Tony was in deep shit, and he knew it. How the hell had he managed to get into this situation?
Oh, that's right. He let his guard down for two seconds, fell asleep in a library and got kidnapped.
His kidnappers were some sort of strange creature, although he did think they bore a slight resemblance to the Chitauri, what with the ugly, mottled, dark skin covered in metal armour, but their shape was slightly more bulbous. They were obviously from another world though, because they didn't seem to know anything about the famous Tony Stark apart from the fact that he was one of the Avengers and he was rich.
Also, the way they spoke was just plain weird. Either Tony was right and they were aliens, or they came from New Jersey. One or the other.
Tony vaguely remembered seeing something similar just after the battle when the Avengers were coming out of the restaurant after finishing their shawarma, and how they had all taken the thing down. It had been slightly larger than the ones he was seeing today though, and most decidedly more vicious. But it had died pretty quickly after Thor had blasted it to golden smithereens with lightening, although not before it had gotten in a couple of good swipes.
Now though, it seemed like these two wanted revenge.
"Stark!" shouted the larger of the things. "My friend you hurt! Pay you shall!"
"But he will nots pay in currency," hissed the smaller. "He hurts what was important to us, we shall hurts what is important to him."
Tony had a feeling that when he said 'us' he – it? - wasn't talking about him and his friend. Honestly, it was almost like Yoda had turned evil and stupid and had gotten together with Gollum and then they'd both had a monster makeover to create this dynamic duo. It would have been hilarious if not for the embarrassing fact that these two had actually managed to kidnap him.
"Make you feel pain, we shall!" exclaimed Yoda.
"But… I thought you wanted to make me pay?" said Tony.
"We shalls," said Gollum.
"But not with money? See, I thought being some smart lads like yourselves you would understand the meaning of the word pay."
"Has a point, he has." Yoda scratched his chin – well, at least what looked like a chin. "Make him pay without money, we can't."
"Fool!" cried Gollum. "We don't knows why we picked you for helping us in this mission! We will makes him pay through pain!"
"Did you- Oh wow, did you hear that?" asked Tony. "Dude, he just called you a fool! And you're just going to stand for that?"
"Insult me, you did!" roared Yoda, turning on Gollum. "Pay for that, you shall!"
"And of course, all the best payments are made with a stack of green," commented Tony. "Or gold. Or silver. Or even diamond – I'm not all that picky, really."
"Shut up!" yelled Gollum. "Boths of you!"
"When you say both, do you mean me and him and or just him? Because your concept of plurals does not seem to be the same as a regular person's."
"Be quiets or we shall silence you!" he hissed. "We shall not makes you pay in coins, for even if we took all your coins it woulds not harm you."
"Silence! You hurts our friends… so we shall hurts what hurts you most."
"You know, I don't have a whole lot of friends," said Tony. "And those that I do have are pretty good at defending themselves, so I would suggest-"
"Know of your friends, we do," said Yoda, his face twisting into an odd expression that must have been their version of a smile. "Avengers, call themselves, they do. But you for something else care more, we know."
"Okay, could you please repeat that? Your way of speaking caused me to loose you after the first 'know'."
"We knows that you love something more, Mr Stark," said Gollum, hissing out a chuckle. "We knows you care for a female."
Tony tried to hide it, but he found it difficult to keep the look of terror off his face.
They knew about Pepper.
Well, of course they knew about Pepper! They had been all over the media! Anyone with the slightest access to the internet, a T.V., a newspaper or even just a billboard knew he and Pepper were together.
"Ah yes," continued Gollum. "We shall break you… and then we shall moves onto your friends… one at a time, the Avengers shall fall!"
Uh oh. This wasn't good.
Tony began struggling against his restraints, but whatever that cord was made out of must have been some high-grade metal because it wasn't budging an inch. No, forget an inch – it wasn't budging a millimetre. If only he were in his suit…
"Go," Gollum hissed to Yoda. "Bring the first one in."
Yoda moved outside the dark, dingy room and came back pulling a young woman who kicking and screaming and yelling profanities.
Tony frowned, because something was wrong. For starters, the girl was a brunette, and the last time Tony checked Pepper was decidedly not brunette.
