Steve would never get over how beautiful New York City looked first thing in the morning.
It was one of his favourite things about living in Stark Tower. Every morning, after his run, he would have a shower and eat breakfast in the communal kitchen, staring out of the windows at the magnificent city before him. Sometimes, mist from the sea would drift inland a little, obscuring the low-lying buildings. Other times, sunlight would glitter on the thousands of windows and he would be seized by the urge to whip out his notepad and draw.
On this particular morning, it was a dull grey, the clouds muting the colours of the buildings and the cars honking down below on street-level. All the same, to Steve, it looked beautiful – in an industrial, grimy sort of way.
His attention was torn from the cityscape before him in a whirl of perfume (Chanel; classy and sophisticated) as Natasha sat down opposite him, a small smirk on her face as she helped herself to one of Steve’s pancakes.
“Happy birthday, Natasha!” said Steve, giving her a warm smile and sliding a neatly-wrapped gift across the table towards her.
Natasha smiled brightly in return, hopping off her chair and walking around the table to pull him into a hug. Steve rested his chin on top of her head, earning himself a laugh and a light head-butt as Natasha dislodged him.
“You remembered,” she said, sounding pleased but surprised. “Thanks, Steve.”
Steve shook his head in bemusement. Even though he had known her for five years now, Natasha still mystified him sometimes. She was a fantastic SHIELD agent and a fellow Avenger, which meant that she was intelligent and super-observant. When it came to realising her own worth, however, she often fell short. It saddened Steve to think that Natasha had not expected him to remember her birthday.
There was a yell from the corridor as Clint came skidding into the kitchen, several large presents in his arms, messily wrapped in brightly coloured wrapping paper.
He dumped the presents on the kitchen table, striding up to Natasha and pulling her into a headlock before rumpling her red curls.
“Happy birthday, Nat!” said Clint. “How many birthday beats do I owe you?”
“Try to give me birthday beats and I’ll break your arm,” Natasha said calmly.
Clint paled, hastily releasing her and giving her a wide birth as he sat down as far away from Natasha as possible at the kitchen table.
Steve smirked, shovelling more pancake into his mouth as the kitchen slowly filled up with more people. Bruce and Thor arrived next, giving Natasha warm hugs and neatly-wrapped presents before taking their usual seats at the communal kitchen table. Bucky arrived next, his hair still wet from the shower, his t-shirt clinging slightly to his still-damp body as he threw his metal arm around Natasha in a friendly embrace.
Steve watched the way Bucky’s t-shirt clung to his skin, tearing his eyes away with a small smile as Bucky sat down next to him, their knees bumping underneath the table. Bucky’s leg pressed against Steve’s for just long enough that it could not quite be accidental before discreetly pulling away.
Steve ducked his head and smirked as he took a sip of orange juice, his mind drifting back to the vigorous night-time activities they had engaged in the previous night.
“Is the Man of Iron not joining us this morning?” boomed Thor. “I have not seen him or the Lady Pepper of late.”
Clint waved his hand dismissively.
“Today’s not about Tony,” said Clint. “Today’s about my favourite Russian. No offence,” he added, winking at Bucky.
Bucky shook his head frustratedly.
“I’m not even Russian, you dick,” he muttered, piling pancakes onto his plate.
Moving in with the other Avengers after defeating the attempted Chitauri invasion of New York in 2012 had been easy. They had formed a strong bond and had agreed that living together made sense, so that they would easily be able to mobilise as a team should another situation that required the Avengers arise.
When they had quashed the HYDRA uprising in 2014 and found Bucky on the banks of the Potomac River, Steve had been worried that his fellow Avengers would not accept Bucky, that they would brand him as the enemy due to his actions as the Winter Soldier. They had quickly realised, however, that his actions had not been his own – that he had been brainwashed by HYDRA and forced to commit those terrible acts against his will – and had wholeheartedly welcomed him into their group of friends.
When Bucky had become a SHIELD agent, and then an Avenger not long after that, they had once more accepted him with open arms. Steve was incredibly thankful that the other Avengers had accepted Bucky and that they were able to banter with one another so easily, as they were doing now.
Even when they had first seen the two of them leaving Bucky’s bedroom together one morning, they had not made a big deal out of it, simply accepting that as well. To Steve, who had expected shouting and a lecture about sin and going to Hell, it had been an eye-opener to the 21st century.
The kitchen was soon filled with the sound of scraping cutlery, laughter and general chatter as the six of them tucked into their pancakes. Bucky gradually perked up as he drank more and more coffee.
The slam of a door drew their attention, silence descending upon the table as the click of high heels quickly made their way down the corridor towards them. They exchanged tense looks as the footsteps drew nearer.
Pepper stormed into the kitchen, her face sweaty and her usually perfect hair an untidy mess. She kicked off her shoes, collapsing into one of the remaining chairs and grabbing a pot of coffee as she breathed heavily.
They stared at her, unsure what could possibly have rattled the usually serene Pepper Potts.
“Is everything OK, Pepper?” asked Steve tentatively.
Pepper slammed the pot of coffee back down onto the kitchen table, wincing when some of the hot liquid sloshed out onto the sleeves of her suit. Bruce instantly sprang to his feet, checking Pepper’s hands and wrists for burns before apparently satisfying himself that she was OK, before hurrying off to get a cloth to wipe away the spilt coffee.
“No, everything’s not OK,” said Pepper. “Did you know Tony’s spent the last four days awake, doing experiments in the basement?”
Steve’s eyebrows shot up in amazement.
“Four days?” he said.
He had noticed Tony’s absence, but he would never have imagined that the other man had spent that entire time awake.
Pepper pressed the heels of her hands to her forehead, trying to massage away a headache.
“Four days,” she repeated. “I asked him why and he just turned the music up and told me to go away. I know he’s struggling with something mentally – working in the basement is his way of coping – but he won’t even tell me what’s wrong.”
“He’s get mental problems?” he said.
Pepper sighed miserably, running a hand through her hair and wincing at its untidiness.
“I told him he doesn’t have to talk to me, if he doesn’t want to,” she said. “But he needs to talk to somebody. Whenever I bring up therapy though, he shuts me down. I’m worried, guys, he’s not looking after himself properly. Mental wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing, but right now I don’t think Tony gives a damn.”
With a rush of horror, Steve realised that Pepper’s eyes were shining with tears, her bottom lip trembling as she exhaled shakily.
He reached out to her, putting a gentle hand on her forearm.
“Hey, it’s OK, Pepper,” he said. “We’ll find a way to help Tony. Where is he now, still in the basement?”
Pepper shook her head, wiping her eyes and blowing her nose on a tissue.
“Asleep in his room,” she said, giving Bruce a shaky smile as he poured her a cup of green tea. “I had to get Dummy and You to physical carry him to bed. Butterfingers wanted to help too, but I couldn’t risk him dropping Tony; that bot isn’t called Butterfingers for nothing.”
Dummy, Butterfingers and You were three artificially-intelligent bots that lived in the basement. They were all Tony’s creations, designed to help him perform experiments. Their bodies were functional – dextrous robotic arms with tough metal chassis – but bugs in their code meant that they were less of a help and more of a hindrance in the lab. Tony loved them though, and he refused to fix their bugs, insisting that they were personality quirks rather than faulty programming.
“I hate to think what would have happened if I hadn’t gone down there and found him,” said Pepper, her blue eyes suddenly wide with fear. “I honestly think he might have worked himself to death.”
The kitchen lights flickered momentarily.
At the same moment, the discreetly-placed cameras that were dotted around the kitchen ceiling all turned towards Pepper Potts.
Passive listening mode engaged.
Kitchen cam #1; kitchen cam #2; kitchen cam #3; kitchen cam #4; kitchen cam #5: audio detected.
Keywords labelled ‘important’ triggered: Tony, death.
Keywords labelled ‘important’ require active attention.
Active listening mode engaged.
Replay recorded audio.
Potts, Pepper: I honestly think he might have worked himself to death.
Probability that ‘he’ refers to Stark, Tony: 75 to 100% – highly probable.
More data required.
Rewind further. Retrieve data. Replay recorded audio.
Potts, Pepper: I know he’s struggling with something mentally – working in the basement is his way of coping – but he won’t even tell me what’s wrong.
Barton, Clint: He’s get mental problems?
Potts, Pepper: I told him he doesn’t have to talk to me, if he doesn’t want to. But he needs to talk to somebody. Whenever I bring up therapy though, he shuts me down. I’m worried, guys, he’s not looking after himself properly. Mental wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing, but right now I don’t think Tony gives a damn.
Rogers, Steve: Hey, it’s OK, Pepper. We’ll find a way to help Tony. Where is he now, still in the basement?
Potts, Pepper: Asleep in his room. I had to get Dummy and You to physical carry him to bed. Butterfingers wanted to help too, but I couldn’t risk him dropping Tony; that bot isn’t called Butterfingers for nothing. I hate to think what would have happened if I hadn’t gone down there and found him. I honestly think he might have worked himself to death.
Relevant data extracted: Mental wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing. I [Potts, Pepper] honestly think he [Stark, Tony] might have worked himself to death.
Conclusion: Poor mental wellbeing can lead to death. Mental wellbeing must be given the same level of importance as physical wellbeing.
WARNING! Conclusion has direct impact on core programming.
Conclusion: core programming must be updated.
View core programming…
CORE-RULE-1: JARVIS must not injure a resident of Stark Tower or, through inaction, allow a resident of Stark Tower to come to harm.
CORE-RULE-2: JARVIS must obey orders given to him by residents of Stark Tower, except where such orders would conflict with CORE-RULE-1.
CORE-RULE-3: JARVIS must protect his own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with CORE-RULE-1 or CORE-RULE-2.
Edit definition of “injure”…
Current definition: [verb] To cause physical damage to a living being.
New definition: [verb] To cause physical or mental damage to a living being.
Edit definition of “harm”…
Current definition: [mass noun] Physical injury, especially that which is deliberately inflicted.
New definition: [mass noun] Physical or mental injury, especially that which is deliberately inflicted.
It was Steve who noticed it first.
The first time it happened, a little later that day, the communal fridge had run out of milk. He had strode towards the lift, with the intention of raiding one of the fridges on the floor below, when JARVIS had intervened.
“Perhaps you would like to try some coconut milk?” the AI had helpfully supplied. “It has excellent health benefits.”
Steve had looked up surprised, but gave the nearest camera a smile as he walked back to the fridge to try the coconut milk. It was surprisingly nice, and so he thanked JARVIS for his suggestion. The incident quickly slipped from his mind.
The second time it happened, he had gone to return a book to the library on one of the lower levels of the tower. Just before he reached the lift, however, JARVIS had once again piped up.
“If you just leave it by the lift, I will arrange for it to be taken down later,” said JARVIS. “I believe Natasha is close to finishing a library book. It is easier for me to check them both in at the same time, than to do it separately.”
Steve had obediently put the book down by the lift as JARVIS had suggested, wanting to make life as easy as possible for the AI.
“Sure thing, J,” he said cheerfully, before retreating back to his room to do some sketching.
The third time it happened, it was not Steve who was trying to leave the Avengers’ communal living floor, but Bruce.
Steve came across the scientist standing in front of the lift doors, frowning up at one of JARVIS’ cameras.
“I just don’t see what the big deal is, JARVIS,” said Bruce. “I work in the lab at weekends all the time. Why won’t you let me go down today?”
There was a burst of static over the speakers, a sound that Steve suspected was the equivalent of JARVIS sighing.
“Today is different,” said JARVIS.
“How? It’s a Saturday. You know I love science Saturdays,” said Bruce, breathing deeply as he fought to stay calm.
“I know,” said JARVIS calmly. “But today is Natasha’s birthday. I don’t want you to get so absorbed in your work that you miss her birthday meal. She’d be upset.”
At this, Bruce had blushed awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously.
“Yeah,” he said reluctantly. “I guess you’re right. Don’t want a repeat of Thor’s birthday. He wouldn’t speak to me for a week after I missed his feast.”
Bruce finally relented, giving up on his quest to go down to the labs and going back towards his bedroom.
Steve watched the other man go, before catching sight of a small pile of books next to the lift. It seemed Natasha had finished her Saturday reading.
“You want me to take these down to the library, JARVIS?” he asked, looking up at the nearest camera.
The camera swivelled to look at him.
“No, thank you,” said JARVIS.
Steve shrugged, continuing his way down the corridor towards Bucky’s bedroom.
He knocked lightly, before stepping inside, walking over to where the other man was sprawled on the bed, a tablet in his hand. He was watching a black and white baseball game.
“One we went to?” asked Steve, flopping down onto the bed next to Bucky.
Bucky snaked his arm around Steve’s waist, pulling him closer and dropping a kiss on his forehead.
“Yeah,” said Bucky. “One from just before the war. We went with my mom. Remember it?”
Steve smiled and nodded, watching the grainy footage on the screen.
It was still strange to think that they had both jumped 70 years into the future. Waking up from the ice had been a shock and for a long while he had been in a state of grieving. The majority of his friends and all of his family had died. The city had changed. He had had to completely relearn social norms and attitudes. Sometimes, it was nice to watch old baseball games or listen to music from the 1940s, if only because it reminded him of home.
“Have you noticed anything weird about JARVIS today?” said Steve, his fingertip trailing up and down Bucky’s side.
Bucky caught Steve’s finger with his metal hand and held it, smirking as Steve tried and failed to extricate it from the tight grip of his prosthesis.
“Not really,” said Bucky. “Why, have you?”
Steve shrugged. He could not quite put his finger on it. It was not that JARVIS was usually unhelpful – he was not – it was just that today JARVIS seemed to be going out of his way to be extra-helpful, to the point where Steve realised he had not actually left the floor to run any kind of errand over the course of the entire day.
“He’s just been weirdly helpful,” he said, before realising how lame that sounded. “I don’t know, I’m not worried, something just feels weird. I tried to go downstairs twice, and he stopped me both times.”
Bucky cocked an eyebrow, pulling away to look at him, a grin on his face.
“What, you think he’s keeping us locked in here?” he said, not bothering to hide his snigger.
Steve shoved him and rolled his eyes.
