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Winter's Child

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Blaring alarms are what Asset wakes to. He can hear the agents hurrying by outside of his cell. They’re, from what he can gather, under attack.

Asset gets up and stands in front of the door, looking out into the hallway through the small window on his door. Asset was right; they are under attack; agents are running around, guns at the ready, yelling frantically. Many of them are looking towards Asset as they run past, their faces showing signs of desperation and fear; they want Asset to come out and help.

But Asset can’t; his door is still closed firmly shut. Handler obviously hasn’t given him permission to leave.

He remains where he is and watches as the agents scramble about.

Soon, after only maybe three minutes, Asset can see the flashing of guns firing. They’re close, just down the wide hallway. But no one has come to get Asset.

He is unable to do anything but watch as agents are shot down with a scream.

That’s when his door opens; after half of the agents in the hallway are shot down, no longer breathing. Handler is not there to greet him and give him weapons. No one is there besides the agents still remaining standing.

When Asset walks out he can practically feel the relief rolling off of the agents.

Asset takes the gun of the man closet to him and takes aim. Down the hall, taking cover behind a couple of corners, are two people. One is a small, petite woman with hair that practically shines with how bright and rich the red in it is. The other is a muscular man with sandy blonde hair, who seems taller than Asset. He wields a bow and arrow opposed to his partners’s simply chosen guns.

If Asset hadn’t been trained for it he wouldn’t have seen the tiniest looks of surprise on their faces before it was whisked away again. Asset doesn’t know if it was him in general or if it was his look; he’s thin and short and doesn’t actually look like he can do much. But he can, every target learns that soon enough. Always.

Over the top of his mask Asset can see the agents in front of him rushing to get out of their way, which is good; they all learned long ago that he has no problems going through agents to get to his intended targets.

The archer shoots. The arrow goes through his stomach. Asset does not make any move or show that the arrow at all hurt. The archer and the woman’s eyes widen as they see the wound close just as quickly as it had opened.

He hears one of them curse violently. He opens fire.

They scramble for cover quickly, trying to hide from the deadly accurate shots. One of them, he thinks the female, shouts for help over the blasts of the shots.

Asset stalks forward not once stopping his spray of bullets. He’s about to reach them when something slams into his chest. It manages to send him flying for a little bit and knocks his gun away. The two enemies are there, ready for him, and immediately start attacking.

The woman loses ammo quickly with every shot she misses, and the archer stops firing arrows, realizing how pointless it is while in such close proximity to his intended target. They are well trained, but are no match for Asset and his abilities.

Asset knocks them both down in a matter of seconds. He does not kill them; Handler may want to do something to them later on.

He hears a shout before something is slammed into his side. He hits the wall and quickly turns, just in time to see a strange red, white, and blue disk fly back to a man with a matching outfit.

Asset does not let that deter him; he rushes forward and tackles the man. Asset is so quick that he is already standing up and punching the man before he even realizes that he’s been tackled.

The punch sends the man skidding along the floor, though the man’s able to stumble into a standing position not long after.

He has good form, Asset will give him that. He seems experienced too, in the way that he’s waiting for Asset to make the first move, not just striking clumsily. Asset wonders how difficult it will be to defeat him.

He is not given the chance, however, since Handler comes rushing around the corner, gun in hand while agents run behind him.

“Stand down!” Handler orders. An explosion rocks the other half of the building. Asset ignores it and stands down, going to stand next to Handler, not taking his eyes off of the enemy. Colorful man only tenses more and takes a few steps back; he seems to realize he’s outnumbered right now. Handler looks to the man, “Captain Rogers, I see you have met our latest masterpiece.”

“Masterpiece? Apparently you don’t remember what happened to your last ‘masterpiece’.” The man sounds tough, brave, but Asset can see the confusion and anticipation around the man’s cowl.

He has something planned, Asset knows. He cannot tell Handler though; he is still not given permission to speak.

“Well, I have to admit that turned out horribly.” Handler says, “But fear not, for we have not made that mistake with Asset.”

The man raises his flying disk higher, “Oh really? So you haven’t turned an innocent into your personal flying monkey?”

Asset does not know what he means by that. Handler scoffs, “It’s not like anyone misses him anyways. Especially you.” The man goes to ask a question but Handler cuts him off, “If anything, him being here is your fault.”

