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Not Again

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It was a fine morning in Avenger Tower, the sun was shining bright through the kitchen’s windows, the birds were singing (not that they could hear them all the way to the 99th floor) and if Tony had anything to do with it, it was going to be an even finer day. 

“It’s not too late, you know. There’s a direct flight to Berlin leaving at 10:45 your local time, you could be there in time for the opening cocktail hour.”

“No, Tony”

Or at least it would be a fine day if Tony managed to convince Bruce to stop being a fucking hermit and rejoin the scientific community. Tony did not buy the I-have-to-hide-from-the-world-to-protect-people-from-the-monster-in-me shtick; it would be a lot more convincing if Bruce didn’t invariably pick the crowded slums of equally crowded big cities to hide in.

“Oh come on, three days, over 40 different panels, 250 of the finest mind in medicine and science and all that in the fair city of Berlin. How can you say no?” Tony wheedled, Starkphone held in the crook of his shoulder as he threw fruits and vegetable into the blender.

“I don’t know,” Bruce dry voice came from the speaker. “I just can.”

From the stove, Steve, who had been making his usual ultra-calorific breakfast of a fuckton of eggs and bacon, chuckled. Fair warning: when they said the serum had turned him into the peak of human perfection, that included hearing. A fact most people tended to forget.

“Oh shut up, the peanut gallery,” Tony tossed half a celery stick at Steve who, of course, caught it and made a big show of biting into it.

“It’s right up...” Putting the cover back on the blender, which sounded like a pretty simple task, turned out to be not so straightforward with only one hand and your head against your shoulder, Tony almost dropped his phone.  “Wait a sec...” He put the phone down next to the protein powder and put it on speaker. “Like I was saying, it’s right up your alley.”

“In what world? I’m a physicist.”

“And I’m an engineer, but I still got invited to speak.”

“Well you did make the first bionic arm.”

“And you’ve improved the pressure sensors on it. Plus you’re the one who’s spent the last 5 years working as a doctor.”

“Yes,” Bruce said in that mock earnest tone of his, “Let’s advertise that I practiced medicine without a license. It’s not like it’s illegal in most countries. Beside I don’t think the ‘Science and the Human Body’ Conference is interested in all the ways to improvise an IV line with a soda bottle.” 

“Janet Van Dyne and Henry Pym will be there! They’re the star speakers. You heard about those Van-Dyne-Pym particles of theirs, have you? They’ve shrunk a fucking rat the size of a fucking flea.” 

“You already told me, twice. I’m hanging up now.”

“Bruce, my buddy, my dearest friend...”

“I thought Colonel Rhodes was your best friend.”

“Rhodey is the brother I’ve never had and that’s totally beside the point. The point is...” 

“Have a nice day Tony.” And Bruce unceremoniously hung up. 

Tony stared at the phone until he heard Steve coming up to him. He looked up to see Steve give him his patented innocent American pie smile. Tony did not trust it for one second. It was the thing about Steve Rogers, under that patriotic all-American exterior there lurked a real man with a vicious sense of humor and a biting wit. It made him an awesome snarking partner.

Case in point, his smile widened and he patted Tony on the head. “There, there,” He said in a tone Tony swore he lifted from a stereotypical sitcom mom. “I’m sure you’ll make plenty of new friends at the convention.”

Tony elbowed him in the rib. “Of course I will. People always love me”

Steve snorted and went back to his frying pan.

“Why do you want him to go so bad that you’ll bug him about it 7 times in a week, anyway? Beside your pathological inability to accept the word no.”

“Big words coming from the man who tried to enroll 5 times in 5 different cities despite being told no each time.”

Steve stopped stirring his second batch of eggs. “Touché,” He chuckled.

Because they could do that now, snark off for the fun of it, unlike 6 months ago when they -and it was the both of them, not just Tony, Tony wanted that fact acknowledged front and center- took great delight in taking everything the other said the worst possible way, often followed by going for the throat in response. But they were past that now.

Tony poured his smoothie in a big sized travel mug, took a sip and thought about Steve’s question seriously.

“Well, A: he really needs to get out more. That man makes you look like a high school homecoming queen social wise and that’s just sad. He loves doing science stuff, he loves sharing science stuff ideas with other people. And he systematically shut himself from it unless dragged in by way of alien invasion. And B: it wouldn’t have hurt to have someone there I know a little more than Doctor Avery. The surgeon who did Vascez’s surgery.” He added at Steve’s enquiring look. 