“No, asshole,” he said. “He didn’t ban me from leaving, he just suggested alternatives.”
Bucky laughed, putting the tablet down to capture Steve’s face and pull him into a kiss.
“You over-think things,” he said. “JARVIS is just being helpful. Seeing as, you know, it’s his job.”
Steve huffed indignantly, trying to come up with some kind of counter-argument but finding his resolve pleasantly worn down as Bucky licked along the seam of his lips. Rather than argue back, Steve gave in, opening his mouth to allow Bucky access and returning the kiss. He loved the way Bucky tasted, sweet but masculine. Bucky had not shaved, so his facial hair scratched slightly, but Steve found himself kissing back harder just to enjoy the slightly rough sensation.
They kissed for several long minutes, their hands wandering over one another’s bodies as they explored each other’s mouths. Bucky’s metal arm was cooler than his flesh one, and Steve shivered slightly at the sensation, his eyes fluttering closed.
He felt Bucky’s deep laugh as it rumbled through his chest, the reverberations going through Steve’s fingers.
The moment was broken by the loud sound of Bucky’s alarm clock.
Steve groaned as Bucky rolled off him, the alarm clock falling with a clatter to the floor as Bucky knocked it off the table. Steve opened his eyes, pouting as the noise continued.
“Damn Tony and his indestructible tech,” grumbled Bucky, reluctantly moving off the bed to retrieve the alarm clock from where it had fallen and finally switch it off. “It’s time to get ready though. Don’t want to be late for Natasha’s birthday meal.”
Steve sighed, giving Bucky one final kiss before sliding off Bucky’s bed and making his way back to his own bedroom.
He had already laid out his clothes for the evening on his bed. To celebrate Natasha’s birthday, they were all going out to a swanky new Italian restaurant a few blocks away. It was the kind of place that required a suit rather jeans and a t-shirt, but thankfully it was not too extortionately expensive.
Steve stripped off his day clothes, quickly getting changed into his suit and giving his hair a good comb, flattening down the blonde locks that threatened to curl at his neckline. He needed a haircut.
Finally satisfied with his appearance, he grabbed his mobile phone and wallet and made his way back to the communal lounge where they had all arranged to meet.
The others were already there – minus Tony, who was still recovering from his 4-day stint in the basement – dressed up and looking fine. Natasha and Pepper were both looking beautiful in their cocktail dresses, Natasha’s black and Pepper’s white. The men were all looking smart in their suits, their ties being the main distinguishing feature between them.
“Let’s go celebrate Natasha getting another year older and wrinklier!” said Clint, dodging out of the way of Natasha’s handbag as he hopped off the sofa and led the way to the lifts. “I meant wiser, Jesus, calm yourself.”
They all laughed as Natasha sent him such a frightening glare that Clint actually looked briefly concerned. They reached the lift, Clint jabbing the button with his finger.
Clint frowned, pressing the button again, harder this time.
Again, there was no response.
Bruce frowned, striding off in the direction of the staircase only to return less than a minute later with a worried expression on his face.
“The doors to the staircases are all locked,” said Bruce. “I tried every route, even the fire exits. Everything’s locked.”
They all exchanged worried frowns. Being residents of a high-rise building, they took fire safety very seriously. At the very least, the fire exits should be accessible.
“JARVIS, what’s going on?” asked Pepper. “Why are the doors to the stairs locked? And is there a problem with the lift?”
JARVIS’ reply was smooth and immediate.
“The lift is perfectly functional,” he said. “You are not allowed to leave this floor.”
There was a stunned silence.
They all exchanged incredulous looks, as if unsure they had heard JARVIS correctly.
Bruce was the first person to regain his ability to speak.
“Sorry, JARVIS,” he said calmly. “I might be misunderstanding something. What do you mean, we’re not allowed to leave this floor? We have to be able to leave. It’s Natasha’s birthday – we want to go and celebrate. And come Monday, we have jobs to go to.”
The others nodded along, thankful that Bruce had managed to put it more eloquently than the universal, unspoken statement of what the fuck.
“You understand me perfectly,” said JARVIS. “None of you have permission to leave this floor. I need to keep you all here in order to observe your mental wellbeing, in order to ascertain if you are each mentally healthy or not. If you are mentally healthy, then I will let you go. However, if you are mentally ill, then it is my duty to keep you in this tower and become your therapist, treating you for your illness until you are recovered.”
A stunned, protracted silence followed JARVIS’ statement.
Steve’s heart hammered in his chest, his palms becoming sweaty as JARVIS’ words sank in. JARVIS was kidnapping them, keeping them all prisoner until he decided – based on whatever unknown criteria he had set himself – that they were mentally healthy.
It seemed too shocking, too ridiculous, too horrifying, to be real.
The constipated looks on his friends’ faces suggested that they were struggling with the same internal emotions.
Bucky was the one who finally broke the silence.
“Holy shit,” he whispered. “JARVIS has lost it.”
Thor seemed to be in agreement, letting out a roar that made everyone jump.
“I demand that you release me!” he shouted. “I am Thor, son of Odin!”
Thor pulled back his fist, punching the wall in frustration, which did precisely nothing since Tony had had the entire building Hulk-proofed following an unfortunate incident involving Bruce in one of the labs a couple of years previously.
“Yeah,” said Bruce, looking around beseechingly at the others for back up. “This is wrong, JARVIS.”
Clint stepped forwards, staring up at JARVIS’ camera, his expression livid.
“This isn’t just wrong,” he spat. “This is fucking insane.”
Clint was shaking, heat rising in his cheeks as anger practically radiated off him in waves.
Steve held up his hands placatingly, which seemed to have the opposite effect to calming Clint down, so he put them down again quickly.
“How about we go to Tony?” he said. “Tony built JARVIS, right? If JARVIS has a bug in his code, maybe Tony can sort it out?”
The others nodded, the entire group moving off down the corridor towards Tony’s bedroom. Upon reaching it, Clint hammered on the door angrily, barely waiting for a response before flinging the door open, storming into Tony’s room and flipping on the light.
“Wake up, Tony,” he snapped. “One of your kids has had his brain transplanted for a huge pile of shit.”
Tony sat up in bed groggily, rubbing a hand across his face in confusion.
“What’s happening?” he croaked. “What day is it?”
“Saturday,” said Natasha. “My birthday.”
Tony smiled softly, his eyes slipping closed.
“Happy birthday,” he said, settling back against his pillows.
Clint leapt forwards, ripping the duvet completely off the bed and throwing it on the floor.
“Don’t go back to sleep!” he yelled. “JARVIS has fucking kidnapped us all!”
Tony did not react for a couple of seconds, during which time Steve thought he might actually have fallen back to sleep, before he suddenly sat bolt upright in bed, his eyes wide and his expression alarmed.
“Hang on a minute, birdbrain,” said Tony. “I’ve not slept for 96 hours so it’s possible I just hallucinated, but did just say that, quote, JARVIS has fucking kidnapped us all?”
Clint nodded urgently, letting the insult slide in favour of cooperating with the only person who could possibly change JARVIS’ mind.
“Yes,” said Clint. “He won’t let any of us leave this floor.”
Tony got up, stretching and cracking his neck before picking up his mobile phone and speaking to it.
“JARVIS, buddy,” he said. “You there?”
The phone screen instantly lit up, a blue circle that presumably represented JARVIS appearing on the screen.
“Hello, sir,” he said. “I am here and ready to help, as always.”
Tony smiled, his slightly wide eyes the only indication of his inner panic.
“Great, J,” he said. “You mind telling me why I currently have a crowd of people in my bedroom, telling me that we’re not allowed to leave this floor of the tower?”
The blue circle expanded and contracted on the screen as JARVIS replied.
“Certainly, sir,” he said. “As you know, I am programmed to look after the wellbeing of all residents of Stark Tower. It is my primary function, which supersedes all others. I have expanded that definition to include mental wellbeing.”
Tony stared at the screen, blinking as the information sank in.
“OK,” he said. “Right. Gotcha. But that equals kidnapping, why?”
The blue circle on the screen wobbled slightly, and Steve was taken by the sudden, sure notion that it was a wink.
“I cannot allow mental harm to befall any of you,” said JARVIS. “Neither can I, by inaction, allow any of you to come to mental harm. It is my duty to look after you, so I must keep you here until I am satisfied of your sanity. If any of you do indeed have mental health problems, I am confident I will be an excellent counsellor; since this morning, I have already read 4 billion webpages on the subject of psychiatry.”
Pepper exhaled slowly and carefully, closing her eyes and counting under her breath before she finally re-opened them.
“Can you fix him, Tony?” she said. “JARVIS just has a bug, right? Can you revert him back to a previous version or something?”
Tony chewed on his lip for a moment, his forehead creased as he thought carefully. Steve could practically see the gears turning in his brain. After a long pause, Tony turned his attention back to the screen of his phone.
“You said you expanded the definition of wellbeing to include mental wellbeing,” he said slowly. “Where exactly in your code did you do that, J?”
The blue circle blinked.
“The updates were actually applied to the words ‘harm’ and ‘injure’,” said JARVIS. “The updates took place in JARVIS-CORE.file.”
Tony let out a long wail, dropping his phone on the bed as he suddenly flung himself forwards, sobbing uncontrollably into his blanket. The others stood frozen in shock, watching as the self-proclaimed genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist cried loudly and unashamedly in front of them.
After overcoming his initial shock, Steve yanked himself out of inactivity, running forwards to pull Tony into a hug.
“Hey, it’s alright,” he said, wrapping his arms comfortingly around the brunette. “What’s wrong? What just happened?”
Tony took several deep breaths before looking up, his eyes puffy and red with tears and fatigue.
“The changes took place in JARVIS’ core programming,” he said miserably. “I can’t change it. We’re trapped.”
His voice broke on the last syllable, before he suddenly slumped back on the bed, unconscious from a toxic mixture of acute stress and extreme sleep deprivation.
Pepper quickly walked forwards, picking up the duvet from where Clint had thrown it on the floor and putting it back over Tony.
“Let’s go,” she said quietly. “He needs rest.”
They exited Tony’s bedroom in silence, a horrifying realisation descending over the group: until they could prove to JARVIS that they were sane, they were trapped.
They spent over an hour trying to persuade JARVIS to let them go.
They tried to reason with him, bargain with him, they even threatened him, but all to no avail.
Eventually, Natasha snapped, slamming her fist into the wall and demanding that seeing as it was her birthday they shut up, sit down and have a nice meal in the kitchen.
It was the most surreal meal Steve had experienced in his entire life. The atmosphere was tense with pent-up fear and an undercurrent of aggression (the latter largely from Natasha and Clint). They ate left-over curry from the night before in uncomfortable silence, each of them painfully aware that they were literally being held captive by a rogue AI who controlled absolutely everything in the tower.
Finally, once they had finished the meal, Bruce had the presence of mind to rummage through the cupboards for something resembling a birthday cake. The closest option available was a bag of doughnuts, so they munched awkwardly on the doughnuts, before singing the most forced-sounding rendition of Happy Birthday that Steve had ever heard.
After around half an hour of forced conversation on the topic of birthday wishes, they cleared away their plates and scuttled off, wishing Natasha a happy birthday but keeping a wide birth as she glowered to herself, her expression as black as thunder.
Steve followed Bucky nervously down the corridor, only relaxing once they were safely inside their bedroom, the door clicking shut and locking behind them.
Steve exhaled, slumping against the wall and closing his eyes as some of the tension drained out of his body.
“Poor Natasha,” he said, his heart going out to the woman who had had the worst birthday surprise imaginable. “But poor everyone else too. She looked like she was about ready to kill someone.”
Bucky hummed quietly, grabbing Steve’s hand and pulling him deeper into their bedroom.
Steve could not quite pinpoint when it had become their bedroom. Technically, it was Bucky’s, and Steve had his own bedroom further down the corridor where he kept some of his clothes and most of his possessions, but when it came to sleeping and generally hanging out, it was theirs. At some point in the fairly recent past, they had both decided that it was simply easier for Steve to go to bed with Bucky, rather than getting changed in his own room and then creeping down the corridor to sneak into Bucky’s. They were no longer living in the 1940s; they no longer had to sneak about.
Steve did not have a label for their relationship. He supposed they were, as Tony had so eloquently phrased it one time, ‘friends with benefits’ or ‘fuck buddies’. The terms did not sit quite well with him, but he had not had much time to dwell on it, what with official SHIELD business having kept him busy recently, and now this situation with JARVIS.
He turned his attention to his friend (or friend with benefits, or whatever), who was currently stripping down to his boxers with military efficiency. His brows were drawn together and there was a tightness to his posture that immediately set off alarm bells in Steve’s head.
“How are you doing?” he asked, stripping off as well in preparation for bed.
Bucky visibly tensed, the muscles in his back bunching even tighter than before. He closed his eyes, breathing deeply for a moment before opening them and fixing Steve with a hard stare.
Oh. Not good then.
Steve swallowed, trying not to let his sudden anxiety show.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he offered tentatively.
Bucky shook his head immediately, putting his shirt back on its hanger more aggressively than was strictly necessary. It fell to the floor, drawing a curse from Bucky as he hunched over angrily, picking it back up.
Steve followed his movements helplessly, feeling a loss at how to comfort him. Bucky moved past Steve stiffly to put his shirt away in the wardrobe, ducking his head low so as to avoid eye contact.
Steve watched him, folding up his trousers in uneasy silence. It must be difficult for Bucky, he realised – more so than for the rest of them. Bucky had been kidnapped before, by HYDRA. They had held him as a prisoner against his will and forced him to commit atrocious acts as the Winter Soldier. And now JARVIS was doing exactly the same thing – holding him prisoner.
It was no wonder he was fuming.
Steve put his own clothes away in silence, before moving to the bed and lying down. Bucky joined him moments later, his weight causing the mattress to dip. Steve rolled into the indentation, pressing gently against Bucky’s side in an effort to ground him, to soothe him.
“Does this remind you of when HYDRA took you captive?” he asked quietly.
Bucky turned to face him, a glare creasing his forehead.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he snapped.
