Taking a Back Seat
Summary: "Shouldn't we at least take the arm?" "Dude. You wanna take an amputee's arm?" "What's wrong with you?" The fellow kidnapper sputtered in protest. "Look, it's probably like, weaponized and stuff." Tony's prosthesis was, in fact, 'weaponized and stuff'.
Or: Being kidnapped after snapping half the world back into existence is annoying on its own. Being kidnapped by accident? Well, that's just rude.
"Excuse me," Tony said, knocking on the divider that blocked his view of the driver. "I think you missed a turn."
The driver almost crashed the limo into the oncoming traffic. They hit the brakes, swerved wildly and kept driving once the car was under control.
The divider stayed up. The car kept driving in the wrong direction.
Tony pulled out his phone, activated the installed tracker and hummed the theme song he'd had stuck in his head since Peter had coerced him into starting the obscure fantasy show the kid was currently obsessed with.
Heated voices rose in volume behind the divider. Tony could soon make out muffled words and pieces of conversation.
"– thought it was supposed to be her?! What's he doing here?"
"I didn't sign up for this. If I'd known–"
"– goddamn Iron Man–"
Tony had thought – perhaps naively so – that he was done being kidnapped after he'd donned his armor and become a superhero.
Killian had been an unfortunate exception Tony chalked up to being tragically separated from his suits at the time. There was nothing funny, Rhodey, about almost being rescued like a damsel. That's right, almost, because who'd been the one to bust Tony out? Not War Machine.
He'd thought he'd left it all behind after over a decade as an active superhero and the dubious honor of having saved the universe on his shoulders.
Being kidnapped by accident? That one was new, even for Tony.
"You didn't check?!"
"It was supposed to be Potts! It said it would be her!"
"Does he look like Potts to you?!"
"Something came up," Tony offered helpfully, leaning forwards and raising his voice. "She couldn't make it in time for the gala." Which they'd have known much earlier, had they bothered to crack down the divider at some point during the drive.
His kidnappers fell silent. One uttered a muffled curse, then lowered their voice so Tony could no longer make out what they were saying.
The limo slowed to a halt after a few more turns. There was the sound of the front doors opening and closing, then voices picking up the argument and growing quieter as they distanced themselves from the car.
Tony checked his phone (the tracker was still active) and considered waiting in his seat for approximately half a second. He tried the door handle. It wasn't locked.
"– we just let him go? Hope for the best?"
"And all this would have been for nothing?!"
"Look, if you wanna take on Iron Man, be my guest."
"He hasn't done anything so far. Maybe he'll just... let it go?"
Tony leaned back against the limo, unbound arms crossed in front of his chest. None of Pepper's would-be kidnappers wore masks. One of them had a gun Tony was 95% sure was a fake.
There were four of them now in total.
"You've never done something like this before, have you?" Tony said.
One of his kidnappers flushed crimson-red. Another crossed his arms in front of his chest and avoided Tony's gaze.
A particularly burly woman who looked like a convict on the run pretended as though she hadn't heard what he'd said.
"Look, Mr. Iron Man... Tony Stark... sir." The one who wanted to let him go and 'hope for the best' wrung his hands. "This is all a big misunderstanding. We really weren't– I mean, if we'd known–"
"Yeah," Tony said dryly. "I kind of got that you were planning to kidnap my wife. Say, do you regularly ransom pregnant women for money?"
There was a beat of silence.
"No way. She's…?"
"This is the worst day of my life."
"No." Tony smirked. "Just wanted to see how you'd react."
One of them seemed to consider strangling him. Another – prison-break woman – deflated as though she'd been about to offer her congratulations.
"I'm still very much in favor of leaving him here and hoping it'll work out."
"We can't," another woman snapped.
"Why not? He didn't put up much of a fight so far."
"He already saw our faces!"
Tony refrained from pointing out that Pepper too would have seen their faces, had she been in his place.
"Shouldn't we at least take the arm?"
"Dude. You wanna take an amputee's arm?"
"What's wrong with you?"
The kidnapper sputtered in protest. "Look, it's probably like, weaponized and stuff."
Tony's prosthesis was, in fact, 'weaponized and stuff'.
"Wow. You're bad at this." He rubbed the scar tissue covering the right side of his face. "If you'd actually taken Pepper, she'd have busted herself out of here five minutes in."
"You're still here."
Tony shrugged. "I'm retired."
His kidnappers quickly came to a compromise. Tony got to keep his arm after being searched by the fourth – and final – kidnapper. He seemed like the sort of guy who worked in a library when he wasn't kidnapping billionaires.
"He doesn't have any weapons on him," he said, sounding incredulous.
Tony didn't know what they'd expected. This time, he'd been serious about his retirement.
"None other than the metal arm."
"If you wanna take it from him, go ahead."
Tony smiled encouragingly. He held out his arm and made a waving sort of gesture that drained the color from his kidnapper's face.
