Tony had no concept of how long he sat there with his eyes closed and his hands pressed tight against his mouth. In truth he did not care. There was little to nothing left to care about now that he was alone. The newcomer, the blue-toned woman, did not count. He was alone. The crew that he had just met had vanished. Dr. Strange, a new acquaintance, had disappeared as well. And Peter…a kid that was making his way closer into his heart had tapped out of existence as well. He had not wanted to go. Of all people, Tony did not want the kid to go, and no matter how hard he had clung to him, he had gone anyway. The image of his face literally disintegrating would be forever etched into his mind.
His hands started to tremble. He moved his hands away as he dropped his head against them, looking as though he was praying. Tears didn’t slip from his eyes, but a choke escaped his lips as the loss intensified.
“We should go,” came the woman’s voice.
Tony didn’t acknowledge the suggestion. Where was there to go after this? Thanos had won. He would have this pain no matter where he went now. If he went back home, it would only worsen, maybe even kill him.
But when he thought of home, he thought of Pepper, and in turn he wondered if she had suffered the same fate of falling out of existence.
“No,” he muttered shakily. He wouldn’t believe she was gone. She would still be there, waiting to curse him, then embrace him. He would return to earth to make sure this happened, but he was too scared to move. He was too scared to go and find out that it wouldn’t be true. What if she wasn’t there? What if she had gone just like Peter? His heart couldn’t take it.
“We have to go,” came the woman’s voice again. Clearly she had thought Tony’s “No” was a refusal to leave. In a way, it was.
He opened his eyes which had become red, and looked at her. Why couldn’t she see that he wasn’t really there? That there was nothing left of him except a shell of a man. What good would it do for him to leave? What good could he do for anyone at the moment? Why did he deserve to leave and return to some form of life when the others couldn’t?
The mysterious woman said nothing more. Perhaps at last she saw all of those questions as she looked at him.
Then behind her, the space came apart as a purplish portal opened. Out of that portal came the last thing he wanted to see.
Thanos wasn’t smiling as he walked through, but when he came to a stop and stared at Tony, the corners of his lips lifted.
“Stark, I’m glad to see you’ve waited for me.”
Tony wanted to inform him that he wasn’t waiting for him, but no words came out. He simply sat like a zombie, somehow feeling more defeated at his presence. The woman reacted quickly as she sprung to attack. It was useless of course as he easily knocked her aside with a vicious strike to her abdomen. His attention was solely on Tony as he moved forward.
He made no attempt to summon his suit since it was already badly damaged. In fact he made no move to do anything except watch his executioner come forward. He welcomed it. He hadn’t been able to protect the kid or ensure earth’s safety, so of course he deserved the same fate as the others. If anything it would be a way for him to escape the dark hollowness that was consuming him.
Thanos came to a stop right before him, and his smile widened just slightly.
“Nothing to say? No annoying little quip? No fiery blast from your suit?”
Tony dropped his head. What could he say now after everything? It was too soon for any of that.
“I understand,” Thanos continued. “I understand the grief you feel, because I feel it too.”
“Bastard,” Tony whispered venomously. “You have no…idea…you…”
Tony lifted his eyes and saw the now damaged looking gauntlet. A fire suddenly lit and he sprung to his feet as he pulled his arm back to deliver a punch. His fist was immediately engulfed in Thanos’s much larger hand.
“Now is not the time for fighting Stark. Now is the time, for healing.”
He wouldn’t hear such lies. Despite how pathetic it was, he pounded against the giant’s arm with his free hand. All the anger, all the sadness, was wrapped up in those punches. He was barely aware of how wet his eyes had become.
The smile dropped from Thanos’s face as he grabbed his other hand, stopping the assault.
“Enough of this Tony. What good would it do? Your power is gone. Your friends, all of your friends, are nothing but dust.”
Tony stopped struggling then as he stared into his eyes. The fire was extinguished. His head dropped, and he slumped. If Thanos hadn’t been holding onto his hands, he would have dropped to the ground.
“You’re alone, but not for long.”
Tony didn’t have the energy to question what he meant. He had no energy or fight left as Thanos maneuvered him closer to himself. He released a hand which dropped to Tony’s side, and after that his large fingers reached for his hoodie. Tony made no effort to stop him as he pulled an arm free of the sleeve, then did the same to the other. He was as limp as a doll, yet steady on his feet as the titan went through the odd process of undressing him.
Once he was rendered completely shirtless, Tony bothered to ask.
“What are you doing?”
He wouldn’t even look at Thanos. He couldn’t bear to be reminded of the horrible defeat. Thanos wouldn’t answer even as he started working his pants down his legs. He grabbed onto his underwear and ripped them from his form, causing Tony to grunt from the force of it. And now he stood, naked on a foreign planet, before the creature that had destroyed so much. He felt the heat rising in his cheeks as he gave the titan a questioning look. His lip trembled as he smiled softly at him. Was this all just to humiliate him? Was it some insinuation that he was not a man because he had failed so hard?
One of Thanos’s large hands cupped the back of his head. His fingers disturbed his hair in a near soothing manner. Tony simply stared back at the titan, not knowing what to do.
He turned his gaze to the woman. She was lying flat on her stomach, seeming to struggle to rise. It was clear from the pain in her face that the strike from Thanos had done some horrible damage to her body. But rather than show fear, she showed determination as she stared Tony in the eyes.
“Fight back!” she encouraged. She was desperate for the beast to get what he deserved.
Tony heard the words, but they meant nothing. He couldn’t feel anything at the moment, let alone the desire to fight any longer. Thanos shifted his gauntlet covered hand down under his bare ass and lifted him into his arms. Tony shifted from the uncomfortable feeling of the metal as he was cradled like a newborn babe. Thanos smiled down at him and ran his fingers over his hair. Tony was quite numb to what was happening. He stared into that big face, not understanding why this was happening. Why would he have to die in such a humiliating way?
Thanos started moving and a portal appeared in front of him. Tony turned to it, imagining that he was about to be returned to earth to face the rest of the devastation, in his sad state. What did it matter now? Everyone was gone.
“No. No!” the woman cried.
Thanos ignored her as he stepped through the portal, leaving her and Tony’s clothes behind him.