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Reason Knows Not

Chapter Text

Tony stared in disbelief at the doctors standing in front of him. They didn’t look like they were joking, but they had to be. Right?

“What do you mean, I’m…” He shook his head and rested one hand on his stomach. “I’m a guy!”

His stomach was certainly bigger than it usually was, but that just meant he needed to exercise more. That would make Steve “You Need To Spar More” Rogers happy. He could just imagine the sinister grin he’d give him when he found out, just before he’d drag Tony off to the gym to have his way with Tony. And not in the nice, fun way Tony would have preferred.

“We’re sorry, Mr. Stark,” Dr. Harris, an older man with a lined, weathered face was telling him. “We’ve run the tests several times and even done the ultrasound three times on three different machines. You are pregnant.”

For a long moment, nothing seemed to register but the word “pregnant” as it echoed over and over in his brain. It bounced around, knocking out of place the endless formulae and plans that were constantly filling his head. Then it all screeched to a grinding halt.

“Who put you up to this? Bruce?” Tony slipped off the table and grabbed his sunglasses from out of his pocket. He slipped them on even as he shot a look of pure venom at the gathered doctors. “Nice try, but I’m not that—“

“This isn’t a joke, Stark,” snapped Dr. Laurence, a woman who’d proven herself Pepper’s equal after a bit too much flirting on Tony’s end. “You’re not only pregnant, but we believe Captain America is the father.” She paused a moment. “Other father…”

“What? I’ve never—“ Tony ripped his glasses back off and turned towards her, stalking forward a pace before visibly restraining himself. “Steve and I have never done anything together!”

“And yet we found traces of the super soldier serum in your blood,” she told him, not looking even slightly cowed by his anger. If she didn’t work for SHIELD, and was in on the worst practical joke of all time, Tony would have had to hire her.

“See? I knew you were lying,” Tony crowed. “Mothers don’t share blood with their babies! And you call yourself a doctor?”

Dr. Laurence’s face darkened with what looked to be rage enough to challenge the Hulk.

“I assure you, there are other ways for the serum to have entered your blood stream.” Dr. Harris held his hands up as though to ward off another outburst of accusation. His voice had taken on the calm, steady tone of one trying to reason with a madman. Tony hated it even before the words had registered. He’d see reason when reason presented itself, dammit!

“Then explain it,” Tony snapped irritably. “I don’t have time for fairy tales.”

“Other materials, including waste, is exchanged,” Dr. Harris told him, still in that hateful tone. He took a deep breath and glanced nervously at his fellow scientists. “We also do not believe that…this is a natural pregnancy.”

“No shit,” Tony interrupted wryly. “What gave you that idea?”

Dr. Laurence looked like she might be quietly hissing, and the other doctors were starting to edge away from her now. Dr. Harris frowned, but he continued on without hesitating, seemingly oblivious to the angry woman behind him.

“We believe that the battle in which you and Captain America were caught in that blast several months ago is where this originated. The serum might actually be what’s keeping the fetus viable, in fact.”

Tony paused for a moment, frowning as he tried to remember exactly which incident the doctor meant. He’d been in several fights where he was shot at with some sort of energy weapon lately. In fact, it seemed to be becoming the criminal weapon of choice. But there were only two times both he and Captain America had been caught in the same blast, and only one of those times had Tony been out of uniform.

“You mean when that mad scientist wanna-be perverted some alien tech he’d found and attacked the charity benefit Fury forced the Avengers to all go to?”

Dr. Harris nodded, looking a little less nervous now.

“The weapon didn’t even work! You cleared us yourself back then, Harris! Are you saying you missed something?” Tony scowled at him, refusing to believe any of this—this insanity! His stomach was dropping, though. What if this was all true?

“I didn’t. We think it took one to two months for the changes to take hold and begin the creation of the fetus. The traces of serum in your blood wouldn’t have been noticeable until it had built up enough to sustain a child, and by then it was already too late.”

Tony heaved a sigh and tilted his head back to stare at the ceiling. This was never going to end, was it? Even if he didn’t believe them (which he totally didn’t because he was a man dammit!), they weren’t going to leave them alone. And this story was good enough that even Fury was going to take an interest.

“Fine. Whatever,” Tony told them. He looked back down at them. “What do you want now? What can I do about this?”

The doctors all looked at each other behind Dr. Harris, and this time even Dr. Laurence looked sympathetic. Or at least she no longer looked like she wanted to kill him.

This was going to be bad. Even worse than the news he’d already gotten.

“Between how advanced your pregnancy is and the way you became pregnant…” Dr. Harris kept a remarkably blank face, but his voice faltered before he could make his prognosis. He took a deep breath and, looking more like a determined soldier than a doctor, continued, “We don’t recommend aborting the pregnancy. We’d like you to carry the fetus to term so that we have time to plan how exactly we can extract it and…your new tissues without… ah…”

“Killing you,” Dr. Laurence finished for him. To her credit, Tony couldn’t hear any glee in that statement, simply professional determination. “Or just the serum restarting the whole process again immediately.”

“That…could be bad,” Tony agreed in a hoarse voice. He cleared his throat. “How far along am I exactly? Not that I believe any of this…”

Dr. Laurence made a frustrated sound and turned to stomp away to one of the many computers. Dr. Harris glanced back at her before focusing again on Tony.

“You’re approximately seven months along.”

Tony’s eyebrows lifted as he continued to stare at the older man. “Seven months? Shouldn’t I be…bigger?”

“Not all mothers gain a lot of weight during every pregnancy,” Dr. Laurence called back to him before Dr. Harris could answer. The printer began printing something while she turned back to level a dark stare on Tony. “I only gained eight pounds when I had my son. And I weighed less then than I do now.”

Surprised, Tony let his eyes roam over her figure. She had been pregnant? Had he been hitting on a married woman? Or a practically married woman? Tony hoped he wouldn’t have some enraged partner coming after him now. He really had to curb that urge to flirt.

Dr. Laurence ripped the paper from the printer as soon as it had stopped and marched back over to him. By the fierce look on her face, Tony wondered if he shouldn’t give up all pretense of bravery and just run for it. But he was Iron Man and Iron Man didn’t run from anything, unfortunately. How much worse could she do than escorting a nuclear missile into space?

“Stop staring at me and meet your soon-to-be baby!”

A black and white picture was shoved at Tony’s face. Blinking, he reached up and took it, pulling it away from his face so he could see it. The picture was already grainy and the quality was made even worse from having been printed on printer paper instead of photo paper, but it was still legible.

Right there, in the middle of a lighter fan of grainy resolution, lay the unmistakable form of a baby. Tony could make out two arms and hands, two legs and feet, a head, and the placenta. At the top of the ultrasound ran the details for whom it belonged to: Stark, Anthony E.

For a moment, time seemed to stop as Tony stared at the ultrasound. Nothing seemed more important than his name at the top and the form of a little baby in the picture itself. His head swam with the implications as belief warred a furious battle with disbelief. He looked back up at Dr. Laurence right as the world seemed to swing out of balance.

And then everything went dark.

Chapter Text

Steve frowned down at the memo declaring Anthony Edward Stark, aka Iron Man, on indefinite medical leave from the Avengers. He read back over the short memo, but it didn’t list any particulars on why or how he would be placed on medical. Instead, all he was left with was an empty spot on the team and a multitude of questions.

Why hadn’t Tony told him something was wrong? It had to be something serious, though, or he would never have been given indefinite leave. So what had happened? He hadn’t looked sick when Steve had seen him the other day. He hadn’t sounded it either. Maybe a little chubbier than usual, but that could be taken care of with a bit more time in the gym. Steve could make him his regular sparring partner even. That could be fun…

Unless the extra weight was a symptom?

Or perhaps Tony had been hurt in battle? But the last time Iron Man had been in a fight was a week ago. Did it take a week for an indefinite medical leave to go through? No. Again, Steve had seen him since then. What was going on?

“Hey, Steve! Why so glum?”

