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To Save a Life

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Something’s wrong, is the first thought in Tony Stark’s brain as he crosses over from unconsciousness. And let’s be honest, for a genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist, it’s not the Nobel Prize of first conscious thoughts. But Tony has never been one to swim slowly back to awareness- he always seems to snap violently back into reality. It happened in the cave in Afghanistan. It happened on the street in New York. So when he finds himself struggling to regain enough control just to open his eyes, he knows something is wrong. Drugs, is the second thought in Tony Stark’s brain. And not the good kind.

Tony tries to lift his hand to his head, but is stopped short by restraints at his wrists. His hands are cuffed to the arms of the metal chair he is sat in, while a thick leather strap binds his chest to the back of the chair. The strange feeling from the drugs coursing through him, combined with the pain of the tight handcuffs, is making Tony extremely nauseous.  The sound of a door opening nearby thankfully gives him something else to focus on. The squeak the door makes echoes around the room. Large, Tony thinks. Open ceiling. Warehouse?  Footsteps heading towards him across the large room make Tony renew his struggle to open his eyes, but when a familiar voice calls out to him in a mocking tone he suddenly wants nothing more than to fall back into unconsciousness.

“Anthony!” Reluctantly, Tony opens his eyes, lifts his head. And immediately has to wrench his head to the side to avoid throwing up in his own lap. Spitting a few times to clear the bitter taste of bile from his mouth, Tony lifts his head again, slower this time, to face Justin Hammer.

“Hammer. Look, let’s just skip the part where I say something witty and you say something embarrassingly stupid. Whatever you want from me, you’re not going to get it. What you are going to get is a whole world of hurt coming through that door very soon.”

Tony is deeply trying to sound casual and confident- his usual snarky self. But even to his own ears, he only manages to sound tired and pained. The cloudiness in his mind from the drug is transforming into a migraine. A searing pain at his temples and behind his eyes.

Hammer laughs. “Oh Anthony, I’m not too terribly worried about those friends of yours. I know you think the world revolves around you, but they do have their own messes to clean up without having to run off after The Great Tony Stark every 10 seconds.” Hammer slowly circles to stand behind Tony’s chair, and Tony has muster every ounce of self control he has not to show how uncomfortable it makes him having someone- an enemy- in his blindspot.

“As for what I want from you, well… It’s nothing you haven’t done before, Anthony.” Tony doesn’t need to see Hammer’s face to know that he’s grinning maniacally. “No hardship on your part.”

“I’m not giving you my tech,” Tony seethes through clenched teeth.

Suddenly, Hammer’s hand is on Tony’s chest, directly on his arc reactor. Tony jerks involuntarily, the handcuffs rattling. “If I wanted your tech, Anthony, I would simply take it.” Hammer gives a not-so-gentle shove before removing his hand and circling back around to stand in front of Tony. “I have my own tech. How stupid do you think I am that I need to steal yours?”

“I think you couldn’t find Earth on a globe, Justin.”

Hammer strides forward and slaps Tony across the face, whipping his head to the side. Tony cries out sharply as the pain in his head reaches new levels at the sudden movement. With his head still turned and his eyes firmly shut to avoid losing any more of his stomach contents, Tony sucks air in through clenched teeth.

“Does your head hurt, Anthony?” Hammer’s voice is dripping with sarcasm. “Maybe you should take something.”

“I think I already have. What did you give me?” Tony asks, opening his eyes and slowly turning his head back to look at Hammer.

“I’m giving you an opportunity. SHIELD treats us all like idiot children.”

“Don’t pretend we’re on the same side,” Tony scoffs. For someone handcuffed to a chair with a pounding migraine, he still pulls off a passable scoff.

“I’m not the one making sides, SHIELD is. They don’t trust us with what they know. They don’t trust us with the truth. Hell, they didn’t even trust you to save the world! So they send a nuke that almost kills you. What was it like, Tony? Feeling the cold of space creep into you.”

“Fuck you, Hammer.” He’s going for anger again, but the retort is barely more than a whisper as he tries desperately not to remember the feeling of his heart stopping.

