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Old Souls

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PROLOGUE

17th October 2023

“We’re gonna be okay.”

Pepper’s voice was fading in his ears. Her face was diminishing in his vision as blackness crawled at the edges of his eyes. He felt so weak, so in pain… His whole body was feeling numb. His heart was slowing and he found it difficult to keep on taking the small breaths he could. He’d made sure everyone was safe…

He’d won.

His breathing was slowing.

All he could see now was Pepper’s smile as he turned his head to the side weakly, allowing gravity to take his body.

“You can rest now.” He barely heard her voice.

His vision vanished and he ceased seeing Pepper’s face in his mind’s eye as he felt himself fade into blackness.

- - - - -

Tony rolled over and yawned as consciousness slowly began to drag him out of the realm of sleep. As he opened his eyes, he found himself in familiar surroundings. He was in a room, his bedroom, lying in his bed in the Compound that had just recently been destroyed by Thanos…

That name resonated with him.

Thanos.

He’d been fighting him, hadn’t he?

Or had he dreamed it?

It all felt so real.

Memories flashed in his mind’s eye as Tony sat up in bed, pushing the covers off and looking down at his right arm. His arm was fine. There was no evidence of injury. He’d felt his arm burning, the bones crumbling to dust in his arm as he held the power of the Infinity Stones as they coursed through his body. No dream could make him feel that type of sensation…

Pepper’s face flashed in his mind.

“We’re gonna be okay. You can rest now.”

Those words had felt so real, so final…

Her face fading from his mind… He’d died. He was sure of it.

Then where was he?

Was he in heaven?

Surely Tony Stark wouldn’t be sent to heaven?

Tony slowly got out of bed and walked across to the en-suite bathroom, glanced in the mirror and stumbled back in shock.

Forcing himself to look again, he reached up and touched the right side of his face, turning his head this way and that, looking for the signs of aging and for the scars he felt for sure should be there, yet he looked exactly how he had in 2016. He had small tufts of grey hair at the sides.

He remembered Pepper kneeling in front of him, struggling to keep smiling as she uttered the last words he’d ever hear. That couldn’t have been a dream.

“Where am I?” he whispered, touching his face once again, afraid the illusion would break.

Moving out of the bathroom, Tony walked across to the other side of the room, opening the curtains and looked out. The Compound was bustling with activity as employees of both Stark Industries and the Avengers went about their working day. It was a sunny day with the sun beating down upon the land.

Stumbling back, Tony felt the beginnings of a panic attack. He could feel his heart pumping faster in his chest. If he could feel his heart beating he had to be alive, right? Surely?

Stay cool, Stark. Clearly, something happened when you used the stones.

He knew it had happened. The memories felt too real. He could recall Morgan, his daughter, giving him a long hug before he had departed for the Compound. He remembered holding her as a baby. If it had been a dream, everything he remembered wouldn’t feel so real and he’d have had to sleep for years to be able to fit it all in…

“Oh god, Morgan! Is she-?”

He needed to find out where he was. Did Morgan even exist?

How could he find out?

Tony pressed his hand to his chest, just to make sure his heart was beating.

It was.

“Are you alright, boss? I detect your heartbeat rising suggesting you are succumbing to a panic attack.”

Tony jumped, stumbling back against the wall, sliding down it. His A.I was here. He knew he should be dead. He’d died. He’d felt it. But he was here… It felt real. Was it real? It had to be…

“I shouldn’t be here…” he muttered, casting his gaze around him. He swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. He needed to know where he was. Judging by his appearance he had to be in the past…

“Friday?” he managed.

“Yes, boss,” the A.I responded.

“What is today’s date?”

“The thirtieth of April 2016.”

To be continued...