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Scar Tissue (That I Wish You Saw)

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Scar tissue that I wish you saw
Sarcastic mister know-it-all

--

Tony Stark. Teenager. Genius. Student. Millionaire. Womanizer. Drug addict.

His days were a haze of needles and powder and pills and breathing in chemicals until his brain was on fire. Until he forgot himself. Until he physically couldn’t lift his hand up to take another drag, to take a shot, to shove the dollar bill in his nose. Until he wasn’t Tony Stark the genius and was only Tony Stark the drug addict whose brain could actually calm down. His brain was loud and wouldn’t shut up before, but now it was tolerable, because thank God for the magic of magic mushrooms or heroin or weed or whatever.

Parties. They had the drugs. They also had girls. Girls and drugs were mostly everything on his mind at any given time, and at any given time, he was usually with girls and doing drugs. He brought the girls to the dorm he shared with Rhodey, and kicked them out in the morning after they had supplied everything he needed.

“You’ve got, you’ve got,” a girl had once said, pointing at his arms. “You’re a drug abuser.”

Tony was already shirtless, so he just stared down at the tracks in his arms. He was practically dying from lust, so he just shrugged. “So what?”

“You could have AIDS.”

Tony laughed coldly, staring up at the ceiling, at the fan, that made circles around and around until he was dizzy. HIV. AIDS. Any STI, really, with the way he slept around. He had meant to go and get tested last week, but he put it off, but he hadn’t been feeling anything strange. He was fine. He looked back at her. “So no sex?”

“How old are you, anyway?” the girl asked instead of answering.

“Old enough to know what I’m doing,” Tony interrupted her with his lips, and they were soon making out on top of the covers, but then she pushed him away.

“I can’t,” she said, a protective hand on his chest, keeping a distance.

“I know,” he nodded solemnly, but didn’t pull away.

“It’s just, the drugs,” she answered, standing up and throwing on her shirt.

“I know,” he nodded again, and watched her leave.

He stared down at the tracks in his arms, noticing how bad they’d gotten. Purple, blue, yellow, pink, a whole array of rainbows painting his wrists with a circle of dark pink where he had injected the drug. They looked bad, but the one night stands usually didn’t care. They just wanted the sex, they just wanted skin-on-skin contact. This was the first person who turned him down once she had seen the marks.

And that was okay, really. He respected that. She was actually worried for her own safety, and that just made Tony realize how much he had thrown his self-preserving skills out the window. Sure, he was always careful to not just stab his skin with the first syringe he found, but he didn’t really weigh the consequences. He could overdose in a second. No high was worth the death that could come, and yet, he kept doing it. Because he didn’t really care.

Rhodey found him half-naked on his bed, staring up at the ceiling fan, but not really staring at all. Glassy eyes and an empty mind.

--

Close your eyes and I'll kiss you 'cause
With the birds I'll share

--

Rhodey was probably the only person in the whole world who tolerated Tony.

Tony Stark was a mess on a good day. He was young, a brat, who didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut. But Rhodey took care of him during the bad days, made sure he didn’t stay up too late, made sure he always had a ride home. He was patient when he had to be, but short and curt when Tony was just being annoying and really deserved to be yelled at. James Rhodes, Tony Stark’s only friend, was a very good person.

One day, after Tony had spent the entire day in the dorm doing God-knows-what, Rhodey got back from his lecture and took him outside. They went to the campus park and fell down on the grass together, lying back and looking up at the blue and clear late-afternoon sky. It was a beautiful day, the birds chirping, students enjoying picnics outside, and Tony had spent almost the entirety of it cooped up injecting heroin into his system.

“The birds,” Tony said, making a grand gesture to the sky. Rhodey saw the fresh track marks in his arm, but didn’t say anything. Usually Tony would wear long-sleeves or even worse, sweatshirts, and would end up overheating.

“What about them?” he asked instead, turning to look at Tony’s pupils. They were very constricted and his eyes were bloodshot.

“They’re isolated. All up there. Part of their own group, and yet, not,” Tony said pensively.

“Tony,” Rhodey sighed.

