A/N: Wheeee! I'm back! I'm probably three times as happy about this as anyone else, lol. How have y'all been? Any news? Any stuff going on? I'd love to PM with you guys if anyone's interested!
Anyway, I hope y'all love the new chapter. I realized near the end that maybe I was making Sam kind of a jerk…NOT the intention, I just adore his sarcastic self haha. Let me know if y'all thought it was too much or not.
This one is unbeta-ed 'cause this happened very spontaneously this morning. I will talk to my betas and the next few chapters should see a definite improvement in that respect! Review responses will also be back next chapter :D
And adventure awaits…
Chapter 25: Breaking Loose
The archer looked down, the side of his face curling up in a smile as he nudged the bodies of the frog-man and Cyclops with his boot.
Two more mutants dead.
The world was looking brighter already.
He continued to edge forward, hoping he'd get to put a few more down before getting Clint's brats out of this dungeon.
Rounding the corner, he found exactly what he'd thought: Three cells, side-by-side, the kids in one and their mom in another. Tony Stark, unsurprisingly, was in the third and farthest away, and the kids had already gotten to their feet after he'd shot that arrow in their direction to pop the lock, and tumbled out in order of size—smallest first, the middle one with the braids next, and a taller kid who reminded him most of Clint last of all.
The first one coming toddling out with wide eyes and round cheeks, reeking of an unchanged diaper, reminded him of another kid he'd failed to protect—one he thought about in his dreams far too often.
Wordlessly as the kid stopped and stared at him, realizing in shock that he wasn't their dad, Barney picked up his bow and aimed at the lock on the second cell this time, popping it instantly.
The mom, hair flying wildly as she let out a breathy gasp, flung the iron door open and descended on her children, gathering all three of them in her arms at once.
The archer surveyed the sappy little family scene for a moment, standing a respectful distance away as the children seemed to all three burst into tears at once. He turned his head away when he heard his name.
The woman looked up at him from behind her babies' heads, a look of astonishment plastered across her face.
He scoffed in admiration, a small smile working its way up one side of his mouth. "How'd you know?"
"Pictures," she shook her head in disbelief.
"Heh! Yeah, me, too. You're Laura."
The smile dropped from her face. "How did you find that out?"
"FBI," he smirked. "We know a few things we're not supposed to."
"Who else knows?" Her grip became a little tighter on the little ones, as her voice took on hardened edge.
He gave her a condescending look. "Relax, sweetheart. I'm gonna get you where Clint can find you and then I'm off."
She stared after him as he turned on his heel and marched up to the third cell, where the face of Mr. Stark himself was giving him an extremely pissed-off expression from behind the bars. "You already figured out that I'm leaving you here, didn't you?" he growled with a smile.
"You know, if you're going to kill me instead of saving me, can we maybe duke it out someplace else?" Tony had no idea who this man was, but he had plenty of practice with unblinking stares. "I'd offer you a drink but I think the minifridge was made in 1965."
"You're the one that roped my brother into this 'Avengers Initiative', ain't you?"
"In my defense, aliens were raining from the sky," Tony growled. "Also, Cap technically was the one who roped him in. Twice."
A small smile appeared on Barney's face. "Thing is," he said, so softly that Laura and the little ones couldn't hear him, "The superpowered, the almighty; the Inhumans—can't be registered in some paperback set of Accords. They can't even be placed on a map. They're a plague. And this world isn't safe until every last one of them is rotting in the ground."
Tony's eyes met his, a silent understanding coming between the two as Tony realized the intent of the man he was talking to.
"Kill a few more of them when they come for you, eh? It would be pretty great for me if you killed each other off while I was gone."
"Barney, let him out," Laura's voice was hard behind him.
Barney turned, allowing her to speak.
"He's like family," she insisted.
A shadow of mixed emotions crossed Barney's face when she said that, and if Laura's expression was any indication, she realized her mistake as soon as she'd made it.
"Really?" he answered, as if he really hadn't wanted to know. "Since when did letting dangerous people out of jail because they're 'family' become a thing for you, or Clint, Laura?"
"Well, that wasn't exactly who I thought would get here first but I suppose he'll have to do," Magneto sighed, adjusting his cape as he and Mystique surveyed their security screens, watching the scene taking place in the dungeon.
She turned and looked up at him with her wide eyes. "We should attack quickly, before any of them escape," she advised.
"Agreed," the helmeted leader replied. "You go after the children. I want them unharmed. Mr. Barton, however, is mine to execute for his crimes, as is Mr. Stark. Although, given how much they appear to hate each other, I may just stick them in the same cell and wait for nature to run its course. It might be amusing," he sighed, moving to exit the room.