“What do you mean?” His disk drops a little, but he only tenses further. Whatever he has planned will happen shortly. Asset can feel it.

Handler smirks, “That’s not really important, is it… Capsicle?” The man looks with wide eyes from Handler to Asset for a long moment; Handler’s choice of words clearly doing something to him.

Handler’s smirk only goes wider when the man’s eyes land on Asset, wet and shiny and filled with so much hope and guilt and regret, “Tony?”

Asset does not respond; he does not know who that is.

“He doesn’t answer to that anymore. He learned long ago to forget that name.” Handler says, still smirking brightly.

“But…. how?”

Asset does not hear what Handler says; he is too focused on what he hears behind him. There are multiple sets of footsteps, trying hard to be as silent as humanly possible. He hears the soft metallic click of a gun as someone shifts.

Without hesitating, Asset turns around, grabs the gun of one of the agents, and fires, all in a matter of seconds.

The shot is hastily blocked by a metal hand.

Everything goes to hell after that. Gun shots echo loudly in the large hallway. Agents from both sides started shouting as they are gunned down or beaten. The two agents from before are back in the fight as well, attacking with all they have.

Asset still hears the colorful man shout for Tony. Asset doesn’t know who that is so he continues on taking down agents.

Suddenly Asset freezes. He watches as Handler drops to the floor, a bullet hole through his neck. Handler looks up at Asset and gurgles out, “Run.” He dies on a choked breath.

It is an order.

Asset follows it.

He bursts out of the sea of people at top speed, leaving shouts behind. He is so much quicker than any of them, even the colorful man and metal armed man who seem to be the fastest of the rest.

Colorful man still shouts while the other man just runs. They are both determined to reach him though.

They are not fast enough. Not even close.

Asset loses sight of them the second he is outside; they were not nearly quick enough.

He does not know where he’s going, Handler didn’t say, so he just runs. He runs to the forest encircling the building and doesn’t stop.

He just runs and runs and runs.

 

*

 

He had lost them only after a day; there had been in a strange jet and he was still running, but his skills were still too good.

Still, Asset keeps going. Handler told him to run, that’s what he’s doing.

He’s been on the run for fourteen days now. And even with his enhanced body, that many days without his daily injections, he was shutting down.

Just yesterday he was hit with a very unfamiliar feeling: hunger. For nearly three years he never went hungry nor thirsty; that’s what the injections were for.

He doesn’t know where he is now, he just kept running. But he does know that he’s not in the same state. At the moment he’s walking out of another patch of woods into an open field. It’s large and lasts for miles.

After maybe a mile of walking he stops, there, about sixteen miles ahead, is a house. Asset is immediately suspicious and cautious; he does not know if this is a trap or not.

He walks on anyways. If someone is there, he can easily take them out and try to get food.

He stops when he’s maybe forty feet from the house. Children are outside, a boy who looks to be in his early teen years, a young girl of about ten, maybe older, and a very small boy, perhaps three but most likely younger.

The teen boy notices him first; he looks up from where he’s playing with the younger boy and immediately rises to his feet, “Lila get in the house!” The girl looks up from where she was playing hopscotch, “Grab Nate!” The girl-Lila- does as she’s ordered and runs into the house with the small boy-Nate. The oldest one looks at Asset with a glare, trying his hardest to be brave, “Who are you?”

Asset does not answer.

“What are you doing here? Our father isn’t home.” The boy spits the word father out like it hurts him. The teen cannot say more since a woman comes out. She is carrying a shotgun and looks pissed and worried and ready to open fire.

“Get in the house! Lock the door.” The teen does as told after a moment’s hesitation, slamming the door behind him. The woman is short with blonde hair and a thinness disillusioning firm muscles. She steps closer to him, gun raised, “Who are you and what the hell are you doing at my house?”

Asset still does not answer and instead starts shaking. The exhaustion and hunger and thirst from running are swinging at him with full power. He needs rest.

The woman must notice since her expression softens somewhat, “Are you alright?” When Asset offers no answer she continues, “Do you need help?”

Asset collapses. It’s all too much. Even standing still, not the constant moving, no adrenaline powering his moves, leaves him with absolutely no energy left.

He hears a shout before there is nothing.

