"Honestly, I'm impressed. I didn't think you'd last this long." Fury was smiling in a self assured way that instantly set Tony on edge.

'Laugh it up you smug git,' he thought to himself. 'I'm not giving you anything.'

"Have you reconsidered your position on the matter at hand?"

"You mean, have I decided to go back on everything I've said and done for the last few years? Strange as it may seem, I haven't." Fury scowled at him, hearing the iron note in Tony's voice that no one could bend.

"I don't think you fully understand what's at stake here."

"I could say the same for you. If I don't help you and they come back, we're weaponless. But then, we were before and we're all still standing. If I do help you and they come back we could - in theory - fight back with enough force to either kill them or make them think twice about ever returning here." The billionaire raised his eyebrows as though he was expecting Fury to continue the thought, his face falling when he was met with blankness.

"I don't see the downside."

"Of course you don't because you don't think," Tony snapped at him, too annoyed with the director to try patience. "Say I make you this weapon, then what? One thing I learned a long time ago was that once you have an idea you can never take it back again. If I created a weapon, even if you promised to never sell it on or use it without due cause it would still be there and who's to say that someone wouldn't get their hands on it?"

"Despite what you might think we do have some security."

"That I got through in less than an hour. If you had a mole it could take you weeks to discover them and that's ample time for even the most mentally challenged hacker." Fury glared at him for a long moment, arms folded tightly across his chest - an imposing sight for most. Tony was sat in the middle of his cell with his legs crossed looking completely at ease but for the tenseness of his muscles and the slight twitching of his fingers. In truth he wanted out. Needed it. Being stuck in the cage without anything to keep his mind occupied was a kind of torture that most people couldn't even comprehend and it was killing him.

Tony was a genius. His brain was like a computer that just wouldn't shut off - somewhere in all the layers of schematics and plans he had managed to lose the off switch and now without sufficient stimulation it was racing out of control, burning up like a meteorite. He was developing nervous ticks that hadn't surfaced since Afghanistan and he was vaguely aware that if he didn't get out of here soon he was going to start jabbing at wires until either the door opened or - more likely - he killed himself. But no matter what happened to him, he just couldn't give Fury what he wanted - if he did then the only part of him that counted for anything was dead already and he wasn't just being melodramatic.

"You know, I've been talking to Miss Potts today," Fury started after a long pause. Tony tried and failed to hide his sudden interest; Pepper hadn't been allowed in to see him once though Bruce had assured him on one of his regular visits that she was trying her level best.

"How did that go for you?"

"She's an opinionated woman."

"You don't know the half of it."

"She was trying to convince me to let you out of here. I must admit she almost had me convinced." Fury smiled in a way that made Tony's hair stand on end; it was a dangerous smile that promised consequences that would be less than pleasant.

"Nicky, I'm going to level with you here," the billionaire started, pushing himself to his feet and ignoring the glare the nickname earned him. "I'm not going to help you make weapons. I just can't. But if the Tevanni do come back, you're going to need my help and I'm going to be of little use if I've gone stir crazy from being stuck in this jar." To prove his point he tapped the glass between them sharply; he didn't have to worry about the clamps coming undone since he didn't have anywhere near enough physical strength to trigger the sensors.

"I need those weapons Stark, no matter what you say."

"Then find someone else to make them for you, I won't get in the way. But I won't do it for you and no matter how long you try and keep me in here that isn't going to change. But then, you know that," he observed, smiling grimly. They were at something of an impasse: Tony wouldn't cave and Fury wasn't just going to give up.

The director said nothing else, just stared at the billionaire for a long moment before leaving without another word. Tony blinked at the empty space, somewhat surprised by the abrupt end to their conversation and despite himself he found that he missed the presence of the older man. Even Fury was better than the crushing loneliness he felt when he was trapped in there on his own.

It wasn't for another few hours that he was disturbed again. He had taken to passing the time by breathing on the glass and idly doodling on the resulting water residue. When Clint strode into the room followed by Natasha and Bruce he was just perfecting a doodle of Fury, complete with fairy wings and a little tiara; it said a lot for the tolerance of the rest of the team that none of the three visitors even commented.

"Thought I wasn't allowed more than one visitor at a time?" He asked, not looking up from his picture.

"Technically you're not allowed any visitors at all. The guards only let me through because they're completely terrified of me," Bruce told him, fiddling with the control panel on the other side of the room.

"You know, if you press the wrong button on that thing you'll kill me," Tony observed, not sounding particularly bothered by the idea.

"He knows what he's doing," Natasha defended quietly, shifting slightly as her hand drifted toward the ever-present gun strapped to her thigh. Stark wondered if she ever took the thing off - it would certainly make showers more interesting, now there was an idea... He shook his head viciously to stop his wandering thoughts.

"I have no doubt. May I ask though as to what you are doing?"

"Getting you off the helicarrier," Clint told him bluntly and Tony looked up at him for the first time in surprise, noticing the presence of his bow and the way he stood, as though ready to fight.

"Well that sounds like a terrible idea. You know that there are sixteen cameras in here right?"

"You counted?"

"I've had a lot of free time." Clint just shrugged in acknowledgement and let it go.

"We've put the cameras on a loop for now. It should keep security in the dark for a little longer," Natasha told him quickly, watching the door like a hawk.

"And how exactly do you propose to get me from here to... where are we going? I'm going to assume I can't just hop on a quinjet."

"We're going to the top deck. Thor said he'd give you a ride."

