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Hello from the Other Side

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“This is not the voicemail you are looking for. Nah, I’m just kiddin’, this is Peter’s phone. I’m off saving the galaxy with a princess and a scruffy-looking nerfherder, but leave a message after the beep and I’ll get back soon as I can.”

[BEEP]


[SILENCE]


[SILENCE]


[SILENCE]


“Hey, uh, Peter, it’s me… God, this is stupid. This is so stupid. I can’t—“


“Look. I don’t want to do this, but Pepper’s threatening to keep me in the hospital until I talk to someone. And I can’t. I just can’t. Not about this. Not to anyone. Not to you, either, if this were real, but this… you’re not…”

[SILENCE]


“I’m at the compound still. It’s late, almost morning. I can’t sleep. You know me, sleep was never really my thing. Which isn’t so bad when you’ve got a shop close by, a machine to tinker with, a buddy to call. But right now it’s just me. I sent everyone away. Pepper was exhausted. Rhodey would’ve stayed, but you know how he cramps up.

I could call someone in, but they don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say. And I close my eyes and I just… I see stars.

So here’s the deal. You’re asleep. You’re asleep, and I’m being that asshole Tony Stark not checking the time and getting your voicemail. That’s all this is, got it? I’m gonna sit here and ramble into this phone like a lunatic because it’s late and I’m sleep deprived, and tomorrow you’ll listen and give me a hard time about it.

God, I can just imagine it, the lip you’d give me.”

[SILENCE]

“Anyways, uh, that’s enough ammo for one night, I think. Talk to you later, kid.”


“Me again. It’s… two… 2:13 AM. I slept all day. Uh, two days. Turns out nearly starving to death takes a lot out of a guy. But here we are. It’s 2:13 and I can’t sleep. I’d go down to my shop, but I can’t stand up without falling over. So I thought, why not give the kid a call, leave a surprise for the morning.

I haven’t been this unsteady since my forty-second birthday. What a shindig that was. Music. Girls. Booze. I may have blown a small hole in the house. What am I telling you this for? You know. Tony Stark, playboy. Party animal.

I don’t miss him, that guy. What a waste. He thought he was doing good with his flashy toys and his ideals, but what did he accomplish? Huh? What did that guy ever accomplish? Sure, he saved some people. Stopped some bad guys. Joined a team, made some friends. Tried to fight for a cleaner, safer world. And what good did any of it do? Everyone’s dead. Good guys, bad guys, it doesn’t matter. The team, the team’s a joke.

World’s falling apart. There’s suffering like you couldn’t imagine. Chaos. They’ve kept me away from the news. No TV for Tony. But I know it’s bad out there. They’re using this place as a base. The Avengers compound. Like there’s anything left to avenge. Like there’s anyone left to fight. Like there’s any… any price we can exact to make up for what we’ve lost. And we’re still paying. The losses keep racking up, and I don’t know when they’ll stop.

I wish you were here, kid, I really do, but a part of me is glad you’re not around to see this.”


“Hey, kid. I, uh… I finally pulled my head out of my ass and went looking for your aunt. I should’ve done it sooner, I know. I didn’t know how to tell her… to tell her what happened up on Titan.

She’s gone. She’s gone, Pete, and I’m so, I’m so sorry. She was on shift at the hospital and the security feed caught everything. I tried to find… I tried to find anyone. Anyone. Pepper helped. My strength’s not… it’s still not up to par, you know. We looked. I swear we did.

Your, uh, your buddy. Your guy in the chair, Ned. He’s gone, too. I found his mom and his little sister. Made sure they were taken care of. Your friend Michelle, too. That bastard of a grape wiped out your whole decathalon team. The guy in the corner store, Mr. Delmar, he’s around, but his family’s gone.

There are so many people gone, bud.”

[SILENCE]

“I don’t know. Wherever… wherever you are, at least you’re not alone. I hope they’re there with you.”


