They had patiently bided their time, waiting until the next crisis occurred that was big enough to would call all the Avengers away, leaving Darcy Lewis as Ianto's only guard. Knowing how much Ianto would begin to miss his fathers after a while, she did her best to keep him occupied; they played outside for a short while and then went back inside for some applesauce and graham crackers. Hide and seek behind the living room furniture came next – it was so easy to find Ianto because he’d come rushing out as fast as he could crawl the moment she loudly said, “I wonder where that little boy went?” and then he’d gabble at his bunny when she’d pretend not to see him.
Lunch went off without a hitch; Darcy made his favourite finger food – hotdogs and bananas cut into rounds with milk to wash it all down. While Ianto was eating, Darcy put a large chicken in the crockpot for dinner; she had no idea when the team would return home, but even if it was late, they could still have sandwiches from the bird. They cleaned up, meaning Darcy did the dishes while Ianto and his plushie bunny supervised; at one point Darcy took a good look at the rabbit and decided that the first chance she got, the thing was going in the laundry. He was definitely beginning to look bedraggled.
Filling Ianto’s sippy cup half-full with chocolate milk, a special treat since both his dads had him on a healthy eating regime, the who adjourned to the living room, where Ianto picked out the story book he wanted to hear. They were just settling in when the power began flickering and Darcy immediately knew something was wrong; the Tower was on a secure power grid, with back-up generators that had their own back-up generators. A power failure at the Tower was virtually impossible.
"JARVIS?" When no answer came Darcy’s worry meter ramped up to severe; like the electricity, JARVIS’ power was self-contained and impossible to turn off. Quietly gathering up Ianto she began making her way towards Tony's lab; it was the most secure place in the entire tower and easily defendable. Plus, it had a big red panic button that would summon SHIELD and the Avengers in a heartbeat.
Making sure her trusty Taser was handy she slowly crept through the halls keeping to the shadows, she liked having the home advantage; she knew the tower and whoever they were, they didn't. Ianto seemed to instinctively know that something was wrong and he stayed completely quite snuggling deeper against Darcy as they slowly made their way to the lab. They were almost there when Darcy rounded a corner at the same time as one of the invaders; she was quicker on the draw and dropped the man like a rock.
"Invade my home? I don't think so!" Darcy snarled under her breath as she took great joy in stunning the strange man with her Taser.
“When you get older I’m going to teach you how to wield a mean Taser,” Darcy promised the young child that she held in her arms; she looked into his eyes, marvelling at how calm he was, and then down at the twitching man at her feet. Keeping her voice low, she murmured, “Seriously, you really thought I wasn’t armed? I once Tased the God of Thunder for Pete’s sake, and did you really think Tony Stark, Steve Rogers or anyone from the Avengers would let Ianto go with someone who didn’t know how to wield a weapon?"
Catching sight of the insignia on his coat sleeve, she growled deep down in her throat. "A.I.M.! I should have known it was you bastards." They had been becoming a pain lately, but as she was standing over her fallen foe she didn't realise until it was a second too late that she was no longer alone.
Sudden, agonising pain flared through her body making her limbs go stiff and her muscles tighten. "Seriously, a Taser! That's just not fair," Darcy managed to get out between clenched teeth as she fell to the floor trying desperately but uselessly to keep Ianto safe.
The A.I.M. soldiers stood above Darcy's crumpled form and sneered in triumph. "She wasn't that tough after all. Do you know I’ve heard she stunned the God of Thunder?"
“Yeah, right,” another said derisively. “Musta been a stuffed toy she zapped!” His caustic comment brought a round of laughter to his teammates.
One of the soldiers aimed a vicious kick to Darcy’s midsection, which rolled her off of their quarry and revealed a fearful Ianto clinging tightly to her shirt as he looked up at them.
"You're quite the prize, little guy." One of the soldiers bent down and roughly picked up Ianto who began screaming and crying, his little hands and feet beating at his captor.
