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Anthropos Polytropos, Chapter Seven

Anthropos Polytropos
By: Memory Dragon
Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers movie-verse, nor do I make any claim to.
Characters:  Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, Natasha Romanov, Bruce Banner, Thor, Amora the Enchantress, Pepper Potts, James Rhodes, Happy Hogan.
Warnings: PTSD. Mentions of past torture. Temporary character death that the characters are aware is (probably) only temporary, though it still takes it's mental toll on them.  Mentions of potential child abuse.  Mind fuckery.  Minor self-abuse.  Cliff hangers.  Implied bullying.  Generally dark fic, though there is a happy ending and no one actually dies.  Not Iron Man 3 compliant in the slightest.  If you have any questions about the warnings, I'd be more than happy to clarify as best I can.
Rating: I think I'm just going to leave this at an M due to how dark it gets and some of the themes.
Summary:  He doesn't remember much from before he woke up, but he does know two things.  He doesn't like being called Tony Stark, and he hates Captain America.
Thanks: Many thanks to narwhale_callin for continuing to beta, despite me being evil and sending her tentacle-y things.  Also thanks to Redrikki, szzzt, Gadhar, penscritch, beizanten, sodoesrachael, lilsmartass, EternalSheWolf, Chleom, and actionfan for the reviews and to everyone who left kudos!
Notes:  Upping the chapter count again.  It's not Nar's fault this time.  That's actually my fault for miscounting.  -_-;;;  I apparently forgot to count the epilogue in there.  Oops.  Also, let's take a look at those warnings, shall we?  There's two words I'd like to focus on: cliff hangers.  That's been in the warnings since the very start, so don't come whining to me that I left you guys hanging.  You read the warnings, you knew what you were getting into.  No amount of threatening will change that.  XD

This chapter is basically 'Spot the Shakespeare quotes!'  The main question is if anyone can spot the one non-Shakespeare quote.

Prologue Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six


Chapter Seven: Be all my sins remembered

Thump-thump. Thump-thump.

Tony closed his eyes and gasped in clean air, filling his lungs as he coughed wetly and his heart vainly started again with an electric shock that raced through him. It was only a matter of time that his heart stopped again.

Hands ghosted around his reactor, and they pushed his own hands away as Tony tried to fight them off. The hands hesitated, lingering, then moved away. With a second sudden shock, the reactor whirled to life, and Tony gasped, his panic over someone touching the reactor momentarily sidelined. His heart pounded (pounded, instead of barely beating! Good sign) in his ears as he reached for the reactor - still in his chest, thank God - and slowly he opened his eyes to see it was shining brightly again. The steady hands had disappeared.

The non-ghostly ones belonged to a huge Wagnerian wet dream of a man who was panting just as heavily as Tony was. He was... Wow. If Steve had been Heracles, this man was a full-fledged god, with his long hair and armored broad shoulders. The second Tony could breathe normally and he stopped trembling from fear, he was touching those biceps to make sure they were real. Finally, his imagination was giving him a break.

Turns out he only had to wait for the god to catch his breath before he was enveloped in a bear hug that put Steve's to shame. Okay, ow. "Uh, Blondy? My ribs..." Tony said breathlessly, his voice shaking as he tried to push the fear down again.

The hug immediately loosened, though the man didn't let go. Tony closed his eyes, giving a shuddery breath against the man's shoulder as he soaked up the warmth and waited for the memories of the cold water to recede.

"You have fought well, my friend," the man said, rubbing Tony's back.

"I couldn't-" Tony started, needing to gasp for breath as the guilt hit him again. "They all died."

"They are safe," the man said confidently. "My mother's magic will ensure that. Come, we do not have much time before Amora realizes I've broken free of my bonds."

"Who..." Tony asked as the man helped him stand, keeping a hand on his back to steady him. Tony grabbed Steve's shield, feeling a little better, and leaned into the hand. Tony needed the comfort too, he realized, trying to keep his own hands from shaking. His legs weren't doing much better.