"The girl you love, is this?" asked Yoda, directing his question to Tony.
"Erm…" Clearly, they did not know about Pepper. That was good.
"You! Love Tony Stark, you do?"
The girl suddenly looked up, startled as she realised who was in the room with her.
"And don't even thinks of lying to us," said Gollum. "We knows when people lie! We always knows!"
Oh great, thought Tony. I'm stuck in here with Voldemort. Plus, she's going to say she's in love with me like all the other girls on this planet and then they'll kill her and then they'll actually find Pepper… or they'll just kill me.
But that wasn't what happened.
"Idiot!" screeched Gollum, who was, at the moment, not really acting much like Gollum at all. "You ruins it! You ruins it! You ruins our precious plan!" Or… maybe he was. "You were not supposed to talks to them! Words lie, actions tells the truth! Looks at his face, this is not her! Get rids of her!"
The girls face held terror for a moment, probably thinking she was going to be murdered. But Yoda simply cut her bonds, sprayed something in her face and threw her unceremoniously out of the second door – a door, Tony noted, that seemed to lead out onto the street.
They clearly were idiots. If that girl had any sense she would be heading to the police station right this second.
And now look where I am, groaned Tony. Relying on the coppers. What have I come to?
This had better not get out. Steve will never let me hear the end of it, not to mention Rhodey.
Tony forced his mind back into the game.
"Hey Yoda," he called. "You know he called you an idiot, right?"
"Yoda, what is?"
"It's a compliment, seriously. But 'idiot', on the other hand… well, let's just say-"
"Stop!" yelled Gollum.
"Oh, touchy are we? Well, you kind of are idiots. You realise that girl you just chucked out of here-"
"No memory she will have," said Yoda, holding up his spray can.
"Well," said Tony, "That just proves it. You, my man, are smart. So tell me – why exactly is this other guy in charge of you?"
Yoda opened the gaping hole that was his mouth, but he didn't have the chance to speak.
"Enough!" Gollum ripped a mucky, slimy piece of fabric from underneath his armour. "You wills stop talking!"
Then Gollum tied the slimy fabric around Tony's face. Like a gag.
It went in his MOUTH.
This had to be one of the worst things Tony had ever experienced, right up there with being captured in Afghanistan. At least something good came out of that. All Tony could think of now was that he was going to get some sort of terrible infection. And man, did that thing taste foul.
Not to mention the fact that he could no longer speak.
At Gollum's signal, Yoda went back out and then returned with yet another girl, this time it was a red head but her hair was much more fiery than Pepper's. So was her language. He had never heard so many cuss words in one sentence, and coming from him that meant a lot.
Well, they had obviously scoured the streets and grabbed any woman they could get their hands on. Now they were going to test him to figure out which one was Pepper.
Well, good luck to them. There was no way they had the entire female population of New York in this place. Maybe they had fewer girls where they came from, or something.
Gollum handed Yoda a knife, which he then proceeded to swing down at the girl's neck before stopping a fraction of an inch away from the skin. Tony flinched – who wouldn't, the girl was about to die – but Gollum apparently didn't think it was enough because he told Yoda to take the girl out and she, like the one before, was sprayed and thrown out the door.
Many girls followed. None of them were Pepper, nor did they even bare a slight resemblance to her. They each reacted slightly differently – yelling and screaming, freezing in shock, begging Tony/Iron Man for help.
Yoda moved exactly the same every time, always stopping the knife just before it reached the girls neck. They all screamed, probably because they had seen the many girls leave the room they were being kept in and not returned, but Tony didn't even flinch after the fourth time. He probably wouldn't even flinch if it were Pepper they had caught. Seriously, could these guys be any more obvious?
While the dynamic duo continued to bring in and threaten different girls, Tony looked for a way out. Unfortunately the two things had taken away the bracelet that acted as a homing device for his suit and the portable JARVIS device he had in his pocket. Not that that would have helped much, as he couldn't move at all. He couldn't even twitch his hands, let alone attempt to free them.
He tried lurching forward and standing like he knew Natasha would in this situation – not that he would ever admit to stealing any of her moves – but that didn't work either as they had tied his legs to the chair below the knee.
