A flash of lighting across the night sky.
“I never wanted this…”
A clap of thunder.
“Look around you! We did this! Our friends are dying –they’re killing each other! And for what?! A lousy piece of paper!?”
A loud explosion makes the earth tremble.
“It was about more than that, and you know it! This is about what’s right –these people need to know they’re safe!”
A woman screams in the distance, followed by more thunder.
“Does anyone look safe to you right now?”
A man made of iron and a kid too stupid to run away from a fight face each other in a field of rubble. Ironman’s faceplate goes up; the Captain clinches the strap of his shield just a little bit tighter.
“They made their choice.”
“We made them choose.”
It starts to rain. But no one notices. Too busy fighting a war they didn’t even believe in.
“…So this is it? This is how we go out. Because you never listen to me.”
“I’m not the one who threw the first punch.”
The rain gets harder but there’s still fire in the streets, unwilling to be extinguished, lighting up the darkened streets, casting shadows on the walls.
Their eyes meet.
“What happened to us? What happened to us?”
“This was never about the Accords.”
There’s a roar of the Hulk, followed by a low rumble and a tremor in the earth. Both are ignored.
These men are used to it.
“So, what do we do now?”
“We caused this; we started it. Only fitting that we end it.”
“And how are we supposed to do that? Neither of us is going to give in.”
“It’s too late for that now.”
A clinched fist. Flexed fingers.
“What are you saying?”
“This isn’t just going to end. We can’t just stop, not after everything we’ve done, people won’t accept it. This isn’t ending, not with both of us alive.”
And looking at each other, they knew. There was no winning to this, no ending where either of them came out on top, whether the Accords came through or not, it didn’t matter. It wasn’t about who was right or wrong or left. This was about surviving. Ironman’s faceplate slams down.
“…I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I don’t think we have a choice. I don’t think we ever had a choice.”
And with one last strike of lighting, they clashed. Ironman was faster, but Captain America was stronger. There would be no mercy in this fight. There would be no banter, no anger, all of it lost long before now.
And Tony knew, all it would take would be for him to be grounded and it would be over.
Then it comes to him, a light bulb moment, even as he fires a repulser that just misses the Captain, that just misses Steve, that the world needs a hero, now more than ever, and-
-And that hero isn’t me.
Maybe it was because of his self-made distraction, maybe he subconsciously allowed it, but in the next moment Steve has his right leg in a tight, crushing grip and is slamming him into the ground.
And lying there, with his best friend looming over him against the backdrop of fire and destruction, he accepts his fate.
He could fight back, but he doesn’t.
He could end this fight right now with a unibeam, but he won’t.
There was only ever one outcome to this fight, in any universe, and this is it.
The world needs Captain America.
And Tony Stark is willing to play the scapegoat.
So he allows the unibeam to charge up, a bluff to send the Captain into action, and it works, because the moment the other man sees it the shield that had been hesitating in the air comes down hard.
Tony squeezes his eyes shut as he feels the arc reactor shatter in his chest from the force. He can feel as the shrapnel slowly starts to move towards his heart.
Steve stumbles back and drops his shield, landing in the ash and dirt with a look of shock and horror on his face. Tony will let him believe it’s over, that he’s dead, because it is, he is, and Steve doesn’t need to know.
There’s nothing he can do to change it, and Tony doesn’t want him to try.
So he lies there, waiting for his heart to finally give out, a few feet from Steve who, for all his earlier bluster, the unmovable force that he had pretended to be, sounds like he’s hyperventilating.
But even as Tony feels his heart stutter for what will be the last time, eyelids too heavy to keep open, he can’t find it in him to regret this. There are moments leading up to this that he would change, moments that, in hindsight, didn’t have to happen the way they did, but right now? With no doubt in his mind, this isn’t a mistake.
For once, he made the right call.
There was a flash of light that even through his eyelids was blinding, a barely audible gasp from Steve.
And then a blissful darkness.
. . .
He wakes up in a cave, with a car battery powering his heart.
“What the fuck…”