Heyo! So... I watched Endgame and while I didn't love every aspect of the movie, I still thought it was fantastic and a great end to the character of Tony Stark. I'm not mad at it at all.
Still, I had the plot bunny and it wouldn't go away. So here we have the prologue. This is standalone for now and is all I have written, but I wanted to post it anyway. As such, this ends on a very depressing note, as things will get much worse before they get better. I won't lie, this story is pretty gosh-darn dark. Nevertheless, the larger story does have a happy ending. This will probably also be polished up when the larger fic is posted. Obviously, ratings, summary and all that will be adjusted when the full fic is posted, but due to other commitments I do not have time to really get into it just yet, so this is all that is being posted for now
I'd love feedback on how I can improve, so please feel free to let me know what you think.
Obviously spoiler warning for Endgame.
This is the first piece of fic I've published in a while. I'm excited to do this again.
He'd always known it was a possibility, hell, he'd built the bloody function into the gauntlet, for fucks sake. Countless late nights he'd sat alone in his living room, long after his wife and daughter had gone to bed. He was done building suits, he'd told the world he was done. The Avengers were finished. Thanos had won and the stones were destroyed. Carol had pulled Tony back home, but Iron Man had died in space. Tony was a retiree now, living in his luxury cabin next to his private lake and quietly pushing out projects to get humanity back on track. He was sure even Pepper believed him.
And so he had worked in the dark when everyone else was asleep. In the four years he'd been there, he'd worked his way through thirty five new models(including one anniversary gift for Pepper, he figured the best possible way to break the news of his deceit would be with the gift of an exceptionally cool suit of armour, modeled just for her).
He told himself he could stop building, his time as a hero was done.
But what if it wasn't
The stones were destroyed
What if they're not
Thanos was dead, Thor had seen to that
What if he came back
Somehow, an ability to assimilate six small objects into a gauntlet had made its way into eighteen of those designs(excluding the anniversary gift, of course). The cost of ever using it was clear as day to him, but his child lay in one bed upstairs and the woman he loved in another and he'd already lost the closest thing he had to a son. Each new model had the feature. Just in case.
Still, it had been a gut punch to see the look in Strange's eye, to know.
This is what the wizard had meant, this is why he had saved him, and refused to give a reason. He'd kept Tony alive only so that he could die at the right time.
Still, he'd had no hesitation. Peter was back, and Strange and Wanda and Scott and Fury and all those motherfuckers but most importantly Peter.. He'd done something right. Now he just had to keep it that way. If the powers that be demanded his life in addition to Natasha's, then that was a price he'd gladly pay. A strange calm overtook him as he accepted his fate, though his heart pounded in his chest and he struggled to find enough air. If all was lost anyway, he was loosing nothing, and everyone else in the universe would get a chance at life. This was for Morgan, and Peter and Pepper and Rhodey and Cap and Bruce and you better believe it was for Natasha too, because if they failed here then her sacrifice was a waste.
He felt the burn of them the second his hands had closed around Thanos's gauntlet, cutting off the brilliant seams of power winding their way through the titan's flesh. It hurt, even through the armour. He didn't let that stop him, clinging on, scrabbling for purchase on the gems as Thanos slammed him against his massive knee. A fist swung at his head and Tony barely managed to deflect the blow before the backswing seemed to come out of nowhere. It caught him across the front and sent him flying back. He hit the ground, dazed for an instant. Had he gotten them all? In front of him, Thanos raised his great hand.
" I am inevitable"
Nothing happened. The battle raged on around them
Thanos stared at the empty ports on the back of his gauntlet, dumb shock across his face. He turned to Tony who was on his knees now, right hand raised as the armour shifted around it, settling the stones into place.
So this was power.
It tore through him like lightning, filling him with energy unlike any he'd felt before. He could do anything, feeling like this. He could destroy them all, rebuild what they'd torn down. He could grind Thanos beneath his boot, show him how power should be wielded. He could give the universe everything, create planets and stars and go beyond death. No longer was he just Tony, Tony was nothing. He could be a god. Flesh was irrelevant, he could feel it burning. It didn't matter anymore. Flesh was just biology, just a tool for the endless race to reproduce. He could transcend that, with power like this, who needed go bring life from their flesh, who needed…
No, he didn't want any of that. He just wanted his baby girl and her mother to be safe. That was it, that was his endgame. His body was failing, never meant to wield such power. He could see that now. He didn't have long.
