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Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 12:41 pm
Title: Lethewards: Chapter Five: Tony and Victor's Body-Snatching Extravaganza
Rating: R
Fandom: Marvel - 616
Pairings: Primarily pre-slash Steve/Tony, but with several platonic relationships, as well as references to past relationships and a few minor relationships
Part word count: 3707
Genre: Drama, angst, hurt/comfort, character study
Warnings: These are warnings just this part, seeing as they may change from part to part. Please see this post for overall fic warnings Talk and depiction of mental illness, violence
Disclaimer: I own none of these characters, save Tomas McHale, and make no profit from them
Part Summary: Tony's made a deal with Doom.
Thanks: My beta [personal profile] autolobotomysuicide and being absolutely fantastic. [personal profile] jazzypom and [livejournal.com profile] pandanoai for their adivce and beta work, as well as cheer leading. And last but not least, [livejournal.com profile] oddwildflowers for being an amazing cheerleader.
Author's note: Please, please, please see this post for a list of overall fic warnings and for background information/changes from canon.
As always, thank you for all the kind comments. New parts Sunday and Tuesday.
I wish I had come up with a title for this chapter more in-line with the other chapters, but this one stuck.
Previous Parts: Prologue Chapter One Chapter Two part I part II Chapter Three part I part II part III part IV part V Chapter Four





Chapter Five:
Victor and Tony's Body-Snatching Extravaganza





It had been three months since the Registration Act had been struck down. In those three months, an alternative to the Act had been decided on and the exchange of power had gone through. The Council was Tony Stark's brainchild. He had conceived it while under house arrest after having a secret meeting with the resurrected Steve Rogers. No one else had a hand in its birth, and no one else knew of these facts, as per Tony's request, feeling no one would touch the plans if they had his name on them. Because of this, he was not included on the Council charter nor listed as a founding member.


The day the Council officially took the place of the House Committee on Superhuman Activities was full of fan-fair and photo opps. There were protesters of course, but they were out numbered by excited metas and non alike, celebrating a restoration of something they had thought was lost.


The members of the first Council had been elected and it was an odd mix: Emma Frost, Hank Pym, Sue Richards, Steve Rogers, and Kate Bishop (whom Steve had almost protested at first, thinking she was too young, but she had been elected nonetheless). Their first public meeting was completely show, nothing really got done. Apparently to give the group a chance to get some actual work done, their press liaison began to show the mob of reporters around their new headquarters. It was nothing like the mansion. The mansion had living quarters, giving it a homey feeling. The Council building was all business. Steve missed the mansion.


Despite his role as a symbol of the American ideal, Steve never considered once running for any sort of public office. He never thought he'd be good at it, but he had been elected by his peers for this seat on the Council and he would serve it to the best of his abilities.


"Where do we start?" Steve asked now that the reporters were gone, looking at a framed copy of the charter and the names there were there and thinking of the names that weren't.


"We need to get the database up and running," Hank offered, "And get everyone re-registered. I think that should be our number one priority, if only because it'll get the government off our backs."


"Re-registered?" Steve raised an eyebrow, turning to face them.


Hank nodded, "The, uh, original database was apparently erased somehow following the invasion."


Steve's other eyebrow went up, but he didn't comment on it.


"What about Forty-Two?" Sue asked.


"It's still U.S. territory," Hank said with a sigh, "The people in it are ours, but not the building. And the government has every right to hold them if they believe a crime was committed."


"We should review the cases," Kate suggested, "If they're our people, we have the right to review the cases against them, don't we?"


"Easier said than done, darling," Emma was inspecting her nails, looking almost bored, "If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that the American government is hardly obliging."


"Well it's worth a shot at least," Sue scowled a little at the other woman.


Steve nodded, "All right. That should keep us busy for a while at least. And Hank, you'll get started on that database?"


Hank nodded, "I'll get something rough together as a starting point."


"And I'll see what we have to do to get those case files," Sue said, looking almost excited at the amount of paperwork that no doubt lay ahead of them.


They were all excited, Steve knew. They were actually able to control their own fates again. It wasn't perfect, but it was a start. They left the chambers and went back to face the throngs of media -- they had a press conference in ten minutes.


While the whole day had been full of press and reporters, the conference was to inform the public of the group's early plans and to announce that the council itself would be sponsoring a superteam. The Avengers still belonged to the American government and to Osborn, but the Council was its own, independent governing body and as such, had the right to form its own team. This announcement had started a commotion of reporters of every sort throwing out questions and Steve had to raise his voice to speak over them, finishing that a roster for the team would be released in the following weeks.


Steve desperately hoped everyday would not be like this.


