Tony Stark is the sun. The very sun that beat down on him in Afghanistan, the sun he very nearly laid down under to die, the sun that peeled his skin and sucked every last drop of moisture from his skin. He is the very same sun that he squinted past to see the helicopter that finally came for him, the same sun that lit him up, the only dark spot in a sea of sand, the same sun that lit the way to salvation after nearly being his eternity.
Tony Stark is the moon. Waxing and waning in the shadow of something greater, only reflecting what and who his father was. But as any astronomer knows, even the moon can eclipse the sun.
Tony Stark is fire. He is burning, in every possible way. Burning desire, intelligence, want, need. Ideas burn in his mind, in his eyes, in his soul. Tony will one day burn that fire out, burn everything around him to nothing but ash, and then burn the ash. But until then, he will burn brighter than anything or anyone else, and it will be glorious.
Tony Stark is ice. He is cold and unmoving and he will always rise to the top, just like ice in a glass. Always. He can melt and change, but one wrong move and he will return to the glacial state. And make no mistakes, if you see him surrounded by others, you're only seeing the smallest part of him, because there is so much more underneath.
Tony Stark is water. He is fluid, everything about him is, ideas, sense of self, sexuality, image. He can flow and move and fit into whatever container he is placed in. He can boil and freeze and he is necessary to keep you alive, but he can also kill you.
Tony Stark is an inventor. That is who he is at the core, before he was anything else. He is circuit boards before kindergarten, engines before the first grade. He is AIs made before he got laid, and look how that turned out, Dum-E. He is Jarvis and U and Butterfingers, he is the home he built for himself, he is the sum of all the things that ever came out of his workshop, of SI's R&D, and so much more. He builds and he creates because that is who he is, and was before anything else happened.
Tony Stark is a destroyer. He didn't start out as this, but grew into it, grew into this thing he didn't realize he'd become until it was too late, until he was neck deep in it, quite literally. Maybe he knew, somewhere that he didn't want to acknowledge, but he never quite realized it until he was faced with the amount of death and destruction and horror that he had helped created.
(Tony may have thought he was creating things, but he was destroying them too.)
Tony Stark is death. He is weapons and destruction and murder. He is Jericho missiles and guns and dead soldiers that were just smiling for a photo with him. He is dead soldiers who will never be able to post that picture to Myspace. He is his own weaponry, his own mode of destruction, the goddamn bomb with his name on it, right in front of him. There is no escaping that kind of fate, of karma, and when he looks down his chest is red with his own blood and it's almost fitting if it wasn't so awful.
Tony Stark is life. He is clean energy and advanced health care technology and intelli-crops and robots. He is the birth of so many that he has saved, birth and rebirth and generations afterwards. He is atonement and penance and redemption. He is a goddamn phoenix, rising from the ashes of his former life to make something new and better.
But he is also a debt that he can never quite pay, not matter how hard he tries. Because no matter how hard he tries, he can never bring back those he has killed, those who have died.
But Tony Stark is Iron Man, and that is enough.
It has to be.
(Because otherwise there is no sleep at night, and his blood is more alcohol than water, and there is no saving the world, there is only pain that he can't escape from, and it has to be enough.)