Warnings: This chapter gets a bit darker in tone than the previous chapters, particularly if you find the idea of being trapped in a very small space disturbing. Basically, the kidnapping referred to in the story summary is finally actually happening, as well as a flashback to Tony's first kidnapping that has been hinted at throughout the story. If you find reading about small children facing trauma-inducing (but not physically damaging) events to be disturbing, I advise you to simply take my word that they are all kidnapped in this chapter and then wait for the next to continue reading. I'm really going to try to get that chapter up quicker.
There is a flash of light and Tony opens his eyes. He's in his bed with Bruce even though that's against the rules in case Bruce gets scared in the night and grows big and green. But that makes no sense because it's less scary when there are two people and Tony doesn't want Bruce to be lonely even if he does become green Bruce. So they are sleeping in Bruce's bed together and it's not lonely or scary even if it is mostly all dark except for the nightlight Mr. Phil had left. Tony had told him how he wasn't a baby and didn't need one, and Clint said he wasn't a baby either, but Mr. Phil explained that it was for in case they needed the toilet and even big grownups need lights for that, so that is alright. The nightlight is still glowing and the room is still all dark but now Tony is awake.
There's another light. There's another light moving around the room, over where Natalia and Clint were sleeping then over Steve. Something is holding the light and more somethings are following it and the room is filled with big creatures creeping like monsters out of the dark.
Monsters or kidnappers, Tony doesn't know but they are large and scary and his breath comes in shuddered gasps as he tries not to move, just in case moving makes them see him and makes them attack. The light swings his way and he closes his eyes tight. He wants Jarvis or his daddy or mommy. He wants Mr. Phil or Miss Pepper or Thor or Mr. Fury to come and chase the scary people away. He senses, rather than sees, the monsters coming closer, and being quiet and not moving isn't working and he opens his mouth and screams.
He screams as loud as he can, into a large gloved hand, and that turns out to be almost no noise at all because the glove is big and muffely and makes his voice disappear inside it. Arms are picking him up and he kicks and squirms and one of his kicks hit Bruce but Bruce doesn't wake up or turn green and Tony's heart goes thudthudthud really loudly.
"Shh," says the monster holding him, its voice all soft and gentle and strange, "Shh, Tony, shh." The arms rock him gently, and another monster is picking up Bruce and they put him into a box. They have to fold his legs and his arms to make him fit inside but Bruce still doesn't wake up and neither does Clint or Steve or Natalia. One of the monsters approach them in their corner while Tony kicks and struggles and tries to scream and to breathe and feels like he might want to be sick but the giant hand over his mouth won't let him. The monster's face can just be seen between the nightlight and the flashlights but it isn't a proper face at all. It's all green cloth and its eyes are goggled and it looks a bit like a space bug. And it knows his name.
"Tony," it whispers very, very quietly, its voice strange like a machine's voice, "You need to be a good boy and not make any noise. Because if you do make any noise, any noise at all, I'm going to kill one of your little friends. Do you understand?"
Tony stares at him and tries to breathe but it's hard because he can only breathe through his nose and he's breathing too loudly and he doesn't want his new friends to die and he doesn't want it to be all his fault.
"Do you understand? Nod your head." Tony nods his head. Breathing hurts and not breathing hurts and his heart feels heavy against his flashlight and he can see more boxes all on a trolley and the boxes are like coffins and he knows Bruce is in one and maybe the others are in on too.
"I know it's hard, Tony," the soft voice continues. "I don't want to have to kill your friends. So I'm going to help you. I'm going to put this in your mouth and you're going to leave it there and then you're going to go on a little journey." He's holding up a bit of cloth, all bundled up. "Will you be good, Tony?" Tony tries to nod and feels a bit dizzy and breathy and he thinks he's being too loud already because when the hand comes away all his air is coming in deep, loud gasps, and the world is too blurry to see behind his tears and then the cloth is in his mouth and it's too big and his nose doesn't want to work for breathing and he wants it out but he doesn't want his friends to die. Tony has to be good.
"Good boy," says the monster, but Tony doesn't feel like a good boy because he's being kidnapped and his friends are being kidnapped and Mr. Phil and Miss Pepper and everyone are going to be so worried and upset. And now he's being carried to an open box.