It was around ten before Steve walked into the apartment. He sighed and went to his room to change. He put on his favorite, worn blue shirt and a pair of black sweatpants, then went to the kitchen to get some dinner. He was surprised to find Jarvis still up and even more surprised to find Pepper sitting with him. They were both drinking what appeared to be tea and looked very solemn. They greeted him and Jarvis rose to reheat Steve some leftover.


"We were just talking," Pepper explained.


About Tony, Steve finished in his mind. He nodded.


When Steve heard that Tony had signed up with Osborn's team, he had been confused and sickened, but then he heard the circumstances under which the man had agreed to this -- that he had been coerced into it -- and he had just grown angry.


"How is he?" Steve had only seen him in passing since that day on the Capitol steps.


Pepper paused for a long moment, looking down at her hands.


"I've only talked to him on the phone. I'm not allowed into the penthouse. No one is but the team and H.A.M.M.E.R. agents. Beth went back to Germany last week so... so I don't know how he's really doing. He says he's fine, but you know Tony."

Jarvis set a plate down in front of Steve and Steve thanked him.


"I think I shall retire for the night," Jarvis said, sound extremely tired, "If you don't need anything else Miss Potts, Mister Rogers."


They both declined and the man went to his room. His wages were once again being paid by the Maria Stark Foundation, seeing as this Avengers team was no longer illegal (even if not officially the Avengers), so the man was staying with them, cleaning up and preparing meals, just like it was before.


Steve and Pepper sat in momentary silence. He ate his food and she drank from her mug.


She spoke without looking at him, "I don't know how he's going to do it."


Steve finished the bite he was chewing and wiped his mouth.


"He seemed..." Steve considered the two sides he had seen of Tony while at the Capitol -- the collected, calm Tony that no one could touch and the frightened, on the verge of a break Tony, during the shoot out, "All right. I mean, better at least then he was."


She nodded, "Yeah but...but he doesn't have anyone in there with him any more. He's always been able to pick himself up before, but he's always had someone with him. I just don't know how he's going to do it this time."


Before Steve could say anything in response, she continued. Steve felt perhaps it would be best just to listen.


"He had motivation before, you know? It wasn't always good motivation, but it worked for him. It was his father first. Tony always tried his damnedest to please that horrible man. He never did, but it gave him something to work for, you know? Then it was the company and that stupid image of his. I always got the feeling he hated all of it, but I think it just kept him busy, kept his mind off of whatever thoughts were going through his head. And then there was Iron Man and the Avengers and even S.H.E.I.L.D. All of that gave him purpose, you know?


"But he doesn't have any of that any more. And I don't know how he's going to get through it this time."


Steve had watched the woman slowly break down into tears. She held on tightly to her mug, knuckles going white.


"It's just..." she sniffed, "I know Tony's not always the greatest guy, but he's a good man, with a good heart. He's only ever wanted to help people. No matter what he's done, he doesn't deserve this."


Steve reached across the table and put a hand on one of her shaking ones.


"He designed the Council so this wouldn't happen to one of us again. And it won't. Not him, not anyone."


Pepper scoffed a little, sniffing again, "See? He cares so much about others that he forgets to care about himself."


Steve smiled, not out of humor but because he knew she was right.



---


Reviewing the cases was proving to be much more tedious than they had originally thought. It was set up similar to how the Supreme Court functioned, with lawyers presenting each side of the case, then the Council deliberating on it. There were hundreds of files, which meant they'd be at this for months. Most of them were standard villains and the rulings stood, though on occasion the sentences were shortened based on the crimes.


However, there was a startling number that were cases of metas who hadn't registered with the sentences suspended until they did register, meaning they could have been in there for life. Those cases were completely thrown out and the persons were encouraged to register with the new system once they were released. There was no catch when registering any more, and most seemed to believe that the Council was much more trustworthy than the U.S. government, so they signed up happily. Others were not so happy about it, but quickly changed their minds when they were informed that once they stepped off the property, the American government would not be so open minded.


They had finished for the day and Steve was walking back to the office they had given him. Waiting for him there was a boy he recognized from one of the cases today. Red-haired and cheery-looking, he got to his feet when he spotted Steve.


"Can I help you?" Steve asked once he had gotten closer.


"My name's Tomas McHale. Mister Stark said you might be able to help me," the teenager held out his hand for Steve to shake it. Steve did recalling that Tony had mentioned a Tomas in his speech to the House Committee and this was probably him, "Well, you and Miss Frost, but he said to go to you first."


"What can I do for you then?"


Tomas smiled, "Mister Stark said you all would be starting up the Initiative again and I was hoping I could sign up."


