Chapter 32: Chapter 32


Summary: The rouge Avengers are pardoned under the influence of King T’Challa and it is up to Tony to ‘welcome’ them back. But as he and his new team are at the private airport, an unexpected fight breaks loose and the fate of the whole universe is changed when a wizard places himself as Tony Stark’s protector.

They had only enough time for Bruce to explain what had happened on Sakaar - how Thanos had apparently tricked them into coming, tricked them by using the Reality Stone to warp the truth to serve his purposes so they didn’t immediately notice that the planet had been destroyed; how Thanos had so easily defeated them, defeated Hulk in a fist fight and killed Brunhilda; how Loki was probably dead and the Tesseract’s Space Stone was probably in the Gauntlet and that Heimdall had sent Bruce back to Earth with the last of his strength - and get Bruce some clothes (Tony felt pity for him so he had Strange fetch him another of his jackets since Bruce definitely looked like he needed a security blanket right now) before Tony felt a shift in the air.

It could have been the breeze from the broken roof. It could have been a draft - the Sanctum was an old building, after all. It could have been his imagination. It could have been his paranoia acting up. It could have been the magic of the place.

Yet he knew it wasn’t and turned to face Stephen from where he was still holding Bruce around the shoulders as the older man desperately clutched at him, drawing strength from the one man that never seemed to appear weak in front of others.

(Sometimes, Tony wants to scream, to yell, to rage. He was human, he had his limits! He can’t always be strong. It’s not fair that everyone always expected he had enough strength to share with everyone when most days, he needed it to fight his own demons. But he didn’t dare keep his strength all to himself. If it would keep the world safe and turning, he’ll give even that which he doesn’t have.)

“Say, Doc, you wouldn’t happen to be moving your hair, would you?”

The other two men look perplexed at his question and look over to Stephen, who is also looking up at his forelock fluttering. He frowns. “Not at the moment, no.” Their eyes lock for a moment before Tony looks at the Hulk-made opening through the ceiling and sees debris flying by outside. He exits the Sanctum through the front door and scans the chaotic surroundings, seeing the chaos, people running and screaming in alarm, traffic becoming impossibly tangled, a litter-filled wind like a nor’easter’s.

He’s only half aware of the other’s following him out as a woman falls nearly at his feet and he helps her up. He asks her if she is alright but she ignores him and continues running away, trying to save her own life. He continues walking, trying to get closer to whatever is causing this mayhem. Good thing, too, because a car crashes in on a pole behind Tony. His usual collateral-damage-control kicks in and he turns around even as he continues walking forwards.

“Help him! Wong, Doc.” He leaves them to, it, knowing either Banner or Strange will be more than enough if the guy is injured, instead turning back around to focus on what was causing all of this. He sends a command for his nanites to form a pair of innocent, unassuming sunglasses and he places them on his head. “JARVIS, FRIDAY, what am I looking at?”

“I’m not sure. I’m working on it.” A worried FRIDAY tells him, but JARVIS’ report nearly has him freezing in place.

“The shields are down, Sir. The satellites are disengaged. The reason we did not get a ping for a request to open up the shields was because they were already open.” But that was impossible. The shields can only be taken down with one of the devices. Did Thanos manage to get one from Heimdall or Loki? Also impossible! Tony had insisted when he first told them about the devices that they are to be destroyed no matter what, if either of them ever doubts they’ll make it out alive out of some situation and Bruce still had his! Besides, no one even knows of that feature in the devices but Tony and his bots! He hadn’t told anyone for a reason! Loki, Vision, Wanda and their sorcerer friends are far from the only ones who can read minds! And for Thanos to use it just to send one ship trough would have sent a request to Tony to open up the shields! Only he or one of his bots can actually open the damned things!

He shook his head when he heard a little girl crying as her father rushed her away in his arms. He didn’t have time to think about that. These civilians need protection. He turns behind himself, not at all surprised to see Stephen was the one who followed him into battle. “Hey! You might wanna put that Time Stone in your back pocket, Doc!”

Stephen looks none too amused, bands of spells already readied around his forearms, the golden mandalas glowing as he follows only a few steps behind Tony, face determined. “Might wanna use it.”

A mechanical hum grows louder as Tony approaches the intersection. As he turns the corner, he sees a huge circular ship floating over Bleecker Street. He swears it looks like a giant, floating, space-worthy donut but he really doesn’t want to think about that because he’s not ready to swear off donuts for the rest of his life.