The box is tiny and doesn't look big enough for a little boy, even a very little one, but the arms set him down into it anyway. It's all soft and padded inside and when he's sitting in it most of his head sticks out of the top.
"Lie down, Tony," says one of the monsters, "And try to go to sleep. You can take the cloth out when the lid is down. Just be a good boy and lie still and sleep. Maybe when you wake up, everything will be better."
"Can't we just knock the kid out?" one of the other monsters whispers, "This is cruel."
"I don't know what's safe to give him," the other answered, "Better to scare him than kill him with the wrong tranq. You heard what happened the last time." He pushes on Tony's head and Tony curls up into a tiny ball and the entire world goes completely black and silent. He tries to raise his head again and it hits something soft and padded. He tries to move his arms and his legs and there are soft padded walls all around.
He can't breathe and he can't move and this is a million billion times worse and scarier than the bad place from before and he tries to be sick and then chokes on the cloth and then he pulls the cloth out and he's choking and coughing and throws up all over himself in the darkness.
The world around him is tight and warm and smells and it rocks gently and his mind leaves the darkness for a different darkness, one that isn't there because the dark skinned man in the green clothes had come and taken him away and Daddy had hugged him like he was happy but he was crying, even though Daddy is big and doesn't ever cry. He remembers it all happening like that, but somehow it must not have because he's still in the dark in the bad place where kidnappers stick little boys who are bad and made a mess and threw up their good food. He can hear the noises in the corner that are maybe rats and the stomping boots on the ceiling where the kidnappers stomp stomp stomp across the room and yell into phones and want to cut off Tony's fingers or his ears and give them to his dad.
Except…except that his hands aren't tied and his legs aren't tied and he isn't sitting on a chair and his headache is all wrong and when he leans his head there's something solid. And it's not so solidly black. There's light, thin and feeble, coming from his chest. He isn't in the bad place, he remembers, he's in the box.
The box is bad and scary but somehow he's so so glad he isn't still in the bad place that his heart feels less hard against his chest. Then he's able to pull at the bandages hiding away his flashlight in his chest and soon it's not dark in the box at all. He wants to pull off his shirt which smells all vomity and is gross and hides some of his light, but there's no room.
Now that there aren't scary monsters all around, and he isn't in the bad place, and he has a light, nothing feels quite so urgent and scary as it did before. He breathes deeply, letting everything settle into the snug, cozy padding. It's still sometime in the middle of the night, and in spite of everything, Tony is feeing sleepy. He lets his eyes close.
He jumps back into full wakefulness when the box shudders violently around him. His eyes search the confines of the box frantically, limbs lashing out only to meet resistance on all sides. He gasps desperately, needing out of there. His arms and legs actually hurt from not being able to movie. He knew that sitting tied to a chair could hurt but he didn't know that just staying curled in a ball for hours or days or however long it had been could feel like all his joints are burning. Also he is thirsty and he needs to pee. He really really needs to pee, and he rocks to try and keep it inside. Kidnappers really really don't like messes and he already has vomit all over his shirt and their little box.
The box shudders and he rocks and he hums because he needs to hum.
And then, just when he was beginning to think that this was the way the world was now and always was going to be, the lid comes off of the box.
The light goes bright and hurts his eyes and he squeezes them shut. Arms pick him up and his limbs start to unfold and it hurts, really hurts, and soft crying, whimpering noises come out of him without his meaning to.
The person holding him doesn't shout though or hit or squeeze too tightly or tell him he was bad and now his friends are going to all die. The arms just hold him and a voice he doesn't know goes, "Shh, baby, it's alright. You can cry if you need to. The worst bit is over and you're safe."
It doesn't sound all machine-like now and Tony blinks his eyes open and sees the kidnappers are people after all. In proper lighting, they don't look like Martians, even the ones with their faces all covered in cloth and wearing goggles, because he can see they're just goggles and he can see where their noses bulge. The person holding him isn't even wearing his mask or goggles now, and Tony can see the person's spiky white hair and the smooth face and green eyes.
