- Explicit Sex
- Alternate Universe
- Established Relationship
Comic book science!
– – – –
8 July 2012
Tony paced around his hotel room, worried about the situation back in New York. He was due downstairs for dinner in an hour, but he wasn’t feeling remotely social.
“Jarvis, how’s Dom?” Since Tony had been read in on the investigation, Dom had okayed Jarvis to keep Tony updated if he asked. When he’d checked an hour ago, Dom and most of his team were asleep at their desks since it was barely dawn in New York.
“Dominic is in the field with Sentinel Edgerton, following up on a tip.”
Tony blew out a breath, pressing his hand over his arc reactor, as if that could stop the way his heart was hammering. “J, have the jet on standby, and please call Richard.”
“Of course, Sir.”
“Hello, Tony,” Richard Turner’s smooth tenor came over the line.
“I need to bow out of dinner and tomorrow’s meetings. I urgently feel that I need to be home.”
“Feel?” Richard pressed.
“Yeah.” He rubbed his chest just under the arc reactor. “Dom’s working a case that I don’t feel good about. I know it’s dumb, and he’s a complete badass, but I feel like I need to be closer to home.”
“You should never discount that sort of feeling, Tony. Your connection to Dom might be telling you something. So, by all means, head home. I’ll smooth things over with the others.”
Tony wanted to ask what he meant about a connection, but he didn’t feel like he had time for chitchat. He’d rather just take the suit and be home in about an hour and a half, but part of his preliminary agreement with the Security Council was that he wouldn’t use the suit to cross international boundaries except in an emergency. Also, he’d agreed to file a report with them every time he felt the situation “merited” emergency use of the suit across international lines. Unfortunately, his bad feeling didn’t rise to the level of an emergency.
Tony’s jet was always monitored by Jarvis and kept fueled, so it was simply a matter of getting a departure window, waiting for his pilot, and clearing customs, which was done from the jet while he was waiting for his departure time. In total, he had to wait less than an hour once he reached the airport.
Once he was in the air, he unbuckled his seatbelt and started to pace.
“Should I tell Dominic that you’re en route, Sir?”
“No, don’t distract him unless he needs to know for some reason. What’s going on now?”
“He’s at the Baxter Building, meeting with Dr. Banner and Dr. Richards. Dr. Banner is attempting the same gamma radiation scans that he used to find Loki’s scepter.”
“Is that working?”
“They’ve found some traces, but the amounts they’re looking for are so negligible, they all feel this is the proverbial longshot. However, Dominic has suggested that U and Dum-E be moved into one of the high security rooms in the sub-structure.”
Tony rubbed his hand over his face. Those rooms could withstand the building coming down on them. It made him feel things he didn’t want to think too much about that with everything going on that Dom was thinking about U and Dum-E’s safety.
“Yeah, that’s good. Get them to dock first and initiate a full back-up. Do your own back-up too.”
“Of course, Sir.”
“Also, since it’s a Sunday, I want the building empty and locked down except for the comings and goings of Dom, Bruce, and Betty. Call it maintenance on the arc reactor or whatever. I don’t care how, just get the building empty.”
An hour later, Jarvis reported that the building had been successfully evacuated without raising any alarms or suspicions, though Pepper had apparently been asking some pointed questions. Also, the kids were locked down in the secret substructure well below the parking levels. There was no reason to think whatever was going on would affect Stark Tower, but Tony wasn’t taking any chances.
It was a further hour after that when Jarvis said, “Sir, the nuclear robots have been released at various points in the city.”
“Dammit! Get the suit ready, and tell the pilot I’m taking off. He should stop in Los Angeles unless he hears otherwise. The airports in New York might wind up closed.” Tony had a hatch built into the back of the plane where he could safely depressurize and fly the suit out. “Report our situation to Richard Turner and let him know I consider radioactive robots in New York an imminent threat.” He yanked off his tie.
“Yes, Sir. Director Fury is on the line.”
