Chapter 1: Hostage
Why was everyone calling his name? He was fine... wait was he falling? Free falling was probably a bad thing. There was suddenly a yell that he doubted was human, it sounded like a guttural roar from a mourning animal. It hurt his heart a little for some reason. Though it do not hurt as bad as the quickly approaching darkness with came with the feeling of his brain (well not literally as the brain had no nerves to detect pain) tightening harshly as if there was a particularly vicious elastic band around it. The pain and darkness swung at him with the force of a sledgehammer, it was slightly a relief as he did not really want to see how quickly he could make a pretty dent in the ground which was quickly approaching.
His head hurt, his ears rang and the light stung his eyes. He vaguely remembered falling and being fairly sure he would be a Tony Stark splattered shape on the ground, to be honest he expected worst unless it was a dream but this place smelt like a hospital. He must have done something to get here but to be honest he had worst hangovers.
Eyes wide but not really seeing he sat up trying to focus on the blurry landscape which definitely had people in it, as his eyes slowly focused he noted that most had uniforms. Law enforcement ones as well as the medical ones he expected to see. Well crap, he did not cope well with authority, never had.
He must have done something stupid, due to the massive blank he was drawing from his memory he put it to alcohol or (possibly as well as) drugs. Drugs were a good reason for him to think he was freefalling to his death but turning up feeling no worse than a mild concussion or hangover. He was good at hallucinating under the influence although it was not something to boast about.
“Whatever you think I did, I didn’t do it. James Rhodes coerced me into doing it if there is any actual evidence that I have in fact done something and I demand bail.” He stated matter of factly if slightly panicky, this did not seem to fit quite right in his brain as if his reason came from another jigsaw entirely but he was still trying to jam it into another one despite knowing it would not fit. And he probably just landed poor Rhodey into something.
“And if I was in the sky, I have no idea how I got there so I was not trespassing upon any air space.” He added that part in case he did somehow get into the sky; it was better safe than sorry. “Well that’s sorted then.” He said dismissively to the law enforcement people as if that answered all their questions although he was pretty sure he was the one who really had the most questions.
“Mr. Stark, what is the last thing you remember.” That voice was surprisingly pleasant and he found himself listening to it despite all odds. He added it up to the fact that he did not really know the answer as the memories did not add up, as well as that it was the fact that the man looked like a space pirate with his eye-patch and leather outfit going on. If he was going to answer anyone’s questions he would answer a space pirate. He remembered falling and his name being called then it going black. Before then... well he could not see how the memories linked in any way, they jarred as if he had been somewhere else moments before being thrust into that nightmare.
“Well I was discussing with Rhodey over the phone who would win in a fight between Captain America and an angry grandmother with a walking stick.” This was the truth but it did not fit, had he blacked out? “Naturally the old lady would win as for one, have you ever seen a truly angry woman. It’s terrifying and I swear they get worst with age. Secondly I cannot actually see Captain America bludgeoning an old woman with his mighty shield, he’ll probably be like...” He paused for breath there before putting on a voice in some kind of mockery of Captain America’s and mimed holding a shield up to protect his face.
“Ma’am, can you stop please. Ma’am, please. I would prefer if you would stop hitting me, ma’am.” He grinned excitedly before violently miming hitting with a cane accidently pulling some wires loose from his body. Whoops. But he continued without a beat.
“All whilst the lady is going for it whacking her cane against the shield. Thud, thud, then suddenly the wooden cane splinters and a chunk manages to strike him across the cheek and thus the woman draws first blood.” He babbled on, growing increasingly animated by the battle he was envisioning in his head. The battle was a whole lot more comforting than thinking about the way his memory was screwed up.
“That’s a very fascinating battle I’m sure but after that please.” The man looked exasperated and as if he was trying not to throttle him, Tony was used to that but this man must have the patience of a saint not to have acted much upon it aside from his voice becoming more asserting.
“Oh. I fell. From the sky. But I’m remarkably unharmed therefore I’m pretty sure I can walk it off.” There was a pretty redhead looking at him, she looked like a doll, he sent her a slow wink and a smile. She sent him a small, almost relieved, smirk back. “So when can I leave?”
At their stony faces Tony came to realise that they weren’t going to let him leave, for all he knew they were the reason for the blanks in his memory. They could have easily shot him with a tranquiliser or something. They could easily be kidnappers treating him nice so he would do things for him, he was not sure what they might be but they were probably nefarious and he did not understand their end game or what they wanted with him so they were definitely dangerous until proven otherwise.
With an anxious gulp, “Could I at least go to a bathroom? I mean I would rather not... urinate in front of the lady.”
The redhead’s eyes flickered to the space pirate and with the smallest of head movements she gave a slight shake which was practically non-existent.
“Very well. Allow an agent to escort you to one.”
“I don’t need an escort to a toilet.”
“Do you know where they are?”
“Well no...” Tony admitted, there was another little unvocal exchange between pirate and redhead before he was promptly escorted to the bathroom. Fortunately the agent merely waited outside the room rather than coming in after him.
He took calming breaths and clutched the porcelain sink tightly trying to calm himself down. Stark Men were strong and couldn’t show such a weakness such as panicking in the face of possibly being abducted.
“He hasn’t kept his memories, Tony Stark would know better than to refer to me as the lady let alone attempt to be discrete about needing to go. He’s peed in his suit in front of easily over a dozen people before. The most obvious point is that he designed the building, he knows where all the toilets are.” Black Widow calmly informed Nick Fury, it appeared whatever Loki had done to Iron Man hadn’t just been physical after all. She had hoped it was and was relieved when Tony had mentioned Captain America and had gotten the impression so right and gave her that wink, but there was a sinking feeling in her gut that he showed them no real recognition. It got worse from there when he did not recognise the inside of his own tower that he had designed and built himself.
“Sir... there’s a problem.” Nick Fury practically snarled because of course there would be. This was Tony Stark they dealing with, his name was all but a synonym for trouble. Even the teenage version of him was trouble.
“What?” He growled.
“He found an Iron Man gauntlet and used the repulsor beam to go through the wall.” Of course Tony Stark would keep suits even in his toilets, why he did he ever think otherwise?
“He was never one for debriefings.” Natasha stated, and this was why Iron Man was a yes and Tony Stark was not recommended. He was a pain in the ass.
Clint Barton was just chilling waiting for more information on what Thor’s twisted little brother did to Tony when someone rudely destroyed the wall behind him. He turned his faithful bow poised and ready for attack to come face to face, or rather face to hand with a repulsor. Well that answered his question on whether Tony was awake or not.
“Please don’t let this become a ‘who can fire first’. Because I’m fairly sure this can destroy your arrow before it can hit me and strike you down. I don’t want to but I’m kind of looking on leaving and although I prefer it wouldn’t be through you if pushed I shall.” The teenage Tony informed him and that would have been a lot more intimidating if it had been his adult counterpart as he was slightly distracted by how much cuter the other was as a teenager.
“Your arm is shaking.” He told the younger, he doubted the other would do such a thing as even as an adult he did not really have the heart for cold-blooded murder. Cold-blooded anything wasn’t Tony’s thing; he was typically a passionate and emotional man.
“Shut up.” Teenage Tony actually pouted a little at him. Despite still having a weapon pointed at his face he consented and lowered his bow, Tony was not going to shoot him so why should he even pretend he was going to shoot Tiny Tony?
“Why are you trying to leave?” He was smiling but he couldn’t help it, he just found the kid to be adorable trying to play the big bad man and threatening him, he would grow better at it with age.
“Because... I’m just really confused to be honest and I want to go home.” Well, this tower was the other guy’s home so added up with the other stuff obviously the mind matched the looks. He might not be the smartest of the Avengers but he was good at intelligence gathering. He wasn’t stupid by any means but it was hard to be the smartest Avenger with one being a doctor of his field and another being a certified genius then there was Natasha who got the beauty, brain and brawns.
“You know you could have just asked for answers, which will probably ease your confusion.” Clint pointed out enjoying the way the other’s face seemed to crinkle in distaste either at the thought for actually asking or the thought that he had not thought of that himself.
“Um... okay.” So it was the latter, Tony waved his hand which was not pointed at Clint’s face slightly. “Do you want to play hostage for me in case I decide to leave?” Apparently asking was now this kid’s things, normally Clint would not play hostage and would just use his skills to just pick the kid up and take him to Fury. But... the thought of playing hostage was amusing so he was going to go with that one.
“Can I keep my bow and arrow?”
“Sure, why not. You could probably take me without them.” Tony shrugs, at least the younger was honest to himself and Clint did not mind the praise either. “Besides it looks more impressive to control an armed hostage.”
When they found Fury, Barton had a repulsor against the back of his head and a shit-eating grin on. Tony coughed for attention lightly as if he had not already had enough of it and he was wearing sunglasses which Natasha was fairly sure was given to him by Barton himself.
“This handsome man is my hostage.” Tony declared gesturing towards Barton with a sweep of his free hand.
“He has a weapon.” Fury muttered rubbing his temples. Stark was already enough of a headache without Barton encouraging him.
“He’s just that impressive.” Clint nodded receiving an appreciative grin from Tony and a small fist bump which had Fury groan lightly. If Tony did not have a suit of armour that could take out tanks he would just walk away from this mess, sadly that was wishful thinking.
“And I demand answers otherwise...” Tony continued as if he had not been interrupted.
“You’ll kill him?” Natasha finished for him. Clint gave her a betrayed look whilst she merely smirked in response. Tony’s response was much more dramatic.
“No, why would I do that? He’s too beautiful a man to have his head blasted off.” Tony muttered disgusted and sending her a disappointed look.
“I fully support this statement.” Clint agreed.
“No, I would kidnap him, force him into early retirement, hide him at some secluded tropical beach and you would never see his beautiful face again. That would be torture.” Clint preened like a vain peacock at these words and gave Natasha a quick raise of his eyebrows; she scoffed and rolled her eyes.
“Again, I support this statement.” Clint nodded with an even larger grin. With a pained sigh wondering if securing the fate of the planet was really worth dealing with these idiots.
“Well I hope you don’t mind my language but... who the fuck are you people?”
“We are super secret spies.” Clint announced delightedly. Tony shushed him gently before giving an expectant look towards Fury.
“We are S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“As in Aunt Peggy’s S.H.I.E.L.D? I thought they dealt with letters not super secret spies. You know if you had just said that from the start I would have stayed put rather than freaking out and assuming I was in hostile territory.” It was the truth, Tony had faith that Aunt Peggy’s people wouldn’t dare harm a hair on his head as Peggy Carter was a fierce and scary woman you didn’t want to cross by harming her ‘nephew’. The space pirate looked almost distressed by this news, well it wasn’t so much distressed rather than frustrated and willing to kill a man.
His hostage turned out to be a superhero and there was a whole lot more superheroes just chilling in the atmosphere. Some of them even wore capes and brightly coloured outfits. Apparently S.H.I.E.L.D dealt in superheroes now rather than the letters he thought they had.
He reluctantly chose to believe them as being on Aunt Peggy’s side when presented with evidence and informed that he should not try to escape or blow up things. He was not allowed to leave because the sight of him would cause alarm. They didn’t bother explaining a lot, for example why he would cause alarm with the general populace but he didn’t really expect much from them considering how they were treading delicately around him. It did not mean he had to like any of this however, especially seeing as they had confiscated his new toy.
Well he did like one thing, and that was his hostage. Hawkeye or rather Clint Barton. He was cool. The redhead was set upon him like a guard-dog as apparently they did not trust him not to do something stupid and she was their best shot of making him obey. After seeing her take down an agent as an example of what she could easily do to him he figured it was their best shot at behavioural tactics. He was behaving for now though, he still did not really trust them but if he acted like he did he could collect intelligence. Then when they were lulled into a false sense of security he would escape, he was still a prisoner after all.
Whilst the ‘adults’ discussed what to do with him, the redhead was his trained assassin babysitter and his hostage was his playmate. Well it could be worst, they could have cuffed him to a chair rather than giving him free reign in a room trusting the redhead to contain him if needs be.
He also got some interesting visitors.
“Wow. They weren’t kidding.” The first to show was a mousy looking man who he decided to love pretty much instantly as they had given him a break down on him due to the man in front of him containing a green rage monster as well as being a scientist.
“Dr Bruce Banner.” Tony greeted politely holding out his hand in greeting, Bruce’s expression turned from curiosity and bemusement to anxious at this action and eyed up his hand in distrust. Well, they weren’t kidding about this man being smart then.
“I heard you turn into an enormous green rage monster.” Tony added forgoing his politeness as he was excited at the prospect of new science to explore; he was fascinated so he was going to show it. “They told me as they don’t trust me not to take you hostage too and cause a code green.” He informed the good doctor who looked startled.
“Hey! I thought I was your hostage!” Clint grumbled, Tony went to the archer and lightly nudged him on the shoulder with his own.
“You’ll always be my number one hostage, you incredibly attractive man.” Tony reassured him before turning back to Bruce.
“So... is just anger? Or is it other emotions as well? What about lust?”
Poor Bruce did not have much time to react to this before a bear of a man entered. He was a loud man, one who looked like he came straight from a re-enactment of some kind of battle, or a play in that ridiculous garb. That cape though.
“Man of Iron I am glad to see you unharmed!” He bellowed and Tony sent a look towards Clint. This man he had no warning about and from the redhead’s smallest of smirks he felt that was her doing. The wicked, wicked woman. The man towered over him and despite himself he found himself clutching slightly at Clint’s upper arm in mild alarm as the man looked intently down at him like he was some kind of exhibit at a museum.
“Though you have shrunk.” The bear with the golden locks mused. “I shall speak to Loki about this.”
“Loki as in that guy from Norse mythology who birthed a horse?” Tony asked curiously loosening his grip on Clint’s arm. Thor winced a little at that whilst Clint sucked his lips in to hide his smile, even Bruce lost some of his alarm.
“Those myths are lies.”
“How would you know, were you there?” Tony snorted before gawping as the other nodded simply.
“I’m his brother.” His face did not change for a while as it was frozen in shock, he hoped the other was merely jesting rather than truly believing he was in fact a god. Then with remarkable self-restraint he pushed down his disbelief, no one else seemed to find this news and if he appeared unknowledgeable then he put himself at a disadvantage.
“Makes sense, Clint Barton is supernaturally attractive; he must be the God of Good-looks.” Tony stated sending Clint a slow wink, Natasha gave a small groan. It had been funny the first few minutes but by now she was afraid that Clint’s head may have been so inflated that it may no long fit through doors. She also did not really understand the attachment Teen Tony had gathered for Clint had came from, adult Tony had never shown such quick attachment to anyone really. He may have grown out of it after a number of betrayals she mused, there was also the issue of his parent’s deaths. He had mentioned Rhodey so he must be at MIT but before his parent’s deaths considering his state of mind.
“That title has already been taken. The title of the God of Awesome is open however, Clint Barton may wish to accept it but it had been reserved for Tony Stark and he would have to relinquish it before my shield-brother can accept it.” Thor prompted with a smile. Clint sent Thor a warning look, Clint wasn’t stupid he was quite aware what Thor was up to, Thor was trying to steal Teenage Tony’s affections from him. Tony gave the blond God an ecstatic grin before it faded as suddenly as it appeared. Thor’s brows furrowed and looked over his shoulder following Tony’s gaze.
“No.” Tony breathed out, it was hardly even a whisper. Tony’s jaw visibly clenched and his closed his eyes taking a deep breath. Then he was back to the annoying kid he was.
“Bend me over, spank my ass and call me Susan. This kid is Captain fucking America, Clint catch me whilst I swoon.” Clint obeyed with amusement dancing in his eyes as he caught the overdramatic teenage Stark who practically threw himself backwards. Clint was rather touched that the other already seemed to trust him enough to catch him. He could see that some things such as an inflated sense of dramatics did not change much having not seen the ‘no’. Natasha did though as did Thor.
Steve however merely looked on in shock; he had to admit this was a better reaction that the adult counterpart had given. Maybe Tony had not always been a complete ass after all. He did not have much of a reaction rather than a rather feeble “Language.”
Tony’s brow quirked upwards and he looked towards the rest to check whether they too had heard that. “Well pardon me, sir, I’m afraid I had gotten a little over-excited with the meeting of Dr Jekyll, a Norse God, a super secret spy and my childhood idol.” Steve was not overly sure whether Tony was being sarcastic or sincere in his apology and it really confused him on how to react. Clint coughed lightly and Tony sent him a look.
“And of course this man whom I took hostage. I love him.” Tony said in all seriousness. Clint gave a smug smirk.
“Wait did you say childhood idol?” Steve said catching onto the fact that of all the people mentioned that left him to the childhood idol.
“Until I realised I could defeat you with the use of an old woman yes.” Tony said simply. “Very well now that I have deemed you not kidnappers, please stop staring at me Captain Rogers, I’m aware that I’m still a prisoner even if I’m not kidnapped but could I get my one phone call?”
“Who do you plan to call?” Natasha prompted. Tony eyed her from the corner of his eye; she asked a lot of questions, she was extremely pretty but she also reminded him too much of Aunt Peggy for him to want to flirt with her. Aunt Peggy although looking very well for her age was a force of nature and could be seriously scary. If Natasha wasn’t so scary, perhaps if he was older and had less preservation instinct he would try to flirt but he wasn’t so whatever his hormones told him he was going to stay away far away. The code name she was called ‘Black Widow’ that didn’t really make him want to try anything with her either.
“Rhodey... he’s my room-mate and I’m fairly sure I was cut off mid-conversation with him. He’s a mother-hen, I’ll just tell him that I met a beautiful person and then all is well and he suspects that I am fornicating with them and ask no further questions.” If he answered truthfully enough in the end they wouldn’t expect it when he did lie or at least omit the truth.
“Fornicate?” Clint snorted in amusement; Tony sent him a slow smile before speaking slowly as if speaking to a small child.
“When two people find each other rather attractive... the two may wish to have a very special cuddle with one another.” Clint gave a small choke; he had been lulled into a false sense of security with Tony’s blatant favouritism for him, but it showed that even he did not have safety. Tony rolled his eyes lightly, the teenager had such attitude.
“If I used cruder language Captain Rogers here may have fried himself completely, he already seems like he’s broken.” Tony explained gesturing with a small nod of his head towards Steve who hadn’t moved since Tony announced he would be beaten by an old woman.
“An old woman... beat me?” Steve finally managed to get out still trying to wrap his head how an old woman could beat him. Normally Steve wasn’t this slow but it wasn’t everyday your teammate was reverted back to a teenager and dropped a lot of information on you, besides Tony’s mouth whirled at a hundred miles per hour and could switch subjects just as easily. It wasn’t that he was slow but rather Tony was abnormally quick. Mostly however it was the fact he was working through scenarios where he may come across an elderly woman and in all of them he did not understand how he would lose unless said woman was in fact a witch.
“A bit behind but yes. Would you raise your shield to somebody’s grandmother? Now may I call Rhodey or not?” Steve gave a small sigh, now it clicked and he could see how the other would come to that conclusion.