 

*

 

Asset does not come to with a start; he can still feel the exhaustion blanketing him. He feels almost how he does after waking from The Chair.

Slowly, he opens his eyes as far as they’ll go, which isn’t very far. He finds that he’s in a sparsely decorated room. In there is a dresser, a desk with a matching chair, and the bed that he realizes he’s laying on.

Asset tries to sit up but soon finds that he is far too weak to do that. Instead he decides to just lay back down until he is strong enough.

As he lays there he tries to come up with a plan. He doesn’t. He is too lethargic to do so.

His eyes are drooping again when someone comes in. It’s the woman from before, she is carrying a plate of something and a cup of water, “Glad to see you’re awake Mr. Stark.”

Asset stares blankly at her, he does not know who Mr. Stark is.

The woman gives a sigh and offers a sympathetic smile, “It’s alright. I know you have no idea what’s going on.” She sets the plate and glass on the side table next to the bed and sits down next to Asset slowly, “I know what those bastards did to you.”

Asset stares up at her blankly, not even able to tense up away from her like he usually does when someone comes near; he’s too tired and too confused to do anything.

She smiles again and places a hand on his cheek-which Asset now realizes is maskless, “You look so young.” She whispers. She composes herself in the next instant and removes her hand, “I’m Laura Barton, you don’t remember but we’ve actually met before.” When she again gets no response she sighs, “I know none of this makes sense right now, but I promise you it will soon enough. You’re gonna stay here for a while-no but’s.” She stands and heads to the door, “You shout eat and drink, you need the nutrition.” With that she walks out the door.

Asset stares after her, hearing the click of a lock. Not like it matters; he can tell that he’s gonna be confined to this bed for a little while.

Dropping his head to the pillow again, Asset allows himself to close his eyes, falling into unawareness once more.

 

*

“-azed that he even survived for so long, were he a normal man he would have died only days in.” Asset does not know this voice. It is smooth with a strange accent that he can still hear through the layer of wall.

“But he’s not normal. … Not anymore.” Asset knows that voice. Laura sounds sad and angry, almost like Handler does when Handler gets information that he does not like.

“I know,” Accented voice sounds grave, “Are you positive that we should not call the team? His sister?”

“They’re the reason he’s like this. They’re not gonna help.” Laura’s words are sharp and angry. After a thin silence Asset hears Laura sigh, “I’m sorry.”

“Do not apologize Ms. Barton. You did not wish for any of this to happen. It is not your fault.”

“I know that. But because of Clint…” Her sentence trails off, “I have to help him.”

“I understand. I will do my uttermost best to help as well.” Accented voice says.

“Thank you.” Asset ignores the rest of the conversation, instead electing to try standing up. He is still very shaky and his stomach burns in pain, but he manages to stand up, leaning heavily on the bedside table. By the time he’s stood erect he’s breathing heavily. That is bad; he shouldn’t be that tired already from only standing up. He needs to rest. He knows this. But he can’t stay here, it is too dangerous.

Asset takes a tentative step. It doesn’t go well. The next thing he knows is that he’s flat on the floor and the door is bursting open, Laura and some man rushing in. Laura spots him immediately and moves to help him sit propped up against the wall, “Tony!” Asset resists and starts squirming and kicking away from her. He must leave. Laura is pulled away and the man is kneeling next to him, trying to contain his flailing limbs. Had Asset been stronger he’d have easily been able to fend the man off, but seeing as he was still incredibly weak, the man managed to contain his body in an embarrassing amount of time.

“Please, calm down. I do not wish for you to injure yourself.” Asset was correct in his assumption of the man being Accented Voice. The man is still whispering ‘comforting’ words at Asset, but he does not listen. He instead uses his immobile position to take a good look at the man. He’s wearing a finely pressed suit, much like the one’s Handler wore. He stands tall and proud, also like Handler. And his voice is sharp, commanding, everything that Handler’s was. That could only mean-

“Ready to comply.” Asset says at the same time Handler says, “Stay still.”

He is Handler, Asset does as told and stops moving, willing his trembling limbs to still.

Handler’s eyes go wide, as do Laura’s. They are filled with guilt and despair, but Asset does not know why. He has done as he was told, shouldn’t they be happy? They sit there for maybe seven minutes, just staring at Asset, Asset stares only ahead of him, awaiting his orders. Finally Handler speaks, “Ms. Barton, please go get something for him to eat.” He directs it at Laura while staring at Asset. Laura hesitates for a moment before nodding and heading out, the door closing gently behind her. Handler remains staring at him for a few moments longer, “What did they call you?”

