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Exchanges of Power

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It was dark. It was dark and his head hurt. It was dark, his head hurt, and he tasted blood in the back of his throat. He slipped back into unconsciousness.

It was dark.   It was dark and his head hurt. Wait… it wasn’t completely dark. He struggled to stay awake. His arms hurt. He shut his eyes for a moment.

He opened his eyes. He was in a very dim room. His head hurt, and he couldn’t quite focus. Concussion, he supposed. His arms hurt. His back hurt. He remembered his name; he was Tony Stark.

He was kneeling in a cell: his ankles chained together; his arms chained out to his sides and up. His back hurt from hanging against his restraints. He had a concussion, and very probably broken bones. His chest was wrapped tightly, which may have been to support broken ribs, or may have been to cut off the light of his arc reactor. His name was Tony Stark. He was Iron Man. He was a prisoner again.

He was a prisoner of Victor Von Doom.

Tony waited in the dim room for someone to come and get him. Doom wanted something -otherwise he would be dead- but what? Probably the codes to his suit, to start with; then he would want the access codes to Stark Industries computers. Tony turned that thought over. Unless there was something specific he needed first, it would be that: codes to the suit, then the main computers. Doom was easy to see through. He liked to think he was so brilliant and so tricky, opaque and hard to read, but he was a piece of glass over a large print book.

After Afghanistan Tony had made plans in case he was captured by almost any of his enemies. After Obie – it still hurt to think about Obie- he made plans in case he was captured or threatened by most of his friends. Doom had left him alive because he, Tony Stark, was a genius who could give him what he wanted: just like the last stupid fucks.

***

Tony had lost track. He thought this was the fourth torture session, but it might be the fifth. Doom was, unfortunately, way better at the whole torture thing than anyone else he’d dealt with. The part of Tony that wasn’t busy trying to breathe, or scream, was mentally adding up the amount of drugs it would take to ever sleep again, and coming up with a pretty scary number.

Doom was ranting at him again about his superiority, and the codes. Tony vaguely remembered that he’d already given him the fake codes, the ones that blew up the suit. He’d almost hoped Doom would fall for that one- God, the man was so stupid- but if he had he wouldn’t be demanding the real codes. Tony thought he better give in now and give him the real ones. Doom was pretty likely to kill him accidentally at this rate. He started trying to tell him the codes and got about half of them out before he passed out.

When he woke up he was still hanging in the torture device. As usual, after the session stopped he couldn’t think at all for several minutes, but, since he couldn’t do much of anything except hang there and shake, it didn’t matter. As his mind cleared he saw Doom ranting at him- saw, because his ears hadn’t stopped ringing yet. Doom’s voice started being intelligible after a while, damn it.

“The entire world will KNEEL before me, and you, you pathetic lackwit, will not stand in my way, for you have fallen into my hands and I WILL break you! You dare resist the…”

Tony tuned him out and started wheezing out the codes. He hoped the damn fool would actually listen to him and take the stupid thing. He was rapidly revising his estimate of Dooms intelligence downward. The guy could make stuff, sure, but the way he got lost in his own psycho ranting?

When he hallucinated a familiar voice answering back to Doom he almost laughed. Great, his subconscious sounded like Loki.

“Really Victor, you sound like a cheap melodrama.”

Except why was Doom answering? Tony opened his eyes with an effort.

Doom was standing in his usual spotlight. The light was always on him during these sessions. It was so the only thing you could see clearly was him. He wasn’t facing Tony, however, or the technicians at the monitors: he was facing off toward the door.

“… I shall BREAK him; he shall serve VON DOOM!” Tony had missed a lot.

“I think you already have, Victor,“ said the silky, amused voice in the shadows. “He’s been saying numbers at you, is that what you wanted? Or not…”

Loki walked out of the darkness and up to the edge of the circle of light around Doom. Whatever blood Tony had left went cold. Loki?

“Is whoever he was really worth making me wait for you, Victor? Because I won’t be treated like one of your lackeys.” Loki’s voice was light, amused sounding, and if Von Doom didn’t hear the threat there he was a bigger fool than Tony thought.

Doom turned away from Loki to face the technicians. “What has the wretch said?”

While the technician repeated back the numbers, Loki walked to the edge of the computer banks. Tony could see a faint green glimmer on his fingertips as he touched them.

“Loki?” Tony didn’t know he’d said it out loud until Loki turned to look at him.

“Victor…” Loki said in an almost conversational voice, “Who is this?”

Doom spun around and flared his cape out for show, as always. “He WAS Tony Stark, NOW he is my prisoner!”

Tony really wondered if he was just hallucinating again, because Loki did exactly what Tony wanted to do: rolled his eyes.

“Did he give you what you want?” Loki asked. Tony was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to come down out of this one, because now Loki sounded like he was talking to a child. He had that ‘oh so reasonable’ tone that set Tony’s teeth on edge.

Von Doom laughed and boomed out in his best villain monologue voice: “YES! I have...”

Loki cut him off drily: “So is there anything else you want from him?”

Doom spun to face Loki, who was still staying just outside the circle of light. “I shall have the codes to Stark Industries computers, once I have taken those I shall...”

Loki cut him off again, “Yes, yes, I’m quite sure.”   Tony wondered if Doom was going to explode.

“So, since you’ve broken him, why not just get the codes now, so we can get back to business?” Loki sounded like someone trying to coax a recalcitrant toddler into finishing his peas.

Doom was breathing hard and flexing his mailed hand into a fist over and over. Apparently Loki was valuable enough as an ally to not try to blast him for interrupting his monologueing…

Doom took a couple of strides to... oh no, no, not again!

Pain snapped him back in the restraints without warning. His teeth snapped together and he tasted blood. Blue white lightning flashed behind his eyelids. His mind whited out in shock. He heard words but he couldn’t make sense of them.

The pain stopped.

He vaguely became aware of Loki’s voice, sounding dismissive. Doom answering.

If he hadn’t been preparing to answer this question, with the codes waiting to be given, he honestly would have missed it when Doom demanded them. He babbled them out without thinking. Loki’s voice and Doom’s voice went on for a while, then silence.

He was going to be dragged back to his cell again. He didn’t bother to open his eyes. It was over. Doom had lost; he just didn’t know it yet.

But a cold feeling crept into his mind.

He hadn’t planned on Loki.