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Sunday, July 19th, 2009 01:32 am
Title: Lethewards: Chapter Two: Undoing 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: 4678
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 Depiction and talk of mental illness, attempted suicide, blood.
Disclaimer: I own none of these characters and make no profit from them
Part Summary: Tony's found, but doesn't want to be.
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. I've settled on the posting schedule of Tuesday and Sunday.
Previous Parts: Prologue Chapter One Chapter Two part I



Steve had wanted to go with them, but they decided that the added shock of knowing Steve was alive might be too much for Tony after whatever it was that he had been through. He was trying not to pace, but it was extremely hard to stay still.

He found Jarvis in the kitchen. From what he could tell, the older man was stress cooking -- there were several complete meals already made and he seemed to be working on some baked goods at the moment.

"Good afternoon, Mister Rogers," the butler greeted, not stopping his work.

"'Afternoon," Steve returned, "Tony's going to have a good meal when he gets back, huh?"

Jarvis smiled, "Master Stark barely ate when he was under his own power. I can hardly imagine if he ate at all while under someone else's."

Steve smiled, but that did nothing to calm his nerves. Tony was strong, but even he had his limits. If he had reached them...

They heard someone came bounding in through the false wall. Steve stood and looked around the corner. It was Peter. He entered into the living room.

"Where is he?"

"With the others. They're stashing the transport. Steve," Peter's voice was hushed, as if not wanting Jarvis to hear, "I...I think he's broken."

Steve tensed, his heart sinking. He nodded, "I should stay out of the way."

Peter gave him what he assumed was an apologetic look, but it was hard to tell with his mask on. Steve returned to the kitchen. Jarvis was sitting at the table now, chin resting on on his hands. Steve put a hand on the old butler's shoulder and they listened as the others returned.

There was a shuffling of feet and a few quiet words exchanged. After a moment, Clint stuck his head in.

"They took him to a back room. Pete's with him."

Steve nodded. He moved toward the threshold, but Jarvis stayed seated, looking a bit far off.

Steve entered the living room. The Avengers, plus Jim Rhodes were all standing, troubled looks on their faces. Rhodey did something of a double take when he spotted Steve, but said nothing. Steve had been back for a month now, but not even a handful know about it -- Luke Cage, Sam Wilson, and Hank Pym being the only ones outside of the Avengers.

"We need to call Samson," Bucky stated.

"You're gonna need more than Samson," Logan grunted. He was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, "A nice little talk isn't going to fix that."

"Samson's a good start, though," Jim put down his visor, evidently placing the call.

"This was R.O.A.D.?" Clint asked no one in particular, "I thought they didn't know where he was."

"They didn't," Jim's voice came through the mechanical filters, "Not until recently. They were going there to get him. How they managed to find him when we didn't is another question..."

"Is he all right physically at least?" Steve spoke finally.

The group exchanged glances for a moment.

"He didn't look like he had any physical injuries," Bucky offered, somewhat hesitantly, "But he's covered in blood. Looks like he hasn't eaten in a while, or slept..."

Steve felt sick. He wanted to see Tony, to be some sort of help to his old friend. Behind him, he noticed Jarvis heading in the direction of the back rooms. If Steve was feeling like this, he could only imagine what the older man was going through.

"All right," Jim's visor came up again, "Samson's on his way. It'll be a couple hours, so --"

"Mister Rogers!" Jarvis called. Steve looked down the hall and saw the man standing by a doorway leading to one of the bedrooms, "He's gone!"

Steve hesitated only a moment, his brain processing exactly what that meant. How could he be --? He ran the distance to the door, skidding to a stop. The room was small, crammed with furniture. The window was open and Peter was on the floor, tied up with his own webs. Steve knelt next to the younger man, working on loosening the webs.

"What happened?"

"I have no idea!" Peter sounded terrified, yet impressed.

"Shit!" Rhodey was at the doorway now, "How the fuck does this keep happening!"