“Motherfucker!” Tony threw his suit jacket to the side. “As soon as I’m in the suit, put him through.” He sealed the rear door then activated his sensor bracelets, waiting as the suit formed around him. The HUD came up, and he did a quick check through all systems before opening the rear door and flying off the plane.
“You ready to get off the bench, Stark?” Fury said, sounding almost pleased.
Tony adjusted his trajectory. “Being benched sounds like you weren’t willing to have me on your first string, Nick. Oh wait! You weren’t. Iron Man, yes, Tony Stark, no. That’s how it went, right?”
There was a silence. “That was a miscalculation.”
“Everything you’ve done with me has been a miscalculation. All you ever needed to do was shoot straight, but you had to try to manipulate me.”
“Whatever happened in the past, the world now needs the Avengers. These damn bots tromping all over Manhattan prove it.”
Tony had a suspicion that this whole mess might prove why Nicky’s super-secret boy band actually wasn’t needed. At least, not attached to SHIELD, who didn’t play nicely with others. “I happen to know the threat alert went out with specifics about how all agencies should respond to the threat if it should happen. Let’s see if SHIELD can follow instructions, shall we? And before you ask, of course I’m on the way.”
The connection went dead then Jarvis said, “I am managing group comms, Sir. You are being patched in now.”
“Who all is on?”
“Sentinel Rossi, Sentinel and Guide Edgerton, Dr. Richards’ team, Dr. Ross, Dr. Banner, Sentinel Thompson, Guide Monahan, Guide Sandburg, and Sentinel Ellison. Sentinels Edgerton and Rossi are also on comms with the FBI. You are now connected.”
“So you guys started the party while I was gone, huh?”
“We’re rude like that,” Dom replied.
“I’m en route. ETA fifty minutes.”
“Yeah, okay. It’ll be good to have you here. Jarvis, Jim and Scott are mobilizing the sentinels. We need to get eyes on one of these bots to see if we can figure out where the reactor is so we know what to avoid. Have you figured out a method to their madness?”
“My current estimate is that they are all converging on the Baxter Building.”
“Dammit! We’re moving to intercept,” Dom said.
“I’m deploying sentinels to all eight known groups of bots,” Ellison said.
“Are we surprised that Victor is sending his bots here? Can we call them Doom Bots?” Johnny Storm said. “Anyone? Bueller?”
“Knock it off,” Sue Storm said sharply. “Focus.”
Jarvis continued, “They’re ignoring civilians unless they get in the way. Reports indicate that two have died so far. Police officers and other first responders have adhered to the threat alert and are focused on keeping people off the streets and are not opening fire. They’ve closed all roads leading into Manhattan. There appear to be ten bots in each group. One bot was hit by a car and is still crawling along.”
“Containment breach?” Tony asked.
“I’m not seeing spikes in radiation, but better to cordon off the area around it, evacuate, and leave it alone until we know it’s not about to rupture,” Bruce offered.
Tony hated being so far away when all he could do was listen to the team coordinate.
A few minutes later, Dom said, “I’ve finally got eyes on. Jesus. I can’t tell where the reactor is.”
“Why?” Tony asked urgently.
“The whole torso is giving off elevated heat signatures. We thought we’d be able to see where the— hold on. I’m hearing…fluid?”
“They’re using some sort of liquid to cool everything down. It could be actual coolant, but that’s not even important,” Tony said sharply. “It doesn’t matter where the reactor is because everything in that housing could be radioactive once the fuel pellets break down. We can’t afford to rupture the torso at all.”
“Wow, that sucks,” Johnny said breathlessly.
“That means knees and arms, kids.” Dom was obviously commanding everyone’s attention. “I haven’t seen armament first hand, but reports are that it’s coming from the gauntlets. If we cut off the knees and then the arms, they can’t move. Then let hazmat sort ‘em out.”
“That’s crazy,” Johnny said.
“Johnny!” Sue said. “Stay on task.”
“I have no task. I’m pretty much useless here.”
“He can’t burn their arms off?” Kyle asked.
