I've been trying to get ahead and plan out the chapters up til the end. Something I should have done a long time ago. :( Anyway, it was brought to my attention that one of the names I used wasn't Russian (thanks a lot, Google), so I hope I got it right in this chapter, atleast. I make up too many characters. But that...might not happen so much in the next story. I'm having trouble keeping up with everyone and everything as it is, lol. But, like I said earlier, more Natasha/Loki chats, here. And, some Natasha backstory (yay!). And oh, I wonder what will happen with Tony...and possibly Innokenti? Hmm.
Thanks for everything, guys! Much love. 3
Tony quietly paced the room, tablet in hand. Scanning over the article, sifting through this and that.
"This guy here," he pointed to a picture. "Looks like him."
"It appears so, sir," JARVIS said.
Thinner, scalp covered with brown hair, younger face.
"Name is Yerik Baskov. Interesting."
"Would you like for me to search the name in the immediate area?"
"I would love that, actually."
He plopped down onto the bed.
While JARVIS searched for his Italian address, he searched for the Russian one. Either way, there had to be something worth finding, right?
"I was unsuccessful at locating an address for Yerik Baskov within the immediate area."
Tony rubbed his chin.
"Expand the area. Twenty miles."
There were a few Yerik's in Sochi in 2oo3. Two with the same first and last name.
"Unsuccessful at twenty miles."
"Well, look over the whole country, J. Come on, we're on the clock, here."
Tony went back to his current work. Both homes were housing new tenants. Whatever items he had there would probably be gone.
That was okay. Most of what Tony did included plenty of trial and error.
"There are no homes or buildings owned by Yerik Baskov within the country, sir."
"Great. Guess he's not that stupid."
He took the image of young Innokenti and did a search. Surely, he would come up somewhere.
Still not a lot of digital information on the man. But, there!
He immediately tapped the new picture. Same man, a little older.
"Got another name, JARVIS. Let's try again."
JARVIS scanned through. Searching all databases for something owned under that name.
"Three homes within the twenty mile radius under Markov Maslov. None with the same surname."
"Arrgh, come on!"
"I would suggest, seeing your weakened health, that you would calm down, sir."
"I am calm."
One other picture. One other name. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
"Can we try variations of the names he's used?" Tony asked. "Just a thought."
"I don't see why not."
"Maybe he bought a place illegally," Tony thought aloud. "Or he's staying somewhere that's owned by someone else."
He went through the information he got from the prison site. This time, looking for those who were arrested.
"Okay, so, let's try this. Do the same thing, only with these people."
"Scanning the area. I am finding homes for twenty five...fifty seven...one hundred two..."
"All of them?"
"Three quarters, sir."
"Hmm. You know, I'd rather not have to go through a hundred and two houses."
He tapped the tablet against his chin.
"Any of them own two houses? Or a house and some other kind of building? Maybe an apartment over the garage?"
"Twelve of them have more than one building."
"Well, twelve is better than a hundred plus."
Tony sat up. He swung his legs over the side of the bed, letting his bare feet hit the floor.
"Download the info. Time to suit up."
Hours later, he was still no better. If anything, he seemed worse. His skin was paler, his face gave away the discomfort he was in. Sometimes he would squeeze his eyes shut and shudder, whether it was from mental images or physical hurt, Natasha couldn't tell. And, still, he wouldn't sleep. Still.
She leaned her chin on her fist. He was a puzzle to be solved. And she was determined to be the one to do it. He wasn't well. That could make him more likely to cooperate.
Or less likely. There was no telling with him.
"I heard you were in the hospital for a few days," she said, choosing her route.
He had stopped snapping and sassing at her every comment. He didn't even acknowledge the camera, this time.
Stubborn, are we?
"That must have been quite an experience. I know your healing techniques are quite different than ours."
The edge of his mouth twitched. He agreed.
"You could probably teach our doctors a thing or two, couldn't you?"
Of course he could. But he still wasn't going to give her the satisfaction of an answer.
"I was in the hospital for a while, too. It sucks. You know the drill, being hooked up to everything, not being able to move, and the food isn't great."