"I am Thor Odinson," the man said, and yeah, okay. Tony could see that. Thor was definitely godly. As the usual list of nicknames (Bondy, Goldilocks, Thunder-bolt, Big Guy, Muscles, and so forth) piled up, Tony wondered if any of them could really describe Thor.

So he was the one who brought everyone into Tony's mind? Tony should be pissed for that, but the fear was only just held at bay, and he didn't have the energy to work up a proper rage.

"It is my great shame to have been unable to help you before now," Thor said, keeping Tony close as if he was afraid to let go. Tony wondered how much the Shadows affected Thor, feeling guilty for dragging him in this mess just because he couldn't get out on his own. "The Enchantress has kept me bound here in this place, unable to do anything but watch. I only just broke the chains."

Watch? "You saw all of that?" Tony asked, his eyes going wide.

"Aye, I did. But do not fear, my friend," Thor said, hugging Tony a little tighter. "You have proven yourself a brave warrior, one I am proud to call my shield brother. I pray I would have the strength you have shown in such dangers. I had not realized how much suffering you had faced."

"O...kay," Tony said, trying to sort through Thor's weird-ass speech. Anything but thinking about the darkness behind him. He looked down at the arc reactor, glad to see it was shining brightly again. That was a relief, at least.

He felt the fierce protectiveness emanating from Thor, and he looked up to find Thor staring at the arc reactor as well. It was already covered by his shirt, but Tony wished it was better hidden. Even though he could feel that Thor wanted to keep anyone from touching the reactor as well, it was still unnerving, having him stare at it like that.

"We must hurry," Thor said, smiling reassuringly at him as he gripped Tony's shoulder. "Amora will not be far."

"I wasted time, and now doth Time waste me: For now hath Time made me his numb'ring clock; My thoughts are minutes." Tony said absently.

"You spoke thus to me when we first met," Thor said thoughtfully. "But your words were much less elegant and more mocking."

"Probably," Tony said with a shrug. He forced his legs forward. "Twenty-four, I'm a jackass. Anyway, no rest for the wicked."

"Nay, my friend. What Steven said was true. You are a good man."

Tony stiffened at the memory of Steve's words, recalling them all too clearly. How could Thor even say that, if he'd really been watching? Between Bruce and Steve, the evidence was fairly damning. Clint and Natasha, they could argue that it hadn't really been his fault since he hadn't known, but the other two? He'd known damn well enough. He didn't meet Thor's gaze. Instead, he kept walking, looking around at the blank surroundings. Anything was better than that black mist. "Where are we going?" Tony asked.

"There is a portal we can use to get you back to-" Thor suddenly roared in pain, falling to his knees as familiar green smoke surrounded him.

"Thor!" Tony shouted, trying to reach through the smoke, but it burned his hands. The smoke disappeared before he could try again, leaving nothing of Thor behind.

Before Tony could properly panic about being alone again, he whirled around at the sound of Amora's laughter, raising Steve's shield. Thor was chained in some sort of stock that had him kneeling on the ground and held his hands and head level. It was hurting Thor in some way, but he still growled as Amora caressed his face. "Enchantress! Let him go! This fight is between you and I."

"You are so naive, Thunderer," Amora said, smiling haughtily at him. "You had your chance to free him, my Prince. Now it is time to fulfill Loki's command to dismantle the Avengers. You will watch this mortal die and remember your place with us!"

"What do you mean?" Tony asked, instead of his previous thought to demand she let Thor go.

"Didn't he tell you?" Amora let go of Thor and sauntered over to Tony, her hips rocking back and forth. If she'd been any other woman, Tony would have imagined another bed and asked if he could show her a good time. As it was, he held the shield up to keep her from getting too close.

She paused, but Tony refused to let her within touching distance again. "You could have gone free at any time," she replied with a smirk. "All Thor had to do was agree to leave with me, and never return to the mortal realm."

