The world would keep spinning. It would spin and spin and keep on spinning forever regardless of whether or not Tony Stark was there to see it.
That doesn’t make the knowledge that he’s gone any less painful, though.
It’s just past five in the morning and Peter can’t sleep, a situation he finds himself in often these days. Earth was at peace for once, its creatures settling slowly but surely into lives that were once left behind, crumbled into handfuls of dust that vanished with the wind. No one quite knew what to do with themselves yet, the wound of death and could-be pasts and futures still far too fresh, far too painful, but with time it would surely heal and humanity would once again find a normalcy with which to pass their days.
But there would never again be Tony Stark to protect it. Tony was gone, and this time there would be no revivals.
Peter shifts on the bed once, twice, then forgoes a third in favor of throwing off the duvet and sitting up on the edge of the mattress. He probably looks a right mess, he knows, can feel the grease that clings to his scalp and clumps his hair together unflatteringly, can smell the filth of his own body surrounding him like a second skin. He feels just as disgusting inside as he know he must look on the outside, which suits him just fine. Someone has to grieve.
Every time he closes his eyes he can see it — Tony, his gaze wide and vacant, expression blank as he stares at nothing like a blinded man. His flesh is charred and resembles something from one of the horror films Peter usually avoids; when had his life become one, exactly? Everywhere he looked was death and blood and destruction, when barely a year ago he was just an average high school student worrying about tests and grades and girlfriends.
And there was Tony, life fading fast, heart slowing, ears deaf to Peter’s pleas. There was Pepper, shoving him out of the way to get to her husband, her eyes scared and desperate. She tells him it’ll be okay — a lie — and to get some rest.
Peter would probably hate her for it if he had the emotional capacity to.
Even now there was Tony. Tony’s sheets under his fingers, Tony’s scent slowly slipping from the pillows, Tony’s old Metallica tee shirt draped loosely over Peter’s shoulders. He didn’t know how long he’d been doing this, didn’t want to know, honestly. Maybe he was afraid that weeks had passed him by, that it had been months since he’d lost his mentor, that a year had already gone and left him behind just like the piece of his soul he’d once let cling to Tony Stark and had felt ripped from his body as the man died.
Pepper hadn’t said anything when he’d first showed up, his posture rigid and anxious but exhausted, mourning. His hands had shook as he’d asked for a moment, just some time, please, I just need a moment, and she’d looked at him, pitying and understanding and just a little bit bitter before leading him back to the bedroom.
“I haven’t come in here since,” (he died) “then,” she had told him, pushing the door open and allowing him to slowly wander inside. He felt her gaze on him as he stepped towards the little work desk in the far corner, eyeing the half-finished trinkets and tech that littered its surface with a sad sort of longing for the old days of his internship at Stark Industries. His fingertips glided along the books packed tightly into the bookshelf, feet taking him wherever they may. He hadn’t truly touched anything, then, content to just look and feel and ache.
It hadn’t taken him long to leave.
A few visits later had found him hesitantly picking through the closet, the dresser, anything he could open and sift through, anything he could run his hands over. He picked through old jackets and fancy suits, rummaged around in the work desk filled with miscellaneous tools and journals full of research and abandoned ideas — he’d thumbed through the pages of those for a while, smiling fondly at the messy penmanship that carved out Tony’s thoughts.
He’d cried when he opened the top drawer of Tony’s nightstand and found a picture of himself, all bright and grinning as he proudly held out the first creation he’d completed at Stark Industries. It had all been a bit too much. Too overwhelming.
Peter pulls it out, now, his touch careful and steady despite his whirling emotions, and it’s light in his hands as though oblivious to the weight it holds in Peter’s heart. Tony had kept this there, just beside his bed as he slept; there was another, too, a picture of the both of them displayed elsewhere in the house, but this one — this one was special.
After his revival he’d felt so relieved to see Tony, his heart close to bursting in his chest when the man hugged him in the single most loving, desperate embrace he’d ever been held in in his life. He knew in that moment that the feeling was mutual, that Tony was just as relieved, just as grateful and disbelieving and desperate. It had felt good; despite their obvious soul bond, Tony had previously made a point of touching him as little as possible. Peter had hoped that maybe it would change once they won the battle, that maybe he and Tony could be closer.
But now there was nothing left but a few lonely pictures and a hole in his core, because Tony was dead. He was dead and Peter was supposed to continue on, live, smile, pretend like an important part of him wasn’t missing and rendering him incomplete. Pepper had told him that he was welcome over anytime, but he knew that it was an offer he wasn’t supposed to take her up on. He’d seen the way she looked at him, the way she tried to bury her resentment for him behind their mutual mourning, their mutual love.
He knew she hated it. Hated that he was Tony’s soulmate and she wasn’t. Hated that Tony had married her but still held a special kind of love for Peter. Hated that Peter loved Tony, too.
But at least she’d been able to hold him in her arms and love him openly. At least she’d had a life with him, a home and a family and a ring on her finger. She may not have had a soul mark that bound her to him, but she loved Tony and Tony had loved her, and Peter was nothing compared to that. His soul mark was fading now, dulled and sad-looking where it sat on the smooth skin of his wrist. He traces over it with reverent fingers, his everything aching for what it had lost.
As the sun creeps slowly into the early morning sky, painting the outside world in purples and pale blues, the mark catches the tiniest bit of light. The ‘y’ in Tony’s name glints, winking at him lovingly.
Yes, the world would keep spinning, that much was true, but for Peter Parker, it had already ground to a stop. He isn’t sure it would ever stop hurting. He is young and inexperienced in the ways of love, but he knows that this is what heartbreak feels like. He knows that this is true pain.
He holds onto his wrist as the sun wraps him in its warm arms, wishes for a future that could’ve been, and weeps.