Tony’s head dropped back down, the last burst of energy spent. They’d been murdered. His parents had been murdered. For years, decades, he’d been sure his father had killed his mum by driving while drunk. He’d felt guilty, thinking that his father might have been drinking because of their fight. And now it turned out that they had both been murdered. And Rogers had known. Rogers had known for who knows how long but hadn’t told him. He had kept quiet and had instead used his money and his property to look for his parents’ murderer.
Without the adrenaline, the wounds he had sustained today (God, had it really only been one day?) were making themselves known. Tony knew that he needed to call for help, regardless of how little he wanted anyone to see him like this. The suit had no power, so he would not be able to get out of here on his own. With the helmet as damaged as it was and the suit without power, he could not contact anyone that way. He needed to see if he could use anything of the technology in the bunker to call for help. But for that he needed to get out of the suit. Without power, it was a dead weight, keeping him pinned to the ground. He tried to push himself back up but dropped back down. His left arm wouldn’t support him and the sudden flare of pain in his ribs suggested that he’d broken some. He gasped for breath, waiting for the pain to pass.
He heard a door open and sluggishly turned his head. He hoped it was Vision or T’Challa who’d followed him or the Russian authorities. Hell, he’d even take Rogers coming back long enough to call for help for him.
It wasn’t. In the door stood a group of five men in HYDRA uniform. “Would you look at this, then?” one of them commented. “Captain America left us a present to make up for taking the Asset and getting the other Winter Soldiers killed.”
Tony’s eyes widened in fear. He tried once again to move but couldn’t. He knew better than to assume HYDRA would simply kill him. He and his armour, damaged as it was, were too valuable for that. And he had just seen video proof of what HYDRA could and would do to someone with valuable skills who fell into their hands.
His heart was in his throat. This was worse than Afghanistan. The Ten Rings had needed him aware enough to work for them. HYDRA on the other hand was obviously able to brainwash people into becoming weapons for them, cold and without emotions, without memories of their former life.
No. No! He couldn’t- They couldn’t –
The fear, the pain seemed to break something open in him.
Stay back, he wanted to scream.
Four of the HYDRA soldiers dropped to their knees, holding their head. The fifth, their leader, it seemed, remained standing however. “A guide,” he breathed. “Even better.”
Tony’s world went dark, his remaining energy spend. The last he saw was a streak of white.
Some time earlier:
Erik stretched out his hearing, trying to find out what was happening. He gratefully leaned into Charles’ touch, letting his gifts as both a telepath and a guide extent his range. When the news of the fight at the airport between two factions within the Avengers had broken, the X-Men had taken their jet to Europe to hopefully stop the situation from escalating even further and destroying what little goodwill the general public still had for the enhanced community. They had of course followed the coverage about the so-called Sokovian Accords. While they had not been involved in public fights in quite a while, they knew that sooner or later they would be back in the public eye and a piece of legislature like the Accords, if set up correctly, could offer them protection.
“I know that road.”
“We’ve found them,” Charles told the others while Erik concentrated on what was happening at the base. He passed the direction of the base on to Alex Summers who was flying the jet.
“He killed my mum.”
Erik flinched. It had been decades but he still remembered the day he had said something similar on a beach in Cuba, also filled with such anger and pain, unable to think of anything but avenging his mother. He remembered how the traumatic loss had taken over his life, making him turn away from everyone around him, making him almost loose...
Charles ran his hand down Erik’s arm to interlace their fingers. He wordlessly squeezed his hand, reminding Erik that it hadn’t happened, that he was not alone anymore. He had, they had a family again, and quite a big one at that.
Erik sent him a brief smile. “Thank you, Charles.” He left their fingers entangled, using the contact both as an anchor for his sense of hearing and comfort at the reminder.
Hank growled deep in his throat. “What are those fools doing? He is obviously emotionally compromised “ They were close enough now that he could hear it as well now, even though his own guide could not help him extent his hearing range like Charles could. He couldn’t believe that Rogers was fighting him against Iron Man with the Winter Soldier instead of trying to deescalate the situation.
Charles tensed suddenly. “They’re not alone. Others have arrived at the base but are hiding their presence.”
“Apart from the mastermind of this whole clusterfuck and... is that T’Challa?” Hank asked.
“Yes.” Charles’ eyes widened. “They’re HYDRA.”