They might be dumb, but they clearly had some experience in tying people up.
Then Tony got distracted, because it was quiet. Too quiet. Surely they would have brought in another girl by now.
He glanced up, and saw that they had. But this girl was different somehow. It wasn't because she had beautiful blonde, curly hair, nor was it because she was wearing only jeans and an orange T-shirt unlike all the other 'fashionable' women he had been presented with, and nor was it the fact that this one looked like she was only a teenager.
It was because she held herself differently. Instead of yelling and screaming or going into shock, this girl held herself calmly and confidently, as if she were captured, tied up and threatened every day.
Unfortunately, Tony looked up just as Yoda swung the knife at the girl's neck, and the shock on his face caused Gollum to smile in success.
"Stop!" he called. "We have founds her."
"Good, that is," said Yoda. "What now, we do?"
"We makes him pay," said Gollum. "Get rids of the others."
Yoda pushed the bound girl on the ground where Gollum immediately grabbed her. Then he ushered in about another fifteen girls, which were then all unbound, sprayed, and shoved out the door.
"Rights then," hissed Gollum. "Nows we make you pay."
"Mrmph hrphruthy murmph murmph," mumbled Tony. You already said that.
"We're sorry, we don't understand you," sneered Gollum.
Tony mustered up his best glare.
"Alright," said Yoda. "Do this, let's!"
"Yes, lets us do this," agreed Gollum. He looked at the girl. "Now, we wants to cause you the most pain, Mr Stark. So, first we will shows you that your 'love' is not as strong as you thinks. Everyone cares only for themselves… especially whens it comes to the rich."
Tony rolled his eyes. Was this guy for real? He didn't even know the girl!
"Girl," hissed Gollum, getting right into the poor teen's face. "We are goings to give you a choice. Choose… If you lets us kill you, we will let Mr Stark go. Or, we cans let you go, and we will kills Mr Stark!"
Oh dear god, groaned Tony. This was bad. The girl was going to chose to go free, they would then gloat, kill the girl, then kill and torture him.
Sometimes it was not a good thing to be captured by people who were totally predictable. It meant you had more time to dread what was coming.
I am never going to live this down.
But the girl didn't do what was expected.
She was quiet, and she glared at the floor like it had personally insulted her, her mother, and her pet dog. But at the same time, she didn't look angry. It was an expression Tony was familiar with, one that he had seen many times. The girl was thinking.
She was planning.
Maybe, just maybe, if this girl was worth a grain of salt…
Well now, that was just wishful thinking. No point being too hopeful.
Plus, Bill and Ben were getting a little impatient. They had been sniffing the air curiously for a couple of minutes and were looking a little confused, but now they were antsy.
"Answer us!" yelled Gollum, looking like he was about to slap her. But the girl looked up quickly, her grey eyes shining in defiance. Tony almost grinned. You know, if it wasn't for the disgusting, disease infested cloth in his mouth.
Well I never. She's thought of something.
Now he just had to hope she was smarter than she looked.
"That's an interesting question," said the girl, frowning slightly. "And I'm not quite sure about the best way to answer."
"But doubting your decision, you are," said Yoda, exchanging a look with Gollum.
"Yes, you are not immediately answering us with wanting to live," said Gollum. "That proves your loves is not completely strong."
"I don't know about that," she said, "But I do have reasoning."
"Well you see," he gaze flickered over to Tony. "I don't think you quite understand who you have there."
"That's Tony Starks," hissed Gollum. "He's an Avenger. Iron Man. It tooks us a long time to find him."
"Yes, exactly," said the girl, nodding. "He's saved the world several times, and you never know, the world might need him again. I can't just let him die. If I did and the world ended, I think I might just feel a little guilty."
"And thats is why you would let us kills you?" asked Gollum, yellow eyes narrowed.
"Well, like I said, he's saved the world. What have I done in comparison to that?"
"A point, she has," said Yoda, nodding. "Terrible, guilt is."
"Idiot," growled Gollum.
Tony, however, was watching the girl closely. There was something odd about her. The way she 'what have I done in comparison'… it was almost like she was trying to skirt around the subject without telling a lie that could be detected.