“FRIDAY, evac anyone south of 43rd Street, notify first responders. JARVIS, call the others. If they haven’t seen this yet, tell them to get the hell off of their damned asses and get out here! I want them here yesterday!” Tony orders even as Doctor Strange throws the Winds of Watoomb over Bleeker Street, and winks at Tony. The dust clears, for the first time allowing them to clearly see the street and the ship hovering over it. Tony is begrudgingly amused for a split second before he catches a glimpse of two figures standing some distance away, down the street. Waiting for them. “J, tell JOCASTA to take over the Iron Legion. I’ll need both you and FRI with me. Activate VERONICA and tell her to be on standby. Things are about to get messy.”

There are two aliens waiting for them as they approach, gray wrinkly and ugly. Of course there are. Tony Stark’s life had not been normal since the day he created the first Iron Man armor in that damned cave in Afghanistan. “Hear me, and rejoice.” The smaller of the two says, the bigger just grunting and doing something with the hammer-axe thing in its hands.“You are about to die at the hands of the Children of Thanos. Be thankful, that your meaningless lives are now contributing to-”

Alright, Tony has had enough of the delusional shit. He deals with enough of it from the rouges. He doesn’t need more from an alien. So with as much defiance and sass as he can muster - and he must admit he sound just like his old sassy self that had told the Senate to go fuck themselves - he crosses his arms and interrupts the alien. “I’m sorry, Earth is closed today. You better pack it up and get outta here.”

The alien looks boredly at Tony before his eyes stray to Strange and they all go tense. “Stonekeeper,” he addresses the Sorcerer Supreme, gesturing at Tony. “Does this chattering animal speak for you?”

Tony bristles and Strange scowls. “Certainly not. I speak for myself. Although I completely agree with my companion.” Magical shields are readied with his fists, stepping forward. “You’re trespassing in this city and on this planet.” Tony doesn’t need to look back to know that Wong had done the same, the two sorcerers ready to go to battle. He’d join them, but he has his own primary form of defense and battle.

“It means get lost, Squidward!”

The slighter alien still looks bored, although annoyance was slowly seeping into his eyes. Tony counts that as a win. “He exhausts me.” He tells his bigger companion, who grunts something in reply. “Bring me the Stone.”

The big alien drops his huge alien hammer and drags it along as he obeys his brethren. If he thought he was intimidating, then he doesn’t realize what sort of shit Tony’s already been through. He’d been inside one of those giant space whales. “Banner, you want a piece?” He asks casually, watching the big alien’s approach.

“No, not really, but since when do I ever get what I want.” Bruce mutters but steps up, preparing to turn into the Hulk. Only nothing seems to be happening, which was weird. Usually turning into the Hulk was the easy part. Tony had never seen Bruce having this much time coaxing the big guy out.

“Where’s your guy?” An incredulous Tony can’t help but ask, staring at Bruce as only the skin of his neck turns green before fading.

Bruce sighs and shakes his head. “I don’t know. We’ve sort been havin’ a thing.”

Tony knows the sorcerers must be as stunned and incredulous looking as he is. “There’s no time for a thing.” He says a little more urgently and ignores Bruce’s “I know,” pointing at the approaching rhino-looking thing. “That’s the thing right there. Let’s go” Bruce gives out a loud grunt, but fails to release the Hulk. Another try, failed. Strange stares at Tony and Bruce unbelievingly. Tony figures he can understand. It’s still uncomfortable to see Stephen staring like that. He looks back at Bruce, who once again has failed to bring out the Hulk and stage-whispers to him. “Dude, you’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards.”

Bruce looks wrecked and guilty as he looks desperately to Tony for aid, almost begging him to poke him like when they first met. “Tony, I’m sorry.” He starts stammering and Tony feels his heart clench. Just when Bruce had finally - finally - grown used to the Hulk and accepted him, this happens. And at the worst possible time, too. Bruce was sure he had seen Loki, Heimdall and Brunhilda die and now ... “Either I can’t or he won’t-”

Tony pats him on the shoulder and directs him to Wong. “It’s okay. Hey, stand down.” To the Asian sorcerer, he tells with absolute seriousness. “Keep an eye on him. Thank you.” He knows Wong will look out for Banner, so he turns around and ignores Wong’s reassurance that he’s got Bruce and Bruce’s frustrated curse.