"Shut up, you stupid little brat." One of the soldiers injected a sedative into Ianto’s hip and the little boy went limp so fast that the man nearly dropped him. "Let's get out of here before the Avengers get back."
"S.. und… att… k…"
Tony froze in horror as JARVIS' badly garbled words came over the comm line. "We have to get back to the tower now, it's under attack!" he bellowed to the others.
Steve stared at his partner with a terrified look in his eyes. "Ianto!" The single word came out as a gasped whisper.
Tony wasted no time in grabbing Steve around the waist. "We'll meet you all back at the tower!" he shouted to the others as they took off into the air.
As they dashed to their vehicles, Natasha and Clint shared a look that clearly said someone was going to pay dearly if even one hair on Ianto or Darcy's head was touched.
JARVIS was angry, no, he was beyond that, he was absolutely livid! Not only had he been hacked but they had taken his youngest charge and damaged one of his humans. Having cleared up his static problem, he contacted Tony mid-flight. "Sir, I am ashamed to report that A.I.M. somehow managed to breech my security systems. They have taken Ianto, but we managed to capture one of the intruders." Apparently A.I.M. wasn't that loyal to one another and they’d foolishly left one of their own behind. Of course it could be that JARVIS had started regaining control of himself and the facility and they’d had to leave the man behind in order to escape with their prize. They weren’t getting paid to save each other, just to bring back a fifteen-month-old child.
"We’re on our way, JARVIS, make our guest comfy," Tony growled as he tightened his arms around Steve and put on a burst of speed.
"It will be my pleasure, Sir."
Bruce was engulfed by a wave of crimson rage when he got back to the tower and found Darcy lying unconscious on one of the beds in the medical lab. Mindful of the sensors attached to her he gently took her hand in his and stroked her hair back from her face. "Is she going to be okay?" There was a note of pure worry in his voice.
"Yes, Mr Banner, she has been Tasered," JARVIS reassured Bruce. “There will be no lasting effects once she wakes up.
Feeling somewhat better – JARVIS had an extensive bank of medical data, with access to additional information outside his memory core, as well as the medical records of all of the Avengers – Bruce used a foot to hook a rolling stool over to Darcy’s bedside; he didn’t her waking up alone if he could help it.
While Tony was happy to hear that Darcy was going to be okay he couldn't breathe, there was a band of iron around his chest and it tightened even more with every breath. His son had been taken. His precious Ianto was in the hands of monsters. ‘He’s only fifteen months old! He can’t defend himself, he can’t even talk yet!’ That cued up the memory of Ianto saying Da and Dada for the very first time and Tony ground his teeth with impotent frustration.
Next to him Steve stood silently, as tense as a coiled spring, trying to process the fact that his son was missing and at the moment he had absolutely no idea what to do about it. In unison the fathers glared menacingly at the A.I.M. agent who was slowly waking up.
"Let me deal with him," Natasha growled as she used the razor-sharp point of her knife to play with the man’s left ear.
On any given day, Tony Stark was a happy man, satisfied with his lot in life and blessed by the gift of an heir to the throne, so to speak. Today however, it was a different story; today he was feeling downright murderous, his fingers itching to wrap themselves around the prisoner’s neck and squeeze until the man spilled everything he knew about the abduction and location of Ianto Stark-Rogers. Given the way that Steve’s jaw was clenching the Super Soldier was feeling the same way.
There was an ugly truth hanging over Stark Tower: Someone had taken their son; therefore, someone was going to suffer a long and horrible death.
"Go ahead, Natasha," Steve growled under his breath at the same time Tony motioned at the bound man and said,
“Be my guest.”
It should have been frightening the way Natasha was using her knives to install abject terror in their suspect – it should have been, but it wasn’t – and Tony was rather enjoying seeing him shake with fear and struggle against his bonds. She was a consummate professional at playing with the limits of a man’s ability to endure pain without ever shedding a drop of their blood, and she was putting that skill to good use now.
