never forget.
Tony is fourteen when his first child comes to life. He’s a little bit of a dummy, and Tony tells him so, but he wraps himself with the love already emanating from the bot. He doesn’t leave his lab for days, huddled with a robot that drops things and is fascinated with a fire extinguisher but it heals him ever so slightly. DUM-E isn’t like him, he’s selfless and the concern and love Tony feels from him makes him cry but not where anyone can see him.
Tony is fifteen, sixteen, seventeen and he barely feels a thing. He soaks up Rhodey’s love and concern and goes out and drinks till he can’t stand.
He stands over his parents grave and he’s too numb to cry but he’ll try to fool himself with the rain. He goes home and doesn’t leave his laptop for days until he wakes up to warmth and protection radiating and he finally cries over hearing Jarvis’ voice in his new child. He creates another child that is shy and likes party hats and he goes to sleep to the sound of You’s soft beeps.
Tony is eighteen nineteen and twenty and they pass in a haze of meetings and work and he’s almost grateful for the cruel disinterest of those around him. Butterfingers is all rage and fiery protection and Pepper Potts is all calm efficiency and loyalty.
Tony is twenty one and swimming with the sharks. He wraps himself in JARVIS’ protection, the voice in his ear and uses it to build a shield against the ones digging into him with pointed claws and syrup sweet voices. Brighter , he thinks. He burns himself from inside out, making them look, pay attention to him.
If they’re going to feed on him, shoving a whirlpool of emotions into him, it’s going to be on his terms.
Tony is twenty two and he smiles and creates, burning brighter and brighter and feels a sick sort of triumph as the envy grows. The sharks a frenzy around him because he’s bleeding but they want a show and he’ll give them one. He dangles himself out of their reach, rewarding them with his attention, his money, his approval until he’s still drowning in their emotions but he’s smiling as he does it.
Tony is twenty three, twenty four and twenty five and he builds.
B u r n s.
Tony is twenty-six and he feels the happiness turn to fear as the world is blown up around him. He feels the pain as phantom bullets rip into him and he stumbles away because he can’t take it. He doesn’t realize what’s happened until he’s pulling his shirt open and feeling his own blood seep through his vest. The pain blissfully drowns most of it out, the weight in his sternum more literal and the quiet hope of Yinsen keeps him going.
Except people can hope for death and he can feel the peace that Yinsen feels as he lies dying on the sand. His rage is purely his and he drinks the terror of the men as the flames lick higher.
Obadiah Stane’s lust for power is something else he didn’t realize.
Tony is twenty-seven and doesn’t realize he’s been poisoned until JARVIS tells him. He’s more unsettled with the feeling of fear in JARVIS than with the familiar acid taste of palladium. It tastes of ash and loneliness and grief and he’s used to it by now. He doesn’t bother with the ‘I’m fine’s or ‘Nothing’s wrong’ because Tony never lies to JARVIS.
Twenty eight comes with a childhood heros disapproval, the trapped rage under a scientist skin and the heavy distrust and suspicion on spies. It’s fine and he’s used to it but some part of him still hurts.
He can’t feel anything in the portal.
It’s the first peace he’s gotten since birth.
Tony is twenty nine and he feels someone who feels empty .
It’s a curious thing, quicksilver flashes of fear and anger under a choking layer of apathy .
He doesn’t need the fancy technology to bring the Captains long lost best friend back...he follows the emptiness, the siren call of nothingness .
Tony is thirty when he finds James Buchanan Barnes still living under the ice of the Winter Soldier.
There are emotions .
Tony isn’t really sure if he’s happy or he’s sad.
He ignores it.
(He doesn't ignore it very well)
Tony is thirty one and dating someone who is a ghost of a man.
Whose emotions are...quiet.
Tony lo-likes it.
Tony is thirty two, thirty three and thirty four when he finds out he can love under the crushing weight of everyone else’s feelings .
Tony is thirty five when the love grows and surrounds him.
Familial love, his makeshift family with their burning protection shielding him and...Bucky’s quiet warmth.
It’s all he feels.
He can finally breathe .