“No,” Dom interjected. “We know there are high-yield explosives in the gauntlets somewhere, and heat is bad both for the nuclear reactors and for setting off whatever munitions they might be loaded with. Sentinels are moving in with swords. We can do the heavy lifting on this one. Dr. Richards, if you’d kindly help with rounding them up. Dr. Storm, shields would be helpful. Jarvis, I need an evac for Dr. Ross.”
“Dom!” Betty protested.
“We’re not arguing about this. Obviously, I’d have never set up there if I knew it was the target. Green Bean is our backup plan, and he’s not going to be able to stay on task if you’re in danger. And you very well could be if you stay in the building. Eighty robots converging on that building is not what I’d call safe.”
“Yeah, all right.”
“Do I even want to know what the backup plan is?” Tony asked.
“Here’s hoping we won’t need it, but I have film of our training session. As soon as the sentinels assigned to my location are here, Ian and I are going to come up behind this group of bots and see how effective arm and leg removal are. Jim and his team are coming from the north, Scott and team from the south. We have five other teams Jarvis and Penelope are coordinating comms for.
“McGuire,” Dom said clearly to someone on FBI comms, “you catch that? FBI is on crowd control and evac only.” There was a pause. “Helicopters on standby would be good.”
Tony asked, “How are you removing arms and legs?”
“Swords, of course,” Dom said dryly.
“Right.” Tony was really going to need to see footage. Sentinels had a thing for close-range weapons, which was why most sentinels had a host of bladed weapons and a great many had swords as well. He wanted reassurance that they were all in radiation suits, but he knew the kind of suit they would need in the event of a containment breach wouldn’t allow them to fight effectively.
The next fifteen minutes sounded like utter chaos to Tony. He could hear screeching metal and what he was sure was gunfire. There were even a few explosions.
“Please tell me a bot didn’t just explode,” he asked, worried.
“No, they’re launching explosive rounds at the sentinels,” Kyle said. “The sentinels are able to anticipate it and duck because sentinel reflexes are much faster than these damn bots, but they just took out an Apple Store.”
“You’ve got to hit them at the knee servo or above,” Dom said breathlessly. “Below and they crawl too effectively.” There was a loud clang and the sound of tearing metal. “All right, we got six. The other four left us fighting these six and pressed on. We’ve got to catch up.”
“Sentinel Rossi,” Jarvis said sharply, “SHIELD has deployed the Avengers near the Baxter Building to wait for the bots’ arrival.”
“Please reinforce the mandate that they are not to shoot at them!” Dom said urgently.
Suddenly, there was a loud, piercing wail followed by shouts and screams.
“Sir, high frequency emitters and strobes have started activating from all street lights on the paths. Olfactory shock grenades are detonating.”
Tony wanted to ask about Dom but he set his personal interest aside. “We can’t do anything about the grenades. What about the lights and the emitters? If we have to, shut the power down to Manhattan.”
“That may be part of the plan,” Bruce said urgently.
“How?” Tony demanded.
“I don’t know, but I don’t think we can afford to follow a script like cutting the power. This is too well coordinated.”
“Jarvis, can you just cut the lights? Are the emitters and the lights together?”
“I’ve found a street light upgrade project that was approved three years ago. There are twelve identified paths where the street lights in Manhattan would be modernized.”
“Twelve?” Bruce repeated.
“Should we be looking for more bots?” Sue Storm asked.
Tony quickly interjected, “We have to assume Von Doom co-opted this project to set his little bobby traps because no one would look twice at city workers doing pre-approved work. He paid someone off to use something convenient. Look into there being more bots, but let’s not assume there are more. We need to focus on getting those lights and emitters shut down. Bots are secondary for the moment because we need the sentinels functional first.”
“I’m in the power grid,” Penelope Edgerton broke in. “The design of this grid is crazy. It’s all or nothing, but we can take the lights down individually. It allows them to do repairs. I’m not fast enough to get them all. Jarvis?”
“I’m here,” Jarvis said. “I need forty-five seconds.”
“Damn, look at you go.” She whistled lowly. “The strobes and frequency emitters are tied together and should be coming down one at a time. I’ll be switching to private channel to talk Ian through getting back in control.”