“You’re stressed about this?”

Tony’s first response was no. It was to pull himself up tall, to fill the room with his presence and blabber confidence at Steve until there was no doubt Tony was absolutely not stressed.  But Steve was looking at him with an attentive expression, like he really wanted to know. Steve, who didn't look at him like he was broken when Tony got a little crazy with the suits upgrades after the invasion (Tony loved Pepper and Rhodey more than anyone else in his life, but they had), who admitted to Tony how utterly lost and alone he was in the 21st century one night when neither of them could sleep. So what comes out of his mouth instead was:

“I’m not worried about the presentation, been doing them since I was 17. I made this, I know this tech like the back of my hands. No the problem is the rest. See, half the point of this conference is look-at-what-I-made, look-at-this-important-discovery, the usual research geek stuff, the other half is marketing, and the good doctors go see what new stuff is available and if they want to use it.” 

Tony took a big swig of his smoothie.”Now, usually I’m not worried about people deciding to buy my stuff, because I know my stuff is the best. But before I was selling to governments with big defense budgets, they could afford to shell billions of dollars on one purchase. I’ve done my best to make this affordable, and I’ve no doubt that we’ll make them cheaper and cheaper as time goes on. But it’s got a lot of state of the art circuitry, it’s gotta be custom made to the person.”

Tony shrugs. “The arm alone is already twice the cost of a body-powered prosthetic, not including the operation needed to get it on, or the maintenance it’s gonna need. It’s the best. But ‘it’s the best’ will mean jack shit if people decide it’s too expensive to bother.”

Steve nodded at him. “I was sick most of my childhood, I get it.” He smiled warmly at Tony, like Tony had saved a puppy from a tree or something. “This is important for you?”

Tony shrugged. “It’s one of the first things SI started making after I shut down weapon production. I started messing around with it for Corporal Vasquez, since... you know, she got blown up when they attacked our humv...” It was way too early and Tony was way too sober for this kind of discussion. “Anyway, I want this to be available. So I’ve got to make a lot of people enthusiastic about it too so that everyone can work to make it available. Aaaaand I have a plane to catch, bye”

He strode out of the room purposefully. On the way to the garage, Tony’s eyes caught the time on one of the clock: 7:10 AM, he was going to be on time at the airport, Happy was not going to believe it.


********************************************************************************************


Long flights had lost some of their entertainment value since Tony had ditched the strippers, but he made do easily by working on an arrow for Hawkeye. Hawkeye and Black Widow were great people to make gear for since Tony could let his creativity really go wild.

They landed, he got picked up by a nice young man visibly flustered to meet THE Tony Stark -and here Tony had thought that this being mostly a med conference rather than an engineering or computer science one would mean he didn’t have to deal with puppy crushes- sent by the organization committee to get him settled. Things only got interesting at the opening Cocktail, that first evening, when Tony spotted a man with short blond hair half standing out of sight of most of the room in the corner next to the buffet table, a man who looked an awful lot like Dr. Hank Pym. Without wasting any time, Tony headed straight for him.

“Doctor Pym! Nice to meet you again.” He said as he came up to the man. Pym almost jumped, even though Tony had come up from where he could see him coming and hadn’t spoken that loud. Jumpy. Tony wasn’t great at people but he thought the man looked a might uncomfortable and tense for someone who was on top of the world.

“Mr. Stark, it was at Columbia in 2003, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to speak then.”

And it had been a shame. By all account, Hank Pym was brilliant, if a little narrow in his focus, some might even say obsessed. Tony didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with brilliant people. Ok, no, that wasn’t true. He was surrounded by brilliant people who could run circles around Tony in their field of expertise. But Tony rarely got to hang with people who could match him in what he was good at, and having Bruce around had only reminded Tony how simulating it was to have someone who spoke English (even if it was a different dialect).

“I hope we’re not making you miserable,” He said, gesturing at the corner some could say they were hiding in.

“Oh no, I mean yes, I mean... it does get a bit overwhelming. I’ve never had so many people wanting to meet me before.”

“That’s what happens when you get nominated for a Nobel Prize.”

Pym's chest puffed out for about a second at the words “Nobel prize” to deflate again, he rubbed at the back of his neck. “Well, it’s all very flattering...”

