Another Avengers idea! This one about our very own beloved IRON MAN. Again, I can't promise that this will be continued, but I'm just throwing it out because I want reviews. Lol. If anybody likes the idea I wouldn't mind tossing it over either. :P
Sarah wakes up early in the morning and stretches—except she can't, because she's being pinned down by something both warm and solid in the way only well-formed muscles can be. She blinks, too comfortable to fuss, and yawns inaudibly.
The taste in her mouth is rather disgusting. She licks experimentally at her front teeth and confirms the involvement of alcohol last night. Not that there had been many alternatives to why she'd woken up in bed with a stranger.
She hoped they didn't do anything—it would suck if the one time she let loose had also resulted in her loss of virginity. And—okay, she still had clothes on—it would probably break her Morning Zen enough to produce screaming.
She needed to pee.
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With some strategic maneuvering, Sarah managed to slip out of muscle-man's hold and off the bed. She staggered a little and whistled under her breath as she took in her surroundings. Whoever she had followed back last night was very, very rich.
At least she gets points for taste. For both muscles and money.
She jumped a little at the crisp English voice that rang out of nowhere. A short little spin around (thank goodness she didn't have a hangover) indicated no body to assign to the voice.
'Ms. Jones, the bathroom is on your left.'
This time, she placed the voice coming from the ceiling. That…seemed a little familiar. She wasn't sure where she'd have heard about a voice from the ceiling, but there were plenty of very reasonable explanations for one (technology, baby) and so she shrugged and wobbled to her left.
The bathroom was as extravagant as the bedroom. This guy was loaded. And she hadn't even slept with him for it!
She pampered herself with a short soak in the pool-sized bathtub, feeling the tension bleed away from her shoulders. Mmmm. If this was what being rich was like, she now had a goal to strive for. Wow.
When she emerged from the bathroom feeling like a million dollars, said million-dollar-man was still drooling onto the satin sheets. Well, she was feeling pretty generous—the wonders of a great bath—and so she decided not to just cut and run.
No, she'd make him a hangover breakfast, and then cut and run.
'Ms. Jones? Do you not intend to leave before Sir wakes up?'
Oh, English Voice could apparently see as well as speak. And probably hear as well. This would have been a lot harder to take if she had actually been naked last night. As it was, the worst picture they had was probably of her panties, which she could forgive given what had obviously been on the tables last night.
Although it was kind of creepy and paranoid of muscle-man to have guards watching, listening and whatever else over security lines in his bedroom. But meh, she reckoned millionaires or billionaires had their fair share of problems too.
'Nah. Or well, yeah, but I'm feeling nice and thankful so I'm making him breakfast. We didn't have sex and I got to use his awesome tub so yeah. Thank you note.'
There was a brief silence filled with tangible suspicion before English replied, 'The kitchen is 500 meters away from the bedroom door with a turn to the right.'
'Thanks,' Sarah beamed at the ceiling cameras.
The directions lead to the most beautiful kitchen she had ever laid eyes on. It was pristine. Gleaming redwood counter and state of the art…well, everything. She felt a little dwarfed by it, but not enough to dissuade her from opening the (gorgeous) fridge.
Food heaven. She was sure she had floated away in bliss. Food heaven.
When she opened the cupboards and found the frying pans, she nearly wept.
There was…this was…
Forget no-sex. She'd happily film a porn video for all the guards if she could have access to this.
It was after she'd covered every inch of the counter with food that she finally wound down. English hadn't objected, so she figured it wasn't a problem. She'd stolen bites in between cooking, so she wasn't hungry, but there was one thing left to do before she went back to her normal, boring life.
Try the coffee machine.
It was a huge, clunky, monster of a thing in the middle of the classy kitchen. Muscle-man was obviously a caffeine junkie. Sarah was in agreement enough that she didn't even protest the way it clashed garishly with the rest of the décor.
She took a sip of her Flat White. (Best way to judge a coffee machine—the basics)
And then promptly dumped the rest of it into the sink.
Okay, she took it back. The stupid thing was a waste of coffee beans. Ugh, Christ. The travesty.
'Erm, little suggestion,' she pointed mildly, 'this thing is a waste of money. And beans. And ugly too.'
When there was no immediate reply, she turned her thoughts to muscle-man drinking the, the sludge every morning and felt a deep, deep surge of pity. And appall. Clearly, money didn't mean good taste all the time. Even as much money as kitchen-heaven-man.
Which meant that she was going to make him this one good coffee in his life and forever ruin his atrocious palate.
She was in the midst of grinding the really-expensive-beans with a hand-held grinder when English spoke up, 'Do you have a suggestion for an alternative?'
'Shit,' she jumped, spilling expensive ground coffee over the counter, 'Don't scare me like that!'
'I apologize, Ms. Jones, but any warning would have had a similar effect.'
She mentally took 'security guard' and switched it with 'butler', which actually lowered the creep factor by a lot. Unfortunately, while Sarah had a discerning tongue for coffee, she didn't have much on coffee machines. 'I don't really know what your er…he likes, but I'm just gonna make this the way I usually do,' she gestured at the coffee-in-process vaguely, 'and you can memorize it if he likes it? I don't really know exactly why you should make coffee this way or that, but I know how to make it so…yeah.'
'That is an acceptable compromise,' English stated, before a watchful silence descended over the kitchen. Sarah had the strange image of an elegant, straight-backed old man sitting in front of a myriad of screens and adjusting cameras 4 and 10 so that they zoomed in on her little demonstration. She snorted and chuckled under her breath as she measured out ground coffee into two cups.
'I do not see any humor?'
Giggling, she shared the image with English Butler, who turned out to be cool enough to admit that his actions were pretty comical, and then it was an easy transition to casual conversation. Most of it was him asking why she added this or that to the coffee and why she did it this way and how it was better with her answering as best she could but mostly that it just improved the taste somehow, but hey, no more suspicious silence.
'You are very different from sir's usual choice in partners,' English finally said when Sarah was sipping her coffee in quiet contentment. She'd gotten the name of the beans as well as permission to steal some (which was so awesome) and was currently drifting in caffeine-induced bliss.
'Well,' she stated with a sigh of rapture, 'given that I'm just a poor college student and he probably hangs out with A-list models all the time, I can see why.'
