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Sunday, August 16th, 2009 09:18 am
Title: Lethewards: Chapter Five: Tony and Victor's Body-Snatching Extravaganza part II
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: 4305
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, seizures, self-harm, violence,
Disclaimer: I own none of these characters 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.
Lethewards is done! Long Live Lethewards! Please see note at the end of the part.
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 part I





Stark returned two days later. Victor wondered briefly how the man was traveling -- with a body no less -- without one of his fellows noticing, but then attributed it to the American heroes' collective stupidity.


Victor already knew whose body rested in the stainless steel coffin. Namor had made quite the uproar when he discovered his old friend's peace had been disturbed. It seemed the only people who knew where the body had been were dead, missing, or had been a Skrull, thus he had come to Doom looking for assistance in finding the culprit. Victor offered some suggestions, leading him in another direction


So when Stark removed the lid of the coffin, Doom was not surprised at who was laying there, but that the body, despite being gaunt, was free from decay.


"It's well preserved," Victor observed idly.


"It, uh, was in cold storage," Stark was nervous, frightened perhaps.


It was always a pleasure to see the man squirm.


"Put it in the middle of the circle," Doom turned from him, heading toward the prepared alter.


His entire lab had been readied for this and he had been resting himself since Stark had left. He had the instruments he needed, among them a knife and chalice. He had chalked in the proper markings on the floor and waited for Stark to put the corpse at the center of it.


Victor stood amused as he watched the frail man wrestle the body out of the coffin and into place.


"That's fine," the process had gone from humorous to vexing with its growing length, "Just stand away."


Stark did he was told. He crossed his arms over his chest, back turned from the corpse, pacing the room idly. Victor ignored him, beginning his work.


He began the incantation in a tongue few still living knew, commanding the Powers to listen. He took the knife in hand and walked over to the corpse. He bent down and cut a piece of toughened, leathery flesh from its forearm. He returned to the alter, telling the Powers to find the soul this flesh belonged to. He tossed the skin into the chalice, followed by an assortment of other needed ingredients. He took a lit candle and bent it down into the chalice. The small pile caught fire and the scent of the burning flesh lingered in the air mixing with the herbs and plants, filling the cavernous room. He glanced to Stark. The man covered his nose and mouth with his hand, though he was watching the ritual now.


Victor returned his attention to the task before him. He took the chalice in hand and began focusing all the mystic power in his body on that hand. He felt it flowing through him, coming from a source even beyond Doom's knowledge. His gauntlet and, by extension, the chalice began to glow a bright purple-white color. Slowly, the smoke coming from the burning offering began to change from white to a deep, impenetrable black.


The smoke become a creature of its own, moving and twisting, free from the course of any breeze that happened to be in the chamber. Its direction was erratic at first, but it eventually began to settle over the corpse. It hung there a long moment before disappearing, seemingly drawn into the body itself. Then there came a rattling breath and the body's thin chest began to heave. It was done.


Victor hide his fatigue as he watched Stark scramble over to the resurrected man. Victor took up the knife again and dumped the now useless contents of the chalice. He removed the gauntlet from his left hand. He sliced across his palm and milked the blood into the scorched cup. When there was a sufficient amount pooled at the lowest point, he replaced his gauntlet. He took both instruments in hand and walked over to Stark, who was cradling the rasping half-man, cooing words of comfort though Doom doubted the undead man could even hear at the moment.


"Sleep, just sleep..."


Victor pulled Stark off of the living corpse. Stark protested.


"Our arrangement," Victor spoke as if the other man was a child. This seemed to silence Stark momentarily.


Doom shoved the chalice into Stark's left hand and made him hold out his other. Victor dipped a finger into the blood and began to draw the seal on the other man's palm. The two were quiet, the gasps from the half-man on the floor the only sound. When Victor was done, he took the knife and began to trace over the lines with the blade. He could see the seal starting to take effect -- a faint, purplish glow around Stark's eyes and forehead, growing in brightness with each line completed. When it was finished, there was a flash and the light vanished.


Stark's eyes rolled back and he slumped to the side. He came to and caught himself before he hit the ground. He put his hand to his head, dropping the chalice. The cup clanged to the floor, blood spilling out of it as he shook his head.


Victor watched him a moment, noticing the man's head already seemed to be healed -- that was not part of the spell. He picked up the chalice, returned to the alter and began cleaning up.