Thor bowed his head, shame rolling off him. "What the Enchantress says is true," he admitted. "But the last words you spoke to me were to not give in to her demands."

"Not blaming you, buddy," Tony said, sparing Thor a quick grin. He calculated the distance between Amora and Thor, debating if he could get between them. Then he remembered her green smoke disappearing act and decided it'd be a waste of time. He needed a better plan.

"You could always join me in his stead," Amora said, her voice low and seductive, honey sweet. "You could serve me well, Man of Iron. I could make you immortal, and stronger beyond your wildest-"

"Yeah, sorry," Tony interrupted. "But I've decided I really don't like you. I don't want to spend an eternity by your side either, because that thought gives me hives. Oh! Forty-eight: Commitment issues. Basically, without the right sort of person, it's not for me - and you're not the right sort of person. At all. Sorry, Goth-Girl."

Amora's eyes narrowed in anger. Maybe he was going at this wrong. From a distance, she'd disappear before he could hit her. If he let her in close, she'd have less time to disappear. But that meant letting her close enough to touch the reactor again. These were crappy odds.

"Then you have two choices, mortal," she said, spitting the last word as a curse. She raised her arms and two portals appeared, both framed in green smoke. The first turned into a door. It was open and looking out into a hospital room. Tony's body was laid out on a bed, with the rest of his team gathered around him.

They were alright. Tony's chest felt lighter, like the arc reactor had lost half its weight. Natasha and Clint were sitting by the bed, talking softly, constantly glancing down at Tony's body. Natasha was even petting Tony's hair. Bruce was on the other side, holding Tony's hand and fussing with the sheets. Thor was there, sleeping in a bed next to Tony. There were two other people there, a black man in a military uniform and a red-haired woman. Tony wanted to see both of them so badly, even if he had no idea who they were. The woman looked like she was holding back tears, and the sight just about broke the non-mechanical bits of Tony's heart. And Steve...

Steve sat a little ways apart from the group, sitting on another bed, cradling the arm Tony had broken and staring at Tony's bed bleakly. Bruce and the others sent him a few worried glances, but they left him by himself. Tony took a step forward, knowing he couldn't just leave Steve like that. The others, they'd get over it eventually, even the red-haired woman. But Steve was already too broken, and Tony couldn't be the final straw. Steve needed to smile more.

"Careful," Amora warned, bringing Tony back to the present.

Tony looked down as she spoke, scrambling away from the sudden ledge he found himself on. The other portal had turned into a dark abyss. Tony didn't have to throw a rock down there to know it was endless. It scared him in a way that not even the Shadows had.

"Your first choice is to walk through that door," Amora said, her voice holding amusement as she toyed with her hair. "But I'm afraid you really should have killed Captain America, because he was still placed under my spell when the Hydra killed him." She snapped, and all of his teammates froze, staring blankly ahead. A green band wrapped around their necks as the black man and the red-haired woman shouted and tried to get the others to snap out of it. "They are mine, since I killed them here. If you step through that door, all of them will die and Loki's command will be fulfilled."

"Let them go," Tony growled, deciding that letting her close was an acceptable risk.

"Only if you take the second option," Amora said, smiling wickedly. She walked back over to Thor who was staring at his bindings. "The abyss is exactly what you think it is. Jump into it and end your life, and I will let them go. Without you and with the Captain broken, the Avengers will no longer be a threat."

"Amora, leave the Avengers out of this!" Thor yelled desperately. "You should not serve my brother! I will stay by your side, but let the mortals live!"

Amora caressed his face again, open affection on her face. "That is all I've ever wanted, my love. And with your consciousness here, I shall have it eventually, once I've made you forget the mortal world. But first, I must destroy this 'team' of yours that drew your attention away."

"That's not stalker-ish," Tony said, attempting to cross his arms. It didn't work very well with Steve's shield strapped to one of them. He lowered them, wondering how Steve managed to look intimidating with a shield of all things.