There was silence until after careful consideration Natasha decided that if anything Rhodes may prevent this version of Tony, although he was surprisingly polite and well behaved he looked ready to blast through more walls if provoked, from causing more damage. “You may.” After Colonel James Rhodes was alerted to the situation.
“Thanks, Mother.” He may be too scared to flirt with her but he wasn’t too scared not to play with her completely. If he acted relaxed around them then the quicker they would give him an opportunity to escape, Rhodey also knew his codes and he could inform him of his need to escape without anyone being the wiser.
Chapter 2: Assemble!
Tony gets his call and The Avengers attempt to bond with Tony.
He was beginning to wonder he had managed to warrant the attention of the superhero team, they all seemed eager to meet him however. He guessed it may be because he destroyed part of their tower, by the amount of floors the elevator had it couldn’t be anything by a skyscraper. He couldn’t tell where though thanks to the tint on the windows. This tower was truly a piece of art, it was decades ahead of all buildings he had previously been inside. They were giving him the wrong kind of attention for destroying their base. They were treating him like a friend, well the men was. Natasha was treating him warily; she was clearly the smart one of them all. If whoever owned this tower hid weapons in the toilet who knows where else he may find new toys to destroy them with.
Not all of them were as pretty as Clint so not all of them would be so lucky. Okay, they were all extremely pretty people, including Captain America. Well especially Captain America which was really unfair and it was another thing he was going to hold against the Greek God of a man. He had a weakness for pretty people and found it considerably harder to destroy pretty things. This S.H.I.E.L.D. was smart surrounding by pretty, super-human people who were resistant to damage and Clint. Clint and Natasha were supposedly all human but he didn’t quite believe them about Natasha, he was half-convinced that she may be an android.
It left Clint as the only sure human and he had already bonded with the man. S.H.I.E.L.D. seemed to know what they were doing as one teenage boy wasn’t going to take on a whole team especially one that seemed adamant that they were going to befriend him. Even with Rhodey’s help once the Black Widow finally got around to sorting out the call, he was severely out-numbered.
Speaking of the spy she seemed to be the only force stopping them overcrowding him, he was thankful for that. Didn’t mean he had to trust her though. He had a sneaking suspicion that she was the only reason the three men had even came in at intervals after all rather than all at once and overwhelming him. He still did not understand why they wanted to see him.
Then she left to sort out his phone call to Rhodey and they crowded around him like he was some new toy for them to play with. He wasn’t sure whether this was part of the big plan of keeping him too distracted to think why he was here or to escape or what. It was working though in the distraction department.
He was torn between basking in the attention, attention that was rare anywhere but MIT or Rhodey’s house, and backing the heck away because there was far too much of it and they acted like they knew him which freaked him out.
Clint (despite not having a shield like Captain America had) was his choice for human shield against them all. Well mainly the big, blondes and brutish were too close. Thor seemed like a physical person all too ready to reach out and he had tried for a couple hugs already. Captain America was just... Captain America. He may be a lovely guy but some things were difficult to get over quickly. One was inadequacy issues concerning Captain fucking America. Clint was on hand when it got too much though. He found that Clint was really good at picking up body language and could wheedle him out of the more awkward situations.
Bruce was an utter dear however; he almost shrank back and actually gave Tony the space he needed when surrounded by eager strangers. He wasn’t overly sure whether it was from out of respect or of self-fear. Tony felt the strangest urge to protect him which was really strange considering how much older the man was but he looked like a sad teddy bear.
So if he constantly made excuses to lightly touch the man on the shoulder to show that he had no fear, and complimented on his science then who was to blame him? And if he accidentally ended up lightly prodding his cheeks in some attempt to make him look less like a sad teddy bear but a happy one.
Bruce did end up smiling, a fond long-suffering smile but it was a smile nonetheless. Tony counted it as an achievement. He wondered how loyal Bruce was to S.H.I.E.L.D. because when he escaped he was really tempted to take Bruce home with him, he had a feeling Rhodey would like the man.
“Tones?” It was Rhodey. Just hearing Rhodey’s voice he felt like crying. It didn’t sound quite the same but it was Rhodey’s merely rougher, he probably just woken up then. He would do anything to have Rhodey with him right now, the man was his rock. If they were truly hostile he preferred that Rhodey was out of their grasps though, torture wouldn’t work on him but if they touched Rhodey then he would snap.
“Rhodey, sugar-muffin! Don’t wait up for me, I won’t be home tonight.” Step one. Sugar-muffin. This wasn’t Rhodey’s pet name, Rhodey was always Honey-bear, so this would capture his attention.
“Which home would this be?” Translation: Rhodey asking about which home was enquiring about his location.
“Silly, you’re my home of course. Home is where the heart is after all.” Translation: I’m not sure but in the country. Being a Stark he had houses all over the country and some out of it as well, all he had to do is pinpoint the nearest one and Rhodey would know his rough location. He raised a proud finger towards the chortling archer.
“You should be saying that to whatever girl you caught this time, what’s she like?” Translation: How urgent is it? How much danger are you in? Do you need me? The type of girl mentioned answered all of them. A shy girl meant that it wasn’t urgent but he was uncomfortable so give him an excuse to escape.
“You know the hot teacher twins? Like that.” Translation: He was scared, there were several of them and he needed Rhodey like now. “I love you, you know.” He was cracking a little and breaking the code but he was talking to Rhodey. The one person he could count on, the one who would believe in him when he needed it most. The one who wasn’t here and he needed him. “You’re the best, like seriously, I love you man.” This might have been embarrassing considering he was pretty sure Clint was on the ground with laughter and just the looks on the rest of the team’s faces was mortifying but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Who knows when he would next speak to Rhodey.
“I love you too.” Rhodey’s voice was so soft and calming, Tony just wanted to wrap himself in it as that way he would be safe. Rhodey was safe.
Natasha tapped on her wrist, he hadn’t much time left, he was getting a little too emotional and she was afraid something would slip no doubt. He had gotten the bulk of what he knew out anyway, he just hoped Rhodey could do something.
“She’s getting impatient, better run.” Translation: I don’t know when we’ll be able to speak next, come quickly.
“Later then.” He didn’t want it to end, he wasn’t ready to let go of the safety of Rhodey’s voice.
“Wait.” Rhodey waited. Natasha looked perched ready to swipe the phone out of his hand at any moment waiting for him to spill even a letter.
He began babbling techno-speak that left the watching team reeling but Rhodey responded smooth and simply, Tony wasn’t the only one who studied engineering at MIT after all. Technology was safe, comfortable and hearing it from Rhodey was the best he was going to get to a safety blanket.
“We got the class presentation in the bag.” He added mainly to explain the babble rather than it being a support mechanism.
Then the call ended, he felt conflicted. He felt better because Rhodey now had a head’s up but he now also realised how bad he felt without his Rhodey-shaped-support-beam to hold him up. Rhodey going through the engineering equations was enough for now though, he could do this. He also had an amazing idea of creating an AI and possibly hiring a bodyguard to prevent further takings. Because hostile or not he sure didn’t walk here willingly, he was taken.
“Pepper. Are you aware of Tony’s latest predicament?”
“The Avengers have informed me, yes.”
“Is Jarvis scrambling this call?”
“I aim to serve.”
“Good. Tony’s our responsibility; let’s take what is ours back.”
“I thought we were going to let them deal with the situation, they have Thor after all. What do we know about magic?”
“He doesn’t know what’s happening. He’s scared, Pepper and he admitted it.”
“They have twenty-four hours. If he’s not his usual age by then or at least comfortable. They’ll regret it if they don’t hand him over.”
They were feeding him. He had to give it to them, they were dedicated in acting like friends to him, and this whole family meal thing was both awkward and comforting. It was awkward as these people weren’t his family although they pretended to be and acted like they knew him.
It was also comforting as it reminded him of Mama Rhodes inviting him over for some home-cooked meals. The good memories that were filled of great food and even better company, after trying Mama Rhodes’ special broccoli mix he had sworn off all broccoli but hers as none would ever compare. She had chortled and told him he could come over any time that he wanted, she had practically adopted him into her family and sometimes selfishly he would wish that Mama Rhodes was his mother instead of Maria Stark.
Then he hated himself because of it.
Captain Rogers was in charge of cooking; apparently he was in charge of home-cooking as well as on the battle field. Tony still wasn’t coping that well with Captain America being alive. He had a sneaking suspicion that maybe he was here because Captain America was found... maybe seeing as Howard had his precious greatest creation back he had no more need for his inferior son so merely passed him on to S.H.I.E.L.D. That hurt though so he liked to think he was taken rather than having been abandoned, discarded like the blueprints that would never work or weren’t perfect enough.
Consumed by his own thoughts and worries he didn’t realise that dinner was ready until Captain freaking America himself jolted him out of it. Tony tried hard not to flinch when suddenly coming face-to-face with the Stars-and-Stripes but judging by the hurt look on the man’s face he failed.
Another reason to dislike the Boy-Blue (aside from the whole inadequate thing Howard had managed to drum into his head every time Tony had failed to live up to the expectations of Captain America) was the fact he made Tony feel so guilty with every hurt expression he pulled.
“Captain Rogers, it’s nice of you informing me that the dinner is ready but you don’t have to frogmarch me there.” There it was again, that formality. Steve used to wish that Tony would learn a little respect and call people by their actual names but now he was actually being called by his title he felt a sense of unease.
“You can just call me Steve.” Steve prompted; it made him uncomfortable to be called so formally by Tony. The man who hadn’t called him by his given name from the moment he met him, although this Tony wasn’t quite a man any more. It was also unfair as he was the only one who was greeted so formally. Clint was referred to as Clint or mostly as incredibly handsome and a bunch of other nicknames the young Tony had so graciously given to him. Even Natasha had some form of variation on her name but with him it was always Captain Rogers.
“I would prefer not to.” Even the formal language was getting to Steve, adult Tony would have responded with a simple ‘nope’ yet the younger was so darn proper. This was supposed to be a good thing but all it did was make him feel isolated. Then Tony was gone to Clint’s side and whispering in his ear and the archer snickered. The young genius had certainly bonded quickly with the man. Steve was a little put out as he was good with children, normally children and teenagers alike loved him and even Tiny Tony had admitted that he had been his idol. Yet the teen had instantly taken to practically everyone but him. And Natasha. Natasha was different however as she wasn’t a natural with children, she was also a woman (Steve figured most boys would prefer to hang out with their own gender) and considerably colder than Clint, Bruce and Thor.
Steve just didn’t get why the kid didn’t like him. Adult Tony hadn’t worshipped the ground he walked upon but he hadn’t singled him out or treated him much differently than anyone else. He may have clashed but that hadn’t been entirely Tony’s fault, he had just as much a hand in that. Tony had just stood for everything he detested, all he had seen was Howard’s son who looked so much like his father yet seemed so selfish, keen to drag his father’s name in the mud and endanger everyone around him with his foolish actions. He may not be entirely wrong but he had learnt that he wasn’t entirely right either. He just hadn’t given the boy a chance, yet now it was Tony not giving him a chance.
Steve Rogers was stubborn however and somehow he was going to get the boy to like him too.
Tony took one look at the table arrangement before deciding to rearrange it to fit his own needs, he had been placed at the end of the table facing opposite Steve and next to Bruce and Thor. He didn’t really like being so isolated he claimed when he requested to change the seating, but mainly he didn’t want to have to look at Steve. The table was long enough to fit three chairs on each side rather than the two it had previously, therefore rather than having two sat on the ends they were now all on the same level.
The last seating arrangement made him feel like he was facing off against Steve and there was some kind of pecking order. It made him uncomfortable but mainly if he arranged it the way he wanted he wouldn’t have to look at either Steve (Captain America - say no more) or Natasha (she made him uncomfortable) and he could surround himself by those he felt safest around. Although not completely safe. He sat beside Bruce and Clint whilst opposite Thor, Natasha being opposite Clint and Steve opposite Bruce. No one complained so he was happy.
Until he realised that he had not seen whether his plate had come from the same source as the others’ had come from. What if it came from a separate pans? One clean and delicious (because of course Captain America had to be a good cook) and one laced with some kind of drug.
It may have even been poisoned when being passed over to him, he bet his entire fortune that James Bond’s kickass red-headed cousin had the skills to poison him without him noticing. He doubted they wanted him dead otherwise he would be so by now but they could lace him with drugs that made him compliant or forced him to be truthful. Who knows what they had at their disposals being superheroes connected to a super secret government agency.
What also made him feel clammy was the fact that they seemed to know what exactly he would eat and what he would not. There was no broccoli on his plate. Everyone else had the green vegetable. How much did these people know about him?
He didn’t touch his food and instead watched the other’s eating. None of their food looked poisoned as none of them were keeling over or wary of what they were eating, they could easily have hidden antidotes however. His stomach made an embarrassing growling sound and his cheeks flushed red as they all turned to look at him.
“If you’re hungry you should eat. I haven’t poisoned it you know.” Steve joked; the dear Captain tried so hard but Tony blanched at how the other had gotten the nail on the head. Strangely he found that he believed the Captain. He didn’t put it past the Black Widow being the one doing the poisoning though. He was sure that if she really wanted to poison him she would just stick it right in his neck though.
“Tones.” Tony felt himself almost instantly relax at the familiar and safe nickname. Rhodey called him Tones; they had gone from Rhodes and Tony to Rhodey and Tones at Tony’s insistence. It was Clint who had spoken. “Am I going to have to spoon-feed you?” Clint prompted with a smirk, Tony felt his cheeks heat up in indignity, he wasn’t one he could easily feed himself.
Then Clint was taking a forkful of Tony’s food and making fake aeroplane noises as he ‘flew’ the fork towards Tony’s mouth. “Open wide! Here comes the aeroplane~” Tony wasn’t sure whether to laugh or proceed to die in the chair in which he sat.
Stubbornly he refused to open his mouth and the food merely bounced against his lips. Clint raised a brow.
“Come on Little Sparrow, open up for Daddy.” Clint coaxed, Tony cringed a little.
“That sounds so wr...” Then his mouth was suddenly full of food he wasn’t expecting, he had two options. He could either chew and swallow like a good little boy or he was going to choke. Being Tony Stark he decided he would rather choke and die rather than admitting defeat.
Aside from the burning sensation from choking and incredibly embarrassed with how all eyes were still on him, it was rather amusing watching Clint’s panicked expression. It was nice seeing that someone didn’t want him to die. When he escaped, unless he died choking, he would have to convince Clint to join his side as he honestly liked the guy.
“Bruce! You’re a doctor, save him.” Clint practically screeched out gesturing widely at Tony.
“I’m not that kind of doctor.”
“God! Why have you forsaken me?” Clint murmured despairingly towards Thor as if this was his fault. That was kind of funny, but Tony quickly found out that trying to laugh when choking only increased the choking. Feeling detached as he may have been with his earlier choking he now felt rather aware of the fact that he couldn’t breathe. Panic finally started to sink in.
Fortunately and rather scarily Natasha had a very good aim. She managed to dislodge the food in his throat with a well-aimed pea and then it suddenly went down easily. He was not sure whether to feel grateful or utterly terrified that this woman could probably kill him with a single garden pea. At least he knew they did not want him dead.
Mostly he felt humiliated and he slowly sank down in his chair. He kept on sinking until he was eventually under the table away from everyone’s eyes.
“God, you should have let me die.” He retorted to Captain America’s question of whether or not he was alright.
“Thor!” Clint declared in disgust. Despite himself Tony found himself laughing from the floor. He decided that yeah, he did like this guy. It was terrible as he shouldn’t be finding himself trusting the archer so easily but it was hard not to when he was so darn likeable!
Suddenly he wasn’t the only person on the floor. The good doctor had decided to join him, bringing with him their plates. Without saying a word Bruce swapped their plates around and placed them on their corresponding chairs seeing how they were both now sat on the floor. Tony gave a small sigh of relief, he knew there was a reason why he felt like he would like the doc.
“Tony has a point, under the table is a lot nicer than sitting up the top.” Bruce declared sending Tony a mix between with a gentle smile and a small smirk. That’s when Clint joined them so he could be in the ‘cool kids’ club’. Thor soon joined them announcing that it was most joyous to eat in such a manner despite the fact that his head couldn’t quite fit underneath and he ended up hunched in a way that would do his backs no favours. Eventually the other two had given up on being mature adults and eating at the table rather than under it and joined them and despite everything Tony felt safe and warm with these crazy, crazy people and not quite so alone.
Tony was not quite sure whether or not this new development was in his favour or not. It probably was not considering attachment to accomplices in his taking (he still had no idea why S.H.I.E.L.D. had him but all the ideas he did have were not pleasant) would only make it harder escaping. Was it considered Stockholm syndrome if he liked these people? He wasn’t sure; he may have to read up more about the syndrome before he made his mind up.
“What about Iron Man?”
“Call in the Iron Patriot instead. S.H.I.E.L.D. can handle one teenager.”
“A bored Tony Stark is dangerous.”
“We’ll give him some LEGOs or something.”
How long had he been here now? It had easily been hours but he couldn’t quite place how many hours. There had been an alarm and ‘adults’ had left him (no doubt supervised with cameras and were just outside the room) to talk about him again and he was supposed to just sit here and make do with a pile of LEGOs. Now there wasn’t anything wrong with LEGOs, they were just so stiff and unmalleable... how was he supposed to create all the beautiful curves and all the delicate wirings he envisioned out of LEGO though? Perhaps that was their ploy. A test to see whether he behaved, to see his engineering skills, to see how he would escape. He was like a lab rat being examined; he glared at the camera before glaring at the LEGOs.
He couldn’t possibly make any useful escape devices out of LEGOs. They would make useful bullets however, or items to be dropped to make life more difficult for his pursuers. He flicked one of the offending plastic rectangles off the table; you couldn’t make a circuit board or a Taser out of LEGO.
Or make something that could loop the footage. What he would do for a telephone or anything... ha. The LEGOs could come in handy after all; the cameras didn’t cover all angles. The LEGOs could act like a screen stopping the cameras from seeing what he was truly building until it was too late.
S.H.I.E.L.D Agents watched from the surveillance room as Tony Stark paced around the room, pointedly refusing to touch the LEGOs. A teenager that had showed no signs of escape after knowing who he was dealing with, one who made friends with the Avengers, one who was (would be, is) an Avenger did not need someone in the room babysitting him. After a particularly large sigh from the resident genius turned teenager he eventually began making use of the plastic bricks.
“Told you LEGOs would distract him. Who doesn’t like LEGOs?”
Chapter 3: Ingenious
When the Avengers are called away... The Tony will play.
[Chapter title originally Lonesome - changed to Ingenious for reasons]
Some villains really picked the worst of times to pick a battle with the Avengers. Or rather the Avengers minus Iron Man. They hadn’t needed the Iron Patriot in the end and it was just as well as the suit could only travel so far so fast, Rhodey wasn’t in the state at the moment due to army business and so neither was the suit. No one else had clearance to use a suit or access the lab where they were kept.