"... I'm not touching that thing."
"Good call," said Tony. "I don't remember if I booby-trapped it. I was pretty sleep deprived when I designed it. Also one-armed." He shrugged. "You know how it is."
The kidnappers' stares suggested that they very much did not know how it was.
All four would-be ransomers whirled around and craned their necks to spot the new arrival. One of them went stiff and convulsed from a taser attack.
Tony winced in sympathy. "No need to go all out," he said, raising his voice and looking for Natasha's hiding place. "For kidnappers, they've been surprisingly hospitable."
Sam landed between Tony and the three still standing kidnappers with a thud. Natasha rose from her position behind a withered, wooden crate. One of the kidnappers had time to utter an incredulous "What the–" before a net zipped towards him and bound his mouth, ankles and wrists in rapid succession. He lost his balance and landed on the ground with a muffled "Umph".
"You brought the kid?" Tony stretched his arms. He realized that they'd never been tied up and there was nothing worth stretching them over.
Natasha shrugged. "He asked."
"Hi, Mr. Stark!" Peter flung himself on top of the limo and gave a cheerful wave. "Guess what, Mr. Wi– I mean, Cap– Fal… con? Look, do you go by Captain America now or not? Because your shield and your wings are sort of sending mixed signals."
Sam let out a sigh. "Just... pick one."
Tony supposed it was easier than admitting that his superhero name had been the subject of heated debate for close to three weeks. If Tony were in his place... he honestly couldn't say which he'd pick. Not everybody could be lucky like Tony and end up with the coolest superhero name possible on the first try.
"Okay, Captain Falcon, sir!"
"That's not... I told you to pick one–"
"Guess what, Mr. Stark! Cap gave me a ride."
"That's okay," Sam muttered. "Cap. Let's go with that."
Natasha tossed Tony a com piece. "Next time, keep one on you."
"Retired," Tony said, putting it in his ear. "I keep reminding people. Can't shake the feeling that they don't realize what it means."
"Listen to the cavalry," Rhodey said over the coms. "Otherwise you'll have to stage the next break-out yourself."
"I had the tracker, what else do you want?"
"No more kidnapping attempts would be nice," said Steve. A loud crunchy sound filtered through the com line.
"Excuse me?" Tony said. "Are you eating chips while listening in to my rescue mission?"
There was a beat of silence. It was followed by an extremely guilty sounding crunch and painful swallowing. "No?"
Tony let out an offended huff. "Here I am, potentially victimized – nay, traumatized–"
"Here we go," Sam muttered.
"– and our fearless leader doesn't feel the need to make an appearance himself. I'm hurt. Devastated, in fact."
"But I'm retired."
"If you two use that word any more often, it'll lose all its meaning," Sam said.
"Are there any more?" Peter asked, having finished tying up all four crooks.
One was lying face-down in utter defeat. Another closed her eyes. It was unclear whether she was praying or trying to take a nap.
"Not that I know of."
"Someone should be here in a couple minutes to pick them up," Natasha said, putting away her taser.
"Just go easy on them." Tony would sit them down later to figure out what they wanted.
If this was a tragic backstory sort of situation where somebody had turned to crime to provide for their sick daughter, Tony wouldn't be the one making it worse. They hadn't even tried threatening him. Tony wouldn't insist on a punishment over a bodged kidnapping attempt.
Deeming the affair unworthy of being called an emergency, Natasha didn't call for the jet. They were stuck waiting for their ride in the middle of a run-down industrial area with the four bound and gagged kidnappers in their midst.
At least the kid wasn't deterred by the rather anticlimactic end to their little adventure.
"Miss Potts wants me to tell you that this doesn't mean you'll get to skip out on the galas," he informed Tony, bouncing on his heels.
Tony almost wished his kidnappers had put up more of a fight. The kid seriously needed to work off some energy.
"I've just been kidnapped in her stead," Tony pointed out. "That ought to give me at least a couple months leeway."
Peter made a doubtful noise from the back of his throat. "I dunno. Maybe if they'd beaten you up a bit. I don't think you'll get more than a week, tops."
Tony scoffed. "Please. I'm Iron Man. As if I'd allow myself to get knocked around."
"I thought you said you were retired," Sam piped from his perch on top of a mossy brick wall.
"Actually, about that," Peter said, "now that you're not superheroing any more, does that mean the title is up for grabs? Not that I'd want to take over as Iron Man," he was quick to clarify, "I'm just saying, if there's a new Captain America, is there gonna be a new Iron Man, too? Or is it more of a–" He trailed off.
Tony had lowered himself on one of the backseats of the limo, leaving the door open. His legs twitched with muscle tremors he couldn't control – mild, but growing stronger the more time he spent on his feet.
"Are you okay?" Peter asked.
"Sure." Tony smiled, though it felt tight.
