Been There, Blown That Up
Summary: After Loki's defeat and his fall from the portal, Tony starts preaching about a murderous purple titan out to get them in the depths of space.
On the other side of the universe, Nebula loses her cool approximately two seconds after laying eyes on Thanos and finds herself on a wild chase through the galaxy. Now, where exactly was that pathetic piece of rock Terra again?
Steve breathed out a sigh of relief, shedding the tension of an excruciatingly long day. When he'd first woken up in this strange future – in between the moments he had spent in denial and later, mourning – he had imagined flying cars, the cure for all illnesses and, of course, the end of the war. No more fighting.
Instead there'd been aliens, portals to other worlds and a fight far more bizarre than anything Steve could have imagined.
And now Loki was beaten, the portal closed and Tony was alive. The battle was won. He let the tension bleed out of him, allowing the post-battle euphoria to drown out the pain and fatigue dragging at his body. They all deserved some rest, after what they'd just been through.
That was, of course, when Tony jolted forward with a gasp, eyes incredibly wide and muscles tense enough to snap. At once Steve was at his side, Thor not far behind.
"Tony! Tony, what's wrong?!"
Tony didn't answer and continued to gasp for air. His eyes twitched around aimlessly, not focusing on either of them. Was he having a seizure?
Steve should have checked him over earlier. He'd fallen from the sky, of course he wasn't alright.
"Tony," Thor said, "Speak to us."
Steve kept his hand on Tony's shoulder as he slowly calmed down. His eyes flickered to Thor, over to Hulk – looming over them to watch – and finally to Steve.
Tony's eyes widened, his mouth opening and closing without a word coming out. Steve was slightly disturbed at seeing him speechless. Tony always had something to say, whether it was socially appropriate or not. Steve leaned closer, anticipation growing as Tony struggled to speak, trying to form a sentence, trying to tell them–
"Where the fuck is your beard?"
Steve shared a glance with Clint, who shrugged. He had to have misheard. "What was that?"
But Tony had already directed his attention to Thor. He reached out to… touch his hair? What was he doing? Thor let it happen with a bemused glance. "s'nice, you should keep it like this." Tony's head turn upwards. "Hulk. Buddy. Pal. Nice to see you."
The slur in his voice didn't make Steve feel better. He leaned closer to Clint. "A concussion, maybe?"
"He fell out of the sky," Clint gave back. "Maybe Hulk wasn't as gentle as he should have been. Now offense, big guy," he hurriedly added as Hulk gave a warning growl.
"You do not look well, my friend." Thor's concern shimmered through his kind smile. "We shall bring you to a healer and celebrate our victory to our hearts' content!"
"How'd you grow it so fast?" Tony asked, for some reason unwilling to let the topic of Thor's hairdo go. What was it with him and his sudden obsession with hair? "Wait, no. You said– Oh."
Steve blinked in surprise as all of the emotion on Tony's face – confusion, mostly – shut down in the blink of an eye.
"Tony? Look, we should bring you to the tower and–"
"Right. The tower. That means…" Tony muttered something under his breath, and Steve was just about to offer him a hand when he heaved himself up in his barely functional suit.
Steve wasn't surprised when Tony's steps turned out awkward and bulky – the suit had gone through an hours long battle, a trip to space and a free fall out of the sky. For some reason however, Tony was.
"Jesus Christ, how much does this thing weight?!" He scowled down at it like it had personally offended his family.
"Don't worry," Steve said, going for a reassuring tone. "I'm sure you can fix it later."
"Like hell I will. This thing isn't worth the scrap metal it's made of."
"Tony," Clint chimed in, his voice carefully neutral. "Are you alright?" From the many things Tony was proud of, his suits had to be at the very top of the list. And now they were "scrap metal"?
"Sure. Never been better." Tony proceeded to peel himself out of his armor with an energy Steve couldn't explain. He'd nearly died only minutes ago. Steve was starting to get genuinely worried at how off Tony sounded.
"Where are we going?" Thor asked, falling into step with Tony as he made his way through the rubble that was left of the attack. The hand that wasn't holding Mjolnir hovered close to Tony in fake casualness, ready to catch him, should he fall.
Tony's answer – amazingly– gave them no explanation whatsoever. "You know, places to be, things to do. Try to keep up."
They let the matter drop as soon as it got clear that they were heading towards the tower. Whatever was wrong with Tony, they'd be best equipped to help him there, rather than in the middle of the battlefield.
