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You Are The Reason

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Tony sank onto his bed, his head in his hands. Ever since Thanos. Ever since Carol rescued him from that ship… He couldn’t stop thinking about every little thing he could have done to change the outcome.

There goes my heart beating
'Cause you are the reason
I'm losing my sleep
Please come back now

He could feel the tears building up behind his eyelids, but he forced himself to blink them back. Crying would not help now. He glanced over at Pepper who was sound asleep in her side of the bed, as he should be. He shook his head, his jaw tightening. He wished that seeing her alive would make everything better. And it did, in a way. He didn’t know how he could go on without her, but even that… The tears that he’d refused to let fall returned with renewed force and he didn’t hold them back this time.

He just wanted to go back. To say what he’d wanted to say. To… speak out loud what he’d thought to himself in the middle of the night when he had only himself and his memories for company in the midst of some project.

He just wished he hadn’t taken everything for granted.

There goes my mind racing
And you are the reason
That I'm still breathing
I'm hopeless now

Tony’s whole body pulled in on itself, not wanting to feel the emotional drag that he’d been avoiding for days. But it was unavoidable now: the despondency. The realization that it was over. It was done. Nothing could change it except for Thanos and those damn infinity stones and only heaven knew where they’d gone.

No, there would be no going back.

There were no redoes this time, no turning back of time.

Not unless a miracle occurred, and Tony was much too tired and weary of believing in miracles.

He knew there was nothing he could do, but he wished there was. He wished he could go down into his lab and concoct some invention that would fix all of this. He’d move the damn moon if he had to, but none of it would matter. Because in the end… he hadn’t said what he’d wanted to say. He had taken it for granted. It was too late.

I'd climb every mountain
And swim every ocean
Just to be with you
And fix what I've broken
Oh, 'cause I need you to see
That you are the reason

He was moving without really thinking about it and didn’t pay much attention to where his feet were taking him until he stopped in front of the doors to his lab. He blinked at his broken reflection and his face crumpled. He let out a sob, pounding his fist against the indestructible glass, and wishing for one second that it would shatter underneath the force. Just one more thing to destroy, one more thing to break. It would strangely have made him feel better.

But nothing happened.

Just another false hope.

Tony turned around and leaned against the glass, sliding down until he was sitting on the floor. He couldn’t go in there. He’d failed there, he’d jacked everything up. His arms wrapped around himself to provide some sense of warmth, but it just felt cold and numb, like everything since Thanos had.

He’d managed to forget for a little while, while food and water were his top priority on the ship, but now that he was okay… now that he was healthy…

The thought was all-encompassing.

‘He will never know what he meant.’

There goes my hand shaking
And you are the reason
My heart keeps bleeding
I need you now

Tony slammed his head against the glass, trying to keep it all in, but it was too much. It was all too much. The half-choked sobs and the waterfall of tears did nothing to ease the pain. If anything, it seemed to make things worse.

‘He will never know what he meant.’

Whenever Tony was having a bad day, whenever a panic attack seemed to be tapping on his shoulder, whenever Pepper was away, and he was feeling lonely, he’d open up their text messages and the onslaught of childish wonder and innocence that greeted him was enough to whisk everything away and piece him together again, little by little.

But now every time he checked his phone there were no new messages. And there were never going to be anymore. It was forever going to be the blank screen showing him the unyielding, uncaring time.

Time.

If only he could change it.

If I could turn back the clock
I'd make sure the light defeated the dark
I'd spend every hour, of every day
Keeping you safe

If only he had Strange’s coveted stone, there might be some way to…

But he couldn’t think like that.

Because hope was what got him into this situation. If he hadn’t let himself hope… if he hadn’t gotten involved, if fate hadn’t entwined their lives together. Perhaps he would only feel mild disappointment. Perhaps he wouldn’t be so crushed now.

Tony shook his aching head, standing. Something told him that never would have happened. The universe was too cruel to let him stay unattached to the smiling boy with no self-preservation skills but a never-ending smile. And so here he was.