They managed without Iron Man but it didn’t feel right, the city suffered some more damage than it might have without the armoured hero as well. They were really feeling the lost of the tin man and annoyingly already the media had too noticed the lack of him, which was really what they needed on top of all of this. ‘This’ being Tony being out of action, due to having been reverted to a teenager, thanks to a pain in the ass so-called-God who was point-blank refusing to turn Tony back. Instead the man resorted to smirking infuriatingly in his prison at them.
“Loki!” Thor bellowed. “What did you do to my SHIELD-brother!”
Loki merely sneered. “I merely reverted him to the same form as his maturity level is at. I did no harm to your precious SHIELD-brother.”Loki spat out the word as if it in itself offended him greatly.
“I’m surprised he’s as old as he is.” Pepper snorted earning a small agreeing smirk from Loki as if he had thought the exact same thing. Pepper Potts had been in the tower at the time and called on scene as they weren’t sure how to treat Tony now and she was the closest thing they had as a guardian to consent for him.
“Why have you done this? What do you have to gain?”
“Do I need a reason?” Loki prompted before sinking back in his cell answering all further questions with merely a leer.
Loki rubbed Clint up the wrong way, not only had the man invaded his head and perverted this thoughts and feelings twisting them until he was willing to kill the people he loved. This wasn’t the worst of it, the control had felt so good and he felt like he was peacefully floating throughout all of it. He felt sick with himself and angry with Loki, seeing him smirking (the sick bastard felt no remorse did he?) made him want to put an arrow through his skull and just hope for the best in terms of Tony popping back to normal. “Hey Clint. Psst. Clint.” The comms buzzed.
“Hey Tones.” Clint responded with a small grin before remembering that Tony was currently a teenager who was supposed to be quarantined and not allowed near any technology. The man had made a revolutionary suit of armour and an arc reactor in a cave with scraps, like hell were they going to trust him with comms technology. Yet somehow some idiot had let him get hold of one and Tony had gotten the secure line of the Avengers and connected straight to him.
“What are you doing right now?” Tony asked with a slow drawl, Clint instantly envisioned Tony sprawled across a bed ready for some girly chat.
“You know... archery.” Clint answered releasing the quiver and feeling the impending explosion announcing the fact he had hit his target. “What about you?”
“You know... making stuff. For you, cannot tell you as I want it to be a surprise. Aside from breaking out of the room, LEGOs make shit material for anything you want to glow; I would say I’m behaving.” Tony stated and he just knew that the boy was grinning right now. “Well... I would be if they could find me, they haven’t even thought of checking the vents yet.”
Clint snorted, that’s his boy.
“Alright Little Sparrow, me and the vents are friends. I’m assuming you haven’t left the floor, on that level I have made a small nest with blankets and all if you wanted more room.”
“Little Sparrow to Hawkeye, I found that and that’s where I’m working. I thought it belonged to you, has your name written all over it. Literally, there’s this massive cushion with Clint wrote across it. I did not think you would mind.” Clint chortled as he dived away from another explosion; there were dozens of rather annoying minions scurrying around for him to pick off. If there wasn’t this would have been cleaned up a lot earlier, the villain wasn’t the best but he had so many annoying devices to pick off.
“Hawkeye to Little Sparrow, I promise not to leak your location to Black Widow or Captain America. Both of which would tell on you faster than I can shoot this robot in its pitiable brain to kill it, which is pretty darn quick.” Clint grinned.
“Do you have one in sight?” Tony asked interestedly, Clint raised a brow wondering what the boy genius had in mind.
“Could you grab one without dying?”
Challenge accepted. “Hawkeye is pretty darn hard to kill.” Clint stated with a smirk, the other Avengers may have protested once they caught wind of his intentions but they had his hands full.
The little machine tried its best to escape his grasp but was failing.
“Now rip off the top of its skull.”
“What?” Clint murmured, that sentence settled uneasily in his stomach, ripping off the top of a skull just sounded way too gory to feel acceptable to hear from Tony’s lips.
“Just do it. It’s a machine, it cannot feel pain unless you programme it to or introduced measures that will allow the machine to adapt and learn to develop emotions and pain sensors...” Tony’s voice trailed off there, Clint had no doubt that his mind was whirring with possibilities but he wasn’t really sure he wanted to see the coffee machine develop emotions which was one option he considered Tony having thought of. Being ever the good agent he ripped the top of its head off.
“Stick the comms in.” Tony ordered, Clint made a sceptic noise and he practically heard Tony’s eye roll.
“How is that supposed to work?” Clint hissed out, his voice was strained thanks to the struggling bot which had dragged him off his feet a good few times by now.
“I’ve decided to talk it to death.” Tony responded sarcastically to which Clint managed out wheezes of laughter. Seriously, this kid. But even if he was a teenager, he was still a genius so if Tony sounded so sure of himself then who was he to doubt him.
“It’s all a hive mind, sloppy programming. All I have to do is take out the Queen. Damn I’ve made better AIs when I was eight. But if you ask me again in an interrogation I would announce no such thing and that I have never once attempted sentient AI let alone made any AIs at the age of eight or any other age for that matter.” It seemed like Tony had always babbled. Even without the comms right in his ear he could make out the buzz of Tony’s words, it was difficult to make them out but he could feel the vibrations through the drone that he was clinging onto.
“Back the fuck away Clint, this shit is about to blow. RUN!” They were all the words he needed to throw himself away from the drone and just dive off the building, he knew Thor was there to catch him if needs be. Which Thor did just as the drone decided to do just as Tony had so elegantly supplied. It blew.
Clint looked in morbid fascination as the drone screeched and died, as did all the rest. All in pretty little explosions, that would have very possibly killed him if he had been in the blast. Damn. Maybe they had needed Iron Man more than they had thought if all of them could have easily been taken out like that.
He wished that it didn’t have to be his comms though as the world had become a whole lot duller and generated more buzz than lucid sound, he had never had the best of hearing. The rest of the team where approaching him now that the annoying little bots were taken care of. No doubt ready with their questions. He pointed to his ears and signed to Natasha the basics of how he had a little tech help.
They came back to the tower in panic, well the SHIELD agents were panicking as they had lost the resident genius, Jarvis indicated that his liege was not in harm’s way and was as calm as an AI could ever be concerning the lack of Tony apparently anywhere. The Avengers perked up at the news in some state of alarm, all aside from Clint who merely smiled. Natasha raised a brow at the archer and that was all she needed to get her message across and understand that the disappearance of one genius and the mysterious tech support was definitely linked.
Before any of the Avengers could get worked up over Tony’s disappearance it was quickly solved by JARVIS announcing to them that Tony was in the very same room he had been left in. Clint shouldn’t have found it as amusing as it was to see all the SHIELD agents shitting themselves whilst Tony sat in the room, having acquired a throne and a crown of all things, pretending as if he had never left. He also had a sneaking suspicion that JARVIS had known where the young genius had been all along but opted merely not to inform the SHIELD agents. JARVIS may have followed their instructions not to announce himself to Tony but it obvious where the AI’s loyalties lay. There was also a small itch that made him think that maybe the AI was just as amused as he was, he pushed that out of his mind because although Tiny Tony mentioned sentient AIs surely JARVIS was not that sentient.
“I have been here all along. Had any of you ever bothered to look in the room?” Tony scoffed from upon his throne looking down at the poor SHIELD agent who had been tasked in questioning the boy. The boy admittedly looked very regal looking down at the agent with his dark brown eyes and the crown upon his head, but the overall effect was ruined by Tony’s dangling feet. Especially the way Tony swung them back and forth. “Call yourself agents, losing a boy in a room which he never left in the first place. Looking everywhere but the room he never left. Pretty pathetic, remind me not to play hide and seek with any of you, I would like to be found at some point.”
“Explosions? I don’t recall such a thing ever happening, I was just sat here consuming oxygen.” He should really feel more sympathy for the agent but amusement was definitely winning out.
“Where?” Clint had to ask as he entered the room as he gestured towards the throne.
“Clint!” Tony perked up and began to blatantly ignore the agent in terms of focusing his entire attention upon the team.
“Eager to see me much, little Sparrow?” Clint smirked, Tony rolled his eyes.
“Took you long enough, I was bored.” Tony grinned dismissing the agent with a wave of his hand. Natasha sent the agent a small nod announcing that she’ll deal with the boy; the agent practically gave a sigh of relief as he left.
“We had a glorious battle.” Thor informed the boy to explain their absence.
“Oh. Tell me more.” Tony said as he shifted in his seat. Thor found himself frowning; it was disconcerting seeing Tony sat upon the throne the way he was. His leg splayed over the arm of the chair whilst his chin rested upon his knuckles. It brought up memories of his brother; it was the way Tony sat. Thor found that it uncannily resembled how his brother sat on a throne. That they sat the same did not quite resonate well with him. Perhaps he was reading far too much into this but the arrogance was the same right down to the little smug grin. He had to wonder whether it was just a common theme with smug arrogant little shits.
Tony gave a large sigh when nobody cared to bother to explain more. “Very well then peasants, do not expand upon this glorious battle.” Odin’s beard, now they were speaking the same way. He reassured himself that Loki was still in his cell and so had not replaced or possessed their friend.
“Hey, little Sparrow, scoot up and let Daddy sit on the throne too.”
“You’re not my dad.” Tony stated accompanied with an eye-roll. “Well, are you the acting regent then, ruling until I learn to stop breaking my toys?” Tony smirked.
“Nah, doubt you’ll ever stop doing that. I’m here for the perks of being King Dad, heard there’s good food.” Tony’s smirk turned into a blinding grin and he scooted up for Clint. There was enough room as teen Tony was tiny (at compared to his adult self) seeing how he hadn’t bulked up yet in muscle instead the boy was mostly short stature, pointy knees and sharp elbows.
“Made you something, King Dad.” Tony stated bumping shoulders lightly with Clint.
“Friendship bracelets!” Tony declared joyously. “One for me, one for you, one for Bruce, one for Thor.”
Tony paused before biting his lip looking at Steve and Natasha sheepishly. “Sorry but there wasn’t enough material for everyone, I may have gotten overzealous with making Bruce’s really expandable so when things got a little hairy it grew with him. Surprisingly hard to do when in a tight space, risk of explosions and all that, and on the run from suits. Hey, I could probably make something in a cave with scraps.”
Natasha couldn’t quite control her facial expression, her brow twitched slightly, at the end statement as he would have to. It didn’t sit well knowing that this teenager would have grown up to be water-boarded in cave and made to make a mini-arc reactor just to keep shrapnel out of his heart so he could escape without dying.
Steve’s face twitched for a different reason, he felt strangely hurt despite knowing the reason that he didn’t get a friendship bracelet.
“Yours is purple... well they all are. Purple is the only colour I could find. But they can glow whatever colour you want.” Tony rambled on before waving said bracelets around.
“I shall wear this bracelet of friendship with great pride. A noble gift from a noble warrior.” Thor declared he felt a little more at ease as Loki would never offer such a gift, let alone to him. He had to wonder whether that was where the difference lay in them.
Bruce was looking at his with an intrigued smile. “How far does this stretch?”
Tony smirked a little. “I didn’t know how big the other guy was so... about the size of Thor and Captain Rogers if they were to form a ring-around-the-rosies chain, probably more”
“Clint?” Tony asked turning eager eyes at Clint for some reaction. When he didn’t get one he almost visibly shrunk in Clint’s silence, finally Clint spoke.
“Purple’s my favourite colour.” Clint murmured with one of the biggest shit-eating grins anyone had ever seen him pull.
“It can also explode stuff?” Tony prompted.
“How much time did you have?” Steve murmured in disbelief, they hadn’t been in the battle long enough for Tony to manage this, surely.
“Enough. You'll be surprised by what I can manage all on my lonesome.”
“Hey Natasha, look. Natalie, Natalia, Natasha. Black Widow. Look.”
”Yes Clint, I get it. It’s the best bracelets of all bracelets.” Natasha murmured rolling her eyes, as if she could do anything but see the bright purple bracelet that was waved in front of her face.
“Feel kind of bad for Steve though. He’s trying.” Clint hummed leaning back against the settee eying up said super soldier who was currently looking at tiny Tony with that same hurt expression that seemed to be permanently stuck upon his face ever since he noticed that this Tony had a blatant dislike for him.
The way Steve looked at everyone else’s bracelets longingly before looking at his own empty wrist, was he trying to guilt trip everyone into giving up their bracelets? Or for Tony to make one for him too?
“And me? I didn’t receive a bracelet either.” Natasha prompted, Clint scoffed Natasha wasn’t bothered by something so trifle as not receiving a bracelet from an adolescent Tony Stark.
“You’re a girl. Girls don’t wear purple bracelets.” Clint replied with as much sympathy that Natasha deserved. Natasha gave a soft tsk of amusement.
“Just as well, Tony Stark made them. If he could make a single band expand as much as it had, explode things and channel electricity through it without harming the bracelet who knows what else he could sneak in?”
“Are you implying that Tony is going to kill us with purple friendship bracelets? That’s a really lame way to die; I don’t want that on the report you’ll send to Fury. If Tony was going to kill us, which I doubt as he would have just blown my head off when he had the chance, he would give us more dignity than that.” Clint answered lightly nudging Natasha with his foot.
“Besides I’m King Dad, he wouldn’t commit patricide.”
“You do know you’re not really his father.”
“Don’t say such hurtful things!”
“Whatever helps you to sleep at night.”
It was a good idea, Tony mused, returning to his prison cell. They may have called it otherwise but that was what it was, they may pretend that he was no prisoner but they both knew otherwise. He was fairly sure being trapped in a confined location without wanting to be there was considered a prison, that or a classroom. That was why he had acquired the crown and throne, if he was going to be a prisoner then he was going to do so at his own comfort and leisure.
After not escaping or destroying anything aside from avoiding all the agents that swarmed around the building, the others seemed to develop more of a trust in him and he was given practically free reign and he wasn’t followed constantly. He was still under surveillance but they were smart enough (or stupid enough) not to keep him locked up.
Part of him had to wonder whether the reason he had not escaped all ready was because he didn’t have anywhere he wanted to return to. He liked MIT enough but he didn’t really belong, Rhodey was awesome and he loved having a workspace where his father wasn’t criticising everything. It wasn’t home though. There was also the Stark Manor and he hated the place. It was large and lonely and there was his father.
In both he was always expected to be the boy genius, live up to the Stark family name but always a disappointment.
This tower however, with these people who acted like they wanted him for him. Not once had they really expected much from him. It felt like how a home should do. He also felt stupid for it, he blamed Clint and his affections mostly. Clint calling himself his Dad was nice, Howard acted as if he was ashamed to be related to him but for Clint to act as if he wanted to be...
Even if the archer was only joking. It was nice.
He wanted it.
He was pathetic.
“Brother, I implore you to return my shield-brother to his usual state.” Thor had tried demanding, he would attempt some form of asking. The similarities he threw between Anthony and Loki had shaken him more than it should have.
“You throw the word brother around so carelessly, Thor no-brother-of-mine.” Loki responded from his lounged position on the floor where he lazily threw grapes at the walls, Thor’s brows furrowed seeing as he had worked hard for Loki to receive any food from SHIELD considering their (perhaps understandable) hatred of the man, yet Loki merely toyed with and threw his efforts.
“There is no reason for him to remain this way! What do you have to gain?”
“Perhaps I do not wish to. That is all the reason I need.” Loki replied with a sneer.
He was awake. They had shown him a room in which he was to sleep in. It was a beautiful room that was just his style, the bed was comfy, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with either room or bed. But he was awake. He could not sleep.
Was he supposed to sleep? He felt like he should be sleeping, that he was expected to sleep; most of the superhero team were probably fast asleep. Worn from the battle they had. Sure he had an exhausting day from the rollercoaster of emotions, from crawling through vents, so on and so forth. But he could not sleep.
He breathed too loudly, how was he supposed to sleep when he was breathing so loudly? Now that he focused on his breathing he had forgotten how to breathe instinctively and he felt the need to remind himself in and out. How was he supposed to sleep when he needed to breathe?
It was dark, he couldn’t see. He hated not being able to see, he wish he had some sort of night-light to see what was lying in the dark corners of the room. There could be hostiles waiting for him to sleep so that they could inject him with a serum or something. What if he awoke in another strange place?
He was alone, he had grown used to sharing a dorm with Rhodey. Where was Rhodey? He needed Rhodey, to hear the other’s soft breathing lull him into drowsiness as he matched his own breathing to Rhodey’s.
The comfort that Rhodey was there, that was gone. He couldn’t sleep alone. He was out of the bed then. Bruce’s room was closest if he remembered correctly; he vaguely figured that perhaps he shouldn’t startle Bruce awake considering how the man could turn big, green and ugly really fast. He decided that he would risk it as even a sad teddy bear could help people sleep, right?
He was going to do this before he talked himself out of it as it was... well he didn’t know what time it was but it was late or early depending on who you asked. He just wanted to sleep, he liked sleep, sleep was his friend. Right at this second however it was being a really shitty friend and not answering his calls.
Bruce was close and Bruce felt safe, Bruce was the best person to visit for some impulsive request for a sleepover. He tentatively knocked on Bruce’s door; there was shuffling and the door swung open to reveal Bruce in his pyjamas. It seemed someone else was having trouble sleeping.
“Hey.” Tony smiled, Bruce’s brows arched up a little at the sight of him.
“Couldn’t sleep?” Tony prompted.
“Neither could you from what I can tell.” Bruce responded.
“Well you know, the usual, monster under the bed. Would say nightmare but that would mean actually getting to sleep in the first place.”
“If you’re so afraid of monsters under the bed why visit a real one?” Now that just made him sad, he had gotten hints of Bruce thinking badly of himself but to actively call himself a monster.
“Seriously Bruce? Why do you have to be so self-deprecating all the time? I’ve met plenty of people who are more monsters than you and they don’t have a little green problem bundled inside them either.” How on earth was he supposed to make the guy understand that he wasn’t a monster? He hardly knew the guy enough to judge but he felt like he did. He had met monsters scarier than Bruce as those were the ones who hid in plain sight, the ones which pretended not to be the monsters they were. The ones who would take advantage of others without remorse. Bruce did not pretend and he felt guilt. The true monsters were those that did not realise that they were, or did but didn’t care.
“You haven’t met the other guy.”
“But I’ve met you.” Bruce took one look at the earnest, tired face and found that he wanted to believe him. He had gotten into plenty of similar arguments with the adult Tony. The adult Tony wasn’t quite as open as the teenage one and considerably more broken, some of the times it felt like the adult Tony was trying to convince himself just as much as he was Bruce that they weren’t both monsters.
Hearing the same from the considerably more innocent teenage version of him however. It meant a lot.
“Okay, whatever, call yourself a monster. Maybe I need a big green one to scare away the one under the bed. Sleep with me?”
“Tony.” He was admittedly a little panicky as he was pretty sure the teenager meant platonically but he wasn’t one-hundred per cent sure, what about if he turned and crushed the kid? He did not know how he could cope with being the one who killed Tony Stark.
