This is set sometime after the Avengers movie, and ignores all movies following it. I'm not sure where the idea came from. I was just in a strange, nostalgic mood, and had been reading a heart-wrenching fanfiction, and randomly thought of how Tony would act if he visited his father's grave. This was the result.
Both the title and the quote later in the story come from Shakespeare. The title comes from Hamlet:
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
And the quote later on comes from Julius Caesar:
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
Neither these nor the Avengers belong to me.
He doesn't know where the idea came from. It struck him while he was making another arc reactor – better safe than sorry – and wouldn't let go. He tried to ignore it, but the idea ultimately won out.
That's how Tony Stark finds himself standing awkwardly in front of his father's grave. His mother isn't there – she'd died in a different state, and Howard's "people" (mainly Obi) had refused to transport a body that far. So the elder Stark was buried alone, and Tony only has one dead parent to visit this time.
He just stands there for a couple minutes, shuffling his feet and cursing his brain for not supplying words like it usually did, like it was meant to. Then he sighs, irritated.
"Alright Dad…God, I feel stupid. I don't know why I came, but, um, here I am. I just…thought I should come and, well, just catch you up on everything."
He laughs once, harshly and humorlessly. "I guess I should say 'I miss you' or something first, huh? But that's stupid, because I don't even know if you can hear me. But…well, whatever. If Mom is there, say hi for me, would you? I haven't visited her, either."
Then he falls silent as he tries to think of what to say and wonders why he thought this would be a good idea. A few yards away there is a woman carefully replacing the dead flowers on an old grave, and Tony watches her for a little bit before he starts talking again.
"You know I almost joined you. Yeah. It was because of our – well, my weapons. The wrong people got them, and they kidnapped me after nearly blowing me up. This thing," he taps the arc reactor in his chest, "saved my life. And Yinsen. He helped, too. Say hi to him too, okay?"
"I'm not making weapons anymore. Too many people died. I turned into a fucking superhero instead. I saved the world, you know. Even met two gods. Isn't that weird?"
"Why am I even doing this?"
"Anyway, yeah. Superhero. I'm in SHIELD's little boy band. Why didn't you tell me about SHIELD? Whatever. We're called the Avengers. They're cool. Bruce is pretty handy in the lab when he's not a giant green rage monster. Natasha and Clint are okay, but they're like SHIELD's lapdogs. Steve is still stuck in the forties – do you remember Steve? – but damn is he good in a fight. Keeps trying to hide the Scotch, though. Thor – one of the gods – doesn't know how to be quiet, but he's cool. His brother Loki isn't an Avenger, but he's staying at the tower and hasn't killed anyone in a while, so I guess he's on his way. He can actually do magic. Can you believe that?"
"Shit. I'm rambling. Well…I hope I'm not too much of a disappointment, anyway. Obi thought I was – oh, I forgot him. Yeah, he tried to kill me and take over the company. Good pick there, Dad."
Tony pauses, fingering the laminated sheets of paper he brought with him. He sighs and sets them on the ground in front of his father's grave stone, weighing them down with a rock he found nearby. "I know you'd hate flowers, so I brought these instead. See, this is my Iron Man suit – it's not actually iron, don't tell anyone – and this is the element I created. It keeps my arc reactor from killing me."
"So…that's all, I guess."
A voice that's not his own cuts in. "So this is where Howard Stark is buried."
It wasn't a question, and Loki doesn't expect an answer, but Tony gives one anyway. "Yeah. Here he is."
"'Of all the wonders that I have yet heard, it seems to me strange that most men should fear; seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.'" the god muses quietly.
Tony casts him a sidelong glance. "Shakespeare?"
Loki nodes, his eyes never straying from Howard's grave. "Of course. Though I do share the sentiment, he worded it much better than even Loki Silvertongue could."
They fall into an easy silence that Loki breaks maybe thirty minutes later. "The daylight is fading. We should return."
"Yeah." Loki walks away, but Tony lingers a moment longer.
Maybe he'll visit again sometime.