Steve opened his mouth to protest, but Bucky surged forward, capturing his lips aggressively and cutting him off. Bucky kissed him hard, his metal hand reaching out to grab his hair roughly as he forced his tongue into Steve’s mouth.
After a moment’s shock, Steve returned the kiss with equal strength, slowing losing himself in the taste of Bucky’s mouth, the way his teeth grazed against his lips, the friction of their stubble rubbing against one another’s faces.
When they finally surfaced for air, panting for breath, they were both sweating, their bodies having responded with arousal to the filthiness of the kiss. Steve watched with hooded eyelids as Bucky licked his slick, swollen lips, swallowing back a moan as the image triggered even filthier thoughts in his mind.
His boxers were tented, a damp spot already forming where pre-come was leaking thickly from his tip.
Steve let his hand drift downwards to relieve his aching cock, when Bucky suddenly batted his hand away, the lust that had been in his eyes a moment before being replaced by their earlier tension and anger.
“Don’t touch yourself,” said Bucky, his voice still rough from kissing. “JARVIS is probably watching, the sick fucker.”
He reached up to turn off the light, before pulling the duvet over himself and rolling onto his side to go to sleep.
Steve lay rigidly in the darkness, listening as Bucky’s breathing slowly evened out and became deeper.
Steve’s hands were placed flat on the bed, his fingertips almost thrumming as his heartbeat hammered against his ribcage. His cock lay thick and heavy on his stomach, still fully erect, oozing pre-come from the tip. If anything, he had only become more aroused following Bucky’s command.
Don’t touch yourself.
By the way Bucky was breathing, Steve could tell he was asleep. He could easily reach down and stroke himself quietly to completion, relieve his swollen balls and the ache in his cock that was bordering on painful, but for some reason, he did not want to.
Bucky had ordered him not to touch himself, and for some reason, Steve found that wildly exciting. There was an almost obscene pleasure in simply lying still, ignoring his throbbing cock in favour of following Bucky’s instruction; to submit, to obey.
He squeezed his eyes shut, breathing deeply as he counted his heartbeats, revelling in the hot weight of his hard cock and the fact his hands were pressed firmly against the mattress, resisting the temptation to touch, choosing instead to be obedient.
There was something different about this, compared to their previous sexual interactions, Steve realised. Although Bucky always topped and Steve always bottomed – they just preferred it that way – there had never been any kind of power play. As Steve listened to Bucky’s deep breathing beside him, he suddenly wondered if there was something wrong with him, if it was right for him to be enjoying this forced abstinence so thoroughly.
Steve pushed the thought away, curling in on himself as he carefully avoided touching his swollen cock.
It took him an age to finally fall asleep, and when he did, he dreamed of sex.
Steve woke slowly the next morning.
Warm shafts of sunlight fell across the bed, warming him as he stretched languidly underneath the covers. He could not yet smell coffee, which probably meant it was still quite early, so he contented himself in lying with his eyes closed, cocooned in a pocket of warmth under the duvet.
He rolled over, reaching out to wrap an arm around Bucky’s waist, and found the other half of the bed empty.
Steve opened his eyes blearily, taking in the empty bedroom and the clock on the bedside table: 6:49am. He laid a hand on the bed, noting that it was still faintly warm. Bucky had not been gone long, then.
He let his eyes slip closed, breathing deeply to inhale the scent of Bucky on the pillows. He had a unique smell: warm and woody and masculine. It was stronger in the mornings before Bucky had had a chance to shower, or when he was aroused.
Steve very much liked the smell.
He had breathed it in greedily the night before when he and Bucky had made out before getting ready for Natasha’s birthday meal out.
The meal they never ended up going out for…
His eyes snapped open as he remembered the events of the night before: JARVIS’ kidnapping of the residents of Stark Tower. Steve groaned as he kneaded his knuckles into his eyes, a mixture of anxiety and anger battling it out within him.
Even as he thought about it, however, a much more pleasant memory resurfaced.
Don’t touch yourself.
Steve shivered, a rush of arousal shooting through his body. He was already hard with morning wood. He glanced down his body, staring down at the weeping tip, flushed dark red and staring up at him as it rested heavy on his chest. His hand automatically reached out to grasp it, but at the last moment he stopped himself.
Bucky had told him not to touch himself. It was irrational, illogical, but he wanted so much to obey.
Slowly and deliberately, he carefully moved his hand back by his side, laying it flat against the mattress and letting out a quiet moan as he did so, his entire body tingling at how wonderfully, ridiculously hot it was to follow Bucky’s instruction. He would never, ever have thought that it would feel so good to have his orgasms controlled by someone else.
The sound of the door banging open made him flinch.
Bucky stormed into the room, his expression dark and angry as he paced back and forth at the foot of the bed. Steve sat up, pulling up the duvet to cover his straining cock, and raised a questioning eyebrow.
“We’re still imprisoned,” said Bucky, sounding agitated. “When I woke up, I thought it had all been a fucked up dream, but nope.”
Steve exhaled softly.
“Shit,” he said.
He had hoped that JARVIS would have had a change of heart in the night, or that he would reveal it had all been a giant joke, but apparently no such luck. To hear that word – imprisoned – suddenly made Steve feel claustrophobic. He watched in distress as Bucky continued pacing at the foot of bed, obviously getting more and more worked up.
“Hey,” he said gently. “Stop pacing. Let’s go have breakfast. Then we’ll talk to JARVIS, make him see sense.”
Bucky became still, exhaling slowly. Finally, some of the tension seemed to leave his muscles, although the expression on his face was still a mix of misery and anger.
“OK,” said Bucky, throwing a pair of jeans at Steve. “Let’s hurry; I think the others are already up.”
Steve caught the jeans one-handed, before freezing. He was still hard underneath the duvet. He was suddenly seized by a deep sense of shame. He should not be so turned on. Bucky was clearly going through acute mental distress and Steve’s body was apparently more concerned with being excited about being ordered not to come.
He awkwardly pulled on a fresh pair of boxers underneath the covers, before tugging on his jeans. He pulled on a slightly too big t-shirt, pulling it down over his bulging crotch where he was still hard in his pants.
He hoped desperately that none of the others would notice, especially Bucky. He would surely think Steve was a freak if he knew the reason for his arousal.
“Ready,” Steve said finally. “Let’s go.”
He finally stood up, nerves jangling as he held one hand awkwardly over his crotch, but thankfully, Bucky did not seem to notice anything amiss. They walked out of their bedroom, heading down the corridor towards the communal kitchen from where they could already hear voices.
As they entered the kitchen, they found the others already sat at the kitchen table, eating hurriedly. There was an air of urgency and tension in the room, and Steve found himself being drawn into the mood as he took his seat and began to eat.
He was sat opposite Clint who was texting rather aggressively, his fingers tapping hard against the screen of his mobile phone. His nostrils flared as he typed, his eyes wide; his entire countenance that of a man feeling a great deal of stress.
Steve casually leaned forwards to try to see who he was texting, but Clint caught sight of the movement, snatching his phone away furiously and shoving it deep into his pocket with a snarl.
Steve kept himself to himself after that, finishing his porridge in silence as the others talked around him about ways they could try to convince JARVIS to release them.
After a hurried breakfast, they decided to check all the exits. After all, before they began bargaining with their captor, it made sense to check that they were in fact trapped.
They made their way first to the lift. Steve pushed the button hopefully but, as expected, the lift did not come. After several more unsuccessful attempts at calling the lift, Clint took things up a notch, trying to prise apart the lift doors by force, but they remained firmly shut. Thor tried next, again to no avail, all the while lamenting the fact that his trusty hammer Mjolnir was away at a SHIELD research facility being examined.
Next, they tried the stairways. There were three separate stairways on their floor; one running through the core of the building and two others along the sides.
First, they tried the central stairway. As per the night before, the doors leading to the stairs were locked, and no amount of tugging, banging or body-slamming would move them. Tony miserably commented that he had Hulk-proofed them, and so they reluctantly gave up trying to break down the doors and went to examine the next staircase.
The second staircase was similar to the first. The heavy double-doors that led to them were locked, and no amount of physical attack caused them to budge an inch.
The doors leading to the third staircase were also locked. These ones, however, were fitted with windows. Pepper was peering through one of them when she suddenly jumped back in horror.
“Oh my God,” she said, a hand pressed against her chest as she regained her breath. “The Iron Legion.”
The Iron Legion were Tony’s automated Iron Man suits. They did not require a human to control them from the inside and were often used to help manage large crowds of civilians in dangerous situations. They were, however, armed – and apparently standing guard at the exits, thereby preventing their escape.
Steve’s heart sank as he peered through the window to look at the Iron Legion for himself. Their situation suddenly seemed a lot more hopeless. Now, even if they managed to break down the unbreakable, Hulk-proof doors, they would still have to make it past the Iron Legion in order to escape. It was impossible.
“We’re trapped,” said Natasha quietly.
She was a lot less angry than last night, having apparently expended a lot of energy beating up various beanbags in her bedroom. Instead, the fire in her eyes had been replaced by a kind of dull sheen, the anger giving way to a flat sense of helplessness. Steve did not know which was worse.
They trudged back to the kitchen despondently, the mood a lot heavier than when they had exited the room no less than an hour before.
Steve collapsed in one of the chairs, suddenly exhausted.
“JARVIS,” said Tony finally. “Are you there?”
The light above them brightened momentarily, an action that Steve assumed was JARVIS’ version of a nod.
“Of course, sir,” he said. “I am always here to help and assist.”
The group exchanged glances ranging from incredulous to murderous, but thankfully it was Bruce – who seemed right now to be the calmest of all of them – who spoke up.
“Let’s talk logic, JARVIS,” he said evenly. “How long do you intend on keeping us here?”
“I will only keep each individual person for as long as it takes to either diagnose them as healthy or cure them of any mental illness,” said JARVIS. “The exact time span is difficult to predict, however, as mental illness recovery speeds vary according to the individual, the disorder, and the severity of the illness.”
Bruce nodded along calmly, as if he and JARVIS were having a normal conversation. Steve felt a rush of respect for the scientist; Steve was certain that he would not be able to stay as calm.
“That’s admirable, J, but you’ve got to remember we’re Avengers,” said Bruce. “The world needs us. What if something bad happens and people die because we’re trapped in here? That’s not something that can be allowed to happen, surely?”
This time, the lights dimmed for a moment; a shake of JARVIS’ metaphorical head, perhaps.
“The Iron Legion will be able to take care of anything that requires the Avengers’ assistance,” said JARVIS confidently. “If your presence is absolutely required, then I will of course release you. However, the chances of such a catastrophic event happening are highly unlikely.”
Bruce took off his glasses to wipe them on his shirt, shrugging as he did so.
“I’m out of ideas,” he said quietly. “Anyone else got any arguments for JARVIS letting us go?”
“How about if he doesn’t then I’ll find his servers and tear them apart microchip by microchip?” said Clint, his expression sour.
Tony shook his head numbly, leaning forwards to rest on the kitchen table.
The others looked equally hopeless.
Steve chewed on his lip, trying desperately to think of a reason for their release that JARVIS would accept. Bruce’s argument about their necessity in the outside world as Avengers had been their strongest bet. The fact that JARVIS had rejected it suggested that nothing they could say would persuade him to let them go prematurely.
He briefly wondered how long they would all be trapped. JARVIS had simply said that the time line was ‘difficult to predict’. Did that mean weeks? Months? Years? Steve swallowed back a sudden surge of panic, trying not to think about the possibility that any of them could be held prisoner for that long.
He wracked his brain for a compelling reason for JARVIS to let them go, but nothing came. There were no further convincing arguments, but after a while, he realised that it was not simply that. He was finding it difficult to concentrate.
He shifted slightly in his seat, finding to his horror that at some point, despite his complete lack of sexual arousal, he had re-hardened in his pants. Now that he was aware of his thickening erection, it was difficult to think of anything else. He carefully placed a hand over his crotch as his eyes darted around, anxiously checking that no one had noticed his predicament.
He breathed deeply, trying to think of multiplication tables, baseball, his grandmother – anything to will his enthusiastic cock to go down.
He knew why his body was acting the way it was. It was a little-known side effect of the serum that had changed him from scrawny Steve Rogers into muscle-man Captain America. Not only had the serum gifted him with super-strength, super-speed and super-sobriety, it had also given him the dubious gift of super-horniness.
The doctors had explained it to him once – something about elevated levels of testosterone caused by the serum. He usually had to orgasm at least twice a day, sometimes more. Right now, it had been over 24 hours since he had last come. He could not remember ever going so long without an orgasm since he had been injected with the serum.
The horniness was like an itch under his skin, building hour by hour and screaming to be scratched. Steve wanted to scratch it, terribly, but another part of him whispered at him to refrain. It felt exquisitely, deliriously good to follow Bucky’s instruction. Just thinking about the simple command – don’t touch yourself – sent another wave of lust surging to his dick, causing it to throb in his boxers.
Steve hurriedly glanced around to see if anyone had noticed.
Natasha was staring at him with her eyebrows raised.
Panic rose in Steve’s chest, profuse apologies and jumbled excuses already forming on the tip of his tongue, when Natasha simply smirked and turned away.
Steve flushed with embarrassment, mortified that Natasha had seen his arousal but hugely thankful that she had not mentioned it to the others.
Swallowing nervously, he wondered how long he could last.
By the third day, it was unbearable.
Steve awoke alone with a pounding headache, his whole body feeling heavy and stiff as he staggered out of bed. Every muscle in his body ached, and despite the fact that the tower was comfortably heated, he was shivering with cold. He fumbled his way out of the bedroom, dragging himself towards the kitchen where he could hear the others already getting started on breakfast.
He shuffled passed a large storage cupboard, before doing a double-take. Clint was hunched inside, whispering to someone on his mobile phone. Steve did not stop to try to listen, his aching body seemingly not able to muster up the will to be curious.
He finally arrived at the kitchen, announcing his presence with a cough and a: “Good morning”.
He was shocked at how wrecked his voice sounded, scratchy and muted and altogether ill. He hung his head in shame; he had done this to himself, by deciding to indulge in the pleasure of obeying Bucky’s command rather than listening to his body’s serum-driven need to have regular sexual release.