“No, actually, it’s fuck her.” At this Hammer strides forward, firmly grips Tony by the chin and wrenches his head to the left. A video monitor sits on a table and shows the inside of a room- a cell, more like. The room is bare save for its lone occupant, who appears to be checking for weak points in the door hinges. Tony’s eyes widen when his gaze focuses enough to recognize her through the pixilated black-and-white footage. Natasha.

“You let her go.” He wants to threaten Hammer, but the pain in his head is spreading down his neck, putting ‘threatening people’ firmly outside Tony’s capabilities at the moment.

“Your wildly misplaced chivalry is wasted on her. She professionally betrays people, Tony. Her loyalty is to SHIELD, and she will betray your precious Avengers.” Hammer sneers as he utters the team name. Still gripping Tony’s chin, Hammer pulls his head back around so they’re facing each other again. He doesn’t miss the wince of pain Tony tries to hide as his head and neck are forcibly moved. “I must have less time than I thought; it’s spreading already, isn’t it?”

Tony just glares at him in response, tugging uselessly at the handcuffs, wishing for Cap’s strength or Clint’s ninja lock-picking skills.

“It’s simple: the toxin I gave you will kill you. Unless you fuck her.”

A bark of laughter escapes Tony’s lips. “That… Isn’t going to happen, for so many reasons. Starting with: no such toxin exists.”

“Admittedly, I had a little help developing it. He said he was ‘freeing you from your freedom’.”

Loki. One day, I will kill that man. God. Whatever he is. “It makes no difference who’s asking, Hammer. It could be you or Loki or a raccoon from outer space, the answer would still be: go fuck yourself.”

Justin shrugs, genuinely uncaring. “To be honest, Anthony, I’m glad to hear you say that. I just wanted to kill you; this whole set-up was Loki’s thing.” Hammer leans in as if he’s telling Tony a secret. “Truthfully, I think he’s hoping for a show.” He winks as he steps back and Tony’s stomach churns. Two thugs enter through the door, make their way across the room to Tony’s chair and start unshackling him.

“I’d say you have about 30 minutes to decide. Have fun, Anthony.”

-

Tony rolls his eyes as he’s dragged down the hallway. To be fair, the journey had started with him walking under his own steam, but soon the ability to put one foot in front of the other required more concentration than he possessed. The two thugs accompanying him grabbed him roughly by the upper arms to get him to move faster, but that didn’t last long before his feet went out from under him. This isn’t so bad, Tony thought. Except for the spinning. Can we do something about the spinning?

He knows he’s going to die. Putting aside the fact that Loki and Hammer will probably be watching the whole thing, the idea of it repulses him. Not having sex with Natasha, that doesn’t repulse him. It’s the thought of mentioning it to Natasha that makes his stomach roll over. She would probably punch him on the spot. He can picture her face as he tells her- a mix of disgust and hurt, anger and betrayal.

It’s not just the act of it that Tony can’t bear to put her through. As soon as he lays out Hammer’s- or rather Loki’s- demand, he’s putting her in the worst position imaginable. Have sex with someone you despise, and live with it for the rest of your life. Or don’t, and watch your teammate die. He can’t do that to her. Just because he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place doesn’t mean he has to pull her in with him. Just lie to her. Tell her you were poisoned, there’s nothing she can do.

Tony’s mind is set as they turn a corner and he sees the door. Her cell will be his coffin.

-

The guards aren’t as stupid as they look. One of them pulls a gun from a shoulder holster as they approach the door. The other swings the door open, but they stay a few steps back from the frame. Thug #1 cocks his gun and presses it firmly to Tony’s temple.

“Step away from the door. Stand in the middle of the room where we can see you, or Mr. Stark gets another piece of metal lodged in him,” he calls into the room.

For a few seconds nothing happens. Tony figures Natasha is gauging whether she can take both of these morons out before they shoot him. Tony’s just wondering if he can get them to shoot anyway- skip the whole ‘horrifyingly painful death by toxin’ thing. Suddenly Natasha’s in the doorway, glaring at them. She slowly, almost condescendingly, raises her hands to show she’s complying and backs up to the center of the room. As soon as she stops, the thugs give Tony a rough shove into the room and the door slams shut behind him.

Tony pushes himself over so he’s lying on his back, but makes no move to stand. “Hey Red. Fancy meeting you here.”