Steve started and whirled around to see Tony standing in the doorway to the gym. Running his eyes over Tony’s thin form, he tried to find any obvious signs of what was wrong. There was nothing. He looked healthier than ever, in fact. He was perhaps glowing a bit, but that could have been the lighting. Or perhaps that crooked grin he was directing at Steve.

“What? Did I get it wrong?” Tony cocked his head and wandered in, looking around the room as he did so. “Was that one after your time too?”

Steve frowned, feeling more irritated at Tony than he had in a long time. Was Tony making fun of him? Was their being friends really just all in Steve’s mind?

“You’re on medical leave. Indefinitely,” he said aloud, his voice harsher than he’d meant for it to be.

Tony blinked, his smile dropping off his face. For some reason, Steve thought he looked almost scared. But he couldn’t be, could he? Tony Stark didn’t do scared. Angry, annoying, petulant…but never scared. Not in all the time Steve had known him.

“Ah… Yeah… About that…” Tony said in a nervous voice.

It was the voice that convinced Steve. The only time he’d ever heard that voice was when Tony knew he was in trouble.

“Why didn’t you tell me something was wrong?”

Oops… He hadn’t meant to ask that, especially sounding so hurt.

Tony looked away again, his face hardening slightly.

“I just found out myself.”

“What?”

Something in Steve sank at that. Here he was, agonizing over being the last to know, and his friend had only just found out he was sick. Judging by Tony’s reactions, it was with something serious.

Steve’s breath caught as Tony lift a hand to his stomach before clenching it into a fist and determinedly lowering it back to his side again. The weight was a symptom then, he concluded as an insidious idea for what it was a symptom of dug its way into his brain. Steve would have felt bad at planning to drag Tony into the gym more if he wasn’t so busy trying to fight past the sickening feeling gathering in his middle.

“Well, I guess bad news travels fast,” Tony said, his lips twisting down into a frown. He walked over to one of the weight machines and started fiddling with it. “It’ll only be a couple more months. Three at most. Then…” He shrugged nonchalantly, but Steve wasn’t buying it.

Swallowing, Steve tried to think of something to say that wasn’t ridiculously trite. Or that betrayed the absolute despair that was threatening to drown him. He’d just finally started really settling into his new life here and now he was going to lose one of the people who’d become a cornerstone to that life?

No… Tony was more than that.

Tony was the one person that had never asked him to be anything that he wasn’t already. He hadn’t hero-worshipped him or made any kind of allowances for him. Instead, Tony had treated him just like anybody else. It had infuriated Steve at the time, Tony being who Tony is, but now… Now he could admit that he appreciated that Tony hadn’t. Because it meant there was one person who didn’t expect a hero or a legend, just an equal.

“Only that long? Can’t they—“ Steve took a deep breath. “Isn’t there anything they can do now?”

“Too far along. Gonna have to wait it out until they can figure out something that won’t kill me.”

“So there’s hope?” Steve grinned and moved quickly over to stand by Tony. He still felt the fear like a snake in his belly, but the hope was buoyant and far too bubbly for it to strangle.

“Um…” Tony blinked up at him, looking startled to find Steve so close. “Yeah? Cap, what do you—“

“Don’t worry,” Steve reassured him, dragging Tony into a tight hug. “It’s going to all work out. I promise.”

He stepped back to hold Tony at arms’ length and smiled down at his astonished expression. The muscles in Tony’s arms weren’t as big as his own, but they were reassuringly strong and warm.

“This isn’t a death sentence like when I was a kid,” he continued, as much for his own benefit as Tony’s. “There’s a lot of things they can do now, even when they can’t do surgery.”

“Surgery?” Tony’s eyes went wide enough for Steve to see the gold flecks that danced in them clearly. “Wha—“

Glancing at the clock, Steve let out an annoyed breath. “I have to go. Meeting with Fury. Why don’t we have dinner tonight? That pizza place I told you about before?”

Tony shook his head as if to clear it. “I don’t—What? Pizza? Steve…”

It was odd how shocked Tony seemed now, but it was probably just hitting him what he was facing. Steve could sympathize. When he’d first been given the serum, he hadn’t really believed he had changed, even after he had chased down that Nazi spy. It wasn’t until the doctors looking him over had been announcing his change of measurements and he’d caught a glimpse of his reflection in a shiny metal door that what he’d done had finally struck him. Steve had felt a little overwhelmed then too.

“Not in the mood for company? I can understand that.” Steve stepped back and started for the door with a final understanding smile. Tony stared after him with wider eyes than ever. Was this what it took to shut Tony Stark up? Steve preferred his rambling to this, truthfully. “I’ll bring dinner to your place. You can get comfortable and show me one of those movies with the cultural references I keep missing.”

“Steve! I—What—“

“About six? See you then,” Steve called back to him with another upbeat smile.

It wasn’t until the door had swung shut behind him that Steve let the smile slip off his face and the fear broil back up inside him.

He hadn’t lied. Things were much better now than when he’d been a kid, but… What was he going to do if he lost one of the few people he could call a friend?

Chapter Text

Waiting period ended. Time elapsed 260 Earth days.
Phase 2 completed.

Launching Phase 3.
Launching Collectors. Defensive Scout Drones activated.
Priority: Find and retain Incubator. Prevent all possible interference.
Major calculated threat: Avengers Team.
Protocol: Gamma-Epsilon-Beta-Chi

STSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTST

Tony would have liked to say that the rest of his day after that extremely confusing conversation with Steve went quickly. Unfortunately, nothing goes quickly when he’s being yelled at by Pepper over the phone, and apparently that goes double for getting pregnant by mad scientists with alien tech.

Speaking of… He should bug Fury again about getting his hands on that gun. SHIELD might not have been able to figure it out, but none of them were Tony Stark.

Pepper seemed to view his getting impregnated as a new way of escaping board meetings. She’d first yelled at him for making up even more ridiculous stories than usual, which frankly hurt Tony’s feelings. He might avoid the truth sometimes or dodge a question with humor, but he didn’t lie! Then she finally accepted the truth that he was pregnant, only to lecture him about being too reckless. He hadn’t been reckless! And besides, Steve had been hit by the blast too!

That one made her pause.

“What? Who’s the father, Tony?”

“I am,” Tony snapped in irritation. He might be pregnant, but that didn’t mean he was giving up his manhood.

“The other father,” Pepper snapped back, sounding just as irritated.

“Who do you think? The Hulk?” Tony winced and tried to push down the images that conjured up.

Pepper sighed and he could hear her leaning back in her chair, its joints creaking just enough to be heard over the phone. “Have you told him yet?”

Had he told him yet? Well, technically the answer was no. Tony had thought the memo informing him of his medical leave had done that. But that strange conversation in the gym made Tony wonder.

Did Steve know? Had he been that eager to get rid of a child he hadn’t wanted? Or did he think there was something else wrong?

Given Steve’s usual nature, Tony suspected it was the latter. Which meant tonight was going to be interesting…

“You haven’t,” Pepper sighed after what she must have deemed too long a pause from Tony.

“I thought he knew,” Tony protested indignantly. “He acted like he knew! And then he started talking about surgery and how things are better than when he was a boy… Did men have babies in the 40’s, Pepper?”

“What? No!” Pepper took a deep breath that Tony knew to mean she was trying not to strangle him through the phone. He was pretty sure she could if she really wanted to. She had ways. “Tony. You have to tell him.”

“He’s coming over tonight. Hey! Do you want to come over? Have dinner with us?” Save me from an angry super-soldier, Tony managed to not finish.

“You know I can’t. I’m going to have to work all night now to get things settled so you can take off for your…condition.”

“You make it sound as though I have leprosy,” Tony grumbled, only really a little upset by it.

“If you keep that child, I pity it,” Pepper said.

Tony chuckled half-heartedly. He hadn’t actually thought that far ahead, but he didn’t need to in order to know that he would make a terrible father. If he was only half the father his father had been, he was still going to mess the poor kid up for life.

“I didn’t mean it like that, Tony…” Pepper sounded guilty now.

Despite her not being able to see him, Tony shrugged it off. “Yeah, well… I need to get these new upgrades for Dum-E finished before Steve gets here.”