Instead, he turns back to face his opponent. As Black Dwarf approaches the team, Stark pills the strings on his hoodie and it comes snug to his body before he taps his Arc Reactor and dons his nanotech Iron Man suit in the space of three steps like a total badass, letting it flow over him like a second skin growing to protect him from the Arc Reactor on his chest. He grows a shield on one arm from the same nanobots to protect himself when the rhino thing attacks, then grows a set of blasters that easily throw the Dwarf back to Maw, who gestures and deflects his massive companion into some cars. So the little guy has telekinesis. Tony will have to watch out for him.

“Where’d that come from?!” Stark grinned behind his faceplate because he had never heard Bruce sound that impressed. Well, not since he first introduced his fellow scientist to ‘candy land’ and his own personal lab. Tony had to admit, this was quite the upgrade. T’Challa and Shuri can eat their hearts out because Iron Man Bleeding Edge Armor was the bomb! The Black Panther suit? That’s a Ferrari. Tony’s suit? A mother fucking space ship, that’s what it was!

He turned around, letting the others get a good look while he studied their more than a little impressed and stunned faces. Hey, he even managed to surprise Stephen! No easy feat, given the guy had probably seen the armor in those milions of futures he’d seen. Even Wong couldn’t hold his resting bitch face! Tony was probably more giddy than was appropriate for the end of the world. “It’s nanotech. You like it? A little somet-”

But he was rudely interrupted when Squidward suddenly attacks him with some sort of spike of earth from below, throwing him up high and away from the group that he then attacks. Tony registers Wong activating the Shield of Seraphim to keep them safe and JARVIS pings him that Stephen had used to opportunity to portal Bruce to a slightly safer place, some distance away in some random park. But that means he’s not ready to intercept the car the slim alien throws at him and Wong, only starting on a spell, so Tony swoops in down low and blasts the car with a repulsor, pushing it back at the telepath, who cuts it practically in half. The two pieces land behind him, not even touching him. Damn, this guy was good.

’We could so use an X-Man right now. Or better yet, Magneto. He’d show this guy a thing or two. He may be restricted to metal but I honestly think he’s stronger than this guy,′ Tony muses, even as he scans the alien. ‘Talk to me, JARVIS.’

-His energy signature when controlling the objects suggests he is, indeed, using telekinesis, Sir. The energy readings increase in the areas of his brain and his hands while draining most of the energy out of the rest of his body, unlike with your mutant colleagues. The concentrated energy he produces to influence objects, however, seems highly refined and speaks of many years of practice. At the point of how he is reserving his energy with each attack, I am guessing he can go on like this for 3.4 hours without tiring before he would start to strain.-

-On another note,- FRIDAY pipped in. -His companion’s scans indicate that he is, indeed, not stronger than the Hulk and has barely any other significant or noteworthy extra abilities. His weapon, however, suggests that it’s designed for a wast variety of uses so be careful, Boss. It’s not just a hammer.-

’Why can’t it ever be just a hammer?!′ He bemoans even as he turns to Strange. A telekinesis master was not good news for a guy whose necklace can be so easily removed. “We gotta get that Stone out of here.”

“It stays with me,” Stephen insists, the ‘Where it is safest’ going unsaid but he and Stephen had been needing less and less words these days to communicate all they needed so Tony still heard it, even without direct eye contact. It was a good thing he had expected that response and hadn’t meant for the Stone to be removed from Stephen’s person.

“Exactly. Bye,” he surprises Stephen by turning around and flying at Ebony Maw, who tries to stop him by creating obstacles with countless objects and infrastructure around them as he tries to catch Tony. Tony’s survived a falling city and maneuvered through the streets of New York and Chitauri minions in a suit and this one was more intuitive than any before, especially with two AIs and Tony himself directly connected to it. He managed to avoid them all and had actually gotten pretty damn close to Maw when Cull Obsidian’s hammer thing cut his path short, blindsided him and sent him flying straight through a building and into the park on the other side. He plowed into the ground and cursed himself for getting the damned symptom of tunnel vision to have overlooked something that obvious and cliché.

“Tony, you okay?” Bruce suddenly appears in his vision, looking down at him. “How are we doing? Good? Bad?”

“Really, really good. Really good,” Tony couldn’t keep out most of the sarcasm out of his reply, frustrated. More so with himself than with Banner, but he had the bad luck to be close enough to end up on the receiving end of it. “Are you planning on helping out?”