"Everyone, get out there and look!" Steve could hear Bucky giving orders in the other room, "He couldn't have gone far! We are not loosing him again!"

"Did he say anything?" Steve asked Peter in a low voice.

Peter thought for a moment, then said with an uncertain shrug, "'I'm sorry.'"


---


Norman Osborn was in the elevator, heading up to the Avengers penthouse. No matter how many times he had taken this trip, he never seemed to tire of it. Truly, it was the simple things in life. He took off his suit jacket and loosened his tie, a ritual of sorts for him now as he prepared to put on his armor. His presence had been requested somewhere upstate. Apparently that maniac Rhodes had made some mess with his flying tank. Again. He didn't exactly understand why his time was being wasted, but the H.A.M.M.E.R. agent on the line had insisted. Norman, in turn, would insist that the man be put on tour in Madripoor after this. The elevator dinged and the doors opened. Norman stepped out, then froze.

A grimy, disgusting, sickly-looking Tony Stark was standing in his living room by the window. He turned to look at Norman as he entered.

Norman put on his best fake smile, "Tony!"

"Norman."

"Lord! We all thought you were dead!"

"I'm not."

"Evidently," Norman gave him another quick look over and tried not to wrinkle his nose, "How did you get in here?"

Tony gave him a flat look, "It's my house."

Norman thought to protest, but then realized it might not be best to argue with a man covered in blood that did not appear to be his own. Norman walked over to Tony and put an arm around his thin shoulders, making a mental note to get Miss Hand to drop this shirt off at the dry cleaner's later.

"Come on, Tony, you look horrible. Let's get you to the hospital."

Tony didn't move. Again, he gave Norman a blank look, "Do you really think you're fooling anyone?"

Without missing a beat, Norman replied, "Do you?"

Tony's face darkened and he looked away, back out the window. Norman tried to pull Tony toward the elevated, but again he didn't budge.

"I'd say I'm sorry, but I'm not."

Norman raised an eyebrow, "Sorry for what?"

---

Peter swung from building to building, doing a careful mental juggling act of watching the ground for anyone who looked like Tony and trying not to crash into high-rises. Peter went higher, trying to get a wider look of the area. It was because of this that he heard the crash and saw the man falling from the window of the penthouse level of the Avengers Tower.

Peter swooped into action without thinking twice. Moving as fast as he could, he swung and caught the man about halfway down the side of the building. It wasn't until after that he regretted this.

"Well, this is somewhat ironic, isn't it?" Peter looked down at Osborn. It was extremely uncomfortable for him to be this close to the man.

"Stark!" Osborn had a mad look in his eye and was baring his teeth, "It was Stark!"

Peter blinked. Tony threw Norman Osborn out of the penthouse window? Awesome, if slightly terrifying.

Peter called to the rest of the Avengers over the commlink, telling them where Tony could be found. War Machine responded and within seconds Peter could see the jet tail in the distance.

"Put me down on the roof!" Osborn ordered.

"Wait, what, like go up?" Peter looked up at his web, "I am in a constant battle with gravity. These things don't retract, you know."

Osborn didn't look amused. Peter thought it was best to ditch him as soon as he could. He dropped him rather unceremoniously in front of the entrance to the Tower. Norman spared him a glare before running in the doors.

---

Luke heard the crash and came running from his room. He had always been grateful that these phony Avengers were never around -- off killing fucking puppies probably -- but when they were there, all kinds of crazy shit happened. He wasn't surprised to feel the breeze and hear the window roaring through the broken window, throwing papers, napkins, and pictures around the room -- broken windows were a common occurrence nowadays. What he was surprised about was seeing Tony Stark standing amongst it all.

"Stark?"

"Oh, hey, Luke."

Luke stepped forward cautiously, studying the dark-haired man.

"What happened?"

"I threw Norman out the window."

"What?"

Stark nodded like a little kid who was pleased with himself. Then he stopped, like he realized something.