“Jarvis, what’s going on with Doom’s bots?”
“They’re continuing to their destination. The populace seem to be panicking at seeing so many sentinels in distress. Local law enforcement are maintaining control for the time being and helping sentinels off the street.”
“Sentinel Rossi is non-responsive. I do not have a visual of his last known location.” Jarvis actually sounded stressed.
“Are his comms working?”
“Yes. Guide Agent McGuire is attempting to talk to him over the FBI channel.”
Tony didn’t know if he was being jealous or stupidly territorial or what, but he went with his gut. “Override their comms and put me on with him. Private channel.”
“Tony,” Dom immediately gasped. “There are you are. I was trying to find your heartbeat. I think I got lost.” Dom sounded dazed.
“You can hear my heart through the comms?”
“Yeah. Then nothing.”
“They cut you over to the FBI comms when you stopped responding.”
“Don’t go away.”
“I won’t, I promise.”
“Everything is so loud,” Dom said softly, his voice sounding pained.
“The sound was cut off, Dom. I can’t hear it over comms anymore. It’s just echoes. Dial it down for me, okay?”
“If I do, I won’t be able to hear you. I need to hear you.”
“Don’t give me that shit, Rossi, I know you can pick a single sound and shut it down. You keep my voice and my heartbeat and you turn the rest off, you got me? Just shut it down and regroup.”
“Yeah.” There was the sound of labored breathing. “God, it stinks, Tony.”
“I know it does. Just listen to my voice and my heart.” He swallowed heavily, astonished that Dom was listening for his heartbeat over their communication radios. The sound of muffled gagging reached him. “I’ll sympathy vomit, Rossi, and that’d be bad in the suit.”
“You have nothing to apologize for.” The background noises were alarming, with bangs and screaming, but it was muffled and distant. “Are you safe right now?”
“Yeah. Cops are covering me, but the bots moved on—people are just freaked out. I gotta get my head together.” He blew out a breath.
“Did you take your sword to some bots like a badass?”
“Cutting legs and arms left and right. Sentinel swords are supposed to be adamantium alloy.”
“Difficult alloy to work with..”
“Yeah. And mine is getting nicks.” Dom sounded personally offended.
“I’ll make you a better sword,” Tony promised.
“You make all the cool stuff, Stark.”
“Damn right I do. You sound like you’re breathing a little easier.”
“I had the plague once. I told you that, right?”
“Yeah. That must have been rough.”
“Mm. Strong smells that gag me remind me of feeling like I was suffocating in that isolation unit. Not sure why. It really throws me.” Dom sounded clearer headed than he had even a few seconds ago. “So both cases are the same thing.” There was the distinct sound of movement.
“You on your feet again?”
“Yep. I’m leveling out.”
“Sir,” Jarvis broke in on their line, “the Center is sending reinforcements. They feel with the sensory overwhelm most of the sentinels are dealing with that lower-level sentinels are the best choice. They have the same strength advantages, but less chance of sensory collapse now that the sound and strobe lights are dealt with.”
“Good plan, Jarvis,” Dom answered. “Officer,” Dom said to someone on scene, “I need you to coordinate getting any sentinels who are not back on their feet within five minutes into that building. Then contact the Manhattan Center and tell them where you are. They’ll send guides to evac them back for medical care. Do not let them be picked up to be sent to a mundane hospital.”
“Yes, sir,” was the muffled response. “You have my word I’ll keep them safe.”
“Good man.” Dom coughed a few times. “You good to go, Ian?”
“Jarvis, sitrep then get us back on group comms.”
“All sentinel team reported the same issues. Sentinel Ellison and Sentinel Thompson are improving at almost the same rate as you and Sentinel Edgerton. No one else has recovered yet. I’ve relayed the instructions you just gave to officers at every location and fed the coordinates of the wounded sentinels to the Center. I’ve been feeding updates to the rest of the team, but no one has altered the plan. SHIELD has not engaged with any bots as the bots’ progress is slow as they continue their trek toward the Baxter Building.”
“But why?” Dom said.
