A few days after everything, after getting home and filling his lungs with Pepper Pepper Pepper, gloriously alive and breathing and hugging him so tight, like she did, Nat talked at him, and he didn't listen. He was pretty sure he told her goodbye, but with more creative language.
This wasn't his fight. They wanted to go out and find him. It would be like poking a bear after he'd already eaten your campsite. Why put themselves through that?
The part of him that wanted vengeance, like they did, that wanted justice and had hope…that part of him had shriveled away to nothing on the Benatar as they hauled ass off of Titan.
He'd done gallantry, already. Being the hero. Rescuing the wizard.
It had earned him a plea for deliverance that haunted him, still, as well as the memory of a sort of ash that didn't even linger…just dissolved into nothing; and he hadn't even been able to bring anything back; no body, no ashes. Just nightmares. And what did he want with more of those?
A week after everything, after bedrest—delicious times of rest with Pepper always there, always beside him—he was vaguely aware of the global fallout. New faces on the news. Because the old ones were gone, or their loved ones were, and they couldn't cope. He got quite a bit of use out of BARF.
He and Pepper talked about the wedding. And they didn't focus on who wouldn't be able to come, or making it a big thing, anymore.
Because they had each other.
Not everyone could say the same.
Happy was still there. And Rhodey. And Pepper.
Anyone else would just be a bonus.
A few weeks after everything, there was some news story—showed archive footage of the Avengers, and he turned it off. News was weird, still; the reporters had kind of lost their bite. "Where are the Avengers now?" was kind of a shitty story to do. Where do you think, dumbasses? In the same damn boat as everybody else.
Remaining. The remnants.
He tinkered—it's what he did well. It allowed him, like nothing else did, these days, to just let his mind go; to rest, and finish healing. He had worked on a car, once, with his dad. And it still wasn't finished. Dad wasn't here, and it was too hard, somehow, to finish it without him. He was forever tinkering with it, adding new parts to the engine, saying the sound was off, replacing filters and washers and lube, repainting the exterior. Calculations, parts, tools; such things were meaningless in this state. He had been known to go without eating in this state. Textbooks called it a state of "flow."
Pepper called it part of his grieving process.
His hands started to make an Iron Man suit without thinking, and then immediately destroyed it without thinking when he realized.
A month after everything, when he was neck-deep in plans for the impending wedding, he got a box forwarded to him by Nat, he was pretty sure. A veritable storage unit of things. Things she didn't know what to do with and wanted help on. Things she hoped would "snap him out of his funk" so he could join the fight again.
Kinda sucked, as wedding presents went.
It just sat there, at first. Tony refused to even acknowledge the space it took up. Started living around it.
And he did remember to do that. Live.
Why would he "join the fight" with Nat? When he had so much delicious living to do?
When he had a beautiful woman to marry, and invitations to send out. A lot were sent, and Pepper was gracious and understanding when a lot were marked with 'likely will not attend.'
They'd already talked it over, after all.
Not everyone was of a mood to celebrate, just now.
But Tony said he wouldn't put her on hold another minute.
Maybe it was an inconvenient time. But there would never be a convenient time.
They didn't wait.
A few months after everything, the Norwegian city of Tønsberg was officially re-named "New Asgard." Norway had been beside themselves, or so it was told, to house once more the Gods they had worshipped for centuries. Tony found the announcement mixed in with the mail he'd foisted off on Happy when he and Pepper had returned from their Honeymoon. Thor was declared its king, the land was peopled with the remaining Asgardians and the survivors of the Sakaaran Rebellion, whatever that was, and enclosed in the announcement was a miniature of the flag design.
It was like…a sign. Well, kind of.
It was okay to move on. Thor hadn't come to the wedding, but he had given them his blessing, if such a thing mattered to Tony.
It mostly didn't.
Except that it was kind of cool, to think that his marriage had the blessing of the God of Thunder.
Well, it sounded cool when you said it like that, anyway.
So he and Pepper started talking about moving.
Get out. Out of the city, out of the crazy, out of the chaos. And on to something new. Better. He and Pepper looked at the most serene places they could find. Lakeside mountain cabins that reminded Tony, in some, small way, of Barton's farm.
The peace, mainly. These places; the properties, the lake, the trees—they didn't care about "the Snap." They didn't care about what went on in the rest of the world. They just…kept existing.
They chose one they both liked. And that was it.
A year after everything, Pepper made him look at Nat's box. To see if there was anything he'd want when they moved. There were notes for projects he'd forgotten about or improved on. There was another of Steve's shields. And in a larger box, arrayed, almost cadaver-like, the remains of Vision.
He shut the box.
End Year One