“Hey kid, it’s me. There was another ceremony today. I know I said I wasn’t going to go to another one, and I didn’t, but it was on TV. The TV we don’t have anymore, by the way. I blasted it halfway through the first speech. Scared Happy half to death. He came tuck-and-rolling into my room but got his shoe caught on a power cord. You probably would’ve gotten a kick out of it. Or felt bad and tried to help him up, probably.

This shindig was like all the others. No one can get their act together enough to do anything formal yet, but everyone feels like they need to do something. For the grieving process or whatever. It feels like something they can do. I get that.

The world’s still shattered. Bunch of world leaders went up in smoke. Systems failing everywhere. Infrastructure smashed to pieces. Oh, and get this, lots of lovely famines popping up, because Mr. I’m-Gonna-Murder-Scarcity snapped half the world’s food supply.

I can’t help with any of it. Stark Industries is pitching in, of course. What’s left of it. So many good people gone. Pepper’s been working day and night. If you could see her, kid. She’s magnificent. I always knew she was, always knew she was too good for me, but now…

Everyone wants me to help. They kept swinging by until Pepper banned them.

Suit up, Tony. We need your help. Get back in the game. Come out swinging. We know you’re hurting, but. Get up, get up, get up.

Even Rhodes.

Well, you know what? No thanks. I’m staying down this time. I got hit, and I’m staying down. Iron Man is dead.

And why not, right? What good was he to anyone? We still lost. All he did was delay the inevitable. He made people trust that everything was going to be alright. That they would be safe. Well, guess what. Nothing’s alright. And half of Earth is just gone.

So yeah. Iron Man’s dead. I’m out. The world’s gotta figure out how to move on, and they need to figure out how to do it without me.”


“So here’s an upside to dying. No getting old. Because when you get, when you get old, it’s alllllllll regrets. Jus’ all regrets. When you’re a kid, you think, you think you’re ‘vincible. You r’gret nothing. Ev’n the smart kids, who know bad things c’n happen, they worry, they worry, but they don’t r’gret. S’ll I can… [HICCUP]

‘m drunk. V’r v’r drunk. FRIDAY-was-yellin’ drunk. Shut her off. World’s ended. [PHHHHBT] [BSHHHH] I d’serve a drink. Any drinks. ‘mean, many drinks. All drinks for Tony. ‘Cause I’ll regret this later but, but I know it. I know it. ‘Cause I’m old. I’m gonna live and live and live.

Not you, though. Not you.

Off savin’ the galaxy. [LAUGH] I woulda. I woulda given you such crap for that, kid. Never heard it, though. Never. Never never. You always picked up. I called, you picked up. Always.

Now it’s all I got. This and the messages f’r Happy.

You know I listened to ‘em? Ev… ev’ry one. I know you thought I didn’t. I did. I-I knew about you quitting band. The cat you saved from the tree that scratched your arm. The drunk guy you helped home. The d’ble rainbow you spotted over the bridge.

Shit, Pete. Is that what this is? Is this my punishment for not picking up?”

[CLATTER]

[DISTANT SOBBING]

[INDISTINCT VOICES]

“Wait wait wait, I gotta, I gotta—

Kid. Bye, kid. Bye. May the Force be with you.”


“I saw a bird today. Not even a fancy bird. Just a New York street pigeon. You know the type, big chest, dumb as a rock, waits til you almost step on it to flap up in your face. Who knows what it’s doing out here.

It was sitting on a ledge, all fluffed up and content. No nest. No friends. But it looked about as happy as a pigeon can look.

I don’t even know why I’m telling you this. Except… I felt kind of… kind of good looking at it, you know?

Here’s something you might now know, smarty pants. Pigeons were a big deal back in the day. They were raised and bred and prized for their plumage like, I don’t know, fighting fish or show dogs or something. But then one day everyone just stopped caring and let them loose. Or maybe not everyone. I’m sure someone’s still into it.

