An experimental missile fired at the portal malfunctioned, and Stark volunteered to guide it in manually. He was not able to return before the portal collapsed, and was declared dead earlier this week. No officials were available for comment at press time on the fate of Stark Enterprises.

Captain America, missing since World War 2, attended Stark's memorial service, as did a man some claim is Doctor Bruce Banner, wanted in connection with the 2008 Culver University incident. Both were unavailable for comment. Also in attendance were his fiance Virginia Potts, military liaison to Stark Industries James Rhodes, and...

"Awake," said the voice of an emperor.

He awoke. Slowly. Blinking the sleep out of heavy eyelids, probing a mouth that felt dry as the desert he had once nearly died in, checking to make sure his Black Sabbath shirt was on, he awoke.

He was lying on the ground, with a faint blue glow around him and a low buzzing noise that seemed to be entirely in his mind.

And it was cold. Deathly cold.

He tried to stand.

Gravity around him abruptly increased, and he fell to one knee. The pressure slacked off, but he knew that whoever had their hand on the knob would turn it up again in a heartbeat, if he stepped one toe out of line.

They had gotten the Suit off of him.

"Kneeling suits you."

Slowly, the prisoner raised his head.

In front of him was a throne. Rough hewn, it seemed not so much carved as shaped, by wind and rain and pitiless winds. The guy sitting on it was no slouch either. Humanoid, yes, but cloaked in shadow. What was visible in him was massive; muscles no human-or demigod, for that matter, could match. His clothing was a dark blue, trimmed in the dull gold of the alien invaders. His skin was purple.

You could use his jawline to cut through icebergs.

"Yeah, Pepper says that all the time."

The big guy smiled. Not good. "Indeed."

"What are you planning to do with me?"

"You are, of course, too proud to beg for your life. I do not fault you. With pride, one can achieve a great many things. But more so with power. know this: I have a great deal of power."

His voice was flanging at the edges, like it was being run through some sort of mixing board or...a translator.

"Purple's a nice color on you. Really, works well with the gold. May I know the name of my captor?"

"I have many names. The one you will use is Lord Thanos."

He leaned forward.

"Know this: the forces I alloted to Laufeyson were but a pittance of my strength. A scout force, engineer, and you were only saved by the Asgardian's..." His jaw worked. "...incompetence. You will improve the weapons, the armor, my means of making war."

"And why would I do that?"

The big guy didn't move, but a holograph, much like a screen, flared to life, showing a certain tall strawberry blonde leaving a church.

"I will rip you to shreds. If you lay a finger on her, if she skins her knee, I will-"

A second pane appeared, with the viewpoint of the spy on Rhodey.

The prisoner's heart stopped.

A third screen, with Cap. Then Bruce. Thor. Barton. Romanov. Then smaller ones with random Stark employees who were also attending whatever service they were at, with a helpful overlay listing their names, ages, jobs, and several personal details, such as their number of dependents. Dozens of them. Hundreds.

The screens cut off, leaving the man the only well-lit thing in the room. His chest was tight, and he seemed to be having trouble breathing.

"You will, of course, be watched. Your every move analyzed by my technicians, any interactions with your remarkable warsuit logged. It has, of course, been put in a limited-function mode, and is still not space-capable. I would advise you not to attempt to leave, Anthony." Thanos cocked his head. "For...various reasons." He turned away. "Remove him."

The universe went kumquat for a second, and then the prisoner found himself in his new workshop. There was a room off to the side with human amenities, and no obvious doors. That creepy, back-of-the-neck feeling that he was being watched, even though he couldn't see the cameras.

It wasn't much different, really. Bigger. Better ventilated. Alien tech instead of old Stark missiles. The tools were new. No Yinsen. But it was really just different bad guys, sticking him in a different cave, with a different box of scraps.

Tony smiled.

One way or another.


EDIT: If you want to write a sequel or something, feel free.

If you want another Avengers fic by me, check out One Shot ( /s/8106911/1/ ). If you'd like more Pepper/Tony, check out my Iron Man 2 fic "What happened to the burd?" ( /s/6007882/1/ ).