He liked telling people that his superhero career had reached its natural conclusion after the stint against Thanos. In truth, he couldn't have kept it up if he'd wanted to.
He's had trouble taking the stairs to his lab the last time the elevator had glitched. He could no longer pull off hours-long binges in his workshop the way he'd used to. Steering the armor and facing down bad guys in his spare time? No longer an option.
"For your information," Tony said after the muscle tremors had ceased to an acceptable degree, "only because she's not using the name, doesn't mean Pepper isn't carrying on the legacy."
Peter nodded along as though he'd confirmed his guess. "I thought so. This guy at school said it didn't count because she isn't making the armor herself, but I mean, neither is Colonel Rhodes. Or Falc– Cap. Or–"
"Pretty much none of us make our equipment themselves." Sam shook his head. "Since when did that become a requirement?"
"Maybe they don't like me in particular," came Pepper's voice over the com line.
"That doesn't sound right," Tony said. "Are you done with your thing already?"
"I'm back at the tower. When are you gonna be home?"
"Hey honey. How are you doing? Me? Oh, just enduring a vicious kidnapping attempt in your stead. Thank you so much for asking."
There was a half-exasperated, half-fond sigh. "I'm glad you're alright."
"You sure? Because your breathless relief leaves much to be desired."
"Is Morgan there? I have to tell her that I love her. I think I need some time away from my cruel, cold-hearted wife."
"I'm making some bruschetta. I was gonna have some waiting for you."
"If you think you can bribe me with food–"
"I'm putting in extra garlic."
"– you are absolutely right. Love you. See you soon."
Pepper's laughter filtered through the com line. Tony's lips curved into a smile.
Peter made an appreciative sound. "I would kill for some bruschetta."
Tony checked the time on his phone. "Weren't you planning to go out with your aunt?"
The eye slits of Peter's mask widened. "I gotta go. Right now."
"Yeah?" Sam cast a look around. "You and what tall buildings?"
"... Aunt May's gonna kill me," Peter whispered.
Tony winced in sympathy. He'd missed a dinner invitation from May exactly once. Her 'I'm not angry, just disappointed' diabolical Aunt-ness had made sure that it was the one and only time it would ever happen.
"Hey, Mr. Stark," Peter said, sounding increasingly frantic. "So, if I were to ask you to let me take this limo–"
"Absolutely not. I've seen you behind a wheel."
"Okay, so what if you drive me?"
Tony grimaced. "Kid–"
"Right! Right." Peter hid a wince. "Sorry. I... Sorry."
The right side of Tony's face was largely covered in scar tissue. His eye hadn't survived the ordeal unscathed. Tony could still see from it... barely. Depth perception? Bye-bye.
(He hadn't expected to survive the infinity stones at all. He supposed that losing Iron Man and the ability to drive – among other things – were small prices to pay.)
Sam heaved a sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Alright, fine." He jerked his head brusquely. "Grab on, kid."
Peter skipped to Sam's side. "You'll take me? Seriously? Thank you so much!"
"Yeah, yeah," Sam muttered. He cast a glance at Natasha. "You gonna be alright?"
"I think we've got it handled," she said dryly.
On the ground, one of the kidnappers heaved a sigh. All four of them seemed to have accepted their fate and made no move to free themselves.
Natasha took Sam's place on the brick wall once he and Peter had taken off. "Guess that leaves just us."
They spent most of the time waiting for their transport in silence.
Sometime during the last five years, things between them had changed. Silence didn't bother them. When they did talk, it was with the ease of friends who'd known each other for years, and the rough patches between them were old, faded memories.
Engine noises pierced through the silence of the abandoned streets, and Natasha pushed herself to her feet.
"Come on, old man." Natasha offered him a hand. Her lips twitched.
Tony let out a huff, but took it. "Don't think you'll be pulling off those flips once you've passed your mid-forties."
"Want to bet on it?"
"Not a chance."
Two cars pulled into the parking lot. One of them was a large van – likely their improvised prison transport.
Natasha smirked. "Worried I'll age more gracefully than you?"
"Excuse you." Tony climbed to his feet. The tingling sensation in his legs was a far cry from the muscle pains he had on some days. "I'll have you know that if I felt like it, I'd be doing cartwheels."
Both of them knew that it was a lie. Everybody was more comfortable as long as Tony kept up the pretense.
A/N: Beta'd by the wonderful To Mockingbird and JustAnotherOutcast! They're both amazing writers, so check them out! :D
In other news, I'm looking for an additional beta reader for a new Harry Potter story of mine! It would be for spelling, grammar and sentence flow for the most part (so basically making it all sound smooth and pretty, lol) and I wouldn't be opposed to some britpicking. So while it's not a requirement, I'd prefer somebody who knows their way around British English. If you're interested, just shoot me a message on tumblr (username is xxgwenstacyxx) or drop me a message on here!
Thanks for reading - I'd love to hear your thoughts!