'It is an improvement,' English assured her confidently, 'You are by far the most considerate houseguest. And not the least physically attractive.'
She blushed but took the compliment gladly. She wasn't going to doubt the super-butler of a gazillionaire playboy.
'Alright,' she sighed, this time a little disappointedly, 'Time to go home. Thanks for the company, English Voice.'
Tony Stark Shield Uniform
Oops. That slipped out.
'JARVIS,' he replied in amusement, 'And it has been my pleasure, Ms. Jones.'
'Jarvis,' she repeated determinedly as her cheeks heated up.
When she took the private lift down to where the car Jarvis insisted she take waited, she felt her knees threaten to buckle when she spotted the Stark Industries logo.
Tony yawned and blinked blearily at the ceiling. It was an ungodly hour for an ungodly genius to be up at, but he blamed the hangover. Last night had been one of his few admittedly worse binges. He'd taken the woman (or maybe women?) home instead of a hotel, and he'd brought her (or them) into his own bedroom instead of one of the guests'. That was two strikes.
Not that it was his first time.
When he looked down and found boxers, he added another five strikes for no sex. Which was also not a first, but definitely much rarer. Well, too bad she'd missed out on getting a piece of his very sexy body, not to mention his pure skill.
He cracked his jaw and stretched, 'Jarv? She still here?'
'Ms. Jones has left, sir.'
Okay, there was a distinct lack of frosty disapproval this time. Huh. Who had he brought back last night?
'Any sexy pics?'
'Ms. Jones' modesty remained fully intact throughout her stay,' Jarvis replied primly. Which meant that his AI liked her enough not to have kept blackmail photos. Huh. Well that ruled out a whole list of people.
'Fine, Debbie Downer. Any normal pics?'
Tony grinned and scratched his chin as he eyed the leggy, dark-haired woman he had brought over for the drunken platonic sleepover. Not bad, he definitely retained good taste even when drunk, even though he usually went for lighter colors. For contrast. Red was so very good on him.
And okaaay, maybe a little more girl than woman. 'Huh. 19 years old?' He murmured as he read her background information. Ooh. Engineering Student. Kinky. He suddenly wanted to find her again to rectify the obvious mistake of passing up the opportunity for science! sex. Mmmm.
'If sir would move to the kitchen?'
Tony blinked. Okay, that was a little deviation from morning routine. He usually lounged in bed a little more before taking a shower and then coffee. Well, he supposed shower wasn't really needed since there was nothing to clean up. And, well, coffee.
He blinked again when he entered the kitchen. It was like someone had blown up a cornucopia all over the counter. And the table. And the side table. His stomach grumbled as he surveyed the feast. And—ooooh pancakes! And a jar of Manuka honey set beside it.
Why the Manuka? That was the cheapest. He was pretty sure he had a jar of Sidr honey somewhere…just because, you know, he could.
Anyway, pancakes. He needed…Pointy things. Tines…fork. Right. He rummaged around the closest drawer and found a steak knife and spaghetti fork. Which had more tines and was twisty-er than needed, but it'd do.
With an eager poke and slice that probably scratched the gold-plated Wedgewood, Tony squashed the quartered stack of three pancakes into his mouth. And moaned.
'Oh. My. Gawdddd,' he garbled, silencing himself with more pancake and distending his cheeks like a chipmunk. He licked honey off the blade and cut himself another quarter to prove that he could fit three-fourths of three pancakes in his mouth. 2.25.
When he had demolished the first plate of pancakes, he licked it clean (hey, not like anybody could see) and proceeded to the next in a slightly more sedate manner. 'This, this. Oh my god, Jarv,' he babbled as he attempted to inhale a whole pancake.
(Emphasis on the slightly.)
'I assume it is to your liking,' Jarvis stated blandly. There was a definite hint of amusement. If Tony hadn't been too busy annihilating yet another stack of pancakes, he would be having codes with him for getting uppity.
After the third plate, his caffeine deprivation made itself known. He approached the coffee machine only to stop short at the sign taped onto it. 'TOTAL RIP-OFF' it announced in bright red letters.
It was also unplugged.
He scowled, good mood vanishing. Nobody messed with his coffee.
'Sir, if you would please look to your right.'
A full coffee pot and still-steaming mug was set beside the machine. There was a desperate lunge and scuffle with uncooperating feet before he managed to grab it. The sugar and creamer were ignored as he chugged the liquid ambrosia.
He sighed in relief. And poured a second cup. And then gave a double take as he sipped it. Well…this was…different.
'Ms. Jones was kind enough to share her recipe.'
Well. Okay. Definitely points to her. So many. She might just be his second favorite woman after Pepper. Okay, third, including his mother.
A 19-year-old engineering student who could cook and make awesome coffee?
And he hadn't even had sex with her.
Sarah thought that the whole Tony Stark episode was a one-time thing (that she would forever cherish. Because kitchen) and that she would be returning to her normal life after it. After all, she wasn't the first woman Tony frigging Stark had picked up, although she probably was one of the few he hadn't slept with.
Why had he been at the annual college party again? She was pretty sure he was not an alumnus.
'Why, hellooo there, pretty lady,' a husky male voice spoke in her ear.
With a shrill scream, she twisted around and headbutted her assaulter. Then she found the pepper spray key chain on her phone.
An equally shrill scream sounded as she pressed down on the nozzle.
She stared down at the rolling figure of Tony Stark. The spray had gotten past his trademark sunglasses.
Ohmygosh I just headbutted and pepper sprayed Tony Stark.
She scrambled to find her bottle of water from her bag.
'Don't rub!' the insane girl ordered as she slapped his hands away. He wanted to bark back that it fucking hurt, but he was too busy dealing with the AGONIZING PAIN in his watering eyes.
And then she was peeling his eyelids open to pour some kind of liquid into them.
He flailed again (who knew what else she was trying to do to him?!) before she punched him in the chest and barked, 'STOP THAT.' In his ear. And—okay. The pain was lessening.
'Are you insane?' He demanded when he could finally blink without flinching.
His reply was dry and completely unrepentant, 'I think the one who sexually harassed me shouldn't be talking.'
He spluttered, 'Harass. What. You went back with me.'