"And I…" his lungs hurt
"...am…" had he inhaled? He couldn't feel any air.
The stones ripped him inside out and everything was white.
When he became aware again, it was of the feeling of his whole right side being held in a volcano. Then he remembered how to see and suddenly Thanos was above him. The mad god's face was contorted with strain, his dark eyes fixed as red light sparked across his skin. Sluggishly, Tony's eyes followed the sparks back to their source.
There, planted in the gauntlet was a single crimson stone, flickering angrily as it held back the full might of the other five. Or maybe that was just the power of Thanos's will.
"You dropped one." Thanos sneered through gritted teeth.
Nono No No NO!
He had been so close, so incredibly close. He had to...he just had to...for Morgan
He told his hand to move, to lift up and reach for the stone. He had to get it, had to try again. His brain felt like mush and his hand didn't move. He looked down at where it rested against his leg. There was something wrong with it. Where hands supposed to look like that? He didn't think so. The fingers of his gauntlet were gone. Where previously his own fingers had stuck out, now there was something else; small, sticklike things, black and twisted almost like...oh
His mind recoiled from the horror he was seeing. No, he...he needed his hand. How was he supposed to make things without his hand? And why couldn't he move the rest of his arm? Was it all like that? His mind was filled with the image of his whole body a blackened and twisted husk inside the suit.
A boot coming down on his chest interrupted his thoughts. The air in his failing lungs turned thick and hot as magma. Thanos pressed his weight down and Tony, unable to move or breathe, could do nothing but lie there. Thanos reached down and wrapped a huge fist around Tony's useless wrist. He couldn't feel the fingers tightening, couldn't feel anything along the arm but searing agony.
"That was good, Stark," Thanos said, his sneer melting into a cold smile as the red sparks died on his skin, "you almost had it."
Thanos pressed his foot down harder. Tony's breath bubbled.
"But I'll be taking these back now."
Thanos ripped the gauntlet off Tony's arm. The hand went with it. There was no struggle, no snapping or tearing. The gauntlet was removed and his arm was suddenly shorter than it had been before. Tony felt nothing. He couldn't look anymore. His attention drifted away from his ruined arm, away from Thanos, who was carefully plucking the stones out one by one. Through the haze and chaos of battle, his gaze settled on Strange.
The sorcerer's face was the picture of despair, even as he struggled to hold back the wall of water. For a moment, their eyes met, Tony searching for some last desperate hope. Strange miserably shook his head. So that was it then, they'd lost. It was over. Tony had failed. Morgan and Pepper were going to die, as was Peter, so soon after he'd just been granted a second chance.
Strange's hands ceased their conjuring gestures and slowly sank to his sides. For a moment, the brilliant sigils he'd cast in the air flickered and went out and then Strange was lost as the ocean crashed over him.
Tony could only watch as the water spread, drowning friend and foe alike. A few of the flyers managed to hoist themselves above the flood and here and there, forcefields appeared, shimmering valiantly to protect those below but the rest was carnage.
Thanos paid it no mind, merely throwing up his now complete gauntlet as they were about to be overwhelmed and the water surged black around them. Shapes of debris and bodies tumbled through it. Faintly, he saw the distant glow of Carol's forcefield through the torrent. Then the titan turned his wrist, now resplendent with the complete gauntlet, and the dam reformed. The water flowed and then ran out, seemingly disappearing into the ground. It left the dead, some looking more asleep than dead, others crushed beyond recognition. Tony caught glimpses of Wakandan and Chitari armour, human and outrider bodies tangled together as though still locked in combat, a small furry shape face down and almost completely coated in mud. It seemed that Thanos cared little for his lost soldiers.
Here and there, movement began as survivors struggled to lever themselves up.
"Look at you, Stark," Tony's attention was ripped away from the annihilation by Thanos's meaty fist gripping his jaw and forcibly turning his face to look at him, "you're dying."