"I know you were shot," he muttered.
"Yes. But I'm feeling better now," she lied.
Sure she did.
"By the way, has anyone fed you, yet? You look skinnier than I remember."
That's what happens when your 'caretakers' don't feed you well.
"What do you like? Within reason, anyway."
Loki shook his head. There was no way he could hold anything down. He wasn't going to tell her specifics, though, not wanting to show anymore weakness than he already had.
"What does that mean? You're not hungry?"
Figure it out.
"Well, we won't force you to eat."
We? She wasn't even there.
"I talked to Tony earlier."
That piqued his interest. She was moving in the right direction.
"He wanted to say hi. And to tell you to behave yourself."
"He's out for a while. Looking for Innokenti."
So that's where he was. If she was telling him the truth.
Natasha took a deep breath.
Loki gave a questioning look. It was curious the way he reacted when he thought she was getting annoyed or 'tired of him'.
"I worked with him before. Innokenti. Did you know that?"
She couldn't read his expression.
"I'm guessing he hasn't changed much from that time."
"Red on your ledger," Loki said so quietly, she could barely hear him.
"Right. You remembered?"
Indeed he did.
"I'm not proud of it. Not in the least."
She tapped her fingernails against the laptop. Loki was resting his chin against his knees, with his arms wrapped around them.
"There was a deal involved," she began again. "It was hard to refuse. I didn't know what I was getting into."
There was always a deal.
"When I did, well, it was too late to get out of it."
Why was she telling him all this?
"You asked Barton about me."
He smirked. Yeah, he had. He had asked about all of them.
"He told you what I had done. Back in the old days."
She was bringing that up? If he remembered correctly, she was horrified when he accused her. When he threw her crimes in her face.
"Drakov's daughter. That was the assignment we worked on."
He tilted his head to look at the camera. Surprised.
"Oh, so he didn't tell you everything? Not even Clint knows all of the details, Loki."
Loki busied himself by pressing a hand over his bleeding knuckles. Her tone, it told him that her past was written in such blood and sins, he might not want to know the details.
"He was a powerful man. Drakov was. A politician. These were the days where we had the entire country shaking in their boots."
Had them shaking. He could definitely believe that.
"They called us the 'underground'. The spies and assasains. No one could touch us. But he thought he could. He had an idea that he was going to clean up the country. This was the man who tried to convince the others in our...their government that they should become an ally of S.H.I.E.L.D."
"And you killed her because of it," Loki finished.
He was in no mood for story time. His stomach was doing flip flops and his headache was getting worse. Besides, he already knew she was going to use this to trip him up, somehow.
"Yes, in the short version. We killed his daughter because of it."
"That's sweet of you," he gritted his teeth.
Boy, that was starting to hurt.
"Her name was Katia."
She crossed her arms and stopped to study him.
"You are...elegant," she said.
Loki lifted an eyebrow.
"Random sweet talking will get you nowhere, Agent Romanoff."
"Innokenti wanted to work with that, right?"
He rubbed his left shoulder. He wasn't going to answer that.
"He was good at getting people to do what he wanted. That's how he got work. That's how we got her to come with us."
She leaned against the headboard, pausing as if trying to remember. In truth, she could see it all as if it had just happened.
Honestly, Natasha would rather not speak of that event. She never told anyone exactly what happened. Loki was the last person she wanted to pour her heart to.
But, she's done worse to get a confession. Atleast she wouldn't have to sleep with him.
"It was a brilliant idea, really. Not ours, we were hired to do it. To assassinate him, it would make him a martyr and our problems would just be worse."
She watched his face. It was blank.
"She was a beautiful girl. About sixteen, I think. The apple of his eye. Story was, his wife had a problem that made her infertile. So, when Katia was born, she was kind of their miracle baby."
Loki started to feel uncomfortable. He was hoping to hide it from her prying gaze by staying absolutely still.
"It wasn't hard to get her into the car. A few lies. You could appreciate that, couldn't you?"
He smirked, but his heart wasn't in it.
And it didn't go unnoticed.
