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A Beautiful Journey

Chapter Text

"Now we're onto some very interesting stuff." Benjamin said as everyone watched on.

It was night time in Afghanistan. A row of black SUVs rolled up near the new camp of the Ten Rings and Obadiah walked out as Raza approached him.

"Now this is something I needed to see!" Tony said.

"Me too." Pepper agreed.

"The villains making their deals." Steve said.

Raza said the scars were compliments of Tony Stark.

"Best compliments people like you will get from me." Tony said.

Obadiah mocked him for his incompetence with a smile, saying he should have killed Stark like told, to which Raza replied that he wouldn't kill a prince for just some trinkets. At Obadiah's request, Raza decided to show him the suit as he left his guards outside. The guards looked like they would come to blows.

"Well, they look friendly." Peter joked.

Obadiah and Raza walked into the tent and saw the reconstituted Mark I Armor. Obadiah started examining it as Raza said this was a crude first effort and Stark had perfected his design.

"Upgraded. Still not perfected." Tony said.

Raza said a man with dozens of those armors could rule all of Asia while Stane could get Stark's throne. Raza decided they were still in business due to their common enemy. Pouring a drink into his cup, he raised it and said that he would give Obadiah the designs as a gift and in return, get a gift of iron soldiers.

"He doesn't look like he is interested." Sam said.

"My throne, that's a laugh." Stark said.

"Stark Industries knows no king but the King in the North whose name is Stark." Scott joked and everyone laughed.

"You really have a thing for shows that have gone downhill." Hope commented.

"You have no ground to stand on. You defend the series finale of Lost." Scott said and she had a look of mock offense on her face. [1]

"Hey!" She said, "At least the characters had emotional payoffs!"

"Nothing was explained." Scott said, "At least Sansa and Arya got great endings and Ghost got petted."

"Still, D&D ruined it." Stark said, "And the series finale of Lost is horrible too."

"Couldn't agree more." Pepper said too.

"Haven't seen that show yet." Peter said.

"I will let you watch when you're 18." Aunt May told him.

"I don't think you should." Natasha said.

"Yeah, it is just a waste of a show at this point due to the last two seasons." Rhodes said too.

"You actually remind me of it, Point Break." Tony told Thor, "You too Reindeer Games. You even had fights for your thrones so you can relate."

"I can relate too." T'Challa said.

"I guess so." Thor said.

"Let's not discuss the fights for the throne." Loki said.

"I agree." Odinson said.

"Let's focus, guys." Benjamin said.

Obadiah put his hand on Raza's shoulder and pressed a small object that shone a bright light on Raza's face, exposing his nerves and paralyzing him as Obadiah said this was his only gift and that technology was their Achilles Heel in this part of the world. Walking off, Obadiah said it would last for 15 minutes. Walking out of the tent, Obadiah told his men to crate the armor. His guards had the terrorists on their knees and on Stane's order, shot them down. Stane then sat on the backseat of his car and ordered that he wanted the top engineers to make a prototype.

"Evil always sells out evil!" Logan said.

"Yes." Xavier agreed.

"No sympathy for Raza though." Clint said.

"Agreed." Bucky said too.

"Now Stane will get his." Fury said.

"Let's see." Hill said.

"He wants a prototype of the first suit now." Thor said.

"The suit still looks good all things considered." Bruce said.

"It sure does." Tony said.

"Totally agreed." Professor Hulk said too.

Pepper walked into the lab to see Tony working on the Mark III Suit and handing her a drive, he asked her to hack into the mainframe in the office and retrieve all the shipping manifests, giving her all the instructions. Pepper asked what he was going to do, to which he replied he would destroy his weapons. Pepper said she would help him with anything, but she couldn't do it if he was going to start all of it again.

"Why wouldn't you help him?" Aunt May asked.

"Because the last time he had gotten mixed up with the Ten Rings, he was missing for three months." Pepper pointed out and everyone nodded, realizing Pepper cared about Tony too much.

Tony held her hand and she squeezed back.

Tony told her there was nothing except this now. Only the next mission. Pepper then said that she quit and throwing away the drive, started walking off. "You stood by my side all those years while I reaped the benefits of destruction," said Tony, making her stop and turn around in the doorway, "And now that I'm trying to protect the people that I put in harm's way, you're going to walk out?" Pepper said he was going to kill himself and she wasn't going to be a part of that. Tony said he shouldn't be alive unless there was a reason. Looking at her with conviction, he said, "I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it's right." Pepper gave a long sigh and finally picked up the drive. "You're all I have too, you know." She said before walking off.