“Brucie. I cannot sleep by myself alright? You’re not sleeping. So I figured we either both not-sleep together or actually manage sleeping. It’ll be like a sleepover.” Impromptu seemed to be Tony’s thing no matter the age.
Perhaps he’ll regret this in the morning after accidentally crushing the lad but Tony’s unwavering faith despite the changing ages, perhaps he could bring himself to place a little faith himself.
“Very well, my bed’s open.” He could have sworn that Tony could have broken a Guinness World Record with the smile he just given.
Chapter 4: Loki
The Captain gets his bracelet. Loki gets a visitor.
Loki did not understand why they thought keeping him imprisoned would encourage him to return Tony back to normal, they should be grateful that he had kept in mind that the other had a chunk of metal in his chest that would kill him if it remained the same and he shrunk down. He could have just killed the other outright. Admittedly he had thought the spell would regress Tony Stark into a four year old and he did not really want to real with the corpse of a four year old with shrapnel sticking out his chest.
He was the God of Mischief not the God of Morbid, he did not enjoy the imagery of dead children and if he had a small soft spot for children well then so help him. Children could be moulded when adults refused to kneel. He would much rather kill the Man of Iron as an adult, he hadn’t yet as he would deal with the rest of the Avengers permanently once his brother was out of the way. He had no use for the Avengers once his brother was gone. He kept them around for entertainment purposes, as amusing as watching the other’s hate him yet be so unable to leave even a dent was only engaging for so long, without Stark’s banter he would grow bored in their little battles. Stark was also able to take out an entire Chitauri army, he was interesting.
With the last battle however Stark was becoming grating with his little comments, comments that had been a little too personal so Loki had lashed out and decided to punish the other by turning his form to match that of his maturity. He had been captured after Tony Stark proved (miraculously) that he was more mature than he expected. Rather than turning four he appeared to be more around the age of seventeen perhaps older, perhaps younger. It was hard to age Midgardians, either way he was merely a teen.
He could have redrawn back his power and effort from maintaining Tony Stark as a teenager and focused upon escaping. Magic was tiring as it was not permanent, it could be but that was incredibly draining, mostly it merely sped things up or was used briefly such as his illusions. A constant pull by keeping Tony Stark as a teenager, fortunately as long as that was the only thing he was maintaining the rest of his magic replenished rather quickly, but the piece that he put inside of Stark was using it up faster than he could redraw it so he was not at full capacity.
If he just redrew it and escaped, in doing so he would miss the show. The show was so amusing it would be quite the shame to miss it. Thor and S.H.I.E.L.D alike both read far too much into his actions, they did not seem to get that sometimes he did not need a reason or the fact that quite often his reason was just to spite them.
The little Stark was amusing from what he heard of his antics and was causing sweet mayhem. He deemed his use of magic a worthy cause.
Bruce was jolted awake by screaming. It was not good for him to be awoken in this way, it left him panicky and his heart fluttered anxiously like a flittering bird. He couldn’t afford to turn green. Not here, especially as he remembered the source of the screaming. Teenage Tony was no doubt having some horrid nightmare considering the way he was screaming out in his sleep. He did not want the other to fall silent due to being crushed by the other guy however.
Tony’s limbs were twitching and his arm was thrust out in a manner eerily reminiscent to the way he held out his Iron Man repulsors. Bruce would have been fascinated and started studying the reactions that belonged to the elder version to connect on how to turn Tony back, albeit guilty (as it was Tony and just watching him in pain but just examining him felt wrong) but now wasn’t the time. The other guy was roused and fighting against Bruce’s hold which wasn’t as strong as it should be considering how he had just been woken.
“Shit. Tony! Wake up.” Bruce murmured his room may be prepared for some Hulk beating. Tony was not. It was best he awoke Tony and get him out of there. Fast. Tony awoke with a small shake and Bruce was greeted with a look of unadulterated fear and a pose which told him he may have gotten hit by a blast if it wasn’t for the fact Tony did not have the suit.
It was the fear which made the other guy growl out in his head. Never had Tony ever looked at him with that emotion in his eyes but he saw it now and his heart clenched.
“Run.” He gritted out holding on as hard as he could but the green crept up his skin, to his horror he saw something akin to steely resolve find itself in Tony’s eyes. Dread filled him; he was going to kill Tony. Tony was not going to run. Then the green won out.
Thor was within the midst of a most glorious consumption of pop-tarts. The adult Man of Iron had procured a vast amount of them for him. He was grateful to the man and the flying pop-tart cat had been most amusing and strangely reminiscent of his home in Asgard thanks to the rainbow stream of light he flew about. He did not understand his fellow shield-brethren’s distaste of the so-called ‘nyan-cat’. His feast was disturbed most rudely by the bellow of sirens. The green beast was on the loose then.
“Tony?” Steve was prepped for his plan of getting the other to like him, first of all he would show the other his knowledge of AC-DC songs, because how could he not learn the words with Tony’s love of playing them to announce his presence. He had been in the other’s presence for a while now.
Tiny Tony would be delighted and he could surprise him with the releases he hadn’t gotten to hear. Then he could get the little fan-boy rather than Clint who wasn’t as deserving as Captain America, the boy’s childhood idol. Steve was not used to being the one least liked.
Tony was not in the room however. It did not look slept in either, they had lost the young genius yet again. Then again Tony could have merely gone to the bathroom; they hadn’t confined him to the room by telling him he had to stay there till they were to escort him.
JARVIS was not being helpful, Steve figured it had something to do Jarvis’ primary objective of Tony’s welfare. If Tony did not want to be found then Jarvis was not going to help anyone find him.
Then an alarm was blaring. That meant two things. Tony Stark was missing. And the Hulk was awake.
“JARVIS! Tony’s location.” He muttered looking up towards the ceiling, it was habit.
“Bruce Banner’s suite.”
“Shit. Of course that’s where he would darn well be.”
“Language, sir.” He had said it only a handful of times in the moment but even JARVIS had taken to mockingly using it with him. Now wasn’t the time however.
Clint and Natasha were mid-spar when the alarm went off. One look and their fears were conveyed to each other. Tony. He was just a civilian at the moment. The Iron Man suit did not deploy to him and he was just a teenager, a genius one but just a teenager. He couldn’t handle the Hulk if he came across him.
Then the sirens went off. Loki raised his brows with a teasing smile. “Oh goodie, is it party time already?”
“The Hulk is released. This better not be your doing.” Loki merely smiled.
The Hulk was confused. He normally was greeted by bad things such as angry people yelling and shooting things at him. Then he smashed. He was on the ground which was different and he vaguely took note of what might have been a bed but was now crushed under his weight. Nothing was hurting him and here was the Tin Man but a baby version. He heard Tin Man hurting so he came to smash whatever was making him scream so but instead there was Tin Man just looking at him in awe and was even punier than normal. The baby Tin Man smelt like he should but it was not quite right.
Seeing the approach of the huge green finger Tony gave into his alarm and began to scamper back but making sure not to lose eye contact, as you were supposed to keep eye contact with tigers or something like that. He was surprised not to be grabbed but be merely pushed over in a gentle manner.
The baby Tin Man gave a muttered mix of disbelief, mild annoyance and relief as he scrambled to his feet only to be knocked over again by the Hulk’s prodding.
“Baby.” The Hulk eventually cooed, he did not find anything that would have caused the other the pain he had heard when puny Banner was still in control. He deemed the purpose of his release was to keep tiny, baby Tin Man safe rather than fight. Baby Tin Man was like Betty and needed Hulk to keep him safe. So Hulk would.
Tony made a small sound of outrage at being called a baby before he was scooped up by the green giant. The Hulk placed him in his lap and cuddled him. Tony hadn’t expected this after being debriefed on the rage monster, he guessed it had to do with situations as the Hulk was normally called in battle or when Banner was attacked. Heck he should just be grateful that his own stupidity of not running did not get him killed rather than fretting over being treated like a baby.
That’s how Tony ended up sat on the Hulk’s lap as if he was fucking Santa Clause and being treated as if he was Hulk’s toy dolly. Hulk was cradling the boy possessively and patting his head as if Tony was an oddly shaped kitten. “Tin-baby.” Hulk cooed out. Tony had no idea where the tin had come from but there were worst things to be called. Smash now was something he would really prefer not to be called.
“A bit lighter big guy, ever read Of Mice and Men? Probably not, books are a little fiddly for you aren’t they? I’ll make a bus sized one for ya one day.” Tony wheezed out sounding slightly winded but thankfully not any worse off. He wasn’t sure what quite to do so was just remaining still hoping the Hulk did not decide to play any rougher.
At the sound of Tony’s voice the Hulk gave a low grumble but was mainly content in coddling the ‘baby Tin Man’.
“Puny Tin Baby sleep now.” Tony who was quickly muted by the Hulk shushing him and petting the teen into submission. This occurred several times with Tony trying to speak but being silenced by a Hulk that was determined to make him rest. Tony was guilty of secretly enjoying the cuddles even if it was with a surprisingly gentle rage monster. He reassured himself that it was because he was relieved he was not squished rather than the fact he was so hug-starved that he would just take it from anywhere.
It was surprisingly calming being eloped with the opposite-of-the-very-essence-of-calm big green, to be petted as if he was a kitten. So he eventually gave in to the tiredness which came with the territory of a nightmare he couldn’t quite remember but did not want to return to. The Hulk could scare nightmares away.
He was a bit chilly however so he may have stolen Hulk’s other hand to use as a blanket. The Hulk did not seem annoyed with his action or crushed him with said hand so Tony took that as a win.
The Hulk looked so desperate to stay as still as possible so not to disturb the peacefully snoozing Tony on his lap.
“Puny Tin Baby sleeping.” Hulk was smug, Banner struggled with getting the genius to sleep or have any reminiscence to a healthy lifestyle. Banner could not protect Tony from nightmares. Hulk could and Hulk was very pleased with himself.
Captain America was stood outside Bruce’s door looking horrified at the sight within; Clint took that as to fear the worst. Tony no doubt looked closer to road kill than otherwise. He lowered his bow as a symbol of lost as he hadn’t a hat to remove.
Being a sucker for punishment he had to see for himself the extent of the Tony coloured smear before he too ended up frozen at the sight. There was no crushed Tony or raging Hulk, instead there was a shirtless Tony fast asleep curled up against an equally shirtless but thankfully still wearing those purple trousers (that Clint was fairly sure were indestructible and he really wanted a pair) Bruce. They were sprawled on the floor – scratch that – they were sprawled on top of a rather flattened bed just snoring away. Clint was disappointed as how come he was not invited to the slumber party?
“Did they... fondue?” Clint had no idea what bread and cheese had to do with anything but he was just glad Tony was alive and they did not have to deal with the Hulk. Perhaps they had fondue at this slumber party that he was not invited to? If so, then it was so unfair. He was supposed to Teen Tony’s favourite. Not Bruce! Natasha looked torn between bemusement and amusement. She was no doubt noting things down to use at a later date, Clint was both in awe and terrified at her ability to do so.
Bruce woke up feeling certain that he had killed Tony, at the sight of Steve’s face in the doorway it only added to the feeling that Tony was dead.
But there was a weight on his chest. He was confused to see the boy snuggled up on his chest rather than dead so it was a good confused. Relief flooded him and he made a move to sit up.
“Brucie dear?” Tony murmured as the other shifted rousing him somewhat. Bruce hummed in acknowledgment. “Go the fuck back to sleep. I don’ wanna get up.” Tony grumbled forcefully pushing Bruce back down, Bruce rolled his eyes. It was good to have Tony alive.
“Tony... you’re shirtless. You were bed with Bruce.” Steve managed to stammer out. Clint had to roll his eyes a little, what was Steve trying to get at? He had shrugged the lack of shirt off due to unity with the Hulk and Tony. He had never actually seen Tony without a shirt on before now however, he had copped it up to the arc reactor. One thing that he had only just really noticed the lack of.
“What can I say? Bruce Banner is a very attractive man and a discussion in nuclear physics leads to a very pleasurable chain reaction.” Tony hummed, voice slightly muffled by the fact he was trying to get even closer to Bruce which was practically impossible. Clint choked a little at that trying to hold back his laughter, Steve just looked disappointed and Clint had to wonder if the man actually believed that.
“Night-time biology.” Clint prompted earning a muted whoop of glee from Tony. Bruce groaned and rubbed his temples. He did not need to be seen as someone who would sleep and possibly take advantage of teenagers, he had not thought that Captain America’s mind would sink down the gutter so quickly.
“Brooklyn, stop judging Bruce. I didn’t actually fornicate with him. I cannot sleep alone. That’s when the assassins get you.” He made the watching you gesture between himself and Natasha to lighten the mood. “Happy? Well now I’m definitely not going to get back to sleep.” Tony grumbled getting up but not without a pat to Bruce’s chest for good measure and leaving the room so he could find a shirt.
That’s when the others all began to talk, more than likely about him.
Tony was fairly sure he was going crazy, he was now taking into account the manner had he had been so clingy with Bruce in the morning. He shouldn’t trust these people. They were potential hostiles and could very easily betray him. They still weren’t giving him any sign of when he could leave or why he could not.
But semi-awake Tony was clingy as if he let go even a tiny bit he would be left. Again. He may have developed a small abandonment issue or two thanks to his childhood mainly consisting of being left behind in a big mansion amongst other little things like the ransom of the last kidnapping had been refused to be paid by Howard. Obie Stane had paid it off once he had learnt of this. Tony flinched slightly in guilt over how he hadn’t even thought of Obie in the time he was here, his chest twinged a little which was odd but he added it up to guilt.
When he asked Clint about Obie, if he could contact Rhodey he did not see why he couldn’t contact the long-time family friend that Stane was, the archer had started acting weird. Well weirder than what seemed to be his normal level of weirdness, Clint’s gaze seemed to focus at Tony’s chest too much for his liking. Bruce reacted in much the same manner. What he noted was that they did know of Obie, he may have a far-fetched idea that Stane was dead. Possibly why he was still here. It did not help that he had a stupid idea that he was only here because Howard no longer required him as a heir now Captain Perfect was back.
So here he sat in a wardrobe avoiding everyone trying to get over his conflicting emotions over honestly liking and automatically trusting these people with no reason why aside from a gut feeling that said he knew them. Then the upside that bad previous experiences of kidnaps and false friends left him waiting for them to show the ugly truth.
It was like having two different brains at times. One that was logical and planning his escape; the other that claimed he belonged here, these were his friends and did not want to leave.
He took a deep breath to calm himself down. These ‘attacks’ for lack of a better word to describe them where becoming annoying, they were when the fact he was not really told anything and he was kept a pampered prisoner override the part of his brain which told him that these were friends.
He needed a project to distract him from whatever breakdowns he may have. He could always make Spangles a friendship bracelet to wipe off that kicked puppy look, the man looked a sad golden retriever when he pulled his hurt face. Heh... Golden Restever. Labrathor. St Brucenard. He was going off tangent here, the thing was he could make Spangles a friendship bracelet, he just did not want to.
He could explore however, delve into some of the secrets they had hidden. Find means of escape, potential allies. Materials to create instruments of doom that can help in his escape. He should actually create Stars-and-Stripes a friendship bracelet considering how he fitted them all with small trackers which was how he was currently masterfully avoiding them at the moment.
He had not left the top floors yet, they were so vast. He mostly haven’t left as there seemed to be no stairs in this place only an elevator that restricted his access. The vents also stopped being human sized after these floors so he couldn’t manage that either. It was an odd design; he gathered someone had to design the vents just for Clint or something. So that was what was first on his list escaping these floors.
He huffed at this super attractive piece of technology (he had the strangest urge to lick it) that he tried accessing the elevator with. The network he had managed to access was just plain weird; it was like it was humouring him but still putting a safety blanket over everything. He swore the network had a personality that was both helpful but deliberately getting in his way.
In mild frustration he typed out ‘Knock, Knock’
‘Who’s there, sir?’ He gave a startled laugh. He did not even have to bother with code to get a response, was there perhaps an AI? He knew about AIs, he had created DUM-E after all. Even if DUM-E was not quite the advanced AI he had been going for, he had developed a fondness for the silly machine. This AI if it indeed was one was beyond what he had managed to make. The sir was a nice touch. The AI explained how the system adapted to him.
‘Orange who, sir?’
‘Orange you going to let me use the elevator?’
‘Please.’ He added as an afterthought, if the AI was polite he may as well return the favour.
‘Very well, sir, seeing as you asked so nicely.’
If he had known it would be so easy then he would have tried yesterday.
He was mildly alarmed for the back of the wardrobe he was hiding in to give way to a secret elevator however. Still it was awesome; whoever designed this building had practically designed it with him in mind. Right down to the AI.
There was a very handsome man in the prison equivalent to a goldfish bowl. The AI warned him that this was the Loki that Thor had mentioned ages ago and that he was prone to fits of global domination and destruction of cities. Oh well, everyone had their vices, he’ll forgive him just this once thanks to those amazing cheekbones.
Besides the guy was locked up. In a giant glass tank but he was still locked up. He had to wonder whether the glass was to make sure he wasn’t doing sneaky evil stuff or because he was pretty and it’ll be a shame to hide away his face. Tony may really need to work on his weakness for pretty people.
No one was around but the AI informed him there were cameras around, so Tony asked him really nicely to loop the footage or something so he could talk to the pretty man. He had discovered that the AI would help him do anything as long as he said please and thank you. Therefore this AI was now his favourite even with the annoying positive reinforcement of good manners. The AI sounded disapproving even through just text but he relented. Tony did not understand where he had got the idea that the AI was a he or the fact the AI wouldn’t just pass on all the information to the Avengers, but he decided to go with it.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of a visit, Anthony Stark?” The God stated without even bothering to acknowledge his presence with looking towards him.
“Creepy, but I’ll allow it because you have nice hair.” Loki spared him a glance and a raised brow.
“Why do you think you have the right to disallow anything a God does?” Loki questioned scornfully.
“Because said God is basically inside an enforced bubble? But Holy Shit, you’re the kind of God I could get behind, I would glad convert. You know - if you weren’t supposedly so bat-shit crazy. I would worship the fuck out of you as you’re attractive and I’m finding that I’m actually really shallow. Thankfully I’m still not shallow enough yet to accept my planet getting screwed over by your actions however.”
Loki looked at the boy in mild amusement allowing his ramblings. It made a change for the focus to include compliments rather than be composed entirely of insults; perhaps this was how it could have been if he hadn’t thrown the being out a window. Perhaps he’ll allow the Iron Man to have the honour to die last once he grew bored of them.
“Do you ever grow tired of the sound of your own voice?” Loki stated, the teenager gave a grin.
“Did you really give birth to an eight-legged horse?” Tony responded, Loki may have faltered a little at that question. Where on Asgard did the Misgardian get that from?
“Why are you here Anthony?” Tony took that as a maybe from a very possible avoidance strategy. It made him think though as why did he decide to talk to the supposed crazy God.