"Didn't know you were the type to kidnap kids," he said. "What, did you offer her candy and stuff her into an unmarked van?"
She rolled her eyes at his quip.
"I'm not telling you any of my old tricks. I wouldn't want you to use them."
"I was taught to do clean work," Natasha continued. "Nothing unnecessary and no mess. It made for an easy getaway. That was how I planned to do this one. I guess I shouldn't have assumed Innokenti would do the same."
"Mmhmm," he tapped his finger against the bed.
"We had her pinned against the wall. She couldn't move, she was so scared. I was about to pull the trigger, when he stopped me."
The young girl's blue eyes were tearful. She'd realized too late that she had walked into a trap. Natasha had no remorse at that moment. This is what happens when you step over the line. You get bitten.
"He took her away, telling me to stay there and do the job when he was finished."
He roughly grabbed the teen's arm, dragging her to a darkened room. She begged and pleaded, crying for them to let her go.
"I've never heard anyone scream like that. I don't know what he did to her exactly. I didn't ask."
The length of time she was gone made her start to feel uneasy. The awful crying made her want to leave. Let him finish the job. She had struck fear in the hearts of many. But this...
"When he came out, he was covered in blood. But he seemed so pleased with himself."
She remembered. Shivering in disguist and the sheer disturbance of it all. She remembered.
"I went in. Alone. She was tied, lying on the floor. Unrecognizable. She could barely make a sound anymore."
Loki swallowed. He didn't know what to say or do. Because he knew, if he opened his mouth, he would either throw up or scream.
"I wont get into details. But in the end, it was no longer an assassination, but a mercy killing."
He could understand why Natasha didn't tell anyone. Especially her friend.
They did that to that man's kid.
They did that to that man's kid.
Suddenly, he felt a twinge. Of fear.
"I didn't know Innokenti took a picture of her dead body. I just left. Seeing that, seeing what he was capable of doing, it finally hit me what I had done so many times. I was so afraid, because I didn't know how far I could go. I was afraid of turning into him."
Natasha realized that she was shaking. She rubbed her arms, trying to make it stop.
"Somehow, S.H.I.E.L.D. found out that it was us. We were put at the top of their most wanted list. That's why Clint was sent to kill me."
Loki bit his lip. He wondered just what it was that caused Barton to lower his weapon?
He didn't ask.
"He's had a lot of practice at catching and torturing. Tricking and using. He must be better than I thought, to get you involved."
Loki glared at her.
"I..." he was about to protest.
But he thought better of that decision.
He might say too much.
She shook her head.
Maybe if she gave him a moment. Let her story sink in.
"What happened to him?" he mumbled.
He didn't want to give her the satisfaction, but he wanted to know.
She knew who.
"Drakov. I'm sure he wasn't pleased with the situation."
"That underplays it. A lot."
She thought back. She had seen what happened when they gave him the photo of his slain girl. He fell to his knees. His thick fingers over his mouth as he stifled a cry of horror.
"We got our point across. He resigned and we never heard of him again."
That wasn't completely true. In her earlier days in S.H.I.E.L.D., curiosity had gotten the best of her and she looked him up. He and his wife had divorced not long after Katia's funeral. Probably due to the strain of losing their child. He died a year later, but it didn't say why.
Loki smiled broadly. Behind that, he felt sick, not just due to his illness, but because he felt like he was going through it all again.
Still, he smiled.
"You are bad," he said.
"I know. I know better than anyone. The only scrap I can hold onto is that it was my turning point. I'd had enough of that life."
Loki bit the inside of his cheek. He imagined himself as that Katia. He was her a few nights ago.
Was it really just a few nights?
Sometimes it felt like it was only hours ago. Sometimes, weeks. Didn't make it feel any less raw. The words 'mercy killing' played on repeat. That was one thing in which the girl had been lucky.
So, he had gone through a few of the locations. And by going through, meaning he stopped by, snuck around, and scanned the places for Innokenti's fingerprints. Which, he'd had JARVIS make copies of at the prison site. No go, so far.