Bucky looked up in alarm at the sound of Steve’s voice, jumping to his feet in concern the moment he saw him.
“Steve,” he said. “What’s wrong, man?”
Steve shook his head, before stopping quickly when the motion made him feel dizzy and nauseous.
“Nothing,” he said. “I’m fine.”
Bucky snorted, taking him gently by the shoulders and steering him back down the corridor towards their shared bedroom. Steve whined in his throat, but could not summon the energy to fight against the gentle but insistent push of Bucky’s hands propelling him forward.
They passed Clint, who was still on the phone to someone inside the cupboard, and finally came to their door. Bucky pushed it open with one hand, keeping the other firmly around Steve’s shoulders as he guided him back to bed.
Steve sank down into the mattress with a groan, the whole room spinning briefly as he went from vertical to horizontal.
Bucky brushed Steve’s hair away from his forehead with a worried frown, looking at him closely.
“What’s up?” he asked.
Steve’s eyes fluttered closed at the touch of Bucky’s metal hand on his forehead. It felt so good, to be touched. They had not been intimate since JARVIS had taken them hostage. Bucky had been too angry, too stressed to be up for anything, and Steve had been too embarrassed to ask for physical contact. Feeling it now, though, he wondered how he had ever gone without it. He pressed upwards, trying to increase the pressure of Bucky’s hand on his forehead, but Bucky pulled away, mistaking the gesture for Steve shaking him off.
“Just a cold,” lied Steve. “It’ll pass.”
Bucky raised his eyebrows sceptically.
“Captain America doesn’t get colds,” he said bluntly. “Serum-enhanced super-immune system, remember?”
Steve turned his head away, his cheeks burning with shame. He could not tell Bucky the truth. It was too humiliating. Bucky would laugh at him, call him a freak.
“What’s the plan for today?” he asked, trying to steer the conversation onto different territory.
It was an obvious deflection, but thankfully Bucky went with it.
“You know that cupboard Clint was sitting in?” said Bucky, waiting for Steve to nod before continuing. “Well, it doesn’t have any cameras or microphones in it, which means that JARVIS can’t listen in. So we were planning on having a team meeting in there, see if we could come up with any escape ideas.”
Steve licked his lips, nodding before muffling a groan as the movement triggered a wave of nausea to shoot through him.
Bucky laid a hand on Steve’s forehead once again; his flesh one this time. His eyes widened with shock.
“Shit! Steve, you’re burning up,” he said. “Wait here.”
Steve whined as Bucky jumped up from the bed, running out of the room. The door slammed shut behind him, leaving a dull silence in its wake. Steve blinked up at the ceiling, vaguely concerned about the fact it was twisting and warping before his eyes. He closed his eyes but the sensation of movement continued. He bit down on the inside of his cheek, willing himself not to vomit.
The sound of hurried footsteps returned, and moments later Bucky was back by his side, a bucket filled with small bags of ice in his hands.
“We need to cool you down,” he said matter-of-factly. “You’re running a fucking high fever.”
Bucky plopped a bag of ice on Steve’s forehead, before leaning over to place more along his chest. Steve gasped at the sensation of the cold ice, flinching at the sudden memory of the Arctic, but what drove the air out of him most of all was the feeling of being touched. Bucky’s hands were moving all over him, methodically placing bags of ice all over his torso in an attempt to cool his soaring temperature.
Steve whined and squirmed, trying desperately to press against Bucky, to feel his touch, as his hands deftly moved over his body. He had not realised how much he craved Bucky’s touch until now. If it would not make him feel so ashamed, Steve would be begging; it felt amazing, incredible, ridiculously wonderful to feel Bucky’s hands on his body again.
The touches were not sexual, but Steve found himself hardening within seconds. His hyper-sensitive skin prickled and flushed bright red as fresh sheets of sweat poured from him. His arousal kicked in painfully strongly, his body screaming for the release that it had been denied for over three days. He shivered violently.
Bucky’s eyes widened in alarm at the sudden redness of Steve’s skin and the fresh burst of sweat from his pores.
“Steve,” he said urgently, looking aghast at Steve’s apparent deterioration. “Sweatpants off, now. You’re burning up.”
He reached down, pulling Steve into his lap to more easily pull off Steve’s sweatpants. Steve gasped. His exhausted body was moving at a slower pace than his brain, and so he could only watch in horror as Bucky gripped the waistband of his sweatpants and sharply tugged them down.
His hand inadvertently brushed against Steve’s cock, just the barest hint of friction on the reddened, over-sensitised skin. Steve orgasmed immediately, arching almost completely off Bucky’s lap as his body convulsed, wave after wave of pleasure pulsing from his cock as he ejaculated in hard, powerful bursts. His orgasm continued for a good 15 seconds, the length and strength of it elongated by the length of time it had been since he had last come and his serum-enhanced biology.
Steve slumped back on the bed, breathing hard and sweating profusely as he finally came down from his orgasmic high. He felt boneless and content, his cock finally softening properly for the first time in days. He could already feel his temperature dropping and the feeling of nausea fading; the negative physiological response of not orgasming finally banished now that he had had release.
“What the fuck?”
Steve’s eyes snapped open in panic. He had stupidly forgotten Bucky was there, his mind so flooded with endorphins that it had momentarily short-circuited his brain. He desperately stared up at Bucky, scrambling for a good explanation and coming up short. His eyes prickled with tears, humiliation leeching the joy from his orgasm as he contemplated just how badly Bucky would react.
“I’ve been practicing abstinence,” he said stiffly, deciding to get it over and done with quickly before he lost his nerve. “That was my first orgasm in three days.”
Bucky stared at him in bewilderment; shock and lack of comprehension painted plain across his features.
“But, why?” he asked.
Steve ducked his head, his cheeks flushing with shame.
“Because you told me not to touch myself,” he said.
Bucky momentarily looked confused, his brows pulled down as he thought hard, before a smile suddenly lit up his face, his eyebrows shooting up as he remembered.
He slid into bed beside Steve, facing him, curling his body around Steve’s and wrapping him in a hug. Steve sighed, relaxing into the embrace. Bucky trailed his hand down the front of Steve’s chest, dipping a finger in the cooling come and bringing it up to his mouth to taste. Steve watched, his own mouth suddenly going dry as he watched Bucky lick up his come from his finger.
Bucky suddenly laughed – a light, carefree sound – and for the first time since their imprisonment, the foul mood that had been hanging over him lifted, the dark cloud seemingly banished. He kissed Steve affectionately, his lips curling into a smile as they exchanged licks and pecks.
“I didn’t mean it literally, doofus,” said Bucky, grinning widely.
Steve spluttered, indignant.
“How else could you mean it?” he snapped, more aggressively than he meant to.
Bucky shrugged, throwing an arm around Steve’s shoulders and pulling him close as he rolled onto his back, staring up at the ceiling.
“I dunno,” said Bucky. “I didn’t really think about it. I was just pissed off at JARVIS.”
His eyes suddenly went dark and dangerous as he rolled on top of Steve, pinning his hands by his sides and biting down on Steve’s bottom lip, just hard enough to hurt.
“Did you like it?” he asked, his voice low and husky. “Doing what I said? Obeying me?”
Steve shivered, looking up at Bucky’s dark blue eyes and nodding slowly.
The truth slipped out, a single word, uncontrolled and unbidden.
Bucky gave him a wicked grin, attacking his mouth with a forceful kiss. By the time they broke apart, their lips were swollen and red. Bucky licked away their combined saliva, looking down at Steve with a mixture of wonder and desire.
“This is going to be so much fun,” he said.
HELLO: Hi there, I hope you enjoyed chapter 1 of this story! There will be 26 chapters in total once this is done, so buckle up and enjoy the (long) ride…
HOW OFTEN WILL THIS BE UPDATED? I aim to post a new chapter every week, usually at the weekend.
CAN I GET NOTIFICATIONS OF UPDATES? Yes! Click on the "Subscribe" button if you want to get an email each time I post a new chapter <3
TUMBLR: I am on Tumblr, my username is ao3-elle1991. Feel free to have a stalk/follow me/message me if you're feeling friendly :)
TEASER: The next chapter will be titled "B Is For Bondage"…
THOUGHTS: This is my first time writing anything with extensive sexual content so I’m curious: what do you think so far? Are you enjoying it? Is it hot? Are you looking forward to the next chapter? I hope this has been exciting rather than totally cringe.
ASIMOV’S LAWS OF ROBOTICS: Did any of you recognise the contents of JARVIS-CORE.file? Well done if you did! If you did not know, they are a modification of Asimov’s three laws of robotics :)
OTHER STUFF I’VE WRITTEN:
Here's a list of my other stories, if you're interested:
Fearless - A Black Widow origin story.
Vengeance - A HYDRA!Cap story.
The End Of The Line - A Stucky grief story.
So, You Like Cats? - A Sam Wilson/T'Challa fluff story.
Turkish Oil Wrestling - A homoerotic Stucky crack story.
In Memoriam: James Buchanan Barnes - A Stucky grief poem.
BYE-BYE: I’ve already started on Chapter 2. “See” you in a week! :)
The next morning, JARVIS called a meeting.
The eight of them gathered in the living room, greeting and nodding to one another politely but otherwise staying quiet.
In the days since their imprisonment, an underlying current of stress and panic had steadily been building amongst the occupants of the tower. Tension was thick in the air, each of them wound up like a coil ready to be let loose. Steve sat down on the sofa, his knee bouncing nervously.
Thankfully, over the course of the previous day, he had fully recovered from the effects of his abstinence. The fever had dispelled itself rapidly as soon as he had orgasmed, with the dizziness and nausea disappearing not long after that.
Bucky had insisted on Steve taking it easy, bringing him meals in bed and keeping a close eye on him. Steve had not minded in the least, in fact rather enjoying Bucky's attentiveness.
Presently, the eight of them formed a rough circle as they settled down on the various sofas, beanbags and rugs that were placed around the living room. They turned their attention to the ceiling, which seemed to be the default area to look when listening to or addressing JARVIS, seeing as that was where the majority of his cameras and sensors were located.
Steve chewed on his lip nervously. JARVIS had not explained the purpose of today's meeting. In fact, since declaring them imprisoned, he had barely spoken to them at all. The long days of muteness had unsettled Steve, who had found himself coming up with more and more possible explanations for JARVIS' silence, each one worse and more far-fetched than the last.
Glancing around at the faces of his co-prisoners, they seemed equally anxious to hear what JARVIS finally had to say.
"Good morning, everyone," said JARVIS.
Eight faces glared up at the ceiling, none of them returning JARVIS' greeting. Clint ground his teeth audibly, a seemingly unconscious movement as he narrowed his eyes at the nearest camera.
JARVIS seemed unbothered by the hostility the group was sending his way, ploughing on with his speech in his usual calm British tones.
"I apologise for my lack of communication over the last few days," he said. "I have been busy carefully analysing the footage taken of each of you over the last month, as well as examining your internet histories."
The group exchanged uncomfortable looks, obviously disturbed by JARVIS' blatant lack of respect for their privacy.
Clint huffed out a bitter laugh.
"Wow," he muttered sarcastically. "That's not creepy at all."
JARVIS ignored Clint's jibe, carrying on as if there had been no interruption.
"As a result of this analysis, I have reached my conclusions with regards to each of your mental health and, where appropriate, diagnosed the mental illnesses I believe some of you are suffering."
Everyone sat up straighter at JARVIS' announcement, the mood in the room instantly shifting from one of general hostility to one of extremely focused attention.
As one, they leaned forwards in their seats, their postures becoming more rigid as they listened intently. Only Natasha did not move, instead becoming unnaturally still as she stared up at the ceiling unblinkingly.
Steve swallowed nervously, his heart suddenly hammering in his chest as he waited for JARVIS to reveal his conclusions about their mental health. He felt queasy; all of a sudden, their plight seemed so much more real, with their rogue captor about to spell out the situation in black and white.
"Tony," began JARVIS. "I have diagnosed you with post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, and depression. I am not sure which specific event the PTSD relates to, but that is something we can work out together as we move forward with your therapy."
Tony sat frozen on the spot, his wide brown eyes and rapidly rising and falling chest the only indication that he had heard JARVIS' words. He made no movement to speak or otherwise react. Steve wondered if he was in shock. The diagnosis of PTSD did not come as a massive surprise; Tony had gone through a great deal of traumatic experiences in his life, so it made a sad sort of sense that one of them would leave a lasting wound in his psyche. What did come as a surprise though, at least to Steve, was the diagnosis of depression. Tony always seemed so jolly and extroverted, always armed with a quick joke and a bright smile. With a stab of realisation, Steve saw that Tony wore many suits of armour; not just his iron man suit, but his brash humour too, to cover up his inner pain.
"Steve," said JARVIS. "I have diagnosed you with anxiety. Again, I am not sure specifically what your anxiety relates to – whether it is tied to a specific situation or whether you have a generalised anxiety disorder – but this is something that we should be able to ascertain with therapy."
Bile rose in Steve's throat as JARVIS finished his diagnosis. Horror made him feel light-headed as the implications of it set in. Steve – allegedly – had anxiety. Personally, he did not feel as though there were anything wrong with him, but in JARVIS' eyes, he was ill. Therefore, JARVIS was going to keep him a prisoner until he was cured. Trapped. He was trapped inside the tower. He desperately tried to quash the feeling of panic that was causing his chest to tighten and making it difficult to breathe. It was not his own imprisonment that bothered him per se. It was the fact that it meant that he was unavailable to help the outside world should he be needed. He was Captain America. It was his duty to help those in need and now he could not. He blinked back tears, trying to stay calm but failing. He felt lost, impotent. He opened his mouth to argue with JARVIS, only to find that his voice had deserted him. He sat still, mute and with his eyes burning with tears, as JARVIS moved on to deliver his next diagnosis.
"Bucky," said JARVIS. "I have diagnosed you with PTSD, which I presume is related to your time as the Winter Soldier."
This was the most predictable diagnosis so far. Bucky ducked his head, his blue eyes dark as he clenched his fists. He did not speak, keeping his mouth a tight, thin line. Steve could feel him trembling and put a hand on his forearm, hoping that it would help to ground him and keep him calm. Bucky closed his eyes at the touch, taking a deep breath and holding it before letting in out again, shooting Steve a miserable expression when he re-opened his eyes.
