When Tony was three, he didn’t want to make weapons for Stark Industries. He wanted to make robots and planes and toys. His dad wouldn’t stand for it. He let him know that weapons were the only future for him.
When Tony was five, his father had him watch the violent commercials for SI, showing how the weapons helped soldiers and the war. Tony saw grenades exploding in people’s faces and it felt wrong to make those kinds of things.
When Tony was nine, his dad sent him to boarding school, and Tony realized his dad never loved him. He sent him away from his home, from his mom, from Jarvis, just because he didn’t want to deal with Tony. Howard only thought that Tony was distracting him from making weapons when he should be helping him making weapons. Tony knew he wanted to please his father. Wanted to be home.
When Tony was thirteen, he hit his rebellious phase and started hating his dad’s guts. He wanted nothing to do with him, his company, or his name. He made plans to make his own name, to make non-lethal weapons and useful AIs for everyone. He attended protests against the war, wishing his dad would be out of a job, knowing he should be out of a job. He went against every rule in the Stark textbook: he broke the law, he dated around, he wasn’t proud to be a Stark.
When Tony was fourteen, he met Rhodey. Rhodey who was kind and protective, Rhodey who helped him with his pranks, Rhodey who could match him wit for wit, Rhodey who made Tony laugh and smile. Rhodey who wanted to go to the military. “Air-Force,” Rhodey said, fixing Tony’s designs of a plane. Tony didn’t know why someone would want to go to war. “I’m defending my country. I’m helping other countries,” Rhodey said. Tony didn’t respond.
When Tony was seventeen his parents died. Rhodey was there for him, but there wasn’t much he could do. Tony was just left with crushing weight of the knowledge that his mom and dad died while Tony was disappointing them, while they were disappointing Tony, and neither one of them could ever try to fix it. It was too late.
When Tony was eighteen, he said goodbye to Rhodey at a train station. “I’ll write to you,” Tony promised, “I’ll visit you, even if the military forbids it.” Rhodey kissed him on the forehead, “I know you will.” Tony didn’t let go even when Rhodey leaned back, “you’ll come back to me?” Rhodey smiled at him softly and hugged him tightly. He didn’t answer.
When Tony was twenty, he was waiting anxiously next to a phone, willing it to ring, and for Rhodey to be on the other end of the line, telling him he was okay. “I’m okay,” Rhodey said as Tony picked up the phone, and Tony didn’t know he couldn’t breathe before, until relief hit his lungs. “Physically. Otherwise… well, it’s war.” Tony didn’t chuckle like Rhodey. “I wish this would end.” Rhodey paused for a minute before saying slowly, “yeah me too.”
When Tony was twenty-one, he took on the mantle as the CEO of SI.
When Tony was thirty-eight, he heard the words “is this the last act of the great Tony Stark?”
The last few days were hell. Being waterboarded, having painful surgery with no pain meds, being forced to create weapons… it all wasn’t great. But the most painful part of it all was knowing his weapons have been used by his enemies. The most painful part of it was not knowing what happened to the soldiers tasked with protecting him. It was not knowing what happened to Rhodey. And it was knowing it was his and his weapons’ fault.
“No, it’s not,” Tony swore to Yinsen.
It might not have been particularly calm as soon as Tony got back from being kidnapped, but after a press conference, talks with people who thought he was crazy, and lots of junk food, Tony was dragged to bed by Rhodey, to finally calm down. He resisted at first, but being cuddled, having Rhodey’s warmth spread all over him, he slowly came to terms with sleeping. It wasn’t so bad, with Rhodey’s chest as the pillow.
As Tony’s eyes drifted close, they slightly opened as Rhodey asked him, “what happened in Afghanistan to make you do this?”
Tony didn’t have the energy to explain how his company is probably double-dealing under the table, or how he swore to Yinsen he’ll be better, or how he thought the Arc-Reactor could be a good replacement for making weapons. Instead, he told him the reason that laid in his heart instead of his logic, a reason Tony knew Rhodey would understand. “You were hurt. I thought you were hurt. My weapon hurt you like it hurt me… didn’t want that. Wanted to protect you. Made weapons to protect you. Stopped making weapons to protect you…”
Tony closed his eyes and let sleep take him.