“Don’t call me that, only my father calls me that. Well you’re a prisoner, I’m a prisoner. In my inevitable escape I’m trying to decide who I take with me.” May as well be honest as this person was supposed to be the God of Lies, he was not sure whether that meant he was just really good at lies or whether he could recognise a lie a mile away. He decided not to risk it. Besides it gave Loki an initiative not to tell anyone about his plans to escape if Loki thought he too could escape. He did not put it past the other spilling the fact he planned to escape just to spite him if there was not anything in for him.
“Also a change of pace before I was suffocated.” Loki was not allied with the team upstairs and if he was going to be honest may as well get something off his chest. It might be stupid and giving Loki something he could use against him but to be honest he could see Loki keeping the information to himself if only to spite Thor by knowing something he did not. Finally there was something he had absolute faith in for the first time he awoke in this crazy tower, and that was Loki's ability to do things just for spite everyone else. “Your brother...”
“He’s not my brother.”
“Alrighty then. Is Big, Blonde and Brutish alright with you?” That earned a small almost snigger. Tony took that as winning.
“That is fitting; go on with your tale mortal.”
“Okay then, Big Blonde and Brutish...”
“Bless you.” Bruce stated simply from the island counter.
“I thought, as a God, I was the one supposed to be the one doing the blessing.” Thor muttered confused, these Midgardians with their odd speech which made little sense.
“Aren’t you supposed to be a god of fertility? No thank you. Send me the god of outrageous good-fortune for my blessing.” Clint added eying up the coffee pot in longing. It was coffee hour yet it was not yet brewed. It was odd being a coffee hour without Tony hogging first dibs on coffee. To think about it he had not seen tiny Tony in a while but no alarms were going off so he couldn’t of made too much of a mess. Hopefully.
Thor sneezed again and Bruce held down his paperwork to prevent it from flying away again. Then being shot by another arrow as Clint had to prove how good he was preventing the paperwork from going everywhere. He did not need another arrow slit in his work thank you very much. If Tony, their Tony, was here he would claim it as another reason to switch to a StarkPad. “We have a saying here about sneezing when someone is talking about us. Seems like you’re popular today, buddy.” Clint grinned.
“I am glad that I am popular then, where is the shrunken Stark?”
“Haven’t seen since after he asked after Stane. I might have frozen up a little at that. Come on, it’s a bit like Bruce asking after Ross! No offense Bruce.”
“None taken. I think I can accept comparing Ross and Stane being despicable, if you compared him to Mother Teresa then we might have a problem. I keep forgetting that Tony isn’t... quite himself, he hasn’t treated me any differently.”
“So you sleep in each other’s embraces frequently?”
“What happens in the lab stays in the lab.” Clint snorted in amusement. “The things that are different... are kind of sad.” Clint had to agree with Bruce on that one.
“He treats Steven with fear of rejection so he pushes back so at least if he is rejected then he could pretend to himself that he was in control of it.” Thor hummed in agreement; Bruce and Clint looked at him in surprise.
“Have you ever considered becoming a therapist?” Clint prompted. Thor smiled.
“Tony. Where have you been?” It was the first time anyone had seen head or tail of the teenager for a while. All previous times that this had happened had involved alarms going off. So Steve naturally felt the need to ask the boy what he was doing. Tony flinched a little and turned towards Steve with an innocent smile.
“Practicing his super secret spy skills just like his daddy. Ain’t that right Little Sparrow?” Clint stated, Tony gave a small sigh of relief.
“You’re not actually his father.” Steve prompted with raised brows.
“Shush. He could be if wanted to.” Tony stated slipping his arm through Clint’s. Steve frowned, Howard had been his friend and Tony kept on pushing him aside as if he meant little to him.
“Where have you been Tony?”
“Daddy told ya.” Clint’s eyes seemed to brighten but Steve felt that it was a small dig at him. “Practicing my super secret spy skills.” At Steve’s look the teenager huffed and rummaged in a pocket.
“Fine. Whatever. Since you looked like I drowned your goldfish, here I made you a bracelet too. Happy?” Tony stated thrusting a not quite matching bracelet like Thor’s, Clint’s and Bruce’s.
“It’s blue, white and red.” Steve stated in awe. It matched his costume.
“Viva la France!” Tony gave an awkward laugh at the look he was given. “Yay America?”
"Thank you Tony."
“What on Earth is that?” Tony murmured in alarm sending startled looks at Steve. He had quite pleasantly been staring into space when Steve had interrupted his doing nothing with loud noise; he almost had a heart attack. He was fortunate not to have heart problems.
“Music?” Steve stated with an odd look upon his face.
“I am not inclined to believe you.” Tony answered simply looking towards Clint. He too seemed to share a baffled look but Tony was not quite sure whether Clint was baffled with Steve or with Tony.
Then suddenly Clint made an understanding clicking noise with his tongue. “Of course! War Machine, how couldn’t we see it? He named his suit after that song of theirs. The nerd!” It all made sense to Clint as obviously Rhodes had been the big AC-DC fan, who else called their suit after one of their songs? At some point Rhodes had broke the sheltered posh kid into the whole scene. Just not quite yet considering how alarmed Tony seemed by the music. Suddenly the way Tony had taken it upon himself to introduce Steve Rogers to the modern world made more sense. Although nowhere near to the same extent Tony too had been isolated at some point and knew to an extent what it was like to be thrust into a world he was unfamiliar with. Tony had been raised almost solely by an old English butler after all.
It was just a shame to know how hard he soon fell afterwards. The party college days of Tony Stark were infamous for a reason.
Steve’s face took on a sense of understanding and some of the hurt that seemed to be a permanent fixture with Tiny Tony bled out a little. “I see.”
Tony’s face did an odd twitching thing which it had been doing a lot recently, Clint may have a slight notion that it meant Tony was frustrated at not understanding but he was not certain. Not yet. Tony was not quite as good at hiding his frustration or discomfort as he thought he was. At times he seemed to flip-flop from being a cocky but quite hilarious brat to a teenager on edge, it appeared to be the latter quite often around Steve although he hadn’t quite figured out what the problem was with Steve. Perhaps it was the fact Tony had been brought up thinking he was dead? Must be jarring to have him suddenly alive and no build up. Clint took the vanishing acts as a need for a breather as JARVIS did not alert them to any problems or attempts to escape. Obviously Tony couldn’t be completely comfortable here with so much withheld from him, his vanishing acts proved that, but it’ll all be over sooner than later because it often proved to be such the case with Loki. Loki appears, messes everything up for the shits and giggles, they defeat him, Loki disappears or is captured, they clean up. Then the cycle begins again.
Luckily Natasha saved him the need to distract Tony from whatever discomfort he was experiencing.
“So... where’s my bracelet?” The red-head stated gesturing at Steve’s wrist then lifting her bare wrist. Tony looked at her blankly whilst almost guiltily Steve put his arm behind his back with a sheepish grin.
“Why would you want one?” He did not seem to contemplate any need for her to want one, admittedly Clint had no idea why Natasha would like one either.
“Merely wondering why I’m the one left without one.” She stated coolly. Tony just stared uncomprehendingly.
“Bracelets are for girls.” Tony said almost uncertainly looking towards Clint for some kind of backup from the mildly terrifying red-head.
Natasha did a sweeping movement with her hand gesturing at herself. Tony could not help the way his eyes lingered somewhat at the chest area. He was a hormonal teenager and her tight black leather jumpsuit was not fair! Besides she was the one who basically pointed them out with her gesture.
He took a while (and a nudge from Clint) to get back on tangent.
“Come on, you threaten our masculinity with how kickass you are. You’re no girl.” The no girl part would have probably turned out more effective if his gaze hadn’t kept wandering as once he saw them he could not ignore them.
“Besides I think you’re probably immune to the poison I put in them.” Tony added as an after-thought. Then the floor did an impression of a wave as it came up to meet his face. Within moments the crazy Russian had tossed him over and had one of his arms twisted behind his back. Clint winced, Natasha knew the teenager probably could which was why she no doubt took it the way she did. But crap! Too far!
“It was a joke! A joke!” Tony wheezed out, it took all his self control not to freak out and struggle, which knowing his luck would cause him to break his own arm. Steve was not much help and stood there being as helpful as a lemon whilst Clint at least had the decency to look ready to rescue him if needs be.
“Robin Hood, be an utter peach and remove Incy Wincy Spider from my person, will you?” Tony couldn’t help the small whimper as Natasha’s grip seemed to tighten at Incy Wincy Spider.
“Come on ‘Tash. He’s only, like, twelve or something and he did say he was joking.” “Consider this a warning, Mister Stark.” Natasha stated before letting go of him unceremoniously and walking away sharply. Clint could at least say that he was suitably distracted from any frustration he was dealing with, but Natasha could at least ease up on the little guy. Tony sat up looking slightly dazed.
“Well shit. Are you alright Little Sparrow?” Clint asked in concern, Tony’s cheeks were an odd shade of red and he had a really strange look on his face. “She could kill me with her thighs.” The red seemed to increase and the glazed look in his eyes increased. “She’s perfect.” Tony murmured reverently, it was then Clint realised that the red in Tony’s face wasn’t because of being flipped but rather the fact he was blushing like a little school girl. Clint did not know how to react to that. It did explain a lot about Pepper, terrifying women who could crush him under their heel seemed to be Tony’s thing. And here he thought it was red-heads. Clint wouldn’t judge the guy though, to each their own.
Dear Steve had finally stopped his rendition of a potato to offer Tony his hand to help the teenager up. Giving the super solider credit when it was due, it did happen in mere seconds and Clint was not particularly helpful either. In Clint’s case it partly due to wanting to see how Tony handled himself. He assumed in Steve’s case it was the mix of the thought ‘these are my team-mates, how do I separate them without injuring either of them’ and the fact Steve was still struggling to cope with teenage Tony in general.
At the sight of Steve’s offered hand Tony stiffened up with his jaw clenching up. Clint really could not understand the extent of the animosity Tony appeared to feel for the Captain. It seemed like an age Tony just looking at the hand, he could practically see Tony’s urge to slap it away but it was hold back by some kind of guilt. It was easy to recognise guilt upon Tony’s face by now with the sheer amount of deep-seated guilt his older counterpart appeared to carry whether ‘the Merchant of Death’ was mentioned.
Eventually Tony accepted the hand and Clint felt he needed his sunglasses for the smile Steve gave. Tony did not linger but it still made Steve’s day. He was getting somewhere, even if slowly.
Another team meal. Simple enough, relatively healthy he would assume considering the vast amounts of green in the salad complimented by reds and purples of other such fruit and vegetables. The salad bowls dwarfed the table and it said a lot about the appetites of the team. He was not part of the team however; he was an outsider who was merely dragged along so they could keep an eye on him. A prisoner trapped in a prison of luxury. There were worse prisons.
What caught his eye were the tantalising bottles. He had to wonder whether it was some kind of test to have this range of alcohol laid out before him. He may already have an experience with the drink prompted by the wine and champagne at the Stark held galas and parties; encouraged by the stolen whisky from his father’s office; and expected by his older, college peers in concerns of vodka and other cheaper spirits.
He definitely had a taste of it and seeing it made the urge to drink it all the more potent. He felt Natasha’s eyes upon him and he had an inkling of who set this little challenge up. He was not sure whether she knew of his experience of the drink or whether she wanted to get him drunk whether to spill some kind of information. He still had not figured out why he was there. That’s what his brain hold him, his hormones however told him that Natasha was a very good looking lady who could easily crush him. He still couldn’t quite figure out why that was a good thing but his cheeks flared up red anyway.
He had a glass in his hand before he even knew he had reached for one and Clint seemed to suddenly be at his shoulder.
“Hey squirt, fancy some orange juice?” Clint said with an odd strained sound to his voice causing him to sound almost desperate. He had no idea why Clint would sound or be desperate so he deemed it as a misconception on his own part. Clint glowered towards Natasha. The rest of the Avenger’s eyes were solely on him. Bruce seemed to have the oddest expression, one he both recognised yet could not place. Thor seemed to be the only one nonplussed.
“The Avengers should not encourage or endorse underage drinking.” Steve agreed looking at the array of alcohol, which was really why Tony practically stole an alcoholic beverage. As if he would listen to Captain America.
He chucked it back with ease. It was weaker than the stuff he was used to but it made him want more. He may admit to having might have a teency weency small problem with the stuff. Maybe.
He stuck out his tongue ignoring Clint’s pinched expression. Just more disappointment to add onto his reign of being a disappointment and failure of a son. Nothing new. The only thing different was who he was the ‘son’ of. Well at least he was good at something, even if that something was being a failure. The eyes on him only intensified when he figured out he had started laughing. He guessed it was because if he was not laughing then he would just break. Breaking was not an option.
Tony was singing. In Italian. Obviously Natasha had counted on tiny Tony having just as little control over his need of alcohol as his adult counterpart; Clint knew she was the one to devise such underhand tactics to achieve whatever her end-game was. As much as he loved the woman supplying a recovering alcoholic, even his teenage form which turns out to have almost as big a problem, alcohol to get whatever information she needed was a bit low when the person was a team-member.
Teenage Tony was no stranger to alcohol already as shown by his immunity to it; eventually he succumbed to it however. He apparently lost the ability to speak English, or knowing Tony was just refusing to, probably to spite Steve who did not understand it. Clint was not the language expert like Natasha but even he knew enough to recognise when Tony was insulting someone.
But heck, he never knew Tony had any resemblance to a singing voice yet alone that he could sing in Italian. Bruce seemed to appreciate it having appeared on edge the moment alcohol was introduced but mellowed slightly as Tony seemed content to do his own renditions of Bruce’s kind of music. Bruce had even taken to making his own requests. Clint was so going to taunt Tony over his seemingly vast knowledge of the classical genre.
They were just fortunate that he seemed to be a cheerful, clingy drunk. For now. He just wished it did not have to happen. If it just been casual he doubted he would have been fussed but it was felt so wrong for Tony to have been played like that, to be pushed into it. It hurt slightly to realise that he and Steve had also been played somewhat into help force Tony into making the decision. Natasha must have known what Steve’s input would have done. Steve just had this way of making Tony do knee-jerk decisions just to spite him.
Drunken Tiny Tony seemed to have a habit of sinking into people’s personal spaces considering the way he just had to lie upon Bruce as if the resident scientist was his own personal bean bag. Thor was also treated as Tony’s personal footrest as if Tony had a little competition with himself to see how many people he could lie on at one time. Thor did not seem to mind however; in fact the god revelled in the way he was treated. Clint figured it was something to do with the fact he missed being a big brother considering the way the last one he had turned out of be a bag of cats. Bruce did not seem too put out either. In fact Clint was slightly – absolutely not – jealous of the way Tony had not claimed part of him to lie upon.
Thor, no doubt understanding what he was saying thanks to the all-powerful and all-totally-unfair Allspeak, was the only one really conversing with Tony in his chosen language of the hour. That made him Tony’s current favourite considering the way Tiny Tony was looking up at him and gesturing towards his beard. Clint was not totally jealous.
“You did look most distinguished with a beard, Man of Iron.” Thor agreed to whatever Tony had been saying between his bouts of singing. Tony’s brows furrowed, no doubt due to the manner Thor had said it. Steve looked as frustrated as Clint felt at not understanding what Tony was saying.
“Could you just speak English?”
Tony looked straight at Steve with an almost unsettling intensity for a moment before he very purposely began speaking in German. It was particularly cruel spewing out German directly at the man who had came from the time when he was fighting against Nazi Germany. Steve visibly flinched the moment he recognised the change of language. Tony turned his head unfazed. Steve had to get used to the fact Germany was no longer considered their enemies, he needed more time to get accustomed to their time and it was spiteful to exploit it like Tiny Tony was now doing.
Despite any misgivings Clint had ever had about Tony Stark as a person, he had never clocked him as a purposely cruel person. Shallow? Likely. Capable of dusting over other people’s feelings? Definitely. But to straight out be cruel and cold... he had pictured Tony as too hot-blooded to use such tactics unless in the heat of a heavy argument or in desperate times. He guessed he was wrong. He did not want to be wrong as he found that he quite liked the kid.
Then the kid went ahead and signed at him, then he was reminded how thoughtful the kid could be. He sighed and signed at Tony to “Be Nice.” Thor looked confused at their fingers knowing that it meant something but he could not understand what.
Then Tony switched to a language he had no hopes in following, binary. Even Thor faltered and Tony had to settle for plain old Japanese. Clint hadn’t realised Tony knew so many languages but when he thought about it, most of the languages were the main language of key countries that S.I. operated in so it made sense for Tony to know a few.
DUM-E was a good bot. So why hasn’t Master Tony visited them? It had been far too long; it was a sign that Master Tony was hurt or lost. Afghanistan. DUM-E may have been a simple AI, especially when compared to JARVIS. Compared to JARVIS, DUM-E was like a very forgetful child, he could never understand or recall like JARVIS. He was clumsy and was quipped at, but he was still an AI that Tony Stark made and loved so DUM-E became distressed at prolonged absences of his creator. He whirled around the workshop distraught inspiring U and Butterfingers to do the same as his panic caught on. JARVIS like a good older brother tried to reassure them and showed them images of a teenage Tony.
But they knew that their creator no longer looked like that. It was confusing and did not really help ease their panic. They were causing such a menace the Mistress was called. The tell-tale click of her heels signalled her presence.
“DUM-E?” DUM-E liked Mistress Pepper, she had saved his creator and she had understood the same distress at Master Tony being gone. “Tony’s safe.” Pepper understood the sentience of Tony’s creations and treated them as such; she wouldn’t have worked so well with Tony if she hadn’t. These bots were Tony’s family. They were as close as Tony had ever got to children. Pepper had a sneaking suspicion that part of their sentience was because Tony treated them as such; it was Tony’s own little magic. Although Tony would dismiss it as he liked to shun magic.
DUM-E whirled at her softly appreciating the way she lightly touched him. If the Mistress said Tony was safe then he was. The Mistress would never lie to them.
“Oww.” Tiny Tony groaned burying his face in a pillow. “Turn off the sun for me, would ya?”
“Certainly, sir.” The voice was so unmistakably his. The one person who he knew would stay. Howard, Mother, Obie and Rhodey... they would all leave eventually. Sure Rhodey was staying for now but eventually he’d get fed up and leave. But Jarvis, Jarvis was his and Jarvis would stay.
“Thanks, I love ya Jay.” He murmured into his pillow with a smile as the lighting dimmed.
“I love you too, sir.” Was the soft, not quite heard reply.
When Tony could finally bear to lift his head however he was not back with Jarvis. He was still here in his gilded cage. Did he just dream it up? He felt all watery which was ridiculous as Stark men did not cry; they did not even know the definition of this crying that mere mortals do.
As well as that strange very manly watery feeling, he had a strong feeling that he had done something stupid. This was a feeling he was well acquainted with.
“Finally awake Sleeping Beauty?” Clint. Again, he was always around wasn’t he? Don’t get him wrong, he liked Clint, Clint was awesome. But he was always there.