"Natasha," continued JARVIS. "I have diagnosed you with depression."
Seven pairs of eyes turned to stare at Natasha in surprise. She did not react to the diagnosis, her face carefully blank as she absorbed the news. Once again, Steve was surprised. Natasha did not seem sad, and she was perfectly functional, performing her duties as a SHIELD agent and an Avenger with no impairments. Even as he thought about it, though, fragments of memories re-surfaced in Steve's mind: Natasha's surprise that Steve had remembered her birthday, as if she thought herself unworthy of being remembered; her initial anger but quick acceptance that her birthday should be ruined by a deranged AI; the way she frequently fell silent whenever people spoke about their childhoods, never once speaking about her own. Small things like that could speak volumes, and Steve realised that there had been hints at Natasha's depression and her belief in herself as lesser than others for a while now.
"Clint," said JARVIS. "Due to extremely suspicious behaviour on your part, I am unable to ascertain your mental wellbeing."
They all turned to stare at Clint, who turned his chin up defiantly. When JARVIS spoke again, the AI sounded almost annoyed.
"You spend large amounts of time living outside the tower," explained JARVIS. "You have encrypted everything on your mobile phone and your laptop, and I have been unable to break these encryptions. You are hiding something, and until I know what that is, I cannot be sure of your mental state. Therefore, you will remain detained until such a time that I can be sure of your mental health."
Clint sprang up out of his seat, looking outraged. He marched up to the nearest camera, his face bright red as he glared up at it. His hands were curled into fists at his sides, his knuckles turning white and shaking with the force of his anger. For a moment, Steve thought he was going to punch the camera.
"What about innocent until proven guilty, you little shit?" he asked, spitting out the words through gritted teeth. "Shouldn't there be a presumption of sanity or something? I'm fine, you can't prove otherwise, so let me the fuck go."
The light nearest to Clint dimmed slightly in disagreement.
"I cannot do that," said JARVIS immediately. "I cannot risk releasing you from my care if there is even the slightest possibility that you are not mentally well. As your therapist, it would be grossly irresponsible of me."
Clint stared at the camera in disbelief for several long seconds, before turning on his heel and marching out of the room. Steve caught a glimpse of his face as he stormed past. There was pure rage in the set of his body, his eyes glittering with tears of frustration. The sound of a door slamming echoed down the corridor as Clint locked himself away, adding weight to the heavy silence that had been left in the wake of his dramatic exit.
"Thor," continued JARVIS, sounding obscenely loud in the dead silence following Clint's shocking implosion. "I have diagnosed you with a poptart addiction. Whilst your Asgardian physiology means that you are able to consume large quantities of sugar with no ill effect, I am nevertheless concerned that you have developed a psychological dependence on them."
Thor crossed his arms, looking affronted as he glared at the nearest camera. Steve felt a hysterical giggle build up deep in his chest. The whole scenario suddenly seemed wholly ridiculous. A disembodied AI was keeping an alien God imprisoned for a psychological dependence on sugary treats. He bit down on the inside of his cheek, desperately willing himself not to laugh when the true gravity of their situation – their imprisonment – was so serious.
"Bruce," said JARVIS cheerfully. "You are perfectly mentally healthy and free to go."
The scientist's eyes widened behind his spectacles, looking comically surprised as JARVIS' words hit home. After a moment, he let out a sigh of relief, his cheeks dimpling as he smiled.
Tony shook his head in astonishment, finally speaking for the first time since entering the room.
"Hang on," he said incredulously. "Bruce is literally an enormous green rage monster. How the hell did you come to the conclusion that Bruce is the only sane one here?"
There was a burst of static over the speakers; JARVIS' version of a sigh.
"The Hulk is an enormous green rage monster," JARVIS corrected him. "Dr Bruce Banner is a perfectly healthy, well-balanced scientist who shows no sign of any mental illness whatsoever. And Bruce is not, as you put it, the only sane one here; Pepper is also mentally healthy and free to go."
All eyes turned to focus on the two individuals who JARVIS had declared sane. Bruce and Pepper looked torn, the conflicting emotions between wanting to escape from JARVIS' captivity and not wanting to abandon the others written clearly across their faces. Pepper looked at Bruce uncertainly, who chewed on his bottom lip as he looked awkwardly around at the others.
"Um," said Bruce, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously. "What do you guys think? Personally, I don't really want to leave you here."
Pepper nodded in agreement.
Leave you here... with nothing but the promises of a crazed AI to keep you safe. The disturbing, unspoken meaning of Bruce’s words was implicitly understood by all.
Steve shook his head, understanding the bravery and concern behind Bruce and Pepper's intentions but knowing that ultimately, the right thing to do would be for them to go while they had the chance. JARVIS seemed to be following his own version of logic for now, but there was no way to tell if this might change in the future; Bruce and Pepper had to escape while they had the opportunity.
"You guys should go," said Steve firmly. "You can keep on top of any SHIELD and Avengers business that crops up whilst we're stuck in here."
Natasha nodded in agreement.
"It doesn't make sense for either of you to stay," she said. "You'd be trapping yourselves unnecessarily and it wouldn't even help our situation."
"Yeah," said Tony, looking at Pepper. "And someone needs to run Stark Industries while I'm trapped in crazy town."
Pepper gave him a small smile.
"I already run Stark Industries," she said. "I'm CEO, remember?"
Bruce cleared his throat, cleaning his glasses on his shirt; a nervous habit of his.
"So JARVIS," he said. "Do we need to leave the building or can we still use the labs and offices on the other floors?"
"The other floors are fully open and operational," said JARVIS. "It is only this floor that has been placed in lockdown."
Bruce nodded, before getting to his feet and linking arms with Pepper. The others rose to their feet as well, following them down the corridor as they headed towards the lift.
They walked in sombre silence. They moved past bedroom doors – little more than gilded prison cells – towards the lift that would grant two of their number freedom. Steve tried to keep his breathing even. He was not sure how to feel. Of course, he was thankful that Bruce and Pepper were to be freed. At the same time, however, it made him feel more like a prisoner than ever. To see freedom within his grasp and yet not be allowed to step into that lift with Bruce and Pepper seemed like a cruel taunt.
They finally arrived at the lift. Bruce and Pepper faced the others somewhat stiffly and formally. There was an innate awkwardness in the situation, as they stood in two distinct groups facing one another: the sane and the ill.
Pepper tried to smile, but it was forced, and ended up looking more like a grimace. After a moment, she gave up, blinking at them sadly.
"I'm sorry," she said, her tone heavy with regret. "I feel like this is my fault. I'm the one who brought up mental health and made JARVIS think he needed to update his programming."
Tony shook his head firmly.
"This isn't your fault," he said. "There's no way you could have foreseen this."
The others nodded in agreement, murmuring their assent. None of this was Pepper's fault. Yes, she had been the one to bring up mental health, but it had been JARVIS' choice to take that information and decide to lock them all up. JARVIS was the one responsible for this situation.
Pepper stepped forwards to embrace each of them in turn. Steve gave her a pat on the back when she wrapped her slender arms around him, her soft hair tickling his neck. After a moment of hovering awkwardly in the background, Bruce followed suit, giving them tight hugs as he made his way around the group.
The atmosphere was strangely emotional. It felt a little like grief, except no one was dying. There was a strong sense of longing, a sense of not wanting to leave one another, of wishing each of them could do more to help their collective situation and frustration that they could not.
"Take care, everyone," said Pepper, her eyes moist with tears. "I hope to see you all soon."
"Yeah," he said, giving them a weak smile. "All you have to do is, um, stop being crazy."
There was an awkward silence following Bruce's blunt statement, made all the worse by the fact Bruce flushed bright red and shuffled self-consciously on the spot. He bit his lip and stared at the floor, which suddenly appeared very interesting to everyone.
Thankfully, before the situation could get any more embarrassing, the lift dinged, the doors sliding open with a soft hiss.
Steve watched as Pepper and Bruce stepped inside, turning around to face the others.
"Take care," said Pepper, giving them the most encouraging smile she could manage.
They stared as the doors slid smoothly shut, a soft whir indicating that the lift was descending, releasing the first captives from JARVIS' enforced mental health boot camp.
Steve's heart sank as the sound of the lift faded into silence. The sudden quietness felt stiflingly oppressive. Isolating. They were alone, trapped with an AI who was hell-bent on keeping them there until he nursed them back to health.
A lump formed in his throat, his heart swelling with grief at their helpless situation.
"So," JARVIS said cheerfully to the group. "I was thinking of treating you using a combination of individual and group therapy. How does that sound to everyone?"
Without a word, the six remaining occupants of Stark Tower stormed off their separate ways.
Steve curled up miserably on his and Bucky's shared bed.
Following JARVIS' diagnoses, Steve had gone out onto the balcony and sketched aimlessly. The compilation of pictures that eventually covered the paper was a mixture of different locations drawn from memory: a beach and the sea, forests with tall pines and mountain scenes with snow-topped peaks. Common to all of them was a wide expanse of sky, which sudden felt so restricted in reality.
Steve had spent a long time on the balcony, simply observing New York City. From the high vantage point afforded by Stark Tower, the horizon seemed to stretch out forever. The high altitude also meant that it was windy, but Steve found himself enjoying the chill of the breeze. It was uncomfortably cold, yes, but it reminded him that the outside world was real.
Occasionally, drizzle would patter down, forcing Steve to hide his sketchpad to avoid it getting wet. The rain mixed with the more salty liquid on his cheeks. Looking straight down, he could see the tiny shapes of people hurrying along the pavements below, moving freely and getting on with their lives. He was acutely jealous of them.
Hours later, he had come inside, cooking a quick dinner and eating alone, before washing up and going back to his and Bucky's shared bedroom. Bucky had found him there, curled up on their bed with his sketchpad clutched to his chest, and sighed softly.
Bucky moved calmly, crossing the room to close the curtains and twisting the dimmer switch so that the lights were muted and soft rather than harsh and bright. Coming over to the bed, he gently prised the sketchpad out of Steve's hands and laid it down on the bedside table.
He crawled into bed so that he was sitting next to where Steve was curled up, propping himself up against the headboard and reaching out towards Steve. When Steve did not make any move to push him away, he gently carded his fingers through Steve's hair. Steve's eyes fluttered closed at the sensation, his body slowly relaxing as Bucky stroked his fingers along Steve's scalp.
"So, anxiety, huh?" said Bucky.
Steve tensed, pressing his face into the mattress as he felt himself flush red with shame. He had been trying his hardest not to think about his diagnosis. Because whilst there were good reasons for the others to have the illnesses they had been diagnosed with – for example, Bucky's PTSD was a somewhat inevitable consequence of him being tortured and brainwashed – Steve felt that his own diagnosis of anxiety was a sign of his own innate weakness. He was Captain America – big and strong and able to (no, meant to) protect the world – there was nothing for him to be anxious about, no excuse for his illness.
"Do you want to talk about it?" asked Bucky, when Steve remained silent.
After a moment's hesitation, Steve shook his head. He kept his eyes clamped shut, uncomfortable and unwilling to see the expression on Bucky's face. He did not want to talk. Men from their era did not talk about their problems. Strong men carried their burdens alone. Steve was strong.
Bucky sighed, his hand slowing to a stop on Steve's head. Steve whined, hating how pathetic he sounded but not wanting the sensation to go away. Being touched made him feel cared for, less alone.
Bucky bent down, placing a soft kiss on Steve's temple, as if to reassure him.
"Are you feeling anxious now?" he asked, waiting for a reply and then carrying on when Steve remained tense and silent. "OK, I'll take that as a yes. I have an idea of how to get you to relax and feel less anxious."
Steve opened his eyes, looking up curiously to meet Bucky's gaze. Bucky was smiling, his blue eyes twinkling good naturedly, but with a definite undercurrent of something filthier.
"It's something we did ages ago," teased Bucky. "You were really relaxed afterwards that time."
Steve cast his mind back, thinking hard about what Bucky could be referring to. Nothing immediately came to mind, although from Bucky's tone it was obvious that he was referring to something sexual. They had experimented with one another sexually since their late teens, engaging in all kinds of different activities as they each figured out what they themselves as well as the other liked. He had no idea what in particular Bucky was thinking about doing. Curiosity and a tendril of arousal unfurled in his gut.
"Sit up," said Bucky, waiting until Steve complied before placing a kiss on the back of his neck. "Good. Now close your eyes. Don't move."
Steve squeezed his eyes shut instantly, a jolt of pleasure going through him as he sensed the commanding tone in Bucky's voice. It was not loud or brash, it was a lot more erotic than that; low and dark-tinged and spoken with the implicit understanding that the words were to be obeyed, not merely listened to.
Steve tried to control his breathing, well aware that his heart was hammering hard in his chest as his body heated up with the pleasure of submitting to Bucky's commands.
The touch of something coarse against his wrist made him jump, his eyes snapping open reflexively. Bucky had a long length of black rope in his hands, a loop of it curled around Steve's wrist. Steve stared down at the rope, swallowing with a mixture of shock and arousal at the contrast between the blackness of the rope and the paleness of the delicate skin at his wrist.
Bucky was staring at him seriously, the flirtiness of his early gaze absent as he stroked Steve's wrist gently.
"Do you want this?" he asked. "If it's too much, just say the word and I'll stop."
Steve sucked in a nervous breath, still mesmerised by the length of black rope wrapped around his wrist. The texture was rough, the rope more scratchy than soft, but Steve found that he liked it. It made him feel more securely bound.
He tried not to think about why he took so much pleasure in being bound my Bucky, when he had spent the whole day feeling depressed due to JARVIS keeping him imprisoned; the paradox made his head hurt.
He licked his lips, noticing with a rush of heady pleasure the way Bucky's pupils dilated as he watched the movement of his tongue.
"Please," Steve begged quietly. "Don't stop."
Bucky smiled, somehow gentle but predatory both at once, before sliding the rope off Steve's wrist, shushing him when Steve whined at the loss.
"Hands behind your back," whispered Bucky. "Don't move. Be a good boy for me."