There was a sigh and Tony could just picture Pepper rubbing her temples in exasperation. She’d done it so many times before when they’d been together. Funny, though…He didn’t remember her doing it before they became a couple.

“Goodbye, Tony. I’ll come over to check up on you sometime tomorrow.”

“Right. Call first so I can have the girls out when you get here.”

“Tony.”

“Pepper!”

Another sigh and then Pepper hung up. Tony glared at his phone before swiping it off as well.

“I am not a child,” he told the phone, wishing he had the guts to tell Pepper herself.

“Indeed, sir,” JARVIS answered, his tone betraying his sarcasm.

“Shut it,” Tony told him, his own tone promising deadly consequences.

Thankfully, JARVIS took the hint and didn’t reply.

Tony should probably call Rhodey now, but he didn’t have much longer until Steve came over now. Plus, he wasn’t in the mood for the inevitable ribbing he’d get. Or the lecture that would accompany it. It was going to be hard enough to find a way to tell Steve.

This afternoon hadn’t gone anything like how Tony had planned. He thought he’d go in, slip it into the conversation, and then run for it, leaving Steve to take out his frustrations on a handy punching bag or three. Then it had seemed like Steve had already known, which was both a relief and somehow even more terrifying than telling Steve himself had been. Only Steve hadn’t known. Or Tony didn’t think he had. Which not only meant he had to tell him, it meant that Tony had to figure out what Steve actually did know.

When had this become his life?

An alarm started blaring and Tony glanced over to see the alert symbol calling for the Avengers to assemble. He’d forgotten to disconnect it. If he couldn’t go, he certainly didn’t want to have to know when his friends were risking their lives without him.

Then again, maybe he could help anyway. Who said he had to be in the battle? He could just keep an eye on them and give them any advice they needed from here.

“JARVIS,” he snapped, his hands flying over the holographic interface of his computers. Screens popped up and flew out in their wake. “Where’s the trouble?”

“Sir,” JARVIS answered, his voice sounding worried. “Should you be—“

“Not you too! I’m pregnant, not made of porcelain!” He paused, blinking and shaking his head in an attempt to rid himself of the surreal feeling that stirred up. “Things I never thought I’d say… Bring up as many views of the area where the trouble is as you can.”

“Sir,” JARVIS repeated, disapproval thick in his automated voice. Several of the screens Tony had brought up flickered and then brightened to show an area of Brooklyn. Tony had no idea where it was, but Captain America was already on site, his shield blurring as it flew at the three fourteen foot tall squid that were wrecking the street.

Squid? In Brooklyn?!

The shield bounced off one of the squid and sailed off to crash into the side of a building, where it stuck. Cap leapt over a tentacle and ran to retrieve it. Somehow he managed it, but it was a near thing. Another two tentacles swept at him, and he just managed to pull the shield free in time to roll between them. It was a good thing too. Where they hit the building erupted into a storm of debris and dust before the tentacles pulled back, utterly unharmed.

Perhaps Tony shouldn’t be watching this… He could still fight. The pregnancy hadn’t affected his motor control any; it had just made him slightly sick. He’d even adjusted the girth of one of his Iron Man suits before seeing the doctor, so it would fit. Then he could go and make sure St—Cap, he was in uniform, didn’t get himself creamed by those things.

Cap seemed to be yelling something as he sprinted away for a better position. Tony searched the screens, but no one else seemed to be on site yet.

“JARVIS. Cut into his signal. I want to hear what he’s saying,” Tony ordered with a frown.

“—War Machine!” Tony started at the sound of Rhodey’s voice, his eyes going wide.

They’d already replaced him? With Rhodey?!

That traitor!

Pushing aside the hurt and not daring to examine too closely whom he meant by that last thought, Tony enlarged the screen with the best view of the squid and began running diagnostics to find any readings he could get with what he had to work with.

“I thought you were Iron Man!”

“He did build my suit,” Rhodey said, aiming and firing off a small missile at a squid.

The squid rocked slightly on its tentacles, but didn’t otherwise seem to feel it. Rhodey was going to those second-rate suppliers for the military again. When would Rhodey learn to not mess with perfection?

“Most of it,” cut in Black Widow’s cool, crisp voice. “You added on to it.”

Okay. Maybe Tony could get to like her after all.

“Now you sound like Tony,” Rhodey replied, his irritation showing in his voice. He fired off another small missile just as Hulk crashed down onto the back of one of the squid. “Where is he anyway? Why was I called in to cover for him?”

“He’s on medical leave,” Cap answered tightly as he dodged a couple of tentacles intent on flattening him. An arrow flew past him and lodged itself into the tentacle that had just missed him. An explosion erupted and the tentacle flailed back, spewing fluid and sparkling in the sunlight.

Something stirred suddenly in Tony’s stomach and gave his kidneys a couple of sharp jabs. Hissing at the pain, Tony rubbed his stomach and leaned back in his chair. And he’d thought that was just kidney stones only a couple of days ago. What an idiot he’d been.

“That reckless idiot,” Rhodey said in a tired voice. “What did he get himself into this time?”

Tony could hear Hawkeye snickering over the com even as Cap snarled back, “Don’t call him an idiot! He didn’t do anything!”

Well, that was…interesting. And nice. Very very nice. But mostly interesting.

“Right,” Rhodey said, clearing disbelieving this, but not willing to say too much to the contrary at the moment. He shot at another tentacle and whooped as he had more luck with severing it than he had with blowing up the squid’s main body.

“He didn’t,” Cap insisted, throwing his shield at one of the damaged tentacles. It slid up the tentacle, severing the remaining part in two before bouncing off the main body and flying back.

Tony felt a moment’s pleasure at Cap’s defense of him. “See that,” he said, absolutely not directing it at his stomach. “He does care!”
Rhodey made a sound of disbelief and shot off another tentacle.

“It is not his fault he’s got cancer!”

“What?!” Both Tony and Rhodey squawked the word at the same time.

Rhodey started cursing under his breath, but Tony broke into the signal and overrode him.

“I do not have cancer!”

“Tony?! What are you—“ Cap stopped and looked around for a moment, just managing to duck under another tentacle as it swiped at him. “Where are you?! You’re on medical leave!”

“Like I could forget!” Tony snorted and eyed the squid with the sliced tentacle. “Rhodey! Hawkeye! Shoot up where Cap cut that tentacle in half. You might be able to get at the main body from there.”

“So then where are you?!” Cap was nearly growling now as he backed away from the fight just far enough to not be in the way.

“Don’t worry,” Tony sighed. “I’m at home watching you all through CCTV and whatever other cameras are around there. Pepper would kill me if I hopped into the suit to come fight with you now.”

Steve looked frantically about, searching for a camera. Finally, he found one and glared up into it.

“That’s because you’re sick! You have a serious illness, Tony! You need—“

“I already told you,” Tony snarled angrily back at him, “I don’t have cancer!”

“Then what do you have?!” Cap’s tone was nearly a snarl now too. They had always brought out the worst in each other. The best too, but now wasn’t the time to think about that.

“I’m not sick at all!”

“Then why are you on medical leave, Tony?” Now it was Rhodey’s irritated voice cutting in as he swerved and dove, looking for a good opening to shoot where Tony had suggested. The squid seemed to be covering for the weak spot, which just made Tony believe even more he’d been right. “They don’t just hand those out for no reason.”

“We can discuss this—“ Cap said in a tight voice just as Tony erupted, “I’m pregnant!”

There was a stunned silence for a moment that was only broken by a surprised and absurd squawk.

“Congratulations, Tony,” Widow drawled smoothly. “You’ve just become the first man to ever knock Hawkeye from his chosen perch.”

“Tony…” Rhodey said, finally letting off a missile at the targeted tentacle base. “You’re a man. Men don’t have babies.”

“That’s what I said,” Tony exclaimed as the squid exploded, spewing guts over everything nearby and knocking back its Hulk-less fellow. “But they showed me a picture!”

“A picture?” Cap repeated the word incredulously, looking caught between disbelief and anger.

“An ultrasound,” Widow clarified. “He’s telling the truth. I saw the reports. He’s pregnant from when he was shot by that scientist nine months ago.”

