It has been three months since Tony had stepped through the portal that brought him back to his own universe. In those three months he had burned every single bridge he had tried to build between himself and the Avengers. They- apparently- were out for Iron Man’s blood. Or at least that was what Pepper told him, and Pepper got all her information from Natasha- Tony was pretty sure they were dating.
Of course Tony didn’t care that the Avengers wanted him to answer for his crimes. (Maybe he cared a little). But in a few days he was going home, in a few days the Avengers wouldn’t have to worry about Iron Man ever again.
Tony looked around his lab, dark gaze catching on Pepper’s suit, on the portal stabilizer, on his bots, on the Pym Particles, on FRIDAY’s data card, on everything he had spent three months working for.
Pepper’s suit was done, he just needed to give it some color- and a name. She had given it a test drive or two and seemed satisfied with his parting gift. JARVIS was busy running simulations with the portal, so far he was up to 98.2% certain that he had all the right data to get Tony to the right universe. The bots, his beloved children, were excited for their trip- or so JARVIS assured him. Tony had asked them each individually if they wanted to come with him and JARVIS said that all three did. The Pym Particles sat on his desk, Tony hadn’t fucked with them much other than to confirm that they worked- they did. FRIDAY was going to be the new AI that helped Pepper run SI, she was brilliant and sassy and Pepper would love her.
He had achieved so much in the past three months. He couldn’t wait to see the look on Magic Hand’s face when he found out it only took Tony three months to get a portal working instead of Strange’s five months.
“How’s everything going?”
Tony barely managed not to jump at the sound of Pepper’s voice.
“I’m pretty much done here,” he said as he turned to face her.
She was looking at the silver armor. Tony couldn’t quite pinpoint the expression on her face.
“Hey, maybe without me at the helm you can convince the Avengers to let you and Castle in,” Tony said.
Pepper rolled her eyes, a fond smile on her face.
“Your girlfriend could probably convince Rogers. She’s second in command, isn’t she?”
For a second Tony was afraid he got it all wrong, but Pepper blushed.
“How’d you figure it out?”
Tony winked at her.
“I’m thinking purple and silver color scheme for you Ms. Potts, it will look nice next to War Machine and Black Widow. Besides, red and gold is my brand,”
“What am I going to be called?” she asked.
Tony sat back in his chair, cycling through all the names he’d given to his armors, he glanced at Pepper again and smiled.
“Rescue,” he said.
“Oh an Ms. Potts? I need you to find some people for me,”
Pepper pulled out her tablet, ready to jot down the names.
“Peter Parker, Riri Williams, and Harley Keener,”
“Who are they?” she asked.
“Hopefully, my successors,”
“As they were in the other universe,”
“Will that be all Mr. Stark?”
“That will be all Ms. Potts,”
She nodded for a moment and for a second Tony thought she was going to leave, but instead she looked at him again.
“Don’t leave without saying goodbye,” she said.
“You were never a scout, Tony,”
A small smile tugged at his lips.
“I could never leave you without a goodbye Pep,”
She left with a satisfied nod.
It was a week later when Tony called her back to the lab. It was time. FRIDAY was ready to go, she had all of the information she needed to get the portal working, the suit was ready, and Tony had finished up all his instructions on what to do with the company after he was gone. He was finally, finally, finally ready to go home.
“Is this you saying goodbye?” Pepper asked.
“Last change to come with me. There’s a Natasha in that universe too,” Tony tried.
“Not my Natasha,” Pepper said with a shake of her head.
Tony took her face in his hands.
“Thank you Miss Potts,” he said, he brushed away the tears that spilled down her cheeks.
“Pep you’ve been amazing,” he whispered.
“I’m going to miss you,” she said, her voice breaking.
“I’m going to miss you too. You’re one of a kind Miss Potts,” he said as he dropped his hands.
“So are you,”
“You won’t be saying that once you meet the kids,” he said.
Pepper didn’t respond to that.
“Alright FRIDAY, do your thing,” Tony instructed.
The portal lit up as a hum filled the room. Tony watched electricity crackle before a familiar white mist appeared.
“Analyze,” he said, his throat tight.
“ Data signatures match, Boss ,” FRIDAY told him.
He was going home.
“You sure you got everything?” he asked.
“ Yes, Boss ,”
Tony swallowed thickly and turned to the large case on his worktable. He double checked that all the bots were in there, snug and comfortable. His eyes lingered on JARVIS’s chip and he snapped the lid closed and locked it.
“You got all of big brothers info?” Tony asked, double checking for the third time that he had everything.
“ Yes Boss ,” FRIDAY chimed.
“You’re amazing baby girl,” he said.
“ I know ,”
A shaky smile took over his face as the portal appeared. It was time.
“Once I’m through send out the Goodbye Protocol,” he said.
“ Goodbye Boss ,” she said quietly.
He stepped through the portal, suitcase clenched in his hand. The portal spat him out in the exact same place it had the first time. The Avengers Compound in upstate New York.
He was aware of an alarm blaring. He bent down to his suitcase and opened it up. The bots were still in tact, as was JARVIS’s chip.
“Thank god,” he whispered.
“How’d you get in here?” a familiar voice asked.
Tony pushed himself to his feet and turned. The Avengers were on the other side of the room.
Avengers. Sam, James, Bruce, Kate, Jan,
Strange, and in front of all the Avengers in all his silver suit glory, stood War Machine.
I did it , Tony thought hazily. He was acutely aware that he was seconds away from bursting into tears.
Rhodes stepped out of the War Machine armor.
“Tones?” he whispered.
Tears spilt over Tony’s cheeks.
Then he was in Rhodey’s arms and it was real- it was so real. Tony did it. He had made it back to the one place he truly belonged. All the bullshit he had struggled with for the past three months in his birth universe was worth it just for the feeling of Rhodey’s arms around him.
“You came back,” Rhodes choked out as he pulled away from Tony to cup his face.
For a second Tony could only stare at him. Rhodes was the most beautiful man Tony had ever seen. And then Rhodes’ words hit him and really what else was Tony going to say?
“Don’t fucking say it,” one of the Avengers said.
“I came home,”
Rhodes struggled with the exasperated smile trying to fit it’s way on his face.
“See I was going to kiss you but just for that-”
Tony grabbed him by his shirt and hauled him in for a kiss.