There was definitely something odd about her.
Now if only he had JARVIS and her name… and, you know, use of his hands.
"Thats is your decision?" asked Gollum.
"What, do you not want to kill me?"
Gollum let out a menacing growl and pulled out a large – wait, was that sword? Didn't these things use guns?
"That's what I thought."
Gollum nodded at Yoda, who grabbed his knife. But the girl wasn't done.
"Wait!" she exclaimed.
"Whats?" growled Gollum.
"Can I not have a last request?" the two looked stunned. At least, they looked like they looked stunned. Tony wasn't sure.
"Fair, it is," said Yoda, shrugging.
Gollum cursed at him – it was in another language but hey, the tone was very familiar – but turned to listen to what the girl wanted. Yoda, meanwhile, was sniffing the air again.
"Look, I know you're going to kill me and all, but-"
"Smell nice, you do," interrupted Yoda. A flash of panic ran across the girl's face, but it was gone in a second.
"Oh, that's just my perfume," she said, waving a hand. "I put it on special today because I was going to meet my boyfriend later."
She obviously wasn't lying because Yoda seemed to accept this excuse, but Gollum frowned, like he didn't quite believe she was telling the entire truth. Tony suspected the same thing. What was this girl hiding?
Not that he should complain, though. She was making a lot more progress than he had. Not that he would ever admit to being outsmarted by a girl… of course, she had the advantage of speech.
"Anyway," she continued, "I jut think it would be fair to allow a girl to die in comfort, if you know what I mean."
"We will not takes you to a nice hotel, girl," growled Gollum. "That is nots-"
"That isn't what I meant," she said quickly. "It's just my back is real itchy, in this spot just under these remarkable bonds you've tied me in. I would really appreciate it if you let me scratch it before I die."
"You thinks us stupid?" asked Gollum. "We shalls not untie you, if we do-"
"What chance to I have of escape?" asked the girl. Tony once again noticed the skilful evasion of the question. She wasn't lying, as they could detect lies... but she wasn't telling the truth either.
This girl is smart.
Thankfully, Yoda and Gollum accepted that and Yoda moved forward with his knife to cut the bonds. As he did so, he muttered:
"You really do smell good. Like dinner."
"Oh, I know. Percy – that's my boyfriend – likes this scent."
Yoda fumbled a little as he breathed in deeply, making the girl look a little disturbed. Gollum insulted him once more and moved forward to take the knife, slashing down and cutting the bonds. But as he did so he too took in a deep breath, and then he gasped.
"You got that right," smirked the girl.
Gollum went for another swing with the knife, aiming for her face this time, but the girl just reached into her pocket and pulled something blue out. A cap? Tony wasn't sure. He didn't get a good look because the moment she had it out she disappeared.
"You buffoon!" yelled Gollum, pulling his sword out again. "How could you possibly-"
"You think he's the buffoon?" asked the girl's disembodied voice. "You're the one that caught me. You're the one that didn't check me for weapons! What, did you think because I'm a girl I would be defenceless? How sexist is that?"
"Uh oh," said Yoda.
Then he exploded into golden dust.
Gollum yelled in rage and began swinging his sword around madly.
"Die, demigod scum!" he yelled. Suddenly he froze, then he too exploded into a shower of gold.
Tony was frozen, his eyes wide open. After every weird thing he had seen so far, this was definitely the weirdest.
Well, okay, so the Chitauri had exploded into black dust when they died, but still!
Perhaps that was the reason. Perhaps he was finally going mad and his mind was using memories from past experiences to make up a hallucination, changing the scenario slightly.
Then he remembered what had happened with the creature he had seen after their shawarma. Maybe it wasn't Thor's bolt that made the creature disintegrate like that… maybe that was just what they did.
"Monsters," came the girl's voice. "Probably learned English off the internet..."
Tony looked around quickly, trying to determine where she was.
Then girl reappeared in front of him, holding a baseball cap in one hand and a long, bronze knife in the other.
A knife that was quickly falling towards his head.
Tony squeezed his eyes shut.
This is it. This is the end. I am about to be killed by a knife wielding invisible woman impersonator girl after being kidnapped in a library by Phineas and Ferb. What a great way to go.