The point is, these birds went from being prize poodles to the flying rats that everyone loves to hate and make fun of. And they got hit, just like the rest of us. Maybe that bird lost its mate. Maybe it lost eggs, I don’t know. But it’s still here. It’s still doing its dumb pigeon thing.

And it’s the first wild, living thing I’ve seen in...

I think I’ve got to get out of here. I mean, I know I’ve got to get out of the compound. I’m not an Avenger. I’m done saving the world. Let them have this place. But I think I’ve got to get out.

Stupid bird got out. I gotta get out.”


“Hey. H-Hey. Hey, kid. It’s me. I’m, um, I’m locked. In a. A-a bathroom. Just, just having a little panic attack. I, whew, okay.”

[CLEARS THROAT]

[LABORED BREATHING]

“Not, not the glitter this time. Or anything, mmm, dust-related. Managed to, um, keep it together ’til Pep was asleep. Then stumbled in here and now I’m on the floor, wishing I had a drink more than any time in my life.

She, uh. She’s. She’s pregnant, kid. Told me tonight. She said she’d been feeling… And then FRIDAY confirmed it for her with a scan. She’s seven weeks. She’s preh… preg… oh. I, uh.”

[LABORED BREATHING]

“I never got to tell you. Before. Right before. I had this dream, this super-vivid dream about me and Pepper and a baby. We were even talking about it right before… before everything happened. And it was so real. I remember waking up and feeling, almost ready, you know? Eager. Totally on board, for the first time in my life.

And then Titan happened and now I’m in a bathtub hyperventilating.

I can’t do this, Pete. I can’t be a dad. I can’t do it. How do you bring a kid into a world like this, huh? How can you do that to this tiny, defenseless person?

And me. [LAUGH] I’m the worst person to be a dad. I’ll end up like Howard or worse. I couldn’t even keep you safe. How can I protect a baby?”

[SILENCE]

“I’m imagining the look you’d give me right now, kid. What am I saying, you’d already be talking by now. Mr. Stark, what are you talking about? That little kid’ll be so lucky…

You always were overly optimistic.”

[DEEP BREATHING]

“In my dream, you weren’t there, but I thought… When I woke up, you know what I thought? One of the first things I thought was, Man, Pete would spoil that kid rotten. And you would’ve.

I already had plans to make you godfather and everything. Not for custody or anything, but for the symbolism. Safest kid on Earth, having Iron Man for a dad and Iron Patriot and Spider-Man for godfathers, right? And of course I’d be the coolest dad in history, so totally cool, but me, I’m an old guy and Rhodey practically has one foot in the grave. The baby would need someone to look up to, someone to show him the ropes. A big brother type.

You would’ve…. you would’ve been great at it.

[SIGH] So what am I gonna do. This kid, he’s coming no matter what I do. So I’ve gotta… get ready for him. As ready as I can be. And hope I don’t screw him up too badly.

I’m gonna hang up now and go out there and pretend like I’m not about to have another panic attack. I just had to tell you. Thanks, kid. For listening.”


“This is it. Big day. Little old me, tying the knot. I liked it, so I put a ring on it. Goin’ to the chapel and we’re—[LAUGH] Maybe I’m a little nervous.

It’s not the big shindig we had planned. That was mostly political anyways—gotta make it an event, a moment. No one really cares about that anymore. Or even if they did, I wouldn’t feel right about it.

No,we decided to keep it small. Pepper doesn’t have any family. Well, an aunt in the Midwest, but she hates flying. Happy’s here, of course, and Rhodes. I invited Wong and Bruce, but Bruce is off ‘finding himself’ and working it out with the big guy, and Wong’s busy. Harley’s family was hit pretty hard, and his mom doesn’t like the idea of him coming upstate. So it’s just the four of us, plus the justice of the peace and a whole flock of lake ducks.

Happy offered to get certified, but we wanted it to feel… official. Traditional. I know, not words you usually hear coming out of my mouth, but after everything… Tradition’s not such a bad thing. There’s a foundation to it.