He approached each building with tension in his shoulders. Senses fully alert. There was no telling what would be waiting for him. Bombs? Guards? Crazy people using the whole magic bit?
He hovered above location number seven. It was in the woods, like the prison and the shed. With Innokenti being the creature of habit he was, it was more than possible that his housing would be in a similar place.
After having checked the place for any such surprises (several times), he landed. There were two buildings, a scrappy house and a storage spot. Not to mention it was very quiet.
"Okay let's see what we've got here."
With the whirring of machinary, Tony scanned the key areas. That being doorknobs.
It was smudged where hands had been. But he got what he needed.
Adrenaline rushed through him. There was one (just one) readable fingerprint that belonged to the man.
He froze but snapped out of it in seconds. No way was he going to let this guy, of all people, shake his confidence.
"Not that I can see," JARVIS said.
"Guess that means we can snoop around, no problem."
With that, he kicked the door of the house open.
The home was fairly normal, at first glance. The front door lead to the kitchen, which was slightly cramped. Tony took in his surroundings. There was a stack of mail on the table. He opened the refridgerator and peered inside. There was food, all without the pungent smell of rot. The house's owner was locked up, meaning there was someone else staying there.
He must have been on the right track.
Next up was a junky living room. With some searching, there was nothing of interest. No photos or writings. Just movies, a game system, and a bunch of other things one would expect to find in a bachelor pad.
He took to the bedroom. Same deal. In fact, he suspected that it was the owner's room. Guy lived a normal life (seemingly) for a person who worked for a maniac. Maybe he'd needed some normal.
After going through the house, including the attic and basement, Tony decided that he'd wasted a good bit of time with the place. So, next spot, the shed.
He went out the way he came in. Going across the grassy lawn to the smaller building. Finding it was locked tight.
"Should've started here. Idiot," he muttered to himself.
With the lasers attached to his wrist, he sliced through the metal with ease. Afterwards, he kicked that door open as well.
"Sir, I understand your frustration, but must you insist on doing that?"
"You're no fun. The guy took months of my life away. The least I can do is leave his house in a bit of disarray."
"And allow him to know you have been here. It's a great plan, indeed."
"Well, someone sure is sassy."
Unlike the house, the shed was oddly neat. Also, it had another story, which a ladder lead to. Thick boxes lined the walls, stacked in perfect rows. A large desk was in the corner. Tony approached it first.
Like the door, the drawers were locked tight. So, he had something to hide, huh? Not surprising. Not in the least. Tony broke through all of them. Then, went to work.
They were stuffed with papers, flash drives, hard drives. He grabbed a stack of paper and flipped through it.
"Odd," he said. "What language is this?"
"The letters and symbols don't appear in any databases, sir."
Tony rubbed his chin. It was completely and utterly foreign to him. He had never seen this in his life.
"File it away. Gonna be kind of hard to figure out what he's doing, if I can't read this."
He put it back. Some of the other papers were in Russian. Which was a lot more helpful. Still, the strange language kept popping up. He later went to one of the flash drives. He turned on the computer, which sat upon the desk. It was password enabled.
"Hmm. What do you think? 'I love killing things' might be a start."
He actually tried it. But, well, it wasn't a serious attempt. Tony didn't want to spend all day messing with it. He would check the rest of this stuff out. If he didn't have any visitors, he would take it with him and hack into it later.
Next, he needed to see what was in those boxes. He was thinking there would be more of the same.
Boy was he wrong.
There were little vials, set seperately in their own sections. Each contained a soft gold liquid, filled nearly to the tops. Not only that, there was an energy pulsating off of them. He had to squint. It was giving him a headache, his suit not enough to keep it out.
"Wow," he said. "Wow. This guy has everything, doesn't he?"
He closed the lid, blinking rapidly, his eyes watering.
However, it was...familiar.
"That has to be the magic he was collecting. I knew they were getting concentrated amounts, but I wasn't expecting it to be that concentrated."
He opened another box. Carefully, this time. There was more of it.
Considering how many boxes there were, the guy must have had gallons of it.
"I think we've hit the jackpot, JARVIS. Now, I just have to get this back to the tower. Thing is, getting it all out of here, without being noticed."
