Consciousness came to Tony in waves.
The first thing he was aware of was the incredibly sterile smell - like the kind in hospitals. Like wherever he was had been drenched in disinfectant four times.
He could hear the groaning next, which he realized with a start was coming from him. Which, of course, led to the realization that his head was pounding.
He was lying on a stiff bed, so he definitely wasn’t in his own room. This was not his designer mattress.
So where the f*ck -
Then he remembered what had happened. How Ross had basically kidnapped all of the Avengers in cold blood.
He opened his eyes to fluorescent lighting piercing his vision. He blinked a few times and a metal ceiling came into focus. It looked a bit familiar.
Ignoring the pain, he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed (if you could even call it a bed). He was in a small cell, and he realized with a flip of his stomach why he recognized his surroundings.
He was on the Raft.
He looked out the glass wall to see many other cells, with his fellow teammates held captive inside. His fellow teammates, who were already awake.
“Well look who decided to join us,” Clint said, leaning against the glass. “I thought we would never see those annoying peepers again!”
“Clint,” Steve said warningly.
“All right, all right. Happy to see you, Stark,” he said with a mock bow.
“Likewise, Legolas,” he said sarcastically.
He took a roll of everyone he could see. Wanda (who was in a straight jacket), Natasha, Steve, Bucky, Sam, Clint, and Scott were all in his direct line of vision. He couldn’t see the two cells next two him.
“Hey Cap,” he said, “who’s on my right?”
“You know Tones,” the voice of Rhodey said, “you could’ve asked me yourself.”
“Whoops,” he said with about as much feeling as a poem about a doorknob. “Guess it slipped my mind. On my left?”
For some reason, Steve started laughing a bit.
“Shut up,” Sam said, unamused. “Are we still on that?”
Tony didn’t know what they were talking about, nor did he care. “Anyone with a few brain cells gonna answer me?”
“It’s empty,” Bucky said. “It’s the only one.”
So Ross basically had all of them trapped.
His head snapped to where Steve was still laughing. “Is it really the best time for this?”
Cap sobered up a bit. “Sorry. But do you think there’s anything better to do?”
“I don’t know,” he said, feigning ignorance. “Maybe talk about an escape plan?”
“You’ve been out for hours, Tony,” Sam said. “Every time we try anything, we get shocked by these babies.” He pointed to a shock collar around his neck.
Tony brought a tentative hand up to his neck, and sure enough, a large shock collar rested there. “Sh*t.”
“Cap said the same thing,” Clint said. “You should’ve seen it - nearly everyone said ‘lang-‘“
“As much as this bickering is entertaining to the rest of us,” Natasha said, sounding bored out of her mind, “what are we gonna do? I’m about ready to kill Ross in seventy two different ways.”
“I don’t know,” Steve said. “The accords were eradicated over six months ago. So Ross is definitely outside of the law on this.”
Steve might’ve kept talking, but Tony wasn’t listening.
Six months ago.
That was when the youngest member of the Avengers had died.
It had been a normal Thursday. Avengers Tower had started off as it usually did: around the breakfast table.
The kid was inhaling his cereal like it was air and talking a mile a minute, which should’ve been physically impossible. But this kid defied impossible.
“You’re going to wear out your tongue out if you keep talking,” Tony said with an underlying tone of fondness that he couldn’t completely mask with annoyance.
“Well, I can’t help it if - shoot, I’m late!” he said, jumping out of his chair as he checked his watch. “I’ve got a lab today in chemistry - worth ten percent of my grade. Wish me luck!”
“Good luck,” half of the Avengers said half-heartedly. The rest of them just waved as the kid grabbed his backpack and jumped in the elevator, smiling brighter than the sun.
“See you later, kid,” Tony called. “I’m picking you up, remember?”
“Yeah, see you, To-“ the elevator doors cut him off as they closed shut.
Tony turned back to his waffles and saw that most of the others were smirking at him. “What?”
“Oh, nothing,” Natasha said, sipping her coffee. “Just the fact that you let a kid melt the ice surrounding your heart.”
“Okay, first of all, there is no ice surrounding my heart.” Half the Avengers snorted. “And if there was, I wouldn’t let some kid melt it.” Cue more laughter.
“Face it, Tones,” Scott said, “you’ve joined the Dad Club.”
“It’s a small club,” Clint said. “We’re always looking for new members.”
“Whatever,” Tony said, rolling his eyes. “You guys love him just as much as I do.”
“Yeah, but you’re the one he looks up to,” Sam said through a donut.
Tony supposed that was more or less true.
Ever since the kid’s aunt had died (man, the kid had been a train wreck) a little under a year ago, he had joined Tony in the Avengers Tower. Tony had taken guardianship of him (nothing as fancy as adoption), and they had both grown accustomed to their new lives.
Then the accords were declared unconstitutional in the US, and the UN had gotten rid of them. The rest of the avengers made up, and Tony forgave Bucky and Steve (with some help from the kid, of course).
They now lived together in the tower, and the kid was the newest official member of the avengers. Life was good, and he loved that kid like he was his own son.
But he didn’t need the others to know that.
“Like I said: whatever.”
“It’s not like you got him a brand new set of headphones you were going to give him after school, you know, to accommodate for his sensitive hearing,” Clint said. “Oh, wait...”
Tony threw his fork down and stood up. “You guys are the worst.”
“Don’t mention it!” Clint called after him as he left the room.
The rest of the day was pretty standard. Tony was in the lab for most of it, working in silence, which was why he was startled when his phone started ringing.
He looked over at the screen and was confused when he saw the caller ID. “Hey Fri, what class does the kid have right now?”
