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Buying Time (is not always a great plan)

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It took them the rest of the afternoon to answer all of Junior's questions, and pry an answer out of him about that bizarre red case he was carrying as though it contained his salvation.

Even so, they hadn't gotten a direct answer, rather to Tony's disappointment, but the answer they had gotten -- that it contained his only weapons and connection to his own world -- had been intriguing enough.

Naturally, that was when Fisk's men showed up and started doing their damnedest to break Tony's door down. "Stark," they heard, "open the door you drunkard, or we'll burn down the building."

Steve's expression darkened. "Those whoresons. Tony, open the door. Iron Man, you can't be seen here."

"You can't either, sheriff," Tony pointed out. Go with him, get him to Barnes'. He should be fine there for the moment."

Steve nodded. "Be careful. You owe me a meal, and I want you alive, so I can collect."

"Stark, we're warning you!" The man at the door added. "You've got till the count'a three!"

With a snort, Tony rose, heading to the door and trying to put the exchange out of his mind. "Alright, alright!" He yelled back, "I'm coming! Heaven forbid you give a man a chance to pull on some clothes!"

He heard Steve hustle Junior out into the small yard at the back of the building, and put on his best confused expression as he unlocked the door. Squinting at them in the bright light that streamed in, Tony asked, "what the hell's so urgent, gents?"

"Don't play dumb," the leader, a man known only as Bullseye, growled. "We got witnesses as say you brought the sheriff and a man with a metal case here this morning. Where are they?"

Tony shrugged, hoping it looked careless. "I don't know. They didn't tell me where they were going."

Both statements technically true. Steve would have enjoyed that.

"You know, Stark," Bullseye grinned nastily, "I don't think I believe that."

He had to make this look good. Tony was fairly sure they wouldn't make good on their threat to burn down the smithy. That was far more extreme than anything else Fisk had ever attempted to get away with. He gave Bullseye a thoughtful look. "Well if you call the honest truth a lie, how will you ever find out where they've gone?"

Bullseye turned to his henchmen. "Well, boys, it looks like he wants to do this the hard way."

Fighting the instinct to lash out and defend himself, knowing he'd never win that fight on his own, Tony let them grab his arms with a minimum of struggle. He was already in for a beating. No sense in making sure it was a bad one that left him unable to move.

Once they were sure of their grip on him, the two goons started working him over, Tony couldn't help the way his shoulders hunched to protect his head and neck. The two men weren't pulling their punches at all or hiding their enjoyment of his stifled cries of pain.

It didn't take a genius to know that he'd be sporting a lot of new shiners after this.

Whatever. It was worth it, as long as Steve was free to act rather than under Bullseye' thumb.

The whole thing felt like it took an age to pass, and then Bullseye was smirking at him again. "Ready to talk, Stark?"

"Okay, okay, fine." Tony gritted out, his teeth clenched against the pain in his left shoulder and right ribs. "I give."

"Well?" Bullseye definitely sounded impatient.

Fisk must really want Junior, Tony thought a bit dazedly, still trying to get enough air without aggravating his new injuries. "They said something about heading for Kirby River," he made up on the spot, naming an area miles outside town.

Tony wasn't expecting the fist that met his jaw.