A/N: Welp, I've neglected this story long enough. Here's an update! (albeit a short and lame one). Lots of thanks to Nako13yeh, tapion580, MadaSasu, Loki'D, RedCardinals (btw, it was a study offer, not a job offer, but yes, I did get it! 8D), angrbodagiantess and xxlucidclarityxx for reviewing, and Rue for beta'ing :)
It's a while before Tony's able to lift his head without seeing stars. The first thing he sees clearly is his hands, chained in front of him by heavy shackles. There's a strange pressure around his mouth, and after a few seconds he realises he's been gagged too; his lower jaw is completely immobilised, encased in metal.
Disorientated, he shifts his gaze upwards. He's sitting slumped in an unfamiliar room, the floor, walls and ceiling of which are blindingly white, while the remaining space is occupied by a strange, ethereal pane of light. Beyond it he can see a dark, foreboding stone corridor, lined with other, identical white rooms. A prison. Great. Patrolling up and down are men in what's unmistakeably medieval armour, albeit impratically shiny. Okay, who the fuck are these clowns?
Lurching to his feet, he takes a wobbly step towards the barrier.
'Keep back, mortal,' barks one of the guards, noticing him. 'Unless you want the flesh burnt from your bones.'
Stark hesitates. He can hear the light thrumming with some kind of energy – electricity maybe, or magic.
Where the hell am I? he wants to demand. What's going on?
He tries to yell, but what comes out is a muffled groan. With his bare hands, he tries unsuccessfully to prise the muzzle off, but is unable to find enough purchase on the smooth metal and only succeeds in causing himself pain. As his fingers explore its metallic contours, he realises it's almost identical to the one Loki was forced to wear. When he tastes blood, he realises all he's doing is hurting his mouth, and gives up.
Wait..."mortal"? Am I on Asgard? His dazed brain struggles to make sense of the situation. How the hell did I get here? Dim memories of his time spent with Loki – interactions both friendly and hostile, gentle and violent – drift through his mind with little semblance of order. None of them seem to make sense. Did Loki...did Loki have me imprisoned? Did he hand me over to Asgard as revenge for all the hurt feelings? The punch? The snide remarks? With Loki's unstable mindset, it's almost understandable.
Tony sinks down into a sitting position on the floor.
Thank you, human.
Stark jerks in shock. Who knew that the simple sound of a voice could be so stomach-churning, so repulsively unnatural? It emanates from nowhere, seemingly from the very air itself; resounding in his head.
Thank you for bringing me here.
'Oh. Shit,' he thinks through a wave of nausea. 'Thanos.' The guards are oblivious to what's going on. Tony stands up and jumps about to get their attention, but they persist in acting like he doesn't exist. God damnit. You have to listen to me.
Loki alone was not strong enough to take over Asgard; he was too weak, too fallible, too unreliable. But your friends, these..."Avengers" will serve me well. I will arm them with Odin's precious relics, and I will unite them against the Nine Realms.
And then he remembers. He remembers getting Thor locked up. He remembers fucking Loki. He remembers endangering the lives of his best friends – of Natasha, of Bruce, of Steve.
Oh God. Stark clutches at his head. What have I done?
You too will serve me. And sooner than you think.
Tony screams, or at least attempts to. All he can do is moan through pinioned jaws. You have to fucking listen to me! This is fucking important! Deciding there's nothing for it, he takes a deep breath through his nose and tries to walk out of the cell. The moment he makes contact with the barrier, a burning pain explodes over every inch of his body. The force of it knocks him backwards, and he doesn't even have time register the fact that he's falling before his head makes contact with the white floor.