“Oh, don’t lie, honey. You’re enjoying every minute of it.” Suddenly Janet was there and slipping an arm around Pym's waist.

“Hey, Jan. Oh wow you look so grown up in this.” The words slipped out of Tony’s mouth before he had the time to think.

Jan opened her mouth, closed it and settled for raising an incredulous eyebrow.

Quick recap: the Starks and the Van Dynes had run in the same social circles so Tony had known Jan for most of his life. They had never been friends exactly since they only saw each other whenever their parents dragged them to the same event, which happened about twice, thrice a year, and Jan was more than five years younger than Tony was. But they had been casual acquaintances.

Now Tony had been billed as Howard’s successor since before he had even built his first circuit board at four, but no one had ever expected trust-fund baby Jan to do anything in particular with her life. To be fair to her parents, in their case it seemed to have been that they wanted their baby girl to do what made her happy, whatever it turned out to be, like Tony was told good parents should. But the fact remained: Jan = low expectations. That coupled with her bubbly personality and petite frame meant the double PhDs tended to blindside people.

Tony didn’t know her well enough to know for sure but he could see all too easily (there was a reason he had been particularly happy to turn 20, and then 30 after all) how the uphill battle to be taken seriously might leave someone with a short fuse on certain subjects. Time to apologize 

“Not like that! I mean this suit looks really good on you,” He gestured at the fitted, pinstripe pantsuit that definitely made her look taller and added a touch of sophistication to her pixie cut. “It makes you look more mature and less pixie-ish.”

Her eyebrow stayed where it was, unimpressed.

“And here I thought you were supposed to be smooth with the ladies,” She shook her head, a hint of a smile around her lips.

“I’m jetlagged, ok,” Tony huffed, relaxing once it was clear she was not irremediably offended, he never liked to do that by accident. It was almost 6 AM in New York.... And maybe Tony hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the previous night. Time to sleep when he was dead, that was his motto.

“It’s 5PM on the East coast,” Jan said,

Oh, right. The time difference went in the other direction. Tony was more tired than he thought, but he had only pulled one all-nighter this week, ok, maybe two, and maybe he hadn’t slept the recommended eight hours the other nights.

 “I’m tired,” He corrected. “My mouth-to-brain filter goes out the window when I’m tired.”

“You mean you have a brain-to-mouth filter otherwise?” Pym blurted out. “It didn’t seem to be the case from the TV appearances I’ve seen.”

Tony’s head whipped back to Pym. The reserved lab rat had some bite. Oh but this boded well. Tony felt himself break into a grin. Pym looked a lot more relaxed now that Jan was with him, relaxed enough to crack a joke.

“I have less brain-to-mouth filter when I’m tired. How are you two enjoying your new celebrity?”

“A lot,” Jan smiled, a wide self satisfied smile. “But as much fun as this party’s been we’re thinking of leaving. That much attention is better in small dozes and I’m starving for something more substantial than canapés.”

“Oh,” Tony pounced on the opportunity. “Can I invite you guys for a bite? I’m pretty sure we’re close to a bar with bar food to die for.”

“Er...” Pym shifted his weight from foot to foot, looking at Jan to see what she wanted. Tony knew that look, he saw it often. It usually meant he had, knowingly or not, stepped all over someone’s boundary. In the interest of not antagonising the two most interesting people he was going to meet in the next few days, he toned his enthusiasm down. “Or if you wanted some alone time together I can but off, no harm done,”

“No, no,” Jan looked at Hank to see if he was ok with it. “We never got to geek out, did we? You had moved to the West Coast by the time I got into grad school. Food sounds good?”

Pym shrugged and nodded, as if he had nothing better to do.

“Awesome,” Tony slid between them and put an arm around their shoulder. “So, I heard something about a human trial?”

“Well, we’ve been tailoring the particles to human specifications pretty much since our success with the rat. Theoretically there is nothing indicating that the latest batch won’t have the same effect on the human body as it did on rodent. Of course with all the variables...” Pym started, becoming more animated as he warmed up to his subject.

The two doctors chatted happily about all the things that could go wrong differently with a human trial during the five minute walk, while Tony tried to look up the exact address of the famous bar on his phone and Happy trailed behind them, shaking his head at all the geek talk.

“But enough about us,” Jan interrupted a tangent about ant’s pheromones from Pym. “What about you? What are you coming up with now that Stark Industries changed its focus? I heard your Tower has been supplying part of New York with power since the battle?”

