'kay, for the purpose of this fic, Tony does not have Extremis, everyone is living in Stark Tower, and let's pretend the SHRA doesn't exist/hasn't happened. The Avengers are a mostly-happy, dysfunctional family.

Also warning for later depictions of violence/torture. Not too too graphic, but be careful.

"Hey Tony, you got a minute?" Steve poked his head in Tony's room, immediately jerking back when Tony breezed by him.

"Uh, not really, Steve, what is it?" Tony leaned away from his phone's speaker and checked his watch, juggling some folders in his arm while pulling a carry on.

Steve grabbed the folders and suitcase, following him. "Where are you going?"

"That trip to Japan? Remember?" Tony rolled his eyes, but his lips tilted up, so Steve counted that as a gain. "I think I only mentioned it about ten times."

"Tony, you didn't even mention it once." Steve followed him into the elevator and looked at him until he sighed into the phone and said his good-byes.

"Okay. You have my attention. Now what did you want."

"How long will you be gone?"

"Steve. Did you have a point?"

"What's the matter?"

Tony threw up his hands and then shoved the cell in his pocket. "Fine. Give me those..." He snatched back the folders and the handle of the suitcase.

"We need to talk about that terrorist cell."

"Oh Jesus. Now?"

Lips tightening, Steve looked down, brow furrowed.

"Sorry. Feelings. I forget about those. Sorry sorry," Tony said with a small tilt of his shoulders. "Go on. I'm listening."

"I was going to ask you if you could do some research into their tech. Coulson said it's strange, and we need your help." The elevator dinged and Steve followed Tony out to the car, still trying to convince him to promise to take a look at the pictures that Steve had managed to take and email to Tony's account. "And even if I—Tony, where are we going?" He glanced up at Stark Tower and then at the street. "Where's your car?"

"Steve, you're the one that's following me. Happy said he parked around the corner by the alley. Don't ask me. I just pay him. Something about space in front of the building."

"There was plenty of space in front of the building."

"I don't know! City ordinances. I don't know. Steve. I'll take a look at everything. If I have the time." Tony shifted the materials in his arms again.

"Oh. There's Happy." Steve waved as the black limo pulled up to the sidewalk and stopped.

"Great. I was worried he was actually going to be la—" Tony frowned as the side doors opened and four guys in black jumped out to catch them as they fell from the small darts that landed in their necks. "Shi..."

And then the world went black.

When he woke again, he kept his eyes shut and just listened, taking stock.

"You are awake."

Tony sighed and opened his eyes, rather unsurprised to find himself tied to a chair. He looked over at Steve, sighed again, unsurprised to see him tied to a chair as well, gag stuffed thankfully into his mouth. Kidnappings were old hat for Tony. He could deal with kidnappings.

"Tony Stark." A thick man stepped out of the shadows into their little circle of light, smiling, the expression of should-be-joy never touching his eyes.

"Aw, see, now you've got the advantage over me. Because I sure as hell don't know who you are..." he rasped. He cleared his throat. "Nice to meet you. And you are?"

"I have no need to introduce myself because you do not need to know," the man said, jutting his chin up, green eyes intense and hollow.

"Great. So if you're nobody, then I can go right?" He shot a glare at Steve as he started to struggle.

"Who is your companion, Tony Stark?"

Tony grinned, his head still feeling a little fuzzy. His eyes roved over the guys in the room, counting, planning, plotting. Upwards of twelve guys. Armed. Multiple weapons. Even if Tony had his armour and Cap had his shield, they were pretty screwed. So... "This guy? He's just some fan-boy. He wanted my autograph. Cute, in't he?"

Steve started struggling more, brows furrowing into a deep 'V.'

Tony forced himself to laugh. "Let the civilian go."


He chuckled. "Sorry, what?"

"The civilian stays. As leverage. You are a superhero. You would not let us harm him, yes?" The man said silkily, taking a step forward.