Steve seemed to realize why Tony and Pepper had taken a break during the fiasco with the Sokovia Accords and Bucky.

Everyone realized that Pepper was as alone in this world as Tony.

Scott started, "That was…."

"Intense?" Sam asked and he nodded.

"Things are about to get very interesting." Tony said.

"Right you are, bub." Logan said.

Pepper blew out her breath, "Here goes."

Pepper walked towards Tony's office, seeing all the assistant offices empty. She walked inside and shut the door before sitting down in front of the computer and pulling out the drive which she plugged into the USB Port. After access was granted to her, she was brought to a ghost drive. She clicked some files, seeing shipping transactions before seeing a file with a number of images of the Mark I with "Sector 16" on top of them.

"The Suit he was working on." Steve said and Tony nodded.

She then saw a video and clicked on it. It saw Tony slumped in a chair as the Ten Rings terrorists surrounded him with guns pointed at him and one of them read the ransom note.

"That's the video they shot at the beginning." Peter said and everyone nodded.

That was when Pepper was startled by a voice and looked up to see Obadiah standing there.

"Shit!" Sam said.

"He had to show up at this time!" Rhodes said in panic.

"Why does the universe have to make everything difficult?" Hope said.

"Because the universe hates us." Scott sighed.

"There is some truth to that." Benjamin said.

Tony himself looked distressed. More distressed than even Pepper. The two held each other's hands tightly.

Obadiah poured himself a drink and walking towards her, said how Tony always got the good stuff. Pepper just smiled and nodded and when Obadiah looked up, she hid the drive with a paper.

"Way to make it obvious." Fury said.

Obadiah poured himself a second glass and came around the desk just as Pepper copied the last of the files and clicked on "Screen Saver."

"Holy shit!" Bruce said.

"I share your sentiments." Professor Hulk said too.

"Phew!" Peter sighed in relief.

"It was close." Hill said.

"Too close." Natasha agreed.

"You cut it real close, Pepper." Clint said.

"You okay?" Tony asked her.

"I'm still here, remember?" Pepper said with a smile which he returned.

"Isn't Obadiah invading your personal space?" Hope noted to Pepper.

Obadiah said how Tony had left a part of himself in the cave and Pepper said he was a complicated person.

"Sure is." Wanda said.

Pepper said he would be all right and Stane told her she was a rare woman and Tony was very lucky.

"Now he has to flirt?" Aunt May said incredulously.

Peter was tense himself as he watched the tense moment.

Pepper unplugged the drive and started walking out, only for Obadiah to ask for the paper, which she handed to him. He looked at them as she walked off and looked at the drive.

"Couldn't you have waited to look at it until you were out of sight?!" Natasha asked in horror as she watched the scene.

"She is an assistant, not a SHIELD Agent." Clint told her.

"Good point." She conceded.

"She did make it." Vision pointed out.

"I made it!" Pepper said.

"Which is a great thing." Tony said.

As soon as Pepper was out of sight, Obadiah opened the computer to see the words "Download Complete." He ran his hand over his head and practically leapt to his feet.

"Uh-oh." Sam said.

Pepper made her way down the stairs when Phil Coulson called out to her. He asked her if she had forgotten about their appointment, to which she replied he needed to come with her right now. Coulson found himself nearly running to keep up with her as she told him she was going to give him the meeting of his life as Obadiah watched from above.

Thor growled at him, "You lay one finger on her and I will lighten you up."

"Too late for that, aren't you?" Loki asked with a smirk.

"Nice to see myself all enthusiastic again." Odinson commented to Thor.

"Thor, I am here." Pepper pointed out.

"Thank God for Coulson." Steve said.

"Indeed." Fury agreed.

"I have a bad feeling about this." Scott said.

"You're not wrong." Tony told him.

Obadiah strode into Sector 16 as all but one of the assistants fled. He told Stane that there was a hiccup- the technology to power the Suit didn't exist.

"It does." Tony said.

Stane's hand went around the assistant's shoulders and he invaded his personal space, saying the technology was here and he only needed to make it smaller.

"I can do that." Scott joked and everyone laughed.

The assistant said they were trying to do that and Obadiah thundered at him as he poked at his chest, "TONY STARK WAS ABLE TO BUILD THIS IN A CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!"