'I was drunk.'
Now that was offensive, 'You would so follow me back sober!' He protested.
'That's true,' she agreed amiably (HAH), 'You have a magnificent kitchen.'
He gaped, 'Kitchen. You want to follow me home for my kitchen.'
'Kitchen,' she repeated, injecting as much solemnity and awe into it as possible.
'I…you…' Tony found himself in the very rare situation of being at a loss for words.
And then he burst out laughing.
'You're funny,' he said in amazement.
'Yippee-ki-yay,' she deadpanned, 'I'm a real, non-plastic girl. I have dimensions.'
He guffawed again.
'I didn't break you, did I?' she prodded him with an affected worried tone. He grinned back in delight before giving her (teary) bedroom eyes.
'So will you come back home with me to have hot sex in my magnificent kitchen?'
And then, 'Do you call back all the girls you don't get to sleep with?'
'Only the ones who can cook well,' he replied easily, 'and make good coffee.'
She preened smugly, 'My coffee is very good.'
'It is,' he agreed, 'I made a coffee maker that makes it to replace the old one.'
She grinned back, 'That's awesome. Tony Stark designed a coffee maker programmed with my recipe.'
'I stole your pancake recipe too,' he admitted as well, 'And the lasagna. And the Pizza. And the meatball spaghetti. Do you only cook Italian?'
She snorted, 'So you built a mechanical cook too? And no, but it's my forte.'
'Nooowp,' he replied, popping the 'p', 'I made someone follow Jarv's instructions.' If sending them to Pepper and asking her to make them counted. She'd sent back a scathing reply but tried them out later on. Even she had agreed that they were both simple and delicious.
'Oh!' She brightened, 'How's Jarvis? He was very kind to me.'
He pouted, 'My AI gets more loving than me?'
'Oh yeah, that's not public knowledge.'
'You built an AI,' she deadpanned.
'Four actually,' he shrugged, 'And a few not really fully-realized ones.'
'It'll be your fault if they enslave us,' she intoned gravely.
He sniggered again, 'Jarv likes you, don't worry.'
'Whatever,' She stood up and dusted her skirt briskly.
He followed suit, 'So! Come with me?'
'Said the spider to the fly,' she retorted, but smiled, 'No, Mr. Stark. Contrary to first impression, I don't actually do one-night stands.'
He widened his eyes, 'B-but…Engineer sex.'
She dissolved into giggles, 'Oh transistor, semiconductor, BJT, If-else, Switch case, Boyle's Law, Avogrado's number…'
'EXACTLY,' he exclaimed, waggling his eye brows in delight. She folded in half and cackled.
'St-stop! I can't breathe!'
'I know CPR, baby…'
Tony was a little disappointed. Sarah had agreed to come back home with him, but sex was still off the (dining) table. She still preferred his kitchen to him.
He pouted as he watched her bustle around and molest all the kitchenware. She'd made a stack of pancakes for him a moment ago, but was now gushing over his pressure-cooking, non-stick pans.
'How is that sexier than meeee?' He whined, both to Jarvis and Sarah as she fingered the handle of a soup pot lovingly.
'I'm assuming that Ms. Jones prizes utility to aesthetics.'
'I can make something to eat with this.'
He winked, 'Oh I can give you something to eat alright.'
She gave him an incredulous look before turning to the ceiling, 'Jarvis? How does he ever pick anyone up?'
'I assume that most women are willing to overlook certain flaws when presented with substantial wealth.'
'Hey!' He protested, 'They're not flaws. I am flawless, like a diamond.'
'Only if I can wrap you round my finger,' Sarah sang, doing a little jig with a pan in each hand.
Tony winked as he ogled her equally jiggling breasts, 'You can wrap your fingers around something else…'
'I have a frying pan and I'm not afraid to use it,' she warned, shaking one at him.
He backed off a little because she did indeed, and he was still a little surprised that she had managed to lift the two biggest single-handedly. If he didn't remember the headbutt that had nearly broken his nose a while ago, he'd have said something about putting that strength to good use.
'You two are so mean to me…' he sighed, eyeing the way her jeans hugged her ass as she stooped down to examine more pots.
Sarah didn't bother replying, while Jarvis simply started playing an obnoxious jingle over the system.
'Why don't you come and work for me?' Tony Stark garbled at her through a mouthful of squid ink angel hair pasta.
'As a cook, I presume?' Sarah deadpanned, twirling her fork through her own dish. She had to admit that it was probably the best plate of pasta she had made to date. Must be all the first-rate ingredients.
Tony Stark gave her an ink-stained grin in reply.
'Go hire a professional,' She snarked, 'Someone who's actually interested in doing that for a living.'
'But none of them come with the view!' He whined—she couldn't believe what a whiner Tony Stark was turning out to be. And a pervert. Maybe the latter wasn't such a surprise. But then again, she'd been expecting some class. Obviously, the tabloids got that one right.
She raised an eyebrow, 'I'm pretty sure you have enough money to look for a superb chef with a nice rack.'
'I do,' he admitted, 'But why look when I've already found one?'
'No, Tony,' Sarah droned for the eleventh time as she dipped French bread into her homemade mushroom soup.
He grimaced, 'You sound just like Pepper.'
'Thank you,' she stated primly, happy to be compared to the woman who had managed to end the long (and scandalous) search for Tony Stark's Personal Assistant.
'At least come over to make me coffee?' He batted (batted) his eyes at her, 'The machine still doesn't get it exactly the way you make it.'
'Only if you help me study,' she stuck out her tongue childishly. After all, who would pass up the chance to learn engineering from Tony fucking Stark himself?
He wrinkled his nose, 'Undergraduate engineering. Ew.' At her unimpressed look, he protested, 'I'm the CEO of a Fortune 500 company! I'm too busy!'
'You're also a genius who invented his own AI butler with an English accent to do everything else for him.'
'JARV does a lot,' he agreed, 'But I invented him!'
'Sounds like what my parents always say: I gave birth to you! Obey me!'
Instead of sputtering in protest, the genius nodded enthusiastically, 'Exactly!'
'Tutor me, or no pasta,' she folded her arms under her chest nonchalantly. Hey, if it worked…
Tony Stark leered but then pouted, 'I finally find a sexy engineer-cook and she doesn't even want me for my money.'