And they would help him. They wouldn't stop being a team, now that the threat was beaten.
Somewhere along the way, Hulk shrunk back into Bruce. "Erm. What did I miss?"
Tony's behavior didn't make any more sense once they'd reached the tower. Steve was momentarily distracted by a voice greeting them from the ceiling, but instead of making fun of him for his reaction, like he almost expected him to do, Tony looked just as taken aback.
"Good afternoon, Sir." Both Steve and Tony flinched, and Bruce looked up to look for the source of the voice. "The assailant remains on the top floor of Stark Tower. He has not moved since Dr. Banner forcibly impressed him into the concrete."
"Right," Bruce said, visibly uncomfortable at the reminder of his alter ego. He fidgeted, trying to disappear in the too big, worn-down clothes they had managed to pick up on their way. "That's… Alright."
"Tony?" Steve asked when no explanation followed.
"... Yeah. Right. That's JARVIS." Tony's voice was oddly subdued, almost hoarse. "He's an AI. Artificial Intelligence. Runs the building, you can ask him anything."
"It is an utmost pleasure to make your acquaintance, JARVIS," Thor said, taking the situation in a stride.
"Likewise, Mr. Odinson." Tony continued to stare blankly ahead, and before Steve could say anything, JARVIS added: "Sir, are you well?" If he was a machine like Tony had said, how could he sound so concerned? It was almost like listening to a real person. "I detect an accelerated heartbeat and signs of–"
"I'm fine," Tony interrupted. "All well. Let's go see what our maniac is up to."
Steve shared another glance with the others. Unfortunately, Tony was right. Loki was still a priority, even though he was supposedly beaten.
Except once they reached the top floor of the tower, Tony barely spared Loki a glance. He wasn't conscious and with the crater he was lying in, it wasn't difficult to deduce what had happened.
"Wow," Clint said, shooting Bruce an impressed glance. "You really did a number on him."
"Thanks," Bruce said awkwardly, his eyes twitching to Thor. He said nothing, looking at his brother with an indiscernible look on his face.
Natasha was waiting for them, casually holding Loki's scepter. Tony's eyes zoomed in on it, grabbing for it with the words, "May I?"
Natasha raised an unimpressed eyebrow, but let go.
"Red suits you, you know? You should keep it." With that Tony turned, heading the other way with the scepter in hand.
A beat passed.
Clint was the first to regain his bearings. "Where are you going with that?"
"The roof." Tony didn't even spare them a glance, and they had no choice but to follow.
"Did he hit his head?" Natasha muttered for only Steve to hear, but he could only shrug in response. They wouldn't know what was going on with Tony until he told them.
What could he possibly want with the scepter? It was a risk to even just touch it. Even though Loki wasn't wielding it any longer, they had experienced first hand how dangerous the scepter could be on the Helicarrier. They'd be lucky to get rid of it as soon as possible.
Even so, Tony walked with such purpose that it didn't even occur to Steve to stop him. Not until he'd reached the tesseract, raised the scepter and somehow managed to activate it. Steve's mouth fell open, his eyes widening in alarm.
Natasha was quicker in collecting her wits than he was. "Stark! What are you doing?!"
But it was too late. The air hummed intensely enough to make his bones shake. There was something pressing down on them, paralysing them where they stood and a blinding light. Steve narrowed his eyes, trying to get closer but failing. If only he could reach Tony and rip the scepter out of his hands…
The humming stopped and the air exploded.
Despite the energy wave pushing him back, Steve had somehow managed to stay on his feet. Not everyone had been as lucky. He shook his head to chase away the ringing in his ears, already searching the center of the explosion and… there!
"Tony!" he yelled, falling into a sprint and dropping down next to his fallen teammate. He didn't see any life-threatening injuries, but Tony was coughing and clutching his arm where splinters had pierced his skin. What had he been thinking?!
"Well," Tony said with a glance down. "Shit. That wasn't according to plan."
"What was your plan?" Steve asked, staring at the scene in front of him incredulously. The tesseract was gone, blown to bits. As was the scepter. And next to Tony, amidst what was left of it, lay a glowing, yellow stone.
Tony followed his glance. "Don't touch that. I'll get a new suit to pick it up later. Well, I suppose one out of two is better than none." That last part was muttered quietly with a glance at the splinters that were left of the tesseract.