“Shit. We still have some way to go,” Alex warned.
“Open the hatch and let me down or have Kurt teleport me over there,” Peter said. “I can run quicker than the jet can fly.” When he saw Erik and Charles hesitate, he gripped Erik’s shoulder. “Come on, Dad. The quicker Stark gets back up the better.”
After a long moment of consideration and silent discussion, Erik and Charles nodded. “Go.”
Peter and Kurt returned the nod, then Kurt teleported them away.
“Peter will be fine,” Charles assured Erik mentally. “He’s an experienced fighter.”
“I don’t want HYDRA to get their hands on him or his DNA again,” Erik replied. He knew that his son was an adult, had been for a while now, but he still worried for him, especially where HYDRA was concerned. No matter how much good came from it in the end, he did not want him to go through the trauma of being captured by HYDRA again.
“They won’t, we won’t let them.”
They all jerked when Tony’s fear and pain suddenly washed over them, projected in what had to be a mile wide radius. Alex and Charles quickly grabbed their sentinels’ arms to try and keep them from getting lost in their reaction to a guide, hurt and in danger. No matter how well trained or well controlled, a guide in pain could still affect a sentinel on an instinctual level.
“Did you know Stark’s a guide?” Alex asked.
Charles shook his head. “I had no idea.” He concentrated on Stark, doing his best to filter out his panic as much as possible. “He had no idea, either. He’s just come online.” He hoped that Erik would be too distracted to remember that T’Challa had been at the base, that he had left Stark behind. He was sure there was a reason, though he did not want to risk stretching his telepathy to check what it was, afraid Erik would notice and attack the plane still very much in his reach. Their focus now had to be on Stark, on saving him from HYDRA and bringing him home.
When they arrived at the base, Kurt and Peter had already knocked the five HYDRA agents out. Between Peter’s speed and Kurt’s teleportation, they’d been out cold before they realized that they were no longer alone with Stark. Alex went to check that they were still unconscious and tie them up, just in case, while Peter and Kurt cleared the rest of the base and Charles kept an ‘eye’ out for anyone else alive somewhere, making sure there were no other surprises waiting for them. Erik knelt down beside Iron Man and started peeling away the remains of his armour to let Hank check on him. He started at the head, so Hank would be able to check his pulse. He started working his way down but when he came to the chest, he froze and hissed.
“Erik?” Hank asked when he didn’t continue.
Erik forced himself to take a few deep breath to reign in his temper. They couldn’t risk the armour moving in reaction to his anger. “I’m afraid to take it off. His sternum is artificial, made partially out of metal. I’m no doctor but I’m quite sure it’s not supposed to have that form. Or be made out of multiple parts. If I take off the chest piece, I’m afraid the pieces of the sternum or his ribs will shift.”
“Damn it. Take off the rest of his armour, then levitate him to the jet. We need to get him to a hospital as quickly as possible.”
“I could take him,” Kurt offered.
Hank considered it, then shook his head. “It’s too risky. At least some of his ribs have to be broken if his sternum is damaged that badly. A wrong shift and one of them might pierce his lungs. Erik can keep him stable during the flight.”
Erik finished taking off the more bulky parts of armour on Stark’s arms and legs, leaving just a small, light bit behind he could use to support his legs while lifting him with his powers. They made their way back to the jet, moving as quickly as they could without risking jarring Stark.
“Where should I take us?” Alex asked as they got back on the jet.
Erik and Charles looked to Hank, deferring to his judgment on Stark’s injuries.
Hank considered their options. They could take him to a hospital in the nearest city for a first treatment, have them stabilize him further for the hours-long flight back to the US. But did the hospitals in the vicinity have the means and the experience for dealing with Stark’s wounds and the unusual aspects of his health? His nostrils flared as he consciously smelled for blood. There was of course the blood from all the cuts and bruises on his face and the bruises on his chest but nothing that suggested any internal bleeding. So he was probably stable enough for transport now. “Charles, can you-?”
“I can keep an eye on his mind, alert you if there are signs that he’s slipping into a coma,” Charles finished for him. He bit back the ‘or worse’.
“Then take us back home.”
Tony slowly came to. Everything hurt. He tried to figure out what was worse, the pain in his left arm, in his chest or in his head. What had happened? Had he been on a mission as Iron Man? His memory seemed a bit hazy but the regular beeping beside him suggested that he was in a hospital or medical in the compound. He needed further information. He swallowed a few times to wet his dry throat. “JAR- FRIDAY?”