Wish you were here, kid. Small ceremony like this, you could’ve even been in the wedding party. No one around to wonder who the teenage ringbearer is, and you would’ve looked so cute in the tiny tux and bowtie.

I kid, I kid! You would’ve been the flower girl. Obviously.

Seriously though, Peter. For as many gray hairs as you gave me, I was always more focused when you were around. Maybe because I was too busy heading off whatever reckless teenage plans you had to focus on myself. You were good for me. I…”

[INDISTINCT VOICES]

“I gotta go, kid. It’s my time to shine, and the lake ducks are getting restless.”


“Shit. Thank God. Shit.”

[DEEP BREATHING]

“I’m sorry, kid. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t think. It’s been months and I didn’t realize—

I tried to call and it wouldn’t come up. I got, I got a damn out of service message. No voicemail. No saving the galaxy. You were gone.

It was like losing you all over again.

Turns out the phone company finally pulled itself together and started closing accounts that had defaulted on payments. With you and your aunt gone, there was no one around to…

But don’t worry. I got your phone taken care of. You’re paid off for the next eighty years, give or take. I’m not letting you go anywhere, not ever again.”


“Turns out those interior DIY types knew what they were talking about. Who knew. You know me, Parker, if it’s not mechanical, I’m not interested, but this project hasn’t been too bad.

Building the cabin itself was fine, obviously, even if wood isn’t my forte. I know my way around a circular saw. The sawdust was a problem. Can’t lie about that, not after the calls I left you. But the rest of it, getting to work with my hands again on something other than armor and weapons? That was good.

Turns out I’m really into shiplap. You probably don’t know what that is. Heck, I wouldn’t have known what that is, but Pepper’s got me hooked on these design shows now.

For research, you know.

You thought I was a genius before, you should hear me now. Recessed lighting, birdsmouth joints, cornices, banquettes, coffered vs tray ceilings, bouclé accents, I know it all. Pepper and I both have very strong feelings about when wainscoting is appropriate.

Pepper’s been Pepper about the whole process. Too good to me. Too patient. I know she was relieved that we got the frame up before the wedding, and it’s not like we’d be living out here before the baby comes, regardless of whether it’s finished.

I may be a survivalist hippie now, but my kid will be born surrounded by top medical care and WiFi, thanks.

But I’ve been dragging my feet on the rest. She knows it and I know it. There've been some… some not good days.

And I know, I know, I can hear you squawking, why didn’t I call.

Pepper’s got me talking to someone. Wilson gave her the name. Not that I’m all that fond of birdbrain, but Pepper was pretty insistent. She thought it’d be good if I got in the practice of talking to someone who could talk back.

I hate it. I hate every minute of it. Birdbrain better be glad he’s not anywhere I can get my hands on. But I’m trying to get better at admitting when other people are right, and they’re right. I’ve been carrying around a lot of stuff, Pete. A lot of stuff. My dad did, too. Silent Generation and all that, and you know how not dealing with it turned out for him. For me. I can’t afford to do that. So if I’ve got to talk to a lady named Mallory with glasses like my first grade math teacher, then so be it.

We’ll see if she helps at all, but the cabin, the cabin definitely helps. And you do, too.

That’s enough of a break for me. I gotta get back to painting this nursery. Deadline’s coming up. Talk to you later, kid.”


[WHISPERING] “Guess what, Parker? I’m a dad now. You’re a godfather. Morgan Maria Stark came screaming into this world at 5:15 AM. 7 pounds, 10 ounces, 21 inches of pure vim and vigor in a wrinkled little package. Middle name’s for my mom—bit of a spontaneous choice. Turns out my dream wasn’t totally accurate.

Looking at her is like when I got to open up my first combustible engine, but a million times better. I should be asleep, but I can’t stop staring at her.