"You're not Loki, are you? 'Cause we're still not done with him, and he's being kind of a dick, so—"

"You are insolent, and you talk too much," the man said, returning his hand to his pocket.

Tony shook his head and winced as he tasted copper when he ran his tongue over the inside of his mouth. "Right then. Violence. It's always violence. What do you want?"

"You will do some work for us, Tony Stark. Or else we will kill your civilian. He is angry for you, it seems."

Tony didn't look at Steve, feeling his face settle into his board room mask of smug ease. "You guys know how I became Iron Man?" There was no reply to his query, so he was going to guess no. "I'll tell you a story—ah ah! Do not slap me again, Mr. No One. That doesn't fly with me. Actually, this whole situation doesn't fly with me, but we'll work with it. Because you know what? I work with what I'm given. Speaking of which... When I'm given a whole lot of raw materials and the instruction to build weapons that I don't wanna build, I build an Iron Man suit. And then open a can of whoop-ass on my captors." He stared the man down, actually looking up and meaning serious business. "So if I don't get what I want while I'm your honoured guest, then things are going to go badly for you. Does that make sense? So the civilian goes, and I will build what you require of me. Capiche?"

The man didn't blink, face blank. Tony couldn't read anything off him.

"That's my final offer."

The man cracked a smile. "You drive a hard bargain, Mr. Stark. However, I think we can work with these arrangements. Provided, of course, you do not open... I'm sorry, how you say? 'Whoop-ass?' We also, can be rather persuasive."

"Of course." Tony offered the same grim smile. "You seem to be a man of business, so I think it is in the best interest of both of ours that things go well, right?" He flicked a look at Steve and winked. "I think the poor guy wants to go home. Ben? Roger, was it? I'll mail you an autograph. Send you a real nice one too." Tony grinned. "Mister big-bad is going to let you go. Right?" He swivelled his head to stare up at the guy who held them.

"It seems that is what would work best for all of us." The man nodded to someone on his left and a woman came out of the shadows with a syringe.

"Woah, woah. What's that!" Tony protested sharply. "That wasn't—"

"Calm yourself, Tony Stark. That is merely a mild sedative with some other enhancements to encourage memory loss of the last few hours. Unfortunately, your admirer will forget having met you and—oh look. That really is quite sweet. He seems very fond of you. Do shut him up."

Tony met Steve's gaze, streams of curses flying through his mind but not passing his lips. "Hey. Sorry, kid."

Steve rolled his eyes and then went limp in his restraints as the syringe was emptied. Some more muscled brutes untied Steve and carted him away between them.


"Excellent," the man echoed. "Now. Shall we get started?"

He stared after Steve and then met the man's eyes. "Now? Now. No time like the present. God, I hate that saying. Stupid, isn't it." Tony rolled his eyes, worry making his mouth looser.

"We have plans for a machine we would like you to build. And never fear, Tony Stark. I worked as a mechanic when young, and I will know what you do."

"That was when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, right?" Tony glanced up at the man's silvering hair.

"You think yourself so clever..."

"Isn't that why I'm here?" Tony blinked at him. "You can't build it yourself?"

The man sighed. "I'm afraid I met with an accident that's left my nerves a little...how you say...twitchy. I no longer have the fine motor function that I once had. I wanted your expertise. Seeing as you are probably the only one who can read the designs." The man looked into the shadows, nodding at another faceless goon. Another muscled faceless goon who brought a work board over, the designs tacked up nicely.

"Not bad on the presentation," he said automatically, eyes flitting over the specs. "Could be a bit flashier. Flashy sells well. Take it from one who's made millions that way..." He frowned. That was... "Where did you get these?"

"I commissioned them," the man said. He almost sounded proud.

"From whom?" Tony asked lowly.

"I believe you know him. The esteemed Doctor Reed Richards."


"Now, Tony Stark. No need to be crude."

Snorting, he leaned back into the back of the wooden chair. "He made you these? Willingly?"

"Well. Of course we had some leverage..."

"The damn coward."

"Do not be so hard on the man. We did threaten his children, after all."

