Set after the end of The Avengers and shortly before the beginning of Thor: The Dark World. Enjoy!
When he was placed in a holding cell, his ears were still ringing with the sound of metal striking metal.
There were train wrecks that were in better shape than Tony Stark. His hands shook and sweat beaded on his brow, the perspiration sliding down skin that was as pale as death. He was hunched forward, elbows on knees and his head in hands, doing his best to collect himself. But he could hear his heart pounding in his head, drowning out almost everything else. His chest was tight, his breathing was labored; he was in a full-blown anxiety attack.
He needed to calm down or the void would swallow him again.
Breathe, Tony, breathe, he told himself. It's fine. You'll be all right.
And then the past grabbed him by the throat and dragged him down, down, until the portal engulfed him again and the open universe unraveled before him. Flashes of light burned out the present; Tony was again staring into the darkness, witness to alien life and endless space. He was choking. Explosions sounded around him, the force vibrating through his very core. There were screams, there was death... The armor flickered and failed and he was falling, suffocating, and all light was being extinguished...
Tony awoke, gasping, like a drowning man pulled to the water's surface. He was on the floor now, on his hands and knees, rocked to his very core. He could see the blood on his hands where it had leaked in through the suit's joints. It made him sick.
"Tony." Steve stood on the other side of the prison bars, strain on his Herculean features.
He pulled himself to his feet, grasping the cold iron bars for support. The grief in Steve's eyes was like a kick in the stomach.
"Steve, I swear, I didn't..."
Anger set in the soldier's jaw at these words and he sharply turned from his comrade, moving a few paces away. Though his shoulders were square and he stood tall, exhaustion was a heavy burden on him.
"I saw you, Tony."
"We all saw you."
Then there were two hands grasping his shirt through the bars, lifting him high off the ground. An alarm sounded somewhere.
"Why?!" The words tore through the Captain's throat, heavy with emotion, "He was your friend, Tony! An Avenger!"
Wordless, Tony could only stare. Steve threw him across the cell, where he collided firmly with the brick wall. That would leave a mark.
"You betrayed him, Tony!" The bars bent around Steve's hands as he pressed them apart, flakes of cement falling from the ceiling as the iron warped where it had been bolted in. Steve's foot found home in Tony's stomach, sending him to the floor. "He was a good man!"
The abuse continued, even as SHIELD agents flooded the room.
Tony didn't blame him for it, really. He knew he would do the same thing if the tables were turned. He would be just as angry and just as upset; he would want blood to pay for blood, and he would damn well have it.
But then the Black Widow was on Steve's back, arms looped under his and restraining him, her legs folded firmly around his waist. Hawkeye was close behind, arrow notched and aimed true. Bruce Banner hung back at the twisted bars.
"Captain, fall back."
Tony wiped blood from his lips as he spotted Agent Coulson, the forever composed bastard finally entering the scene. He stepped through the bars as Natasha released Steve, who all but shrugged her off. Though still seething, his fists shaking at his sides, it seemed the solider had been subdued.
"Anthony Stark is currently is protective custody, Captain, and we can't have him dead on our watch." the agent reminded, "Asgard expects us to hold Stark soundly until he can be transported."
"Asgard?" Bruce finally spoke, his voice deceptively restrained, "You are not telling me-"
"Stay calm, Bruce." Natasha said, her eyes wary on him.
"-I am calm. But if you are insinuating we are handing over Tony to Asgard for judgement-"
Clint's grip on his bow tightened as Bruce stepped into the cell, which was now bursting at the seams with all its inhabitants. "Bruce, he murdered him-"
Bruce's fists clenched and everyone tensed. Tony managed to sit up.
"It's all right, buddy." he spit out blood, trying to find his humor, "I'm not afraid of some old men in dresses."
"Gentlemen. Natasha." Coulson interrupted, "This matter is now out of our hands. The arrangements have been made. Tony will be tried in Asgard, like Loki."
Bullshit. It wasn't anything at all like Loki, Tony thought bitterly. Fury just wanted to sweep this pretty little mess under a rug and cart him off to a place where SHIELD couldn't take blame for whatever happened. One-eyed bastard.
"But Tony isn't Loki."
"No." Steve agreed, "He's worse, Banner."
Twenty-three hours later, Tony was transferred not to Asgard, but to Avengers HQ. Pepper was forced to shut down JARVIS to primary functions only and Clint tossed him in the Hulk Tank, leaving him to rot.
Maybe it was for his own safety, he decided, because Steve had torn apart those last iron bars like he was straight out of a cartoon. Still, it was insult to injury to lock an engineer in the prison he had designed himself.
This was Hulk Tank 2.0, safely nuzzled inside the security of Avengers HQ instead of set to drop out of a helicarrier. It was on Banner's floor, meant to give him somewhere to go if there was a sudden anger management crisis. At first, Tony had been hesitant to make it. They could deal with a little Code Green no problem, he had argued. But Banner had insisted and now it was Tony's personal little hell. With no visitors and no AI to talk to, he was worried he might go insane.
He was hanging off a support beam on the ceiling when the elevator across the room opened its doors, a pleasant ping sounding out. He didn't look to see who it was, instead continuing with his pull-ups.
"Three cheeseburgers and a large coke, please." he snarked.
Pepper Potts was standing on the other side of the glass wall, worry in her eyes. She had a tablet and a clipboard clutched to her breast, her knuckles white around them. At this, Tony immediately dropped down, grateful and surprised all at once.
"Pep." Then, a flurry of words spilled out of his mouth before he could stop him. His hands were on the glass and he was leaning towards her, desperate. "I'm telling you, Pep, it wasn't me, the suit just went, JARVIS wasn't responding, something glitched, something went wrong, the HUD went down and it wasn't me and I couldn't-"
She shook her head, placing one of her hands to match his against the glass.