“They’re up there, not apart of anything down here, but part of their own kind,” he elaborated. “Isolated and together, and always watching everything.”

“Are you on drugs?” Rhodey asked, sitting up.

“I’m always on drugs.”

--

With the birds I'll share this lonely viewin'
With the birds I'll share this lonely view

--

“Why are you obsessed with girls?” Rhodey asked one day, after kicking a young girl out. Still older than Tony, but that wasn’t saying much, considering he was only sixteen. Almost seventeen.

“It’s, it’s affection,” Tony closed his eyes.

“It’s a one night stand.”

“My dad- well, he, he never was one to hug me, touch me. Always wanted me out of sight,” Tony explained, the words jumbled up in his mind. He had never spoken about this before. “I just- I just will take any physical feeling I can get, I guess.”

Tony buried himself in every warm body he could. He sometimes got things in return. Little sandwich bags of prescription pills or powders or tablets or patches or syringes or anything, really. The sex was great, but the substances afterward were euphoric. He chased the high, always looking for something better, looking for things to calm his mind down or to make him feel something and be someone other than who he was. Always wanting more than he had, always looking for a better experience.

“If you wanted a hug, you can just ask,” Rhodey frowned.

“I can’t get close to anyone, either,” Tony continued, ignoring Rhodey’s offer. “Dating. I don’t do that. I just ruin it.”

“How?”

“Substances. I need them. More than love, affection, whatever the hell,” Tony opened his eyes to stare at the ceiling again. “I use them.”

“Are you selling your body for drugs?” Rhodey sat up ram-rod straight, realization flashing through his eyes.

Tony laughed without humour and brought his hands up to his face, wiping his eyes and dragging the palms along his skin. He dropped his hands and they fell by his sides against the mattress. He stared at Rhodey, his eyes empty and red and broken.

“I’m a mess.”

--

Push me up against the wall
Young Kentucky girl in a push-up bra
Fallin' all over myself'
To lick your heart and taste your health 'cause

--

“Tony, Tony, Tony,” Rhodey said quickly, his fingers pressing on different places on his wrist, desperately trying to find a pulse. “We need you, man.”

Tony was unresponsive. The skin around his eyes was yellowing, and his skin was cold to the touch. He stared at Rhodey, and through the haze of alcohol and Xanax, he was kind of aware that something bad was happening, but he was too relaxed to care. He finally had a break, he was fine, he just couldn’t… move. Or speak. And his chest was on fucking fire, it hurt like a bitch, but he was fine. The drugs would take care of that, right? The pain? Maybe he shouldn’t have taken Xanax. Maybe morphine. Xanax just made everything blurry and drowsy and if he took a lot of it, his brain would quiet down and he could finally sleep.

He wanted to tell Rhodey that he was fine. But the words were slow to get to his brain and even slower to get to his mouth and the next thing he knew, sleep took him under.

Tony woke up in the hospital, no one holding his hand and nothing by his bedside other than the stack of rehab pamphlets. He closed his eyes and pretended that he didn’t care that nobody was waiting for him to wake up.

--

With the birds I'll share this lonely viewin'
With the birds I'll share this lonely viewin’

--

Tony was on the ground.

The ground was gross. It smelled like piss and dirt and sex and some cleaning chemical agent. Mr Clean. Whatever crappy thing the janitors used to clean the floor. There was junk in the grout in between the tiles and it was sticky and disgusting, but Tony was too dizzy to stand up, and it wasn’t like there was anyone in this building except for him. Three AM on a Monday before class, the lab was his safe haven. He could do whatever he wanted.

He couldn’t get up.

He had cut his wrist with a piece of metal from the lab, maybe it was on purpose or maybe it was fueled by the edibles he ingested before or maybe it was an accident, but it was deep. And the edibles were suddenly taking full effect as well (if he thought he’d been feeling it before, he was really feeling it now), making him drowsy and dizzy along with the blood loss. He was going to die in the lab washrooms on the gross and pissy floor, to be found by some unfortunate student.

Did he want to die?