"Sir, I detect someone closing in on this location."
He scrambled to his feet.
"Do we have time to get out? Is it Innokenti?"
"I am not ceratin on the who. But you will not escape without notice."
He powered the thrusters and flew to the second story. Huddling down on his stomach. He had left quite a mess, downstairs. His hope was he could attack from the back.
Rustling of footsteps on the grass caused him to freeze. They quickened as soon as it was realized that the shed had been broken into. It was good bait, honestly.
There he was. With a look of anger and fear on his face. Innokenti quickly took out a gun, pointing it outwards, while going straight to his stuff.
Tony bit his lip, his arms and legs tightly wound springs, ready to pounce. This would be easy.
This would be easy.
Innokenti noticed that the locks on several things were broken. He stood straight, looking around. This time, for the perpetrator.
This was it.
Tony had to do it now or else lose the element of surprise.
Innokenti turned around and Tony leaped from his position.
Natasha had taken a short time away from speaking to Loki. Turning her side of the audio off for a while. Still, even as she drank her cup of water, she watched.
This was a 'plan as she went' situation. Though most were, she supposed. Her story had shaken him, just as she wanted it to. He was uncomfortable still, even though he was trying his hardest not to show it.
She had cracked a few of his walls. Now, she needed to make her next move.
From her days as an assassin, she quickly learned that men responded to sexuality. Much to her dismay. She didn't like to use it, but hey, if it's not broken...
But from her time studying Loki, she thought better of that. Seeing what he went through and what Thor told them about him. A mothering technique would definitely get more response. To feed him, comfort him, just take care of him.
Ugh, if only she wasn't stuck in that hospital, still!
It would still work, but being there would be so much quicker and more efficient. It was frustrating.
She sighed, setting her cup back on the table. It wouldn't be long at all before she was out of there. But there was still a long road ahead. Dealing with more physical therapy. Then, the wheelchair and everything else she had to get, due to this.
Natasha pushed her personal problems aside and turned her audio back on.
He didn't pay any attention to her. Even then, balled into that corner, hiding his face in his knees. Natasha almost felt sorry for the man.
"Are you ill?"
He turned his back to her.
"Mad at me?"
Loki shrugged. She snorted. How could he be so childlike?
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to...scare you."
That changed everything. He turned on her with ferocity.
"I'm not afraid," he stated.
"That so? Then why are you huddling over there? It's okay, nothing is going to get you."
"I already told you why I'm over here, woman," he bared his teeth.
"You can't properly keep watch while you're hiding your face."
He opened his mouth to speak. Then, closed it.
"Leave me alone."
"Agent Walters?" she called into her earpiece, but making sure Loki could hear what was going on.
"Yes, Agent Romanoff?"
"Can you get some water for Loki?"
"I'm not thirsty."
"Even so, you haven't had anything to drink or eat, since you've gotten there. I don't want you to get dehydrated."
"Please. You don't care."
"Things aren't going to be the way they were in Innokenti's prison. I promise."
"Don't make promises you can't keep."
Agent Walters approached his cell with a water bottle. Straight faced, though not happy with having to get so close to him. She removed her gun from its holster, letting Loki see it. He took notice. It looked like a small version of the weapon that male agent had. One he'd killed a long time ago.
"Try anything funny," she pointed to it.
She opened his door, set the bottle sideways on the floor and pushed it, so it would roll to him. It stopped when it hit his foot.
"Classy," he said dryly.
"And could you also call for a medical crew?" Natasha continued. "His hands could use some attention."
Agent Walters backed away from him, not wanting to avert her sight. Only turning, when she left the room.
"You don't listen very well, do you?" Loki said.
"Only as well as you," Natasha said back.
He rolled his eyes.
"You gave this to me. It doesn't mean I have to drink it."
Loki crossed his arms. Why was no one getting upset but him?
"I could just pour it all over the floor."
"Go ahead. It's yours. You can do whatever you want with it. I don't know why you would want to walk around on a wet floor. But, to each his own."
"What will you do if I refuse to drink?"