It was supposed to be a quick bite. They ended up staying four hours. Tony spoke a little bit about some of his latest non-suit related projects, then they went back to Pym's (who was now Hank) and Jan’s first collaboration before stumbling on nano-biotechnology and then everyone lost track of time.

By the time they dragged themselves back to the hotel, the only thing keeping Tony upright, and ok, slightly hyper, were the espresso shot and two Red Bulls he had downed. The three of them piled out of the elevator into their room floor in companionable silence. Tony was taken aback to see there were a security guard in a corner and two cleaning guys with their carts despite the late hour, but he was too busy floating on a happy could of exhaustion, stimulants and science to care. The two lovebirds were right in front of the elevator so they said their goodbyes there. Jan kissed Tony on the cheek while Hank unlocked the door.

“Good night, see you to....”

They all froze. The room was a mess of strewn clothes, papers and overturned furniture. Tony’s happy buzz evaporated instantly and he was left with the acute awareness that the suit was 7,000 km and an ocean away. Thank you Pepper and Rhodey. Jan, a hand to her mouth, took a step toward the room. Tony put a hand on her arm.

“Careful, we don’t know...”

"Doctors? Is there a problem?” The security guard approached them with a frown. Out of the corner of his eye Tony saw the two cleaning people, both men, not that Tony was being sexist, do the same thing from the other side. Two years ago, Tony wouldn’t have given it a second thought; people wanted a closer look when something happened around them, that was normal. But a lot of shit had happened in two years, most of it not nice and the way they surrounded him and the others set him on edge. With his hand still on Jan’s arm Tony nudged Hand and slowly started backing up toward the elevator door.

“Somebody broke into our room,” Hank said, gesturing at the mess.

“What!? Oh, I’m so sorry. Not a good way to end an evening isn’t it?” Security Guy made a big show of looking alarmed and sympathetic, but, and Tony couldn’t help but notice. He did not go to the room, did not even spare a look to confirm what Hank was saying. And neither did Cleaning Guy 1 and 2. Normally, you hear something like that, you want to see, it’s humanity’s innate voyeurism. But those guys just kept creeping toward Jan, Hank and Tony. Security Guy kept a constant reassuring babble.

“...Now I’m sure everything will be alright, we’ll sort it out...”

Tony started backing away faster. In the corner of his eye he saw a shadow moving behind the door of the emergency stairway. So the exit there was blocked. He smiled at Security Guy.

“Shouldn’t you go check? Call it in? Isn’t that the protocol for those kinda things?” He said in his friendliest voice once he was finally back to the wall and discretely pushed the elevator call button.

Security Guy spared him a glance before putting a hand on Hank’s shoulder. “”We’ll take care of it. Don't you worry. You concentrate on staying calm. This is not the end of the world, there is no reason to panic.”

“Panic?” Hank said, moving to shrug the hand off. “We’re not panicking.”

“Take deep breaths, doctor,” Security guy said, taking his left hand out of his pocket.

At this point, Tony didn’t care if this ended in public apology and “Tony Stark has PTSD episodes” all over the news. He stepped in between the two, pushing Hank against the elevator doors and slapped Security Guy’s hand away before he could raise it.

A syringe clattered on the floor. No public apologies then.

For a second nobody moved and then the elevator doors opened and it was pandemonium. Hank, who had been balanced against the doors fell in the elevator and Security Guy and Cleaning Guy 1 tried to rush in, which would have conveniently bowled Tony over at the same time.

Tony lashed out before that could happen. If there was one thing that he hated about hand-to-hand fights out of the armor though, it was how clumsy he was.  Tony had been designing weapons for a long time, a very long time, he knew the human body like the back of his hand, where to strike, how, with how much force. He could calculate an optimal plan of attack almost as quickly as Steve or Natasha. Yeah, in his mind, Tony was the most dangerous killer alive, the problem was: in the physical world the mind could only do so much. Speed came from reflexes, reflexes came from muscle memory and Tony just plain and simple didn’t have the muscle memory to pull off half the plans in his head.

So he managed to whack Security Guy in the ear, dazzling him, but his kick to Cleaning Guy 1’s knee landed off center and didn’t drop him, just made him stumble. That meant it took two tries for Tony to kick him in the head. Meanwhile, security Guy had recovered enough to hook an arm against Tony’s throat and drag him back.

