It was done.
He could taste iron in his mouth, smell the ash on the air, feel his heartbeat falter and slow.
The pain had faded now, the all-consuming agony now a blessed numbness and through his blurry vision he could see his kid in front of him. Peter.
Ruined lips tried to smile but the muscles in his face wouldn’t obey.
“We won Mr Stark. We won.”
Had they won? Sluggish thoughts drifted through his mind. No not really.
Peter was alive and that was the victory but that didn’t give back the years missed or fill the gaping hole in his and so many others’ lives. It didn’t bring back those who had died in Thanos’ quest for power or the bleak days in the intervening years. It didn’t bring back Nat, or let Morgan grow up knowing her brother.
Peter was alive.
For that he would die, for that he was dying, and call the trade fair. His life to ensure that both his children could live? It was never a contest.
He could see Pepper now. The wonderful woman who had put up with far too much. She would keep them safe. This was the last job he would give her.
He was tired. So very tired.
Peter was crying. Pepper was crying too.
Her lips pressed against his cheek. Her mouth was moving but he couldn’t hear her.
His vision dimmed and faded.
He couldn’t fix this.
He wanted to. To fix this, to see his family whole and the universe safe. To live for his children, not die for them.
It is a dangerous thing to wish when the infinity stones are still on your fist.
As the last of his consciousness slipped away, the six stones on his fist started to glow.
Fifteen years earlier, in the wreckage of a suit half buried in the sands of Afghanistan Tony Stark opened his eyes to an iridescent multi-coloured sheen and remembered.