"Nothing. Unless you do get dehydrated. Then, we'll have to put you on an IV."
Loki growled, not liking the thought of being stuck with needles again.
When the medical crew came in, he backed further into the corner. Wary of their presence.
"Try to be calm," Natasha prompted. "They're here to help. Okay?"
Still, he tensed. She guessed it was to be expected.
A few agents followed them in. Some stood outside the perimeter. Couldn't have any mishaps.
"That's right," one of the medics followed Natasha's suit. "Be calm. We're not going to hurt you."
Loki looked around at the determined agents. His expression saying he didn't think so.
"Loki..." Natasha noticed him about to lash out at one of them. "Can you listen to me for a second?"
His eyes flitted to the camera for a brief moment.
"You aren't being punished. But, you will be if you hurt anyone. It's going to be okay. I promise. Just stay still, let them wrap your hands. You'll feel better when they're done. You really will."
He bit his lip as a medic gingerly took his hand, allowing another to put disinfectant on the broken skin. Loki hissed when it made contact, trying to wrench away from their grip.
"You said it wouldn't hurt!" he yelled accusingly to the camera.
"Okay, it stings a little. But they're not intentionally making it hurt."
His angry gaze was then laid upon the medics. One's brow creased with worry.
"Loki, look at me," Natasha said.
He wouldn't. He was too busy bristling at those in his space.
"Look at me."
He reluctantly turned back to the camera.
"I can't see you," he said snidely.
"Try to relax. It will be over soon."
He gritted his teeth. Feeling pressure as they began to wrap the bandages. Then, they started on the other one.
Natasha didn't miss the look. Behind the irritation, he seemed surprised. Unsettled, but surprised.
When they finished their work, they quickly left him. Not wanting to be there any longer than they had to. Loki flexed his fingers and examined the new bandages.
"See?" Natasha said. "You're okay."
"How do I know you didn't poison me?" he muttered.
"When days have passed an you're no closer to death."
Natasha just breathed. She'd actually gotten nervous, thinking he might actually attack someone. Then, where would they be?
A terrible situation, indeed.
"You did good," she said. "No incidents. I'm proud of you."
Though his mouth remained a stubborn line, his eyes softened.
As a 'treat' to his subconcious, she left him alone as he'd requested. Maybe a half hour later, he slowly reached to his right. When his water bottle was nearly empty, she felt a lot better.
Innokenti faceplanted after being hit in the back by Tony. It stunned him for a second. Tony landed on he ground in front of him.
"Miss me?" he said.
Innokenti struggled to get up, realization hitting him.
"Can't stuff me in a prison now, can you?"
Tony put his hand out in front, charging up the repulsor beams.
Innokenti rolled out of the way, barely missed. He scrambled to his feet.
"Well, if it isn't Stark," he smiled.
Tony got into the air and charged him. He jumped out of the way again.
He was quicker than Tony remembered.
"Now, wait a minute," Innokenti edged back. "No deal? No arrest? That doesn't seem very heroic of you."
Tony charged the repulsor beam again.
"This isn't about heroics."
He shot. This time, hitting Innokenti in the shoulder. He grunted, baring his teeth at the burned flesh.
"This is about pay back."
Tony marched forward. Innokenti grabbed his gun with his good arm and pointed it to him.
"No games either," Innokenti said. "I think I like this kind of fight."
Tony hunched down and leaped toward the man. Shots rang out. His armor was hit and bullets ricocheted around them. If Innokenti hadn't turned transparent, he would certainly be dead.
"Deciding to use powers that don't belong to you?" Tony asked.
Tony swung up.
He was faster.
"I don't see the problem with that," Innokenti said.
He tried to head butt Tony.
But was instead, punched in the nose.
It winded him for a moment.
Tony put his hand to his stomach, trying to shoot point blank.
Innokenti became transparent again.
Fine with him.
He hit him as hard as he could.
Metal hitting bone.
He would rather this be hand to hand combat, anyway.
It was more satisfying to feel the punches.
Innokenti put an arm up to block a punch that would have done a lot of damage.
Tony pushed him, using the rockets in his feet to fly.