A squid went down squealing under the Hulk, who grabbed it back up by its tentacles and began swinging it into buildings. Debris flew in all directions as the thing screamed over the sounds of destruction and Hulk’s roaring. Finally, after a minute of this, a huge crack resounded through the streets, followed by a loud sizzling that had Hulk roaring louder than ever before it all went silent again.

“You mean that mad scientist at that charity benefit Fury forced us all to go to?” Hawkeye followed his question up with an arrow to one of the remaining squid’s tentacles. It latched onto the base and exploded, leaving a pulpy mess where it had connected to the squid’s body.

“Exactly,” Widow agreed.

“Sir,” JARVIS said, drowning out Cap’s answer, whatever it was. Tony’s stomach twisted at not knowing his reaction. “There are intruders in the building. They are headed for your workshop.”

“What?!” Tony ignored the others and pulled up his own security cameras. “Where are they, JARVIS? How did they get in?”

“Unknown, sir, but they are almost at your location.”

“Go into lockdown,” Tony ordered as he finally found the right cameras.

These creatures were nothing like the three squid the Avengers were fighting, despite their also having tentacles. They had arms and legs as well as a set of four tentacles each. On their backs were large bubble-like pods that were filling up as they moved. Their heads, at least Tony thought those were their heads, were small and attached directly to their bodies. A band of black circled their heads at the level that eyes might be, but there was no evidence of a nose or mouth.

Shuddering, Tony watched them slam into the walls of metal he’d built into the open spaces around his workshop for emergencies. The walls visibly dented almost immediately, and he could hear their screeching from where he sat. They weren’t going to hold long.

“Shit…” Tony turned back to the team, finally noting they’d downed the final squid and were calling for him. “Hey, guys! Sorry, but I have to run. I could use a little help here though. Those things might have brought friends to the tower.”

There was a burst of excited questions from the others, but Tony ignored it and rushed over to where he kept his newest suit.

“JARVIS! Let’s suit up fast here!”

“Sir,” JARVIS answered even as the armor began to assemble around him.

Tony was only halfway into the suit when he heard the metal emergency walls give with a deafening crash.

Chapter Text

The sub-basement level workshop Tony had built under Stark Tower was actually impressive under normal circumstances. It was huge, taking up the entire area below Stark Tower with ceilings so high even Hulk couldn’t touch the ceiling without jumping, but the impressiveness wasn’t just about its size. There was always something going on there.

JARVIS, of course, ran the entire place, but all of Tony’s ‘bots were there as well. They cleaned, or tried to at least, and kept watch over the different areas. In one area, there were plans for whatever inventions Tony was currently working on. In another, he had all his suits set up. In yet another, there was the suit he was currently working on, either in some state of disassembly or in the middle of being painted by JARVIS. And those were just the easily identified areas. One was completely walled off, and it was probably the biggest in the workshop. The ‘bots, there were more now to keep up with everything Tony needed, flitted from area to area, maintaining and cleaning anything that needed it.

Unfortunately, right now, everything needed it. The place looked like a either a hurricane or a full-scale battle had taken place here, and Steve knew which of the choices was closest to the actual truth. That knowledge sent shivers dancing down Steve’s spine and into his gut, which tightened into the same tight ball it had when he’d been told Bucky was dead before that fateful first mission. This time was worse, though. This time they didn’t know who had taken Tony or if Tony had even been kidnapped at all. All they knew was that there had been a fierce fight that had left the workshop in ruins, the ‘bots—Dum-E in particular given the noises he was making from where he stood by Tony’s desk—frantic, and Tony nowhere to be found.

“Geeze…” Clint commented, looking around the place. “Who would want Tony this badly?”

Steve shot a glare over at the man and stepped resolutely into the room through the ruined doorway. Moving swiftly around the debris, he made his way over to what was left of Tony’s desk space and the computer interface he kept there.

“JARVIS,” Steve called as he righted the chair and sat in it.

“Yes, Mr. Rogers?”

His voice held some static, but nothing too bad. Tony built his stuff to last. Not that you could tell by how fast he went through Iron Man suits.

“Do you have footage of what happened here?”

“Indeed, sir. I will display the recording above the desk,” JARVIS said even as a screen came up right where he’d said it would.

The others all gathered around Steve and the desk as well, War Machine cursing under his breath as he caught sight of an unfortunate ‘bot that’d been caught in the crossfire. Steve shushed Dun-E, but patted him gently anyway. Thankfully, this seemed to calm him in time for the scene to begin playing out, starting with Tony announcing his pregnancy and continuing into the battle.

Tony was only half into his suit when the doors to the workshop exploded inward, torn metal sheeting following it. Debris flew far enough in that a piece of metal sheeting actually clipped Tony’s leg, sending sparks flying. There was a yell of pain from Tony, but he didn’t move more than to flinch, instead letting the armor finish assembling around him as the creatures ran into the room. They looked like the stuff of nightmares and bad sci-fi movies, but they moved like lightning.

The first one was in the room and reaching for Tony before his helmet had even been fitted onto his head. Its tentacles reached out to tear at the armor on Tony’s arms, but by now Tony had finished getting into the suit. So, even as the helmet finally fit itself into place, Tony was aiming and firing his repulsors straight into what would be the thing’s face.

Airy, high-pitched screaming and flailing filled the room as Tony shot up from the platform, just in time to avoid being captured by the other creatures’ tentacles. They scraped at his armor, and then he was overheard, as close to the ceiling as he could get.

“Open the flight corridor! JARVIS, open the flight corridor,” Tony was screaming as he blasted his repulsors at the creatures.

Hovering just out of the creatures’ reach, he seemed to be trying to force them back, but there were too many of them. At least six of the creatures were gathered around him now, dodging his blasts easily with their preternatural speed. They still made attempts to grab at him whenever he hovered a little too close, but they seemed to be simply biding their time.

Another two creatures zoomed into the room then and disappeared off camera to the right. Another screen popped up to show them as they approached Tony’s work desk.

JARVIS!

Tony’s scream was the only forewarning they had before the creatures on-screen touched something that shone to the desk and everything went black.

“I’m afraid that’s all I have, sir,” JARVIS said, sounding truly regretful. “My systems were temporarily blacked out by whatever device the intruders used.”

Closing his eyes, Steve took a deep, calming breath. This didn’t mean Tony was dead. He was smart. A genius! He could have still escaped. This didn’t mean he was dead.

“There’s nothing else? You don’t know what happened to Tony after that?” Bruce’s voice was much calmer than Steve thought the situation warranted, especially given how close he and Tony were. Then again, maybe that’s how he managed to keep the big guy contained so well.

“No, Dr. Banner,” JARVIS said, sounding as upset as Steve had ever heard him. It. Whatever. “I cannot make contact with his suit.”

“What does that mean?” Clint asked the question seconds before Steve could force the words out.

“I cannot say, Mister Clint,” JARVIS responded after a long pause of hesitation. “Mr. Stark could have turned off his connections.”

“Just Clint,” he absently corrected JARVIS. Steve wondered how often Clint had had to do that.

“Or he could have been captured,” Natasha said, her voice as sharp as the look on her face. There was a reason men twice her size feared her. Steve was certain whoever had taken Tony would discover that reason the hard way.

He really couldn’t bring himself to dislike that idea.

Steve looked back at the screen, which was replaying those last moments before they’d lost track of Tony. He watched as the creatures kept Tony distracted while they knocked out his ability to get or leave enough evidence for them to follow. He wondered what Tony had been thinking. Had he been thinking about protecting the baby? How he was going to escape? Had he been thinking about the other father?

That put a new perspective on things. Tony was pregnant. Pregnant. Even for a man, it took two for that to happen. And didn’t that just make Steve want to hit something? He hadn’t even known Tony was gay! And now there was probably some man out there who had lost his lover and child.

An irrational burn of jealousy carved itself through Steve, but it was washed away with his next thought.

“Does Tony’s b—um, lover know about the baby?” He looked over at a rather startled Natasha. “Who is he? We should at least inform him what’s happened.”