“No, it’s Tuesday,” an unknown male voice said.
Tony’s eyes flew open and he tried to sit up, trying to get away from whoever it was. He hissed in a startled breath when the pain in his chest flared up. Okay, that decided which pain what worse.
“Careful there,” another man said.
Tony’s gaze raced across the room. He had no idea where he was or who the two man were. They were both around his age, one with light brown, the other with silver hair. The room looked like a regular bedroom, with warm, cream coloured walls and huge windows that were letting the sun in. The only unusual thing were the medical devices beside the bed which were monitoring his vitals. The comfortable bed, medical assistance, lack of shackles and lack of weapons would suggest that he had not been taken captive by enemies but too much had happened to him to trust appearances.
“What do you remember?” the brown haired man asked.
Tony forced himself to calm down and take stock of what he knew. The meeting with Thunderbolt Ross to inform the Avengers, at least the ones who had obviously turned a blind eye to every bit of international news for the past two years, about the Accords. Aunt Peggy dying and him being kept too busy to go to her funeral. The bombing in Vienna. The fight against his team, at the people he had thought were his friends or at least his allies, at the airport in Germany. Siberia. The video. The fight.
His eyes burnt at the memory of seeing the last moments of his mother’s life, seeing her being choked to death, hearing his father (his dad! His dad who hadn’t killed her with his drinking after all!) beg for her life, at Ste- Rogers’ betrayal. Roger’s had not cared about his parents’ fate, no matter his supposed friendship with his father. (No matter that Howard had cared more for finding Rogers than for his family, for his own son.) He hadn’t cared that he was destroying the team, all for one man. But now was not to the time to deal with it. Not with these strangers and him who knew where. His breath caught when he remembered his last memory before losing consciousness, being found by HYDRA.
“We’re not HYDRA,” the man said. He gave a brief grin. “I’m not one of the telepaths, don’t worry. It’s just an understandable fear for you to have, considering where and how we found you. Have you heard of Professor Charles Xavier and his school?”
“Yes, I have.” He considered them suspiciously. “You don’t look like either the professor or Mr. Lehnsherr.”
They laughed. “No, I have too much hair and too little of a shark’s grin to be either,” the brown haired man said, running a hand through his full, brown hair.
“Well, Dad and I have a similar hair colour now but I don’t think I could pass for him,” the other said.
“Who are you then?” Tony asked.
The brown haired man winced. “Oops, manners. My husband’s always nagging me about it.” He paused. “Don’t tell him I said that. Or that I forgot, ‘kay?”
Tony just stared at him, not sure how to reply.
“Right, I’m Alex Summers and that guy there’s Peter Maximoff,” he introduced them.
“Maximoff?” Tony repeated.
“I’m not related to that HYDRA bitch,” Peter said. “Well, not recently. It think. My mom’s from Eastern Europe originally. There might be some relation further back. Records are kinda spotty back there.” He frowned slightly, staring off into space. “I’m not sure if the blood thing counts.”
Tony wasn’t quite sure if he was hallucinating, suffering from a concussion, missing part of the conversation or if he was simply... a bit strange. “The blood thing?” He felt like a bloody parrot.
“Right, so, some decades back we fought a mutant called Apocalypse and I broke a leg during the fight. Somehow HYDRA had found out about my abilities and that Magneto’s my dad, so they kidnapped me and my family. Seems they didn’t get the memo that pissing of Dad is a really bad idea. Anyway, they saved us before they could do anything much to us but they took some blood from me and my twin sister, to use for another type of supersoldiers. HYDRA couldn’t resist the irony when a pair of twins called Pietro and Wanda Maximoff volunteered for their experiments and they used our blood, giving them similar powers to ours,” Peter explained. Seriously, those HYDRA agents had to have been suicidal, taking Magneto’s children after the way he had reacted to his wife and daughter being killed. But at least something during the fight to get them back had convinced Erik to stay at the school and to give a relationship with Charles another try. Peter preferred to concentrate on that, instead of the memory of his, fortunately short, time as a HYDRA prisoner. Having a broken leg which made him unable to run had been a nightmare all on its own. Being then kidnapped, along with his mom and sister, being unable to protect them, had been nearly unbearable.