"Do you think it would work if I jumped from this height?" He was looking out the window, "I think it could work...But if it didn't, I'd be stuck in a half-dead body for...years probably. Limbs would fly-- I wonder what would happen if you cut my head off. Would it grow a new body eventually, or would it just be a head. Put it in a jar, like that show..."

He looked to Luke as if he had the answer. Luke did not have the answer. In fact, Luke was pretty freaked the fuck out at this point. This couldn't really be Tony Stark.

There was a rumble of jets from outside and then War Machine was hovering by the broken window.

"What the hell happened?"

"He threw Osborn out the fucking window."

"What?"

Stark nodded again, "It was enjoyable."

"I bet it was..."

As the spoke, the elevator opened and Osborn himself came into the living room, hair tossed by the wind and looking homicidal. He froze, looking from Luke, to Stark, to War Machine.

"Well that's a pity," Stark stated blankly.

Osborn pointed to the armored man out the window, "He goes nowhere! This is Avengers business! He stays where he is!" He then ran up the stairs, assumedly to get his idiotic Iron Patriot armor.

The three stood there a moment, then Rhodes wrapped an arm around Stark's waist.

"Yeah right," he muttered before taking off.

---

Steve and the others had all converged near Stark Tower. People on the street seemed to have noticed something was happening and had more or less cleared the area. Steve could see Jim coming in for a landing, but something seemed...off. It was slight, but Steve could tell he wasn't really flying straight.

Rhodey landed with a stumble, setting Tony down. Tony was in a far worse state than Steve imagined. If Jim hadn't been with him, he wasn't sure he'd be able to recognize the man. He went over to them.

"You all right?" he addressed Jim first.

A silent moment passed. Rhodes said nothing, did nothing. Then, he took to the skies again. Steve took a step back, covering his eyes from the bits of debris that was kicked up. He watched with a furrowed brow as the armored man disappeared into the sky. He then looked to the man that was at his side, noticing out of the corner of his eye that Luke Cage had exited from the Tower.

Tony was staring. Steve kicked himself mentally, remembering the "shock" of him being back might cause even more damage to the man's obviously fragile psyche. It didn't seem, however, that Tony was particularly put off by Steve's presence. He was just standing there. It felt like he was looking past Steve.

"We should get him out of here before Osborn comes back," Bucky had appeared beside him.

Steve nodded. He put a hand of Tony's shoulder, "Come on, let's --"

Something happened. Lights went off, air condition units shut down. Power outage. But it was more than just that; Cars had stopped working, the commlink in Steve's ear went dead.

Steve looked back at Tony. The man looked...sorrowful was the only way Steve could describe it. He was watching the Avengers that had gathered beyond him.

"Oh man," Peter had that panic in his voice when his spider-sense went off but couldn't explain why, "I don't like this."

Steve said nothing. The street was completely silent save for Peter's mutterings and completely deserted save for themselves. Steve watched, listened. Then Tony moved.

He was unnaturally fast. Steve had never seen him move that quick outside of the armor. He went straight for Clint, catching him -- catching everyone -- off guard. It was a blur of movements and then Clint, Luke, and Peter were on the ground.

Everyone still standing scattered. Spider-Woman took the the air. Logan backed up, putting distance between himself and Tony. Bucky, whose left arm didn't seem to be working, circled around to get on Tony's other side. Steve stayed where he was, no longer certain of what was happening.

Bucky tried to get around Tony, but the soldier's cybernetic arm began to twitch, act on its own, causing Bucky to stop in his tracks. It began to attack its owner. It'd be comical if it wasn't so frightening.

Extremis.

The single word came to Steve's mind. This was the Extremis.

Logan leapt past Tony, claws out, and sliced through the cybernetic arm that now had its wearer in a death grip.

Luke began to stir, cursing loudly. From his position on the ground, he kicked Tony in the gut. Tony staggered back, loosing balance momentarily. Luke took advantage of this and got to his feet, readying another blow.

"Luke!" Steve called, "Disable him! Nothing more!"