"Damn right!" Fury said.

"Well, he is pissed." Rhodes said.

The assistant, whose name was William, apologized, "Well, I'm sorry, but I'm not Tony Stark."

"I'm the best." Tony said with spread hands and no one felt like calling him out on it.

Tony walked into his lounge and accepted a call from Pepper when a familiar buzzing sound immobilized him. Stane took the phone and hung up, easing Tony onto the couch and showing him the device that he had used to paralyze Raza.

"Great." Sam groaned.

"That thing again." Peter said.

"The universe doesn't make things easy." Xavier said.

Wanda actually felt worried for Tony. If someone had told her just a day ago that she would be worried for Tony, she would have laughed at that person's face as she rightfully held a grudge against him for the house arrest. But she could see he was a complex individual who was good at his core.

"You okay?" Pepper asked Tony.

"I am here, remember?" Tony said this time as the two smiled at each other.

Obadiah boasted about the hit he had put on Tony and putting a device on his chest, pulled the Arc Reactor out. He asked Tony if he really thought an idea belonged to him just because he had it.

"I think it does belong to him." Vision said.

"Agreed." Wanda said too.

Obadiah said how Howard had helped give the world the atomic bomb and the world wouldn't be this good if he had been as selfish as his son. He yanked the cable up, the magnet dangling at its end.

"NO!" Pepper cried out as Tony squeezed her hand.

"I'm here!" He whispered to her.

"The magnet!" Scott said.

"The shrapnel!" Bruce said.

"Oh my God! Oh my God!" Peter was repeating to himself.

Steve was watching the scene with wide eyes, worried for Tony.

Obadiah said this was Tony's legacy- a new generation of weapons with the Arc Reactor at its heart. Tony choked and gasped as some blood leaked out of his ear and Obadiah said the weapons would put the balance of power in his hands which were the right ones.

"Do you even hear yourself?" Rhodes said.

"He is insane!" Sam said.

"All villains are heroes of their own story." Peter said.

"He believes he is doing this for the greater good of humanity." Natasha said.

"But he just wants more money and more power." Clint finished.

"He is too self-righteous to see that." Aunt May said.

"Right you are." Fury agreed.

He smiled smugly, wishing Tony could see his prototype as he put the Arc Reactor in a black suitcase and said it was a shame Tony had involved Pepper, as he would have preferred if she lived. Tony's eyes slid over to him, the fury and distress visible in spite of the paralysis as Obadiah walked off.

Steve growled, "Don't you dare…."

"Just when I thought he couldn't sink any lower." Hill said.

Thor growled, his growl like the low rumble of far away lightning, "Coward!"

"Even I wouldn't do that." Loki said.

"I wouldn't spare anyone who said something like that to me." Clint snarked.

"Me neither." Scott said.

"How are you going to survive this one?" Wanda asked.

"You will see." Tony told her.

"This is getting more and more intense." Hope said.

"Yup." Professor Hulk agreed.

Rhodes was driving his car when Pepper told him everything over the phone in distress and he agreed to check on Tony.

"Quick!" Aunt May said.

"Not fast enough." Rhodes sighed.

"Then how?" Bruce asked.

"Just watch." Tony said.

Pepper, Coulson and some other agents drove away to arrest Obadiah as Rhodes swerved and drove off towards Tony's house. Tony managed to fling himself into the elevator and reached up, crawling out.

"WHAT THE HELL?!" Scott bellowed.

"I don't believe it." Hope said, impressed by Tony's willpower.

"Son of a gun." Steve muttered.

"Where are you even going?" Fury muttered.

Tony managed to push open the door of his garage and crawled towards the desk where the old Arc Reactor was put as a gift from Pepper.

"You're an Angel, good woman." Aunt May told Pepper, who was gripping Tony's hand so tightly both of their knuckles were white.

"So this is how you did it." Hill said and Tony nodded.

Tony pulled himself up on a plastic bin and stretched up his arm, before falling back down on the floor.

"Oh no!" Bucky of all people muttered.

That was when a peculiar whine was heard and a robotic arm came down with the Arc Reactor in its claw. It was Dum-E. Tony reached up for the case, looking at Dum-E which gave a concerned click. "Good boy." Tony said to it and shattered the case against the floor.

"Good boy." Tony said.

"The best boy." Pepper said.