“You haven’t been watching me sleep have you? Because I swear that’s illegal with you being like forty or something which is really old. Oh God, I’ve been hanging out with old people now I just feel dirty. You’re all not perverts are you?”
“I knew I there had to be something else to do with my discomfort around Captain Rogers.” Tony muttered.
“You can call him Steve you know.” Clint stated. It was more interesting letting Tony rant on, especially when he had less of filter due to lack of sleep, alcohol or otherwise. Unless it was in a language you did not understand. It was not always good to hear but it was interesting.
“But that’s one of your ploys to get me comfortable by using your first names informally. You’re trying to seduce me! I’ll never tell you where I buried my treasure.” Clint raised a brow at that, Tony scrunched his eyes shut. “Alright you got me; my head hurts too much for this. Even I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
“Pity. It’s time to rise and shine, just grin and bear your pounding headache.” Clint prompted as he began prodding the groaning teenager.
“Can you not just kill me with your sneaky assassin skills? Because I have this feeling that I’ll prefer that to the huge crushing embarrassment that is going to hit me the moment I leave this bed.” Tony answered swatting away Clint’s hands.
“Aww, diddums. That’s what you get when you drink.” Clint might have some sympathy as Tony had been played but he sure was not going to show it considering Tony let himself get played like that. Tony was supposed to a genius. He may be projecting some of his own anger at himself at Tony as he had allowed it to happen.
“Give me an arrow, I’ll do it myself. Better still get me that gauntlet thing, that’ll work even quicker.” Tony grumbled retreating into his duvet by pulling it over his head and wrapping it around himself.
Clint may have taken it upon himself to being Tony’s shadow for today as he did not really trust Tony on his own considering the whole alcohol thing. He felt it was best to keep an eye on him, besides he was curious to where Tony kept disappearing to. He had vanished again last night and they could not find him anywhere until suddenly he had reappeared back in his bed. Tony was not supposed to be the sneaky one. Clint had a sneaking suspicion that he may have taken the dad thing to heart.
“Up now Little Sparrow or there won’t be any breakfast left.” Tony opened one eye and peered out of his duvet cocoon.
“Will there be coffee?” Tony murmured. At Clint’s nod, Tony decided to shuffle out of the bed with the duvet still wrapped around him. “I’m not getting dressed.” Tony stated as if it was some great compromise on his part. Clint had to wrestle the duvet off the teenager who snarled at him before forcing a clean t-shirt over his head whilst Tony glared. Tony still refused to wear trousers however but Clint guessed he could live with the other wearing his boxer shorts but a duvet was just impractical. What if the other went too close to the oven and set himself on fire!
Eventually he managed to get Tony out of the room, despite what Tony had said about embarrassment he showed no signs of it and acted like the whole incident was water off a duck’s back. He responded to it all with head held high and a cocky attitude. Which was pretty impressive for someone wearing heart boxers, an over-sized Spiderman shirt, bunny slippers and of course designer sunglasses. Clint had to wonder how much was a practiced act and how much it had actually affected him. Also why Tony even had a Spiderman t-shirt in the first place.
Tony sat down haughtily at a stool at the island counter his feet swinging as he point blank refused to look at either Natasha or Steve. Making it clear that he was not as unaffected as he made out to be.
Tony could not quite act the same around Natasha however. It was good that the odd school-girl crush thing was over but the crushing betrayal look did not sit quite right either. Clint had a horrible feeling that if Tony kept his memories of this time when he was returned to adulthood then this distrust may carry over thanks to this stint. That would not bode well for the team, it could even spell out a few cracks and cracks easily could form breaks. Clint liked this team; he did not want it to fall apart. Nor did he want to have to pick a side.
“Are those fresh strawberries?” Tony asked peering over the island counter “And pancakes?”
“Yes, I made them.” Steve’s voice was stiff and Clint noted Tony’s slight wince. He had to watch out for cracks between Tony and Steve as well considering by Steve’s face that he was quite aware that the German was on purpose. He was more wary now.
“Err... it's looks really nice. Cap?” It seemed like a struggle but Tony managed to force out something close-ish to a compliment. He was also getting somewhere away from the Captain Rogers malarkey even if the Cap sounded more like a question.
At least Tony had the decency of showing some remorse around the captain even if he did not apologise, because apologising meant admitting you were wrong. And of course Tony was ‘never’ wrong. But an olive branch was better than nothing.
Steve’s face softened lightly as like Clint he could see Tony was trying even if his effort was bad.
“Anthony, I am neither your personal news column nor your diary.” Anthony sent a pout towards the demi-god, it was a most ridiculous display. Loki closed his eyes for a second, he felt that he was being incredibly patient with the boy, a talent he decreed learnt from having to deal with Thor for centuries. As much as information the young mortal delved about himself and the Avengers was a pleasant upside, it could become most wearisome. This foolish mortal had somehow taken it into his thick little skull that they were friends of some sort.
“But who else am I supposed to talk to, and what else do you have to do?” The mortal had a legit point about the latter but he still had no idea why the mortal decided that the harboured war criminal was the person he wanted to lament to rather than the archer he gushed over. However it was nice to be picked over Thor.
“So... you’re listening?” Loki let out a small groan followed by a resigned sigh.
“Yes I am listening, you pathetic tiny mortal.” Anthony just beamed like the strange little human he was.
“So the great and infallible Allspeak cannot understand either binary or sign language, nor can it decipher slang. It’s interesting but not necessarily useful. What I wanted to tell you was I brought you strawberries! And I stole some of Thor’s poptarts to give to you.”
“Why would I want my brother’s poptarts? Or these strawberries?” Loki scoffed in disbelief and mild revulsion at the thought of Anthony bringing something of his brother’s to him.
“Because then you have the satisfaction of him having no poptarts whilst you eat his! I thought you would appreciate the thought.” The thought was oddly satisfying and now he looked at the foolish being he had a question of his own.
“Why on Misgard, aren’t you wearing any trousers?”
Anthony grinned at him. “Because trousers are for lowly peasants.”
“Very well, how do you suppose to give me your offerings through my cage?” By the look on the silly mortal’s face he had not thought of that.
“I don’t know, I just figured you could magic it through. You’re super powerful after all. And they must feed you through somewhere. It’s basic human rights.” The boy shrugged with a sheepish expression.
“Technically I am not considered human, so these human rights do not apply to me.” Loki answered in a tone of indifference although he was preening at being referred to as super powerful. He should throw this mortal out of things and invade his home less often.
“But they do feed you, don’t they?” The little Misgardian looked so indignant on his behalf that it was almost endearing (almost), he wondered how he’d react if he informed him what some of his punishments upon Asgard had been let alone inform him that there was no toilet in sight. He was half tempted to tell him that they don’t feed him and observe whether or not Anthony burst with his idea of the injustice of it all. They did in fact feed him, as Thor had demanded such of them, but the gruel was nothing to write home about and it was in his opinion insulting to even call it food.
The boy looked so affronted that Loki decided to reward him by phasing the food through. It was a simple thing, about the only real thing he could do in this accursed prison without releasing the spell on this mortal. It was gratifying to see the sheer amount of awe on his face however.
“Wow. If you can do that why haven’t just escaped already?” A legit question, but Loki did not have the entire building on his side if he chose to escape. He would also miss the show.
“I’m allergic to fish tanks.” Loki deadpanned, Anthony looked on like an eager puppy, Loki could just imagine his tail wagging. Anthony decided to drop it when he saw Loki was not going to answer him. They sat in a comfortable silence for a while whilst Loki found out that both pop-tarts and strawberries were surprisingly delicious. Then Anthony had to break the silence.
“Can I try on your horns?”
“Let me think... no.”
Good news: I have finally completed this chapter.
Bad news: My cat died today so if I write any more recently expect angst.
Chapter 6: Yield
Clint was pleased with how things were going. Tiny Tony seemed content and had less instances of disappearing, which now Clint thought about it, could be less taking a break and more looking for escape routes. He had not really showed many signs of wanting to leave though.
Currently he was teaching the kid the wonders of game consoles which just seemed to blow the kid’s mind. For about a minute. Then he began to trash Clint in practically all the racing games, which was unfair. Clint still had the edge in shooters however. They had very carefully filtered out games that had their year of make obvious and those whose graphics were far enough ahead for Tony to suspect. Not that Tony did not ask questions anyway.
“Clint, we need to talk.”
“Nat, but I’m gaming.” Clint whined slightly but relented when he saw the seriousness in her stance. With a huff he rustled Tony’s hair.
“I’ll be right back, kiddo. No cheating whilst I’m gone.” Tony’s face scrunched up a little at kiddo but he seemed pleasantly flustered.
“So I can cheat whilst you’re here?” Tony grinned.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it.” Clint scolded with a smirk before leaving the room with the increasingly mildly more impatient Natasha.
“It isn’t wise to play game consoles with him. All technology is dangerous in his hands. That’s not I wanted to say however, you need to stop this.” She stated gesturing towards Tony.
“Stop what exactly? Keeping him comfortable enough not to blow walls up in his way out?”
“Using him to replace your own children.” Clint winced a little at that. It was a little below the belt and the thought that JARVIS and in extension older Tony would have overheard was unsettling considering how under wraps they wanted it to be. It was not that he did not trust Tony (but he did not, not the elder, not with this) but the less people who knew the safer his family would be. Natasha eased his fears with the device that cloaked their speech from JARVIS. It was how they got past Stark’s defences when needs be such as the palladium poisoning incident and how Coulson accessed Stark’s elevator when it came to assemble the team.
“That’s not true.” But when he noticed how defensive he sounded... there had to be some truth in there somewhere.
“No. You’re also trying to one-up the others by trying to get him to like you best.”
“I... you’re right.” Defeated “But I do like the kid. He grows on you. But fuck, do you have the rights to preach when you present him alcohol and for what? What kind of test was that?”
“It was not just his test. He was not the only one to fail, the team did too.” He winced slightly, sure he made feeble attempts to divert Tony but did any of them really try to stop him? He had been in parts curious, mortified and just did not want to upset the balance they had made. What he did not get was Natasha’s attitude, despite what she may show she actually liked the older Tony or at least cared somewhat. Yet she was cold with Tiny Tony. And the tests were just cruel.
“He may be a version of Tony but he’s not our Tony. He may be a teenager but he’s dangerous. We need to stay alert.”
“I think we can handle him.”
“It’s on your head.”
When Clint got back to the room, the conversation having took longer than he thought it would, Tony was gone. At least he left a note no matter how vague it was about where he went.
Apologising was hard. Mostly in part due to the fact it meant admitting you were wrong in the first place, and being wrong was a weakness Tony could not afford to have. Normally he would have never have dreamt of apologising to someone who was helping him be locked up and kidnapped. If he admitted to himself the reason he had not really made a big attempt of escaping was the fact aside from Jarvis and Rhodes who and what did he have to return to?
The fact he kept wondering what he had to go back to just mixed with the fact there had been no attempts to get him back... the fact that these kidnappers treated him more like family than his own. It was just easier pretending to himself that they were kidnappers and that he was going to escape rather than facing that he was not wanted elsewhere.
He actually felt wanted for once around these people; it was a good feeling to be wanted. But these stupid feelings were hindering his thoughts of escape (if he even wanted to anymore) and the reason why he was even considering apologising.
The thing was, he was not one hundred percent sure how to actually apologise without extravagant gifts and inventions used to just soothe things over without that dreaded talking thing people claimed to do. What could he even give the guy when his hands were tied when it came to stuff to give? He could try that word thing but that was for people who were lesser beings than Starks.
“How do I go about apologising without having to actually apologise?
“And you’re asking me? I unleashed monsters upon your world and planned to rule it. I am as apologetic as a standard issue rock, and you’re asking me for apology advice.” Loki sounded dubious.
“You’re far more attractive than a standard issue rock and that’s apology enough for me.” Tony prompted, Loki gave a small snort but whether it was amusement or disbelief Tony was not sure.
“Very well, I suggest poison. You don’t have to apologise if they are dead.”
“Valid point and very good suggestion but not quite what I was picturing. Besides if the great super solider isn’t affected by alcohol there’s no telling how other poisons would affect him. Best go for the good old fashioned decapitation if we really wanted him dead. Which we don’t.”
“I could kill him for you, if you so wished if it’s those... what’s the word? Ah, yes, morals getting in your way.” Loki drawled sounding almost offended at the thought of morals. Tony was not sure whether he should be concerned over how sincere the other sounded.
“It’s actually a really thoughtful offer, and I’m honoured, but no thank you.” If Tony admitted it to himself he was actually pretty flattered and could not quite hold back a small pleased flush that someone would kill for him, although with what he heard was not much of an ask from Loki. Eighty people in two days, his mind supplied although he did not have a source for that information. But still, he offered. “He hasn’t done anything warranting his death.”
“A pity.” Loki sighed looking mildly disappointed. “Very well, what are you apologising for?”
“I would consider not actually killing him apology enough for a mild dose of your dreadful personality flaw of being an ass-dick.”
Tony actually choked a little at that, for one it just seemed so strange to hear the other use foul language and he was finding that he was very appreciative of when he did. Another thing was he torn whether he should find it hilarious (this side was winning) or offensive (it was not really but felt that he should take some offense). He was beginning to think that maybe Loki was not the ideal person to ask apology advice from, but he was just so fun to talk to.
“I want an update, JARVIS. I had left it too long already.”
“Young Master Tony is currently in a calm state. He is discussing whether it would be best to eliminate Steven Rogers rather than apologising.”
“Apologise? Why would he need to apologise?” Pepper was amused at the thought; it was such a Tony thing to avoid apologising with words but sometimes he just had to take things too far. It seemed that he had not learnt to use his words even whilst a teenager.
“Due to ‘Ass-Dickery’, such of which was whilst under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol provided by the Black Widow.” JARVIS’ voice had thinly veiled distain. The well-being of Tony Stark was his number one priority and he did not appreciate the Black Widow disregarding it for a ‘test’. He may not be able to do much about it himself with restrictions thanks to access codes and the likes. But he knew who could.
“What.” Pepper Potts voice went hard and cold fast, all amusement gone. She ground her teeth lightly, alcohol. She gave her trust to these people and they broke it. Well, no more.
“When I arrive, do not alert the Avengers. Keep them away until I deem fit.”
“War Machine. Miss Potts is requesting your assistance.”
“It’s Iron Patriot.”
“War Machine is a far superior name and Master Tony has informed me that under no circumstances should I call you ‘by that ridiculous name’ and that the suit looked as ‘if it got hijacked by Captain America during one of his patriotic mood swings’.” JARVIS replied using voice clips when quoting his liege.
Rhodes could not hold back a small chuckle, his best friend was ridiculous. Even despite everything. He had the feeling that JARVIS referring him as War Machine at all instead of Colonel Rhodes was Tony's idea. But it could not distract him from the fact Pepper was requesting his assistance for long. It normally meant one thing. Tony.
“What does she need?” Seriousness seeping into his voice.
“Step One. Panic and wave arms around uncontrollably.”
“Step Two. Curl up into a ball and declare wishes to die.”
“Step Three. Yell ‘surprise, I was jesting’ and shoot everyone whilst making a grand escape.”
Tony paused, his plan could do with more work. After a lengthy discussion with Loki (only cut short by an approaching space pirate) about how why should he be the only one considering apologising and being held accountable for his actions? It sounded as if Loki was getting a few things off of his own chest but it made sense.
“It’s more than that, I got drunk and used his trauma to deliberately hurt him.” Loki looked at him.
“An action that you were influenced into taking.”
If they manipulated him into taking actions, they was no denying the alcohol was a set-up, they can damn well learn to deal with consequences. If no one was coming (there was still that sickening feeling that Obie was dead) then he was going to take his leave. He was Anthony Mother-fucking Edward God-Damn Stark. No one was going to hold him down with promises of friendship or otherwise even if they were all incredibly attractive and messing up his hormones.
“You were under the influence thus diminishing your responsibility, besides why should you care about those who imprisoned you without giving you any further insight? You should not apologise to those that are not treating you with far less respect than you are giving them.”
The God had kept making very valid points, touching on insecurities that he already considered but kept pushing back because they were nice to him. A pitiful reason to stay. No wonder Loki was known as Silver-tongue. His mind faltered a little at that as he could not think where he knew this information from.
“Step One. Bake a cake.”
“Step Two. Explosions.”
“Step Three. Grand Escape.”
This plan also needed work, such as creating more links between each steps rather than seemingly jumping from one random thing to another.
“S.H.I.E.L.D, heroes.” He babbled as some excuses that even he knew were weak.
“Merely titles and what they told you.” There was a pause. “Anthony.” It was a sin how Loki said his name like that.
“What are you doing?”
“Engineering a cake.”
That got Clint a little. How do you engineer a cake? Surely you just bake it. So he voiced his concerns.
“You see I have to get the balance just right otherwise we may have a sentient cake on our hands and I do not feel comfortable with eating a cake that screams in agony with every bite.”
“Could you really do that?” Clint was not quite ready to put anything pass Tony Stark even a teenage version of him, especially considering the other things he had managed.
“No.” Tony’s response was flat and disbelieving. “It’s a cake made with flour, butter, sugar, baking powder and eggs. Which of those ingredients say to you that I could create sentience?”
“Why are you engineering a cake again?” Clint had to ask, he had never once seen Tony Stark in the kitchen doing anything more complicated than opening a fridge door and eating leftover take-out.
“Cake needs no reason.” A very reasonable statement which held a lot of truth but still. Tony Stark baking a cake just was outside Clint’s imagination range. It was improbable, inconceivable; in fact it seemed rather impossible. He pinched himself to make sure he was not dreaming. He was not. It was bad really that he believed the fact Tony Stark could create a sentient cake over being actually able to bake decently and without disaster.
“Do you need any help?” He was a little put out that Tony had ditched him earlier, apparently in his sudden desire to bake a cake.
“Are you implying that I do not know what I am doing? If I can make flashy a fully functioning colour-changing friendship bracelet of doom and awesome, then baking a cake is a piece of... well, cake.” Again a very sound explanation, yet Clint still had this niggling feeling of doubt that Tony could not do something as simple as baking a cake.
“I’ll leave you to it then.”
“What are you doing?”
“Engineering a cake.” Tony answered simply with a small sigh. Had Clint thought Tony baking a cake was so spectacular he had to tell others just so they could see themselves?
Bruce pushed his glasses upwards and eyed up the cake in suspicion. “Engineering?”
“Baking is for weaker mortals, engineering is for those who seek true flavour and cake perfection. Trust me when I say this cake shall blow minds.”
“Okay, I’m going to trust you on this then.” If only Tony could trust him.
“They aren’t telling you the truth why you are here, which would really solve so many of their issues. Thor should have really learnt the qualms of holding back information by now.”
“What are you doing?” Tony bit back a groan, couldn’t someone just accept his baking and move on?
“Rehoming an abandoned kitten.” He retorted as he put the tray in the oven. Which now he thought about it, was a terrible thing to say putting something in an oven.
“Err... carry on then.” Steve seemed to decide against further questions at that answer and left, for which Tony was relieved.
