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To be Cold, Alone, and Unexpected; However, Ahead of the Endgame

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Anthony Edward "Tony" Stark. His name was the light on the pathway that led off the bridge. A failure, both to his family (Avengers included) and the world.

As Tony held a sobbing Peter Parker (God kid, I'm so so sorry...) in his arms, he couldn't help but face the irony of it all. So many times he had wanted to end his own life, and the one time he wanted to live, he gets dusted in the most embarrassing way possible. Just absolutely perfect.

The feeling of being dusted actually wasn't so bad. It tingled his skin politely, made his limbs numb first before floating away in the wind as a (for the most part) surreal sensation; Surreal, being anything you want the word to mean all at the same time. He looked down at Peter, who was bawling hysterically. He clawed at the suit Tony was wearing frantically, whispering nothingness and mumbles of "Mr. Stark, I don't wanna go. Mr. Stark, I don't feel so good-"

Poor kid. His enhanced healing must be trying to pull him back together.

He could feel Peter starting to slip from his grasp, cold guilt settling in his stomach as the young boy disappeared. He shifted his glance towards his new friend Stephen, of whom he had only known for a few hours. He stiffened at the horrified look in the (older? younger?) man's eyes as darkness overcame him. A feeling of peace surrounded him. Is this what it was like to die?

He could feel his own mind letting go. He counted to three.

One...

Tw-

He barely got through two before he snapped back to reality, overwhelmed by the sharp pain coming from everywhere (mostly his chest).

 

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

 

His eyes (eyes! I have eyes!!) flung open, just in time for the smelly rice bag to be torn off his head. The action whipped Tony's neck to the side, his cheek hitting his shoulder unpleasantly. He groaned as the muscles in his neck screamed in pain, only for them to be tested again as a strong hand took a handful of his drenched hair and made him face the old camera. He blinked his crusty eyes in mild surprise.

He realised what was happening. He snorted, emitting a slap to the face from one of the other terrorists that stood beside him.

He had never believed in deja-vu. He thought it was a myth, and that if you had seen something one time it would always be filed away somewhere in your mind that you just couldn't reach.

However, when a few familiar cuts started to sting, and a couple recognisable bruises started to ache against his bindings, he felt the feeling of deja-vu wash over him. His face stung from where he had been slapped. He scoffed coldly.

Hell had like, three other experiences to choose from that were more traumatizing than Afghanistan. Pfft, pathetic.

Afghanistan? What?

Tony waited for the main grizzly man to finish speaking before getting pulled upwards and be forced to walk sullenly to his cell, car battery in tow. He already knew how to get out of this hell hole. He showed no signs of acknowledging the other voice that had piped up in his head just a few seconds before. He was pushed forcefully inside of his cave, making him stumble to catch his footing. Even though he knew that the first time around he had been too tired to even stay awake (being tortured by drowning had elicited that as a common reaction), it felt like his remaining strength had translated over from when he had been snapped. Sure, a nap would do him good, but he could probably keep fighting if he needed to. Hell, he might be able to stealthily break out without the suit. Scratch that, actually, but he knew he'd be able to make the suit faster. Like, way faster.

Guess it must've just been in my head... This is weird...

This time the weaker voice aroused, Tony blinked in surprise but gave nothing away. He watched Yinsen's shadow move carefully around the cave. On cue, the shrapnel created a stinging pain in his chest, making him wince.

"I'm going insane..." As Tony's voice filled the chamber, Yinsen finally turned around to look at him. Tony unconsciously brought a hand up to his arc-reactor, only realizing that there wasn't one and that in his chest instead was just an old magnet running on a car battery with dirt-coated wires keeping the two connected. Yinsen's eyes followed the movement of Tony's hand, finally deciding to speak up.

"It's an honor, Tony Stark. We didn't get to meet properly when you awoke, as the guards took you away fairly quickly," Yinsen's voice was soft and welcoming, just as Stark remembered. Tony smiled painfully, remembering how the gentle, kind-hearted man died.

I'm sorry, buddy. We went through so much together. I can't believe I let you die.

Mr. Stark? I-Is that you?

