So this is it! Final chapter of Smoke, Diamonds and Ashes!

I hope that this is to your satisfaction. It's certainly been an amazing couple of months with you guys!

(For the last time) Disclaimer: I do not own The Avengers.

He should have known that he wasn't safe.

Not safe, and never was safe since he walked out of Obadiah Stane's office that fateful day.

It was that day, with the clouds obscuring the sun and the heavens threatening to pour, was the day that his fate was forever sealed shut.

The only thing was that Tony had no idea which way his destiny would lead.

Since his brown eyes had been filled with ember from the house that was ablaze in front of him, he had wondered when Obadiah would strike again. And, for all of his genius, he didn't know why he even walked out of the conference room where he would be alone.

Of course he was waiting. Waiting in the shadows, praying and ordering his gunmen to jump on him, covering his mouth with chloroform because the minute he was out of sight was the minute that Tony walked onto his playing field.

He was stupid.

And now, with a hazy mind and him in a daze, Tony couldn't even fathom which inclined plane was the ceiling or the ground.

After a couple of seconds of confusion, Tony began to register a burning feeling in his wrists, as if his skin was rubbing against the rough edges of tightly tied rope. He tried to move his hands, but they were bound by the ropes that were indeed digging into his flesh.

He groaned, and tasted something salty in his mouth. Blood. Tony had been beaten enough in high school to know the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. It was dripping into his face, and one of his eyes wouldn't open, like they were being forcefully glued shut by a swollen black eye.

He found that he ached all over, and that there was a chill in his bones and a pounding ache in his head. Tony's head lulled around as he tried to find the strength to lift it up and focus his eyes.

As he tried to focus his eyes, he settled upon bright red splotches that were decorating his once crisp white dress shirt. His suit now had frayed edges with tendrils of thread now hanging off the hem of the jacket and small rips on his sleeves.

A sharp shooting pain went up his spine and he grimaced. A quiet chuckled echoed in the corner.

"Crumbling under a little bit of pain? How quaint."

The voice was small but deep, one that Tony had never heard before. The stranger's footsteps were getting louder. Light but long strides coming towards him, and as soon as he was able to register what was happening, he was backhanded across the face.

He sucked in a sharp breath through his teeth.

The man crouched in front of him, and Tony saw sharp feline grey eyes boring into his own. The stranger was pale, and he kept blinking excessively. His teeth were slightly crooked, with an overlap in the middle of his two front teeth, and he was dressed in a sharp black suit. His greying hair was ruffled like he'd been running his hand through it over and over again.

He also smelled like chloroform.

Tony wrinkled his nose because of the strong smell.

The man tilted his head to the side, "Aw, uncomfortable, are we?"

Tony snarled. He found that his throat was so dry that it was hard to speak.

"Well don't expect to get any more comfortable."

And that was when he felt the barrel of a gun press against his head.

She should have known that he wasn't safe.

Pepper felt like she couldn't breathe. Her heart began to pound against her chest, and she can feel and hear every rapid beat.

She let out a sharp gasp and dropped her phone in shock.

"Oh my god…"

She felt her knees buckle, failing to support her own weight. She fell to the floor, her hand trying to cling on to the podium just to stay upright.

The media in the crowd began to murmur louder. And the flashes from the cameras intensified until Pepper couldn't see anything but bright white lights in front of her.

She felt arms envelope her and bring her to her feet, and she realized that she was moving farther away from the noise, an arm poised over her head to shield her from the madness.

As she entered another room, she found herself face to face with Phil Coulson. She could hear the press now outside the door.

"Miss Potts, I need you to tell me what you saw in that phone right now," he said.

Pepper nodded without question, and she began to fumble with her pockets, grateful that she had been able to pick up her phone before she was escorted out.

As she gave it to him, she scrutinized his face. "Are you going to help him?"

He looked back at her, his face still in a gentle calm. "With all of our power, Miss Potts."

She watched as he began to type in a number on his phone and as he brought it to his ear.

"Hello, Director? Yes I'm afraid something has happened. I'm going to need personnel on the scene just in case this gets out of control. Yes, I'll do everything in my power to get him out safe. No sir, I know you're only concerned because of your friendship with Howard. Yes, okay, I'll try to track his location."

Pepper watching him intently, focusing on the creases in his face and the tiredness in his eyes. But she was curious…what did he mean by 'friendship with Howard?'

"Who are you?" she asked.

