There were worlds in the making of things.
Not magic. Tony didn't know what magic was, if it was a word or a force, or just a fuzzy idea someone had to explain all the things that didn't fit. Whichever. Magic, as a concept, was fuzzy enough to be functionally useless, and Tony only liked useless things when they were only useless in one direction.
But there was something in the making of things. Something that was more than science, something that was more than industry. Something that, sometimes, only the words people used for magic quite fit.
There was the energy. Muscle and bone and fire and steel, the humming in the body and the brain, potential energy in the cusp of an idea and the fall of a hammer. There was power, torque and leverage and electricity and kineticism, burn and break and lift and build, power to build and power to use, power to go up like judgement day at the push of a button, and that was just energy, just science, but it was power too, and power was a different thing.
And then there was ... the changing of things. The part where you pulled, an idea, a metal, a machine, where you pulled it up out of your mind and out of the materials, where you bent and shaped, forged and drew together, something that was metal and electricity and chemical explosives and the thing in your head that bounced sparks off the world and came back with machinery painted on the backs of your eyelids, and that was transmutation, that was alchemy, that was the goddamn philosophers stone, and whatever idiot had thought that was about gold had never fused gold to titanium and built the power to defend a world from it. Tony could stick a fist out into the universe, and pry the key to the fundament out in painted light, and that was more than science, and magic wasn't a good enough word.
And then ... Then, under that, worlds beneath that, in the places where the images painted in light had meanings that were only explicable in code, and defied any and all words, there was that other thing. There was life, there was genius, not his, not only his, there was the making of more than things, there was the making of people. There had been fever in that, ecstasy in that, that had been a livewire plugged through him, exhaustion and pain and jittering exactitude, satisfaction and delight and a strange, distant, fuzzy joy, at the whirr of pistons and the first fumbling answers of a learning machine, of a person, of a partner. That was a different thing, so much a different thing, that was not science, because science was no more a good enough word than magic, when there was an intelligence that answered his own, that had come from inside him, and all the sparked humming of the universe ran through them both.
There were worlds, in the making of things. Not magic. Not words. Not science. All those things, but never just any of them. Never that. There was power, and transmutation, there was love and the shaping of the world, there were words and codes, and the things too fuzzy to be held in any of them.
There was the smell of the metal, the smell of the fire. There was the roar as worlds burned, and the hum as intelligence unfurled. Lives taken and lives built, in the fall of a hammer and the cusp of an idea. There was potential, and power, and energy, and pain. There were worlds, in the making of things.
He was a fighter. And a lover. He was vengeance and the end of the goddamn world if he so decided. But under that, worlds under that, he was the maker of things. The builder of things. Engineer, because engineer was a good word, a right word, there were engines beneath all things and he would find them, he would figure them out, he would make them hum when he was through, and that wasn't magic, was maybe only barely science, but hell if that mattered, because they were only words. And words, like smiles, were a dime a dozen, words made the world go round, but when there were no words left, no money left, when the heart was all but torn from your chest and your blood was on the cave floor in the stink of electricity and fear, even then, there was still the making of things. When there was nothing else, there was still the making of things.
Not magic. Not miracles. Those things belonged to gods, and he'd met gods, and maybe one or two of them were decent people, but that was besides the point, because he wasn't one of them. He wasn't a god, wasn't ever going to be a god. He'd pulled one god from the sky, fought another to a (costly) standstill, flown through a rip in the heavens with fire in his hands and burned Olympus to the ground. He wasn't a god. No god in the universe would have him, after that.
Fine then. Fuck them. Didn't matter, couldn't matter, because there were worlds beneath the world, worlds in the making of things, and he was Tony Stark. He was the maker, and the builder, and the engineer. He was a man, and he'd made life between his own two hands, and he'd burned worlds to the ground, and given a decent run-up he was a one-man armageddon all on his own, and it didn't matter. None of it, not magic or science or gods or men mattered.
Because when there was nothing, when there was blood on your hands and a good man's body at your feet, when your heart was beating out of time and the shards of old sins crept close around it, when there was electricity in your veins that you hadn't put there and the stink of pain and old fear in the cave around you, when there was nothing in all the world left to you ...
There were worlds beneath the world. There was fire and the fall of the hammer, there was lightning and the taste of metal, there was a fist full of light and the philosophers stone, and if you pulled the metal from your own flesh and set a burning jewel in your chest, you could build a world from it, and break one too.
When there was nothing left, there was still that. Make it in words, make it in metal, make it in blood and fire and the ending of the world. Wherever, whenever, however. There was, in the end of all things, still that.
He was a made man. A forged man. He'd built, and been built, and there was electricity in his chest and metal under his skin, and he'd forged the armour to go around it, forged the armour to cover over it, armour in words and metals and smiles, he'd made a thing to disguise the making, because man made the machines, but machines maketh the man, when the blood is on the sand and all that's left is the making of things.
There were worlds beneath the world, worlds in the making of things, and he was a man, and he had made them. When there was nothing, there were still worlds in the making of it. When there was no magic and no words and no science, when the world ended and the hammer fell, there was still, there was always, the making of things.
When there was nothing of him left, when there was nothing and he was nothing too ... there would still be that. Always. And forever.
Or, at the very least ... so he had to hope.