“Asset,” He replies immediately.

Handler curses violently and he stands abruptly, scrubbing a hand down his face. When he turns to Asset again his eyes look broken and are red, “You are not Asset any longer.” He practically spits his name out, “You are Tony. Remember that. Tony.” He kneels directly in front of Tony, “What is your name?”

“Tony.” He answers.

Handler still looks strained, “Good. You will never go by Asset again. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

Handler makes a choked sound again and pinches his nose. He can’t say anything else because Laura comes back in holding a plate. Handler looks at Laura then Asset, “Eat. Ms. Barton and I will be outside. Just remain in here and eat.”

The two leave and Tony does what he is told.

 

*

 

He has already been with Handler and Laura for three months.

They don’t call him Asset, they call him Tony. He is not allowed to call Handler Handler, he is T’Challa. He is not allowed to train, he is forced to spend hours of the day with them trying to remember someone named Tony Stark. They try to convince him that he is Tony Stark, but Tony does not believe them. He does not know why, but he cannot be Tony Stark.

He is not to be an asset at all anymore, they are teaching him to be ‘human’. Tony doesn’t know what they mean, but he is taught a lot of new things every day.

He never speaks, and Hand- T’Challa never asks for him to. They give him something to do and he does it, no questions asked. They try to get him to stop following orders, but he cannot help himself; it is in his programming.

Through all of this time he has been told to stay in his room, so when Laura and T’Challa come in saying that he is allowed out, he is a bit surprised. As soon as he steps out of the door he realizes that he has been in the top room of a house this whole time; he never opened the curtains and had no way of knowing previously.

Laura holds his hand as she leads him downstairs, T’Challa following behind closely. They lead him outside.

It is chilly but bright out, telling Tony that it is near winter. Laura makes him put on a jacket, gloves, and boots. Tony doesn’t care either way; the cold was never something he allowed to divert his attention.

“Do not go far,” T’Challa says, “You are to remain in the perimeter and do as you wish.”

Tony says nothing and only starts walking, heading to where an old, run down tractor is parked next to the barn. He is cautious and silent, ready for if T’Challa has a problem with it. But when Tony looks back, T’Challa only nods his head encouragingly and Laura smiles, so Tony touches the tractor.

The metal is cool under his touch, but Tony does not register it. He instead goes to look at it’s engine. He has to admit: for something as old as this tractor seems, it has a pretty decent engine. He takes some time to study it, developing ways in which he can improve it.

He tenses when he hear movement behind him, “I know the engine could be better, but, without Clint around, I can’t improve it much.” Tony turns. Standing there is the young teen he had seen when he first came to this house. He is wearing outer-gear much similar to Tony’s and is standing nervously yet bravely only a few feet from him.

Tony looks back at the house, but Laura and T’Challa are paying them no mind; they are instead playing with the two younger children he sees. Tony finds it odd for them to trust him with this young boy, but he does not question it.

“I’m Cooper, by the way.” The teen says. When Tony doesn’t respond Cooper looks at him, “Do you know yours?”

Reflexively he says, “Tony.”

The boy nods in what seems to be an approving manner, “That’s good. So, Tony, um… do you want to help me fix her?” He gestures to the tractor Tony is still touching. Again Tony doesn’t answer, he only nods. Cooper nods as well and cautiously makes his way over to the tractor. He stops just beside Tony, then, slowly, exposes the engine of the rusted machine.

They take nearly thirty minutes to start working next to each other relatively comfortably, but they finally get a hang of it and time flies in a blur of engine parts and Cooper’s voice telling him all about this and that.

It’s dark when T’Challa calls them inside. Instead of sending Tony to his room to eat, however, Laura allows him to sit at the table. He meets Lila and Nate officially and they seem to really like him for some reason, despite how dangerous and quiet he is. At dinner Cooper and Lila even manage to get him to smile with their antics.

If Tony were to be honest with himself, he’ll admit, he quite enjoys their company.