Coulson looked up towards her, "I told you I'm with the –"

"No," she cut him off, "who are you really? What do you do? How do you know about Tony? Who is your Director and why is he friends with Howard?"

The man sighed, "I'm an agent, and we've been keeping track of Mr. Stark for a long time now. My boss was his father's friend, so naturally he feels obliged to watch over him."

She popped her gum, "And you never said anything? You never confronted him and told him about who he was before this entire mess?"

"We wanted for him to find out on his own."

"And if he didn't?"

He looked at her, "Miss Potts, do you really think that it could have been kept from him forever?"

She sighed, "No."

"Exactly. Now, do you think you can help us track down his location? He shouldn't be far from here if he was abducted when he left the conference room and already reached a destination and harmed, so it must be somewhere close."

Pepper pursed her lips as she concentrated on the picture on her phone. As she looked closer, she noticed a crate behind Tony with an all too familiar logo.

"He's on the lot! That's a Stark Industries warehouse!"

Phil looked at her, "Which one?"

"It's a storage one, and we have two of those except one of them is full, and he isn't in that one," Pepper offered, "I know where he is."

"Great, you're coming with me," Phil grabbed a hold of her hand.

As Pepper was once again catapulted into the spotlight of the media, she knew that they were going to be followed.

Because the media's like that, hungry predators, and if they get a story, they're going to want proof. And they're definitely not going to let this one go.

And naturally, Obadiah wants a show.

Tony watched as Obadiah paced in front of him, a gun clenched firmly in his fists.

"For a CEO, you certainly aren't strategic," Tony huffed, "I mean, keeping me in a Stark Industries warehouse? They're going to find you."

Obadiah shrugged, "But I want them to find me. Because you see, Tony," he crouched in front of him, "I love putting on a show. And besides…" he twirled the gun in his hands.

"You'll be dead before they find you, and they're never going to know that it was me. It's just going to look like the act of a jealous coworker."

Tony clenched his teeth, "And all because you don't want to give up the company?"

Obadiah's lips curled up in a wide smirk, "Precisely. I have worked too hard and too long to let everything I made get taken away from me by an amateur! You know nothing about business! You're young and reckless and everything that this company can't afford. The only place you belong is in R&D…serving me."

Tony quirked his eyebrow and looked at the man in front of him. In the dim light, his blue eyes looked more tired and his skin more pale. It was almost like all of the years of hard work and stress had finally caught up with him. The man that smelled like chloroform from earlier was now moving towards the door, where hoards of voices were getting louder.

"My father made this company!"

"Your father was a swine!" he roared. Obadiah leered at Tony, "Who do you think cut the brakes of the car?"

Tony's mouth went dry, "You…you knew didn't you? You planned all this! You knew about the will stating that the company would go to their child, so you killed them. But you still wanted the company. But to the knowledge of the public there was no child in the picture…unless there was.

"My mother was pregnant wasn't she? At the time of the crash. You killed two birds with one stone."

Obadiah snarled.

"But there was still me. So you've been waiting all this time to find me, so you can kill me, too."

Obadiah stepped back, "Good, very good. Catching on there, Tony. I thought you never would."

The noise from the outside was getting louder.

"Boss!" the man from earlier called out, "The press are here, we have got to get this done!"

Obadiah looked back, "Well that's my cue." He faced Tony again, a cruel smile twisted on his lips. "Goodbye, Mr. Stark, send my regards to your father."

Then all hell broke loose.

A shot was fired, and in all the haze and sirens , another one was shot. The press was going wild, and the security guards were struggling to keep the press back from getting too close into the warehouse. Black SUV's were parked in the front of the building, and men and women alike in sharp suits were flooding out of the cars with guns aimed and ready to fire.

And when the smoke finally cleared, a group of SHIELD agents led by Coulson flooded the warehouse with Pepper quickly in tow.

And there, still bloodied and bruised but now slumped in a chair, was Tony with a bullet wound to the chest.

And Obadiah with a bullet wound to the head.

Getting the bodies out of there was chaos. An ambulance was brought in and Tony was wheeled out of the warehouse on a stretcher and loaded into the ambulance, barely breathing and barely hanging on.

With what little strength he had left, he grasped onto Pepper's hand as he was wheeled through the crowd, ignoring the barricade of questions being thrown at him left and right.

"Is it true that you are the lost son of Howard and Maria Stark?"

"In the light of recent events, do you confirm that Obadiah Stane tried to kill you because he didn't want to give up his position at Stark Industries?"

"How did you find out about your heritage? Would you care to elaborate?"