"Dum-E!" Vision cried.

"I knew it was good for something." Bruce said.

"And that something was this." Professor Hulk said.

"Phew!" Peter sighed in relief.

"I think you have nine lives, Mr. Stark." Benjamin told him.

"A very good observation, Mr. Parker." T'Challa agreed.

Obadiah stood in front of the Iron Monger suit, Arc Reactor in hand. With a smirk, he put the Arc Reactor on its center.

"That looks like a lot of suit." Scott said.

"It is a lot of suit." Tony said.

Rhodes burst into Tony's lounge, calling out for him. He found Tony in his workshop, doubled over the shattered glass. He ran up to him and turned him around, revealing that the Arc Reactor was inside him now. He inquired about Tony's well being. Tony simply inquired about Pepper and Rhodes said that her and five other agents were about to arrest Obadiah. Tony said that it was not going to be enough as he got up.

"He's fine. He's asking about Pepper." Natasha said and the two blushed.

"Yup." Rhodes said.

"This is not going to be pretty." Sam said.

Pepper, Coulson and the other agents arrived outside the Stark Industries Factory and she led them inside, around the Arc Reactor, until they found Section 16. She tried to use her keycard to open the door but it didn't budge so an agent handed Coulson a device which he placed on the lock. They all took a few steps back with Pepper covering her ears as it exploded. Inside, Obadiah heard the explosion and rushed towards his suit.

"This is not going to end well for the agents." Hill sighed.

"If only they knew that crazy town was back and was about to get even crazier." Fury said.

"It didn't really pick the lock." Pepper said with dry humor.

"Nah. This was even better." Tony said.

Tony put on his Suit in his workshop in front of an awed Rhodey who said it was the coolest thing ever. Tony aimed a ray at the car he had crushed after falling from his first flight and sent it flying away from him.

"It works." Bruce said happily.

Tony's mask went down as he told Rhodes to keep the skies clear and flew off through the holes in the ceiling into the night sky. Rhodes stared after him in awe and looked at the unpainted but still impressive-looking Mark II Armor. "Next time, baby!" He said as he sat in one of Tony's cars and sped away.

"Next time!" Rhodes said as him and Tony high-fived.

Phil Coulson entered Sector 16 with Pepper and the other agents behind. The agents had their guns out. They came across the reconstituted Mark I Armor. Pepper thought it would have been bigger.

"A lot bigger." Pepper said.

Pepper heard a buzzing noise from behind her and looked to see two disconnected cables that were still buzzing.

Peter started, "How big-"

"Enormous. You will see it soon." Tony said.

The agents split up. Coulson and another agent went together while the other three found some upgrades to the Mark I Armor. Pepper heard a slight noise behind her but couldn't see much due to the darkness so she stepped further to look closely, only for two eyes to shine in the darkness.

"Oh shit!" Scott said.

"And it's on." Hope said.

"You should have stayed with the agents, Miss Potts." T'Challa said in distress.

Something colossal stood up and looked down on Pepper as she ran off in fright, alerting Coulson and the agents. They tried to fire but the Iron Monger suit knocked them all out and tried to grab Pepper, barely missing her.

Steve snarled, "Don't you dare!"

Tony flew through the sky, with JARVIS telling him the Suit was at forty eight percent power and falling as the Chest Piece wasn't designed for sustained flight. As Pepper ran out of the Stark Industries Factory, Tony called out to her on her cell phone. After inquiring about his well being, she tried to tell him about Stane, to which he replied he already knew. He asked Pepper to get out of the place. The pavement behind Pepper suddenly moved and cracked until it broke as the Iron Monger rose and towered over her.

"GET THE HELL AWAY FROM HER!" Bucky of all people bellowed, making Tony and Pepper look at him in surprise, with Steve and Natasha nodding at him in pride.

"I hope he is burning in Hel for all his crimes." Thor snarled.

Obadiah taunted Pepper as she backed off in fear with a scream. "Your services are no longer required!" He said coldly and a barrel of enormous rounds on his arm began to spin.

"NO!" Wanda cried out.

"STANE!" The two looked up as the Iron Man Mark III Armor sailed directly into the Iron Monger, knocking it backwards out of the Stark Industries grounds onto the busy roads outside.

"YES!" Peter, Thor and Bruce cheered happily.

"About damn time." Fury said.

"Thank God." Steve sighed.