 

*

 

Tony finds it odd at how quickly Cooper opens up to him, any hints of shyness now disappeared into something akin to trust, and they’ve only been fixing things together for three weeks. Cooper speaks as if he has known Tony for years and needed only a few moments to reinstitute himself with him again. He speaks of many things, most of which involve inventions and electronics. So it is a surprise when their fixing Laura’s car and he suddenly says, “My dad caused this.”

Tony looks at him, confused, even with how much the boy speaks to him, he hardly speak back. Cooper heads on, “I mean, if you really think about it, it’s his fault in a lot of ways. If Clint hadn’t gotten involved for whatever known reason, then he wouldn’t have been there to help the others escape and you wouldn’t have gotten taken and he wouldn’t be gone for three years.”

Cooper remains silent for a minute, his eyes closed and hand clenched around a screwdriver, “When we heard that you went missing, we knew that it was because of them. We didn’t know how, but we did. Then, when T’Challa came, we finally got an answer: you had been left there. I don’t know if you remember, but Rogers and Barnes beat you to the brink of death, and then just left you there.

That’s how you were taken. According to some footage T’Challa had found, you weren’t even conscious when you were taken. And now, here you are, three years later, completely different... When I had first met you, I had to admit, you were old and loud. Now though… now you look closer to my age and barely speak.” Cooper throws the screwdriver to the ground violently, “And it’s still all their fault.”

Tony notices the tears the boy is holding back and is unsure of how to comfort him. He stands there, dumbstruck for a moment before standing behind him and awkwardly wrapping his arms around Cooper’s slim frame. Cooper tenses for a fraction before relaxing.

They stay like that for a while, Cooper leaning his weight against Tony’s solid chest more and more, until he’s practically held up solely by Tony. Tony had to admit: though the actions were uncomfortable, the trust Cooper was displaying was...nice.

When they part, they don’t speak anymore on that subject, just continue their work.

 

*

 

“They’re good for you,” Tony looks up from where he was staring out of his window, watching the sky. Laura stands in the doorway a soft smile stretched across her face, “I don’t know why we didn’t think of them before. I don’t know. Maybe I was a bit frightened at what you might do to them. But… seeing you with Cooper lately… he really seems to be helping you. You’re recovering quicker.”

“He is a good kid.” He says quietly, still not used to the right to speak freely.

“Yeah he is.” Her smile becomes sadder, “You’re good for him too, you know. Before you came,” She explains, “he was angry. When his father left, he couldn’t help but blame himself for it; he felt that he had done something wrong. Thankfully, later, that anger focused on Clint. Even now, he refuses to even say Dad-as I’m sure you noticed. It’s only Clint to him.

And with you now… I don’t know. He seems be gaining closure. He sees you and sees that we weren’t the only ones Clint screwed over. He even realised that, in comparison to you, what Clint did to us is nothing. And, in a way I think he sees you more as family now, with how he feels obligated to make things right with you…” She trails off for a little while.

Tony can’t help but ask, “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you might not be the same Tony we knew, but you still mean so much to him...to us. Always remember that Tony: we don’t care if you can’t remember us, you still matter to us.”

Tony says nothing, only casts his eyes down for some reason, and Laura leaves, the door closing with a soft click behind her.

Tony feels...weird. There’s a strange feeling in his chest and a lump in his throat. Why would Laura trust him with such information? Isn’t something like your husband leaving your children supposed to be private? Held secret between only you and a few friends or family?

Does Laura consider them friends? Family? She said he meant so much to them, was she telling the truth?

Tony sees a flash of something. He sees Laura, she was younger, and was asking him to look at something.

Mr. Stark. Who is Mr. Stark?

She directed her question at him. Is he Mr. Stark? Is what they told him true?

Is he Tony Stark?

 

*

 

He remembers. He remembers he is Tony Stark. He is.

They showed him pictures. And he remembers.

He doesn’t remember anything else, only the fact that he is no doubt Tony Stark. He’s Tony Stark.

T’Challa and Laura are pleased about the fact that he knows who he is, even if he knows nothing else. They try other things to convince him of his past, but he does not believe them and he does not remember.

“I’m Tony Stark.” He’s looking into the mirror they brought into his room, staring at himself. There’s a picture in his hand, it’s supposed to be of him. But Tony finds it weird; the man in the picture is old, maybe mid to late forties, Tony himself looks like he’s only in his teen years. The picture shows a vibrant, lively man, but Tony looks empty. His face is blank and his eyes portray no emotion at all.