'I'm a strong believer of the 'teach a man to fish' theory.'
'You could always hook up with me instead…'
'…And what? File a harassment case after? Settle it out of court?'
He shrugged, 'Pepper'd take care of it…'
'Dude, that is totally douche.'
'Hey, she likes it!'
'Whatever,' Sarah dismissed the topic, 'So will you or will you not tutor me?'
There was a brief moment where Tony's face contorted into expressions of intense agony before collapsed into intense sulking instead, 'Finee…'
The engineering student-cook did a triumphant fist pump that had her generous bosom bouncing. No need to be obnoxious in victory, after all…
Huehuehue. This is probably my most 'adult' fic to date. It's actually very surprising because innuendo is almost my second language. Not to say that I haven't written some M-rated or even MA-rated stuff, but...yeah, not going to go there. I have no clue how to write that and all my attempts...I can't even describe without gagging. No, my mouth isn't full. (SNORT)
So...2nd Avengers fic but still not a fully-formed idea. Hmm...Should I really be leaving all these one-chaptered things around? Oh well.
P.S Did some brushing up. :3
Chapter 38 - Lost and Gone
He took turns checking his phone and his watch. It was later than he had thought. The meeting had run longer than planned and even 50 deadly stares in Obi's direction hadn't changed anything about that. Then he had to take care of a few more things in the office, but he shouldn't get there that much later than he had planned. Definitely before any of the guests would arrive.
'How much longer, Happy?'
'Bout 10 minutes, boss.'
Tony nodded to himself. That wasn't too bad. The car was speeding along the highway towards northern LA. He tried to distract himself to make the time go by faster. The weather outside was nice which was a good thing if you planned an outdoor kid's birthday party in February, even in Los Angeles. Everything should be set up when he got there. Pepper took care of all that so he wouldn't forget to bring anything. She did, right? He was pretty sure that he wasn't supposed to bring anything. He pulled out his phone and send her a quick text message hoping to confirm that he couldn't have forgotten anything. Pepper had been lecturing him about how his son didn't need a big present, that time spent together, a vacation, trip to the zoo, stuff like that would be a lot more meaningful for Aiden. Tony didn't disagree but he couldn't not give his boy something and the kiddy car he had found would be perfect. Aiden would love it. Even if love for engineering wasn't hereditary, Tony would make sure to imprint that particular taste for engine oil and tools on his son. All those things that Tony learned to love more so to impress his dad that they never actually had shared in the end, all that he would extensively cherish with his own son. If Aiden wanted to, but he already loved the bots and the workshop and Tony would do everything to lean into that.
Happy pulled up in front of the entrance to the golf club they had rented for the occasion. The blow-up bounce house Pepper had secured was so big, it was looming over the clubhouse. He couldn't help but smirk. Aiden had probably already tested that excessively. There were a couple of nervous-looking ladies in the foyer when he stepped inside. One of them went straight for him.
'Mr. Stark. Sir, Miss Potts has asked me to bring you straight to her. She—'
He waved the lady off with a groan. 'Of course, she did.'
'Tony...' And there she was.
'I know, I know. I'm here now.' He didn't think that he really deserved that level of exhaustion that was radiating off her. He had tried to get things at the company sorted as fast as he could. 'I'm only like what... 20 minutes late. I still had to sign all that stuff you put out for me. I only read maybe every second page to get done faster. I hope I didn't sell anything important by mistake. Well, I'm here now. People won't get here for another—'
'Tony, I... can you... can you just come with me real quick.'
He had been trying to see if he could spot Aiden anywhere outside. The kid should probably really lie down for a 20-minute nap so he wouldn't get cranky and Tony could totally use that nap himself. 'Did Addy get to nap already? It's probably not the worst idea if we—'
'Tony, please, can you... can you just—'
'Pepper, are...' He frowned when he really looked at her. She looked almost shellshocked. 'Are you crying? What's going on?'
She dragged him by his arm, dragged him into the closest room and slammed the door shut behind them.
'Pepper, what happened? Is—' His heart jumped painfully in overdrive. 'You're freaking me out, what is—'
'Addy is... we... we can't find him. I don't know—'
'What?' His heart dropped down to his stomach like a heavy stone. 'What do you mean you can't find him?'
'I... we can't find him. I was... I was with the people from catering and Lisa and Tina were outside with him and when I came back out he... We've been searching the grounds, the whole area. I... I called the police right away. They should be here already I—'
Tony pushed past her out of the room then out of the backdoor onto the large garden area of the property.
'Aiden!' His heart was beating faster than he thought possible, painfully fast. With every second the feeling just intensified and he couldn't breathe. 'AIDEN!' Tony turned towards her, pulled her close. 'How long has he been gone? When did you see him last? Where?'
She swallowed hard, openly crying now. 'About... about 20 minutes ago is when we... when we realized, I... I'm so sorry, Tony, I'm so sorry!'
He turned back towards the grounds, calling out for his son. Aiden never ran off. Never. Tony had been so careful, had always told him to stick close to his people. Pepper was right behind him, calling out his son's name as well and as he scanned the area around them he saw other staff doing just the same, spread out along the boundaries of the area. Tony couldn't think straight. He couldn't even tell how long they had been out there.
The police arrived. They said he might just be hiding. How kids like to hide. Maybe he was too nervous to come out with everyone calling for him. Aiden would never hide from him, never. He'd jump out, go as far as pull himself out of a tantrum when Tony came home from work just so he could hug his dad. He would never hide. Then more police arrived. Dogs. Tony couldn't feel his throat. It had to be raw from screaming his son's name. He couldn't say how long he had been out there, he only knew that he wouldn't leave. He wouldn't, not without his boy. It took both Rhodey and Happy to force him into a car when the sun had started to go down.
They must have given him something. As Tony sat on the couch in the living room of his Malibu home, he felt way too calm for what was happening around him. They must have drugged him with some kind of downer. He was still coherent enough to deduce that. Coherent enough that he knew that without something messing with his mental state there was no way he'd be at home, let alone sitting down.