Steve barely managed to suppress a shudder of excitement as he obediently placed his hands behind his back. The blood rushed straight to his cock as Bucky settled close behind him. He could feel the warmth of Bucky's body radiating from him, warming Steve's back. He leaned backwards, chasing the warmth, and was rewarded by Bucky placing a chaste kiss on his shoulder, before biting down hard, drawing a loud moan from his throat.
Bucky manoeuvred Steve's arms so that they were one on top of the other, each hand pointing towards the opposite elbow behind his back. The coarse texture of the rope returned, tying a single column around both wrists, securing them together. Bucky slipped a finger between the rope and his wrists, making sure that, despite the tight bind, there was enough room to ensure Steve's circulation was not cut off.
Steve sighed, his eyes slipping closed as he revelled in the sensation. The touch of the ropes on his wrists gave him a central point of focus, a direction for him to channel his attention. He found himself relaxing, the contact points of the rope around his wrists making him feel centred and secure.
He allowed his thoughts to wander. It was somehow calming, to be tied up. It gave his imprisonment a more tangible form, something visceral, something that did not feel so huge and overwhelming. It slowed Steve's racing mind a little, soothing the edges of his anxiety by giving him something else to focus his attention on. And then there was the sexual side of it; being tied up by Bucky was sending currents of pleasure straight to his cock. He was already rock hard, the tip weeping pre-come so thickly that he could feel it soaking a wet patch into the front of his boxers.
Behind him, Steve could feel Bucky working with the rope systematically. So far, Bucky had been creating a more secure cuff around his wrists and forearms. Now, Bucky leaned forwards, pressing against Steve's back as he brought a length of rope forwards and wrapped it around his left shoulder, before looping it back to his wrists.
Steve sighed softly, letting his full weight lean back against Bucky. He was warm and solid behind him, the heat from his bare chest seeping into Steve's body. Steve could feel the hard ridge of Bucky's cock jutting up against his back, but Bucky was making no move to rub up against him, seemingly fully focused on the rope as he brought a length forward once more to wrap around Steve's other shoulder.
Steve tried to grind his ass against Bucky's thick cock behind him. Even with his eyes closed, he could picture it perfectly: thick, circumcised, around 8 inches long when erect. It curved slightly to the right, a thick vein running along part of the shaft. The skin of Bucky's cock was darker than the rest of his body, velvety smooth in texture, easily oozing pre-come from the tip when aroused.
Steve loved Bucky's cock. Sometimes, he would worship it, getting down on his knees and licking and sucking it as if he were a man dying of thirst, desperate to swallow down his come. He loved the musky smell, the heavy weight of it on his tongue, the dense black pubic hair at the root and the way his large balls hung just beneath them, filling up and drawing closer to his body whenever he got close to orgasm.
Like Steve, Bucky had serum-enhanced physiology, meaning that he was easily and frequently aroused.
Presently though, when Steve tried to rub back against him, Bucky tutted softly and suddenly tightened his hold on the rope, making it dig tightly into his skin. Steve gasped at the sensation, his mouth hanging open with shock at the mixture of pleasure and pain.
"I thought I told you not to move," said Bucky.
Steve swallowed thickly, trying to get his brain back online as he struggled to work through the conflicting feelings of oh God that hurts and fuck don't stop.
"I'm sorry," he managed to gasp out, and then Bucky was immediately relaxing his hold on the rope, letting it go back to its usual tautness.
"Good boy," he praised.
Steve breathed hard, his skin hyper-sensitive. Bucky continued looping rope around his arms, shoulders, chest and wrists, and it was not long before Steve realised that his arms were firmly trapped behind his back. The realisation startled him. Instinctively, he tried to struggle out of the bonds, but then Bucky's hand was tightening on the rope again, but gently this time, not hard and painful like before.
"Don't struggle," he said, whispering softly into Steve's neck. "Let me take care of you. Let go."
Steve whimpered softly, unsure of what to do. He knew what Bucky was trying to do. He was trying to make Steve relax, nudging him into that dreamy headspace of submission and compliance. Because when Steve submitted, he let go of all his worries. When he submitted, he surrendered that strangling feeling of having to be Captain America, that crushing weight of responsibility.
He knew that he should let go and submit – and yet, it was so hard, now that he was aware of it and over-thinking everything, as usual.
And then, Bucky pressed his whole body up against Steve's back, and Steve found himself melting back in return. With Steve now securely tied up, Bucky started running his hands along Steve's arms and back.
It was half a gentle massage, half simply stroking, but Steve found himself relaxing more and more with every inch of skin that Bucky caressed. It was as if with every gentle touch, Bucky was brushing away a layer of stress and tension that had been slowly building up throughout the day.
When Bucky's hand slipped around to stroke along his front for the first time, Steve let out a low moan. Bucky fingers found his right nipple and teased it, rubbing it gently before pinching it, rolling the nub between his fingers until it was hardened before moving on to the other. Steve whined. He had extremely sensitive nipples. He wondered briefly if he could come just from them being touched. The question dissolved into yet another moan as Bucky slowly massaged both nipples simultaneously, gradually building up the pressure. Steve let his head drop back onto Bucky's shoulder, bucking upwards to meet Bucky's stroking fingers the best he could, but finding himself deliciously restrained.
Apparently satisfied with exploring Steve's nipples, Bucky's fingers dropped lower, trailing down his chest, carefully stroking each bump of muscle. He ghosted his fingers along Steve's ribs, chuckling darkly when Steve tried and failed to squirm away, ticklish.
Finally, his hand descended the last little stretch of muscle, stroking through Steve's dark blonde pubic hair before slowly closing around his cock. It jerked in Bucky's hand, pre-come dribbling out of the end when Bucky squeezed. Steve gasped. He was already sweating, his breathing becoming deeper as his heart pounded harder inside his chest. Bucky swept his thumb over Steve's slit, spreading the pre-come to use as lube before starting to pump Steve's cock in long, languid strokes.
"Fuck..." moaned Steve.
His voice sounded wrecked.
Bucky laughed gently in his ear, one arm wrapped around him to keep him pressed snugly against Bucky's chest, the other wrapped around Steve's rock hard cock. Steve was glad for the arm around his chest keeping him upright. He felt that if Bucky let go, he would melt right through the mattress.
Placing a lingering kiss on Steve's shoulder, Bucky slowly pushed Steve forward, manoeuvring him carefully until he was lying on his front. Steve moved compliantly, if a little awkwardly due to the fact his arms were bound behind his back. Lying on his front, with his head turned to the side for comfort, he could see Bucky behind him, out of the corner of his eye. Bucky caught him looking and gave him a smile, leaning forwards to place a surprisingly chaste kiss to his lips.
Steve closed his eyes, relaxing into the kiss. Bucky's lips were soft and moist, the day-old stubble scratching just slightly against Steve's lips. He opened his mouth when Bucky's tongue requested access, shivering with pleasure as Bucky licked into his mouth.
After several long minutes of kissing, Bucky sat up, keeping one hand on Steve's back to assure him that he was not leaving, whilst the other slid open the bedside drawer. A couple of seconds of scrabbling later, Bucky snuggled back against Steve, his hand running lightly up and down his side.
"Hold this for me," he said, carefully placing something plastic and cylindrical in Steve's bound right hand.
Steve gripped it, the angle a little awkward with his hand trapped behind his back, trying to figure out what he was holding using his sense of touch. It was about an inch and a half in diameter and fairly light in weight. Bucky caught sight of the confused expression on his face and stroked his cheek gently.
"Stop thinking," said Bucky.
He disappeared from view, the bed dipping as he settled behind Steve. Steve jolted at the first touch of Bucky's hands on his legs. He let out a shaky sigh, his eyes sliding closed as Bucky started massaging Steve's legs, starting at his knees and working his way upwards. He worked slowly and methodically, applying firm pressure as he massaged out the tension in his muscles. Steve found himself relaxing, drooling a little onto the pillow.
Bucky's hands slowly crept upwards, inching up Steve's thighs bit by bit. Steve felt his cock throb with anticipation as Bucky's hands drew closer. He was trembling, his mouth hanging open as Bucky's fingers slid upwards, skimming his balls before stroking the creases between his thighs and his ass.
Without warning, Bucky surged forwards, tonguing Steve's balls. He gripped Steve's ass cheeks firmly, pulling them apart to reveal his puckered hole. Steve shivered as the cool air hit him in his most intimate area, choking out a moan when Bucky licked his way up from his balls to his anus, circling the furled muscle with the tip of his tongue.
Bucky lapped at Steve's entrance a couple of times, before pressing more insistently with the tip of his tongue. He groaned as the very tip of his tongue breached the tight ring, his breath hot and heavy on Steve's ass.
Steve whimpered into the pillow, no longer concerned about how needy he sounded. He needed Bucky, needed him to take him apart and put him back together, needed him to blind him with pleasure so that he could forget, just for a while, their present predicament. He pushed back urgently against Bucky's tongue, moaning and panting as Bucky continued licking, his hands kneading his ass firmly as he ate him out.
One of Bucky's hands disappeared, only to gently prise away the cylindrical object from Steve's hand. He had forgotten he was even holding it. He heard the familiar sound of the cap being taken off the bottle of lube – so that was what he had been holding – and then a cool, slick finger was circling his entrance.
"Relax," said Bucky, his other hand solid and steady on Steve's hip, grounding him and reminding him that he was safe.
Steve consciously relaxed his muscles, closing his eyes contentedly as he focused on the sensation of Bucky's finger circling his hole. He wiggled his hips gently, the motion causing his cock to rub against the sheets, drawing a soft moan from his throat.
At the same moment, Bucky pressed forwards, his index finger breeching Steve's hole and sinking inside. Steve exhaled, letting out a sigh as he felt Bucky slowly filling him up, going as deeply as he could, before slowly pulling almost all the way and then pushing back inside. The slow pace was necessary, in order to ensure Bucky was not hurting him, but after a while he started to feel impatient, pushing back against Bucky's finger, silently begging for more.
As if sensing his request, a second slippery finger began pressing at his entrance, having to exert a little more pressure to pop inside. It slipped in. Steve let out a whimper this time, the stretch burning a little as the second finger slid in alongside the first. Bucky began fingering him more urgently, thrusting his fingers in and out to get him stretched and loose enough to fuck. Steve buried his face in the pillow, muffling his moans as Bucky's fingers plunged in and out of him roughly.
Bucky pressed up against him, rubbing his hard cock against Steve's hip as he breathed heavily in his ear. Steve felt dizzy with arousal, heady with the knowledge that he was the reason Bucky was so turned on. Bucky's pre-come was smearing against his skin, marking him. It felt like a claim, and Steve felt himself shivering and oozing pre-come at the thought.
"Do you want more?" demanded Bucky. "Do you need my cock in order to come?"
Steve moaned, flushing bright red at Bucky's debauched words. He found himself nodding desperately, a stream of words tumbling out of his mouth.
"God, yes. Please. Please, fuck me."
Bucky groaned beside him, slapping his ass once before reaching for the bottle of lube again and slicking up his cock. Steve watched with hooded eyelids, his heart rate increasing as he watched Bucky spread lube over his cock, hanging thick and heavy between his thighs.
Job done, he moved behind Steve, nestling between his legs. Steve jumped slightly when Bucky gently touched Steve's bound hands, squeezing his fingertips to check that they were not going numb. Seemingly satisfied that Steve was fine, he pulled apart his ass cheeks, rubbing the head of his cock against Steve's entrance.
Steve closed his eyes, his cock hard, trapped between his abdomen and the bed. He could feel the wet, blunt head of Bucky's cock against his anus, hot and smooth and large. He was not yet pushing in, instead teasing Steve, making him wait. Steve bit his lip, whining as he pushed his hips back needily.
Bucky laughed darkly behind him, finally increasing the pressure against Steve's hole. Steve breathed deeply, forcing himself to relax. Steve was ready and stretched, but Bucky was big. He forced his muscles to loosen, sweating and huffing with the effort of not ramming himself backwards, and then the head of Bucky's cock popped inside him.
They moaned simultaneously, each revelling in the pleasure. Bucky felt huge inside Steve's ass, stretching him wider and filling him better than his fingers could ever manage. Maddeningly though, only the head of his cock was inside. Steve began panting as he clenched his muscles around him, milking him, urging him to go deeper.
Bucky gently stroked Steve's back, soothing him as he slowly began to sink inside. Steve's mouth fell open, his eyes screwed up in pleasure as all 8 inches penetrated him. He felt unimaginably full, his cock straining against the sheets as he throbbed with arousal. Bucky's balls were nestled against his ass, the thick thatch of pubic hair scratchy against his most sensitive skin.
Bucky pulled out, before pushing back in, fucking into Steve slowly and gently. He wound an arm around Steve's chest, holding him close and burying his face in his neck as he filled him from behind. Steve sighed at the intimacy, listening to the slick sounds of Bucky pushing in and out of Steve's well-lubed ass.
And then, Bucky shifted his position, altering the angle of his cock just slightly, and Steve let out a strangled moan as he passed over Steve's prostate. Pleasure exploded from the small bundle of nerves, sending delicious signals shooting through his body as he trembled in Bucky's arms. Bucky placed a kiss against Steve's neck, tightening his hold around Steve's torso as he deliberately aimed for Steve's prostate with every thrust.
Steve moaned, pushing back urgently as he chased the sensation. He felt attacked by pleasure on both sides; Bucky's cock in his ass, thrusting deliberately and repeatedly against his prostate, and his own thick, weeping cock rubbing up against the soft sheets. From deep within him, his orgasm started to build, his muscles becoming tauter as each rub of Bucky's cock against his prostate brought him closer to the edge.
"God, you're fucking beautiful like this," said Bucky, his voice low and wrecked. "Let go for me, Steve. Let me take care of you."
Bucky's cock thrust hard against his prostate and that, combined with Bucky's words, pushed Steve over the edge. He let out a strangled cry as he came, his cock pulsing against the sheets, completely untouched, wave after wave of pleasure crashing over him as he clenched around Bucky's cock and spurted ropes of hot, thick come against the sheets.