"Make your choice, mortal," Amora said, moving away from Thor and towards him. Which was good, it suited his plan. "Or I shall make it for you."

"'Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep' Oh, look. I've even got quotes on suicide. There's one for every occasion. I'm worse than a Hallmark card, not that I actually remember what those are. But there's one choice you've forgotten," Tony said, with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Cause the way I see it, I have three options."

"There is no way for you to win," Amora said. She waved the hand that wasn't placed on her hip, and the green band tightened on the Avengers' necks.

"There is, actually. 'I kissed thee, ere I killed thee. No way but this, killing myself to die upon a kiss.'"

"A kiss won't save you or your friends," Amora said.

"Yeah, except it will. At least, the second part of that." Clutching the shield, Tony strode forward and kissed her hard, wrapping an arm around her to keep her in place. She wasn't going to let the Avengers go even with his death, but there was a solution to that.

Thankfully, she was allowing him the kiss, amused by his arrogance and willing to humor it. As he slipped his tongue into her mouth, Tony concentrated on the red-and-gold armor. Not just the gauntlets, but the whole shebang, even if he couldn't remember it. The armor was instinctive, a second skin. If he could get the armor on while she was distracted, there was a chance.

He felt it forming around him, his legs and arms first, then wrapping around his torso and the arc reactor. He pulled away before the faceplate slid down, the eyes lighting up. For the first time since Tony woke up, he felt a sense of right. This was how he belonged.

Amora screeched as he grabbed her waist, making sure she couldn't escape, then Tony looked to Thor. "Good night, sweet prince," he said, firing a repulsor blast at Thor's heart. It burnt through Thor's armor, killing him instantly. He was really getting the hang of this mind over matter thing. Then he fired the repulsors in his boots, dragging Amora with him.

"Release me, mortal!" Amora yelled, trying to move out of his arms. But Tony kept his grip and his will strong. This was his domain, not hers. She wasn't getting away.

"Sorry, gorgeous, but you're coming with me," he replied. And with that, Tony flew them both into the abyss.

Once again, darkness engulfed him, but Tony pushed harder, taking them further and further into the abyss. How long would it take for them to die like this? Amora was screaming, and it was getting harder to concentrate on holding his grip. He couldn't let her go. He couldn't...

Green clouds covered both of them, and just before he blanked out, Tony felt a strong sense of pride that couldn't have come from Thor and wasn't his own enveloping him.

* * *

Tony woke up with a groan. He pushed himself up, the external cameras of the suit rebooting slowly. He was in some sort of crystalline structure, with reflective pillars. He caught sight of a robot in one of them, gleaming red and gold with a bright arc reactor in its chest and... Captain America's shield on its arm.

So that's the armor. Damn, it's pretty sexy. Stylish too. Forty-nine: His suit of armor was way cooler than Tony Stark.

That was when he caught sight of the Enchantress using one of the pillars to push herself up. Tony reacted. He rushed her, tackling her to the ground. It was easy in the armor, and it only took a few seconds before he hauled her up, one repulsor an inch from her head and the shield at her throat.

"Option three," Tony said in her ear, the mechanized voice of the suit echoing through the hall. "I take you with me over the suicide cliff and wait for you to teleport both of us out."

"I will kill you where you-"

"I wouldn't try it," Tony said, the whine of his repulsors charging clearly audible. "If I died in my mind, it's the end of the line. But we're not in my mind anymore, are we? You panicked and brought us here, to your own dreamscape. So what happens if I kill a goddess?"

Amora froze in his arms. "You do not know of the power you are messing with."

"No, you don't know what you're messing with, trying to tangle with the Avengers," Tony said with a shrug. The motion pushed the shield into her throat. "I don't have my memories, but I'm pretty sure that's a bad idea all around. And you're going to release my friends now, or we're going to find out what happens."

"It will kill you as well!"

"You know, I'm cool with that. That outcome is acceptable."