Steve couldn't help but smile, "It's on our to-do list, certainly, but it's still a few months off."


Tomas nodded, "Right, that's what he figured. That's why he told me to talk to Miss Frost. He said I may not be a mutant, but I'm still a 'gifted youth,' so she might be willing to give me some training," as almost an after thought, he added with a laugh, "and a place to stay. I'd probably do okay in San Fran."


Steve looked a round quickly, "Where are your parents?"


Tomas smiled, though it reminded Steve of Tony in a way -- humorless and hiding something -- "I have no idea."


Steve felt something in his stomach churn, "They weren't there to pick you up when you got out?"


Tomas shrugged, "They weren't there when I went in. So it's not really a surprise."


Steve couldn't help the angry sigh that left him. Tomas smiled kindly.


"Don't worry. Mister Stark gave me the name of this lawyer he said could help me get emancipated. Then I can be my own man," he gave a cheesy grin.


"So you don't have a place to stay then?"


Tomas shook his head, "I figured I could sleep on that bench if all else fails."


Steve chuckled a little, "Well how about you stay with us tonight? And tomorrow you can talk to Miss Frost and I can give that lawyer a call for you."


Tomas' face lit up, "Really? That--That would be so amazing."


Steve grinned, "Well we certainly have the room, so I don't see why not."


Tomas lunged forward and hugged Steve around the middle, nearly bowling him over out of sheer surprise.


"Thank you so much!"


Steve reassured him it was fine. Steve gathered what he need from his office and they left, Tomas chatting excitedly about how it had always been a dream of his to be an Avenger and to live in the mansion. Steve smiled and listened, making comments every once in a while. He hadn't realized that there had actually been an enthusiasm towards registration and the Initiative during the war, or that there were those out there who were actually afraid of coming out as meta. He remembered Tony's speech saying that the main problem with the Registration Act was that it had no support group, just threw people out into the wild. He suspected that he also meant there was no support for the people who were too scared to come in.





The team had been announced with just as much fanfare as if it had been an official Avengers team: Spider-Man, Black Widow, Hank Pym going by the name Wasp, Warbird since the title 'Ms. Marvel' belonged to H.A.M.M.E.R., War Machine, who had taken a lot of convincing to join the team, and Steve, who had been christened 'The Captain' since Bucky still held the mantle of Captain America (and Steve was more than happy to let him keep it) with Luke and Ronin as secondaries. They had gotten jokes about the apparently insect theme of the line-up, but Hank assured them all it was not on purpose, the team had been chosen based on abilities and balance.


Steve had been given a new costume, created by Hank but based off the slimmed down life support system Tony had designed for Rhodey. Pym Particals made the body armor retractable with the press of a button on a belt-buckle-like device. Colored black and Steve's favorite shade of blue, there was even a shield to go with it, made to the exact size and weight as his old one and nearly as durable. It wasn't the same, but it was damn close. All of this had been given to Steve a few weeks ago on his birthday and they had been given several good field tests since then. Steve had not been able to put into words his gratitude for the gifts, but Hank brushed it off as if it were nothing.


Steve was surprised how quickly the new team had their first real call and was even more surprised that it had come from a foreign nation asking for help. On the line was Bethany Cabe, working on behalf of the European Union. Apparently Victor von Doom had made some kind of move. The EU's team had stepped in, but Doom was now requesting the presence of Tony Stark.


"He says Tony and he have some kind of agreement," Beth said sounding nervous.


"Did he say about what?" Steve asked, already hurrying to get everything in motion.


"No, he just...is refusing to talk with anyone else," she sounded out of breath, like she was doing the same on her end.


"All right," Steve reassured her, "We'll get him on a plane in the next two hours."


In half an hour, Steve was standing in the Tower Penthouse, arguing with Norman Osborn, Quinjet waiting on the roof to head to Latveria.


"He's on my team. We go in."


"The Council was requested specifically, not your 'Avengers.'"


"What's with all the yelling?" Tony walked in, running a hand through his hair.


Steve was taken back. Tony hardly looked how he had the last time Steve had seen him. He looked like he had just woken up -- wrinkled tank top and PJ pants, the lines on his goatee not quite as sharp, hair sticking up -- even though it was four in the afternoon. Even more off-putting were the faint, healed-over scars on his biceps.


"What's the deal you made with Doom?" Steve began right off. Tony looked startled.


"Don't answer that," Osborn pointed at Tony, then looked back at Steve. "He's on this team as an alternative to Forty-Two, meaning he cannot leave my sight or else he'll be considered a fugitive."


