This just came to me as I was writing the next chapter for 'The Trouble with Serums' so I decided, 'hey, why not?' Tell me if you like it! Oh, and if anything confuses you, leave it in a review or PM message so I can clear some things up .
It was a cold day in New York City. The temperature had dipped into the low teens, not to mention the wind chill factor. Anyone with half a brain was locked up inside their cozy little apartments or offices, drinking warm beverages and watching the news. A day like that would be most unpleasant to be found outside.
But a particular man on one of the shadier streets of the city was walking alone, with only a worn jacket to keep him warm. The wind snapped at his back, its icy fingers stretching towards him; the man did not seem to notice, just pulling his jacket a little closer to him. He winced as an empty beer can rattled down the pavement, blown away by the wind; he didn't care much for loud noises, or standing water for that matter.
He shuffled along another few steps, before seeing the place he was headed for. The man stepped away from the grimy street onto the dirty sidewalk, and pushed open a door whose handle had long since broken and headed into the old, dusty bar.
The bartender, a balding man with an eye patch and ugly scars on his face, nodded to the man as he sat down on the wobbly, splintered barstool. The man ran a hand through his greasy black hair, his dark eyes seemingly broken. "The usual?" the bartender rasped out. The man nodded, dropping a one hundred dollar bill on the table. "And keep it coming," he added. The bartender smiled a cruel, sinister smirk. "Of course, Anthony. Of course."
Two Months Earlier
All of the living Avengers were sitting somberly in the meeting room. They were there to discuss the battle of Manhattan, of how they had driven the invading creatures out, how Tony Stark had diverted a nuclear missile into the portal, of how Tony Stark sacrificed himself in order to save New York City. No one had ever thought that Tony, of all people, would die that day. No one had ever seemed as invincible, as clever, as alive as Stark, and everyone had assumed he'd just…live. It was as simple as that. People counted on Tony to always be there, annoying and brash.
But Tony was gone. That much was true. Natasha had closed the portal too early, but Tony would've gone too long without air anyway. Tony was dead. Tony was dead. Tony was dead…That message kept repeating itself in Bruce's mind, but it didn't sink in. Tony was obviously upstairs in the lab, ready to rant about how easy it was to access SHIELD, or he was outside, flying around Stark Tower, making repairs. But deep down, a part of Bruce was screaming at him to get out of the dreaming state and accept the damn truth.
Everyone else was like him, though, except for Steve. Steve just sat with his expression stony and dark. He understood the casualties of war better than anyone, but even he wanted his annoying, crazy friend back. But he also wasn't fooling himself into believing it would happen.
Nick Fury stepped into the meeting room, his expression unreadable. On his clipboard sat a single manila folder with a small label in the top right corner: Anthony Howard Stark. He looked a little sad himself as he set the folder down on the glossy wood table. "Stark was a good man. He was as annoying as hell…but he was a person I am proud to say was my friend. You guys handled Manhattan pretty well. And I just figured..." he pointed at the file. "You guys can take a look at that when you feel up to it." The Director left, leaving a slightly stunned group behind him.
Natasha was the first one to move. She switched seats silently, quickly, taking Tony's usual place at the head. She stared down at the folder, unsure. Then, she flipped it open, and started reading the report done by Maria Hill.
"Anthony Howard Stark was born in 1980. Self-proclaimed genius, billionaire, playboy and philanthropist, Mr. Stark had a talent for pissing off anyone and everyone he came into contact with." Natasha smiled at those words, a rare smile that only certain things could elicit from her. Everyone smiled at that, in fact.
Clint nodded at her to keep reading. "Anthony, known as Tony to friends, was captured in Afghanistan in the summer of 2008, hit with a kind of bomb that he had made himself. He was tortured with a type of waterboarding after he refused to make a nuclear missile for the group of terrorists that held him captive. After this torture was used multiple times, Stark agreed to make the nuke, but instead made an arc reactor to replace a car battery that had kept him alive. Then, he started working on a suit of metal. He broke out of the cave he was held prisoner in for three months and launched himself into the middle of the desert. Stark's friend, James Rhodes, found him a day later.