"Is it done?" Stark's voice came, barely audible over the noises of the half-man, "All of it, it's done?"


"It is," Doom did not look at him, "I believe you should leave now, before Namor returns."


Victor heard a choked noise and saw a flash of light out of the corner of his eye. He smiled under his mask. It was working.


Stark struggled to get to his feet. He went over to the undead corpse at his feet and took it in his arms again. He staggered over to the entrance way and mutterings began to drift to Victor's ears.


"No, please, just -- I'm trying to fix -- I can't! You don't--"


"Stark," Victor's voice boomed in the chamber, "To whom are you speaking?"


Another pained noise and another flash. There was a pause, but eventually the answer came.


"Janet Van Dyne."


Doom said nothing in return. Stark left, still speaking to no one. Victor would recall this meeting when Stark was found a month or so later, when he turned on those he called friend and even the man he had gone through the trouble of resurrecting. Doom was not interested in the condition of the man, but the sheer power he seemed to have in him. He had been holding back in that battle, it was easy to see. As another uprising began to threaten his reign, Victor wondered exactly what that power was.





"What was the deal you made?" Steve repeated as they climbed onto the jet. Tony took a seat next to Carol and Steve took one across from him.


"I..." Tony sighed, "I can't oppose him."


There was a silence.


"You made a treaty with him?" Carol looked confused, in disbelief.


"No," Tony gave one of those smiled, "I can't oppose him. It's some...spell," he waved his hand.


More silence. Then Clint, sitting at the controls, called over his shoulder.


"That was a stupid deal."


Tony laughed, "Well, in my defense, I didn't think I'd live long enough for Doom to come calling."


Another silence, though this one more uncomfortable. Steve shifted in his seat.


"What did you get from it?"


Steve could tell Tony was trying to play casual, calm, "It doesn't matter."


Steve scoffed, "Like hell it doesn't."


Tony glanced at him, then looked away.


"At this point," Tony said it slowly, as if to emphasize, "it doesn't matter."


Steve felt that annoyance return. He set his jaw, but leaned back in his seat, saying nothing.






The flight to the Latverian boarder was mostly quiet after that. There was only basic battle plans, since it was uncertain what they were even getting into. Tony couldn't oppose Doom, so Tony was probably going to be a factor in this. Steve tried to think of possible tactics, knowing it was a high possibility he would be fighting Tony, but his mind kept returning to that day. Steve knew all his moves. Steve was his contingency plan.


They landed and were greeted up Beth in her armor, the European Union's team, and Doom waiting on the other side of the dividing line between the countries. Doom watched them as they came down the ramp, hands behind his back. Tony was playing nonchalant again, hands in his pockets. He walked ahead of the team, apparently going to greet the dictator.


"Hello, Victor."


"Stark."


The two stood for a moment. Steve could not see either of their faces, left to wonder what sort of silent conversation they could be having. Moments passed and Steve could feel every muscle in his body was tense. Finally, Doom turned and began walking and Tony followed shortly after.


"Tony!" Steve and Beth both called at once.


Tony waved a hand over his shoulder, "I'll be all right. Don't worry."


He could tell the team wanted to go after him, and he did as well, but they all knew that crossing that boarder could be seen as an act of war.





The halls of Castle Doom were familiar to Tony by now. He had been here on several occasions at this point, so he knew Victor was leading him to the dungeons long before they arrived there.


He looked around briefly. He noted the chains and cuffs on the the walls and a number of grizzly looking devices.


"You went through all this trouble just because you had an itch you couldn't get scratched by a servant girl?" It was either laughing or being scared as hell.


Doom turned suddenly then. Tony was caught off-guard, sent stumbling back, but Victor kept coming. Tony retreated as far as he could but came to a stone wall. He tried to control his breathing, to keep his panic down, but it was decidedly hard to do when the other man had his armored thigh pressing against Tony's crotch.


"Holy God, Victor," Tony sputtered, "Are you serious?"


Doom's eyes locked with Tony's, "Would you fight it?"


"Wha--" Tony was cut off by a realization. He couldn't help but laugh, "You want me to fight you?" Victor looked angry under his mask and Tony laughed again, "Or, you know, just go ahead. I don't have any dignity left anyway."