All of that took a second.

“DOORS!”

“CLOSE THE DOORS! CLOSE!”

“GET IN THERE, GET IN!!!”

Tony, Jan somewhere to his right, and their would-be abductors had been yelling ever since the elevator had arrived. Hank jammed his palm against the control panel repeatedly. The doors closed.

Hank was (relatively) safe.

Tony went limp in Security Guy’s arms, he grabbed his pinky finger at the same time and yanked until he heard a satisfying snap and the grip on his throat was gone. His left hand skimmed around Security Guy’s right hip until his fingers reached the gun Tony had seen holstered there. He brought it in front of him automatically. .40 mm, semi-automatic, Full or almost full magazine from the weight.

Sitrep. Cleaning guy was slumped against the wall, half-conscious. Two abandoned cleaning carts, bottles of cleaning supply: potential irritant, if concentration high enough, brooms, dustpans, mops: Burgeoning tools. Security Guy was cradling his hand, looked like he wanted to string Tony's entrails like a garland (Tony was more familiar with the look than was probably healthy, apparently he had an abrasive personality). Cleaning Guy 2 had Jan by the waist and was trying to drag her to one of the cart. Tony pointed the gun at him and hesitated. He had an almost clear shot to the shoulder, but there was a small window and Jan and Cleaning guy 2 were moving around too much, Tony was not the marksman Rhodey or Steve or the Assassin duo were.

He hesitated a fraction of a second more and Security guy made a move in his direction in the corner of his eye. No obstruction there so he shot him, center mass, point blank. Security Guy wasn’t getting up anytime soon. There was a commotion on the right, more people pouring out of the stairway. Tony ducked under one of the cleaning cart just in time to hear bullet wiz above his head. He grabbed at the bottles in the cart, trying to find one with the corrosive symbol and a spraying nozzle.

Jan, who had been kicking, head butting, scratching and elbowing at Cleaning Guy 2 for all she was worth managed to make him drop her. She dove behind the second cart and Tony brought up the bottle he was holding, and squirted a good amount of whatever the fuck the product was, Tony had a passing familiarity with American brands -in the context of which ones could be used to make the bigger boom- but not German brands, into Cleaning Guy 2’s face. He reared back and clutched at his eyes.

Seeing as the goons in the stairway where now rushing them guns drawn, Jan and Tony took the opportunity to make a run for the nearest escape route... the hotel room... the hotel room that their kidnapper had already broken into once.

In a nice show of coordination Jan slammed the door and flipped the lock while Tony went through the pockets of his slacks for the screwdriver he was pretty sure was there -let Pepper complain about Tony’s bad habit of leaving tools in his pockets again- and used it to quickly remove the plastic cover of the electronic lock. From then on it only took a second to jam it. Tony took a step back and Jan who had been holding the handle and bracing followed him. Outside they could hear the sound of fumbling and scratching as the men tried whatever they had done to get in the first time.

“So they won’t be able to get it open?” Jan asked sounding shaky and scared but clear headed under the fear.

“Nope. That shit is well and truly jammed. There is no way they can get it to unlock.” Tony said.

It was then that the scratching stopped to be replaced by the loud thud of a full grown man throwing himself at a door. Said door shook.

“Of course that doesn’t stop them from destroying the door.” And God knew hotel room doors were not the sturdiest doors around.

Tony and Jan backed away further into the room. Tony took the opportunity to look at the carnage. “They want something, and it looks like they didn’t get it. Do you...”

“The particles,” Jan said before Tony could finish his sentence.

“The parti... you have them here?!” Jan was rummaging in her small messenger bag. “You have them on you,” Tony said incredulously.

Jan looked up at him with an egg sized canister in hand. “We bought a dose to make a live demonstration. And Hank was uncomfortable with leaving it in the room or even the hotel safe,” She looked at the overturned bed frame and ripped mattress. “Looks like he was right. What I don’t understand is why? Don’t get me wrong,” she slashed with her free hand. “I know there are a lot of people who would love to get their hands on it. From jealous fellow scientists to corporations, but this...” She gestured at the door, the dozen of armed men behind it; Tony had seen at least one automatic rifle from the stairway crew. “This is a bit much. Who sends or hires a commando to acquire a formula still in development?”