 

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

(With Peter Parker)

Peter was confused enough to start crying again, and honestly, nobody would have judged him if he did. The rain was pelting down all over his face, and whenever he looked down, tiny eight-year-old hands stared back at him. He thought- hoped- that it was just a trick of the light. That all the callouses and bruises that had built up on his skin were still there, and that the reason his hands felt uncharacteristically soft was because of the water running through his fingers. He hurriedly looked over his wrist for the scar that had given him his powers.

Two tiny white dots faced back at him. What was going on?

He pulled his cuff back down. He was so small? What was happening??

Hell had like, three other experiences to chose from that were more traumatizing than Afghanistan. Pfft, pathetic.

Afghanistan? What?

It didn't take a genius to know that the familiar deeper-sounding voice in his head wasn't his. However, his own thought came out weak and light, like that of a child. He waited for the deep voice to sound again, but when it didn't, he audibly sighed. Peter felt bitterness coat his mouth as he swallowed harshly.

Guess it must've just been in my head... This is weird...

A cold feeling of dread settled in his stomach at how high his voice sounded. He looked around, and in his despair managed to block out the drowning thought of him going insane and thinking up voices for himself. He was like, 90% sure that he wasn't supposed to hear mediocre-at-best sounding impressions of an old man that his imagination had come up with. Suddenly, as he was scanning the area, he realized he was in a graveyard. His eyes widened. Was he dead? Was this his home now?

Confusion settled heavy and dark in the air. He looked down at the graves in front of him. Four. His parents' graves were two, but why were his aunt and uncle's names on the other two? Why did the gravestone say that they died early back in 2008 when it was 2018 right now? Was it even 2018? Why was he even here, and not on the final battlefield way up in space?

Questions built up in his mind like debris. The words closed around him like to walls pushing in at his brain. He couldn't move, his body frozen at the feeling of suffocation. His breathing laboured, the words closing around him and ringing in his ears. Suddenly his tuxedo was itchy, too small. He managed to bring a hand up to his collar, but the movement was slow and triggery. His skin felt like sandpaper, rubbibg against itself and sending needles into his nerves. Tears flowed into his mouth, where they tasted like rocks of salt that slid down his throat. When he swallowed, albiet harshly, it was like he could feel every individual atom of saliva slide through his body. The water on his face stung like acid, burning through his skin and ricocheting down his neck and into the fibres of his suit. He dropped to his bruised knees and hiccuped, the air that crashed into his lungs making him winded and weak. He sobbed quietly, closing his eyes and bringing his hands up to his mouth as a last resort to keep himself from screaming bloody murder. Tears ran down his hands as he tried composing himself. His breath labored, muscles weak, bones hurting, he pried open his red eyes.

May Parker

1964 - 2008

Loving aunt, daughter, and wife

Peter's breath hitched. He was never going to see Aunt May ever again.

For the first time in Peter's life, he wouldn't have minded if he went to hell right then and there. The child let out a broken sob, clasping his hands over his ears and squeezing his eyes tightly. You could have saved her. You could have saved Ben. You're weak. He curled into a ball and toppled from his position from of sitting on his knees to laying down on his side in the mud. "I couldn't have saved them," he whispered to himself harshly.

Yes you could have.

"No, I couldn't."

Yes you could.

"No."

Yes. You know you could have. That's why you think you're such a failure.

"No, no stop I couldn't have I know I couldn't have stop stop it no couldn't I couldn't I swear I couldn't-"

Mom. Dad. I wanna go home now.

I'm sorry buddy. Peter's eyes fluttered open slowly, still hiccupping. We went through so much together. I can't believe I let you die.

Finally, the child-turned-younger-child recognized the familiar voice. Mr. Stark? I-Is that you?

Great, now I'm imagining my Peter. My dead Peter. Fucking perfect.

Peter's cheeks heated up at that. His hands relaxed over his ears.

No no! It's really me! Wait- A-Are you dead too?

Kid, if this was real, you'd be like six or something right now. Now look, I'm wasting time trying to talk to myself. His reply became less sweet and more clipped. Tart and indignant.

"But I really am six or something!" Peter hissed to himself, a few more tears rolling down his cheeks. He was tempted to vent to Tony, but his urge to save the world came before his urge to give the man a hug. Look, believe me or not, we need to meet as soon as possible. Where are you right now?