“I can’t believe these two cases converged,” Ellison said as the larger team was conferenced in. He sounded hoarse.
“We’re missing something obvious,” Dom said sounding tired and frustrated.
“Dom, take the time to work it out,” Tony prompted. “You know both cases. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” Dom insisted.
“Give me your gut reaction, Sentinel,” Tony said sharply.
“This is all a distraction! We’re chasing bots, who could have been let off closer to the Baxter if that was their real goal, but they’re taking this long path where we chase them around right into sensory traps that have made most of Manhattan a nightmare. It all feels like a game to keep us busy.”
“So that you don’t see what?” Tony pushed.
“What he’s really after. The test run was a kidnapping—he tried to keep something hidden from us. So he’s going to try to keep something hidden again.”
“And what does Victor Von Doom want?” Banner asked.
“Oh fuck,” Richards breathed. “He’s after Sue.”
“And where is Sue now?” Dom asked urgently.
Bruce answered, “She’s down on the street with the SHIELD team, her brother, and Mr. Grimm, making sure SHIELD doesn’t do something crazy like open fire. She was on comms with just her team because she also needed to be on SHIELD’s frequency. But she’s not answering Richards. Neither is Johnny. Grimm reported that she said she and Johnny were headed to help the nearest sentinel team. He and Richards are looking for them now.”
“Tony, how far out are you?” Dom asked.
“Ten more minutes.”
“I don’t now how to find her in this mess. Von Doom was obviously waiting for her to come down to street level with everyone distracted. But we’ve got damn bots everywhere that have already killed people. I can only deal with what’s in front of me, and Richards was part of our primary plan for rounding up the bots once they got closer. I gotta work the bot problem.”
“I’ll find Sue. Just go kick some Doom Bot ass.”
“I…I need to be able to hear you, so leave your channel open.
“Can you block out me working a separate action?”
“Yeah. Mute me if you need to.”
“I won’t. The channel will stay open.” Tony took a steadying breath. “Be careful.”
“Jarvis, if your multitasking gets challenged, let me know.”
“It won’t, Sir. I’ll be able to coordinate for the team and still provide any assistance you require.”
“Block my comms to anyone but Dom.”
“Anyone but you recording?”
“No. I’ve encrypted the channel. No one can eavesdrop on this line.”
“I’ll be coming in hot, but I’d like some idea where I’m headed. I don’t care what you have to hack, get thermal imaging over New York for the last hour.”
The miles flew by while Jarvis worked and Tony listened to what the rest of the team were going through. He winced when the sentinels caught up with the bots again. The sound of swords hacking away at metal was shudder-worthy. And the occasional sound of energy weapons or explosion was more than a little alarming. Jarvis put a last-known status for Dom up on the HUD so Tony wouldn’t have to ask how or where he was. Dom was faring well in the battles. Ellison was also doing fine. Thompson and Edgerton were both struggling with sensory spikes but were continuing on and kicking robot ass.
He was barely two minutes from New York when the sentinels and the bots all made it to the Baxter Building. The sounds of engagement got louder, including Dom doing some epic telling off when someone used the wrong weapon.
“Sir, I have thermal imaging for the time when Dr. Storm-Richards went missing. They’ve found Mr. Storm unconscious in an alley that matches up with areas I’ve highlighted on the satellite images.”
“Take over piloting while I assess these.”
“Goddammit, Rogers!” Dom’s voice came in at a yell. “Do not use your shield on those bots!” An epically loud clang of metal on metal nearly rattled Tony’s composure. “Back off! And now my sword is broken on your dumb shield. Someone get me another fucking sword!”
“Incoming, Rossi,” Kyle said sharply.
The reply of someone not on comms was too muffled to make out.
“No!” Dom yelled, obviously angry. “I don’t care if there was a civilian in harm’s way. Arms and legs only! We’ve been perfectly clear about that. You don’t risk killing hundreds or thousands to save one person!” There was another pause. “Oh, stuff your morals, you star-spangled asshole!”
Tony nearly choked.