It would make things easier, if he died. Wouldn’t have to fuel the chase to a bigger high. His father would rejoice. Tony Stark, dead at last, as if he hadn’t died inside the first time he had touched the joint. All that mattered were the drugs. They made him feel something when he couldn’t feel anything, and made him feel nothing when he couldn’t stop feeling. They helped him sleep. It only made sense that they would be the thing that would help him sleep forever.

Nobody would miss him. Howard would laugh. Maria would get over it. Jarvis wouldn’t care, he was paid to care, he was-

Rhodey. Fuck.

Tony fished his phone out from his pocket and typed in the number that he memorized, that he’d had to call far too often in times like these.

“Tones. Everything alright?” Rhodey’s tired voice said, picking up after the third ring. Rhodey always answered his phone, no matter the time or the situation.

“Rhodey-“ Tony said, cutting himself off when it came out broken.

“Where are you? Are you still at the lab?” he asked, and Tony could hear him throw off the covers and looking around for shoes or a sweater or whatever.

“I’m bleeding,” Tony sobbed out, putting the phone on speaker and throwing it down on the cold tile. “I think I took too much.”

“Are you at the lab?” Rhodey asked again, the door creaking open and slamming shut on his end.

“In the washroom,” Tony whispered, feeling waves of too much wash over him. Too much feeling this time, and none at all. Nothing and too much at the same time.

“Stay awake,” Rhodey instructed, his voice shaking as Tony could hear the footprints pounding on the floor of the dorm, sprinting.

“I don’t want to,” Tony admitted.

“Yeah, you do. Or else you wouldn't have called me,” Rhodey said, still running.

--

Blood loss in a bathroom stall
A southern girl with a scarlet drawl
Wave goodbye to ma and pa
'Cause with the birds I'll share

--

Tony woke up in Rhodey’s arms, as they waited for the ambulance. Rhodey had an arm looped under his head and the other arm was connected to the hand that was slapping his face and chest and he was begging Tony to wake up. His arm was still bleeding and he met Rhodey’s frantic eyes, his glassy and empty and lifeless orbs finally coming to the realization of what he was doing.

He was killing himself.

He woke up again in his hospital room. This time Rhodey was beside him, not holding his hand, but it was a step up from the last emission to the ER. Rhodey saw that he was awake and let out a sigh of relief, his hands gripping onto the armrests of the hard plastic chair.

Tony looked down and saw that his arm was bandaged, but it still stung. He bitterly swallowed the question of pain meds, knowing that he would get rejected. He was an addict. His lawyers and his parents were hushing everything up with the press, paying unnecessary money, but that doesn’t change the fact. It even made it worse somehow, like he wasn’t allowed to screw up or else the company would suffer and wouldn’t be in good hands, a whole bunch of bullshit that made him feel like crap on a good day.

“Was it on purpose?” Rhodey asked, wrenching Tony from his thoughts.

“It doesn’t matter,” Tony shook his head, not really knowing himself.

“It matters to me,” Rhodey said firmly, and gently all the same.

--

With the birds I'll share this lonely viewin'
With the birds I'll share this lonely viewin'

--

“Fuck you!” Tony roared, jumping on the table of the booth that he was sitting in the busy bar and keg.

“Tony,” Rhodey said, his voice rising. He grabbed onto Tony’s shirt, trying to coax him down.

“You wanna go, man?” Tony taunted the man who was muttering something about Howard Stark before Tony called him out.

“Take it outside,” the man cracked his knuckles. He was twice the size of Tony, three times as broader.

“Tony. No,” Rhodey tried to pull him down. “He’s got to be, like, 25. You’re 16.”

“Not according to my ID,” Tony quipped. “Lemme, I can take this man.”

“You can’t.”

Tony ended up getting beat up, no surprise there, broken jaw and the works. They took a break from the bars after that, resorting to going to the nearest kid-friendly Kelsey’s instead of the exclusively-here-to-get-drunk-and-watch-sports bar and grills. Unfortunately, Tony just found other ways to get his hands on alcohol, and worst of all it was when Rhodey wasn’t at the dorm to monitor his drinking.