Take a wild guess. At the lack of response that Tony was given by Peter, he continued. I'm rotting in hell. In Afghanistan. And I'm going crazy, proven by the fact that I'm making up weird shit in my head.

Wait! D-Don't leave! I h-have nowhere to-

Go? I already knew that. You know how?

What? Peter felt confusion and hurt root themselves through his stomach. His eyes widened, tears finally coming to a stop.

Because you're just a figment of my imagination.

And with that last bitter comment, Peter was shut out completely. He could feel tears pricking at his eyes again, but kept his feelings under control. He had so much to do, including finding a place to stay for the night, and finding what he could do to waver Thanos. He could feel his gaze betray him as it moved back over to the gravestones that sat completely still in front of him. He wished that he could just turn around and run into his parents' arms as they held him tightly and told him that everything was going to be okay.

But after waiting a while, he realized that they wouldn't.

And suddenly the pain from all those years ago when his aunt and uncle told them that they never would again, came back.

He could feel the agony gripping at his chest. So, instead of lingering, he numbly stood up and wiped the mud off of his side and sleeve.

And he ran.

In the darkening sunset, his footsteps made splashes that soaked his dress pants and nice shoes with more mud than he thought physically possible. He shrugged off his suit jacket and brought it over his head to shield himself from the on-going thunderstorm. The rain that hit his face made him weak with cold and heavy with wetness as he dragged on. No traffic, no people, nothing. The streets were as dead as he felt, and with a stark and bitter laugh, he realized that they were completely empty. The water that ended up hitting his face in his cruise made him wipe his eyes with his shoulder. The second time he lowered his head to wipe them, he ran straight into a pole and crumpled to the ground like a card house.

He groaned as his head hit the pavement, blood falling out of his nose and all over his shirt. He cracked open an eye and let out a gasp of pain. Instantly, his hands flew up to his face to cradle his nose. It wasn't bent in any wrong way, but it was bleeding like no tomorrow and was sensitive to the touch. He gritted his teeth in agony, eyes cracking open to let a few tears slip past them. The spider was already putting his nose back together, so it didn't take long for the unbearable suffering to die down to a mild ache.

After a few minutes of writhing and holding his nose, he figured that he needed to find someplace to sleep. His thoughts were jumbled and disoriented and the pain was unbearable. The rain was still pelting down over his small frame. When he tried to stand, his knees would give out underneath him and send him hurdling to the concrete. His tears were falling to the ground in frustration, as his weak limbs tried to move. Being eight sucked, man. He had so little energy that he could hold before going completely limp. When he finally shakily got to his feet, all the tension and pain crashed down on him like the water flowing down his face. He let out a loud, broken sob, and realized what this torture felt like.

He fell to the cement again in tears. It was like that building oh so long ago was crashed over him once again. All the fear of Toomes had come back, along with the agony of losing May, paired with the loneliness of being solitary in this new life. He stayed on the ground as the rain got heavier than ever. He let out a tearful, bitter and hate-filled laugh. His chest was heavy with pain, his knees stinging from the multiple times he had fallen. His stomach growled with hunger, and he realized that this body of his probably hadn't eaten since that morning.

By the time he was closing his eyes, the night was pitch black and the rain as heavy as ever. He decided that just a nap would be okay, and that if he drowned in his sleep, it wasn't like anyone would have cared if he died anyways.

 

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

 

Peter was aware that he was awake, considering that after every passing second, the pain was more and more noticeable. Whether it was the barely noticeable ache in his fingertips or the screaming gashes under his nose and knees, he knew that his whole body was sore. By the time he had gathered the courage to open his crusty eyes, everything hurt like hell and the blinding sun that beat down on the ground didn't help him either.

He sucked in a breath, peeking out at the concrete. The sun was blinding, and paired with a pounding headache and strep-throat, it wasn't the most pleasant experience on earth. It took him a while to get his shit together and try to get up again, which was easier now since there wasn't 10-pound rain constantly pounding down on his back. He coughed, spitting out drops of blood and wheezing as his throat constricted and winded him. He pushed himself up with his arms, left hand grabbing the pole and gripping it for stability as his weak knees clicked into place after extending. Letting ut the breath he didn't know he was holding, he took a confident step forward.