But then his bonds fell away.
He opened his eyes warily to see the girl standing in front of him, arms crossed and a smirk on her face.
"Tony Stark, huh?" she asked. "You're not quite as much as I expected."
Tony glared, then quickly pulled the gag away from his face, stood and spat on the ground.
"Now that's just rude," she muttered. Tony didn't care. He clawed at his tongue, trying to get the foul taste out of his mouth, not even caring that the crazy person was right there.
Finally, he looked up, conceding defeat to the taste.
"What are you?"
"Definitely rude. Not even a 'hello, I'm Tony Stark, what's your name?'"
"You obviously know who I am, but you, on the other hand, are something else. Who the hell are you?"
"Well, that's a little better."
"Alright, alright," said the girl, holding up her hands. "I promise I will tell you everything. Just follow me."
She walked out of the door, just like that.
Tony was fuming. Who did she think she was? She was clearly very smart, and very powerful… and, from the sound of it, not completely human.
Thing 1 and Thing 2 had said 'Demigod'. Was she like Thor? Was she a threat? The next Loki?
It was up to Tony to find out, no matter how much he hated it.
Besides, it wasn't like he had much choice. He had to go out of the door either way.
He walked out to see the girl waiting for him in the alley. He was most definitely in a dodgy part of town.
"I'm not following you anywhere," he said. "Anything you have to say can be said right here."
"Fair enough," she said, shrugging. "But before I do anything, I just want to tell you that I love the architectural structure of Stark Tower. Just had to say that before I do this."
The girl reached into her pocket and pulled out a spray can. Tony's eyes widened as he recognised it as the spray Yoda had used.
He got cut off by a face-full of spray, causing him to cough. That gave her the opportunity to whack him over the head with the butt of her knife, and he went down.
As he felt himself slipping out of consciousness, he felt the girl pull his wallet out of his pocket.
"Sorry again," she said, "But I can't afford any suspicion… and besides, I don't think you really need this."
Then everything went blank.
Tony had a headache.
A real, ear splitting headache, like there was a million Thors hammering away at the inside of his skull. It was worse than after his disastrous birthday party.
He warily opened his eyes to find himself in a bed in SHIELD headquarters, Natasha and Pepper standing to the side.
"Well, look here," he groaned. "You've been crying at my bedside. You do care."
"Shut it, Stark," snapped Natasha.
"What happened?" he asked, grabbing the water and aspirin Pepper offered and downing it in one gulp.
"You were found in an alley downtown," said Natasha. "Your wallet, JARVIS device and bracelet were gone. We think you must have been mugged."
"What do you remember?" asked Pepper.
Tony frowned. There was something there… a girl with blonde hair…
But as he reached for the memory, it disappeared.
"No," he said. "Nothing."
Then he frowned, and held his glass back out to Pepper.
"I would like something more to drink though, preferably something strong. I have a horrible taste in my mouth… maybe they drugged me?"
"Probably," agreed Natasha. "You had no physical injuries other than some bruises on your arms and a bump on your head, although we found an odd chemical on your face, although the trace was tiny and even Banner found it impossible to identify. However, he did think that it was used to make you dizzy. It is likely they hit you on the head after that, then took your stuff and ran."
"That's not important," said Tony, waving an arm. "There wasn't much cash in my wallet, I'm betting Pepper has already cancelled my cards and no one can work JARVIS other than Pepper and I."
"So it was just a mugging, then?" asked Pepper, looking relieved.
"Yes," said Natasha.
"Well, good," said Tony. "Now, as glad as I was that you have come to weep at my bedside, I believe I have better things to be doing. So, ta-ta."
Ignoring the women's protests, he hopped out of bed – managing not to stumble after many years of practice at being hung over – and then headed down to a car, fully intending to go and continue to work on Stark Tower.
I love the architectural structure of Stark Tower.
He paused. He was missing something. Something important had happened last night…
Then he shrugged it off. He was mugged. He was probably just remembering something that he had heard just before he was attacked, something he had forgotten either due to the drug or the hit over his head.
With another shrug, Tony put the thought out of his mind and continued to his car. He had better things to be doing.
He had a very busy life, after all.