“He doesn’t have—“ Bruce began, but Natasha stopped him with a hand to his forearm, her lips thinning as she gave Steve an indecipherable look.

“No,” Natasha said, her voice as tight and indecipherable as her expression. “He doesn’t have a lover at the moment.”

“Then how? Who’s the other father?” Steve looked at them all. It made him feel worse, not better, that Tony had no one to help him through his latest ordeal. Tony needed someone, deserved to have someone so he didn’t have to go through this on his own.

The others all shared a look that Steve knew meant he was missing something. He just wished he knew what. It never failed to aggravate him when he wasn’t being told something he needed to know. He looked over at War Machine, who had followed them in and been looking around with his face plate up and his jaw set in an angry frown that proved just how scary he could truly be. War Machine also looked annoyed as he glared at the others.

“Well? Who is it?” War Machine’s voice was almost scarier than it was with the armor.

Natasha shook her head. “If you haven’t figured it out, we should let Tony tell you himself.”

“As soon as we get him back,” Steve added on, feeling a new wave of helpless anger flood over him. It was like losing Bucky all over again. Only difference was that this was somehow worse for all its complications and his not being able to do anything useful.

“Contact SHIELD,” he told Natasha, his voice edged sharply with the emotions running just under his skin. “See if they know anything or have heard anything that might be Tony. War Machine, try—“

“Pardon me, sir,” JARVIS interrupted, an urgency to his voice now. “But I believe I have found Mr. Stark. His suit just sent me coordinates for Grand Central Station.”

“How did he get out?” War Machine sounded only a little bit relieved as he began marching quickly over to the flight exit for the suits. He snapped his face plate back into place. “I thought this place had been in lockdown and no one saw him fly out the way we came in.”

“I believe he pried his way out the flight exit, sir.”

“I see it,” War Machine said as he stared up into the flight corridor. He raised an arm and shot off a small missile. There was a large explosion and then several clunking and clanging sounds. War Machine stepped back just in time to avoid the remains of the steel plating that had blocked the exit. “I’ll meet you there.”

“Wait!” Steve ran over to him and gave him a look that clearly said War machine would be doing what he wanted. And if War Machine somehow misunderstood that, Steve was fully prepared to back it up. “They will meet us there. You are taking me with you.”

“I know Tony usually flies you places,” War Machine told him impatiently, “but—“

“You are the fastest mode of transportation currently available. You are flying me there. Now.”

War Machine paused, obviously considering leaving him anyway. Then he sighed and held up an arm.

“Hold on,” he said as Steve got a good hold on him. And then they were flying off to find Tony.

Chapter Text

Phase 3 not completed.
Incubator not retained. Defensive Scout Drones destroyed.
Defensive Battle Drones activated.
Protocol: Gamma-Epsilon-Tau-Chi

 

STSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTST

 

If Tony had known that he was going to wind up in a battle against hostile aliens in his workshop, he would have worn his old, broken-in sneakers. And designed the workshop differently. As it was, he had barely managed to escape in a suit that had been so badly damaged it was nearly non-functional, and now he was wandering Grand Central wearing new sneakers. They were starting to chafe at his heel.

He hadn’t had to walk too far at least; he’d found a convenient dark corner that looked like it was mainly used for dumping trash and left his suit to its self-destruct sequence. This did not require a huge explosion, thankfully, but it did leave it a smoking pile of melted metal. All except for a small tracker Tony had managed to salvage from it. It had also sustained damage, but Tony had fixed it without too much trouble.

Now all Tony had to do was wait around for JARVIS to come back online and contact the others to find him. He really hoped this wasn’t going to take too long. He hadn’t seen any available seats in the area and he refused to leave the Main Concourse. Without knowing if the aliens had been able to follow him, it was too dangerous to go someplace small and possibly even more crowded than this. It was even more dangerous to go somewhere less crowded as well.

He could always just borrow a phone and call Happy, but he didn’t want to put the man at risk. Especially when it was likely that Happy would try to protect him and Tony didn’t know if the aliens would care about killing Happy.

They obviously wouldn’t kill him, though. Tony had already tested that hypothesis by accident. He was never going to forget that one alien’s screams as it was sliced in two by the leaping wires in the battle back in his workshop. They had been about to hit Tony when the alien had jumped into their path, allowing him to escape. Tony was trying not to think about it too hard.

Just as obvious as their reluctance to kill him was why they were reluctant to kill him. Aside from peeling off his armor like peel from an orange, they were careful to not put any undue pressure on or near Tony’s stomach. And if that wasn’t evidence enough, it was alien tech that had done this to him. Sure, it had been wielded by a mad scientist, but Tony actually found himself wondering exactly when the scientist had gotten hold of the weapon and how that time frame coincided with his madness.

Not that it mattered. They were after him and his…unborn child.

Damn, that felt weird to say, even if it was true. He really hadn’t fully adjusted to this yet. There just hadn’t been a lot of time to think about it. All he could really comprehend was that he was going to have a baby. Steve’s baby. And these alien bastards wanted it.

Nothing else really mattered in the face of that, did it? He couldn’t let these aliens kidnap a child. Even if Steve didn’t want it…even if he didn’t keep it…this baby was going to be born and Tony wasn’t about to let some weird, tentacley alien creatures with questionable morals steal it away.

Sighing, Tony checked the clock over the information desk again. Only ten minutes since he’d gotten the tracker working. This was not a good thing. Especially since it was still rush hour on a day when the Avengers had been fighting. That meant everyone was going to be trying to go somewhere, even if they normally wouldn’t at this time. It also meant that New York’s streets would be even more congested than usual.

A restaurant was sounding pretty good just now. Why wasn’t he going to a restaurant and waiting for the others again? Right. Safety.

Sometimes it sucked to be a superhero and have to actually pretend to be noble. If he kept this kid, he was never letting it forget any of this.

Settling back against the wall beside the escalators across from the ticket booths, Tony stared up at the huge windows that overlooked the main concourse and let the noise of the crowd wash over him. What did he care about how some woman’s husband gave her a blender instead of a necklace for their wedding anniversary? If he was that stupid, he deserved everything he got.

Sadly, he couldn’t help hearing the teenagers settled in next to him.

“Look! Look,” one girl told her friends excitedly. “The ceiling! It’s like from Harry Potter!”

“No,” one of her cohorts corrected her. “That ceiling didn’t have pictures on it.”

“But I bet they stole the idea from Hogwarts,” the first girl insisted.

“Probably,” a third girl said with a smirk.

Tony tilted his head to glare down at the group of girls.

“Harry Potter has nothing to do with the ceiling,” he snapped at them. “This is The Sky Ceiling, designed by a French painter named Paul Helleu and it predates Harry Potter,” he spat out the title like it was something disgusting, “by several decades. God, what are they teaching you in school nowadays?”

“More than they taught you, old man,” the second girl snarled back.

“I don’t doubt it,” Tony replied, his smirk not at all kind, “considering I graduated at fourteen. You’re going to have to do better than that, sweetie.”

The girls stared at him in shock for a moment before beginning to loudly voice their doubt, but the crowd’s murmurs were beginning to grow and a rhythmic clanging was booming louder as it came closer. If that wasn’t Rhodey, wonderful, beautiful Rhodey, in the War Machine, then Tony would admit the ceiling really had been inspired by Harry Potter.

Long before War Machine appeared, however, Steve came sprinting into the concourse. His blue eyes were wide as he skidded to a stop, frantically searching the room for Tony. He was still wearing his uniform, though the cowl was down and his shield was slung over his back. There were bits of slime marking his suit, and his hair was flying everywhere from having been under the cowl. To anyone else, Steve must have looked alarming. To Tony, he looked absolutely wonderful.

Tony knew the exact moment Steve caught sight of him. A huge, relieved grin broke across his face and he seemed to slump a little, as though he’d just let go of a heavy weight.

“Steve!” Tony waved over at him, grinning happily as he started jogging over to meet Steve.

“Is that Captain America?” he heard one of the girls ask behind him.

“Oh my God! I think we just got told off by Tony Stark,” another one exclaimed.

