Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
In Iron Man #182, Tony Stark had been living on the streets drunk. After helping deliver a baby and nearly freezing to death, he lay in his hospital bed telling Rhodey about his decision to quit drinking.
Rhodey, I realized something else that night. In my own way, I'm as helpless and scared and ignorant as the baby. I need help.
Tony: I hope I can protect [gestures to Pepper] the one thing I can't live without.
The actual movie reveals just how far he'll go; when the missile attack starts, Tony puts Pepper in the suit rather than himself.
When Pepper is standing in the wreckage of what was formerly Tony's house after it had basically been exploded, she's holding the helmet of one of the many, MANY Iron Man suits. She's pressing it against her face in a call back to a previous moment between her and Tony, when she hears... beeping? Turning it over, she finds a red flashing light and, realizing this means the helmet had some charge to it, puts it over her head to hear a voice-mail Tony had left telling her he's completely fine and he's sorry for putting her in danger.
She's clearly not listening, just the knowledge that he's alive is all she needs right now And all that matters.
For all the grief that was given throughout all 3 movies, the end of the movie shows that Tony had one piece of equipment salvaged from the ruins of his house: Dummy.
The Stinger reveals that Tony's narration of the film is actually him talking to Bruce Banner. Their friendship from The Avengers is not forgotten.