The drugs got even worse as well, if that was possible. Rhodey found pill bottles hidden everywhere, most of them empty, and Tony was getting skinnier and skinnier by the day. His eyes were constantly bloodshot, and his pupils were either always blown or always constricted, no in between. No normal. Rhodey was glad he never touched the really, really dangerous things (Fentanyl, to be more specific), but he was worried that he eventually would, with the way he’d been abusing the drugs he already had.

“We need to leave,” Tony said suddenly, coming back from the washroom, putting his hands on the table defiantly. They were at another Kelsey’s, and the first hockey game of the season was just starting.

“Why?” Rhodey asked, raising an eyebrow. To be honest, Tony had been acting really strange the entire time. Probably drug withdrawal.

“I- not here. Just, I need, I want, air. I need-” Tony cut himself off, shaking his head. Rhodey was taken aback at how shaky and unsure his voice was, and how much he was stumbling over his words. Tony Stark wasn’t like that. He was always a smooth talker, always had something witty to say.

“Okay. Outside,” Rhodey bit his lip worriedly. He had to run to catch up to Tony who was sprinting for the exit.

Tony bent over on the sidewalk outside, kneeling down, spitting onto the curb. He was clutching his stomach.

“You’re alright?” Rhodey approached carefully.

“Heh,” Tony coughed out. “Did you know that River Phoenix died on Halloween?”

“What?”

“Fell outside of a bar. Overdose,” Tony said, his voice strained as he clenched his eyes shut. “I think-”

“Don’t pull a River Phoenix,” Rhodey warned, taking the words out of his mouth. He reached for his phone.

“No promises,” Tony laughed coldly, before lurching forward suddenly, making a choking noise. He panted heavily, a supporting hand on the ground, the other hand clutching at his chest.

“We were having a night out, Tones,” Rhodey shook his head, the concern melting into anger as he called 911. “You said you’d tell me. If you feel like taking something. Instead, you’re fucking dying outside of a fucking keg, did you seriously bring drugs and take them in the fucking washroom?” he asked angrily.

“I’m sorry,” Tony admitted, with a pained expression. “I can’t stop. I can’t, I just, I always need more, I just, I’m-”

Rhodey shook his head in pity, holding the phone up to his ear. He put his hand on Tony’s shoulder, kneeling down so that he was eye-level with him. “You need help.”

Tony responded by letting his gaze fall to the pavement, unable to look Rhodey in the eyes.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

--

Soft spoken with a broken jaw
Step outside but not to brawl and
Autumn's sweet we call it fall
I'll make it to the moon if I have to crawl and

--

“No. Not allowed.”

“Rhodey. I can’t just-”

“No more.”

“Rhodey-”

“Stop.”

“Rhodes-”

“Tony, you can’t-”

“James.”

“Calling me by my first name isn’t going to do anything. I’ll tie you to the bed if I have to,” Rhodey glared.

“Kinky.”

Rhodey was smart. He wasn’t just going to let Tony go cold turkey with the drugs, so he was allowed a certain amount per day. The thing was, though, that it was only one PM and Tony was already hot and feverish and shivering from drug withdrawal, and as much as it hurt, Tony really had it coming for him. He was only supposed to take them when started feeling the effects of withdrawal, not to get high.

So Tony was under the covers of his bed, a garbage bin beside him just in case. He was curled under the blankets, clutching his stomach, and was experiencing the worst abdominal cramps of his life. Was he secretly on his period? Was he giving birth? Sure felt like it. The headache had just started and he could feel his heart pounding in his head, thumping along to some irregular beat, magnifying the pain. It was hell.

“Rhodey.”

“No.”

“Rhodes-”

“Tony-”

“No. Listen to me for a sec,” Tony held up a finger, announcing that he actually had something to add to the conversation. “I don’t know what it’s like to be sober.”

“There’s your problem, you’re-”

“I’m not done,” he interrupted. “You know how my grades are, right?”

“Straight A’s, I get it, you’re a genius-”

“I did that all while high,” Tony stressed.

“You’ll do better when you can actually think straight,” Rhodey scoffed, facing the wall.

