He made them weapons and gear, of course. They lived in the tower, they ate his food, and if Tony closed his eyes tight, he could almost imagine they were a team, a family, again. Of course, once his eyes opened, reality came crashing down all around him again, a bitter taste in his mouth, something that no amount of drinking could get rid of. There had to be reason for his life, right? But it marched and meandered, the world moving along without him.

The workshop was a perpetual mess, always locked, not that anyone wanted to see him. He could save the world again and again, and he'd always be the bad guy. It took years to even see past his own blindness to the world, and even then, he knew he was in debt. No amount of money could bring back the dead, no amount of sorrys could stop the guilt. Time passed in a haze, or in such a blur that it felt like it was running away from him. He built in the workshop. He'd eat, the mini-fridge there proving useful. Sometimes he'd pass out from exhaustion, but no matter what Tony did, he couldn't sleep. All he could see was Steve, aiming for his chest and-

Tony always woke up before it could happen.

So he'd work and work, letting the cycle repeat, anger and guilt fighting in his gut, a constant warfare in his head. Pepper had left, and he didn't blame her. He felt bad for himself, or tried to, and found that it wasn't worth the energy. She'd left because of him. It was always his fault, right? Snarky and full of himself, no way Tony Stark could feel bad, right? He'd ripped through the Accords, tearing them apart and putting it back together, piece by piece. The others knew it was him, of course. Not they really cared that much, leaving him to his own devices. That was fine. Tony Stark didn't do teams.

He left the gear in the team kitchen, in the middle of the night, when he knew no one was there. Then back to his room, or the workshop, and feel numb for a while. He wasn't angry, he couldn't be anymore. Just drained. A cold feeling always seemed to drape over his shoulders, something that no amount of heat could fix. His head pulsed along with his heartbeat, a constant reminder that he was alive, and he didn't deserve a second of that life. The edge was so close, and he could swear he could taste it. Then, something would pull him, a battle, a question, a meeting. Like fate was determined to keep his miserable life suspended indefinitely, just close enough only to reel him back in.

He watched the news as often as he could. Villains and crime picked up everyday, people willing to try and take on the Avengers, only to be knocked back down. The world kept moving on, seemingly forgetting that they were being held in balance by a handful of people. The scales were always being moved, only to be balanced again, over and over. Tony wondered if it was even worth it to fight as often as they did. Why save the world if all the world called you was a monster? The merchant of death, Tony Stark, murderer extraordinaire. Stark Industries, the giant that had almost all the appliances in the world under its name. Phones and computers and tablets. Stark, Stark, Stark. Tony had a motivation. If the world wanted to be angry, let it be. He had everything under his thumb. Fate had kept him alive for a reason, right? If his life was going to be lived, might as well live it well. Might as well save the world while you're at it.

The world was unaware. No one who had a modern phone or computer could've been paranoid enough to be. The internet was a scary place, and almost everyone was connected to it.

You're always the hero in your own story.

Why let the world's fate hang in the balance of a couple of people?

If you want to save the world, you have to control it first.