Tony took a moment to process all the information. He considered Peter, both his appearance and mannerism. There were some similarities to Pietro, the silver hair and the way some unconscious movements seemed to blur, too quick for a normal human to see, but his build and manner were completely different. There really was no chance of confusing the two. As for their powers, well, genetics and such were not his thing, he could certainly imagine HYDRA trying to recreate mutant abilities. It also made sense that the sceptre needed some other compound to give them their abilities. He could have believed Wanda getting her powers from it, since both she had the sceptre were able to control someone’s mind but he had been confused by Pietro’s.
Alex gave Tony a moment, then said: “If you know about us and about the school, then you can probably imagine that we are interested in the Accords and in them being successful, since they would be a start towards us getting legal protection. Hell, just the fact that they make it clear that Enhanced still have human rights is an improvement. The part about acts of self-defence and framework for Enhanced who break laws were just a bonus. So we followed you to Siberia.” He decided not to mention T’Challa also being there but taking off with Rogers and Barnes without checking on his supposed ally. Stark shouldn’t have to deal with or worry about that yet, not when he had only just woken up. Though he might not have to deal with it, period. Alex figured Charles and Erik would have words with T’Challa before letting him near Stark. As would the rest of them. Past experience told him that he was now meeting their newest baby brother. “We heard what happened in the bunker and arrived in time to take out the HYDRA soldiers before they could take you. We brought you back here, to the school, and took care of the worst of your wounds. One of the doctors, the medicals doctors, I mean, will talk to you about them later.”
“How long was I out?”
“It’s been three days since we brought you back,” Peter answered.
“Three-?” Tony pushed himself up, clenching his teeth to keep from crying out from the pain. There was no time to waste on his wounds. “I need to go. I have to... Ross... they will...” He had to return to New York immediately. He just knew that Ross would use Roger’s actions to try and push through greater restrictions, give the US military more control if not absolute control of enhanced Americans. With the rest of the Avengers locked up or on the run and Rhodey in the hospital (Don’t think about the prognosis, not now, not yet), he was also all that was standing between people like Ross and Vision. And Peter, now that he had involved him in an international fight. God, what had he been thinking?
“You’re not up to going anywhere,” Alex told him bluntly. “We’re already on it. Erik and Charles have contacted the Accords Council and are working to keep the Accords from becoming legislature aimed against the enhanced community. Last I heard, the Council was calming down and is willing to negotiate some clauses we’d like added or changed. Hank’s in Washington with Mystique. They’re in the process of getting rid Ross.” He grimaced. “I’ll have to fly out there as well later this week, get the opinion among the military more against the kind of experiments Ross loves to run. Nothing like a Vietnam Veteran talking about losing comrades to experiments by their own superiors to get them to listen.” He shook his head, preferring not to remember that time yet if he didn’t have to. “You need to tell us if there is a doctor we should be contacting to deal with your chest because from the way everyone was cursing down in medical, I’d say it’s a mess.”
Tony sank back down, the more immediate panic calmed. Ross and the Council were two of his biggest worries, so he was grateful for the assistance. Grateful and also very surprised. With the Avengers, he’d hardly got help even when he had asked for it, never mind them helping proactively.
He went through what else needed his attention. “I need to call Pepper, let her know what happened and where I am and ask her... No, I need to check on them. Rhodey and the rest of my team, I mean. I need to know what happened to them after the airport, after I left for Siberia.” Rhodey. He needed to know how his Honeybear was doing, if he was really paralyzed. And Underoos. Was hurt badly? He hadn’t had the time to properly check before sending him back to the US. God, seriously, what had he been thinking, bringing the boy to the fight, putting him in danger? Vision, too, needed help. He was in suspense, legally speaking, since it was not really established if he was a person and therefore had the rights of a person. If Ross got his hands on him... Tony didn’t want to imagine it. He might find it hard to interact with Vision since his voice reminded him of JARVIS and the loss of his friend but he knew it wasn’t Vision’s fault and he should not have to pay for it.
“You sound like Peter when he gets going,” Alex said. “We’ll get you a phone so you can call her and your doctor, then take care of checking on the rest of your team while you rest.” He looked to Peter. “Can you fetch him a phone?”
“Sure.” Peter had barely finished speaking, then was gone.
“Why?” Tony asked.
“Why are you doing this?”
Peter shrugged, suddenly back in the room. “You’ve been adopted.” He placed the phone on the bed beside Tony.