Tony hadn't even thought about the words, before they left his mouth, but he realized it was true. If she didn't release the spell on his team, he wouldn't think twice about killing off both of them to make sure they were safe. They'd all died to try and help him, and Tony Stark wasn't worth all of them dying. Fifty: He does make the sacrifice play, even if he won't admit it. "'When the bad bleed, then is the tragedy good.' I don't think either of us are good enough to survive this tragedy, sweetheart."

He could feel the panic from Amora as she realized he was serious, and he felt the energies shift around him. No, he wasn't feeling the energies, Amora was! "It is done. They are freed," she hissed.

"Show me," Tony ordered.

She lifted her hand and the portal appeared again, forming a white door. He could see his team gasping for breath, but the green bands and blank stares were gone. It didn't feel like she was lying. Even Thor was awake, though why was he crying?

Tony looked over at the machines hooked up to his body, only to see that the heart monitor was flat-lining. The red-haired woman sat down, her eyes never leaving his body as her face twisted in grief. The unknown man was shaking Tony, and it looked like he was shouting. Tony felt his mouth go dry as he watched his team become aware of-

Ow. Okay, being tossed to the ground still hurts like a bitch, even when it's only psychological and he's in a sexy suit. He was barely able to roll and bring Steve's shield up in time to block some green fire Amora shot at him.

His element of surprise gone, Tony figured the odds were not good. If he could defeat Captain America in his own mind, he stood next to no chance against a chick who could throw him in heavy armor like he was a pebble in hers. Yeah, this was going to end badly.

At least his team was safe.

"You," Amora said as she threw another green blast at him. He didn't get the shield up in time and the impact knocked him backwards, but the armor absorbed most of the force. "You will regret this. I will make you regret this!"

"Probably," Tony said with a shrug. "But you'll have to wait in line. I mean, I probably have a queue on the outside world, so take a number and come up with more original villain dialogue while you wait."

"Foolish mortal, all I have to do to punish you is make you remember."

Tony froze, palm out to fire a repulsor blast, but not firing. He wasn't Tony Stark, but if she gave him back his memories, he would be. He didn't want to be Tony Stark. He could start something new like this, something better, without all the baggage beyond some occasional feelings.

"Don't," Tony said, desperately hoping the pleading in his voice was cut out by the armor's voice synthesizer. From the look on her face, Amora heard it or his thoughts on the matter anyway.

"Good-bye, Man of Iron," she said blasting him into one of the pillars. This time, the green fire seared through the armor, burning his chest.

He thought he would just die. And he did, he felt the agony leave his body, after which he could no longer move. He was still conscious though, and he could hear Amora talking to someone she called her 'Executioner'. It was like listening to one half of a telephone conversation. He could hear her talk, and feel her emotions, but he got nothing from the other side of it. He got the feeling this executioner didn't talk much anyway. He listened as much as he could because she was talking about the Avengers and plans to free Loki. He didn't understand most of it, but he knew it was important, so he committed as much as he could of it to memory.

Eventually, her voice started to fade, taking the only sense he had left with it. Is this what it felt like to die? Sticking around for an hour or two after death to see if anyone actually mourns you?

No one left to mourn for Tony Stark. Or whoever he was.

It was better that way. That was his last, lonely thought before he slipped into complete darkness.


Memory:  So that's the second cliff hanger in a row where I killed Tony.  Oops.  Also, Hamlet soliloquy happened.  The chapter title is from the end of the soliloquy, even if I quoted the beginning of it in the chapter.  And several other plays besides.  Actually, I originally titled this one 'Out, out, brief candle' but after giving in to Whitman, I figured I might as well give in with Hamlet.

And now we're nearing the end!  It feels like this journey has been so long...  Anyway, have the quote of the chapter.  It is the most quoted soliloquy in the English language, so I shouldn't feel too bad for using it.

Quote of the Chapter:

"To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come..."
-William Shakespeare, Hamlet