"Like hell," he heard Luke mutter, punching Tony square in the jaw, "He's snapped! Do what we have to!"

No, not like this. Steve clenched his fist. Not when they don't know what even happened.

Steve heard some rumble behind him. He turned, expecting to see that War Machine had returned. As a streak of red, white, and blue shot passed him, he knew he was wrong. He had heard about this -- the Iron Patriot -- but hadn't seen any real pictures of it. It was every bit the defilement he had expected.

Osborn did not head towards Tony like Steve expected. Instead, he took a punch at Luke, hitting him in the back. Luke fell to his knees. Logan let out a roar, jumping the armor.

Extremis, Steve thought again. Osborn wasn't in control, Tony was.

Peter shot webs around the Iron Patriot's legs, trying to restrict its movements. Jessica Drew fired venom blasts at it, though it didn't seem to do much if anything. Clint was up, swords drawn, but was hesitant, seeming to think his weapons would do just about as much as the blasts.

Steve picked up the shield that had been dropped when Bucky was attacked. It felt heavy and he knew he wasn't up to a full fledged fight, but this couldn't go on.

He ignored the armor and turned to Tony. There was only one way to stop all this. Steve set his jaw. This isn't Tony, he told himself, it's the Extremis. This isn't Tony.

Steve threw the shield as hard as he could. It didn't move nearly as fast as he was used to, but it hit its target nonetheless. It struck Stark with a metallic thud, knocking him to the ground. Steve noticed the armor falter, but it did not stop. The shield bounced off a nearby car, then it was back in his hand. Stark got up, looked at Steve, then went back to focusing on the fight.

He wasn't going to fight him, Steve realized. He was fighting the others, but not him.

Steve ran towards him. When he got close, he began a flurry of punches and kicks. Stark blocked or dodged every one, but never once attacked back, even when Steve left himself purposely open. Stark was not fighting him.

Steve checked him in the chin with the shield. Stark stumbled back, bleeding. He hit him again in the side, in the chest, in the shoulder. Why wasn't he fighting back?

Finally, Steve took him into a grapple hold and flung him. Stark hit the asphalt with a crunch. He bounced once, then rolled to a stop, not moving. Steve noted in the back of his mind that the sounds of the fight behind him had ceased.

He watched the broken body before him. A long moment passed, Stark did not move. Steve felt something horrible begin to grow inside him. But then he stirred. Staggering movements that pained Steve to watch. He was getting back up.

"Stay down, Stark!" Steve called, "For God's sake, do you want to die!"

The answer was quiet, but it carried across the empty street.

"Yes."

Steve's every muscle tensed. His limbs went numb. He couldn't move.

"Please, just kill me."

Tony had given up on trying to stand. He was on his knees, curled into a ball, muttering.

Steve willed himself to move. He felt like he was in a trance, like he was dreaming. This couldn't be real. All of this was some kind of --

"I've tried everything," Tony sobbed. He was looking down at his arms, "And I...I just kept coming back. Nothing worked..."

Steve was standing over him now. Tony looked up, face red and cheeks wet.

"You were always my contingency plan," he looked Steve in the eye and Steve couldn't help but feel sick, "You knew all my moves. You knew all the override codes. But then you --" He didn't seem able to finish his thought. He looked down at his hands again, "Please, Steve, kill me. I just want to die."

Steve couldn't speak. Too many terrible thoughts and feelings were coming over him. He could only fumble out one word:

"No."

Tony's head snapped up, rage filling his features.

"Why not?" He was standing in an instant, "You of all people know what a horrible person I am!" he got close to Steve, pulling on his shirt. Steve watched as the anger faded him, "It's not wrong to kill someone who deserves to die..."

Tony rested his head on Steve's shoulder, sobbing once more. Steve could do nothing but embrace him, hoping it would give some kind of comfort. They stood like that, for how long, Steve wasn't sure, but Tony's sobs eventually went silent, though his body still shook.