'Was there a call?' Detective Roberts was standing tall in the middle of Tony's living room flanked by an additional four LAPD officers. Like they would somehow make a difference, standing there in his home. 'Maybe a letter that was left somewhere? Some form of contact from the outside?'
'Nothing. Nobody—' Tony cleared his throat, feeling eerily detached. 'Nobody called. Nobody contacted me, I...'
'Mr. Stark, we would advise you to send someone to your office as well and monitor every form of communication a potential kidnapper could use in order to contact you. If they do make contact it is important that you let us know immediately. Don't try to solve this on your own. I know this all seems very scary but I promise you, we will do our very best to bring your boy home safely.'
'Right.' He looked up at Rhodey who was sitting next to him on the couch. Pepper and Obi were hovering close by. Pepper was crying constantly. He wished that he could cry. Maybe that would bring some kind of relief. All of this was just so surreal. How could this be happening? He should have been there. He should have never gone to that meeting. What kind of imbecile would agree to go to a meeting on their son's birthday and leave him out in the open, without protection? What if—
Detective Roberts cleared his throat and didn't continue until Tony's gaze, his attention was back on him. 'I understand that you might be tempted to just act if someone were to contact you and ask for money in exchange for Aiden's safe return. It might seem easy to just pay them, but I must advise you against that. It can be a dangerous proposition especially because it would be difficult to rule out copycats. It could turn dangerous not just for the security of your son but also for you.'
'I understand.' Not that he cared for his own safety. He didn't give a shit about that. He would walk into open fire if it meant that his son would be safe.
'We can station Agent Loyd with you for now. For your protection as well as for a swift way to communicate with the LAPD should new developments unfold.'
At that, Obi stepped up next to him, one hand strong on Tony's shoulder. 'What kind of time frame are we talking here, detective. Until when should we expect any... developments?'
'Usually a kidnapper will contact the family within 24 hours with proof of life and their demands.'
'What if—' Rhodey shifted uncomfortably next to Tony, careful to avoid his eyes. 'What if it's not a kidnapper?'
'We are still searching the area with dogs. Our helicopters are equipped with thermographic cameras. We send out divers to check every area of water on the property just in case this was an accident after all.'
'He wouldn't just wander off.' Tony had his eyes on the back of the room, not even speaking to anyone directly. 'He would never just wander off like that.'
'We simply have to rule out every possibility to understand what happened. We have interviewed the staff including the two nannies.' He checked his notes. 'Lisa Gonzalez and Tina King. Both of these interviews have not revealed anything insightful, unfortunately, but just in case we'll hold them in custody for now.'
'Is that...' Rhodey cleared his throat. 'Did you charge them with anything?'
'No, no,' the detective interrupted him. 'This is perfectly normal, I assure you. We are well within our rights to keep them in custody for 96 hours without a charge, especially in a serious case like this.'
Tony could feel Rhodey turn to him like he was supposed to do something about this? He just wanted to have his son back in his arms. He didn't care how.
'Apparently the two women had been preparing some form of presents for the guests that should be arriving.' Roberts flipped back and forth between a couple of pages on his notepad. 'On Aiden's request, or so they both say. That all three of them had been searching the area for four-leaved clover. Then after a certain amount of time that for both of them is seemingly difficult to assess, they discovered that Aiden was gone.' He turned to Pepper. 'Miss Potts, you are the one who hired both women to supervise Mr. Stark's son, is that correct?'
'I— yes. Yes, I did. I—' Pepper's voice was strained, hard to hear through the fog that was encasing Tony. 'Lisa has been with us since... well, shortly after... after Addy... Addy—' The couch underneath him moved up a bit as Rhodey stood from his seat next to him and took just a couple of hurried steps until he was next to Pepper. He reached for one of her hands and wrapped an arm around her for support. 'After Addy was born. Tina, she... she helps out on the weekends or... or during late nights, special occasions.'
'And to your knowledge the women's testimony is accurate? Were you aware that the nannies were roaming the area with Mr. Stark's son?'
'I... yes.' Tony did turn to look at her but couldn't really bring himself to feel anything as she stood there, crying. The numbness in his chest left him somewhat paralyzed. 'I knew that... that they were outside looking for... for—' Her hand shot up and covered her mouth, stifled a sob. Rhodey pulled her closer, whispered soft reassurances to her. A few deep breaths later, she cleared her throat, eyes firmly avoiding everyone else in the room. 'Aiden loves to be outside. He... he loves to run around the park and... and the beach. That's why we—why we wanted to do this outdoors.'
'Hm.' The detective made some additional notes on his pad, then looked back up at her. 'And you are the one who found the location and convinced Mr. Stark to pick it. Is that correct?'
'Hey!' Rhodey was staring at the detective. 'I don't know what you are trying to insinuate with this line of—'
Tony stood up from the couch. He had enough. 'This is ridiculous. We're all just standing around doing nothing.' He had enough of these people just talking. 'JARVIS, where are my keys?' He was going to find Aiden himself if he had to. He couldn't just be gone. He had to be out there somewhere. He couldn't just disappear into thin air.
'Mr. Stark, it is really not advisable—'
'JARVIS!' Why was that damned AI not answering?
'Sir, I must advise against any rash actions in your—'
'Oh, fuck you!'
'Tony...' Rhodey had stepped back to him, one hand a firm grip of his arm. 'There are people out there, hundreds of people looking for Aiden. They know what they're doing. The best we can do to help is figure out what might have happened, so—'
Tony Stark Shimeji
'Well, I don't know, do I? I wasn't there!'
'Shh, I know, man.' Rhodey pulled him closer, hands now squeezing both his arms tightly. 'I know. But you can't drive. You're in no state to help right now. We need to let them do their jobs, alright?'
Tony shook his head. That couldn't be all he could be useful for. There had to be more. He wanted to rage and rip those grounds apart with his bare hands till he found his son but his fury was somewhat stunted, couldn't really pick up speed.
'You gave me something.'
Rhodey nodded, still standing close to him. 'Yes. I did.' He still stood close to Tony, a hand on his arm as if Tony would run off if not physically held back. 'You were freaking out. And you have every right to be freaking out, but it not going to help you or Aiden if you go to pieces, buddy.' His hand squeezed Tony's arm again. 'We have to pull it together now. We have to find a way to help them help us. Help them find your son.'