"I'll let you go," Barney pivoted slowly back in Tony's direction, "on one condition. If you tell me no, I'll kill you here and now."
"You've got to be kidding," Tony started.
"Just listen to him, Tony," Laura snapped.
"Magneto is both of our enemy," the archer continued, taking a step closer to the billionaire's cell. "He will assemble all his forces to stop you from enacting the Registration. If you want out of this cell, you have to do something for me." He pulled out a smartphone from his pocket, and tossed it through the bars, where Tony caught it. "I have a hacker friend in the FBI. And Ross gave me access to a few cool toys. We've worked out every algorithm we could on our end, and performed all the background programming. We just need you to crack the failsafe you created, and hand over your tech. To me."
Tony stared the agent in front of him down evenly. "Laura," he called out. "Kids, I'm gonna need you to bring me my suit, like we talked about."
"Did I mention," Barney arched an eyebrow, "the suit's configurations are one of the algorithms we hacked. You'll be handing over your suit to me along with everything else at Stark Industries."
"Alright," Tony shrugged, as Laura pulled the three kids out of the room, running them down the hall and as far away from the dungeon as possible, "so you'll have Stark Industries, the FBI, and the American government all under your thumb. Does 'Dictator of the World' send thrills or chills down your spine? Because that's what you're going for."
"You don't need to know what I'm going for," Barney smiled menacingly. "You know how I know that? 'Cause you're not just the great individual Tony Stark with all the money and the great big house anymore, are you?"
"I built a new house," Tony corrected him smugly.
"Do you care about the house, Mr. Stark? Is it the house that makes you want to stay alive today? Or is it your precious Pepper?"
Tony had practice with people threatening Pepper, too, so Barney kept going.
"Or is it Peter Parker's aunt now? I couldn't quite tell, even after I managed to figure out that Peter was the guy in the spider suit that attacked me in New York. Cute kid—would be a shame if someone outed him."
This, Tony had NOT practiced for.
"How am I supposed to stop you if I give you my tech?" Tony's voice dropped to the most sober of tones after hearing all of Barney's threats.
"You won't need to, Sparky." Barney grinned down at him. "Once I have your tech, I'm outta your hair. Busy man, you know. Saving the world singlehandedly's a stressful job, as I'm sure you're aware. Provided you don't take any actions even remotely designed to hurt my brother ever again."
Tony's eyes remained fixed on the screen, "Get your facts right if you're gonna insult me. The last time I saw Clint, he dumped a parking garage on my head."
Barney leaned in closer, his foul breath ghosting uncomfortably close to Tony's face. "You're lying." His eyes glinted mercilessly. "I know about the Raft, Mr. Stark. The last time you saw my brother, you were mocking him from inside a prison cell that should've contained a mutant."
Tony finally looked up at him, his eyes sobering.
A corner of Barney's mouth twitched. "Next time you go anywhere near him, you won't have something like this," he gestured to the phone, "as an out."
"Sure, you have super powers," Fury kept his face completely straight when answering Sam's question. "You mean you've lived thirty-eight years so far and your mom never told you you could talk to birds?"
Sam stared back at him evenly. "I honestly can't tell if you're being serious right now."
"I am not."
Sam swore in disappointment.
Fury burst out laughing. "And here I thought you were supposed to be smart!"
"That sucks," Sam defended himself immediately. "That really sucks. That was not my fault; I don't care how smart I am, that was your fault!"
"All right, Mr. I-am-still-smart, why don't you take charge in getting us out of here?"
"Hey, I thought you were the master-spy. Why don't you prevent me from humiliating myself again, and I can take charge once we're in the air and I'm the expert, okay?"
"Boy, Captain American and I are not always going to be around every time you need broken out of prison."
Sam was rapidly giving up all hope of some father-son relationship with this guy. Not that he'd even had time to think about whether he wanted one or not, but…you know?! "I mentioned before that you suck, right?"
"You think breaking out of here is going to be hard?"
"Not for you!"
Fury snorted. "I've seen elephant poachers with higher security than this. They know it, too. They're probably just waiting for us to break out, for some reason. Which means we have to get out without them knowing we got out."
"Easy," Sam answered mockingly.
"Oh, there's always a way," Fury answered vaguely.
"Are those the magic words to open the door?"
"You see that crack in the ceiling?"
Same looked up. "You mean the one that's two centimeters wide?"
"Still a way," Fury shrugged.
"Yeah, if we had a couple of months to chisel away at it."
"So not the best way."
"I could've told you that."
"There's also a giant hole in the floor."
"Well, where do you think the water comes from?"
Sam was quiet for a long moment, trying to judge if Fury was serious. "You call THAT a way out?"
More to come…
Let me know what you think! :D Seriously, I am so glad to be back and to keep writing for you, guys.