"You don't have jurisdiction--"


"Okay, boys," Tony raised a hand and stepped between them, "We should worry about this later." He turned to Osborn, "If I screw up, they can take credit. If I don't, you can."


There was a silent moment.


"I want to be there on the ground," Osborn said finally.


"H.A.M.M.E.R.'s presence was not requested," Steve said firmly, "You wouldn't want to step on any international toes, would you?"


Osborn glared daggers, "He can't operate the armor without my supervision."


Steve snorted, "He's been flying that armor longer than you have yours."


"And yet he's still screwed it up."


Steve clenched his jaw, staring at Osborn through narrowed eyes.


"Okay," Tony said again, grabbing hold of Steve's wrist, "Let's get going."


He pulled Steve down the hall, or tried to at least -- Steve refused to budge for a long moment. Tony led him to his room.


"Don't kill him," Tony said, running around the room gathering clothes to change into, "It wouldn't be good PR. I'll be ready in five."


Before Steve could say anything, Tony went into the attached bathroom and closed the door. Steve was left to look around the room. It was dark, the curtains drawn. The bed was unmade and the desk was covered in scrap parts and half-finished projects from the looks of it. The Iron Man armor hung in the corner, dents and scorch marks in a few places. It seemed like a condensed version of his old workshop. Steve couldn't understand how Tony lived like this.


Tony came out a few minutes later, dressed in a dark t-shirt and jeans, hair combed down, but it didn't look like he shaved.


"Let's go."


Steve nodded, more than happy to get out of the penthouse.


"What was the deal you made with Doom?" Steve asked again as they made their way to the rooftop launch pad where the Quinjet was waiting, holding the rest of the team, minus War Machine, who had already left for Latveria, plus Clint who was coming along just in case.


Tony let out a deep sigh. He rubbed a hand over his face and Steve felt himself getting impatient.





The man that stood before him had changed -- thinned, attempted to alter his appearance, blond hair growing out its natural black. Nonetheless, Victor knew him as Anthony Stark the moment he lay eyes on him.


"Anthony, what an unexpected pleasure," Victor lied. It was neither pleasant nor unexpected -- he had been following Stark's movement since he crossed the boarder.


There was something submissive about the man that Victor was not used to seeing. Slumped shoulders, lack of eye contact, added with the fact Stark looked solemn and resigned told Victor he was here for something. He must be desperate to have come to Doom.


"Hello, Victor," Stark smiled out of obligation.


"I hear your countrymen are looking for you," Victor said casually, not rising from his throne, "What would they say if they knew you were here?"


Victor watched him twitch before answering.


"It won't matter soon."


Victor raised an eyebrow under his mask. He tented his fingers in front of himself, watching Stark closely.


"Why are you here?"


"I need..." Stark swallowed. He looked pained as he continued, "I need a favor."


Victor couldn't help but laugh. The noise rung in his mask, giving it a metallic twinge to his ears. The sound lasted after the source had ceased, echoing in the halls of his castle.


"I do no do favors, Stark."


"A...a trade, then," he seemed to be almost scrambling.


Victor considered him a moment, "What sort of trade?"


Stark smiled some, apparently thinking something Doom had said was amusing, "The sort where I give you something and you give me something."


"What could you possibly have that Doom would want?"


"I don't know, there has to be something, right? Name something."


"Iron Man."


"Something other than that."


Victor hadn't expected him to give up the Iron Man technology, but had been testing the waters. He wasn't that far gone apparently.


"Undying loyalty," Doom mused next.


Stark laughed again, "Well, we can try, but I doubt I'd do good on it."


"It can be arranged," Victor said coolly, gauging the man's reaction once again.


Stark seemed taken aback. He hesitated.


"I will not be one of your lackeys," his voice was surprising strong considering everything else about him.


"I would never dream of it," Victor said, though he had let his mind wonder to it once.


Stark considered this, "Don't you even want to know what I want first?" He was obviously buying himself time.


"What you receive is of little concern to me," Victor stood finally, going to get a better look at the man, "But I will amuse you. What do you want from Doom?"


Victor found himself smiling at how purely uncomfortable Stark looked. The image of a cat and mouse came to mind. Stark shifted, his face looked pained, he was trying to control whatever he was feeling.


"I...you can bring back the dead? You made those zombies..."


Victor's eyebrow went up, though Stark could not see it. Of all the things he could have asked for, that was not high on Doom's list.


"I can."


"Can you bring them back whole? Not a mindless corpses?"


"It is possible, yes."


"Then that's what I want you to do."


"And you are willing to pay the price?"


Stark swallowed, "I am."


"Then we have an accord. Bring me the body."


Victor turned from the other man, not waiting for a response. He had to prepare himself.