And then Steve was there, his hands gripping Tony’s upper arms hard. His hands shook as Steve seemed to fight off the urge to pull Tony to him in a hug. Tony was torn between relief and disappointment that Steve hadn’t hugged him in front of so many people. (If Fury didn’t kill Tony for it, Pepper would!) But Steve was still warm and solid and smelled… Well, he smelled like squid, but Tony found he actually didn’t mind that given that Steve was here. With him and touching him and...

Perhaps he should see a shrink. No, no. Finally getting this kid out would help with these mushy feelings.

“Tony!” Steve hugged him a little harder. “What happened? Where did those creatures—“

“My arms, Cap,” Tony reminded him. There was such a thing as too much of a good thing after all. “You’re crushing them. You’ve got quite a grip! Then you can ask questions.”

“Oh! Right. Sorry,” Steve said, stepping and letting Tony go. He shifted sheepishly and let his eyes wander over Tony. “Are you alright? You weren’t hurt? The baby’s alright?”

Tony blamed the hormones for the tears he could feel burning his eyes. Just because Steve was concerned for him didn’t mean anything. Steve was concerned for squid too, when they weren’t attacking Brooklyn. And it was his baby Tony was carrying. There was absolutely no reason for Tony to swoon over a hug and little show of concern. Absolutely none. It was definitely all the hormones.

“I’m fine, Cap. We’re fine. Just sore and my suit’s a lost cause,” Tony finally said. He ignored the fact that his voice was softer than usual. He was not turning into a woman, dammit! “I just want to get out of here and get something to eat. Before Junior decides to try eating me from the inside out.”

Steve shot a horrified look at Tony’s stomach just as Rhodey in his War Machine suit came stomping up to them.

“Joking, Cap,” Tony soothed before grinning at his best friend’s expressionless faceplate. “Rhodey! How are you? Have fun playing Avenger?”

The face plate flipped up so that Rhodey could scowl down at him. “I would’ve had more if you weren’t throwing unpleasant surprises my way. What did you do this time? I didn’t think even you could get into this much trouble!”

“It wasn’t my fault! Why do you always blame me?” Tony gave him a pout. “It wasn’t like I meant to get shot with an alien pregnancy gun by some guy upset over not being invited to the party.”

Rhodey rolled his eyes, “No, but why are the aliens after you now?”

Now that was a question Tony had been hoping to postpone answering until after they had gotten somewhere safe, but one look at Steve told him and he knew that wasn’t going to happen. Steve was wearing his Captain America face now, all stern determination. Tony had found it irritating at first, now he found it endearing, if still slightly irritating too.

“Can we just get out of here?” He asked the question hoping against hope that someone would say yes.

Steve’s expression softened at the weariness in his tone, but Rhodey’s just hardened all the more as he shook his head.

“The baby, all right?” Tony sighed. “I think they want the baby.”

“How do you know?” And just like that, Steve was all business again, his blue eyes lit with a determined fire.

“They were careful of my middle during the fight, and it’s a bit of a coincidence that they’d come now, isn’t it? When it was alien tech that caused this?”

“What do they want with it?” Rhodey’s voice was harder than Tony had ever heard it.

“I don’t know,” Tony told them, “and I don’t want to find out.”

“Let’s get you to the helicarrier,” Steve said, glancing around as if he was going the see one of the aliens in the middle of Grand Central with all the tourists and business people. “You’ll be—“

A loud crashing interrupted him, filling the entire concourse with its loud dissonance. The glass in the giant windows poured down over the people milling below on the west balcony, a giant dark blue crab-like claw settling in the open space before pulling back out. Screams rose as people turned and ran for the staircases and exits from the concourse. Then the same aliens from Tony’s workshop began climbing in through the windows, their vicious clawed tentacles making it easier for them to move through the mob that twisted and flowed about them.

Tony bit off a curse as Rhodey’s faceplate snapped back into place. Steve pulled his shield off his back and shifted to place himself between Tony and the aliens.

“Cap, get Tony out of here,” Rhodey said, authority lacing every syllable despite the filter they had to pass through. “I’ll try to distract these guys and keep them here.”

Steve didn’t even try to argue or point out that he was the leader of the Avengers. He just nodded and turned to wrap one strong arm around Tony’s waist, ushering him back toward the exit to Vanderbilt Hall.

War Machine took off, aiming some of his less powerful weapons at the aliens as he flew across the room. Tony noticed the aliens largely ignored him except when they couldn’t.

“I’m not a girl,” Tony growled, trying to shake off Steve’s arm even as they ran.

“Shut up and run, Tony,” Steve yelled back.

One of the aliens leapt in front of them, settling down onto its feet from its tentacles before reaching out for Tony. Shrinking back away from it, Tony skidded to a stop. Steve kept going, flinging his shield as he ran.

The shield flew and struck the alien in its middle, but instead of bouncing off, it stuck there. The alien thrashed about, screaming in a tone so high-pitched the remaining nearby glass began shattering. Along with Tony’s ears, it felt like.

Tentacles wrapped around Tony’s chest and jerked him off his feet. He twisted and scratched at them as he yelled for Steve. He kicked his legs, hoping to connect with a head or anything that might help him break free. More tentacles wrapped around them, stopping their movements.

“Tony!”

Still struggling desperately in the aliens grip, Tony looked down to see Steve pull his shield free from the still screaming alien. He threw it again, this time toward Tony and the tentacles that held him, but more tentacles lashed out between them, catching it and flinging it away. Instinctively, Tony followed it with his eyes and watched as it hit Rhodey square in the back, just below his head.

“Rhodey!”

War Machine flew through the air crashing into the window ledge the aliens had come in through. He started pushing up again, but the giant blue claw from before snapped closed over him before he could do more than straighten his back. He disappeared into it and the claw pulled back outside again.

Something slimy began enveloping Tony just as the fear threatened to overtake him. He looked down to see the alien pushing him feet first into the pod on its back. He tried to kick his legs free, but even without the tentacles still holding him, it easily held him immobile. The pod was made of something even stronger than the tentacles.

“Cap!” He thrashed in the alien’s grip, wishing he had managed to salvage a gauntlet from his suit. It began sucking him down as well as pushing now. He was disappearing faster into the pod. “Steve!”

The pod finally enveloped him as he caught sight of Steve being thrown into the clock over the information desk in the center of the room.

Chapter Text

Turning at the sound of Tony’s desperate voice screaming his name, Steve’s eyes widened at the sight of the other man almost entirely enveloped by the pod on the creature’s back. He gave a final punch to the head of the creature he was fighting, determination to free him making Steve even stronger than usual, and turned to run to Tony. The creature collapsed with a short scream behind him.

Another tentacle caught him across the middle. Pained surprise washed over him as his breath left him and his feet left the floor. Steve flew across the room into the clock over the information desk and both he and it went spinning down into the desk itself. Debris exploded around him, clock pieces and bits of the desk flying in all directions.

Gasping, Steve laid there for a moment until the pain in his back had faded somewhat and he could breathe again. He sat up and looked around frantically for Tony. There wasn’t any sign of the other man, just a dozen or more creatures making their way towards him. Rolling out of the way of another tentacle, Steve struggled to his feet and wished he had his shield back. He didn’t need it to fight, strictly speaking, but he felt much better with it and it really helped with cutting off tentacles.

Steve ducked between two more tentacles and dodged a third before leaping over the remains of the desk to plow his fist into a creature’s face. It screamed and fell back. Weaving his way through the tentacles, Steve let them fend off the other creatures with their flailing as he stole another quick look around the room.

There. Over by the staircase where they’d come in. One of the creatures was high-tailing it out of there with a pod that was three times the size any of the others were. That had to be the one that had Tony.

The flailing limbs steadied and shot in on him, intending to crush Steve between them, but they were too late. Steve grabbed one and used it to flip himself out of range. By the time his feet hit the ground, he was ready, a plan already forming in his mind as he moved. Before his weight had even managed to settle, he was off and running at full speed. The creatures gave chase, but he managed to avoid them while simultaneously pulling his cowl up to access its radio.

“War Machine! You read, War Machine?”