Maybe the downers were to blame, but all of that sounded reasonable. He felt useless but he also didn't see a way to be of more help.
'Why doesn't Pepper get you upstairs, my boy.' Obi stood right next to him, patted his shoulder, then nodded at Pepper. 'We'll take care of everything, don't you worry. Maybe Detective Roberts could bring Colonel Rhodes up to speed on the specifics of the search so you will know that they are doing everything that can be done, hm?'
Tony nodded. That, too, sounded reasonable. He could analyze their strategy. Make it better. Find Aiden faster. If only his brain was working right.
The windows in his room were darkened. He didn't even know which day it was, how long he had been in his room. He knew it had been long. There was a low throbbing somewhere in his brain that told him he should care, but he couldn't bring himself to do anything about it. Pepper came and went with food that he didn't touch and water or tea she almost physically forced into him. Sometimes she sat there with him, apologizing over and over. Blaming herself. Sometimes she would just lie down next to him, hold his hand, tell him how they just had to wait and how everything would turn out okay. Sometime she wouldn't say anything, just cry with him.
He had been wrong. Tears brought him no relief whatsoever.
What was the point of all this? He had hoped. For a day, then two. He had hoped that these people's lust for money would be strong enough that he could just pay off whoever had done this to them. Whoever had taken his son. But there was nothing. No claim. No note. Nothing.
His hope was fading. His heart was breaking more and more with every moment the realization set in that this might not happen. That they might never find him.
Tony wished it was raining. Not that it would change anything about the shit show that had been his Monday, but somehow it would make him feel better about having to deal with it than that blue sky, summer-sunny weather. He hated all of this. This city, Rogers, Ross, Clarke, all these assholes that made his life miserable. He hated himself. For not paying attention. For not seeing. For not being better at this. A better person, a better hero. A better version of himself.
He wished he could be done with all of it. Maybe just buy a house somewhere in the countryside. Learn to fish or something. Just be somewhere where nobody could get to him. Where they would let him just be. But he couldn't. He couldn't walk away. He was all that was left. The last barricade between what was good and right, between the people and all those that would use them in whatever way they could.
That's what he had believed anyway. That he was on the side of what was good and what was right. At least until he had thought about calling Pepper or Rhodey to whine about how that 14-year-old boy he had been sponsoring as an underaged vigilante had gone ahead, almost gotten himself killed, them both arrested and then shattered every last piece of confidence Tony had had in his capacity to spot bullshit. He could vividly imagine what level of sympathy Pepper would have for him if she found out what he had gotten himself into.
It was no use. He was on his own in this because that's the bed he had made for himself. Tony turned his head to the side and looked out of the window, watched the City of New York bustle about beneath him. Just a regular Tuesday for all these people living their lives like nothing had changed.
He had to get a grip and move on. Focus on what was important. The day before had been a heavy blow. A heavy set-back and his head was still throbbing from the round of self-medication he had gone for afterwards.
'Good morning, boss. It's Tuesday, August 16th, 11:39 am. You have two missed calls from Colonel Rhodes. As per your request from last night, I cleared your schedule for the day. Miss Potts sent a message request about an hour ago to inquire about when she can schedule your return to work.'
Inquire about when she can your return to work... That was Pepper-speak for get your ass out of bed.
No word from Ross yet. That was somewhat good news. If they had found any proof that could connect Tony to helping out the Rogues they'd have broken down his door already. Well, they would have tried to at least. The Tower was not all that easy to penetrate. Ross would have to bring the big guns and for all intents and purposes right now Tony was his big gun.
He sighed and reached for his nightstand, took a couple of Advil to fight off the headache. There was no point in putting off what he had to do. He still had to bring down Ross. The man wouldn't stop no matter how much Tony was struggling. He would just plow ahead until he eliminated all the obstacles that stood between him and more power.
'Call Rhodey for me.'
'Right away, boss.'
Rhodey answered after only a couple of rings. 'Hey, you alright?'
Tony rubbed a hand across his face. 'Peachy.'
'Why would you think something—'
'Tony, cut the crap. I know they were in town. It's all over the news. Are you alright?'
'I...' Tony sighed. No. No, he was not alright but it had very little to do with the Rogues, at least not directly. 'I'm fine, Platypus. You know that I'm a tough cookie.'
'What happened? Did you talk to them? What... what were they doing in New York?'
'I... no. No, I didn't talk to them. Just got there in time to tell them to beat it. Ross, well, Ross couldn't hold his tongue. Guess he thought that his people had already made them. Just got there in time.'
'Wait, Ross told you? What... what do you mean? Did he outright threaten you?'
'Urgh, he said my ego will be my downfall which I guess is fair. He thinks I know where they are and kept that information from him. Which is also—'
'Stop. Don't. I...' Rhodey sighed. 'You can't tell me. You know that.'
'Yeah. Right. Sorry.' Tony shook the thought from his mind. Rhodey was right, of course. If they were to subpoena him and he'd have to lie, he'd risk a treason charge. He already knew too much anyway. Not that he could blame Pepper for telling him about the coma. She'd have been hard-pressed to explain why Tony wasn't visiting Rhodey's hospital bed. It had been more of a life and death kind of problem. Ross and the Rogues, his strategy... Tony could handle that on his own. He didn't need anyone to hold his hand through it.
'You know, I wanna help. I will help with anything you ask, Tones, I—'
'I think maybe it's time for you to head back to D.C.' Tony slowly rolled himself out of bed and made his way towards the coffee maker.
'I'm not... I'm not saying that to be spiteful or... or anything. I know there are things that we do, that put you at a higher risk than they do me or Vision. We have to be smart about this. If Ross ramps up the aggression towards us, we need to be a step ahead. The braces work well, it's just a matter of practice and physical therapy at this point and... and maybe having you in D.C. to back Vision in some of those meetings wouldn't be the worst thing.'
The line stayed quiet for a while.
Tony sighed. 'It's gonna be fine.'
'What are you not telling me?'
Tony bit his lip, grateful that it wasn't a video call for once. Quietly he shoved a cup underneath the coffee maker and hit the button for a double espresso.
'I'm not pushing you out. I'm just doing what we have to. We need to win this one, Rhodey.'