"Thor. That's your brilliant plan?" Tony would have laughed if he wasn't reeling over how stupid this idea was. "Have you seen the way he flies? I'll be torn to pieces!"

"He assures us that you'd be completely fine."

"Oh, well that makes everything better!"

"He's flown with Jane before." Tony just glared at Clint who snickered and turned to look at Bruce. "We almost done here? We don't have much longer." He'd barely gotten the words out before the door was pulling back and damn wasn't that the most glorious thing Tony had ever seen. As ridiculous as this whole plan was he'd be forever indebted to the team for springing him from the cage.

"Come on, we have to move," Natasha instructed, grabbing his arm and hauling him out the door into an eerily deserted corridor - Tony wasn't sure if he wanted to know where the guards had gone.

"So what? Now I'm a fugitive? For S.H.I.E.L.D? Pepper's going to have my head," he lamented as he was dragged down various corridors, occasionally ducking into rooms and alcoves to remain hidden.

"This was Pepper's idea," Clint murmured softly behind him and Tony could hear the grin in his voice. Somewhere along the way Bruce had veered off with the intention of diverting as many agents as he could to give them time to get away, leaving the two assassins to 'guard' Stark. The billionaire didn't have a response to that so he fell silent, letting himself be lead about without complaint, still relishing in the joy of freedom, however short-lived it may turn out to be.

When they reached the door to the outer deck they were forced to stop while Natasha hacked her way through the locks that kept them closed while at the same time trying to avoid detection. Tony had to admit, she had a way with codes that he wouldn't have expected to see in someone like her; then again, he really shouldn't have been surprised that she still had secrets. No one could ever really know Natasha.

"Here's where we part ways. Thor will get you back to the tower and Pepper should be able to handle everything there. She can explain everything."

"Where are you guys going?" Tony might like people to believe that he was self centred and heartless - it was harder to hurt him that way - but the truth was something entirely different and he found himself worrying what was going to become of his friends. Going against Fury's direct orders was something to be discouraged.

"We're going to run interference for a while. Don't worry, we have it all planned out," Clint smiled with a confidence that didn't fit the situation and Tony scowled at him.

"Because our plans always work out so well," he muttered sarcastically but waved away the inevitable response. "Whatever. Go. And watch out for yourselves." They nodded at him, offering him quick smiles before darting away into the shadows of the ship.

Steeling his nerves, Tony took a deep breath and stepped out of the interior of the ship onto the freezing deck. The icy wind whipped at him but he pushed forwards, heading in the direction Clint had pointed him, struggling to see through the thin wisps of cloud that hung in the air. It was a good minute or so of struggling through the raging wind before he saw the flickering red of Thor's cape and made towards it. The demi-god met him half way and without a word wrapped an arm around his torso, already twirling Mjölnir in his free hand.

The flight was short but for Tony it felt like hours. They moved so quickly he could barely draw breath and the iron arm around his ribs didn't help one bit. The cold was all consuming and he could feel nausea building up in his gut that he tried desperately to quell - thank god he hadn't eaten today.

When they reached the top of Stark Tower, Tony had never felt more relieved in his whole life.

"Thor buddy, please don't ever, ever do that again." The god chuckled with good humour, apparently deciding to take the warning as a joke; the billionaire was too busy trying not to throw up to correct him.

"Tony!" Pepper's shout was enough to revive him somewhat and he looked up in time to catch the red head as she threw herself at him, folding into his larger frame with practiced ease. Her face tucked into his neck and he breathed in the scent of her hair, blissfully happy to have her back in his arms - there was nowhere on Earth that held greater comfort for him than right there.

"I missed you too Pep," he told her, the words tickling her ear softly.

"Come on, get inside. You're freezing." She pulled away, switching from beloved girlfriend to responsible secretary in an instant as she ushered them both into the inviting warmth of the building.

Collapsing onto his couch he tucked Pepper into his side, unwilling to let her wander away again.

"So, are you going to tell me what's going on?" The red head looked at him like he was dense.

"We're getting you away from Fury," she told him like it was the most logical thing in the world.

"I can see that. What I meant was how on Earth do you intend to stop him from marching down here and just arresting me again?"

"I think you're forgetting who you are Tony," she chided gently but she was smiling and warm and oh so beautiful. "You're one of the most prominent people in America remember? You fell off the map for a few days already rumours are circulating; it's publicity that S.H.I.E.L.D. could do without. Fury isn't going to touch you again for a while."

Thinking about it, it did make sense. He had just vanished, immediately after an attack from an unknown alien race no less, the media must have been having a field day.

"You organised all of this?" He asked her softly. She nodded with a self assured smile.

"Not bad, huh?" He didn't really know what to say to that so he just leaned in and kissed her, pulling her closer to him. Thor had made himself scarce, wandering off to a different part of the tower to leave the two of them to their happy reunion; Tony couldn't be more grateful for that. "Welcome home Tony."

With that she leaned in again and kissed him, hands moving from his chest to his hair and tangling in the dark strands. Reason and sanity fled, need and want jumping in to fill the breach and everything was lost in a swirl of joyful abandon. For now, they had nothing to fear.

Yay, crappy ending to a less than perfect chapter. But it is still a chapter. Which is better than the past month or so right?

I hope you enjoyed it, I know it was mostly just a filler but I feel this story is straying away from where I want it to be - focussing on the friendships within the team - so I'm having to bend it a little. Sorry about that.

Until next time xx