She has this thick, dark, curly hair. Came out with it all over, even on the tips of her ears like a little bear cub. Definitely a Stark. Honestly, if you’d asked me yesterday, if we were to have a girl, I would’ve said I wanted her to have Pepper’s coloring, but now I can’t imagine her any other way. She’s perfect, Pete. She has these tiny little fingers, with fingernails like little seashells. And she’s already got a great grip. Nice and strong, like her mom. And big, big brown eyes.

When she came out, she was screaming like a banshee. Nothing wrong with this one’s lungs, let me tell you. But after the doc cleaned her up and handed her to me, she opened those eyes… Kid, it was like I could see the whole universe. Or she became the whole universe, or both, I don’t know. Poetry’s not my thing.

I’m lucky, Pete. I know. I know how mad I’ve gotten when people have said that. I haven’t felt lucky. I don’t think anyone’s felt lucky in the last year. And I know I didn’t lose Pepper, thank God. Rhodey and Happy were still here when I got back. I’m still a billionaire, still a genius, still pretty damn fine if I do say so myself. I didn’t starve to death in space. But god, did I not feel lucky. After all we lost… after what I lost…

But I get it now. I do. Because I’m sitting here, holding this new life, and I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. Only thing that’s missing is you.”

[YAWN]

“Better get some shut-eye. All the books say to sleep every chance you get. Doesn’t seem very me, but I’ll give it a try. Say goodnight to Morgan. And don’t worry, I’ll spoil her enough for both of us.”


“It’s been a year since Titan. Three hundred and sixty-five days since the world ended. You’d think it was yesterday. You’d think it was a minute ago. It feels like… I can still… taste…”

[DEEP BREATH]

“You know what’s the best smell in the world? Baby scalp. Don’t knock it til you try it.

Morgan’s in my lap. She’s like her old man, not doing the nighttime thing so well. And since Mommy does like her sleep, here I am. I don’t mind. I like having time with my girl. All she does is spit and drool, but it’s the best, prettiest, cleverest drool there is.

Hasn’t quite got the neck thing down. Not there yet. But she will. And then she’ll be sitting up. Crawling. Walking. Running. And I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to play catch-up. So I’m alright with sitting right now.

And the scalp thing.”

[SNIFF]

“Scalp thing’s great. I don’t know why we don’t always smell like this, always, for the rest of our lives.

Just between us, I don’t think I’ll ever be over Titan. Everyone talks about moving on. You don’t move on from something like that. Moving on implies leaving something—someone—behind. And you know I’ve never been good at letting go.

But nights like this? Me and my girl? My nose full of soft baby hair? Everything solid and warm and… maybe not safe. But safe enough. Nights like this make me think maybe I’ll get there someday.”

[SILENCE]

[SOFT CRY]

“That’s my cue. I’m king of the wet wipe now. Total pro. Turns out reaching into your own chest cavity makes things like poopy diapers not such a big deal. Not that I recommend that as the way you learn to deal, but if it’s gotta happen anyways…

Alright, alright, stop your fussing. Daddy’s got you. Say goodnight to Peter, Morgan.

She says goodnight. G’night, kid.”


“I’m down in the shop again. First time in… gosh, I don’t even know. You know I didn’t even want to build a shop? Of course you know. I told you.

I didn’t see the point. I’m not Iron Man. There’s nothing left to save. And then with Morgan, when would I even have time? My dad, he used his work as a sanctuary, from me, from my mom. I don’t ever want to do that.

But Pepper—smarter than I’ll ever be—insisted I put it in. She knew. She knew I couldn’t be away forever. And even then, I figured, fine, it’ll be good to have storage. The bots have to go somewhere, right? Can’t put them anywhere else. DUM-E gets lonely and then he goes and switches everyone else on. Next thing you know I’m getting calls that my house is both flooding and on fire.

I had a few ideas I wanted to kick around, though. Nothing major. Just some things that could help out with our current communications crisis, and maybe a new toy for Morgan.

I don’t think I ever told you how much I enjoyed having you down in the shop at the old place. Not to brag, but I’m not used to people who can keep up. And the few who can tend to be territorial. You’re sharp as a tack, though, kid. Even managed to surprise me a time or two with the stuff you thought up.