"Stark." It wasn't more than a whisper, but it made chills run down Steve's spine. Their attention snapped around, their weapons drawn and ready for a rematch. Loki, injuries forgotten despite his crouched posture, stared at Tony with thinly veiled fury and… was that horror? "Do you have any idea what you have done?"
"Sure do." Tony, in contrast to them, seemed to be completely at peace at having the mass murderer glare daggers at him. He gestured towards the remains of the tesseract. "I'm gonna destroy five more of these and kick a titan in the butt. And since I've just destroyed what he wanted you to fetch him, you can either take your chances with him or have a change of mind. What will it be?"
There was silence, all of them reeling from the declaration. Then there was chaos as all of them tried to talk at once.
A headache was rapidly building up behind Steve's eyes, and none of the other occupants of the tower were doing anything helpful to stop it.
There was Tony, as calm as he could get, ignoring the utter chaos that he had left in his wake. Loki, who had somewhat blended into the background and miraculously neither tried to escape, nor started another attempt to murder them. And of course the rest of his teammates, who, in various states of shock, disbelief or stoicism, tried to talk sense into Tony. At once.
"Did you just offer the psychopath who attacked the city only minutes ago a redemption?! Because it sounded like–"
"Tony, wait. What are you even saying? This is Loki we're talking about."
"–been under the impression that we had come to an agreement. I was to take Loki and the tesseract home, and now you have destroyed the latter. Tell me, what are your intentions with–"
"–tell us what's wrong. This concerns all of us, you can't just–"
"Tony." Steve raised his voice over the others when Tony strode through the tower like none of them were even there. "Tony, what are you doing?" In his opinion, they'd had to ask this question far too many times.
Although this time, to his surprise, Tony actually answered. If that answer made it better or worse was yet to be determined. "I'm preventing a gigantic purple maniac from destroying the world."
Stunned silence followed.
"You're mad," Loki sneered, a spark of terror left in his voice.
"What?!" Clint stared at him incredulously. "You're not making any sense! Tony, Loki screwed with your head."
Loki almost sounded offended at that. "I most certainly did no–"
"Loki," Thor growled, daring him to keep talking. Loki raised his hands in mock surrender, rolling his eyes.
Steve tightened his grip around his shield. Even though his weapon was destroyed, it didn't bode well with Steve that Loki was already recovering from his clash with the Hulk. Especially while he wasn't properly detained.
Clint, meanwhile, wasn't finished. "Just listen for a second and– What are you doing?"
Tony had picked up a phone, not bothering to answer any of their prior questions. "Making phone calls. I have African royalty and a Sorcerer Supreme to contact, and then there's HYDRA bases to dig out and three of their operatives to snatch up while I'm at it. I'm sure I'll come up with more in a minute. Questions?"
From all the bombs he had just dropped, that last one snapped Steve out of his shock effectively. "HYDRA is gone," he said, his voice carefully neutral. "SHIELD told me so."
And he had been so quick to believe, hadn't he? A world without Hydra, new and different but safe, hadn't it been worth it? Hadn't it been exactly what he'd wanted to hear, waking up? Steve hadn't survived the war by being naive.
Like he could read Steve's mind, Tony's voice dropped into a softer tone. "I'm sorry, Cap. But they're not." Next to them, Natasha and Clint stiffened even as Steve's jaw clenched shut. "Cut off one head and all that, they're like cockroaches. But don't worry. I'll let you help."
Clint was having none of it. "Tony, this is crazy–"
"What do you know?" Steve interrupted, making a decision. If there was any chance that Tony was right, any chance at all… They might have had their differences, but Tony wasn't the type of person to joke about it. Not about this.
Judging by Tony's expression, he had realized that he'd won.
"Now, where do we even start?"
A/N: Nebula is as much of a main character as Tony is, but unfortunately FFN wouldn't let me tag her.
Let me know what you think! This is the first of several Marvel stories that came out of my writing frenzy after Infinity War, so if you liked it, you can expect more to come featuring different characters. ^^
My betas are the wonderful To Mockingbird - who was also so kind to come up with the wonderful title (that I may or may not have spent hours agonizing over from her list because all of the choices were amazing, why are you doing this to me Moki) and PyrothTenka! I highly recommend checking them out, because they are both amazing writers and even more amazing people~
Find me on tumblr as xxgwenstacyxx to scream with me about Infinity War.
Please leave a review!