“Chemistry, sir,” Friday said with a light chirp.
Tony smirked. “He probably wants help with his lab. You know what, he can figure it out himself.”
So Tony let the call go to voicemail.
It must have been about twenty minutes later when Steve’s caller ID showed up on his phone.
He picked up. “Hey, what’s-“
“Tony, something’s happened.”
The super soldiers tone had Tony up and walking to the elevator in a matter of seconds.
“What happened? Is it Ross again? I swear, if that son of a-“
“Something happened at the school,” he said with a shaky tone.
Tony’s blood ran cold. “What?”
“Get down here. Now.”
The call clicked off.
That trip was the longest of his life, even though the Iron Man suit made it less than two minutes long.
When he got there, he wished he hadn’t.
The whole building was black, with smoke rising from it.
There had been a fire.
A whole sea of students filled the parking lot, and he landed next to where Steve was talking to the Principal in hushed tones.
“What happened?” he asked after he stepped out of the suit, trying to keep his voice from shaking.
The principal looked at him sorrowfully. “I’m sorry. The chemistry lab was today, and one of our students thought it would be funny to switch around some chemicals in the lab. There was a small explosion. The room quickly caught on fire, and we had to evacuate the building.” He paused for a moment, and he had yet to look into the genius’s eyes. “Luckily, no one outside of the lab room was injured. A few students that were part of the experiment were burned, but they were mostly unharmed.
“Unfortunately, the student who had mixed the switched chemicals was severely injured. They were unable to make it out of the building. I’m sorry.”
Tony knew in his heart why the principal was apologizing. But his mind didn’t want to believe it. “Who was it?”
“Tony,” Steve said, voice tight. “Peter’s gone.”
“Play it again, Friday.”
“Hey, Tony. Something kinda happened a’ the school. Could you come pick me up? I swear I’m not in trouble with m’ teachers. There was a bi’ of a blas’ and then . . . I dunno. ‘S gettin kinda hot . . . I can’ think straigh’. But I swear I won’ be late when y’ pick me up la’er. I’ve gotta go . . . My aunt’s callin’ me. I think I see ‘er . . . I think she wants me to get up n’ walk wi’ her . . . but I can’t move. Bu’ I’ll try to la’er when you ge’ here . . . ‘m kinda tired . . . G’nigh’ . . . see ya later.”
“Sir, your heart rate seems to be elevating each time I play the voicemail. Are you certain you would-“
“Yes. Play it again.”
“Hey, Tony. Something kinda happened. . . .”
Tony’s hand clenched around his glass. He had been doing so well with alcohol lately. But it hardly mattered now.
If he had picked up the phone, Peter would still be alive.
It was all his fault.
Tony shook himself out of his memories. He couldn’t focus on that right now.
He looked around at the other cells. The others were either sitting on their cots or pacing around their tiny areas.
“So, any ideas on what we are supposed to do?” Tony asked no one in particular.
As if he had triggered it, the lights went out.
“What the h*ll?” Clint said, annoyed.
A crackly voice came over the speakers. “Lights out. No more talking until morning.”
Tony had no desire to test the voltage in the shock collars, so he dropped onto the bed and sighed.
Memories it is, I guess . . .
After a long night of tossing and turning and eventual sleep, Tony was woken up by a screeching guard.
“Wake up! You either get out of those beds or deal with the metal around your necks! Up! Now!”
He grudgingly got out of his less than comfortable bed and leaned against the glass wall. “Is this nec-“
“No talking!” the guard shouted in his direction. “Now,” he said, turning back to everyone else as he circled the room, banging on the glass. “I was told to tell you that Ross will be here tomorrow to talk to you. He said he can’t wait to show you something special. Until then, you have the freedom to do as you please in your cells.”
And he left without a second glance.
“So,” Clint said when once they were alone, save for a few generic guards. “What are we gonna do?”
“We’re stuck,” Steve said. “There’s nothing to do.”
“Aren’t you the one who always tells us to sail our ships with positivity?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, cause he’s always been great at that,” Bucky said with an eye roll.
"Wonder what the 'something special' thing that Ross wants to show us is," Tony said, trying to stop the grandfathers before they could even start.
“Knowing Ross, it won’t be good,” Sam said, plopping back down onto his cot. Tony followed suit, only slower. His old age didn’t appreciate him standing for too long.
“Hey Wanda,” Tony said, looking over at her. “You can do the mind thing. Any idea what it is?”
She shrugged through her jacket. “I can’t really read minds in this thing, but I almost got a sense of . . . amusement? It’s hard to say.”
“Great,” Rhodey said from somewhere on Tony’s right. “Now we know it can’t be good.”
“So no one has any idea on how to escape?” Scott asked, pacing.
“No, we don’t,” Tony said.
He was lying.
He had something special up his sleeve, too. But before he used it, he had to know what Ross had in store for them.
And with the twenty-four hour surveillance, he couldn’t exactly voice his thoughts dead on.
So the hours went on in boredom, only broken by a few servings of a disgusting looking slop that made Tony’s insides want to be on his outside. So he didn’t eat anything for that first day on the raft.
Before they knew it, they were calling lights out.
Tony didn’t know if he should’ve been scared or nervous for the next day. Probably both.
But, as he drifted off into an uneasy sleep, he decided that anger and spite were the best ways to go when it came to Ross.
At least you’re not here, kid, he thought as sleep finally found him.
Peter cried silently as the guards shoved him into solitary. He wasn’t sure what he did to make them mad, but he was far beyond the point of being embarrassed by tears.
They had seen him cry enough. He stopped caring a while ago.
It wasn’t like he would ever get out of this.
Everyone he had known thought he was dead.
He wished that he was.