Victor growled, apparently not thinking it was funny. He grabbed Tony by his hair and threw him to the ground. Tony felt his head bounce off the stone floor and he was certain he blacked out for a moment. The next thing he knew, Doom was standing over him, inspecting him. Tony lifted his head and saw the other man was looking at the Extremis-dampening anklet.


"Ah, yeah, nice huh?" Tony's words sounded slurred even to himself, "Came free with the straight jacket."


"What does it do?"


"Prevents me from using the Extremis," and the Extremis from using him. He wasn't sure if he said that part out loud.


Victor bent down and placed an armored hand on the gold band.


"It's made of admantium," Tony rested his head on the floor though it hurt when he did so, "You're not going to be able to break it."


The magic flowing from Doom created a strange sensation against Tony's skin, though he hadn't realized what it was at first. It felt almost like static shock, though it wasn't quick or fleeting. It made him shiver, though the other man didn't seem to notice.


Whatever Doom had done, he managed to disable it. The Extremis came crashing back painfully and Tony let out a yell as the information coursed through his mind. His vision blurred as feeds from security cameras, doombots, satellites, and Beth's armor swirled before his eyes. He could feel his body starting to heal, skin mending, concussion fading. By the time he felt it coming, the seizure had already hit. When the convulsions started, everything twisted -- the information, his muscles, his very consciousness. When they finally stopped five minutes later, he had long since passed out.



---


"Get up."


Tony felt the sharp pain in his mind and it reminded him of when he had gotten the Extremis injection -- a spike in the back of his head, ice cold discomfort in his brain. He had to get up. He couldn't disobey. He had to get up.


Everything in his body protested. His head spun, his muscles screamed, his stomach churned. It was a slow, agonizing process, but he eventually stood, bracing himself against the wall. He panted, trying to get his eyes to focus, though he knew Doom stood there as emotionless as ever.


"So..." Tony forced out, trying to keep himself from vomiting, "What happens if I refuse?"


"You die."


"You know, there are easier ways to kill me." At least he was pretty sure there were. Tony had tried a lot of different ways and was still alive. Maybe he couldn't die any more.


"But none are nearly as amusing."


"Fair enough."


"Come."


Again, that coldness in his mind and Tony was compelled to move. He staggered forward, following Doom down the corridor. His legs were refusing to take orders and it was slow going, but Victor was unusually patient. Things worth waiting for, he supposed.


"So, other than fun," Tony gritted his teeth as he hobbled along, "what's the point?"


"Curiosity."


Tony laughed though it hurt to do so, "That's kind of refreshing," he hissed a little as he stepped, "Good to know I can still spark people's interest. I keep thinking people would rather just put me in a corner somewhere and forget about me." Not that he would mind that much.


Doom said nothing. He had brought Tony to a part of the castle he hadn't been before. It was a large, open room with a balcony overlooking the Latverian countryside. Fires seemed to be burning in the distance and Tony assumed it was either a nearby village or, knowing the political state of the country, military encampments.


"Nice view," Tony had nothing to brace himself against so a great effort was being put on staying standing, "You picked a great location when you built this place."


"This is where you will be staying for the night," Victor didn't look at him.


"What?"


"You will rest, wait for your injuries to be healed. The experiments will begin tomorrow." He turned to leave but not before adding, "And you will not contact your allies."


Tony did not protest -- he couldn't. He found a bed tucked into a far corner and collapsed into it. The fall hurt, but his body soon settled and he found he was too tired to worry about what the next day might bring.





It had been twenty-four hours since Tony went into that castle and there hadn't been word since. When waiting for a fight, Steve usually kept himself occupied by thinking up battle plans and prepping his equipment. Battle plans kept leading him back to fighting Tony and he found himself uncomfortable with that thought. The equipment had been prepped and checked and rechecked...and rechecked. He was listless, in need of something to do and he could tell the rest of the team felt the same.


The only ones who didn't seem effected were Beth and Jim, strangely enough. Steve could imagine the only reasons for this was because Beth had been talking to someone concerning the situation constantly and because Jim seemed to be running scans, running scenarios, and making battle plans of his own. It was hard to tell through the armor.


"They're coming," Jim said suddenly.


Steve turned on his heel and scanned the point where the two men had disappeared. He couldn't see anything himself, but Rhodey probably had six different kinds of enhancements and filters aiding his sight. He noticed everyone was watching now, looking for any sign.