Tony sailed into the side of a truck as Obadiah landed in the middle of an intersection. Cars swerved to avoid him but he grabbed a car and threw it over his shoulder. One minivan with a woman and her children halted right in front of Obadiah and he lifted them up, making them scream in terror. Tony demanded him to put them down but he coldly refused.

"Son of a bitch!" Scott snarled.

"What did they ever do to you?" Clint snarled, reminded of Laura and his children.

"Nothing. He is just an asshole." Logan snarled with rage.

"And a coward!" Steve spat.

"And a greedy warmonger." Natasha said.

"More like Iron Monger." Peter said.

Tony told JARVIS to divert chest power to RT and soon, a beam was fired out of the Arc Reactor, sending Stane flying back as the car fell but Tony caught it and fell to one knee while the power dropped to nineteen percent. The woman slammed on the gas pedal and the minivan came down with a thud, running into Tony who slid to the ground and lifted the back wheels over him to avoid getting crushed before letting it go and rolling away. The minivan safely sped away.

"That wasn't fun." Sam said.

"Not fun at all." Tony sighed.

As Tony got up, Obadiah leapt near him and grabbed a motorcycle, sending the rider tumbling down, before slamming it into Tony, sending him flying off. A nearby bus had stopped and passengers were running out. Obadiah slammed Tony into that bus and lifted him up before throwing him down again and slamming him with his foot, saying how he had lifted him up for 30 years and had built the company from nothing.

"No you haven't." Tony said.

"You and Howard Stark built it from nothing!" Fury corrected him coldly.

He hurled Tony into the now empty bus through the side, saying how nothing was going to stand in his way now, least of all Stark. A large projectile opened on his shoulder and he fired it into the now ruined bus. The resulting explosion sent Tony flying into the air and he came down just as his flight repulsors started working, helping him hover upright for a moment.

"Phew!" Pepper sighed in relief.

"That was close!" Rhodes said.

"It is about to get worse." Tony said.

Obadiah was impressed by the upgrades and said he had some of his own. The Iron Monger suit lifted itself off the ground and ascended into the air. JARVIS noted the Suit could fly.

"You're stating the obvious now." Wanda told him.

"I was designed that way." Vision said.

Tony wanted to fly up to maximum altitude in spite of only fifteen percent power and JARVIS obeyed as he soared into the clouds, Iron Monger following. Pepper watched worriedly from the ground. In the military surveillance area, the privates noted the return of the thing from Gulmira and were about to get Major Allen when Rhodey stopped them, saying it was just a training exercise, to which the young man agreed hesitantly.

"Now the military is interfering again." Hope sighed.

"Just like always." Pepper said.

"Good ol' Rhodey." Tony said with a smirk.

"I have my moments." Rhodes said with his own smirk.

Tony soared into the sky, noting the decrease in power as Obadiah flew after him.

"There is ice on him." T'Challa noted and everyone nodded, realizing Tony's plan.

Obadiah grabbed Tony and gloated that while his idea was great, the Iron Monger suit was more advanced in every way. Tony inquired about the icing problem, confusing Obadiah as the lights in the helmet flickered and then went out. Tony hit the helmet, sending Obadiah down as his own Suit went out of power but managed to run on emergency backup power.

"YES!" Peter cheered.

"That's the end of him." Bruce said.

"Hope he burns in Hel." Thor said.

"Actually, it's not." Tony revealed to their shock.

"What do you mean?" Scott asked, "It looks pretty final."

"Just watch." Pepper said.

Tony fell on top of the factory on his knees and called out to Pepper who asked if he was okay. Tony said he was almost out of power as he ripped out a glove and his helmet. That moment, he heard a clanking thud behind him and turned around to see Iron Monger looming over him. Obadiah taunted his efforts and tried to punch. Tony ducked but when he tried to fire, he realized he had ripped off that glove and received a punch to the face that sent him flying off.

"What did I tell ya?!" Tony said.

"Is there any end to him?" Scott asked angrily.

"I can't stand him for one more minute!" Hope said as he reminded her too much of Darren Cross.

"Don't worry. You only have to stand him for about five." Pepper said.

"I can live with that." Hope said.

Tony recovered and leaping up, punched Obadiah on the helmet but got caught in a bear hug. JARVIS told him repulsors and missiles were offline so he deployed flares, temporarily blinding Obadiah who let him go.

"It worked." Rhodes said.