Here it’s just like old times—just me and the boys and the tunes. You don’t know inventor's high until you fix the glitch that makes the whole idea sing right as AC/DC hits the guitar solo.

I’m introducing Morgan to all the best jams. Pepper makes her wear these little earmuffs to protect her hearing, which may be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. I know I can trust you not to repeat that. We got ‘em in black. My rockin’ little princess. I’d take her to a concert if I thought she’d make it through without taking a dump and if any of the good bands were still around.

Not to crap on someone else’s happiness, but you know which group made it through intact? The Black-Eyed Peas. What kind of cosmic joke is that?”


“It’s August 10th. Happy birthday, kid. The big one-eight. Official adulthood and all that. Of course, by the time I was eighteen… Actually, you know what, let’s not get into what I was like at eighteen.

Morgan and I split a cupcake in your honor. Well, I ate the cupcake and she made a mess with the frosting. I think the table is stained a permanent blue.

What a party I would’ve thrown you, though. Eighteen, a man, an official Avenger. We could’ve done a press conference in the morning and then the swankiest shindig you’ve ever seen for all your little friends in the evening. I’m talking endless buffet, I’m talking celebrity karaoke, I’m talking dancing on the bar, I’m talking maybe a quick nip to the kitchen for a champagne toast if we could get away from your aunt. It would’ve been a night to remember.

MIT’s fall classes start in a couple weeks. They really jumped into the swing of things even in that first year. Bunch of nerds ready to go out and fix the world, I guess. I know you said you hadn’t decided where you wanted to go, but I always kind of pictured you there. That’s my alma mater, you know. Lot of good memories. Lot of bad ones, too, but that was the first place where I felt like I might belong a little. Met Rhodey there, too. So maybe you would’ve gone and met your own Rhodey. Or maybe your guy in the chair would’ve gone, too, and you could’ve set out to save the world together.

There’s no saying you would’ve got to MIT, though. You would’ve gotten in, of course. But a brain like yours? You’d get in anywhere—MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, even the Imperial College or Nanyang.

You never knew this, but I’d already worked it out with your aunt to cover your college. Payment for the internship, you know. Anywhere you wanted to go, it’d be covered, all expenses paid. Smart kid like you, money shouldn’t be the thing holding you back, not when I have so much of it.

I, uh, I set up a scholarship in your name. Anonymously, of course. I don’t need to be in the headlines anymore, and Tony Stark setting up a multimillion dollar college fund in the name of his intern would get me in them again, even now. No, rght now, there’s a very confused PR person at Fruit of the Loom who thinks they’ve got a wealthy Underoos fan out there.

Anyways, Morgie-Porgie and I have some more celebrating to do. I think next is the all-you-can-ride bouncy seat hour. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to it.

Happy birthday, Peter.”


[SHOUTING] “Peed! PEED!”

“Hold, hold on. Okay! Okay, just cool your jets. Peter, someone wants to say hello.”

“PEED!”

[GABBLING]

“Oh-Okay, okay. Morgan, princess, give the phone back to Daddy. No, not DUM-E, Daddy. Give—give it here, munchkin.”

[GABBLING interrupted by LOUD SQUEALING]

“Haha! Got you, you little monster. Say bye-bye to Peter.”

“Bye-bye! Peed! Bye-BYE!”

[LAUGHS]

“Sorry about that, bud. The princess terror heard me talking to you and made the connection from your picture. I’ve got that photo we took after the first term of your internship, the one we did to shut up that little nose hair of a kid in your class, Splash or whatever. Keep it on a shelf in the kitchen, and it’s made it into the rotation of What’s This, right after the spatula and right before the fridge. She’s still working on her sounds—I swear Peed is as close as she can get to Peter right now—but she knows your name. Must’ve heard me say it into the phone.