Natasha’s already back at the door checking the lock. When she confirms that the door latched and they’re still trapped, she turns to Tony. “How many guards? Did you talk to anyone? What kind of building is this? Do you know where we are? Do you-”

“Oooook, you’re going to have to take it down a few decibels because my brain might actually explode from the pounding.”

A worried frown appears on Natasha’s face as she stops to actually take a close look at Tony. His face is much paler than usual, a layer of sweat covers his forehead, and she can see he is clenching his jaw and fists in an effort to hide the obvious pain he’s in. She crosses over to him and kneels down beside him, one hand on his forehead and the other at his neck checking his pulse.

“What happened?” she asks, much softer than her earlier demands for information.

“Oh, you know, Hammer just wanted to say ‘hi’. Catch up, shoot the shit.” Natasha’s eyes narrow as she takes in the bruises forming on Tony’s chin.

“What did he give you?” Tony gives her a questioning look. “Your pupils are dilated and you’re sweating worse than Clint in a debriefing.”

“Poison. He said I have 30 minutes, give or take.”

“What does he want?”

“Nothing,” Tony answers quickly- too quickly. Natasha’s eyes narrow further. “He gloated for a while, typical Hammer grand-standing. Said he wants to watch me die.” Tony winces as he shifts his head on the hard cement floor. Natasha takes her SHIELD jacket off and crumbles it into a ball, placing it gently under Tony’s head. Her touch as she lifts his head is softer than Tony thought she was ever capable of being.

“Then why am I here?”

Tony lifts one shoulder in a half-shrug. He lets his head loll to the side, looking away from Natasha. Slowly, carefully avoiding the bruises, she reaches out and turns his head back towards her.

“Why are you lying to me?” There is no anger in her voice, only curiosity.

Tony winces, not out of pain but guilt. Lying to a spy is impossible. I’m never playing poker with Clint again. “I’m not, I-”

“Stark.” Her voice is firm, demanding a straight answer, and Tony can’t lie to her anymore.

“They gave me a toxin. It’ll kill me unless I… Unless we…” Tony motions vaguely between them with his hand before he gives up and his hand falls back to his side. The dawning realization on her face tells him she understands despite his horrible attempt at explaining.

“Who’s ‘they’?” Natasha’s face remains neutral; he can’t tell what she’s thinking.

“Loki stuck his antlers in where they didn’t belong. He made the toxin, Hammer’s just the delivery boy.” Tony can see the wheels turning in Natasha’s head and it makes him nauseous- although that could partially be from the poison pumping through his veins.

“I was out on assignment when I was ambushed, but last I knew Bruce and Clint were at the tower. They should find us soon, but if Hammer’s telling the truth and you only have 20 minutes… It won’t be soon enough.”

“We are not talking about this,” Tony grinds out through clenched teeth. The pain has moved past his neck and into his chest. He’s not sure if the shrapnel is making it worse or if the pain would have been this bad without it; all he knows is his heart feels like it’s about to burst.

“Yes we are. There is literally no other option, Stark. I know you’re not thinking at full capacity right now, but that should only bring you down to normal human levels. What else can we do?”

“Not. This. I won’t let them force you to… I can’t let you… They’ll be watching!” Tony stammers through his anger, he can barely finish a thought.

“Good. It’ll distract them until Bruce comes and tears this fucking place down.”

Natasha’s expression hasn’t changed since the topic of sex came up. For her, this is just another strategy, another move to be made in a game of chess. She can’t let Tony die. Aside from the obvious reason, it would do no good. Tony would be dead, she would still be trapped, would probably follow him to the grave shortly after. If they did this, Tony would be saved from the toxin and it would distract their captors long enough for rescue to arrive. It’s an easy decision. In her eyes, at least.

She reaches out and starts to unbuckle Tony’s belt. His hand jerks up to grab her wrist, stopping her actions.

“You will hate yourself, Natasha.” This is probably the most sincere she has ever heard him be.

“No. I won’t,” she says simply, and she means it wholeheartedly.

Tony lets his hand drop and she finishes undoing his belt. “Afraid I won’t be much help,” he rasps out as the pain in his chest is making it harder to breath.