"Kinda." Tony agreed.

As Obadiah recovered, Tony peered at him from a corner and called out to Pepper, telling her to overload the Reactor and blast the roof. Pepper asked him how to do that and he explained how to. Pepper agreed and went in as Tony told her to wait until he was clear of the roof and he would buy her some time. Tony ducked out of the way as Obadiah arrived and Pepper pulled down all the switches.

"Oh boy!" Sam said.

"This is just so intense." Peter said.

"Totally in agreement with you, kid." Scott said.

Tony jumped on Stane's back and JARVIS located a weak point which he ripped out triumphantly, making Obadiah lose the optical connection. Pepper pushed a row of square glowing buttons as Stane grabbed Tony and threw him onto the glass panes in the middle directly above the large Arc Reactor. Pepper twisted a row of dials as the chest pieces of the Iron Monger folded back and the helmet opened up to reveal Obadiah Stane inside.

"There you are, you rascal!" Thor said.

"Come on, Pepper." Aunt May muttered.

Obadiah held out the helmet of the Mark III Armor and said he was deeply enjoying the suit before crumpling it into a twisted lump of metal and throwing it next to Tony. Obadiah gloated that Tony had outdone himself and made his father proud. Pepper pushed the last buttons and opened the cover of a large red one. She asked Tony to get off the roof as Obadiah shot at the glass around Tony. He tried to defend himself but the glass was shattered and he clung to the metal bars as Pepper screamed and raised her hands to protect herself from the glass.

"Were you okay down there?" Tony asked.

"Were you OKAY UP THERE?!" Pepper asked incredulously.

Obadiah fired again, shattering more glass on the unfortunate Pepper who looked up to see Tony dangling and called out to him. Obadiah fired some missiles which missed and exploded behind Tony as he said how Tony had ripped out his targeting system as the man asked Pepper to push the button in spite of him being there. "Just do it!" Tony shouted. "You'll die!" Pepper howled as another explosion caused Tony to lose his hold and he had to hold with his bare hand. "Push it!" He shouted. Pepper punched the button, and raced away from the station as the Reactor came to life and filled the room with charges that could have individually powered a house each. Then it sent a blast of power up to the roof which blasted Tony aside and struck the Iron Monger's smaller Reactor.

"Whoa!" Sam shouted.

"That was awesome!" Peter cheered and saw everyone looking at him incredulously, "And very dangerous!"

"Nice save." Benjamin said as everyone laughed.

Obadiah gave a cry as the resulting shock sent a bolt of electricity into the sky, causing a streak of lightning and a clap of thunder. He was dead before the Suit even began to fall, clanking its way down through the factory into the great Arc Reactor. There was a burst of flame that nearly caught Tony as he rolled away from the hole in the roof. Then, slowly, the air cleared. Tony lay unmoving, the Arc Reactor flickering feebly. "Tony!" came the voice of Pepper. The Arc Reactor went out, and the screen went dark.

"That will do it." Sam said.

"You killed him with lightning. I like that." Thor smirked.

"Of course you do." Loki said dryly.

"I still do." Odinson told him and he sighed.

"What about the two of you?" Steve asked Tony and Pepper.

"Let's watch." Tony said.

"Yeah, let's." Pepper agreed.

"You two have very stressful lives." Rhodes told them, "And that in turn, makes my life very stressful."

"That was a good observation, Colonel." Vision noted.

"Now we will see the fallout of this, won't we Mr. Parker?" T'Challa asked and Benjamin nodded.

The next day, on a TV screen, a press conference was being streamed live. Rhodes stood at the podium, telling the official cover story. Tony sat on his couch, reading "The Chronicle" and being attended to by Pepper as the headline ran, "Who is the Iron Man?" There was a picture of the Mark III Armor which someone had managed to take.

"Now we know where the name came from." Thor said.

"It was a cool name." Peter said.

"That is a good picture." Natasha said.

"Wonder who took it." Clint said.

Tony commented how the "Iron Man" name was catchy with a nice ring to it but said it wasn't accurate as the suit was a titanium-gold alloy while Pepper pulled a bandage off his nose. He agreed that it was evocative at least. Phil Coulson handed him some blue cards and said they were his alibi.

"There is Coulson!" Steve said.

"Ready to save the day." Tony said.

"I think we all know how the alibi turned out." Xavier said with a smile as everyone chuckled.