“Did you SHIELD-iots really not explain nuclear fallout to this guy before you put him in the field? Un-fucking-believable. Stay on task, Rogers!”
“Oh, hell,” Tony breathed, rapidly coming to conclusion about the images he was seeing on his HUD. “Dom, I think Von Doom brought her back into the Baxter building.”
“I’m confident about my channel to you, Tony, but not so sure about anything else. He’s been one step ahead of us the whole way. You got this? I’ve still got a bunch of—whoa! That was close. I’ve got bots to deal with.”
“We’ll handle it. Jarvis, put me on with Richards.”
“Busy. Yeah, aren’t we all. I’m coming to your location. I’ve got an idea, but I need to talk to you in person.”
“Would you just not be in charge for five seconds? I’m about to land on your damn head, and it’s not like you’re making any damn progress on your own!”
Richards blew out a breath. “Ben and I are waiting.”
“Well, heads up.” A second later, Tony landed with a bang right in front of them. “Jarvis, cut all their comms. Keep only my channel to Dom open.” He raised the face plate, and glared at Richards and Grimm. “I think Doom took her back into the Baxter.”
“Based on what?”
“Thermal imaging. I can go through the ins and outs and how I drew my conclusions, or you can get on board with helping me and we can deal with him now and I can get my fair share of the bot destruction party. But I’ll be more confident in my estimation if you can answer me this…based on your space shenanigans that gave you all your abilities, would a containment breach on any of those bots be dangerous for you?”
“No, probably not,” Richards admitted.
“So he can stay close and be at no risk?”
Richards looked skeptical, but nodded.
“You’re going to trust him?” Grimm asked.
“I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Because, as much as I hate to admit it, he’s smarter than I am.”
Tony promised himself he’d gloat about that later. “If I’m right about where she is, I’m so holding that over your head. Now, based on what I saw on the satellite images, it looked like there was thermal activity leading right up to the side of the building, but there’s nothing on the plans for an entrance there.”
“There’s a secret door behind—” Richards broke off when Tony caught his arm and held him still, causing the limb to stretch in a way that sort of freaked Tony out. Richards’ abilities were appalling in Tony’s estimation.
“Let’s not go in the obvious way, okay? He’s going to have traps and a plan. He’s making sure we’re all running around chasing our tails and once the bot battle is done, we’ll all be elsewhere looking for her and doing containment, and he’ll probably exfil her from a fucking helicopter right on your damn roof. So let’s let him think he’s won and walk in the front door to go back to your lab to try to figure out where he went.”
“But we’ll really be going to where she’s being held.”
“Best to assume he’s watching. Do you have a guess where she is?”
“There are a couple empty apartments on the first couple floors, plus we evacuated the building,” Grimm answered.
“You’ve got a couple minutes to make your best guess.”
Grimm asked, “Will the sentinels be able to sniff her out?”
“Maybe, but I kind of doubt it. We have four on their feet right now and the incoming sentinels aren’t strong from a sensory perspective. Doom had a very good test he already ran that proves they can’t smell their way around this garbage.”
“One of those OSGs went off right near our front door,” Grimm complained, rubbing his rocky-looking nose.”
“Which was a clue, I guess.” Richards rubbed his hand over his face. “Let’s go.”
“I’m going to fly in ahead of you. It’s suspicious if we’re together.” He didn’t give them a chance to argue, he just lowered his faceplate and took off, heading right for where the sounds of fighting could be heard.
He had just a fraction of a second to appreciate the awesomeness that was Dom with a sword, hacking a Doom Bot at the knees and watching it fall.
Tony landed just outside the front doors of the building, behind where several SHIELD agents were. The agent were, for some reason, funneling bots down the alley to the side of the building.
“About damn time you showed up, Stark!” Romanoff called out.
He ignored her, using his precision, narrow-beam lasers to take five bots out at the knees. When two of the bots immediately tried to roll over and lift their arm to fire, Dom was there hacking the arms off.
Tony noticed very few impacts to the Baxter building, while other buildings were nearly in shambles. And wasn’t that big fucking clue?