'Maybe we need to have a detailed discussion on what exactly would qualify as a win.'
'When's the last time you talked to Pepper?'
'Erm, that... that would have been last week. We actually had a very pleasant conversation about the next couple of months and when we will—'
'About anything not related to the company?'
He fished out the cup from under the machine and dragged himself to the kitchen counter, elbows propped up on the table, head cradled in both his hands. He should have waited for these Advils to kick in before calling Rhodey.
'I'm not sure what you want me to say here.'
'You need to get your shit together man. She's your best friend.'
'Er, no. You're my best friend.'
'That's true and you know it. You miss her.'
'You miss her and you know I'm right. She misses you, too. You can still fix this.'
Not when she would hear about how he had been sponsoring a 14-year-old vigilante for the last few months and almost got himself and the kid arrested and sent to the Raft. Even without that little detail, he'd never pull Pepper into this mess.
'Right. Listen. Just think about D.C. and—'
'Tony, I mean it. I'm worried about you.'
'We're in the middle of a ridiculous international shit show fighting for our lives and the eventual survival of humanity. I'd be worried if you weren't worried, Platypus.'
Rhodey sighed. 'You're infuriating.'
'So I've heard.'
He hung up after repeatedly reassuring Rhodey that he was being careful and that he did have a plan, which wasn't a lie per-say, more a form of embellishing the facts. He pulled off the headset and stretched his back, turn away from the kitchen counter and of course his eyes fell on the suit.
The Spider-Man suit was still lying there on his living room floor, neatly folded. He hadn't touched it ever since Peter had taken it off. He wanted to burn the damn thing but that would be like setting fire to a few million dollars. Not that he couldn't afford it but it was unlikely that he would be able to bring himself to destroy it. He'd worked on it for weeks. Made sure that it was perfect. Agile and fast, above all: safe. He had put in fail safes. The tracker, satellite observation and even video and audio recordings that would back up every patrol the boy would go on, just in case something would happen. Just in case, Tony would have to find him. He had never even checked the videos. Hadn't checked the tracker. Never seen a reason to. There was an automated alert should the suit send out a signal from outside of Peter's home after his curfew but that had never gone off. Now he knew why. He had trusted the boy. That had been his first mistake.
What kind of idiot would trust a pubescent boy with superhero powers? He should have known better. The boy had been Tony's responsibility and he had let him roam free. It had been a foolish mistake.
August in New York City was always a pain. Even with the sea so close the heat was absorbed by the concrete buildings, trapped between them and just didn't allow much relief. Queens was bad but Manhattan, well Manhattan was a different kind of ball game. Peter had spent his last few nights on the rooftops of Queens. There was still air to breathe up there and the closer he got to the East River, more of a breeze would allow him to somewhat relax from the smoldering heat of the day.
But the closer he was to the East River, the clearer his view of Stark Tower. Manhattan had many skyscrapers of course, just next to Stark Tower there was the Chrysler building, but none of them shone as bright and mighty on the New York City skyline. It wasn't the tallest building among them, but still, it was the one that would catch your eye more than any other. It used to be a sight that filled Peter with joy and for some time there, even with pride. To have an Avenger, to have Tony Stark live in your city was one thing. One phenomenal thing that had him giddy even as a young boy with the Stark Expo in town when he'd sit down for dinner with Uncle Ben and Aunt May and they'd let him ramble about his favorite superhero. There would be no words to describe how proud he was to work alongside Mr. Stark. No words. It was... Well, a dream to have that chance, to have Mr. Stark not just teach him but look out for him, build him his own suit. It had been overwhelming.
But now... When he looked up there now all he could think of was how he had failed. Himself as well as Mr. Stark. He had fucked this up so bad when all he wanted to do, all he had really tried to do was help him. Was avenge him. But he couldn't. It had gone all wrong. All wrong.
Peter's pulse was speeding up, his stomach turned. He had to make things right. He couldn't leave it like that, it wasn't... it wasn't right. He had to apologize. Properly apologize for screwing with the suit. Disabling the tracker. Going after Rogers. Rogers. Fucking Steve Rogers who was supposed to be a hero.
It didn't matter though. Rogers didn't matter. The Rogues didn't matter. He had let Mr. Stark down. After he had trusted Peter, had let him into his lab, his life even, Peter had gone and poked in his private business like a fool. Like an asshole. That was on him, nobody else.
He didn't even really realize what his feet were doing until he found himself at the entrance to the subway station. He had to go. He had to make things right. He could never even begin to be Spider-Man again if he was acting like a child, hiding in the dark. Hiding from his mistakes.
It had been 4 days. 4 days since Mr. Stark had taken the suit. Since he had kicked him to the curb. Peter still hadn't found the courage to tell May. She'd probably be thrilled even if it meant that Peter would have to go back to one of those shop boy jobs. Not that he cared about that. He'd gladly pack groceries till the end of his days if he could keep being Spider-Man. If he could keep that internship. That time at the Tower. He had taken all of that for granted. She'd be ashamed if she would find out what Peter had done. Worst of all, she couldn't even blame Mr. Stark for what Peter was turning into. It was all on him.
The ride only took about 15 minutes. It wasn't far to Grand Central from where he had been hanging out in Queens. The trip was so familiar to him, he didn't have to think about where he was going, just followed his feet. Fridays were internship days and Peter still had his access card to the Tower. Chances were Mr. Stark had taken away his privileges and FRIDAY wouldn't even let him up. Chances were he wouldn't even make it through security. In fact, that was very likely. He had to try though. All that mattered was that he made things up to Mr. Stark. That he apologized. Sincerely. Not just because he had taken the suit. Not just because Peter craved his support, his help. Because Peter had been wrong, had made a mistake. Had... had hurt him. Broken his trust. Completely.
But as he stood in front of the Tower and looked up at those floors rising high above New York City, his pulse began to speed up even more. The hair on his arms was starting to rise from the adrenaline shooting through his body. Just the prospect of having Mr. Stark look at him with that disapproval and pushed down anger in her eyes made his breathing turn to shallow painful pants. What was he even doing? He had messed up. He couldn't just walk in there like that. Like he had the right to just demand Mr. Stark's time and attention. He couldn't. This had been such a foolish idea. It would make everything just a whole lot worse! Mr. Stark had been so mad he... alright, he needed to calm down. His head was swimming. Every step he took just added to his dread, added to his nerves running wild. The voices around him were penetrating his brain. He needed to shut this down before he lost control. He walked quickly around the corner, looking for that cove he had hidden in before. Months ago. The cove he had hidden in on the first day of his internship.