“I’m going to be honest with you, little mortal. Not completely as it would ruin my fun. Now listen.”
“What are you doing?”
“Your Mom. Long and slow, just the way she likes it.” He grumbled, partly to himself as he was putting the icing middle down. He decided to use jam rather than Loki’s suggestion of poison. He was using an icing tube to peddle out the icing and it turns out writing ‘fuck you’ over again and other stuff.
Getting out ill feelings and concerns out in writing form and then getting the people to eat it was surprisingly therapeutic. He wondered how many times Loki had done it himself.
“You dare to insinuate about the All-Mother!” Well crap. Thor. He did not think this through.
“I was talking about someone else’s mother. I thought you were someone else! I was jesting.” Tony hurried out, hastily putting the two cake layers together before Thor could read what he wrote. “I have cake!”
“You have cake?”
Cake. They were all presented with it, Tony had declared it was apparently all for them. It was slightly disconcerting the way Tony’s eyes kept flicking back and forth between them all as if he was keeping them all in sight. They assumed it was him waiting to see if they liked it. Tony Stark always seemed like he was waiting for approval, with his adult self it appeared like narcissism. With his younger self it smelt more like parental abandonment.
Steve seemed to take it as a peace offering for the ill temperament Tony shown him, most of the others took it as a sign of friendship or otherwise. Natasha eyed Tony with some suspicion before relenting and trying some after the others showed no side effect.
She should have known better.
When they awoke again, Loki was free.
Chapter 7: Deceit
Anthony stood there, his mouth set in a cold line. He looked rather composed overall. One would not have thought anything was wrong if it was not uncharacteristic for him to be so stoical. Loki could read his tenseness in his stillness, the tightness of his jaw but mostly in his eyes which held a panicked hunted look. Anthony seemed to only just be realising that he could be making a mistake.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Loki queried pleasantly as if he did not know exactly what was going on.
“A promise is a promise,” Anthony answered stiffly. Loki smiled in an almost bored manner. He had expected Anthony to stay true to his word, but there still remained a small pleased surprise that came with it.
“And the bottle?” Loki asked as if they were discussing whether it would rain or not. He distinctly remembered how distraught the other had gotten although the mortal hid it well.
“I seem to recall that I owe you a drink. I figured we could do with a celebratory drink after we escaped.” Anthony looked almost confused by his own statement as if he could not quite recall when he had offered Loki a drink. Loki sighed inwardly, it was happening so soon already. To think that he himself was the catalyst.
Then Tony stood with a smouldering repulsor and Loki’s cage just fell apart. Loki could not help but raise an impressed eyebrow. Well, that was simple enough. Although whether Anthony got the repulsor from or half the things he got was to anyone’s guess.
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Tony answered demurely. “Shall we go?”
“We?” Loki asked watching how Anthony’s jaw twitched. “I think I would remember mentioning anything about ‘we’.” Anthony’s face seemed to crumble within itself. Loki told himself that he was rewarding the other for keeping his promise not because he could see the telltale glistening around the teenager’s eyes. He was so young. Loki may have made a mistake in making the other younger; he had not predicted how it would affect his perception and treatment of Anthony.
What is it that Midgardians did to comfort their young? It was a sort of embrace. Was he supposed to do that to stop whichever tears may come out? If he admitted to himself he was sort of panicking at the mere suggestion of tears. Tears of anger or fear or pain he was used to. Not tears of hurt. Loki decided against embracing Anthony, it would do no good for the Midgardian to go into a state of shock from an awkward gesture or meaningless platitudes. There was no point.
With a small sigh, he placed his helmet upon Anthony’s head. That should keep him content and would be far less harrowing than making physical contact with him. The horned helmet mostly fitted but slid down a little.
“But I can work with ‘we’. Understand this Anthony; staying by my side would put you in unnecessary danger. Lethal measures will be used against me, you could be caught in the crossfire.”
“I understand.” Anthony stated with a sharp nod of his head. The helmet bobbed and Loki manoeuvred Anthony further away so he did not take Loki’s eye out. He would prefer not to wear an eye patch like Odin.
“Well, you cannot say I did not warn you.” Loki stated smoothly taking the bottle away from the little mortal before he did any harm to himself with it. Intoxication was not ideal for their getaway. Anthony did not seem to notice so preoccupied with the helmet.
“On a scale from one to ten, one being the worst, how awesome does it look?” Anthony asked.
“It would look better with a cape.” Loki remarked with slightly pursed lips as he considered how to allow Anthony to be more awesome in terms of looks. “And if you had the decency to wear trousers.” Anthony gave a low grin.
“For lowly peasants.” Loki finished with a long-suffering sigh. At least he had improved his tagalong mortal’s mood.
“Loki.” Tony’s voice had dropped to an almost whisper, a quiet thing after his excited proposals about trousers. It was uncertain in a way he never really expected to hear. Pleading almost. “Could we not kill anyone?”
That word again, we, as if they were a team. “If you insist.” He declared, playing it off as if it was some great burden and sacrifice he would have to make. Tony all but beamed at him.
“You’re the best.” Well, that was new. He almost felt inclined to thank the other but he refrained.
“Open the door, JARVIS.” Steve commanded. The doors remained closed.
“I'm sorry, Steve. I'm afraid I can't do that.” Came JARVIS’ calm, measured reply. A response which caused goose-bumps to travel up his spine.
“What’s the problem?”
“I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.” Steve looked towards the other Avengers in a mild panic. This was just unsettling, Natasha just looked irritated. Bruce, on the other hand, had a slight green hint and Thor looked at the ceiling with furrowed eyebrows. It was customary for them to look at the ceiling when talking to JARVIS despite the fact he was everywhere, now didn’t that thought make him want to itch. Clint was pacing back and forth.
“Okay, who the heck downloaded HAL to JARVIS?” Clint practically growled. Steve relaxed somewhat as it was a reference, of course, it was. Tony coded JARVIS after all. Clint stopped pacing.
“Come on JAR, open the door.” Clint had a pleading tone in his voice. Steve looked at Clint in mild surprise, the man seemed rather distressed. Steve supposed it was the fact it was Loki who was loose.
“My instructions state to do otherwise.” Clint’s eyebrows came together and mouth twisted unpleasantly.
"Just open the fucking door! Loki is loose, Tony could be in danger." JARVIS stayed suspiciously quiet. No one said that Tony could have been the one who let him loose in the first place, the timing of the cake and Loki’s escape was just too much of a coincidence.
Especially with JARVIS’ refusal to be of help.
“Fuck it.” Clint stated pulling an arrow from his quiver, it made a whoosh of air as it embedded itself in the wall next to the door before giving a telltale beeping noise. When the wall exploded and they all sort of looked at him. He glared right back at them.
“Don’t.” So they did not say anything.
“I used to wish I had a brother. Or more specifically that I had Captain America as a brother.” Loki looked at Tony wondering where he was going with this sudden conversation.
“I used to pretend that even though he was my father’s favourite. Father spent more time looking for a dead guy than even bothering to look at me. So I used to sit and pretend that it was alright if Captain America was his favourite as I would have been Captain America’s favourite so it was not so bad.”
“Oh yes, my heartstrings are pulled.” Loki said snidely with a show of clutching his hand to his chest stepping back a little so Tony could send a blast at a foolish agent unlucky enough to come across them.
“But in the end, I did not need him. I found Rhodey and to be honest I find the big C.A. a little lacking, I expected more.” Tony continued, obligingly ducking so that Loki could send another agent flying with a flick of his wrist, without even pausing in his step.
“What is your point, mortal?”
Tony shrugged. “There’s no real point, really, just thought we were bonding.” Loki actually gave a huff of something approaching laughter. Tony felt accomplished.
“This is your idea of bonding?”
“It’s practically tennis. Tennis is something people do to bond.” Tony stated thinking back to how many golf and tennis sessions his father and mother partook in with business partners. His mother was quite a good swing with a racket.
“You must show me this tennis sometime.” Loki mused pulling Tony’s collar casually to stop him walking into some open fire.
“I’m sure you’d excel in it, you have the leg advantage.” Tony rather admired the thought of Loki in some tennis shorts, the whole tennis player look would surprisingly suit him.
“Are you implying I don’t excel in everything that I do?”
“Of course not, the fact you’re practically perfect in every way goes without saying.”
“I would prefer if you said so anyway.”
“But of course.” Tony agreed readily. “Have I mentioned your hair looks particularly shiny today?”
“That’s because I’m worth it.” Loki responded with a smile, he guessed he could sort of see why Thor may keep these Midgardians around. They could be entertaining. “However impressive the simply walking out route is becoming annoying the way these agent ants are crawling out of the wood-works, may I suggest a subtler route?”
They had split up to cover more ground, or rather Clint had panicked at the sight of agents taken out yet no sign of Tony. Whilst the others checked out the bodies he was already running frantically hoping to find Tony, miraculously safe.
Clint prided himself on seeing things that most people did not see; he was called Hawkeye for a reason after all. But when he saw Tony being escorted by Steve, he was too full of relief that he ignored the thing had was telling him things were off. The conversation was odd for one.
“God Save America, star spangled banner, patriotism intensifying.” He placed it as Steve actually making fun of himself to make Tony more comfortable.
For instance the fact Tony was actually smiling genuinely and laughing. He shouldn’t really find that so strange, so he dismissed the feeling that this was wrong. There was also the fact that how had Steve gotten to Tony first, but he was too busy grasping at Tony’s chin and turning his head side to side as he checked him over. He was too busy checking that Tony’s eyes weren’t blue he missed the fact that Steve’s were a little too green. Tony’s eyes were brown with not a hint of blue, he gave a sigh of relief and began checking for injuries.
He made another mistake of turning his back towards Steve. He tended to make mistakes when he was compromised.
“Thank goodness you’re okay.” He breathed out before pulling the rather panicked looking boy into a hug. Tony was clearly miming something to Steve behind his back. He missed Steve’s response of a flurry of green magic from his fingers.
“Well isn’t this sweet?” Steve cooed, that’s when Clint knew that he fucked up. He felt almost a sense of release at the sight of Tony with blue eyes before it all went dark.
“Oof. Too late.” Tony answered fretting as he tried desperately to keep Clint’s body upright after catching him, Clint’s weight was winning out though despite his straining muscles. Tony was aware that Clint was getting closer to the ground with each passing second.
“Couldn’t have you just played along and not zap him?” Tony murmured wondering if hitting the ground would really be all that bad.
“It’s not like I killed him. I so kindly let him live at your request, I am a very benevolent god. He would have been ‘zapped’ sooner or later.” Loki stated taking some pity at Tony’s struggles and leant a small hand in keeping Clint from hitting the ground. “Should we stash him in a cupboard?”
Tony looked utterly appalled “We cannot just stash him in a cupboard like some mop!”
“As you wish. What do you propose? Throw him out a window?”
“Pity, it would have been amusing.” Loki sighed looking at the window longingly. “And so easy.” He added miming letting go with his hand where he was not supporting Tony’s plight of not letting Clint Barton do his impression of a sack of potatoes and drop with a
“You’re strong.” Tony murmured in awe considering Loki kept most of Clint's weight if not all of it with just one hand.
“Thank you.” Loki stated quickly waiting for Tony to recover himself and continue what he was going to say.
“We could place him gently somewhere soft?” Tony suggested
“Oh, how utterly diabolical of you. Want to place a blanket over him as well? Is your grand plan of escape consists of piling the Avengers in a soft pile of cushions.”
“If it’s a possible solution then yes. Besides it is not like you made any great plans.” Tony answered wanting to throw up his hands in frustration.
“I’m just tagging along to see you do next, I should have brought grapes as it’s rather amusing. I could have left anytime by now.”
“But you haven’t.”
“Don’t smile at me like that, I will change my mind and let you deal with the whole fallout.”
“Stop it, Stark.”
“Oh, so it’s Stark now? What happened to Anthony?”
“We should go to the penthouse there's a landing deck there.”
They found Clint covered with a blanket.
“Is he sleeping?” Steve asked hopefully.
“That or dead.” Natasha answered, Steve gave him a horrified look and Natasha gave Thor a glance.
“Loki is capable of such.” Thor responded gravely.
“Should we poke him? Tony would poke him.” Bruce murmured reaching out to do just that. Clint caught his hand before he could prod his cheek. Clint looked at him with wild eyes.
“Oh, guess he isn’t dead.” Thor stated with pursed lips before they stretched into a broad grin. "That is good for it means Loki hasn't..."
"No one cares about Loki." Steve snapped out, they really had more pressing issues rather than hearing that Loki has good in him.
"I care about Loki." Thor responded affronted looking ready to start a brawl.
"Not now, Clint should be our priority." Bruce murmured hoping to break the fight before it started, but his bets were on Thor winning.
“Tony.” Clint said urgently.
“Yes, we’re going to save him.” Steve said reassuringly.
“Loki’s has control of him.”
“But the spectre,” Thor began.
“I know what I saw. Blue eyes.” Clint cut Thor off with a glare, Thor relented with a small nod.
“This is where I leave you,” Loki stated Tony looked at him in a panic with his brown eyes. “Don’t worry it’s all part of the plan. Trust me.”
Loki was not sure whether he should have a heart attack or not when Tony responded. “Okay, I trust you.” Loki honestly did not expect that to work, it never worked.
When Loki disappeared in a shimmer of green, Tony held onto the fact that Loki had promised to lie to him, he admitted to withholding information and some of the truth but he said he would not lie. ‘Go ahead, trust the war criminal who’s not only a criminal but known for his lies’ a voice inside of him stated, the voice sounded older and more tired than his own, but it was still his.
“A coward to the last.” Thor murmured as the Avengers turned the corner. "Loki was always one to back away from a true fight." Thor stated scornfully.
Chapter 8: Right
A little rushed and sloppy ending to this chapter. But it's been long enough now.
Last time on Avenger’s Next Top Model:
“A coward to the last.” Thor murmured as the Avengers turned the corner. "Loki was always one to back away from a true fight." Thor stated scornfully.
“James Rhodes, I assume. I can tell by the rugged good looks.”
Lt. Colonel James Rupert Rhodes was used to odd occurrences by now. His friend in a robotic suit, killer robots controlled by an obsessed man with whips in a robotic suit. He was sensing a theme there, what was next? Sentient killer robots? A robotic man? Probably aliens thrown in th
This, this was new however. An alien prince who had attempted world domination, leaning in front of him as casual as you please. In fact he practically draped himself across the counter in a decidedly seductive manner. He had a feeling this was something to do with Tony, things tended to be in most cases. This was beyond a feeling though, it was an educated guess considering Loki's involvement in Tony's new state of person.
“Why are you here Loki?” Rhodes sighed out, it’s been a long week, Loki being the cause of a lot of the stress. Judging by Loki’s put out look, he did not say it enthusiastically enough for the demi-god or something. What a drama queen. He had been half tempted to remark something along the lines of ‘Mr. Odinson, you’re trying seduce me, aren't you?’ it was the raised leg that prompted that quote.
“Well I’m enlisting you in the rescue attempt of one Anthony Stark from the Avengers.” Was this an alternative universe? It felt like it was an alternative universe judging by this conversation. Also Loki was smiling at him, he found that this was far more disturbing than if he was glaring. Or offering honey coated death threats.
“Why should I believe you?”
“Jarvis can vouch for me.” Loki gave a smile with far too many teeth. It was a little too predatorial for his liking but it'll do.
“Operation: Extraction was supposed to be a covert operation.” Rhodes sighed sending Pepper a quick update. If Loki was involved covert was a little too late, they had to bring in the big guns.
Loki had the gall to look offronted. “I am very capable of being covert, thank you very much.” Rhodey gave him the nod that often was reserved for Tony when he said he was not going to put himself in danger or blow something up.
The nod that agreed without believing a word of it.
“Surely merely reverting him back to his own age would solve the issue? Teenage Tony has done something stupid, probably involving your escape, now he's in trouble. Just turn him back.”
“Where's the fun in that?” Loki's answer held both the answer, that yes he could do exactly that, and an added question… why not just reverse it and make a clean escape? Why reach out to Rhodes at all?
Rhodes did not understand the ploy but he'll roll with it, despite heavy suspicion, for Tony's sake. If he ends up regretting it… well at least he could say he tried and agree to never do it again. Tony did not get to make all the questionable choices when it comes to whom to team up with.
“So is it better to die?” Tony interjected. Thor seemed almost startled before actually patting his head. Tony was torn whether to be outraged or embarrassed.
“That hardly matters.” Thor said placatingly, in a low voice, speaking to the other as if he was a small child.
He supposed, to Thor, he was indeed a child. They all were if he was as old as he said. The thing which mattered is what was the comparative Asgardian age to a human's one. The older someone got, quite often, the harder to change their opinions. Thor seemed young, at least for an Asgardian.
“But it does.” Tony answered, wondering if he was supposed to stall for time or seem normal. He was not sure of Loki's ploy at all. “Sometimes it's best to retreat, live another day. Lose a battle but win the war.” Thor was looking at him, really looking at him as if trying to decipher something.
“Your words could have merit.” Thor said graciously, it was in such a manner that made Tony finally believe that Thor and Loki could have been brothers once. Not that he hadn't believed Thor when he had told him, they just seemed too different… it that wasn't even that.
He could hardly even place it but it was something that made him take a step back and say ‘really, you two?’. It might have something to do with the fact their anecdotes of the same story may as well been two completely separate ones. Told as if they were told by strangers making guesswork.
He couldn't be the best judge of brothers, being an only child but he all but adopted Rhodey as one. That counted for something? He missed Rhodey.
“Is this really the time for this conversation?” There was Steven Rogers looking at him in distrust. “Loki could be anywhere.” The unspoken ‘you could be his accomplice’ hung heavy in the air.
“I wonder how he could have possibly escaped.” Natasha added on sounding decidedly sarcastic in spite of her dulcet tone.
Even Clint had an air of wariness.
“Gee whizz, it's almost as if I'm a suspect.” Tony murmured, he realised that he sounded far too sarcastic for them to possibly think him as anything other than a suspect now. He bet it was the ‘gee whizz’ that did it, he couldn't think of an example where someone used’ gee whizz’ without being sarcastic.
Distraction. Loki could do that, Loki was resentful that he was reduced to such a role, but Loki would ace it. This team work was not a new thing, he had worked alongside Thor and his merry men, although that tended to be less team, more him tagging along. He was more just there rather part of their little gang, there was ‘Get Help’ but he was never really utilized or involved. Always the outsider, he didn't really fit their style of hit the problem with force.
This was different, for once there was a concrete plan that delved more than Thor's common short term strategies of ‘Thor Smash’. Thor had grown a little in that aspect, no doubt the influence of those Midgardians, Thor was not stupid by any doubt however… Thor relied too heavily on his strength. He had always been strong, but Mjolnir made him nigh invincible. Without a feel of mortality why should he try to approach anything not guns blazing when it normally worked so well for him.
In a way he envied Thor’s way of just overpowering till he got what he wanted, but in other ways he did not. When it all came crumbling down, when Thor fell prey to manipulations or just someone stronger... it was going to hit him far harder than what he can hit with his hammer.