But for some reason, he couldn’t come to make himself regret it.

And I'd climb every mountain
And swim every ocean
Just to be with you
And fix what I've broken

He reached forward and pulled open the door to his lab, despite his memories throwing a tantrum inside his skull. He stepped inside, grateful that FRIDAY didn’t try to speak. He wanted to be alone right now.

Well… not really.

But the person he wanted to be with was gone, so that was off the table.

Solitude was the next best option.

He came to a stop in the very center of the room, spinning slowly to scan the circumference. His eyes skipped over the desk where the web fluid and web shooters and half-assembled spider emblem sat, refusing to look at it. His brain refused to let him think about it.

Coping. Coping. Coping.

He was coping, he said. He was okay. He’d be fine. The people he used to consider a family didn’t believe him, but they didn’t call him out on it. Even Pepper said nothing, choosing to support him with her embrace and sad smiles, which he was grateful for.

He just wished with every atom and molecule and cell in his body that he could change what had happened. Wishing that even if the universe refused to allow him to survive, that he could go back and tell him the words bouncing around inside his head.

Oh, 'cause I need you to see
That you are the reason

“FRIDAY? Call Peter Parker,” Tony whispered into the empty room.

I don't wanna fight no more

A few seconds of silence. Then: “Peter is unavailable at the mome-”

“Go to voicemail.”

I don't wanna hurt no more

“Affirmative, Boss.”

Tony took a shuddering breath, forcing himself to look at Peter’s desk with the discarded homework and web fluid and chicken scratch handwriting.

I don't wanna cry no more

“Hey, Pete. It’s been a pretty long day. I-uh…” Tony slammed his eyes shut, one tear streaking down his cheek. “I really miss you.”

Come back, I need you to hold me closer now

Tony huffed a laugh void of amusement. “Who knew I’d miss a talkative teenager, huh?”

You are the reason, oh

Tony blinked, stringing one hand in his hair. “I, um… I wanted to tell you that you mean a lot. A-and that I do enjoy your company… even if you do… even if you talk a lot.” He ground his teeth together, trying to draw the strength to keep talking. “I don’t think you’re annoying. In fact, I…” he sniffed, trying to get the words out before he turned into a bawling mess, “I really like having you around. You, uh, you make my life… a lot easier to live some days. Pepper is amazing and I love her, but she’s not around all the time you know?” Tony took a shuddering breath. “I just wanted to say…I-” His words were cut off by a sob.

I'd climb every mountain

“I, um… I, you…” Tony sunk to the ground, pulling his knees to his chest and hugging them.

And swim every ocean

“You’re like… you’re like my kid. You are my kid and, uh… don’t- don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” he managed, tilting his head back to stare at the tiled ceiling in an effort to hold back the rest of his tears.

Just to be with you

“I wish I could have… done something to, uh… change what happened.” He sniffed, his eyes unfocusing, seeing a red planet and red dirt and a red sky and gray dust.

And fix what I've broken

Tony leaned his head forward again, pressing them against his knees to block out the visions, but it did nothing to help. “But I can’t… I can’t do that, so I will resort to finally replying to all those voice messages you sent me.”

'Cause I need you to see

Tony pulled in on himself, his arms tightening around his legs. “What I really wanted to tell you… what I really wish I had told you every time you showed up… bouncing around in my lab… was that I-” his shoulders were shaking and his voice was cracking and his soul was crumbling to dust just like the beautiful boy that had left his life without a proper goodbye.

That you are the reason

“I love you. A lot. And nothing is going to change that. Not even…” he sobbed, trying so hard not to let himself fall to pieces. “Not even the end of the world.” It was almost a relief to get the words out, to say what he’d wished he’d said weeks ago when he’d had the opportunity.

 “Send…” his voice splintered, “Send message.”

And then the world fell silent as Iron Man broke, alone in his dark lab with nothing but his memories to keep him company.