He headed deal with the bots the SHIELD boys were letting into that alley. He could at least incapacitate them while he waited for Richards and Grimm to catch up.
He stopped in his tracks the minute he entered the alley. “Okay, someone really needed to warn me about this.”
“That was plan B!” Dom said over the comms.
“I’m going to cherish this moment for the rest of my life.”
“Tin man!” Hulk rumbled from where he was sitting in the middle of the alley, very carefully plucking up bots—while somehow ignoring anything they fired at him—and happily ripping their arms and legs off. Then he tossed the limbs willy-nilly before neatly stacking the squirming torsos. He had about twenty.
“Nice collection, Green Bean.”
“Funny man teach!” Hulk shot him a toothy grin.
“Did he now? Did he teach you the difference between the good bots and bad bots?”
“Good bots like To-nee. Bad bots have hot bellies. No smash.”
“Very nice. I guess you don’t need my help.”
“More bots for Hulk.”
“Coming right up!” He spotted Richards and Grimm running down the road, but he had plenty of time to redirect a few more bots Hulk’s direction.
Johnny Storm staggered out from the lobby just as the others joined caught up. He was obviously shaking off a head injury, but he seemed okay. “They got Sue,” he said urgently.
“We know,” Richards said then looked to Tony. “We got this. Help them finish up. There can’t be more than fifteen or twenty left.”
“Just call if you need me.” Tony waded into what was left of the battle, though he could easily see that swords were preferred over anything anyone else was using. Rogers was pretty effective at getting the arms off with the shield, but not the knees.
Most of the SHIELD agents had gotten with the program and were putting themselves in harm’s way to get the bots into the alley for Hulk.
Barton’s efforts seemed to be limited to precision aim to get arrows into the servos at the joints to stop them from functioning. It was hit or mess whether it worked. Romanoff was helping where she could, but she wasn’t strong enough to go up against the bots directly and her preferred weapons were all a no-go.
Tony had to be careful how he used his lasers—no one could obviously be standing on the other side—but he took several down quickly, letting Thompson and Ellison come in behind him to deal with the arms.
Suddenly, the sentinel reinforcements arrived. All fresh to fight, and all carrying big-ass swords. The bots began dropping like flies.
He worked his way to the far side of the building, opposite of where the alley was, and spotted a civilian huddled across the street against a brick wall. The young man was damn lucky he was in one piece considering how many chunks of that wall were missing.
Rogers spotted the young man and called out to him, making tracks to go protect him. It caught the “attention” of one of the last bots, which followed Rogers.
“Rogers!” Dom called, skidding into view in front of Rogers at a forty-five degree angle from the bot. “Watch your six!”
The bot was closest to Tony but he wasn’t close enough to do anything but fire a laser, which would put Rogers in harm’s way.
Dom was reacting and moving faster than Rogers, sword raised.
For Tony it was as if time slowed to a crawl as Rogers, apparently acting on instinct, raised his shield to strike the bot—right in the chest.
“No!” Dom yelled, running at full speed, shoulder checking the bot right to the ground and taking Rogers’s shield in his own chest.
Tony stared in horror as Dom went down, a scream of pain reverberating through his headset. “Dom,” he gasped, feeling like his own chest was being ripped out. He wasn’t even aware of moving, but he suddenly next to Dom, shoving Rogers away.
“I didn’t mean— He was—”
Edgerton was there, dealing with the bot, telling Rogers to get back into the fight. Then Edgerton was down on his knees next to Dom, who was staring fixedly at the sky.
“He’s wearing body armor, Stark, and it would have mitigated some of that blow. He’s shutting down his sense of touch so he can deal.” Edgerton was feeling along Dom’s side. “We need to get him to the Center. Blair, we need you now! Dom’s seriously injured.”
“On our way,” Blair said quickly. “There are four left. The SHIELD agents and the new sentinels are going to be able to mop this up. We need to get all of us back to the Center.”
Blair came running around the corner, Ellison hot on his heels, hovering over Blair’s shoulder, looking for threats as Blair dropped to his knees next to Dom.