Well here went nothing. He had this cute little ear feature that allowed him to speak to Team Stark and Anthony’s little spirit in the ceiling.
“Jarvis, please inform the Colonel that I'm ready when he is.” Loki drawled into the little earpiece, quite a handy trinket. He liked that it came in gold and the little lights glowed green as per his request. “Also, could you tell him he looks quite dashing in his suit.”
Loki could practically hear Rhodes’ eyeroll, yes he was aware he was connected to both Anthony's Rhodey and Jarvis with the headset. It was just amusing how much more annoyed and flustered the Colonel would get when he spoke through Jarvis as opposed to straight to him.
As Rhodes entered position, he gave the signal to distract. Loki had not quite informed anyone of how he was going to cause a distraction as Team Stark seemed to have faith in him, at least regarding causing a distraction. He doubted they would be foolish enough to hold true faith in him.
Anthony was there looking decidedly disgruntled and unhappy with being surrounded by idiotic buffoons, and Thor, as one should be. Naturally it fell to Loki to rescue him. Or rather cause a distraction so Ms Virginia Potts can whisk her man off in her big strong arms. Ms Potts was an intimidating woman and even if Loki was considering betraying Team Stark ‘for the evulz’, he wouldn't like to risk her wrath.
“Troll! In the dungeon!” He declared loudly with a quaver in his voice rushing forth. He could just sense the stunned disbelief coming from both the Avengers and Rhodes. Anthony had a wide (yet confused) grin on his face that threatened to split his cheeks. “There’s a troll in the dungeon, thought you’d ought to know.”
To finish it off just flop to the floor in a dead faint, and wait for the chaos to commence. A thing of beauty. Clearly the Avengers expected him to either be long gone or do something other than… that. He'll give credit when credit is due however with how quickly they got over their shock and got into battle mode.
Anthony was quickly maneuvered behind them protectively, a far cry from the almost cornered look he had as they all but swarmed him. Out came the weapons angled towards him. Rogers, the brave or stupid man nudged Loki with his foot after Loki hadn't moved for several whole seconds. He didn’t disappear for he wasn’t some cheap illusion, instead he shot his head up with a manic grin.
“Tag you’re it.” Loki cooed grabbing the foot that dare touch him to straight up pull him down with a crash. If Loki was a mortal man, Steve wouldn't have made a cute little imprint in the floor. Maybe he wouldn't even have gone down at all, but they always seemed to forget that Loki was a god with strength to rival Thor’s own. Mainly because Loki usually could not be bothered to physically exert himself when it came to them, today was a special occasion however. Chaos did commence then, gone was the baited calm he had falsely created by allowing them to pull their weapons and staying still.
A calm that gave him enough time to subtly create an illusion to replace the real Anthony with briefly before the chaos could allow him to be swapped out. The Avengers played considerably less attention to Anthony, enough to verify he was there but not enough to distinguish whether he was real or not. It was nice that they were surrounding him protectively despite obvious suspicion, but he had to wonder if they would do the same for adult Tony. They had left him pretty open on the field, admittedly only Thor could fly but there was a clear disconnect somewhere. Had they thought the invincible Iron Man was truly as invincible as he appeared that it had taken him put in a vulnerable position to connect with him?
Why when this was all over they could thank him for the team building exercise. Or possibly a valuable insight into the team dynamics. He stood up making a show of dusting himself off, pointedly ignoring whatever outrage they murmured about dear Captain, oh Captain. Rogers was quick to remove himself from his little crater and launch himself at Loki, which Loki side stepped. Thus leading to a series of attacks, a swarm attempting to overwhelm him. Loki would almost applaud their attempts to block Anthony from him, protecting the civilian, if it was not pointless as Team Stark was nothing if not efficient.
He supposed working as a team did have it's advantages after all, obviously he just needed a better team than the one Asgard provided for him. A thought for a rainy day. He made note to consider the thought further when he was not being attacked, Thor almost very nearly got him then. He felt almost proud, Thor was stronger (at least in brute strength) but Loki had always been faster.
He had grown bored of this little ‘fight’ and Anthony had been extracted, so he was just going to take his leave.
“Well that was… an event. I'm tired so I'm just going to go, have fun.” He remarked after Jarvis helpfully informed him that Anthony was out. Easy.
He was on a plane-helicopter thing… he was not quite sure what to call it, it came straight out of science fiction. Goodbye tower prison.
And there was this man, he looked like Rhodey but there was something off with him. That was putting it politely, if he was being honest this was his Rhodey but old. He first considered this could be some kind of relative but it was definitely Rhodey, he had aged well but he definitely aged.
When Loki said he'd come back he hadn't quite expected that little performance which he honest to good had to hold back laughter (he couldn’t hold back the grin) as what the hell was that. He could deduce it was some kind of reference, it made no sense not to be. He also hadn't expected him to bring his Rhodey Bear. He felt like crying, he could be crying for all he knew, although Stark men didn't cry. This was Rhodey, he just knew it.
He couldn’t help himself from launching himself at the man who without a second thought wrapped his arms around him and pulled him close. Definitely his Rhodey, all was right in the world.
“You’re so fucking old.” Tony sighed.
“Such foul language from a whippersnapper like you, no wonder I'm going grey.” Rhodey chided before giving a short laugh, one that indicated that it was not that funny to him. “You’re so young.” Rhodey muttered mainly to himself, his voice sounded like it did on the phone. Everything was clicking into place, especially at how Rhodey seemed awed and weirded out by his age.
His main suspicion had shifted to accidental time travel rather than the dark places it had been going. He had a sinking feeling that his parents were dead for a while now, that it had to do with Captain America being back. He felt a whole lot freer. Like he could finally breathe again.
“So time travel?” He asked, Rhodey wouldn't lie to him.
“Not quite, think more Loki, the God of shits and giggles and general kingdom grabbing tendencies.” Rhodey told him, Tony felt like laughing as of fucking course. Everything was so simple, so easy to explain they could have used an educational toddler book with illustrations to do it with. So why didn't they tell him from the start or at least made some effort.
It was bad that Loki the guy behind it all had been the most forthcoming about it all, and he had the most reason to want it a secret.
“He looks so small…” Came a voice with the sound of heels and an actual goddess entered the room. She was the most beautiful lady that he had ever seen, aside from his mother of course, and he knew that she had so much more than looks to offer. It was one of those facts that his head quietly assured him of, like how this was the real Rhodey, how he knew the Avengers. Now he knew that it was because Loki had done something to him rather than him just going crazy, it was a lot easier to accept.
“Marry me?" The words were out of his mouth before his brain could even play catch up to what he was saying.
"Perhaps when you're older." And that was how he died and went to Heaven. Speaking of Heaven, he felt decidedly at peace surrounded by these people. Like the stress and uncertainty was unwinding itself from around him.
“This is a cute moment,” Loki appearing as he seemed to prefer to do, out of thin air. He had draped himself against the wall in a surprisingly elegant manner, he waved a pretend little flag as he added “Go team.”
“You came back.” Tony felt conflicted, Loki was behind this all by all rights he should be pissed but on the other hand he was happier to see him.
“ Like a fungal infection you grew on me. You revolting human.” Loki stated, his tone almost fond. “Besides I wanted to gloat before it wore off.”
“What is going to wear off?” Pepper asked with a sharpness in her voice. Tony could not think how he knew her name.
“Just how this all could have been over in a matter of hours if someone had just told dear Anthony here the truth.” Loki was definitely smug about this information, but there was just a hint of sadness in there. “The spell is linked with honesty.”
“You’re shitting me.” Rhodey all but groaned.
Right as in 'Right in front of their faces'
"You don't remember a thing. Not where Loki went?” Steve said, in interrogation mode, he was trying to sound friendly but really this scene wouldn't look out of place in a crime movie. Clint was surprised he wasn't sent off to get a light to shine in Stark’s eyes. He paused at his own thoughts, why was adult Tony ‘Stark’, when teenage Tony was just Tony. It concerned him for some reason.
“Nope.” A pop of the p and a slight apologetic grin from the full-sized Tony Stark. It was odd looking at the original (he was he truly the original when chronologically… he wasn’t going to carry on this thought not headache inducing) after so long and noting all the differences, how he had grown. His walk was different, he held himself different in a way that subtly protected his chest. He was more reserved and controlled, every movement seemed measured. He still had the chaotic sort of energy there but it was under wraps, like he finally figured out what to do with it. His movement of his hands were less flailing and more purposeful, steady.
What Clint really wanted to know though was, damn, was he always this ripped? Look at them guns, they hadn't quite noticed especially compared to powerhouses like Thor or Captain America, but compared to his teen self it was hard not to notice the extra bulk. He guessed it was the metal melding and the boxing with Happy. He was called Hawkeye yet he did not notice Sta-Tony was in good shape? He should hand in his resignation.
Oh and he had missed that goatee. It was a thing he didn't realise he missed until it was gone. It was something to look at rather than having to look him properly in the face. He felt guilty for some reason but he didn't know why.
St-Tony had sprawled across an armchair, and aside from one foot that rested on his other knee, his feet touched the floor. Clint found himself disappointed by that fact… maybe that was why he felt guilty? Because he preferred teen Tony? He did not really want to answer that question.
“Yeah, yeah. Enough twenty questions, especially considering half of them are the same question asked slightly differently.” S-Tony had focused his sights onto Clint, a questioning look in his eyes but a slight grin on his lips. Clint knew he had been too focused on the goatee, he felt like he should blush or something at being caught. “No, I don't know where Loki went. I don't know why you think I would. No, I don't know exactly how I returned to true form. I'm assuming either true love’s kiss or Pepper just commanded it and the spell went ‘whelp, better do as she says’. If you want to know so bad ask Rhodey or Pepper.”
Tony now fully turned to Clint. “My turn to ask a question, what's so great about my beard Clint? I know it's amazing but is that any reason to stare into it as if it held the answers to the universe itself. The answer is forty-two if you were wondering.”
Thor looked very solemn the moment Tony announced the answer was forty-two, Clint was relieved when Thor thundered out as it meant he didn't have to answer anything. “Man of Iron a word.” Tony shrugged and followed him out the room to be yelled at, apparently he was either a fan or held a grudge against hitchhikers. He didn’t see the point really of leaving the room for privacy when Thor’s idea of whispering was the equivalent of someone talking with headphones playing loud music on. Especially when Steve (thanks to the serum) had excellent, borderline superhuman hearing.
“How would you know of such a great secret of Asgard?” Thor said with urgency in merely a grave rumble rather than plain out thunder claps. Tony felt strangely proud of his development.
“Hold the phone Point Break, it was a quote. I had no idea that it in anyway linked back to Asgard. At least until you mentioned it.”
“So I shouldn't have said that.” Thor said with some dejection.
“Sorry pal, start thinking things over before doing. You're in a safe environment to do so, there's plenty of time, there's no battle at hand.” Tony said placatingly, but he was totally going to look into this further after all it had tempted him now. Best to pretend he was not however didn't want to be lashed out at.
“Well that was fun.” Tony smiled with a shrug.
Loki had been quiet for far too long which led to the conclusion that either he was up to something big or truly that Pepper was the saviour of the world and could stop any force with a stern glare and a sharp no. Tony was arguing the second, although they agreed with him to an extent it was far more likely the first option. Tony eventually confided to Clint, of all people (not Bruce), that Loki was definitely plotting something but he still held onto the fact that Pepper and Rhodes were the saviours of the universe.
Nothing really had changed, back to status quo it was, aside from a sudden influx of flowers sent to the tower for Rhodes who appeared to have gained a secret admirer. A determined one at that. It garnered him some teasing, it was a little curious however as most fan mail was filtered out and kept elsewhere. Especially for Steve, he had a serious backlog with tributes and the such.
Which meant either JARVIS (meaning Tony) approved these tokens of affection or they weren't delivered by normal mail. But it soon became part of a new normal, flowers every week, little postcards and tokens from various places across the world every fortnight or so. Someone's secret admirer was a serious globetrotter. Rhodes seemed mildly put out by them all and judging by the heavy sigh he knew exactly who it was from.
Clint found the thing that changed most was his willingness to listen to the resident genius a bit more, if he could do it with teen Tony why couldn't he do it to adult Tony if he had found adult Tony a little bit arrogant. If can put trust in him to catch him when he threw himself off buildings or with his fancy arrows, why not put more trust in the man himself?
He still had the friendship bracelet, he hadn’t took it off if he was honest. He had been disappointed as he missed teen Tony, grieved a little for him as if he had died. But he wasn't dead, he had just grown up and was hardened by life experience in the older version and eventually he found he could accept that.
Thor did not really seem to notice that much had changed aside from the obvious size, youthfulness and the distaste of Steve, he treated him the same either way.
Steve was just relieved he was no longer the bad guy in the equation, but every time he tried to bring up tiny Tony’s issues with him he was met with shrugs and dismissals from Tony declaring was it really an issue? That was the past for him, he had gotten over it long ago and didn't really want to bring it up when Steve wouldn't accept the reason anyway. Steve seemed mainly put out as someone didn't trust him instantly rather than trying to understand the issue so Clint guessed he wouldn't blame Tony for not laying himself bare and dredging up possibly bad memories just to soothe someone else. Even if he did feel for Steve.
One day he was gifted a stack of paper neatly wrapped in a green ribbon and adorned with a bow. Oddly it was addressed to JARVIS and Pepper as well, that was new, he was normally the one stuck with the gifts for some odd reason. The word application was on the top sheet in golden embossed letters because apparently the green ribbon was not enough of a dead giveaway for him. Rhodes had to wonder what the application was actually for, by gods he hoped it wasn't the Avengers as that was going to blow up on them all. Loki wouldn't play nice with the majority of them and they were unlikely to play either. Although why would Loki think he would have any sway with the Avengers was pass him. He couldn’t think of what else the application could be for however.
Obviously he just needed to turn the first sheet, he quite pleased to find it was more a booklet than a stack of papers. No loose paper. Apparently he wanted to be a part of Team Stark whatever that was, which he considered JARVIS and Pepper a part of. It was quite nicely laid out with added images. Loki apparently had skills in Microsoft Word or something, will wonder never cease? Loki obviously tried harder to understand ‘Midgard’ than Thor did, especially with his apparent knowledge of Harry Potter.
He decided he was going to need a coffee or something and sit down to fully accept whatever this booklet was. To be honest he was quite looking forward to reading it though, he might disclose it to Tony but then again he might try to stop them creating this kind of attack squad solely for his protection that Loki seemed to be suggesting. He'll probably tell him Loki appears to have a soft spot for genius billionaires but no need to tell him that Loki wanted to be part of an apparent team Stark. At least the part that by the sound of it that it was totally going to become a real team. No need to make Tony threat over it, if he asked then sure but until then it wasn't like it wasn't what they had already been doing it anyway. It would just be an official club now. He made a note to add Happy to Team Stark and maybe discuss a subtler or catchier name.
Should they get matching t-shirts?
“Could you pass the butter?” Given a scolding look from the elderly lady, Loki relented with a sigh to show that he wasn’t pleased. “Please.” The short lady gave him a pleased smile.
“With such manners how could I not.” She said happily before passing the butter with a smile which could only be described as motherly. Loki found himself strangely proud at the praise. Well darn, seems he has a weakness for not only children but mothers as well.
“Mama Rhodes… how come he's allowed butter and I'm not?” Tony looked indignant at the obvious unfairness.
“Butter is not the best for your heart. You have a bad heart as it is, I'm not risking anything with you.” Mama Rhodes tutted, lightly smacking his hand away from the butter. Loki chortled lightly deciding to be a little more generous with the butter to taunt the other man.
Rhodes snorted into his arm discreetly, that merely caught Loki’s attention however, Loki’s eyes crinkled in mirth. Rhodes groaned inwardly, his shoulders slumping, he knew something was coming.
“James. You’re my butter half. There's no one butter than you, I like you butter than anyone else.” Loki stated with completely earnestness deciding to take Rhodes’ hand in his, Tony straight up choked a little. Loki looked at him in a conspiring manner before whispering “I can keep churning them out.” Tony went a little red in the face in his attempt not to laugh.
“Oh my god.” Rhodes sighed deciding that he may as well not remove his palm from his face, they may as well always be connected now he decided to spend his time with these two.
“Yes?” Loki responded with a wide smirk.
“Jimmy, you always get the handsome ones, so proud.” Mama Rhodes sniffed into her handkerchief that she only really had for such occasions to either guilt or embarrass him.
“That's it, I quit. Goodbye everyone forever. Aside you Mama, I'll see next week same time as always. Love you Mom.” Rhodes declared standing up and leaving the room.
“Okay, taking bets, how long will he be gone? I offer up the next Stark phone.” Tony said with a fond smile.
“Three minutes.” Mama Rhodes stated decidedly “I offer up the leftovers.” Tony and Loki looked at each other, well now the stakes were serious.
“Five.” Tony finally decided, it was difficult decision to make with the stakes so high.
“Five and a half. I offer up a trip to anywhere in the nine realms.” Loki said looking at Tony with a grin.
“A gambling man I see. Jarvis keep the time will you?”
“Of course, sir. I have since the moment the bet has been announced. It has currently been twenty-nine seconds so far.” JARVIS’ voice came from Tony’s watch, because JARVIS was more likely to be impartial than Tony keeping time with it.
“Excellent work as always JARVIS.”
“I aim to please, sir.”
When Rhodes finally returned it was five minutes and fifteen seconds exactly.
“I guess you both have to share the leftovers.” Mama Rhodes hummed.
“Don't I get any leftovers? You know, being your only son and all?” Rhodes tried.
“After walking out like that on your Mama? You're lucky I let you sit at my table and Jimmy, you're not my only son.” Mama Rhodes chastised him, Rhodes gave her a questioning glance at that.
“Can't believe you would ignore my favourite boy Tony like that.” Mama Rhodes sighed ruffling Tony’s hair.
“Wait I'm your actual son and I'm not the favourite?” Rhodes said in playful outrage.
“You might of been if you could remember your poor old Mama once in a while, Tony dear always brings me something when he comes to visit and have never once forgot a mother's day present or card. The last time you bought me a present was my birthday.”
“I did get you a present day for mother's day.” Rhodes argued.
“You forgot the card, you know how much I love reading them.” Mama Rhodes lamented.
“Appalling, Rhodey.” Tony sighed out shaking his head in disgust.
“Simply disgraceful, James.” Loki agreed. “I’m afraid it's not going to work between us if you treat your lovely mother like that. You should be ashamed.”
“At least I've got my two favourite boys here to stick up for poor little old me.”
“Really? Loki’s a favourite now too?” Rhodes was slightly incredulous that Loki now outranked him. Tony was fair game but Loki she had only met this night.
“He brought me some lovely flowers and some mead. Asgardian mead .”
“You said all I have to bring is myself.” Rhodes sighed with a smile.
“You could have brought something anyway.”
Happy ending, mostly. There's things which would cause issues later down the line but all's well for now.