“You’re not listening to me!” Tony winced when his stomach clenched again. “It made everything clear. It pushed the answers to the front of my head. Instead of pouring over memories, it just came. It just appeared. It worked. It was clear.”

“So you’re saying that you do your best work while high?” Rhodey looked at him questionably.

“Yeah. I guess,” Tony sighed, closing his eyes as the pain reached a peak.

“Have you ever tried anything while not intoxicated?”

“No? Why would I do that when the answer comes immediately while high?” Tony raised an eyebrow, but his heart wasn’t into the snark.

“So you don’t actually know,” Rhodey concluded. “When you feel better, we’ll try studying, we’ll do some course work. See what’s easier.”

Tony didn’t answer, just gulped air down quickly while rolling a bit closer to the garbage bin.

“We’ll make a hypothesis. Do tests, at different stages of intoxication, different stages of withdrawal,” Rhodey continued, eyeing Tony wearily.

Tony responded by retching into the bin, and dry-heaving for a few seconds afterward. He coughed painfully, dryly, then threw up again.

Rhodey sighed before moving to help his friend. “Think of it as an experiment.”

--

With the birds I'll share this lonely viewin'
With the birds I'll share this lonely view

--

Jarvis was dead. But he’d made it this far.

He wouldn’t get high, he’d been good. He wouldn’t throw away those clean three months, he wouldn’t disappoint Rhodey. He would be good. No drugs. No, no drugs. Not now. Not after all of those months. But he needed to forget, he needed to get in a different state of mind, anything but here, he-

Not the drugs.

Tony fumbled with his coat pocket, pulling out a small bag of Hydrocodone. But he wouldn’t take it. No, he’d throw it away or something, he’d get rid of it, get rid of the temptation, he couldn’t have it in the dorm room with him. But it was so, so, so tempting, his fingers closed around the clear plastic sandwich bag, rubbing the pills around in his palm. He could take a few, right? It was just an opioid, and not even like, fentanyl, so he could, right? It was oral. It wouldn’t leave marks. He could take a small white tablet, lock himself in his dorm for a bit, and when the effects finally wore off, he would be back to normal. Nobody needed to know.

No. No, stop.

He moved to the bathroom, opened the bag, ready to flush them down the toilet, but as soon as the pills touched his hands, he knew he was a lost cause. He couldn’t, he was too far gone. He was never going to get better, he was done, Jarvis was dead, he was alone, he was, he was-

He was better off dead.

Now would be the time. He had the pills, a good excuse, and he wouldn’t need to deal with anyone anymore. He wouldn’t have to wait until his addiction killed him, he wouldn’t be alive to suffer through withdrawal again, he’d be gone, it would all be okay. He was too far gone. Too far down the rabbit hole.

The pills found his mouth, and not the waiting water in the toilet bowl. He was finally going to die. He was going to do it. He was-

“Tony! It was briefly mentioned on the news, Jarvis, he,” Rhodey stormed through the door, a panicked expression on his face. Tony turned away from him, suddenly feeling crushed.

He had stayed clean for Rhodey, because he didn’t want to disappoint him anymore. But he just broke the three months, and he was going to die in a few minutes, maybe thirty, thoroughly disappointing him even more, and God, was he ever going to stop being a disappointment? Tony fell to his knees on the washroom tile, shaking his head, ignoring the sting in his eyes and the lump in his throat that mean that he was going to cry, and God, strike him dead.

“You alright?” Rhodey asked carefully, sitting on the sink counter. It was a stupid question, really.

“I just took a handful of Hydrocodone,” Tony whispered, a hand on his forehead.

Rhodey was silent for a bit, and Tony didn’t look up; he just stared at the tiles until the grout blurred with the smooth surface from tears.

“Vomit it up,” Rhodey said finally, his voice shaking.

Tony looked up quickly, but Rhodey wasn’t joking. He shoved two fingers down his throat, gagging himself, but it was like it was stuck. He tried harder, his fingernails scratching the surface, and he recoiled, but he forced his hand to stay still. Under Rhodey’s gentle coaxing, the pills finally came up, in a mess of bile and water. He hadn’t eaten anything in the past day, the appeal of food had lost him.