Eventually, the men appeared over the ridge. Doom was pulling Tony along, tight grip on his upper arm. Tony looked disheveled and like he had been in a fight.


Doom throw Tony to the ground and it caused a ripple of anger and anxiety to run through the group. Tony got to his feet. He looked around a moment, then an expression of fear came over him. He looked to Doom quickly.


"Victor--"


"Kill them."


There was a strange flash of light centered around Tony's head and the man looked like he was in pain.


"Oh hell," Clint said under his breath, readying his swords.


Tony held his head in pain. He staggered forward and Steve prepared himself. He couldn't oppose Doom.


"Victor," it was choked this time, pained, "Please, I--"


"Finish what you failed to do before."


"Finish what I..." Tony's voice trailed off. Steve thought he heard a small laugh, or a hitched breath.


Tony stood straight. He looked at Victor, almost smiling though pain was still evident on his face.


"I refuse."


Again there was a flash. Tony's body went limp and fell to the ground with a heavy thud. The team surged forward, each one prepared to attack Doom. Steve didn't know what had just happened, but he was angry about it.


Doom held out a hand, "He's not dead."


"What did you do to him?" Steve growled, stopping just short of the border.


"He did it to himself. He knew our agreement."


"What's the point of all this?" Carol roared and Steve could see her temper growing.


"The point is that he would have gotten in the way. Now the path is clear for Doom."


Steve wasn't sure of what happened next. Doom then fell to the ground with a clang of armor. Then Tony began stirring, slowly getting to his knees. He stood finally, straight and tall, face blank but Steve could tell it was not Tony Stark.


He smiled at the group, "You've served your purpose. You may leave now."


He bent down and picked up the other body effortlessly despite the armor, then began to walk back toward the castle.


The group watched for a moment, uncertain how exactly to react.


"Did he..." Peter tilted his head, "just steal Tony's body?"


"Tony's body with a reactivated Extremis," Jim's filtered voice came, apparently having preformed some kind of scan, "Beth, get on the horn and see if we can move that. He's like a walking bomb now."


"That can take control of both of your armors," Steve turned to them.


"That's assuming he knows what he's doing," Rhodey sounded skeptical but it was hard to tell with the filter, "Extremis doesn't come with an instruction manual."


"Gees," Peter sighed a little, hand on the back of his neck, "on the weirdness scale, this is probably right up in between Jarvis being a Skrull and that time Tony turned into Jan."


Any thought going through Steve's head halted.


"What?" he and Hank said at once.


Peter looked at them, his expression impossible to read behind his mask, "Oh right. You guys weren't there for that. Never thought those'd be the good ol' days..."


"We've been cleared," Beth said quickly, "We can move in, recover Tony, and get out."


Jim took to the air before Steve could get any order out of his mouth. It annoyed him, but he ignored it.


"Black Widow, Wasp, you're on recon. Get in there and tell us what to expect. The rest of us wait until we get word."


Hank and Natasha nodded and went off. Carol was starting to look antsy already.


"This is bizarre," she shook her head, "Why would he do this?"


Steve shook his head. The only thing to do now what wait. This time, though, he knew what lay ahead of him and he found the waiting much easier.





"Beth?"


The voice seemed to come from all around her. It wasn't Sydney -- he had gone surprisingly quiet several minutes ago. It was strange. It sounded like the Iron Man, the voice filter.


"Can you hear me?"


"Yes," Beth started scanning her systems and the surrounding area for...anything really, "Who is this?"


"Tony."


Beth froze. Her brain clicked for a long moment.


"Tony?"


"Yes."


"Where are you?"


"I think I'm what you might call a literal ghost in the machine."


"You're... in the Iron Man?"


"As best I can tell. Sydney's here I think. It's a new experience."


"How did--" Beth shook her head, she really didn't want to know, "What do we do?"


"Let me take control of the armor. I'll think of something."


"A-All right."


The armor removed itself from around her. She watched it form again, hanging in the air with no pilot. At least not a physical one. This attracted some puzzled looks from the group.


"It's, um, Tony," she tried to explain.


"What?" Steve walked over.


He looked ready to say something else, but he was cut off.


"Let's see how far he gets," the robotic voice came.


Beth and Steve stared at it a moment.


"That...is not a good idea," Beth tried to reason.