"After his recovery from multiple injuries he had received in the cave, Tony stopped weapon production in his company, Stark Industries. Tony then began making more suits, eventually making the one he used up until his death." Natasha paused for a moment, before continuing,
"Stark, after the betrayal of his godfather, Obadiah, and Palladium poisoning both almost killing him, he joined the Avenger's Initiative, despite Nick Fury's (understandable) reservations about him. Fury wasn't sure about Anthony because of his debilitating fear of standing water and Stark's unruly and snarky behaviors. However, Stark did join, and with the help of Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, Natasha Romanoff, Bruce Banner and Thor Odinson they stopped an alien attack launched by Loki, Thor's adopted younger brother.
Natasha stopped again, looking at the next words. "Tony…Tony died at the end of the battle, unfortunately. A group of officials with higher authority than Director Fury had decided to send a nuclear weapon into the midst of New York City, trying to obliterate the last remnants of the alien invasion. However, this would destroy the City itself too, killing millions of innocent people." Natasha sucked in a deep breath, and when she next spoke, her voice trembled. As in, it literally trembled. Natasha's job was literally to be a badass, and Natasha was the best one for it. No one had ever seen Natasha cry. Yet here she was, a tear actually leaking out of the Russian's eye.
"Stark got the missile and flew up into the portal created by the Tesseract, a mysterious cube Loki had stolen earlier. H-he flew into the other dimension and diverted it onto a battleship that housed the leader of the invasion. Stark died a hero.
"After the portal closed, a huge tornado formed, probably from the disturbance the portal had caused. The Avengers quickly took care of this aftershock, thanks to Thor Odinson and his talent with the skies. Yet they searched for Mr. Stark in vain; he wasn't to be found. The whole world would be rocked with the revelation that their most annoying, snarky, insecure, heroic billionaire was gone hours later. Pepper Potts took over Stark Industries, and now all that is left of Tony is the landmarks he made and the memories of him in our hearts."
Natasha sat in silence in the meeting room for the longest time. Finally, Steve spoke up, "Is there more?" Natasha shook her head. "It's just copies of contracts and passports and things," she said quietly. Everyone nodded. "I guess…that's it?" Clint asked. Although he hadn't known Tony half as long as everyone else—and granted, even that wasn't long—Clint still felt like the air had deflated out of him as soon as he didn't see Stark make a reappearance out of the portal. Tony, for the short time Clint had known him, had seemed utterly invincible, a little like an annoying cockroach.
Bruce sighed. "I guess it is," he whispered, and pushed himself out of the office chair. Bruce needed to go and think, more than everything. So he departed first, bidding his goodbyes to the rest.
As Bruce emerged onto the busy New York street, he wondered idly if that was all life was. You're born, you grow up, get a job (although Bruce's job was slightly abnormal, it was still a job,) you die, and the world goes on. It would just keep revolving, and people would keep living, and soon you'd just be a name, a long-forgotten face that people might reference to for a couple of years.
That's a depressing thought. Snap out of it, his brain commanded him. So he obediently shook his head and tried to focus in on the real world.
He had walked into an abandoned alleyway by accident. It was even dirtier than usual New York, with trash and dirt coating the pavement and a rancid smell taking over the air. He shivered involuntary; Bruce never liked alleyways. It reminded him of those cliché Hollywood films where the main character was mugged by some hoodlum. Bruce laughed a little bitterly; if anyone tried to attack him, they'd be torn limb from limb by the other guy.
Bruce had had to work on controlling the Hulk after Tony…left. It was like all of his control had broken down like a dam, and now he was keeping the Hulk at bay all the time. He'd lost people before (namely, Betty) but Tony was gone where Bruce couldn't even fathom about. And it made him angry. Angry that a good man (though he was unnecessarily annoying) had just been killed like that. He sighed. Life was a bitch.
But as Bruce turned to leave the alleyway, a piece of gold glinted in his peripheral vision. Bruce immediately did a double take. He sucked in his breath and headed the complete opposite direction then he had intended originally.
It couldn't be…Bruce threw away a few McDonald's burger wrappers, and grasped the cold metal in his hands. It wasn't possible. But it was in his hands. Tony Stark's Ironman mask sat in his hands, a simple piece of engineered metal that had never given Bruce as much hope as it did now. Tony Stark, Merchant of Death…more like Cheater of Death.
And for the first time since the battle, Bruce Banner really, truly smiled.