It was just as much Tony’s fault as anyone else's. If he hadn’t been so damn distracted by those D cups might have been able to cover somebody. Maybe everything would have turned out differently …
As it was, he, like all the other Avengers – even Natasha, and he was so going to call her on it later – couldn’t tear his eyes away from the voluptuous new super-villainess with her plunging neckline and thigh high gold boots. And now it was just him, this stunning creature, and an army of butterfly-themed henchmen occupying 34th Street beneath a giant, hovering cocoon. The rest of his team had collapsed to the pavement, tiny tranquilizer darts dotting their exposed flesh. Thor had been gaping with such enthusiastic appreciation that he’d caught two in the mouth. Hulk had been felled by at least twenty of them arranged like a pointillism masterpiece across his chest. Even Captain America, too smitten to duck behind his shield, had a pair protruding from his jaw. Tony only escaped unscathed by virtue of the tough outer shell he projected to the world … literally.
He felt bad actually, though ever so slightly amused; it wasn’t every day he managed to outlast all the other Avengers on the battlefield, not every day his armor proved to be more reliable than even the thick skin of a god or the agility of a crazy KGB ninja witch. And it certainly wasn’t every day he got to catch Steve snoozing like an overgrown boy scout in his favorite red, white and blue footie pajamas. Adorable.
“We’ve got you surrounded. Surrender, and we will consider leniency,” commanded the woman imperiously, and, wow, her voice did not suit her appearance. In fact, the deep, manly rumble of it quickly snapped Tony back to his senses.
He dropped into a guarded stance and waited, tense, for her to continue.
But she didn’t, just silently fumed for a moment and snatched a walkie talkie from the nearest henchman. “Honey, that’s your cue. Remember? You stride out and give your big ‘no mercy’ speech? You love that speech.”
“Why should I?” demanded a tinny, whining voice over the comm. “You’ve already done all the fun stuff. What’s the point?”
“The point is I worked very hard to get us this gig, and it could be our chance to break into the big time. This is The Avengers we’re talking about!” she argued, hand on her hip, acting much too much like Pepper and apparently unconcerned that Iron Man and the henchmen were privy to the whole conversation.
“I don’t want the big time! The big time’s for chumps like Dr. Doom.”
“But sweetie, we’re doing so well –“
Tony tuned her out when he felt a hand wrap around his ankle, gripping the armor hard. He glanced down to find Steve reaching for him, looking a little green around the gills.
“Iron Man,” he whispered desperately, and Tony knelt to hear better and inspect Steve’s disturbingly dilated pupils. Without meaning to, Tony found himself cupping the un-darted side of Steve’s face and running an armored thumb across his cheek … and really hoping Steve was too out of it to register the tender gesture.
“What is it, Cap? JARVIS call for help!”
“I already have, sir.”
“- you never support me in front of the henchmen!”
“This stuff is strong, we might die if you don’t shut them up and get help,” Steve managed before slipping back into unconsciousness, the thud of his helmet dull against the asphalt.
Suddenly understanding the magnitude of the threat posed by this deceptively inept butterfly cult, Tony propelled himself toward their queen and snagged her with one arm, his free hand pressing a repulsor to her cheek. He, more than most, was against kidnapping as a general rule, but he honestly could not come up with a better plan, didn’t have time to try very hard.
“Get your henchmen out of here, now!” And really, Tony had no idea where this ferocity was coming from, this heart-pounding urgency.
“Okay, but we’ve got to take one of yours as collateral, that’s how this works.” Even as she said it a small company of henchmen broke from their ranks and surrounded Steve, a few more coming to help when they realized just how much he weighed.
“You can’t!” Tony cried, more than half-wishing they’d take Clint instead – he’d probably make such an infuriating prisoner they’d send him back with a conciliatory box of chocolates and a sincere letter of apology.
“Then we’re staying and fighting it out,” she hissed, and, helpless, torn, Tony allowed Steve to be unceremoniously dragged into the cocoon, shield and all.
The piercing, nasal voice, which clearly belonged to the head butterfly, whoever he was, rang out and echoed harshly down the city street as the costumed swarm retreated. “You may have won this round, Iron Man, but I’ll be back for my queen, and you shall feel the cruel sting of The Monarch!” And really, thought Tony bitterly, that high pitched maniacal laugh was not the most intimidating he’d ever heard.
And besides, monarchs don’t sting.
Just as the cocoon floated away, five SHIELD copters roared down from the sky. Tony shoved his unnervingly calm prisoner away and ran to meet Coulson over Natasha’s fallen form.
“They took him! Get me some reinforcements and I’ll go after them!”
“Slow down there, Iron Man,” replied Coulson in his best maybe-it’s-ironic-maybe-it’s-Maybelline tone. “You did a good job just now. You’re finally thinking like a team player.”
“But they …” Tony gestured weakly after the hastily departing cocoon.
“Are members of the Guild of Calamitous Intent, and they won’t harm a hair on Captain America’s head unless you do something stupid like chase after them.” Coulson knelt, plucking darts from Natasha’s back and shoulders. EMTs swarmed on all sides, shuffling Tony out of the way, ignoring him in favor of the wounded.
“The Guild?” Tony could barely bite the words out they were so distasteful. “Since when do we arch glorified trick-or-treaters?”
“We needed the extra revenue source, and the OSI has been having difficulty dealing with The Monarch recently. It was a mutually beneficial contract.” Apparently deciding Natasha was in good hands with the EMTs, Coulson stood and offered an arm to their prisoner with a decidedly wolfish smirk. “If you’ll come this way, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch, we’ll find you some accommodations.”