T’Challa tells him it is because of whatever Hydra gave him that he looks like this now, and Tony believes him; he was with Hydra for almost three years, he knows how tricky and slippery they are. So there’s no doubt in his mind that they did this to him. That they changed him into this...child who can’t even remember anything about what seemed to be a pretty decent life. Regardless of the fact he got left to die.

Tony is brought out of his thought when he hears something strange. It is a quiet sound, something a normal person would not hear, but he does. It is close to the house.

Tony steps away from the mirror and goes to look outside. His enhanced eyes immediately focus on a large blob getting closer. In the dark it is almost impossible to see, but Tony sees it. It looks like a large jet, and, as Tony gets a better look at it the closer it gets, he realises that it is the same jet he had seen when he had run from the Hydra base.

Tony runs.

He breaks his door open and races downstairs. Laura and T’Challa are there, cleaning the remnants of dinner, “Tony?” T’Challa asked, stepping over cautiously, “What is the matter?”

“Someone’s here.” He answers. He does not move again, he has reported his findings, T’Challa must now do something.

T’Challa and Laura share a look before T’Challa speaks, looking at Tony, “Go and wake the children, get them up to your room. Do not come down until you are told and do not attack anyone. Laura and I will deal with this. Do you understand?”

“Yes.” Tony answers, very careful to leave out the ‘Sir’.

Without wasting any time, Tony rushes back up the stairs, reaching Nate’s and Lila’s rooms first, carefully pulling them from bed. He holds Nate is his arms and Lila’s hand as he gets Cooper up, “What’s going on?” The teen yawns, coming awake.

Tony doesn’t answer and instead pulls the children up to his room, fitting the door back in place after putting the kids on the bed. He ignores Cooper and Lila’s questions and instead closes most of his blinds, leaving one partially open so that he could still keep an eye out.

“Tony,” Said man turns to see Cooper and Lila staring at him, Nate still half asleep curled into his brother’s side. Cooper continues, “What’s going on?”

Tony speaks quietly, “Intruders.”

Cooper is immediately standing and shuffling over to Tony, “Is it Hydra?”

“No.”

They stand in silence after that, him and Cooper watching out the window and Lila on the bed still trying to keep Nate from falling asleep.

For minutes they stand there, Tony fighting every fiber in his bone to not go out and help T’Challa and Laura as they are approached.

Tony notices who they are when it’s too late; it’s the men and the woman from the base. Right as he realizes that, he hears both the front and back door being thrown open violently, then the thunder of dozens of steps coming up the stairs. With one last glance-and notices the trucks loads of people in black uniforms approaching, Tony quickly pushes Cooper into the closet, followed by Lila then Nate. It is not the most ideal spot but it is what Tony has at the moment with the limited room he was provided.

He’s just broken the doorknob off when his bedroom door is broken down, the walls shaking with the force of it.

One of the men from the base comes through; the man with the fascinating metal arm. At the moment however, it’s not too fascinating as it is used to grab his collar in a firm grip, “Stand down.” The man tries ordering as Tony starts squirming.

Tony kicks his leg out and hits the guy square in the chest, effectively dislodging the hand and Tony’s dropped to the floor. Immediately, he’s back up, attacking every agent in the room.

He doesn’t care if he wasn’t given the order; these people dared to put the kids in danger.

But he can’t stop them; there are far too many. Even more coming in through the window. He could beat them sure, but not without getting hurt in some kind of way-especially since metal-armed man keeps getting up-and the children need him to protect them.

He doesn’t know what’s going on outside, but he can guarantee that there are going to be more of these people coming in at this rate. There have to be nearly fifty of them cramped into this small room now.

He has to-

He isn’t given the chance to take action: he is tackled by at least six men at once. After nearly a full minute of his struggling, he is forced to the floor, flat on his stomach. There is a sharp pain in his back. Needle, his brain supplies. They have tried drugging him, but it will not work; Hydra has tried many times.

It’s never worked.

They seem to notice this as well. He is pushed down with more force and someone barks into their coms. They wait approximately eleven seconds before the windows are shattered. Tony hears almost a dozen metallic thumps and then everyone is off of him, rushing cover their faces in the thick material of their clothing. He is confused for all of a second before a smell floods his nose: sleeping gas. A strong one at that. And there are about twelve of them.