For a kid who still tries to eat mulch from time to time, she can be quite the little genius. What do you expect from a Stark, though, huh? She got my brains, no question about it.”


“They’re rebooting Star Wars. They’re friggin’ rebooting Star Wars. Because everything’s gotta be a cash grab now. Bad enough that they trashed the saga with that awful ending. Now they want to reboot it? A new hope for a new world is the unofficial slogan. Garbage. You watch, they’ll probably shoehorn in those stupid dice from the beginning now and still say Greedo shot first. Maybe Jabba will secretly be Chewbacca’s dad this whole time.

I hate everything. You would be losing your mind right about now.

I wonder how much it would cost to buy Disney, just to make them stop. I’ll do it. Buy the whole damn company and both theme parks, too. Tear out the Small World ride, add in a larger Tomorrowland. And you know what we won’t do? We won’t try to smash Star Trek and Star Wars together into a ‘groundbreaking crossover for the ages.’ Groundbreaking. More like brain-imploding. I swear, this planet gets stupider every year.”


“I can’t believe it’s been three years. Three years since the worst day of my life. Of anyone’s life.

They’re holding a service in DC. Every city’s having one, but I was invited to the one in DC and New York. Pepper and I both passed. We’ll send more money for the reconstruction efforts, and that’s all anyone really wants. No one wants to look at the guy who failed.

Different cities, they’ve put up memorials to the people they think disappeared. It’s hard to know for sure, since there were no bodies to keep track of. Unless someone saw you dust, or it was caught on camera somehow, it’s all guesswork. Then there are the people who died in the fallout—on planes or in cars or buses or in surgery or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The philosophical types have really made some hay off that, saying how events like this prove just how interconnected we all are. As if we needed a major extinction event to prove that.

Your name’s on the New York memorial, along with May’s. Spider-Man’s on the DC one, along with the Guardians and the others from Wakanda. I thought a few years back about blowing the secret, letting everyone know that their favorite arachnid was this great high school kid named Peter, how passionate he was about sticking up for the little guy, and how brave he’d been right up to the end.

I was tempted, kid, I really was. The world should know who you are. They should remember what you did for them. But you never wanted people to know. That’s what I keep coming back to. You chose friendly neighborhood Spider-Man over the Avengers, being a high school kid over famous. Maybe someday people will know. A dramatic deathbed confession by yours truly. But for now, it’ll just be me.

Well, not just me. Happy’s swinging by today and we’re taking Morgan down to the lake. Pepper has to make appearances in DC and Rhodes is attending the one in Wakanda. We’re going to go for a boat ride, then sit on the dock and tell her about that day. I’d say almost three is a little young, but this is her world. It’ll be like 9/11 to her, or Pearl Harbor. We’ll tell her about you and everyone else we lost.

I always tell her about you, Pete. The way I see it, with May gone, we’re your family now, and family remembers.”


[SINGING] “The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell, high ho the derry-o, the farmer in the dell! Yay!”

“Yes, yay. You sang very pretty.”

“You sang pretty too, Daddy.”

“Why, thank you. Time to clean up for dinner, so say goodbye.”

“Bye, Peter, bye! Bye! I love you!”

“Alright, alright, that’s enough. Run along, troublemaker.”


“It’s me. I’m having those dreams again. I know trauma isn’t a straight line, but I thought I’d kicked this. Moved on to normal dreams like my teeth falling out or my little girl saying she loved Mommy more than me. You know, the tried-and-true. Not the stars winking out and dust in my mouth.

I feel like something’s coming, Pete. And I don’t know what it is, but I want no part of it. It’s like an itch under my skin. I moved my workspace upstairs so I can’t disappear for hours on end. Because I would. It’s like my brain got stuck on fast forward. Every minute of every day, there’s another thing I have to do, another thing I have to make, another problem I have to solve before it even becomes an issue.

They follow me into my sleep. I’m at the table looking over schematics so at least Pepper can get some rest. She probably thinks I’m possessed.