“I’m trying, but he won’t come out.” The other scientist protests just as the rhino thing comes back for round three. He throws a hammer in their direction but Tony’s seen him this time and pushes Bruce out of the way with a flippant warning of ‘Hammer’. It really was not fair how many times hammers have been the bane of his frustration. Justin Hammer, Thor’s magical laws-of-physics,-defying hammer now this guy’s hammer. The first is still the most annoying but at least it’s also the easiest to deal with. But he has another hammer to deal with now, mainly this guy’s. He blasts a beam of energy at the dude as he flies a safe distance away around him, but the beam deflects and causes more damage, also almost squashing Bruce under the struck, falling tree. You’d think that would get the big guy to come out, but no. The Hulk found today to decide he was a drama queen. He’ll have to have a stern talking to to the green mean smashing machine-

He grunts as the damned hammer knocks him down a second time, slamming him into the ground. Cull Obsidian moves closer decisively, raising his hammer to take the final blow and Tony’s mind was already working in overdrive of just how much force the suit can take and how much force his artificial sternum can take, but the hit never lands.

“Hey, man. What’s up, Mr Stark?” It doesn’t land because the unexpected appearance of Peter Parker, enhanced teenager from Queens and Tony’s protégé/brain child/ adopted sun mark II, AKA Spider-man, appears before him at just the right moment to stop it mid swing. The alien blinks in confusion how someone so slim and small can stop him but Tony’s more shocked and worried that Peter was getting involved. This shouldn’t be happening, it can’t be happening! The Young Avengers weren’t meant to face intergalactic threats, they would have been protecting civilians at best! Guiding them to safety! Not in the heat of battle! God, Peter shouldn’t be here!

“Kid? Where’d you come from!?” He was glad the hysteria didn’t reach his voice, if only not to somehow influence Peter’s focus on the battle.

“Filed trip to MoMAAA!” The red and blue clad superhero was suddenly flung away by the big alien. “What’s this guy’s problem, Mr Stark?” Peter asks as he swiftly recovers and returns to battle.

“He’s from space. He came here to steal a necklace from a wizard.” God, it just showed how strange their lives were that neither of them found this conversation weird and instead continued fighting the alien as though it were an everyday event. Tony couldn’t even blame this on magic. He changed his mind when,a few minutes later, Strange zipped past them, unconscious, the Cloak trying to fly him away as fast as it can go and Ebony Maw following closely behind. “Kid, there’s the wizard. Get on it.”

“On it!” The teen swings away, leaving Tony alone with Cull Obsidian the rhino thing. He prefers it that way. Besides telekinesis, Peter was ten times safer fighting Ebony Maw, anyway, since Peter could snap him like a precle.

‘FRIDAY, where’s Vision? When’s the cavalry coming? We could use some help here!’

-I’m sorry, Boss, but it would seem Captain Marvel, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four and Jessica Jones of the Defenders are playing keep away with an injured Vision against two other aliens. The rest of the New Avengers, the X-Men, the Brotherhood and Iron Fist are dealing with a second alien ship that hovers close to the Tower. Ms Marvel and Inferno are helping Hawkeye and Ant Man keep the Tower safe and the people inside from getting hurt while the other Defenders are clearing out the civilians on the streets.-

Which meant no backup. Damn it. “What about Rodgers and the others!?” He knew that the Inhumans, besides Kamala and Dante, were too far away to be of immediate help but the rouges could get here in ten to fifteen minutes in the Quinjet parked at the Compound!

“Uhh, Mr Stark? I’m being beamed up!” Came Peter’s voice over the comms and Tony’s heart nearly stops at those words. And, sure enough, when he looks up at the alien ship hovering over Greenwich Village, he sees three figures being sucked upwards into the ship. When he zooms in, his heart does stop, because it’s Peter, Stephen and his Cloak.

“Hang on, kid!” He called but then found himself trapped and on the ground again. The rhino-thing’s hammer was indeed multifunctional and now doubled as a claw that clutched Tony and pinned him down in the suit, momentarily shorting it out. The alien drew out some blades and jumped towards him, obviously ready to end the fight, a sparkly portal opened in front of Tony and Obsidian fell through, landing in some ice wasteland, probably Antarctica. As the portal closed, Tony saw a hand fall to the ground, cut off and he guessed their enemy had tried lunging through to continue the fight. But Stark didn’t waste any time on that, instead focusing a surge of magic into the contraption holding him until it kind of exploded off of him and he jumped up. “Wong, you’re officially my favorite.”

And he was off, urging to suit faster. Peter was on that spaceship. Stephen and the Cloak were there, too. Tony was not letting them - or the Time Stone - fall into Thanos’ greedy hands.

Which is how, for the second time in six years, Tony Stark found himself deep in space.

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