He put hand on either side of Dom’s face, eyes closed. “Dom, you gotta work with me, man. Don’t fight it.”
“It’s instinct, Blair,” Ellison reminded.
“I know.” Blair looked up at Tony then he shook his head. “We need to get going.”
The quinjet the SHIELD agents had been in suddenly landed about twenty feet away. The rear hatch opened and Barton came running out with a backboard. “Let’s go. I’ll take you all to the Center then come back here to mop up and get my team.”
Blair and Jim exchanged a look but nodded and took the board. Ellison and Edgerton got Dom on the board and into the jet.
“Sir,” Jarvis said softly, “exit the suit and go with Dom. I’ll remain here in control of the armor until all the threats are contained.”
Tony didn’t even question further. He exited the suit and followed the sentinels and guides into the quinjet. The armor closed up and Jarvis moved away.
Hulk came bounding around the corner running full tilt at them, abruptly shrinking and turning back into Banner and following Tony onto the jet. “I heard. I told Hulk we had to go with,” Bruce panted, looking exhausted as he slumped down in a seat, wearing nothing but stretchy pants.
“We ready?” Barton called.
“Just a couple more seconds,” Edgerton called, watching out the back.
Tony sat on a bench. They had Dom on the floor of the jet, Blair still kneeling next to him, obviously concentrating, brow furrowed.
“I’m here!” a woman’s voice called out. “I’m here! We can go.”
Tony glanced up and realized it was Penelope Edgerton as she fell into her sentinel’s arms. The jet immediately started taking off. “Dial it down, honey,” she said softly, “it’s over.”
Kyle was whispering to Scott, Jim was shoulder to shoulder with Blair.
“Oh what the hell,” Blair exclaimed. “Tony, get down here. Kneel by his head an encourage him to let me help.”
Tony was doing as ordered even as he protested. “I’m not— I shouldn’t—” He framed Dom’s face with his hands, so eager to touch his lover but afraid of hurting him.
“He’s listening to your heartbeat right now, Tony, so figure out whatever you’re worried about later. Right now, I need you to get him to relax and let me help.”
Tony put his face right next to Dom’s, letting his breath ghost over Dom’s face. “Hey, babe. I don’t know what Blair’s trying to do, but I think you really need to let him.”
“He’s trying to empathically cut him off from the pain,” Kyle supplied, looking exhausted and dirty.
“I remember you doing that for me after the battle.” Tony looked back at Dom, stroking his thumbs over Dom’s cheekbones. “You gotta let Blair help, Dom. I remember how much of a relief that was.”
“It’s working,” Blair murmured.
A hand closed over Tony’s wrist and he realized it was Dom, who was blinking steadily and staring at Tony.
“Hey,” Tony whispered, his smile feeling wobbly. “I don’t care what kind of body armor you’re wearing, you can’t take vibranium to the chest and not need to let Blair do his thing.”
Dom blinked a few times. “SHIELD never taught him anything,” he whispered.
“Rogers?” Tony tried to follow the thread.
“Left him ignorant. Fury is an asshole.”
“Yeah, he is. I’ll take care of it, I promise.”
Dom’s hand tightened. “Stay with me?”
“Dom,” Blair whispered, “keep touch dialed low, but not off, okay? You’ve got smell dialed too far down already. I don’t want you going into sensory collapse.”
“Make sure I can smell Tony,” Dom mumbled, eyes sliding shut.
“We’ll be landing at the Center in two minutes,” Barton called back.
Blair blew out a breath, pulling his hands away. “He won’t feel much for a little while. There are several displaced fractures, but, miraculously, no intrusion into the lung or spleen.”
Tony felt his breath catch. “He’s going to be in pain for a long time.”
“Not necessarily. Shamans can accelerate healing in a sentinel dramatically—if the sentinel doesn’t fight the psionic energy. Which Dom has always does. Before today that is. So, if you bully him through it, we might be able to have him out of medical in a week.”
“Yeah, of course.” Tony didn’t know how he could help or even why he was able to, but he didn’t care as long as Dom got the help he needed. “I’m all in.”
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