“Stark. You know that’s a one way trip.” The words were said quietly, resigned in the notion that Roger’s understood that he understood. There was no going back, and really- there was no return after the whole ‘I am Iron Man’ debacle.
Tony had known, with Christine Everharts unamused eyes and Peppers shocked face between the flashing cameras and yelling reporters, that there was no going back. It was a one way ticket and Tony was going all the way.
There had never been any other choice.
So, he called Pepper. He listened to Jarvis cut out. He stared in the face of death, fading out like a dying sun in another place that no man had ever seen. He watched on as the rocket drifted towards a ship between Pepper’s face blinking in and out.
Tony died. And then he came back with a self-righteous roar rattling between his ears, his brain jump starting and his heart beating an off rhythm tattoo. He came back.
It wasn’t the same, nothing was the same. He was paranoid and possibly delusional because how else could he explain seeing everyone dead. Steve, Nat, Clint, Bruce? Either Sokovia had something in the air or else he was finally and officially crazy. Both seemed highly likely.
But then, everything fell apart.
Steve left, taking half the avengers with him. Jarv- Vision was too busy chasing the witch to be much company. Looking at Rhodey just made him feel guilty and desperate to fix his mistake. Bruce disappeared. Thor was off in the galaxy doing who knows what and Tony? Tony was stuck on Earth doing everything in his power to save it.
So, of course. When he’s down on his luck, the very same kid he took to Berlin for an ’internship,’ just had to appear. Calling every day like a loyal puppy, talking about his day to day life like it wasn’t weird to call a guy he barely even spoke to, except for a handful of words.
But he persisted and Tony listened. He listened to the kid describe helping a lady with directions. He listened even as Spiderkid stuffed his mouth full of churros. And he listened as FRIDAY alerted him to the sudden danger the kid found himself in.
He couldn’t remember the last time he was so worried. Maybe it was when Pepper fell and Tony missed her hand by that much. Or maybe it was when Steve kneeled over him, his shield raised like an axe about to plunge. All Tony knew was that he refused to be guilty for installing the training wheels protocol, not when it saved Peter from drowning.
So, he saved Peter and the teen persisted like dog after a bone. The kid just didn’t give up and then he went and tried to be a big time hero.
The words “I just want to be like you,” follow Tony. They follow him as he stuffs the spider suit in a case, they trail behind like chains as he drops the kid off at his apartment, his clothes two sizes too big, and haunt him as he answers back with a bitter, “I wanted you to be better.”
And Peter did become something better, he stepped up and fought Vulture, he won. He proved Tony right- that Peter was something even without the suit- he was something special.
But then- but then Bruce came back, a glorified Merlin on his heels and terror in the whites of his eyes. The name Thanos dripping from his lips like a disease. Tony couldn’t focus on that, not when his eyes were captured by blue and red and graying temples.
Tony couldn’t look away, but he had to, a spaceship that looked suspiciously like a donut was descending on New York and the name Thanos seemed to come with it.