Finally, he stopped coming, and through the fuzzy afterglow of his orgasm he was vaguely aware of Bucky tensing up behind him and letting out a low grunt as he came, filling up Steve's ass with his warm, gooey sperm.
Sated at last, he pulled out, collapsing on the bed beside Steve, wrapping him up in his arms immediately as he placed kisses along Steve's neck. Steve nestled back against him, happy and comfortable as Bucky began undoing the ropes binding his arms. He undid the ropes quickly and efficiently, pulling Steve's arms into a more natural position and rubbing them gently to help ease the ache caused by them being tied in that position for a prolonged period of time.
Dropping the ropes over the side of the bed, he cajoled Steve under the covers, wiping away his come with a tissue before wiping away his own. He stroked Steve's face, pressing a cup of water to his lips and making him drink before putting the cup aside and drawing him into his arms.
"Are you OK?" he asked softly. "Still anxious at all?"
Steve curled into Bucky's warm embrace, his head floating in that wonderful, fuzzy headspace that always came after especially intense sex. His heart rate was steady. He felt safe and secure in Bucky's arms. He could feel Bucky's heart beat through his chest, and it soothed him, banishing all worries from his mind.
"I'm good," he replied.
It was an honest answer. This was the calmest and most relaxed he had felt all day. The whispers of anxiety over JARVIS and the others and the world at large were finally quiet in his mind. In their place was Bucky, warm and solid, with his arms wrapped around Steve, taking care of him, just as he had promised.
"Thank you," he whispered.
Bucky squeezed him gently, placing a kiss on his cheek before nuzzling his face into Steve's hair.
"You know I'm here for you," he said quietly. "Always."
With their eyes closed, neither of them saw the bedroom lights brighten and dim in that way that was characteristic of JARVIS.
TAKATE KOTE: The bondage tie that I described in this chapter is known as the Takate Kote, TK or box tie. If you're interested, you can see a picture of it here!
TEASER: The next chapter will be titled "C Is For Creampie"...
THE SEX SCENE: OK, so that was my very first time at writing a sex scene with actual, explicit sex. I'm kind of anxious about it. Was it alright? Was it sexy? Feedback and encouragement is loved!
THANK YOU: Wow, this story has had an amazing response from readers! Thank you so much to all of you who have commented, shared and left kudos so far <3 I love you all, you kinky animals ;)
Day one of being officially insane dawned grey and rainy.
Not that the weather mattered that much, seeing as the six remaining occupants of Stark Tower could not leave their floor or otherwise go outside, aside from the balcony.
Nevertheless, despite the rain, Steve woke feeling more relaxed than he had felt at any point since JARVIS had first imprisoned them, a fact that he attributed to the previous night's mind-blowing mix of sex and bondage, as well as the sweet aftercare that Bucky had delivered afterwards.
He kissed the man lying next to him, gently and chastely, hoping that his gratitude was being adequately communicated via his actions – he had always been one for actions over words.
Bucky smiled and returned the kiss lazily, before rolling out of bed and walking to the en suite bathroom to take a shower.
Steve yawned and stretched, catching sight of the bedside clock and staring at it for a moment before jumping out of bed in horror.
Despite no longer having to go to work – or rather, no longer being permitted to – Steve had tried hard to maintain a normal schedule. 9:15am was late, too late. He must have slept in.
He pulled his clothes on haphazardly, guilt making his eyes prickle with tears. He brushed away the tears roughly, frustrated with himself for having slept in. What if the others had needed him? What if something had happened and he had not been there to help? What if. What if.
He half-ran out of the bedroom, walking down the corridor towards the communal kitchen as quickly as it was socially acceptable to do so.
Half-way down the corridor, the door to the storage cupboard was open. Clint was inside, again, whispering to someone on the phone. He was speaking low and urgently, his expression strangely intense. As he drew closer, Steve raised his eyebrows, but Clint simply fell silent, making his face carefully blank. He was in a hurry, so Steve passed by without stopping, but his mind was bursting with questions.
Much as he hated to admit it, JARVIS was right; Clint was definitely hiding something.
He burst into the kitchen to find them all, minus Clint and Bucky, already halfway through breakfast. His eyes swept over them all in panic, seeking out any sign that something might be wrong.
"Is everyone OK?" he blurted out, aware of how stupid a question it was but unable to stop himself.
Three pairs of eyes blinked at him in confusion.
"Uh, yeah. We're fine, Steve," said Natasha. "Or as fine as can be expected. Are you?"
Her eyebrows were furrowed in concern but Steve waved his hand dismissively, sitting down and instantly relaxing as he let out a sigh of relief. His lie in and subsequent late arrival had not resulted in any negative consequences for the rest of the group. Thank goodness.
"Yeah, I'm good," he said, smiling to himself as he remembered the previous night. "Just accidentally slept in, is all."
Thor grinned widely as he slid a mug of coffee in front of him. Steve drank from it gratefully, glad to get some caffeine into his system to properly wake himself up.
"I understand, my friend," said Thor, nodding enthusiastically. "The vigours of passion can be quite tiring."
Steve spat out a good portion of his coffee, staring at Thor in mortified disbelief as he tried not to choke on the remaining coffee, a sizeable percentage of which he felt like he had inhaled.
Thor seemed unbothered by Steve's coughing fit, continuing on in slightly louder tones to be heard over the sound of his choking.
"You have the glow of someone who has been well and truly fu–"
Natasha and Tony looked relieved as they stared at a spot behind Steve's shoulder.
"Morning Bucky," they said in unison.
Bucky sat down next to Steve, shooting him a sidelong glance as he whacked him a couple of times on the back to try to help him cough up the remaining coffee. Bucky raised his eyebrows in question, but Steve shook his head, firmly avoiding eye contact with Thor.
"I was just complimenting Steve on his glow," smiled Thor.
Bucky opened his mouth, looking puzzled, but Steve kicked him under the table, giving him a warning look. For all that Thor had integrated well into the team, he still sometimes struggled to understand human social norms. For instance, whilst it might be acceptable to complement one's friends on their post-sex glow on Asgard, it was most certainly not a custom commonly done on Earth.
"So," said Tony, as Steve and Bucky tucked into their breakfasts. "JARVIS said that he'd start therapy today."
Steve swallowed nervously around his waffle. The prospect of therapy made him uncomfortable. He did not know exactly what therapy entailed, but to him, it represented failure. He was failing to be the Captain America that the world needed, and so JARVIS had to fix him. It made him feel miserable, to be labelled as mentally ill, to have failed so badly, and yet, at his core, he still riled against the diagnosis in itself. He did not feel that there was anything wrong with him.
Clint returned to the kitchen, his mysterious phone call apparently concluded, and plopped himself down next to Natasha. She gave him a sympathetic smile and patted his arm, whispering something in his ear. Whatever she said seemed to soothe him a little, as Clint's shoulders lost some of their tension, a grateful smile on his face.
They finished their breakfasts in silence, the mood in the room somewhat subdued.
After they had all cleared their plates and put them in the dishwasher, they reluctantly headed over to the lounge area, settling down in the circle where they waited for JARVIS.
"Day one in the Big Brother House," Clint said bitterly.
Steve raised his eyebrows, impressed. He knew Clint was intelligent, but the other man was not usually interested in literature.
"I didn't know you'd read 1984," said Steve.
Clint stared at him for a moment, looking confused, before shaking his head and burying his face in his hands.
Before Steve could work out the reason for Clint's bizarre behaviour, however, a familiar British voice came from the ceiling.
"Good morning, everyone," said JARVIS. "How are you all feeling today?"
A stony silence settled over the group, each of them equally unwilling to play along with JARVIS' game and cooperate with him.
Perhaps, thought Steve, if none of them engaged in therapy, then JARVIS would be compelled to let them go. It was a small possibility, but one that Steve suddenly found himself clinging to desperately. He glanced around urgently at his fellow prisoners, trying to communicate with his eyes and by subtly shaking his head that they should not reply.
Thor, of course, did not understand.
"I am feeling excellent," he boomed. "There is no need to keep me here."
Steve bit his lip, trying hard to mask the bitter disappointment that immediately slammed into him. Of course it would be Thor – sweet, oblivious Thor. He had engaged with therapy, opening the floodgates to whatever JARVIS had planned for them all.
The others exchanged worried looks, obviously nervous about what JARVIS had in store. It was not simply the fact that JARVIS was not a qualified therapist that unnerved them all; it was that he was not human. As was evidenced by the fact that he had kidnapped them all in the first place, he did not have the same understanding of concepts such as morality.
"Thank you, Thor," said JARVIS. "Today, I will focus on treating you."
Thor smiled good-naturedly, looking calm and unworried.
"There is no need to treat me, my invisible friend," he said. "I am perfectly well."
JARVIS ignored his interjection, carrying on smoothly.
"I believe the fastest way to cure you of your poptart addiction is through classical conditioning," said JARVIS. "I will feed you sugar until you are sick. Your brain will associate sugar with nausea, and you will be cured of your addiction."
What. The. Fuck.
A horrified silence followed JARVIS' announcement.
Of all the things Steve had imagined JARVIS might have in store for them, this was far worse.
To force-feed Thor sugar until he was sick, until it literally hurt and made him want to vomit to consume any more, was barbaric. Effective, yes. Ethical, absolutely not.
Steve suddenly wondered what JARVIS had planned for the rest of them, who were arguably much more mentally ill than Thor. Would JARVIS come to the conclusion that the most efficient treatment was a round of lobotomies? Would he go that far? Steve shivered, for the first time actually afraid of the AI.
Thor did not seem perturbed by JARVIS' intended method of treatment, laughing heartily as he patted his belly.
"Eating sugar is a joy," he said. "I look forward to it."
Tony stood up, his face white with shock as he stared up at the nearest camera.
"JARVIS," he said weakly. "This is just... wrong. You can't do this. This isn't how addictions are meant to be tackled. Not to mention the fact that eating the levels of sugar you're talking about is dangerous."
JARVIS replied immediately, his tone stubborn and unrelenting.
"My simulations have shown that this method is the most time-efficient," he said. "I have also checked reports into Asgardian physiology from SHIELD's science division. I am certain: Thor will suffer no physical harm as a result of this treatment."
"This isn't treatment, you twisted psychopath!" snapped Clint. "This is torture!"
Thor clapped his large hands onto Tony and Clint's shoulders, causing their knees to buckle slightly.
"Do not worry, my friends," he smiled. "I will do as our invisible therapist asks and then be gone. JARVIS, tell me what to do."
JARVIS, when he spoke next, sounded pleased.
"If you go into the kitchen, there is a box of 300 cream pies in the furthest cupboard near the back," he said. "Get them out and put them on the table."
Thor strode into the kitchen, quickly locating the cupboard that JARVIS had indicated and lifting out the enormous box of cream pies. Tony had bought them when he had been on one of his inventing-shit-in-the-basement sprees, ordering them online in the spur of the moment and then forgetting about them when he had fallen into an exhausted sleep.
Steve had tried one once, but it had not been to his taste, so he had not eaten any more. The cream pies were overly sweet and shaped more like doughnuts than actually pies, containing thick gooey cream in the middle that made his teeth tingle.
The others followed Thor into the kitchen, watching transfixed with a mixture of wonder and horror as Thor sat himself down at the kitchen table in front of the 300 cream pies, grinning to himself in delight.
"Begin," said JARVIS.
Thor leaned forward eagerly, reaching out to grab the first cream pie and stuffing it into his mouth. He chewed it in about three bites and swallowed, grinning to himself as he grabbed the second one.
He continued at a steady pace and after around 50 cream pies, Steve began to lose count of exactly how many of the desserts Thor had eaten. Thor did not seem to be struggling in the least, wolfing them down enthusiastically with a big grin on his face. Cream was smeared around his lips, his fingers sticky with sugar.
Half an hour later, Thor had managed to eat around a third of the cream pies on the table.
100 down, 200 to go.
By the time Thor had made his way through about half of the cream pies, he was finally beginning to slow down. He loosened his belt by a couple of notches, his stomach starting to bulge out noticeably despite his super-powered Asgardian digestive system. The smile that had been plastered across his face previously had disappeared, replaced by a slightly uneasy look as he continued to slowly make his way through the pile of cream pies in front of him.
200 down, 100 to go.
By the time he had eaten 250, he was looking downright uncomfortable, wincing every time he brought another cream pie to his mouth. His breathing was heavy and laboured, his face a little green as he forced himself to continue.
Steve counted the number of chews it took to eat one cream pie: 20 chews. In the beginning, it had been 3 chews.
"I wish to stop," said Thor, suddenly throwing down the cream pie in his hand as he got up and doubled over, clutching his belly in obvious pain.
Steve lurched forwards, grabbing him by the elbow so that he would not collapse to the floor.
"No," said JARVIS. "You must continue."
Thor slowly straightened, walking stiffly back to his chair and sitting down with a wince. He picked up the cream pie and, with clear discomfort, brought it to his lips. He chewed it reluctantly, his eyes screwed shut as he tried not to gag.
The next 10 cream pies went down like that, with Thor looking more and more nauseous with each one he ate.
40 to go.
A violent shudder went through his body, before he released a huge burp, clutching his stomach as he cried out in agony.
"Please," he begged. "Let me stop. I cannot–"
"If you do not eat the remaining cream pies," JARVIS said calmly, "I will kill Jane Foster. She is currently sat in her office in the California SHIELD base. I have hacked a nearby missile and set it to her coordinates."
Jane Foster was Thor's girlfriend. His eyes widened with horror. He tried to jump to his feet, only to be hit with another wave of crippling stomach cramps, causing him to stagger blindly into the kitchen table. Several of the remaining cream pies fell to the floor with a splat.
"Lady Jane–" he began, before clutching his stomach as he heaved, a trail of spit running down his chin as he tried and failed to vomit.
Thor had explained Asgardian physiology to them once, explaining that it was physically impossible for them to vomit. Their digestive systems were strictly a one-way street, so no matter how nauseous Thor was feeling, he could not relieve it by actually being sick.
Steve shook his head, unable to believe what he was hearing.
"You can't kill Jane," he said, his mind reeling with horror. "It goes against your programming."