It had to be close, it had to be. He needed to try and shut out as much of the stimuli as possible and hurried towards the safety of his little hideout when someone ran right into him, bodychecked Peter with his shoulder straight to his chest. Peter stumbled, one hand still holding onto his head, his senses still flaring.
He looked up and before he could do anything there were hands on him, two sets, or three? He tried to shake them off, flung his arms around and did manage to push one of them to the ground, then a second one, acting on pure instinct. There was fire in his neck, in his bloodstream. He pressed a hand against the side of his throat, the other arm trashing back and forth. He couldn't think. It was like fire in his bloodstream. His throat was closing up and he couldn't focus on a single thought, couldn't think of a single thing he could do. Then everything went black.
Something was covering his mouth. He tried to breathe and his eyes opened up in panic when he found that he couldn't really. There was tape on his mouth, his hands tied behind his back. A sharp, quick impulse of his arms ripped off the tape on his wrists. It did hurt but he couldn't gasp with his mouth taped shut, something stuffed into his mouth as well, uncomfortably keeping his teeth apart. He just forced as much oxygen through his nose as possible.
Before he could pull the tape off his mouth there were hands on him again. One pair. Two. Three pair.
'Just fucking hold him down.'
Peter struggled and tried to kick, but his legs were taped as well, around his ankles and his knees. He couldn't free them no matter how much he tried to struggle against the bounds, against those men. They managed to hold him down. That wasn't possible. How could they hold him down like that? He was supposed to be so much stronger than them!
'This is ridiculous. How is he awake? Did you not measure this shit right?'
'Hit him with another dose. There's something off with this one. Smarts will need to get something stronger. Leave it to fucking Stark to pick a freak as his favorite intern.'
This time Peter did feel the needle pierce his neck before whatever they gave him burned in his veins. He wanted to fight, had to get them off himself. He wanted to sob, to call out for help, but there was nothing he could do, nothing to shake them off as darkness rolled over him once again.
Consciousness came back to him like waves would roll up on the beach. With every blink of his eyes, his vision became a little clearer, his surroundings a little more distinct.
'That's him? That's Stark's intern?'
'Definitely, Boss. Peter Parker. He had an access card for the Tower with him and even an SP3-10!'
'SP3-10. It's the newest Stark phone. It's not released until next month!'
Peter's head was throbbing, a deep dull pain that pulsated intensely right underneath his skin. He could hear them but he couldn't really see. General shapes and forms, yes, but nothing specific. His brain seemed to be screaming for oxygen but his mouth was still stretched with a gag, taped shut. His breathing came in jerky desperate inhales through his nose.
'Huh. Stark's little favorite indeed. Hack that phone. There has to be some useful information on there. At the very least Stark's number, so we can let him know where to bring the prize to ransom his little darling.'
'There's no way to hack that phone, boss. Nobody has even seen this before. We wouldn't know where to begin.'
'Well, start with the fingerprints. Retina scan.' A hand snaked into Peter's hair. He hadn't really noticed that he was slumped forward until his head was pulled back and he sat upright, desperate to lessen the pain as the man seemed to try to pull out his hair by the roots. The man now looked straight into Peter's face. 'If that fails we'll have to find another way to crack that thing open.' He flashed his brown teeth at Peter. 'Good morning, precious. I kinda hope you were clever enough not to use your birthday or something easy like that as a code. It'll be so much more fun to figure out some random number.'
Peter flinched, tried to move away but he was tied too tightly to the chair, his feet completely immobile. There was no way to get away from him, bt Peter would never tell them. Would never let them crack the phone, not with the direct access to Mr. Stark's private server on it still.
'Tut, tut.' The man petted Peter's cheek and he couldn't stop the tears that rolled off his lashes. The fear was paralyzing. 'It's not very polite to pull away from your host. Did we have a nice nap?'
Peter couldn't look at him, had to look away. The man just laughed and let go of his face.
'Where are we at? Do we know what wrong with him yet?'
'He's a freak. Everything is wrong with him.'
'Shut up, Gordan.' the boss man snarled at his man. 'I want useful comments only.'
'Sorry, Boss,' the guy murmured.
'He's really strong. Burns through the tranquilizer like it's candy.'
'Huh.' The boss bent down once again and when Peter wouldn't look at him he put his hands back on his face and made him. 'Maybe he's a little more than just an intern. Did Stark experiment with his father's serum on you, boy? Trying to create his own little soldier?'
Peter shook his head as good as he could, tears steadily falling from his eyes. The man reached for the tape on his mouth and ripped it off with a fast pull. It hurt like hell and Peter couldn't help but groan in pain. He couldn't move though. The man had his face in a strong grip and pulled the rag out of his mouth.
'What did Stark do to you? Speak!'
Peter tried to find his voice, but pain and fear still gagged him. Sharp pain rippled through him and just then did he realize that the boss had slapped his face.
'I said, speak!'
'Help!' Peter screamed out as loud as he could manage, his voice breaking in the process. 'Help, ple—'
That got him another two punches to his face. He curled into himself, tried to get away, to hide from the assault. The man grabbed his hair again and pulled back his head, his face so close to him, his smell made Peter gag.
'It's not that I don't get a kick out of your pathetic little cries, baby, but I asked you a question. What did Stark do to you?' When Peter just quietly panted he tugged harder on his hair. 'Speak!'
'No-nothing,' Peter sobbed. 'He did... he did nothing.'
Boss-man just rolled his eyes and pointed at one of his men. 'I want what's on this phone. Run his blood. Use Rico's contact. If this is one of Stark's little pet projects, we might just fucking struck pay dirt.'
(author's note: Alright, the response to that last chapter was a little insane. Thank you all so much for all the nice comments, including the incoherent freakouts ;)br /
I really enjoy your theories of where you think this is going even if I'm trying not to respond with any spoilers ;)
Thanks again for reading and sticking with me.)