Once Tony had finished coughing into the toilet, ending in short sobs, Rhodey handed him some water. Tony just pushed him away, not trusting his stomach to not rid itself of everything, even water. He clutched at the toilet seat, hot tears streaming down his cheeks, and closed his eyes. Rhodey ran his hands through Tony’s hair, relaxing him as he caught his breaths.

“Want to put something on? The Habs and the Leafs are playing in ten minutes,” Rhodey said softly, still massaging Tony’s scalp.

“Sleep,” Tony shook his head, grimacing at the acrid taste in his mouth.

“Can’t. Not for another hour or so, I just don’t want..,” Rhodey trailed off when Tony nodded quickly. “Just want to make sure the pills are really out.”

“M’sorry,” Tony apologized.

“Don’t be.”

“But I was doing good, and then I took the pills, and then-” Tony rambled before Rhodey cut him off.

“Tones. It’s alright,” Rhodey said, a look of concern on his face. “Just relax, now.”

“But Jarvis-”

“Don’t think about it, okay?” Rhodey gave him the water, and finally took it, taking small careful sips. “Let’s just watch the game, we’ll deal with it tomorrow.”

--

Scar tissue that I wish you saw
Sarcastic mister know-it-all
Close your eyes and I'll kiss you, 'cause
With the birds I'll share

--

“Rhodey. Can you come back?”

“Of course. Everything okay?” Rhodey asked, already enroute to their dorm.

“I want you to see something,” Tony ended, and hung up.

When Rhodey arrived, Tony rolled up his sleeves and shoved his arm in Rhodey’s face before he had even closed the door. Rhodey was a bit taken aback, but that might have been by the fact that there was an arm in his face more than anything.

“What do you see?” Tony asked.

“Uh, scars?” Rhodey blinked quickly.

“From?” Tony pressed.

“Track marks? Drugs? That one really stupid time that you got high in the lab and sliced your wrist open?” Rhodey said, confused.

“And what are they again?”

“...scars?” Rhodey raised an eyebrow.

“And what does that mean?”

“That you’re a fucking drug abuser, that’s what it means,” Rhodey stated.

Tony pulled his arm away and looked almost disappointed. He tugged down his sleeves, trying to hide how his face was falling. Rhodey had obviously said the wrong thing.

“Tones,” Rhodey tried again. “What do they mean to you?”

“They’re healed,” Tony mumbled.

“So it means that you were a fucking drug abuser?” Rhodey asked, and got a small smile out of Tony for it.

“Past tense,” he nodded. “I was. A year ago.”

“One year,” Rhodey grinned, grabbing Tony into a hug and clapping him on the back. “One year clean.”

Tony smiled into Rhodey’s shoulder. “Just in time, too. Graduating in two weeks.”

“They accepted your thesis?” Rhodey pulled away to look at Tony’s face.

“Passed with high honours, summa cum laude, whatever you wanna call it,” Tony quirked an eyebrow. “Gonna try for my doctorate in a few years, but I’m gonna be head of R&D at SI, working for my father, can you imagine.”

“That sonofabitch,” Rhodey shook his head.

“He’s alright if I ignore him,” Tony shrugged. “But I’m done with school.”

“At seventeen.”

“Yeah.”

“Jesus Christ, Tony, you kid genius. If your dad shows up at grad, I swear to God I’m going to punch him,” Rhodey complained.

“Don’t worry, he won’t,” Tony smiled coldly.

“I’ll be your stand-in dad. Just you wait, I’ll have all my dad-jokes ready on cue cards, you’ll love me,” Rhodey grinned, adding humour. “I’ll even videotape you walking up to get your diploma.”

“Okay, daddy,” Tony deadpanned.

“You had to go there.”

Tony smiled and pulled Rhodey in for another hug, and they stayed like that, swaying gently.

“You alright, Tones?”

“Never better. And I mean it,” came the reply.

 

--

With the birds I'll share this lonely viewin'
With the birds I'll share this lonely view