He huffed small breaths, wishing that he could answer the questions, but the bullet wound in his chest was making it hard for him to speak.

This was now his new life. With questions being thrown at him back and forth and the invasion of personal space, he wondered if maybe it should have bothered him.

But it didn't, not one bit. And he wouldn't give it up for anything in the world.

Because the world was beginning to believe, and soon, he hopes that everyone will.

It was something that Pepper never told, but after Tony told her that Stark Industries was dealing under the table, she filed a report requesting for security cameras in all vicinities of the lot, including the warehouses, to make sure that the illegal dealing and shipping would never happen again.

It was never to Obadiah's knowledge that there were security cameras installed in the warehouses.

So when Tony was declared stable after ten hours of surgery where he died on the table twice, she went back to Stark Industries and retrieved the tape from the warehouse that Tony was captive in, and organized another press conference to be held in the hospital requested by Tony himself.

Tony woke from an induced sleep about twelve hours after his surgery, and another couple hours later, at the protest of his doctors, was in the center of the hospital conference room on a portable bed with wheels while the surveillance tape played on the screen behind him.

Then the room turned loud and bright, with camera flashes and a chorus of mixed voices, and Tony was rolled out of the room and was made by the doctors to leave Pepper behind to deal with damage control.

Melinda and Greg visited him in the hospital, and waited for the lawyer to come and officially hand over the company to him. He called up Jarvis to offer back to money that was given to him in the will, and yet again he declined to take it because the money wasn't his, and gave it to Tony instead and congratulated him on the task he'd accomplish.

Now, his mother and father lived in the hotel of their choice in the meantime while Tony was finishing drafting the plans for his own house that he planned to get built on the edge of a cliff at Malibu Point.

After two weeks in the hospital with Pepper by his side, Rhodey visiting every once in a while, still with wonder in his face, and his parents visiting everyday they can, Tony was finally released from the hospital and continued to live with Pepper while waiting for his house to get finished being built.

Under his leadership and Pepper's help, he shut down weapons manufacturing and focused on clean energy after reading old records of his father's work and stumbling upon the unfinished case of the Arc Reactor while on bed rest.

The papers were calling it 'Stark Industries' Iron Age.'

Because iron is strong and bright and everything that Tony is, and they thought that Tony deserved a name better than the 'Golden Age' after surviving a direct shot to the chest with only a couple centimeters away from his heart.

He was indeed the Iron Man.

The world was never meant to know about Anthony Edward Stark, but the universe had other plans. And now, after nearly 25 years of the sun rising in the sky and the moon shining at night, the stars could finally shine brighter than ever before, and the universe could finally sleep, because the story had reached its end.

Now, as Tony steps into his newly decorated CEO office on his first day of work after fully recovering from his ordeal, he traced the glass and the sleek elegance of the desk and the furniture.

There was a knock on the door, and Pepper came in informing him of a meeting with Oscorp that was due to commence in ten minutes.

He smiled at her and she smiled back, and he was glad that she stuck by him through this entire thing and finally agreed to be his girlfriend and go steady with him.

He says thank you for informing him and she replies with, "No problem, Mr. Walker."

He takes a glance at the files on his desk and the pictures on his walls, with the history of the company told through pictures.

"Actually, Pepper…" he calls out again and she turns around to face him.

"It's Tony, Tony Stark."


It's been an amazing run with you guys and I can't believe that Smoke, Diamonds and Ashes is finally over!

I know that the finale was a bit anticlimactic but I wanted to clear things up and tie up a few loose knots.

And Tony finally embraced his identity!

It's been amazing, and I can't express it enough. It truly has and I will miss this. Thank you so much for all of your support, I wouldn't have had the motivation if it weren't for you guys, especially since multi-chapter fics aren't my thing. So thank you so much and I admire you all for sticking with me. It's been amazing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I hope you enjoyed this journey as much as me, and I sincerely hope that I haven't disappointed.

So no there was no Iron Man suit but Tony still became the Iron Man. ;)

I will not be making a sequel.

And I come with bad news, because after this is posted, I am officially entering an Avengers hiatus. I do not know the next time I will post an Avengers fanfic, and after 16 of them, it is with a heavy heart that I say that this might be my last Avengers fic (but hopefully not! We'll see where the future goes eyy? I might be back! So stay tuned!)

So thank you for the ride dear readers, reviewers and Avengers fans, it's been amazing.

And for what might possibly be the last time: Reviews are welcome! :)

Goodbye (for now ;)) and THANK YOU!