Before he even knows what’s happening, he’s swaying to the wall, just barely managing to clutch it. The sleeping agents are strong. Strong enough that, with the combined force of all of them, they are actually affecting him. His sight his blurry, his head fuzzy, his mouth tasting of cotton.

All too soon he is on the floor, unconscious.

 

*

 

He has been with them for three days. No one has given him any news, orders, or has demanded questions. The only other soul he has seen is the man that delivers and takes the food trays every day.

He has not eaten or drunken anything thus far; he doesn’t know who these people are, he doesn’t trust whatever is in the food. He hasn’t slept either and, having had a regular sleeping schedule with T’Challa and Laura, he already feels pretty tired.

There are no windows in this room-his cell. Only blank, bright, white walls. He is only gifted with a standard metal framed bed with thin sheets and one pillow, a desk and chair nailed to the floor, a weird picture thing that changes from a sunrise to mid-day to sundown and, finally, midnight. In the corner is a doorless frame that leads him into a very small bathroom with only a toilet, sink, and a shower.

The bathroom is the only thing he has used; Laura taught him long ago that hygiene is very important and he should always try to keep it up if he is given the opportunity. There are clothes in a pile next to the bed that he has been changing into. They are plain but they well, so doesn’t complain. At least there are some shoes with them.

He is huddled in the corner between the bed and desk when the door opens. He immediately tenses, ready to fight whoever comes through the door. “Tony!” His body nearly collapses in relief when Laura and T’Challa burst through, instantly making their way toward him. Laura starts running her hands over his body immediately, checking for injury, “Did they hurt you?” Tony shakes his head, glad that they are here now. Laura heaves a sigh of relief and pulls Tony to her, resting his head on her chest and wrapping her arms around his lithe body.

“Are you well?” T’Challa asks, resting a heavy hand on Tony’s shoulder. Tony nods in reply. T’Challa nods and stands, he holds out his hands to them both to take, “Come. We are leaving.” Laura disentangles from Tony after a quick kiss to his temple and takes T’Challa’s hand, Tony following suit, standing on shaking legs. T’Challa notices and wraps an arm around his shoulders, “Have you eaten?” Tony shakes his head. “Have you slept?” Another shake. T’Challa sighs but says soothingly, “That is alright. We are leaving and soon you may rest.”

No one is outside to stop them as they make their way out of the door, Tony heavily supported by T’Challa. Laura takes lead, walking briskly down the halls. They are expecting an attack, Tony soon realizes; they were not given permission to take Tony.

Tony feels so weak and useless as they hurry their way outside; he may be greatly enhanced, but he had gotten greatly used to Laura’s scheduled meals. It is odd though, to feel… human again. But Tony likes it. He is healing.

A jet is waiting for them, standing proudly against the darkening sky.

The kids are already in there. The moment they see Tony, they pounce. If not for T’Challa quickly going to steady them, they’d all have fallen. Slowly, he levers them onto one of the seats and goes to the cockpit, Laura following them.

“We must hurry,” T’Challa tells Laura, “They will be coming for us soon.”

“Where are we going to go?” Laura’s voice is shaky.

“...I know a place.”

With that, they’re off.

 

*

 

Wakanda is large and beautiful. The minute they touch down, the kids rush to the windows, mouths agape, staring in awe. Tony gets to the windows slower, quite weary of the foreign place. T’Challa assured them all that the country was perfectly safe and livable. ‘We should be safe here.’ He’d said.

Should.

They should be safe within the isolated country.

There is no guarantee.

Tony is extremely suspicious of that, but he does not dwell on it. He will just be ready for if-when-there is danger.

T’Challa hurds them out of the room, Laura grabbing Lila and Nate’s hands, ensuring they can’t rush off and get lost in this alien country. “Come quickly.” T’Challa says, leading them to a very large building. It’s huge and beautiful, just like the rest of the country.

“This place is amazing.” Cooper states, staring at everything with wide, curious eyes.

“Thank you, Cooper.” T’Challa says, “I am glad that you like it.”

“How long are we going to stay here?” Lila asks.

They’re already inside when T’Challa finally answers:

“Until I am positive Tony is safe.”

 

 

TBC...