Look, Zack… You’ve tried so hard to give me my dream wedding. But my real dream is to have a husband who would do anything in his power to make me happy. And that’s you. I love you, Kelly. I love you, too.
If you thought Saved by the Bell was nothing more than a light situational comedy about high school friendship and romance – you were right. But that didn’t stop them from trying to tackle the hard questions, too.
Like in the episode “No Hope With Dope,” where the cast members warn against the dangers of marijuana smoking. Or that other episode, where Jessie becomes addicted to caffeine pills, and has a major (read: hilarious) meltdown.
“Advanced Idea Mechanics ring any bells?” Natasha asked once the Skype call had connected.
Bucky’s face looked back at her and he nodded even as a bit of confusion passed over his face. “Yes. They’ve been trying to broker some serious contracts with Rogers International the past few months. We’ve known their CEO for years too.”
“AIM was newer though.” Steve piped up from his seat. “Killian has been around since his early college days. He’s smart but he never had much ambition to get his ideas out there. At least until AIM happened.”
Years ago in his less humble days Steve hadn’t exactly been kind to Aldrich Killian. He could regret his behavior in hindsight but it had nothing to do with his refusal with the contracts he was proposing. It had been a surprise when Killian had turned up at his door, all charming smiles and sudden picture perfect appearance. The man he remembered from his early years of partying had been bookish, subdued, and unimpressive.
Steve had never been very impressed with him and still hadn’t bought the song and dance he’d try to offer. The ethics of it all had sounded borderline to Steve. Not to mention the convenient circles Aldrich had talked in when topics he wasn’t interested in came up.
The blips in the data about the forefront project - Extremis. Something with amazing potential that was just as potentially dangerous as it was helpful. Steve had passed on the offer.
Three months later Killian was back with better numbers to offer him and the same easy smile. Same omissions.
“Killian’s still trying to talk his way in the door.” Bucky said.
Steve had thought he’d been very clear last time he had no interest on signing up for Extremis or anything else that could tie back to it. He’d highlighted the fact he was highly unlikely to change his mind.
“The Advanced Idea Mechanics - AIM, they go by - really popped up overnight. Killian was virtually on his own at first then he suddenly found himself some funding out of no where.” Natasha explained. “Now AIM has a few fledgling government contracts to speak of.”
“What department?” Steve asked.
“DoD.” Nat responded earning a snort from Clint was he was sitting, feet propped up.
“The DoD wouldn’t hire an unknown. That would be too suspect for a few too many reasons.” Steve came back with. “That’s an invitation for a scandal.” Not to mention not the best business practice when you needed complete transparency about your research and expense budgets.
Something about AIM was suspect, no matter what.
But it didn’t address the elephant in the room - Tony’s disappearance and abduction.
“What does this have to do with Tony?” Bucky asked before Steve could manage to.
The dots didn’t line up quite right.
Natasha drew up a media player. “This is footage from the main lobby of RI.”
Rather to explain the video she sat back to let them watch. It would speak for itself and the implications wouldn’t be lost on anyone in the room.
The familiar lobby from one of the security cameras rolled in front of them. Familiar faces and vaguely familiar faces going to and from during the the first few minutes of footage. And in through the door strolled Tony, sticking out immediately for the way the majority of people on the footage regarded him. The security guard outright waved at him and Tony went right over, talking before he went further in. Everyone knew Tony by now at RI.
Steve was on the edge of his seat and watching with an aching fondness how Tony fit into the picture. The fondness turned to ice when he saw someone else walking up to Tony.
Killian. He strutted right over and held out a hand making introductions. There was no sound on the footage but the exchanged handshake was fairly straight forward. Killain didn’t let go too quickly though and he tried to keep Tony engaged in conversation even when Tony attempted to shrug him off, no doubt there to see Steve.
At one point Tony ducked away from the hand on his shoulder and started to head for the elevators. Killian grabbed his arm before he got far and Steve almost got to his feet as anger flooded through him. Tony looked startled even in the grainy zoomed-in image. Tony had never mentioned this happening to him, to any of them.
“Tony is listed as a potential fire for AIM.” Natasha said drawing Steve’s attention back up to her.