“W-what?” Tony couldn’t, didn’t want to believe it. What else had been a lie? His parents weren’t even his parents?
“Not as a child. After what happened, what we learned, Erik and Charles have basically adopted you,” Alex explained. “Not like it’s the first time, most of us got adopted by either or both of them.” He nodded to Peter. “Peter and Wendy are the only ones who are actually related to one of them.”
“Also you’re like their love child,” Peter added.
“Between, you know, the thing with your mom and the way you were trying for compromise even after everything and your attitude and the way you rock the longer hair and beard. ‘cause it might not look like it now but the professor totally did too when I met him.” Peter paused and stared at Tony, then turned to Alex: “Hey, he was already born when Wendy met Dad and the professor, right?”
“Ignore him,” Alex suggested to Tony. “But yeah, they way you remind them of themselves and each other is probably part of why they adopted you.”
Tony turned his head to the side. “They shouldn’t. I’m not... I’m...”
“Dangerous? Breaking everything you touch? Too damaged to love? Not deserving of love?” Alex suggested casually.
Tony’s head whipped back around, surprised by how easily he’d guessed what he’d been thinking.
“I’ve been there, you know,” Alex said. “And believe me, you won’t be able to talk them out of it.” He still remembered feeling like that, like he was less deserving of love, when he had first met them, even after decades of being part of this weird, large family, even after decades into his bond with his Beast, his Sentinel. Unfortunately he and Tony were not to only ones to feel or have felt that way. Far too many past and current students had experienced rejection, hate and betrayal from those who were supposed to love and protect them when they manifested their powers and abilities. As a result, most of the instructors, both fulltime and part-time, had experience dealing with new arrivals who were scared to trust, scared to be betrayed again, so he was confident that they would be able to deal with Stark’s issues as well and make him feel welcome.
Tony looked from one to the other. It sounded strange, unbelievable. He had had to deal with everything alone for longer than he wanted to dwell on. The other Avengers had always demanded his time, his money and his inventions but had not been there for him when he needed someone, even if it was just to talk. Things between him and Pepper were strained since their final break-up and they had therefore decided to concentrate on their professional relationship first before trying to rebuild their friendship. His platypus tried his best, he knew, but he had responsibilities to the army and could not be around as much as Tony would like. He forced himself not to think about how his fall in Leipzig might change this, might make Rhodey turn his back on him. And yet these two were not just offering their help but informing him that they had already started, along with others. He wasn’t ready yet to deal with the ‘adoption’ thing.
He should have every reason not to trust what Summers and Maximoff were telling him, had in fact every reason not to, yet he believed them. “I do believe you. I just don’t know why,” he finally admitted.
“Yeah, that’s another thing we need to talk about,” Alex said. “You believe me because we’re both Guides and so you can tell that I’m not lying.”
“‘Guide’?” Tony repeated. “That one HYDRA goon called me that but I have no idea what he meant.”
“Right, quick crash course before you fall asleep again. There are people with all five senses heightened. They’re called Sentinels. They form a bond, a partnership with a Guide who watches their back and helps them keep control over their senses. Guides often have some form of mental gift, like reading someone’s emotions and intentions. Some also learn to project emotions but I’ve never managed that,” Alex said.
“That sounds like a mutant. I’m not a mutant,” Tony protested.
“We thought as well that it was just some kind of secondary mutation some mutants have but in the 90s a doctor thesis was published about a police officer in Washington state who’s a Sentinel. The author of the thesis later publically declared his thesis a fraud but we knew better. We visited and found that the officer was really a Sentinel and the author of the thesis his Guide. But they both did not have the X-gene,” Peter continued.
“We can explain it better after you’ve got more sleep,” Alex said. “We also have a copy of the thesis and that guy’s contact, if you want to read that. Now make your calls before Jean yells at us.”
“You’d think she’d be less likely to yell at you, since she’s basically your sister-in-law,” Peter said.
Alex snorted. “That only makes it worse. And don’t forget Scott and Logan’s reaction to anyone upsetting their girlfriend. I can do without getting judgemental looks from my little brother, thanks.”
Tony was pretty sure this was too crazy to be real. It was probably all just one huge hallucination brought on by blood loss and hypothermia. But on the off chance it wasn’t... He reached for the phone and dialled. “Friday, baby?”