A hand was placed on Steve's other shoulder. Bucky gave him a solemn look, apparently having heard everything. He had a small black, flat circle no larger than a fingernail in his hand. He stuck it on Tony's neck. Tony's head shot up and his hand went to the spot.

"Tranquilizer," Bucky said simply, "We're going to get you some help."

Tony's face contorted again and he pushed away from Steve.

"No! I don't want help! I just want...I jus' wan' to die..."

Steve caught him as he passed out. He laid him gently on the pavement. The city came back to life, power returned. Steve looked at the sleeping man in his arms, then to his old friend crouching beside him.

"What do we do?"


---


When Jim regained control of his armor, he was somewhere over the Atlantic on a course to Madrid. The change over was so sudden, he had to catch himself from falling into the water. He steadied himself, studying the readouts on his HUD. He pinged the Avengers commlink and got an echo from an area outside of New York. He set the coordinates and sped off full burn.

Jim landed in front of the small house ten minutes later. It was fairly unassuming -- red brick with white window frames and green shutters, square shrubs, and a white picket fence. He almost thought his systems might be more messed up that he originally believed, if not for the fact that Spider-Man was out front, hanging upside-down from a tree, fidgeting nervously.

"They're in the basement," Spider-Man said once he landed, "They told me to tell you that you should probably leave the armor. Or at least the weapons."

Jim took off his helmet, "Is this place safe?"

"Well, we got it from Nick Fury, so I assume its safe."

That was probably a good bet. Jim entered the house. It looked like a model home inside, with furniture, shelves, and appliances perfectly placed. In the center of the living room there was a jumble of red, white, and blue armor pieces already there. Jim shucked his own, leaving him in only the slim-fitting life-support suit Tony had made for him what seemed like ages ago. He found the staircase that spiralled down to a thick lead door that stood slightly ajar. He entered.

It was a bunker, sterile and lifeless. It looked like it had been stripped, only a few outdated computers and peeling paint left. Standing in the center of the room was an odd gathering of Reed Richards, Norman Osborn, Captain America, and Steve Rogers. They all had troubled looks on the faces, save for Osborn, who just looked furious.

"Samson's with him," Steve said in a hushed voice. He looked like his very core had been shaken. Jim had never seen him like this before.

Jim looked into a small room connected to the main area. Tony was sitting in a far corner, curled into a tight ball. Samson was crouching next to him, long green hair falling over his shoulder. They were speaking quietly, Jim couldn't make out the words. He turned back to the group.

"It certainly sounds like the Extremis..." Richards was saying, hand on his chin.

"It was destroyed during the invasion," Captain America commented.

"It's possible that it found a way to repair itself."

"This doesn't make sense," Rogers shook his head, "Why would all of..." he waved a hand, "this be a result of the Extremis?"

"Well, from what I understand, the only surviving test subject for the Extremis is Tony himself. Frankly, the full extent of what the enhancile can do just isn't completely known," Richards explained.

"But that --" Rogers let out a frustrated sigh, not finishing his sentence.

"Whatever the reason," Osborn spoke finally, voice smooth, "He has a room waiting for him on the psyche unit at Forty-Two."

"What?" Rogers tensed, "You're going to throw him in jail?"

"I'm going to ensure that he gets the help he needs," Osborn remained calm, "and that help is at Forty-Two."

"He can get help without being surrounded by supervillains he helped put away!"

"So, what? You're going to keep him in your little apartment and just hope he doesn't destroy half the city in his next suicide attempt?"

Rogers was silent. They all were. Jim didn't like it any more than Steve, but he knew it was what was best right now.

"What's in it for you?" Jim asked.

Osborn looked at him, then smiled, "I want my team to take credit for bringing him in."

"What?"

"Your team wasn't even there!"

Osborn raised a hand, "We take credit, I'll make sure he gets the treatment he needs. As an added bonus, you all won't be arrested for being unregistered metas."