The speaker spit and hissed in his ear for a moment as he dodged one particularly fast creature. It squealed as his foot connected with its head in a roundhouse kick Natasha had taught him. He hadn’t thought he’d ever manage to pull that one off properly.

“War Machine! Do you copy?!”

“I copy,” came Rhodes’ strained answer after another moment of static. “A little busy though!”

“They’ve got Tony! He’s in the pod climbing out the window now,” Steve told him, stopping just long enough to pick up a piece of railing. He swung it at a mass of tentacles, knocking them aside before slamming its end into the nearest black-barred head he could reach.

What?! I thought you were going to protect him,” Rhodes screamed over the link, his voice nearly drowned out by the screeching of the creature Steve had just hit.

“It wasn’t like I let them take him,” he snarled back, twisting to knock aside another tentacle and catch a second creature on the side of the head. “Have the rest of the Avengers arrived yet?”

“Not—“ War Machine gave a pain-filled grunt. “Not yet. And I’ve got my hands full with this giant blue alien crab!”

“Leave the crab! If you can see Tony, attack the creature that has him. Get them out of here and to SHIELD!”

“I can’t! There are still civilians out here,” Rhodes told him, his voice full of the torn anguish that Steve could feel threatening to well up in him.

Taking another swipe to knock back yet another wave of tentacles, Steve turned and sprinted off after the creature that had Tony again. It had nearly made it out the windows now. It was only slowly pulling itself up the side of the wall, slowed by its extra weight given how fast the other creatures all were. Steve put on another burst of speed and leapt up the steps two and three at a time. Spinning out of the way of another set of tentacles, he hopped up on the stone railing at the landing. The creature was pulling itself through the window now, its tentacles barely seeming to strain as it hauled itself up the wall.

The bit of railing wasn’t Steve’s shield, but it would do. He took aim and threw it hard at the creature. The makeshift spear sailed straight through a tentacle and into one of the creature’s arms, pinning it to the wall. The creature gave a blood-curdling scream of pain, immediately beginning to struggle. Slowly, it slipped back down the wall to all but hang from its skewered arm.

More tentacles were swiping at him, but Steve just levered himself around them and swung off a final one, heading for where he could see the bright colors of his shield. Unfortunately, these creatures were apparently a little smarter than the villains he normally dealt with. The creature closest to the shield also broke off, heading to cut him off.

Steve leapt forward, his arm outstretched, fingers opened wide to grab the shining edge as he flew through the air, but just as the tips of his fingers brushed it, another tentacle flashed out of nowhere, batting it away with a clatter. Gasping, Steve turned his forward movement into a roll, coming back up to his feet in a smooth, graceful move. Another tentacle lashed at him, but he ducked under it, noting where his shield had skidded and fallen to the foot of the stairwell.

“Captain!”

“War Machine! Report,” he answered, twisting to avoid three more tentacles this time. More and more of the creatures were moving to surround him, their movements abrupt and angry. They were getting desperate now!

“The Avengers have arrived. I repeat, the Avengers are on scene!”

Finally! Now they’d be able to stop these things and save Tony before they could get away or destroy the city!

“Have Hawkeye pick off the smaller creatures with his arrows! But tell him be careful of the one with Tony!”

“Will do, Cap,” came Hawkeye’s reply.

Good. They were within range again.

“Widow, I could use your help in here! Hulk, smash that cra—“

As if they knew just how close their defeat was, the creatures came at him as one in an attack so thick, he couldn’t avoid it. Steve rounded one creature, dodging its attacks easily only to find himself with nowhere else to go. Tentacles landed hard on his back, his head, his chest, his stomach, the backs of his legs, his thighs... He would have normally been sent flying from the force, but there was nowhere to go with all the bodies and tentacles that hemmed him in. He fell to his knees instead, hitting them hard enough for a resounding crack.

“Cap!”

A ringing in his ears muffled the concerned calls from the others. He could just barely hear them. He tried to answer, but he couldn’t get a breath deep enough for more than a soft groan. Instead, he began gasping for breath, just trying to fill his lungs as he began to push himself slowly up again.

Tentacles wrapped themselves tightly around him, not nearly as gentle as he hoped they had been for Tony. One slapped him in the face, leaving a slime coating that Steve hadn’t noted coming from them so far. Unfortunately, it also left in its wake a dangerous lethargy that immediately began stealing his strength with alarming alacrity.

“Cap! I’m coming! Hold on,” Widow’s voice rang in his ear. He shook his head, fighting back panic as his vision began to blur.

“No…”he managed to breathe out finally. “Don’t…Save…Tooooonnn…”

The blurriness became an absolute grey which faded to black as his last word died out. He saw nothing but rather felt as one of the aliens began pushing him into its pod as it began moving away again.

Better me than Tony, was his last thought before he lost consciousness.

Chapter Text

Phase 3 complete.
Incubator retained.
Defensive Battle Drones destroyed. 5 Collectors returned.
Donor retained. Further instructions pending.
Launching Phase 4…

STSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTST

If there was one thing Rhodey definitely knew, it was that Tony would always find trouble. Even if you handcuffed him between Captain America and SHIELD Director Nick Fury, he would still manage to find trouble—he’d just have company for it.

Being Tony’s best friend was, of course, what had helped prepare him for the insanity of his life in the Air Force and as a superhero. That said, this was going a little too far even for Tony.

“None of the dead creatures had Tony?” He glared hard at Black Widow, feeling that same helpless rage he’d felt when Tony had been captured in Afghanistan. “We knew exactly which one had him!”

“It must have slipped through the net,” she said, her voice calm despite the hardness that underlined it.

“And it gets worse,” Hawkeye said, walking over to join them. His face was somber and his expression dark. “They’ve taken Captain America as well.”

Rhodey gave a frustrated groan and dropped his head into his hand. “Great. Tony’s dragged Captain America into his mess now.”

“He was already in it,” Bruce told him, tugging at the borrowed hoody he was wearing.

“What do you mean?” Rhodey glanced up to glare at Bruce, whose eyes widened. He let his gaze drift over to Widow and Hawkeye. They looked just as somber as before, but now that somberness held a certain wariness as well.

“He’s the father, isn’t he?”

Widow gave a curt nod, and Rhodey let loose a string of expletives that probably would have startled even Nick Fury. This just kept getting better and better. Next Tony would wind up having twins!

No! No, bad thoughts! This was bad enough without adding that into the mix. Now he had about a dozen new questions and only a couple answers. Well, he knew where his priorities lay. It was time to start chasing up his answers.

“Tell me we at least have some idea where they have taken Tony,” Rhodey barked, his voice hard with fury.

“We don’t even know if—“

“Tony’s alive,” Rhodey interrupted Bruce. His voice invited no arguments. “He said they wanted him for the baby. So long as he’s pregnant, he’s alive.”

“But would they keep Steve alive?” Hawkeye frowned, fingering his bow as though his fingers itched to shoot an arrow into an enemy. They probably did.

Rhodey glared at the archer. “They took him too, didn’t they?”

“Doesn’t mean they’ll keep him alive,” Hawkeye shot back. “We’re going to have to rescue him now.”

With a snarl, Rhodey rounded on him. “Are you blaming Tony for this?”

Widow stepped between them, shooting them each a stern warning glance in turn. “Calm down. No one is blaming anyone. We’re going to rescue them both.”

Rhodey settled back, watching as Hawkeye did the same before turning his stare on Widow. “Fine. Do we know where they might have taken them? Can we even get to them? They don’t have a ship out by Mars or something, do they?”

“Ahh… That’s the good news!” Bruce grinned, looking far more pleased with himself than Rhodey thought anyone should at the moment. “We’ve been studying the energy readings for New York right before the attacks, and they spike every time!”

“Energy readings?” Widow fixed a cool stare on Bruce, obviously not wanting to upset him into unleashing the Hulk again while also making it clear that there would be consequences should he not explain himself.

“Quakes,” Bruce told her. “Each incident, New York suffered some faint tremors. And this last time, when they disappeared during the battle, there were more faint tremors again. This leads us to believe that their technology somehow disturbs the Earth’s crust each time they transport.”