Someone nearby laughs a low, cruel laugh and says, "You shouldn't lie to him." The owner of the voice is large and muscled and wearing yellow instead of the dark green of everyone else around. Now that Tony's looking around more alertly, his brain is taking in the room and he knows they are on a ship of some kind, maybe a plane, and that the trolley with boxes is still there and his box is open but the other boxes are all closed, and the ship space is a bit cramped with three people wearing green and the one person wearing yellow and the trolley of boxes. There aren't any ship controls but there is a door and the controls are probably in there. Tony sees all of this and knows all of this very quickly because that is how his brain always works.
"Where are we going?" Tony whispers to the man holding him because he doesn't look too mean, for a kidnapper. The man looks hesitant to answer.
"To your new home," the other man says for him, and he smiles in a scary sort of way. Still no one is shouting or squeezing or shoving him back in the box, so Tony risks another question.
"Can my friends come out now?" He doesn't like to think of the all trapped alone in their boxes without even his flashlight to help them.
"Your friends are all sleeping still," the man holding him answers, "We gave them medicine so they won't wake up until after we get there."
Tony is quiet then, until something he really really needs becomes so urgent that he has to speak.
"I need to pee." The man holding him looks startled and then he turns to look uncertainly towards the other man.
"Take him through to the toilet," the man said, "And get him washed up, while you're at it. It's beginning to stink in here."
They go through the door into a tiny hallway with another door and a closet looking place and a door to a tiny toilet. The man sets Tony down awkwardly and Tony stares up at the toilet while dancing from one foot to the other and trying very hard to not have an accident when the toilet is right there.
"It's too high," Tony points out.
"Oh…right," says the man, "What should I do?"
"Help me sit on it," Tony answers, confused by the man's confusion over something so simple.
"Oh…right," the man says again, and then he does pick him up in a strange way where his head tries to look in a different direction. He's so awkward and weird about it that Tony begins to feel silly and strange too. He goes anyway and slides off again by himself and does himself up because he isn't a baby and doesn't need help with things like that. Then the kidnapper man lifts him up to wash his hands and then sits him down on the toilet lid. He has Tony take his dirty shirt off and he stares at Tony's flashlight. Then he wets the shirt, and wipes at Tony's front.
"What's your name" Tony asks while he does this, squirming under the unexpected bath.
"Andrew," he answers, and then he is finished with the wiping and doesn't seem to know what to do next. After a moment, he tosses the shirt in the trash bin and picks Tony up again. Tony is getting tired of being carried everywhere, but everything is still too wrong and strange and a bit scary for him to protest. He lets Andrew carry him shirtless back into the big room.
"Do we have any spare shirts?" Andrew asks when they walk back in. Tony sees the box he had been in is now closed. This makes him feel a little less tight. They probably won't shove him back inside an already closed box. He still hopes his friends aren't scared all alone in the dark.
The goggled men ignore Andrew completely. The yellow suited man just looks gruff and annoyed and says, "He'll be fine until we get there." Then he frowns and an odd look comes into his eyes and he's looking at Tony again. He smiles but that's scary too because it doesn't look like a happy, friendly smile. And he's not looking at Tony's eyes. He's looking at his chest, at his flashlight.
"So," says the man, "This is the fabled arc reactor." He comes closer, still staring, and Tony squirms in Andrew's arms.
"Sir," says Andrew, "Sir, I think you're scaring him."
"So he should be," answered the yellow suited man.
Tony squeezes his eyes shut. He wants to be at home in bed. Which home, he doesn't care. He wants his mom and dad and Jarvis and Phil and Pepper and Thor and Shaw and Fury. Anyone. Everyone. All he has is a pile of boxes, like coffins, where his friends sleep, and the flashlight in his chest.
"Stop that humming," someone tells him, "I thought I told you to be quiet. Is it safe to try the tranq now? Don't we have some monitoring equipment on board just in case?"
"Sir, I don't think that's necessary," Andrew suggests cautiously.
"If he's going to be sniveling and humming the whole way, it definitely is."
And then there's a sudden sharp prick and then nothing.
Author's Note: Sorry…both because it took so long to get this up and then because it's a bit on the short side…and a bit of a cliffhanger. Though I really will be trying harder to get the next bit up quickly. At least I know the basics of where this is going so it shouldn't take me long to write it…unless I get distracted by real life. Also, thank you for all the reviews that encouraged me to continue this.