He bit the inside of his cheek.

"You will work with us, Tony Stark?" The man pulled a hand from his pocket and examined his nails. "Not to be repetitive, but we do know of your contemporaries, and we will not be afraid to...take them out during an altercation."

"I already agreed," Tony said casually. "And I don't respond well to threats. You should know that by now."


"So. If we're to work together, I normally like to know my partner's name."

The man smiled kindly. "That, you will not get."

"So what'm I supposed to call you then?"

"You may call me whatever you like. I am sure you are likely to do that as it is." He nodded to another person in the shadows. "Perhaps you are hungry? Would you like to eat?"

Remembering the distasteful mash in Afghanistan, Tony sat very still as a hardened-looking woman came to untie him.

"I am a civilised man, Tony Stark." He smiled again blankly. "We shall dine together."

Refusing to rub his wrists, Tony smoothed the wrinkles in his suit, grateful that he was uninjured, aware, and now, untied. "Didn't know I was here for a dinner date."

"Think of it as an investment in business." Arching an eyebrow, the man angled away from him as if to indicate that Tony should proceed.

He stretched and rolled his shoulders before slipping his hands into his pockets and squinting into the darkness.

"Ah, you are correct. So sorry." The man whistled through his teeth and someone came running with a flashlight.

"Having electricity problems?" Tony waited out of arm's reach.

"Not as such, no. This place was never built for such uses. Therefore, I am afraid the amenities are not what you're used to." The grunt nodded to the mystery man and then pointed the flashlight at the ground ahead of them to lead the way.

Looking at the bare rock walls with water stains and dirty floors, Tony mumbled, "It rather is what I'm used to, actually. I suppose you're not going to tell me where here is?"

"That would defeat my purpose, of course. You are not quite so stupid, Tony Stark. Do not ask stupid questions."

"See that's funny, because here in America, we have a saying that says no questions are stupid," Tony quipped, looking for an opening. Looking for an opening that wouldn't end with him holier than he currently was. Despite the fact that he hadn't found one yet, he was glad for Steve's training.

"We both know that to be untrue."

Tony snorted. "So what do you want from me?"

"Please. Business after dinner. I am hungry. Left here."

Tony pushed open the door to a rather well-lit room, a dining table, and the smell of steak. "Oh. Wow. So uh...dinner, huh?"

"You seem the type of man to appreciate fine food. I thought we might share."

"I'd have been fine with something that didn't look like vacuumed carpet fuzz and smelled like the bottoms of someone's feet. But hey. Steak is fine. I can do steak."

"Please sit. Wine?"

"Uh, no. I don't do wine anymore." Tony sat on the other side of the table, his back facing the wall and tucked the napkin into his lap.

"No? That is a shame. I have a very nice Romanée Conti."

He sucked in air through his teeth. "That is... That is a very. Um. Nice offer. I'm afraid..." He closed his eyes and pushed the urge away, thinking of Steve and his proud little smile every time Tony was confronted with an opportunity to drink and he chose water or some sort of juice instead.

"We are all afraid, sometimes. I understand."

"No you don't," Tony snapped. "I cannot accept your offer of wine, but I will take a glass of water and grape juice if you have it."

"Very well. Get the man a glass of iced water, and we might have a soda he can drink."

"So kind of you," Tony drawled. He watched the people around this man jump to follow his orders. They were apparently either very well paid or very loyal. He couldn't tell which, but was banking on loyalty because of the plain looks on their faces, willing, not sullen and forced. He watched as a few of the men came in, poured Mystery Man's wine and Tony's water. Then lifted the trays off of their plates. Nose assaulted by the smell of deliciously seasoned meat, and Tony realised that he really was starving. He hadn't eaten in...how long? He frowned. Breakfast was coffee, lunch was... non-existent. Dinner the night before? Um... had been in meetings. Lunch the day before...lab work... Well. It'd been a while.

"Do dig in, as you say." M&M waved a hand at the table. "Enjoy."

So Tony ate.