"I know it wasn't you, Tony."
Relief flooded him, nearly knocking him to his knees. He let out a shuddered breath, closing his eyes and leaning his forehead against the cool glass.
"All the evidence says it was." she admitted, trying to be gentle, "I've got Fury and SHIELD drowning in paperwork, but there's nothing else I can do. An interstellar incident, they keep telling me, and JARVIS' records... they..." she swallowed, "You don't have many good cards in your hand."
"Just pull the flight logs." he suggested, "There's got to be something in them. An inconsistency. A hack, maybe."
They both knew no one could hack into those suits. He was grasping at straws now.
"The flight logs are normal, Tony. JARVIS has scanned everything a million times, and he's sure there's no inconsistencies. With the video feeds on top of that... everyone is convinced."
"Why aren't you?"
"Because I know you, Tony. They don't. This isn't you."
To this, Tony gave her a grateful smile. If ever he had seen an angel, she was standing in front of him.
"Then let me out." he whispered, meeting her gaze, "Remote activate Mark I and II and we..." But he trailed off, seeing the pain in her eyes. She wasn't here to spring him. She wasn't Bonny and he wasn't Clyde. "Pep..."
Her lips pursed into a thin line, tears gathering in her eyes. She looked down and away, trying to compose herself with deep breaths. He felt the overwhelming urge to reach out and wrap her in his arms, as if that would fill the craters inside them.
Fuck, their break up had been easier than this.
"I'm trying." she promised, "I'm trying, but... it doesn't look good."
He shook his head, looking up to her.
"I'll figure this out." It was a promise.
"You always do." She smiled weakly. "I'm here to help you get things in order." Her admission was quiet, heartbroken, and she finally his gaze again. "Bruce says..."
Tony took a deep breath, shoulders slumping in defeat. Sliding to the floor, he sat, legs crossed and a hand scratching at the stubble of his beard. He looked like shit. They hadn't let him shave, which was a crime in and of itself, so his signature goatee had grown out. He tried not to think about the fact that he was still wearing his underarmor, which was stained with splatters of Thor's blood. No one had given him anything else to change into, as if they needed continued proof that he was guilty.
Pepper followed suit, folding her legs underneath herself and placing the clipboard on her lap. She wiped at her eyes.
"It's only just in case."
Like that made it any better.
"Just... let's get it over with." Tony sighed, defeated, "What do I need to sign?"
They talked for hours, settling out his affairs. Tony didn't have any children (that he knew about), so Pepper was going to get it all - the company, his houses, his robots, his suits, and JARVIS. Everything. She could either burn it all or keep it; he didn't care. The only thing they signed away to someone else was Avengers HQ, formerly known as Stark Tower, to Steve. He would get that, along with a small chunk of money. Though, "small money" to Tony was subjective.
When it was all done, Pepper solemnly gave all the paperwork to a robotic arm that dropped down from the ceiling, who would transfer it inside the cell. Tony took all of it in steady hands and ignored his pet peeve, but his eyes were on his once-secretary.
She shook her head, staring him dead in the eye.
"Don't you dare."
He smiled a little, glancing down to the paperwork.
"Yeah, I don't like goodbyes either."
A pen sat on top of the paperwork, waiting, but she had left him a more important gift. Hidden halfway through the stack was a inconspicuous little ear piece, which Tony was overjoyed to see. One sly sweep of his hand later, he had it tucked away in a pocket while he pretended to double-check their work. He could have kissed Pepper.
He signed the last page and buried the pen underneath all the sheets. The cap peeked out of the side and he shoved his hands in his pockets, letting the robotic arm return all the paperwork to the CEO of Stark Industries.
"Thank you, Mr. Stark."
Despite her formality, she looked on him with eyes full of fondness and sadness. Again, she placed her hand to the glass, and Tony mirrored the action.
"If you die, Tony, I swear to God I'll kill you." she vowed.
He couldn't help his smile.
"You just take care of the kids, Pep. I'll be all right. Always am."
They both took a deep breath of finality, hands falling from the glass. Pepper gave him a false smile and Tony faked one back.
"Thanks. For everything."
If Tony had started thanking people, things really were bleak.
Two days later, they carted him off to New Mexico. An angry brunette slapped him when they got there and Steve dragged him to some designated place in the middle of bumfuck nowhere, refusing to look at him the entire time.
Tony didn't waste his breath trying to convince them that he was innocent. He was quiet until he and Steve stopped at the Bifrost point, Captain America's grip far too tight on his upper arm.
Bruce hung back and watched with sad eyes, cleaning his glasses one too many times for it to be normal. Pepper stood next to him, here even though Steve had been against it. She had told him he could kiss her star-spangled ass when he had tried to tell her she couldn't come, and Tony remembered why she was his favorite CEO. Ever.
"Just make sure they get my arc reactor back to Pepper, Cap'." Tony murmured when they came to a stop, his eyes glancing up to the open sky above them.
Steve gave him a sidelong glance, silence stretching for a long moment. But he eventually gave a stiff nod and there was a flash of sadness in his baby-blue eyes.
Well, maybe ol' Rogers did care about him after all.
When the Bifrost beamed him up Tony forgot all about the grief he had seen in Steve's eyes. Jarred and confused after interstellar travel, it was a miracle he remembered what a goddamn behemoth of a man had told him when he arrived. His name was Heimdall and he had welcomed him to Asgard, then said some foreboding words about death before a small infantry of Warriors showed up.
Guards in gaudy gold outfits hauled him off down a rainbow bridge and Tony wondered idly how much damage he could do with the pen he had knicked off Pepper.