His ankle gave in, sending him crashing to the ground. However, this time, it was a bit easier to stand up. He groaned as his neck pulled at the whiplash he donned, muscles tensing. He was gasping for breath by the time he stood, bending over himself and wheezing to catch himself. He took a few steps forward, trying to focus on the way his shoes clicked as they connected to the ground instead of the way his neck and upper lip and knees and everything was screaming in agony. His eyes connected with a bench, and with two giant, desperate steps, he collapsed down and wiped the sweat from his forehead. It seemed pretty early, seeing as the streets were almost as dead as the night before. He turned around to face the shop window behind him, pressing his face against the glass to try and look at the analog clock that was at the back of the small coffee shop.

04:56

He whistled, leaning back from the window and shrugging off his jacket. He dropped it near his feet in a pile. He stared at the faint dark silver pattern that laced near the cuffs, smiling at the faint memory of fitting it with his uncle and wearing it to May's friend's wedding. Everyone had awed at how cute he was, earning him a big slice of wedding cake and three re-fills of apple juice. He sighed happily, blinking dreamily at the nostalgia before clenching his fists at how dirty and unuseable the tux was now. He loosened his tie, unbuttoning the first few buttons on his collar and flipping it upwards towards his cheeks. He pulled at his cuffs, wringing his wrists at the freeing sensation. His belt was loosened, letting his pants sag slightly instead of clinging to his stomach painfully.

As he was undoing his belt, he noticed some pencil-sized holes on his wrists.

His blood ran cold. What had happened in this new body of his?

He brushed his fingers lightly over what he thought was a wound. The hole curled at the touch, closing in on itself and sending prickles through his skin. He swallowed harshly. He wouldn't be able to use his web-shooters if his wrists were too sensitive.

FLEX!

Instinct made him look back to his wrist and flex. Instantly, sticky silk-white webs shot out at him, making him let out a high-pitched yelp. It slid off his face like water, but when it dripped onto the bench, solidified again and turned into a sticky rubber consistency. Peter froze, wiping the milky substance off his face and watching as it stuck to his clothes and solidified instantly. He pulled at it, watched it melt in his hands and drip back down onto the bench. He stood quickly, ignoring the way his vision darkened with spots for a few seconds, picked up his jacket and ran away.

He huffed after a few minutes, making him slow down and lean against a wall to catch his breath. Sweat ran down his forehead, falling into his mouth. He expected it to taste salty, like tears, but it tasted... sweet?

He spit out his sweat, hoping he just imagined things, but considering the neon-orange tinged spit, he realized something horrible.

My powers are different. I have different powers. Am I really Peter Parker?

He felt his feet carry him into the alleyway that he was next to. He stepped on a few rocks, making him lose his balance, but he kept moving. He ignored the pain in his chest, focusing on the way he could now see everything and hear everything and that the vibrations of even his thoughts were so unbearably noticeable that he felt tingles in his fingertips and stomach so intense he felt the need to dry-vomit not once, but twice before he felt okay again. He used all his strength in his legs to jump up and on top of a trash can, feeling the breeze caress his skin politely. He jumped onto a balcony, accidentally knocking over a plant with his heel.

He winced as it shattered, and with the ladder, he scurried onto the roof. All his pain was gone, he realized. When he brushed his thumb over his cuts, they felt numb. He noticed weird orange-looking pus oozing from them slightly, and when he touched it, it made his fingertips numb. He hiccuped slightly, letting his feet carry him forward.

When his feet reached the end of the edge of the roof, he hesitated.

JUMP!

He did as he was told.

But after a second or two of the familiar, powerful feeling of flying in the air, his stomach dropped at his situation. He had no webs, and he was falling off of a 5-story body as an eight-year-old child and-

SHOOT!

He threw his arm forwards, flexed his wrist and watched in awe as the little hole in his wrist opened up to reveal the rope shooting out of it at lightning speed. It grabbed onto the wall, and he prayed that it snagged and stuck. His hand wrapped around the rope, and even though it was a little low, he used all his strength to launch himself upwards into the air.

He suspected he was maybe 13, 14 stories in the air. He let out a breath in surprise.

 And he kept swinging.