They went flying through the back wall, before Innokenti became transparent.
Tony was getting tired of that trick.
But they were outside.
He wouldn't have to worry about damaging useful evidence.
"Ready to light the bastard up?"
"On it, sir."
Tiny, deadly missles shoot from the shoulder armor.
They focused in on Innokenti.
Out of the way, once more.
Tony did the same move again, hoping there wouldn't be enough time for Innokenti to get out of the way.
Still, a lot of damage to the forest.
Not so much to the man.
How does one hit a target that, well, can't be hit?
"Not so easy, is it, Stark?"
"Why don't you fight me like a man, instead of running like a coward?"
"Why don't you? Get out of that suit and lets go."
Tony bit his lip.
"Put full force behind the thrusters, J," he said quietly. "I'm not letting this jerk get away."
"We're at one hundred percent."
Tony shot with both hands. Determination behind the mask.
Innokenti played his move.
As Innokenti became visible again, Tony flew to his right.
The hit wasn't deadly. It was offhand, like the first. This time, eating into his leg.
Innokenti cried out and fell to the ground.
As he saw Tony speeding toward him, he focused the magical power. He jumped high into the air. Both collided.
Tony grunted, landing on his back.
Innokenti clutched his mask, trying to rip it off.
Tony tried to kick Innokenti's injured leg.
He made an attempt to move, but not before letting a pained sound leave his lips.
Even then, he refused to let go of the face plate.
Tony grabbed his determined wrists with the intent of wrenching his fingers away.
Suddenly the light of day was let in as he was able to knock his enemy back.
The mask went with him.
A mere second after Tony rose, he had to duck. The piece of metal thrown violently at his exposed skin.
"Ready to quit?" Innokenti sneered.
He should know better.
With swiftness and presision, Tony used a sleek laser beam to take him down.
He was fast.
Innokenti was faster.
Tony zig zagged the weapon, going for his feet.
It went through him with no injury.
Tony ran along side him, using fast movements to catch him off guard.
Almost, but not quite.
Third times a charm?
Tony skyrocketed over him.
With one hand, he herded Innokenti with the laser.
With the other, he let loose a missle. Small, but bigger than the last.
It hit the ground.
Innokenti was thrown across the grassy floor.
He ran to catch him before he could get his bearings and escape his grasp.
Then wrapped his iron clad fingers around his neck and pushed him against the side of the building.
"See how it feels," Tony growled. "What you did to everyone else."
Innokenti's form almost fizzled away.
But that's all. He had a look of worry in his eyes. That it might, in fact, be over.
But instead of panicking or pleaing for mercy, he laughed.
"Run out of power?" Tony asked. "Guess you didn't get enough."
"You're quite a hypocrit, Stark," he said, breathless and tired. "Did you do this to my little prince? Or did you just let him run wild?"
Tony tightened his grip.
"Nevermind what I did. You should give me one reason not to kill you."
"He killed just as many people as I did," Innokenti ignored him, continuing his own speech. "Why does he get a second chance and I don't?"
"You're not sorry. You're not sorry. You take joy in it. You'd do everything over again. Wouldn't you?"
Innokenti's expression changed. Tony couldn't read him.
"Yes. Yes I would. I'll take care of you now. I'll find Loki and tear him apart limb from limb. Cut his belly open, while he squeels for mercy."
"You know what I did to him before, don't you? He's quite beautiful, actually. I enjoyed having my way with him. And as much as he acted like he hated it, I think he enjoyed it too."
The whistling of the repulsor whirred in Tony's ears.
"And when I'm done with him, I'll take your lovely Miss Potts, as well. She'll beg for me to stop, but I'll pin her down and force her to take it."
He could see nothing but red, now.
Nothing but red as he severed Innokenti's chest with the beam of light.
Nothing but red as he let the man's dead body fall from his grip. His eyes wide and lifeless.
Nothing but red.
Nothing but red.
But then red became a sickly yellow.
And Tony realized too late that he was being surrounded by it. Taken by it.
Until he was enveloped in a deep darkness and he fell to the ground.