"No, it is," the helmet turned to look at them, "He may be driving, but it's still my body. Let's see how far he gets."



---


"Hello, Victor," the mechanical voice echoed off the stone walls.


The man who looked like Tony was frightened, looked like he hadn't slept in the three days since he took the body. The armor who was Tony recognized this fear, knew it well.


"It was an interesting plan. Flawed, but interesting."


The armor stepped heavily towards the man. It picked him up by the collar of his shirt.


"What is this?" the man's eyes were wide with madness, "What did you do?"


"It's the Extremis, Victor. You should have done your research."


The man pulled away, "You wretched, pathetic creature!"


"You're the one cowering. What do you see, Victor? The villagers you've killed? Your mother?"


The man let out a roar. He lunged at the armor, landing a punch on the hollow helmet. There was a clang of connection and a crack of bone. The armor did not move, though it had been dented.


It stood there a moment, then grabbed the man. Without hesitation, he tossed him through the thick wall, five stories up. It let the man fall for a moment, then went after him. It caught him by the arm, the sudden stop enough to dislocate the fragile body's shoulder.


War Machine appeared beside it, keeping pace in the air.


"The hell are you doing?" Rhodes' voice came.


"Taking care of business," it replied, voice ringing emotionless.


It dropped the man when they got closer to the ground. He bounced and rolled, kicking up grass and mud and a muffled yell. The armor landed, scorching the area around it. It stood straight, looking down at the crumbled man.


"It's advised that you stop, Mister Stark," the voice of the AI came, sounding like it was standing beside him, "He has three broken ribs, a punctured lung--"


"He can heal," the armor cut him off.


"It's not advisable --"


It didn't listen. Again, the man was lifted by his collar. He was a disgusting, weak being, broken and unable to even help himself. It raised an arm to strike his head, but War Machine came crashing down on it.


"Back off!" Rhodes held on tight, "You got him!"


It said nothing as the others came over. Rogers ordered Parker to bandage the man with his webs. It was hurried to get everything in order, forcing Doom out of the body, getting the body the need medical attention. None of them spoke of the confrontation.



Steve walked into the hospital room cautiously. They had sedated Tony, with nanites working in him until they could get another anklet. His body was battered and bruised but his...consciousness stood over him, clad in the armor still. The nurses told him it had been standing like that, not saying anything, for three hours while the team cleaned up the mess.


"Tony?"


He didn't answer. Steve stepped forward until he was standing in front of the bed.


"Why...are you not...back in your body?" He asked, not sure if he was even listening, "Do you not know how? Do we need to--"


"It's better," the voice was familiar, though it gave Steve chills knowing it was coming from nothing, "I can't feel...not like I did."


Steve's brow furrowed, "Tony--"


"It's better," he repeated.


"But you...you can't honestly think that living like that..."


"I don't have to think the way I did. I don't have to worry like I did. I can just...be."


"Be what, though, Tony? Iron man? Iron man is not important enough to give up something like this."


"I have to fix it."


"What?"


"Everything that I've done wrong."


Steve shook his head and made a frustrated noise. He calmed himself before speaking again.


"You told me once, that if I was in your skin, I'd understand," Steve shook his head again, "I don't think I'll ever understand, Tony. And I'm sorry for that. But I'm trying."


The armor turned to look at him finally. It stared at him for a long moment.


"I suppose there are a few things...enjoyable about ...that," He looked back at the body laying in the bed and Steve could have sworn there was distaste in his mechanical voice.


There was a long silence. Steve wasn't sure if Tony had left the armor or not, but finally,


"I'm sorry."


Steve's brow furrowed, "For what?"


"Whatever I do when I wake up."


The armor fell to the floor with a frightening loud clang the lingered in the empty room around Steve. The man in the bed stirred, but did not wake.




*****

Thank you everyone for reading. This is the last part of Lethewards...sort of. Believe it or not, all of this has just been setup for me to play around in this world. So there is more Lethewards planned, and in fact I am nearly done with the next chapter, but the updates won't be as regular any more as I want to have a more relaxed pace writing and posting.

I cannot say thanks enough to everyone who has read this fic and everyone who has left feedback. This fic was a monster for me on a number of many levels, and it's still growing. All the feedback has been greatly encouraging.

Thank you for sticking with it, and hopefully I'll see you all soon with another part.