This silenced the protests. Rogers was bubbling under the surface, fists clenched and shaking.

Samson had appeared at Jim's side, "I need to make some phone calls. Don't leave him alone."

Jim nodded and went into the room.

"Hey, Rhodey," Tony didn't look up. He was in the same position as when Samson had been speaking with him.

"Hey," he replied softly.

He wasn't exactly sure what to do. He felt that Tony didn't exactly want to be around people right now, but Jim knew from past experiences that Tony's main source of comfort (other than booze) was physical contact, sexual or not.

"I'm sorry."

"Tony," Jim couldn't help but sigh, "I'm not --"

He couldn't move. Jim lost all feeling in his artificial limbs. They wouldn't respond. They wouldn't -- They were moving. He was moving. He couldn't control --

"Tony!" Jim yelled, panic rising in him, "What are you --?"

Jim felt himself lunge forward. His right hand wrapped around Tony's neck and began to crush it. Everything was a blur. Jim could hear voices shouting behind him. Rogers was there, pulling at his arm, but it was locked into place, pinning Tony's weakening body against the concrete wall.

"Move, move!" Samson had reappeared. Rogers got clear and Samson took his place next to Jim. He placed a hand on Jim's shoulder and, without a word, smashed the cybernetic arm.

It hurt. Hurt real bad, but Jim had control of himself again. He scrambled to his feet.

"Go!" Samson yelled, cradling Tony's coughing body, "Everyone with any kind of cybernetics, get out!"

Jim didn't think, just ran.

---

Maria pulled up in front of the house just as Rhodes and an armless Captain America came running out. It took her a moment to notice the wires hanging from Rhodes' forearm, apparently also missing a limb.

"What the hell happened?" she walked up to them.

Rhodes shook his head, unable to speak. From the house, a blur of black and grey rushed towards him. The armor constructed itself around his body. Without a word, he took off.

Maria looked to the Captain.

"It's bad."

---

Maria recognized the bunker as S.H.I.E.L.D. work, used for keeping informants safe. Osborn gave her a scowl as she walked in. Richards didn't seem to notice her, enthralled in some portable device he had in his hands. She could hear Samson's voice drifting from somewhere.

She headed toward the sleeping area, the only possible place they could have been keeping Tony. There was Samson, speaking with Steve Rogers. Maria froze for a moment, wondering if these people ever just stayed dead. She and Rogers exchanged looks, but said nothing. Tony was laying on the ground, pale and thin, dark bruises all over, including hand-shaped ones around his neck.

She pushed passed the two men. She lowered herself to her knees next to the sickly man. Tony looked up at her, his eyes a patchy red from burst blood vessels. Without a word, he pulled himself into her lap, wrapping his arms around her waist. Maria pulled him close, supporting his head in her arms. She buried her face in his unkempt hair.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

Tony let out a sharp, hoarse laugh, "It's not your fault."

Maria didn't answer.


---


The news reports were all showing some shaky cellphone camera footage of the brawl in the middle of a New York City street. It had been looping for the past half-hour, intermittent with reporters spitting out every scrap of information and rumor that scrolled around the teleprompter. The headline read in big, red letters:

"Tony Stark verhaftet Angriff auf die Avengers."

Gina thanked the postman and looked at the small package she had been handed as she closed the door. She walked back into the living room where her red-headed room mate was transfixed on the TV.

"Package for you, Beth," her accent was heavy, but her English was clear.

The woman seemed to be snapped out of her trance at the mention of her name. She took the box.

"Danke," she thanked, pulling at the tape the sealed the package.

Inside was some kind of small, circular device that looked almost like the lens of a camera. Beth was turning it over in her hands when something clicked and a light began to shine from the thing.

The image had a greenish hue, but the crisp, slightly see-through image of a hansom young man appeared -- a hologram.

"Hello, Miss Cabe," it said, "My name is Sydney. Mister Stark sent me to help you pilot the Iron Man."

Leave it to Tony Stark. He always had a contingency plan.

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