“I didn’t feel anything,” Rhodey commented with a frown. He tried desperately to remember everything he could about earthquakes and how they were detected. “Wouldn’t that mean that we can track them then?”

Bruce shook his head sadly. “Unfortunately, the tremors affected the entire island, and we can’t pinpoint exactly where the epicenter is. We think they might have multiple ships acting in concert to confuse our instruments.”

“So how does that help us?”

“We know they’re on Earth and in the general vicinity of New York,” Hawkeye said. “At least that means we can find them. And it narrows down where we have to look.”

“It’s a big city,” Rhodey snapped. “How are we going to find them when they’ve already managed to stay hidden from us this long?”

An irreverent grin reminiscent of one of Tony’s when he had gotten a wild idea that Rhodey always inevitably regretted stretched over Hawkeye’s face. “We work with SHIELD. We have our ways.”

“We’ll find them,” Widow assured him, resting one hand on his still armored arm.

“We’d better,” he answered, his tone short even if his insides were loosening with a small measure of relief. He’d never had someone to help him rescue Tony before. Rhodey found he rather liked it, even if he still had to suffer from helpless worry. “I don’t know which one I want to strangle more when we do.”

STSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTST

There was no one thing Steve could say he hated most about waking up in a strange place, but he could say he’d been doing it more than he liked lately. At least this time, it wasn’t as jarring as it was when he’d woken up in the 21st century.

It was still an odd feeling, with the strange texture of the sheet over him and the hard smooth surface beneath him, but nothing like having his senses scream at him that the normality of his surroundings was actually very abnormal. Nothing was so jarring as having everything be right and wrong at the same time. At least here, he didn’t have that conflict ripping at his senses. Here, it was all wrong and it was honest about it.

Steve kept his eyes closed at first. The more information he could gather before his captors knew he was awake, the better placed he was for escaping.

He was bound to a table with straps that felt as though they were an odd hybrid of plastic and leather. The room was frustratingly silent around him aside from the sound and feel of the slight, rhythmic vibration that moved constantly through the room. It was like being on the helicarrier, except Tony had yet to manage to dampen the sound to almost nothing like this.

Tony!

Steve’s eyes flew open as he began to struggle against his restraints. The straps gave easily against his strength, snapping loudly when he pulled at them one by one, and then he shot up to his feet, looking frantically about the room for some sign of his teammate. He was alone with his metal bed the only other thing in the room. Scowling, Steve made for an outline in the wall that looked like it would be the door to his cell.

After a few minutes of careful inspection, he took a few steps back and threw all his weight against it. A loud BANG resounded through the room, but the door didn’t even dent. He tried again and again, but it stayed stubbornly still.

Scowling, Steve rubbed his shoulder and probed at the lines that he assumed were the edges of the doorway. Perhaps it opened the other way?

Pushing his fingers as much as he could into the thin gaps, he tried to pry at the door, but his fingers kept slipping on the odd, slick metallic material the wall and door were made of. He huffed and gave up after a couple of minutes, turning in place to see if there was anything else promising in the room that he had missed.

The room, a prison cell unless Steve missed his guess, was small and circular with only the narrow bed in the center and a thin metallic blanket on top of that. Although Steve himself was still wearing his uniform, it was wet with something that smelled sharply of disinfectant. Thankfully, the room was warm enough that he didn’t feel cold at all. Just furious.

How could he have let this happen? They’d not only taken Tony, but himself as well!

Unless it was just him they’d gotten?

He had pinned the alien kidnapping Tony as it escaped out the window. It was possible that they had rescued Tony but not seen what had happened to him.

Steve fervently hoped they had, that Tony was safe on the helicarrier cussing out everyone for losing Steve and nearly losing him. It wasn’t hard to imagine Tony attempting to reconfigure the suit to accommodate for his new more vulnerable status as well, but Pepper and Natasha wouldn’t let him, Steve was sure. Imagining that argument brought a small smile to his face before Steve shook it away.

He could hope all he wanted, but he couldn’t afford to work on the assumption that Tony was safe. He had to assume Tony had been taken until he knew otherwise because—because Steve would never forgive himself if he left Tony here alone. Who knew what might happen to him? To the unborn baby?

What was happening to them now?

Frustration boiled up in Steve as he tried desperately to keep all the things that could be happening to Tony and the baby from his mind. They were not cooperating, slipping away each time he tried to wrangle them into submission to latch onto something even more horrible than the last horrifying idea. His thoughts finally settled on the memory of Bucky strapped down in that Hydra complex, and he let out a snarl of rage, barely feeling it as he let a fist fly into the door. A resounding BANG echoed through the cell, and Steve looked up to see that he’d barely even dented the door. He had left a bit of blood from his knuckles on it, however, which gave him a perverse happiness. Let them clean that then!

Sighing, Steve turned and slid down with his back against the wall next to the door. The metal was cool against his back, but warmed quickly. He let his head fall back and stared up at the ceiling.

There had to be a way out of this cell. He’d just have to wait for the aliens to come back for him. The restraints had been easy to break, so maybe he could overpower them just as easily. Even if he couldn’t, though, he’d be able to get a better idea of how to force open the door or at least what to expect when he finally did manage to escape. But he needed to get out of here as soon as possible, so if he could manage an escape as soon as they came in…

Hopefully his shield wasn’t being kept too far away. He’d need it if he was going to search for Tony. The cells, if they were all like this one, didn’t have windows, so he’d have to fight his way through to every single one if he couldn’t get an alien to lead him to Tony by force.

Capturing one of them sounded like his best bet, but that was always risky. They could trick him and he’d never know until it was too late. He’d have to be extra careful if he took a prisoner.

But if he didn’t…

How big was this place…spaceship? If they were in space, which would make sense to Steve, then Steve might have to either find Tony or take a prisoner just to get home. He didn’t think he could fly a spaceship… Although, if they were like planes back home…

He’d worry about that one later, after he’d found Tony.

Tony… Steve really hoped they hadn’t hurt him. Would being swallowed by an alien be enough to hurt the baby? It hadn’t hurt Steve that he knew of, but the serum would have taken care of that anyway. Tony was just a regular human. Stubborn as anything and proud beyond belief, but he was only human just the same. And the baby, it would only be human too and even more vulnerable than Tony at this stage.

Wouldn’t it?

What if the baby was actually an alien hybrid and that’s why they wanted it. Or…

Images of Tony’s face when he’d first spoken with Steve after finding out and then again later in Grand Central Station pushed their way to the front of Steve’s thoughts. Tony had seemed surprised and maybe even a bit…nervous. Only, now that he thought about it, the nervousness didn’t seem to be from his condition.

And the way the others had reacted when he’d asked after the father of the baby. They’d said Tony didn’t have a lover even as they’d looked at him like he should know something. Like he should understand, but what was there for him to…

It was an alien ray gun that had done this… The last time Tony had been hit with one, Steve had been there. Right beside him. He’d been hit too.

Could the baby… The other father was…

Steve shook his head and let out a snarl of frustration. If it was true, then he really had to find Tony and get them all out. They had a long discussion ahead of them. It wasn’t going to be a fun one either, but if it went the way Steve hoped…

And even if it didn’t, maybe he could still salvage things enough to become Uncle Steve.

Hope and determination began to swell in Steve, steeling his jaw as he looked around the room again. And then, all of a sudden, there was air at his back and he was falling. His head hit the floor with a harsh crack that sent lightning jabs of pain running through him and stabbing into his eyes. He blinked to clear his vision and found himself staring up at an alien.

This one was a new type. It had long fins trailing up the sides of its head from where a jaw would be on a human, and huge forward facing fish eyes that shifted as they watched him. Its mouth was a mass of tentacles, longer at the sides, and they all writhed as it spoke.

“Stand. The carrier calls for you,” it told Steve in an oddly accented voice that more rustled than whistled. “You will come. Keep him calm.”

The carrier? Did they mean…“Tony?”

It gestured impatiently with its lobster-claw hands. “Yes, yes. Now come.”

Well. This was going to be easier than Steve had thought.