Natasha smiles condescendingly at him. “Who says I need your help?” And suddenly her mouth envelopes him. Tony gasps and presses his head back into Natasha’s jacket. The sensation of Natasha’s tongue sliding up and down his length is making him hard almost immediately, and he’s grateful. Let’s get this over with.

As she continues expertly working him with her mouth, she reaches down and undoes her own pants. She takes Tony deep into her throat and holds him there while she slips out of her SHIELD-issue BDU’s. Tony groans deeply and rocks his hips, pressing himself to the back of her throat.

When she comes up for air, Tony is fully erect. She swings a leg over his waist and straddles him. Looking down at him, she can tell he is struggling less to breath.

“Feeling better?” Natasha tries to keep from smirking as she asks; she’s genuinely relieved the toxin’s ‘cure’ is working.

Tony nods as he lifts his head slightly off his make-shift pillow. “Have I mentioned how much I hate Asgardians? And magic? And Asgardian magic?”

“No,” she says as she takes him into her hand and guides him to her entrance. “But you sure know how to get a girl in the mood.” With that she lowers herself slowly down onto him. As he penetrates her, Tony gasps and his hands shoot out, latching onto Natasha’s hips.

She starts rocking her hips, slowly at first, but her pace builds up quickly as Tony grunts and moves his hips in time with her. When Tony arches his back to thrust up into her, she lets out a gasp and falls forward onto him.

“I thought you weren’t going to help,” Natasha says into his ear. She plants her hand on the floor next to Tony’s head and pushes herself partially up.

Tony doesn’t have the breath to respond, panting from the relentless pace. She can see that he’s close. She slowly leans down, closing the six-inch gap between them, and kisses him. As their lips touch, he plunges into her a final time and releases. She can feel Tony’s entire body relax utterly underneath her as he orgasms. She pulls back from the kiss and they share a gaze.

“How do you feel?”

“Like I just got over the flu and ran a marathon at the same time.” Tony is as exhausted as he’s ever felt; he doubts he has the strength to move.

“Bravo, indeed.” The disembodied voice startles them both and they whip around just in time to see Loki shimmer into view across the room. Tony barely has time to growl in anger before Natasha has rolled off of him, pulled her BDU’s back on, and crouches in a fighting stance.

“What do you want, Bambi?” Tony asks as he struggles into his pants. He feels vulnerable and exposed on the ground, but doesn’t have the energy to stand. Instead, he struggles to sit up and drags himself a few feet to the wall so he can settle his back against it.

“I simply want to offer my sincerest congratulations to you both for that excellent performance. I must say, when I provided your mortal nemesis with the toxin I never thought it would prove to be so much fun.”

“Great. Thanks for the pep talk. Run along back across your rainbow to your pot of gold you son of a bitch.”

Loki ignores Tony and keeps his intense gaze focused on Natasha. “First the archer, now the Man of Iron. I severely underestimated the lengths you would go to in order to save someone unworthy of saving.”

“I think you severely overestimate how much I care what you think.” As Natasha speaks, the distant roar of The Hulk can be heard, followed by a crashing that sounds suspiciously like the wall of a warehouse falling down.

“Better run along before my buddy comes and reintroduces your face to the floor. Repeatedly.” Tony smirks at the God of Mischief, giving him a false little wave good-bye. Loki’s gaze, however, remains steadfastly on Natasha.

“Until next time, Ms. Romanoff.” And with that he shimmers and disappears. An involuntary shiver runs down Natasha’s spine at the statement. She takes a moment to steady herself before crossing back over to crouch next to Tony.

“Can you stand?”

Tony winces as he admits, “Probably not. I can wait for Bruce.”

She gives him a nod of understanding and they lapse into silence, waiting for their friends. Tony sits looking at her, wondering how to ask a professional assassin for forgiveness. When Natasha catches Tony’s eye, she somehow knows exactly what he’s thinking.

“I’d do it again, Stark. To save your life, any of your lives, I’d do it again. You won’t get my forgiveness. Because there’s nothing to forgive.”

Tony rests his head back against the wall, listening to The Hulk tear Hammer’s warehouse apart in rage. Another teammate risking everything to come and save him. How did I get so lucky?