“Never underestimate the corporations,” Tony quipped, then more seriously. “There’s a few dozen shadowy organisations with an under abundance of morals in the world who would love to be able to shrink personnel and objects.” Tony would know he occasionally consulted for one. Though, ok, he admitted that S.H.I.E.L.D. was maybe 80% on the side of the angels.

Jan blinked, emotions flowing through her face as she came to conclusion after conclusion. She wasn’t stupid or naive. She might have developed the formula in a happy high of look-what-that-does! But she wasn’t blind to all the possible applications, the appeal of having a monopoly on it, the appeal of having the scientist responsible for that discovery at your beck and call.   

There was a gunshot, then two, then three. The bastards were trying to either shoot the lock or the hinges, the hinges if they were smart, off.

“I hope it ricochets in your ass,” Tony muttered.

“They’re going to get in.” Jan said. She wasn’t asking a question.

Because yeah, it was only a matter of time, and the chances hotel security and Happy would get there before that happened were slim, and even if they did they probably would be outmatched.  Jan was looking at tony as if to ask “what now?” Right, Tony was the one with the most experience here.

It’s a medical conference, Tony! Tony mock whined in his head. What do you think is going to happen, Tony? You are not taking a 500 pounds (the suitcase armor only weighed about 125 pounds, thank you) weapon of mass destruction around to a business event. I thought we agreed you needed to wean yourself off your dependency to your suits?

Well it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you!

Not helping, deep breath, think.

“I don’t suppose there is any other way out of here?”

“There’s a windowsill masquerading as a balcony.” Jan answered, aiming for flippant and mostly succeeding. She pointed toward the floor length window with one hand, the other clutched the canister so tight her knuckles were white.

Tony opened said window and leaned in. “Ok, no.” The “balconies” had barely enough space to stand and the next ones were four meters to the right and left. They were on the 36th floor. Tony was not quite desperate enough to attempt that jump. Not to mention that they would only be buying a few minutes until the bad guys followed them. He looked down. The balcony below might be doable, especially if they used the bed sheets as rope.

God, Tony really missed the suit. Once they were out of this he was going to update his bracelets, give them a beacon so he could send the suits from miles and miles away if need be, maybe get rid of the bracelet altogether, subcutaneous implants...

CRASH

Tony and Jan’s head whipped around. This time the thud had been followed by wood splintering and tearing. The door was missing a huge triangle in the left bottom corner and the bad guys were redoubling their assault.

They were out of time. Tony went for the bed sheets, it was their best option.

“I’m not letting them get their hand on this,” Jan muttered, and then, before Tony had the time to do anything she quickly twisted the cap of the canister off, brought it to her face and squirted a stream of purple gas in her mouth.

For the first time in his life, Tony had the opportunity to utter a sentence that he had heard countless times from lab supervisors, Rhodey, Pepper and various authority figures regarding his experimenting habits. “ARE YOU CRAZY?!”

There was only a pile of empty clothes where Jan had been, with a tiny bulge extricating herself from the dress shirt.

“You can’t just do that! The protocols...” Yes, Tony was blindingly aware of the hypocrisy in him sermoning someone else about proper testing before trying on invention, but in his defense it was the first time he had seen someone else do it.

Jan’s head, now the size of Tony’s thumbnail, poked out of the fabric. “Oh chill out,” Her voice sounded like she had played around with helium. “It worked fine. I told you it was theoretically ready for humans, we just had a few more safety hoops to jump through.”

She grabbed a stripe of fabric from the floor and tied it around her neck like one of those sarong things women wore at the beach to cover her naked body. Now that she was out of the pile of clothes Tony could see her clearly. She was tiny, maybe 5, 6 inches tall. More disturbingly she had delicate, translucent wings, like those of dragonflies, protruding from her back. The wings moved and Jan jumped like she was just noticing them. She twisted around to get a good view of them and went rigid. The wings beat once, then twice in a deliberately slow motion before starting in earnest and Jan shot up 5 feet in the air. 

“Ok,” she said, hovering somewhere at Tony’s chest level. “That wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Tony was going to reply but the poor abused door finally gave up the ghost.

“GO, GO, YOU CAN FLY, GO,” Tony shooed her in the direction of the window, his hands going to his belt. I was too late for the bed sheets, but if he looped his belt around the bottom rail and hung from it, it would get him closer to the bottom balcony.

Something was thrown at Tony’s feet. He had the time to think: flash bomb, and then the world turned white.