I don’t know what it is I'm gearing up for, and if there was a way I could avoid it, a way I could hide from it, I would. I’ll fill the sky with drones if I have to, enough to blot out the sun. They wouldn’t let me wrap a suit of armor around the world before, but there’s no one to stop me now.

Even if I can’t protect the world, I’ll protect my world. I made a suit for Pepper. My old suits are keyed to her and to Morgan, but now they each have one of their own. They’re almost done. I just need to make a few adjustments and then they’ll be ready. And then maybe I can get some sleep.”


“I know now. What it was that was keeping me up, I know what it was. I don’t know how I could’ve known but I did, because after five years, guess who came rolling up my drive today?

Captain Perfect and his little traitor squad, begging for miracles.

[SIGH] I’m sorry. I know better than to… It was almost kind of nice to see them, you know? After all, it’s been half a decade. And if they’d come to… apologize? Catch up? Maybe stick around for dinner? That might’ve been okay.

I didn’t put my best foot forward. Even with the advance surveillance, seeing them step out of the car set me back. You have to understand, Captain America’s been around my whole life, same as yours. He’s like Mickey Mouse. The copyright is set and nothing changes. Same boy-next-door hair, same perfect white teeth, same truth-justice-and-the-American-way posture. And it’s not like he’s not Steve Rogers, America's hero, anymore. More than ever, he is, since Romanoff’s little team is the one cleaning up all the messes now. But this was the first time the paint looked a little chipped.

I mean me, I’ve aged. I’ll go full silver fox like the old man soon enough. But they both looked like they were catching up with me. Not Scott, though. I swear that man’s immortal. Distill him down and bottle him up, there’s your fountain of youth right there. Of course being lost in time for five years probably helped.

But the things they asked! God, kid, I almost looked around to see if you got the joke. Time travel. Quantum zones a-and… How could they look around, at what I have, and ask me to risk it all on a-a straight up and down roll of the dice?

Even if it were possible—and it’s not—but even if it were, I couldn’t do that.

They look at what I have and they say the same things everyone does. That Tony Stark, doesn’t he just get all the luck. Well you know what? What if it is? If luck’s what gave me Pepper and Morgan and this wonderful, peaceful, happy life, then so be it. And if my luck is built on the misfortune of others, then so be that, too.

Because even if it were possible to change the world, and god I wish it were, I couldn’t put my family at risk like that. It wasn’t fair of them to ask me to.

I did what I was told to do. I moved on. Now it’s their turn. Not mine.”


“I figured it out. I did it. Pete, I did it, I figured it out, I solved everything. Maybe. There may be a way to get everything back and lose nothing.

I know, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, but I have to try. If I don’t, I’ll never sleep again. But we’re coming, Pete. We’re coming!”


“Alright, kid, this is it. In an hour, we’ll start the heist, and there’s no going back. Geez, I’m fifty-three years old, going on a-a time caper. This is ridiculous. I’m ridiculous for thinking…

No. The math is solid. The science is there. We’re going to do this.

I have to be straight with you, though. My top priority is to preserve the present. No changes to life on Earth in 2023. Tony marries Pepper. Tony and Pepper have Morgan. All the joys, all the tragedies, everything EXACTLY as it is now. No fix-its. But if my calculations are right, we can still bring you back. We can bring everyone back. And I’m not stupid. I know we’ll still have a big mess to clean up, but with 3.5 billion more people back in the world, we’ll have plenty of extra hands to pitch in.

We can do this. I know we can do this. We can win this.

[LAUGHS]

Five years of talking into the void on this thing. I gotta remember to wipe your voicemail when I get back. But I tell you what, I’ll leave this one for you.

Peter, it’s me. I’m about to cross time and space and like twelve laws of physics for you, kid. We’re coming to get you. We’re going to bring you home, so just hold tight.

I’ll see you soon. Iron Man out.”


”You know who I am and you know what to do.”

[BEEP]


“M-Mr. Stark? Hey. It’s me.”