Tony argued a bit about the alibi but Coulson said, "This isn't my first rodeo, Mr. Stark. Just stick to the official statement and soon this will all be behind you."

"I still remember that first rodeo." Fury muttered to himself.

Pepper thanked Coulson for all his help and he said that's what they did and that the two would hear from him. Pepper was about to pronounce the entire name of the organization when Coulson told her to call them SHIELD and walked away. Pepper helped Tony dress up as he commented the alibi was good enough. Tony said if he was Iron Man, he would have a girlfriend who knew his secret identity and would worry over him but would be proud of the man he had become.

"Awww." Natasha said.

"I think I'm kind of like that." Peter said, "Only except girlfriend, it's my aunt."

"Right you are, Peter." Aunt May said with a proud smile.

Tony reminded Pepper of the night they had and she reminded him that he had left her, making him deflate.

"Crap!" Rhodes said.

"And I thought we were having a moment." Tony said as Pepper smirked.

"Will that be all, Mr. Stark?" Pepper asked. "That will be all, Ms. Potts." Tony said at the same moment, and he left in rather a hurry.

"Snap!" Scott said.

Rhodes told the reporters Stark had prepared a statement and stood aside as Tony arrived and said he would just stick to the cards this time and the press chuckled.

"So much for that." Natasha rolled her eyes.

"Should have done that." Fury said as Stark looked over at him, "Would have saved everyone a headache."

Everyone laughed.

Tony talked about the speculation of his involvement in the freeway and on the rooftop when Christine Everhart interrupted him and asked if he expected them to believe the story of a bodyguard in a suit that conveniently appeared.

"And Christine is back with a vengeance." Scott sighed.

"I knew the excuse wouldn't work." Tony said.

Tony said it was one thing to question the official story and another to insinuate that he was a superhero, to which she replied that she didn't. Tony started backtracking when Rhodes told him to stick to the cards and he agreed.

"Here it comes!" Natasha said.

"Watch out!" Clint said.

"Truth is. . ." Tony looked up and his face went completely blank.

Everyone held their breaths in anticipation.

"I am Iron Man."

"Ta-da!" Aunt May said.

Loki started laughing merrily as everyone else except Clint and Fury clapped at Tony who almost felt like getting up and bowing down to acknowledge their respect for him.

Instantly the press conference room was in uproar and every reporter sprang to his or her feet - all except, of course, for Christine Everhart. Tony almost smiled for a moment, and then the screen went dark.

"She's not even standing." Scott said.

"To be honest, she doesn't have any obligation to." Hope pointed out.

"That's the end of it!" Tony said.

"Not quite." Benjamin said.

"Really?" Tony asked, "What's left?"

"Just watch." Professor Hulk said as the screen lit up again.

Tony entered his lounge as he called out to JARVIS who responded in a distorted voice.

"What's wrong with you?" Wanda asked.

"Just watch." Vision said.

"So we're watching this." Tony said as him and Fury exchanged a knowing look and everyone realized something was up.

Tony walked forward a step or two, and halted. Behind the couch, in the shadows of the room, stood a tall figure wrapped in something dark. "I am Iron Man." said the familiar voice, "You think you're the only superhero in the world?"

"Not for long." Tony said as him and Bruce exchanged a look.

"Oh!" Clint said.

"It's Fury!" Hill said cheerfully.

"About damn time." Fury said.

The shadowed form of the stranger turned to the large window. "Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet." He said. "Who the hell are you?" Tony asked. The stranger came forward into the lamplight, which gleamed on a long black trench coat and a black eye patch. "Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD." He said.

"That's an awesome entrance!" Hill cheered as everyone smiled at what they were witnessing.

Nick Fury then said, "I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative." The screen went black.

"All right!" Sam cheered.

"So that's when it began." Steve noted.

"Yup." Fury said.

"And I didn't qualify originally." Tony said.

"You did later." Natasha told him.

"Now that's the end of this recording." Benjamin told them.

"How many more are there?" Pepper asked.

"21." He said to their shock.

"21?" Clint asked, "How're we going to view them all?"

"We did tell you we will drop you off to the exact time from where we picked you up." Professor Hulk reminded and they all relaxed, "You all must be hungry."

Everyone realized they were.

"Well, the dining room is nearby. Follow me." Benjamin said as he, Odinson, Professor Hulk and Logan got up while Xavier moved his wheelchair and the others moved to follow them.