“What?” Steve sounded as stupid as he felt in that moment.
From the body language of the video it hadn’t been a pleasant introduction. Tony being interested in AIM didn’t line up with what Steve knew of him. Tony wouldn’t have taken the job strictly for the paycheck without looking into the business itself. Extremis would have changed his mind in seconds. The contracts RI has received weren’t public and Steve had never talked about either AIM or Killian to Tony before.
Bucky piped up. “Tony wouldn’t be interested in working for this version of Killian. Kid has enough sense to know slime when he sees it.”
But Tony could be seduced by good intentions. Steve knew how Tony wanted to help and how he cared about people. He could have been misled somehow, even for how brilliant he was. Everyone had blind spots, weaknesses.
Then Steve was on his feet. “Son of a bitch.” He said breathlessly.
Killian hadn’t enjoy their last meeting. Had reined in all his annoyance when it had come so close to the surface. Aldrich had left on a quip about coming back with a better play.
The words on the polaroid. Taking the very person Steve cared about most, a recently very public fact. Killian had made a point of bringing Tony up in conversation once, congratulating him on his whirlwind romance.
And according to the time stamp on the footage Natasha had shared that was after Killian had been very aware of Tony’s presence in Steve’s like. And RI as well.
Before he could think better of it Steve was going through his phone contacts. He used the same one for business and his personal calls. It wasn’t long before he found Killian’s number and initiated the call. Steve’s mind was numb with realization still even as the anger in him was reaching new found heights under the thin veil of that numbness.
It rang twice before Killain answered.
“Ah Mr. Rogers what a pleasure to be hearing from you. I was a little worried I might not.”
Steve’s grip on his phone made his hand ache. His knuckles bleached white. “You did it.”
The blasé tone had Steve feeling flush and clenching his jaw. “Where’s Tony?”
“Tony? Who…-Oh that’s right. Your little sweetheart, right? I had forgotten all about him.”
Bucky was talking to Natasha on the Skype call in the background but Steve’s hearing had filled with only a static sort of buzz outside of Killian’s responses. The background noise didn’t matter to him.
“Where is he?”
“I wouldn’t know. Have you lost him?”
“Where is he!” Steve heard the snarl of his words and didn’t recognize his own voice. He felt strangely disconnected from the moment itself. There was still the static in his ears and the cold, sick feeling of dread in his gut. The chill that traveled up his spin.
“You didn’t say please. Really you should know that’s not how this works Rogers.”
It wasn’t an admission but it wasn’t a denial.
“If anything happens to him-”
“Easy there. I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about but shouldn’t be a little more careful? What’s one trophy to someone like Steve Rogers?”
Steve’s tongue has suddenly turned clumsy and heavy. He couldn’t string the right words together. His stomach turned and his hands clenched into fists. Teeth gritted together until his jaw ached.
“But best of luck to you.”
The line went dead and Steve could only stand there dumbly shaking with his anger, his fear, and his indecision. A part of him had been so close to threatening Killian with every evil he could imagine. Another part of him was prepared to beg and plead, bargain for Tony’s well being.
All of him just wanted Tony back.
Natasha’s hand startled him out of his own churning thoughts. Steve caught sight of the looped lobby footage. He watched Tony pry himself free and hurry away from Killian.
They knew who had taken Tony now.
Killian looked down at his cell phone with a pleased grin before tucking it into his suit coat pocket.
“You know I was beginning to think he’d forgotten about you altogether Tony.” He regarded the younger man where he hung in his restraints with unfocused eyes. “Lucky for you it looks like he hasn’t.”
Dazed and drugged Tony tried to struggle vainly against the straps of the backboard. There were several of them but Tony was the only person currently unfortunate enough to be in one. Tony did his best to glare at Killian despite the pull of the narcotics in his system and the pain of his injuries.
“You should have taken me up on my offer when I was feeling more gracious, Tony.”
It took a moment but Tony managed to focus on Killian.
“Drop…de’d.” Tony slurred at him.
“I don’t think so. On the bright side this mean we can move on to Phase 2. So long Tony, I don’t think we’ll be seeing one another again.”