This certainly felt like dying. His head was swimming and he couldn't feel the right side of his face. Had he felt it at all since waking up? He didn't know. His body was shutting down by the instant, he could feel that much. At least it didn't hurt so much anymore.
"Was it worth it?" Thanos asked, "was it worth all this? It could all have ended so much sooner, been so quick and painless, hell, if you hadn't decided to fuck with time, had just left the universe as my counterpart made it, you could still have had a life, and half your friends would still be here."
Morgan, I'm sorry.
"This is all your fault," Thanos swung his other arm around, gesturing to the drenched remains of the battlefield, "all of this. You fought well Stark, but you almost ruined everything and I've had just about enough."
Tony's face was released and his head lolled back.
"All you've managed to do is prove than not even you can stop me, I really am inevitable. Now...where were we"
Tony hadn't been present for Thanos's first use of the stones, and he'd been a little preoccupied during his own, so watching Thanos snap his fingers was his first time actually seeing it happen. It was a little underwhelming, at first, having experienced the blast of power himself only minutes before and then not even with all the stones. There was a blast of white light and a sound that was both a low whisper and a deep rumble and then it was over. Thanos stood before him with a burned arm and a melted gauntlet and they had lost.
Dust appeared in the air around them, blowing up from the bodies littered across the ground. Tony could do nothing but lie there and watch. A few of the survivors panicked, screamed, tried to run before their bodies disintegrated and they collapsed into clouds of particles. The air around them took on a greyish brown pall. Soon no-one was left but Thanos's soldiers, Thanos and Tony himself.
What? No. No no NO! No he should be with them, he should be dead too. Why wasn't he dead, dust, a sprinkling of ashes and an empty suit on the ground, like Pepper and Rhodey no doubt were. This...this wasn't fair. He couldn't be the only one left.
He had no control over his body, and hadn't realised he'd made any expression but Thanos seemed to know what he was thinking anyway.
"No, I'm finished with your shit, Stark but I'm not finished with you. You don't get to die, not yet. Everything I've worked for, you came this close to destroying and you're going to have to pay for that. You're going to live, you're going to see what you almost ruined, and you're going to help me build it."
Ebony Maw appeared beside them, a wide smile across his face.
"My lord, most noble and exalted one, you have succeeded. Your glorious dream is realised."
Thanos didn't respond. His entire posture radiated exhaustion. Maw's smile faltered for a second before he plastered it back into place."Come, my lord, your work is done. Go now, rest from your noble labours, you have been victorious."
With a tired nod, Thanos removed his foot from Tony's chest. Breathing didn't become any easier. A horrible gurgling noise reached his ears, he realised it was himself.
Maw stared disdainfully down at the dying man with soulless pale eyes.
"Sir, I presume you have spared this pitiful creature for a reason, what would like me to do with it?" Maw's silky voice sounded strangely far away.
"Save his life," Thanos said as he began to trudge away, "I'm not done with him."
"Of course, my lord, and shall I have Cornatha send a healer to your quarters?"
He was obviously talking about Thanos's arm, which had looked very crispy when Tony had last seen it. He couldn't see it now, couldn't even really see Maw, though he knew the alien was standing over him. If there was a reply, he didn't hear it but Maw began rattling off orders, his speech far less flowery and more brisque now that he was not addressing his master or singing his praises.
A cold hand landed on his shoulder and suddenly he was lifted into the air, seemingly suspended by nothing. Maw's voice echoed, distant and fading, in his left ear.
"It is a great honour, you know, to be chosen to be spared like… ...his almighty desi… ...reat things planned for y… ...ild of Thanos… ... "
His words faded in and out as Tony drifted, black despair taking hold of him and pulling him under. It was all his fault, all of this. He'd known, he'd known. And he'd still meddled with time travel and had the arrogance to think he could fix it all. Were it not for his hubris, his daughter would still be there, his wife, Rhodey, Clint, Natasha, Steve, Thor, countless others who'd survived the first snap, if only he'd just accepted defeat. Now they were gone, every last one of them. The entire universe devoid of life. Except for Tony, Tony and the remains of Thanos's forces. He'd done this, and he hadn't even been allowed to die with them.
His last thought as he lost himself to void whas that maybe this was what he deserved.