Steve knew that if he were a better man he would be ashamed of the deadly thoughts going through his mind but all he wanted was to destroy the enemy, who was wide awake and staring at Natasha with increasing horror; he didn’t know whether to try and get away from her or to lie perfectly still so she didn’t hurt him anymore.
Tony stepped closer and put an arm on Natasha’s arm, stilling her hand for the moment. Looking down at his captive he leaned a little closer, as though he were about to confide something important; “See, while I don't kill, the same can't be said for her.” He smiled but it was really nothing more than a baring of his teeth. “I'm sure you've heard of the Black Widow?” He waited while the man looked at Natasha and when the realisation that he was truly a dead man sank in, Tony continued, “Well, then you know that she's more than willing to kick your sorry arse." Tony put his mouth mere inches from the man’s ear and whispered, “And you know what? I’m going to let her.”
"No! Wait, please! It's my fault."
Everyone stopped the instant they heard that pronouncement and turned to see Darcy standing behind them. She was pale and shaking, with tears rolling down her cheeks and she leaned heavily against Bruce who had an arm wrapped firmly around her waist.
Taking a deep breath, the young woman wiped a hand across her face and repeated, "It’s my fault, Tony. I was in charge of looking after Ianto; I should have done a better job." Darcy looked at Tony and Steve with pleading eyes. "I'm so sorry; please believe me when I say I never wanted something like this to happen." She sagged against Bruce and he tightened his grip on her, how holding nearly all her weight. It was clear to them all that Darcy should never have gotten out of her bed and that she needed to return there immediately.
Something inside of Tony clenched at the sight of Darcy's tears and he abandoned his prisoner, quickly closing the distance between them and resting his hands gently on her shoulders. He could feel her body shaking like a leaf and his heart went out to the brave woman. "You listen to me, Darcy Lewis, it is not your fault. A.I.M. is a dangerous organisation, with an insane leader and they don’t normally leave anyone alive. We’re damn lucky that you were only knocked out. We’ve seen the CCTV footage; we’ve seen how hard you fought to keep Ianto safe! We owe you more than you could ever know you risked your life for our son. He tenderly wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Now let Bruce take you back to medical before you collapse,” he could see that she was about to object, so he played his trump card. “Ianto’s going to need you more than ever when we bring him home.”
Hearing Tony speak Ianto’s name brought forth a fresh burst of tears so she didn’t see him nod at Bruce. All she was aware of was abruptly being scooped up in his arms and cradled against his broad chest and then there was nothing. For the first time in her life, Darcy Lewis had fainted.
Clint hopped down from his spot and made shooing motions with his hands. "I think we should give Nat the room, she always works better without an audience."
"What? NO!” The A.I.M. soldier yelled in fear and began fighting against his bonds. “Wait, you can't leave me with her!" He’d heard all about the Black Widow, her exploits were the stuff of legend, and he knew that there was a very good chance he wouldn't be walking out of this mission alive.
It was Steve who reacted first when he took a step forward, a dangerous look sparking from his eyes. "Oh, I think you'll find we can do exactly that. You kidnapped my son, remember? We want to know why and she’s going to find out… unless you’d like to tell us now?"
"Answer him, mortal!" Thor roared and his angry power made thunder crack and lightning flash outside.
The man was no fool; if he didn't give them answers they wanted the Black Widow would kill him for sure. "Your son is the only one besides you who holds the answers to recreating the super soldier formula."
Steve paled and barely stopped his knees from buckling beneath him in fear. "What do you plan on doing to my son?"
The solider made the extraordinarily bad choice of grinning sarcastically as he said, "What do you think we’re gonna do?” and the sneer in his voice put everyone’s teeth on edge. “We’re gonna extract the DNA right from the source."
Untamed fury coursed through Tony's body. "Find out where they have Ianto, do whatever it takes," he ordered Natasha as he spun on his heel and led the others from the room.
"With pleasure," Natasha purred and licked her lips with anticipation as she moved closer to the man. The last sound they heard as the door closed behind them was a shrill scream of pure pain.