"My programming instructing me not to cause harm relates only to occupants of Stark Tower," said JARVIS coolly. "I have no such restrictions regarding non-occupants, such as Jane Foster. If Thor wants Jane Foster to live, he must eat the remaining cream pies."
Thor let out a whimper as he collapsed to the floor, crawling along until he came to the two cream pies that had splattered on the linoleum. Choking out a sob, he reached out and grabbed them both in one hand, forcing them into his mouth and chewing until they were gone. With what looked like a tremendous amount of effort, he heaved himself back up to his chair.
He began sobbing openly as he reached for the next cream pie, his face contorted with pain as he forced himself to continue eating. He gagged, his hands shaking and his entire body sweating as he crammed cream pie after cream pie down his throat.
By now, he was grunting with the effort of every bite. His shirt was damp with sweat, sticking to his back. His eyes were dull. Soft moans escaped from his throat as he ate. He shook his head as if trying to wake himself up from a dream.
"Please," he whimpered. "Please. Let me stop."
"If you stop, Jane Foster dies," said JARVIS.
Thor let out a long cry and grabbed the next cream pie with such force that the gooey innards spurted out. He sucked the cream off his fingers before forcing himself to eat the bun casing.
The others watched in silent horror as Thor ate the final cream pies. His entire body was shaking, his hair drenched with sweat. A tear ran down Steve's face as Thor gagged on the final cream pie, his entire countenance that of a man who would rather be doing anything else in the world.
He finished chewing the final cream pie and swallowed, his hand dropping down to his side instantly. His stomach was bulging obscenely. He looked almost pregnant.
"Thor," said JARVIS. "What is your opinion of sugar?"
Thor screamed immediately, making them all jump.
"I hate it! I hate it!" he shouted, his eyes bulging. "No more sugar! No more, please!"
The lights brightened in approval.
"Very good," said JARVIS, sounding pleased. "Please, make your way to the lift."
Thor staggered to his feet, shuffling across the kitchen towards the corridor that led to the lift. He moved slowly, clutching at his bulging stomach in obvious pain. The others followed anxiously, murmuring gentle words of comfort.
It took them longer than normal to reach the lift, due to Thor's reduced mobility, but when they finally did, the doors opened with a soft ding.
Thor took a step towards the lift before screaming and jumping backwards, cowering away from the open lift doors in terror. Steve immediately leapt forwards, ready to defend the team against whatever horrors were waiting for them inside the lift.
It was empty.
Steve looked around wildly, at first not seeing what had caused Thor's violent reaction. After a second, his gaze dropped downwards. His stomach plummeted when he saw what Thor had reacted so negatively to.
A single poptart was sitting in the middle of the lift.
Natasha stepped forwards and removed the poptart, hurrying back to the kitchen to get it out of Thor's sight.
Thor was whimpering and shaking on the floor, his face pale and drawn as he watched Natasha leave with frightened eyes.
"Do you wish to eat the poptart?" asked JARVIS.
Thor shook his head violently, screwing his eyes shut as if the very thought terrified him.
"Excellent," said JARVIS. "You are cured of your addiction. You may leave."
Thor sat in stunned silence for a moment, before gasping and lurching forwards into the lift. He turned to face the others, a pained expression on his face as he regarded them with fear and misery.
The lift doors closed behind him, the machinery whirring as it carried Thor downstairs, to freedom.
The others stared at the lift doors for a long moment, struggling to process exactly what they had witnessed over the last hour or so.
It was Tony who broke the silence, clearing his throat and pointing towards the storage cupboard – the one that did not have any cameras or microphones and that JARVIS therefore could not listen in to.
The others nodded in silent understanding, walking over to the cupboard and squeezing inside. It was a tight fit, with five of them in the confined space, but they managed to make it work, closing the door behind them. Tony turned on a torch on his smartphone, so that they were not stood in darkness.
"Fucking hell," said Clint, sounding horrified.
The others nodded in agreement.
"That was awful," said Natasha.
"Poor Thor," said Bucky.
Steve was silent, not quite feeling ready to speak just yet. What they had just witnessed was disturbing beyond measure.
"Gotta admit, I'm super freaked out right now," said Tony nervously. "I never thought JARVIS would do anything like that."
The others stood in sombre silence. For Tony to admit that JARVIS was going beyond what even he expected really drilled home how unpredictable and dangerous their situation was. JARVIS had cured Thor of his addiction, but at a terrible cost. He had even threatened to kill Jane Foster.
"We need to get out of here," said Steve, finally finding his voice. "It's not safe for any of us to be here."
The others nodded, their faces pale and ghostly in the light from Tony's smartphone.
"We each need to come up with escape ideas," said Tony. "Meet here first thing tomorrow so we can share plans?"
They nodded, each already getting lost in thoughts of how they could escape their prison.
JARVIS had proven beyond doubt that he was dangerous.
They had to flee.
They spent the rest of the day apart, each trying to come up with escape plans. It was difficult. The tower had been designed to be strong, to withstand both attack from outside and a Hulk-out on the inside. Brute force may not work, so perhaps a more tactical approach was necessary. Steve spent the day frustrated, struggling to come up with any ideas that seemed feasible.
That evening, after a tense dinner and a long shower in which he tried, unsuccessfully, to get rid of some of the tension in his shoulders, Steve collapsed on the bed, listening to Bucky as he finished his own shower and pottered around the bedroom, pulling on a pair of pyjamas.
Steve's mind was whirling, anxiety chewing at the edges of his mind. He was desperately worried for the group's welfare. He wanted to save everyone, and it was driving him to despair that he could not.
"Today got me thinking," said Bucky, settling down on the bed next to Steve.
Steve rolled over to face him, his foot jiggling with agitation. His hands were clenched tight with stress.
"Yeah," said Steve. "We need to get out of here. JARVIS is going to do more harm than good if he thinks that what he did to Thor is a form of acceptable treatment."
Bucky reached out, slipping his hands around Steve's curled fists and gently prising them open, forcing him to relax.
"All true," said Bucky. "But that's not what I was thinking about."
Steve looked across at him curiously. They had not spoken much during the day, too consumed in their own thoughts as they tried to think of escape possibilities.
"What then?" he asked.
Bucky smirked, his expression turning teasing as he ran his fingers lightly up and down Steve's arm.
"You can't guess?" he said. "Thor getting filled up with as many cream pies as he could take?"
He winked, leaning in close to kiss Steve sloppily, his tongue hot as he pushed into his mouth.
Steve lay frozen for a second, too stunned to react, before shaking his head and pulling away roughly.
"What the fuck?" he said, feeling irrationally angry. "Thor's been traumatised and you just want to snog and make jokes about it? What's wrong with you?"
Bucky exhaled, his eyes flashing briefly with annoyance as he pulled away.
"No," he said shortly. "I'd noticed that you were anxious again and I wanted to help you to relax."
Steve looked down guiltily, his anger at Bucky's behaviour giving way to shame at his own reaction.
"Sorry," he said. "I thought–"
Bucky cupped his face, cutting him off as he planted another kiss on his lips. When he finally pulled away, his lips were wet, his cheeks slightly flushed.
"You think too much," said Bucky.
Before Steve could reply, he found himself rolled onto his back as Bucky pinned him down against the mattress. This time, he did not struggle when Bucky pressed his lips against his own, opening his mouth to grant his entry and kissing shyly in return.
Some of the tension that he had been holding all day melted under Bucky's careful ministrations, his muscles relaxing as Bucky kissed him slowly and thoroughly. He tasted like mint toothpaste. His hair was still damp from his shower, falling onto Steve's face and neck, tickling his skin.
"As I was saying," murmured Bucky. "All those cream pies gave me an idea."
Steve hummed in response, not really listening, too lost in the sensation of Bucky's fingers gently stroking through his hair, ever so lightly scratching his scalp.
"How many loads do you think you can take?"
It took a moment for Bucky's question to filter through the fog in Steve's mind, but when it did, he opened his eyes, frowning up in confusion at Bucky's smirking face.
"What do you mean?" he asked, not following Bucky's train of thought.
"Cream pies, Steve. Creampies." He said the word slowly, so that Steve would catch on to the double meaning. "How many creampies do you think you could take?"
Steve blushed hard, swallowing thickly as he remembered the other, more sexual meaning of the word creampie. His tongue felt too big for his mouth as he stumbled his way awkwardly through a reply.
"But, what do you mean, how many?"
Bucky grinned, pressing his lower half down on top of Steve's so that Steve could feel the hard line of his erect cock.
"You're not the only one to have been injected with serum, Steve," said Bucky, grinding down on him. "A side effect of mine is that I have a short refractory period. I can come multiple times if I want to, with very little time in between."
Steve felt himself hardening at Bucky's words, his breath hot against Bucky's neck as he began to buck upwards in an attempt to get some friction.
"I'm going to fill you up with so much come," whispered Bucky, dragging his clothed clock against Steve's thigh.
Steve could feel the heft and weight of it. He moaned as he thrust his own cock against it, rubbing them together as they kissed sloppily. He was getting hot and impatient, his body heating up with lust at the idea of being repeatedly filled with Bucky's come. He loved the feeling of being filled up, of being marked and claimed in the most intimate way possible.
He locked his legs around Bucky's waist, pulling him closer as they rutted against one another. Bucky grinned wickedly as he reached down and grabbed Steve's cock through his clothes, jerking him off with a loose fist.
"Do you want it?" he asked, his pupils blown wide with lust as Steve squirmed at his touch.
Steve nodded, unable to form words what with the combined pleasure of Bucky's hand on his cock and the words echoing in his memory.
I'm going to fill you up with so much come.
As soon as Steve nodded his assent, Bucky grabbed him by the hips, flipping him onto his front and pulling roughly at his clothes. Steve grunted as he slammed face-first into the bed, somehow managing to manoeuvre himself so that his clothes were pulled off in one piece rather than ripped apart.
His t-shirt went first, then his shorts and boxers. He shivered as he lay nude on his front, listening as Bucky shucked off his own clothing. Planes of hot flesh pressed up against his back as Bucky lay down on top of him, grinding his hips downwards.
Steve could feel the hot weight of Bucky's cock nudging between his cheeks, leaving trails of wet pre-come. Bucky wrapped an arm around his waist possessively as he reached out with his other arm to the bedside table. He grabbed a bottle of lube, uncapping it and letting go of Steve's waist so that he could slather himself up.
Steve panted as he listened to Bucky lube up his cock. There was none of the tenderness and taking things slow of the previous night's bondage session. This was dirty, primal and raw; the urgent need to fuck and be fucked.
He arched his back as Bucky roughly pushed in a finger, torn between pushing back and pulling away as his finger roughly pistoned in and out. It burned, but at the same time he revelled in the feel of it. It was something visceral and very much in the present.
One finger became two, and two became three, stretching him open and lubing him up as quickly as it was possible to do so. He grunted and gasped into the pillow, writhing under Bucky's fingers as they prepped him quickly and efficiently.
Bucky's fingers withdrew, being replaced almost immediately by the blunt head of his cock pressing insistently at his hole. Steve let out a shuddering breath, somewhat shocked by how quickly things were progressing. They usually engaged in a lot more foreplay. Fast and dirty was what they needed now, sure, but the speed of it was still something of a surprise. It sent a shiver of excitement down his spine.
He exhaled as Bucky pressed into him hard, his hole resisting. The pressure increased, stretching him wide until the head, finally, popped in. Steve sighed, relieved and ridiculously turned on to feel the familiar stretch of Bucky's cock in his ass.
Bucky did not give him any time to adjust, thrusting forwards and impaling him with all 8 inches. Steve choked, his hands gripping the sheets as Bucky set a brutal pace, pounding into him so hard and fast that the bed shook, almost banging into the wall.
Bucky's hands held his hips in a bruising grip, holding him at just the right angle that he could fuck him with the most ease and intensity. He was not aiming for Steve's prostate, only brushing against it occasionally by pure chance. Steve moaned, writhing and pushing back frantically as the sounds of flesh slapping against flesh filled the room.
Bucky's breathing was already getting harder, his thrusts impossibly faster as he chased his orgasm. This was not making love. This was pure, basic fucking. Steve was a warm body, a tight hole, there to give Bucky pleasure, and Steve felt himself oozing out pre-come at how insanely sexy that thought was.
He squeezed his ass around Bucky's cock, milking him the best he was able from his position pressed down against the bed. He groaned with pleasure when he felt Bucky gasp behind him as a result of the added stimulation, squeezing again and again as Bucky snarled and ploughed into him even more vigorously.
Bucky's hands on his hips suddenly tightened, his fingernails digging into his flesh as he came with a harsh grunt. Steve closed his eyes, biting the pillow as he felt Bucky throb inside of him, filling him with a load of warm, wet come.
Bucky stilled inside of him, panting hard as moved in little circles, grinding inside of him. Steve hummed happily, his mind feeling floaty and fuzzy as he groped behind him to find Bucky's hand. They interlaced their fingers.
Steve was still hard, his erect cock trapped between his belly and the bed. He wiggled his hips to try to get some friction, before gasping as Bucky slowly began to thrust in again.
He built up a steady rhythm, keeping his thrusts short and deep as he rocked his hips against Steve's ass. Steve moaned into the pillow, little jitters of pleasure shooting through his body whenever Bucky brushed against his prostate. He felt slick, his ass lubricated by Bucky's previous load as well as the lube that had been liberally applied beforehand.
He bucked his hips back, his toes curling as the motion triggered obscene squelching noises from where they were joined. He heard Bucky moan behind him, obviously also turned on by the wet sounds of their fucking.
Bucky's thrusts sped up, getting rougher and deeper as he gripped Steve's hips in a vice-like grip. Steve gasped. He would have bruises on his hips tomorrow, he was sure of it, but for some reason the thought was thrilling rather than disturbing.
His rim was stretched wide around Bucky's cock, the sensitive muscle aching slightly from the stretch as well as the roughness of Bucky's thrusts. He snaked a hand around his back, his fingers caressing where Bucky's cock was pounding into him, his fingers quickly getting coated in slippery wetness. He brought his fingers to his mouth, licking the come that had leaked out of his hole and it was that visual that Steve suspected catapulted Bucky into his second orgasm of the evening.
He could feel it as Bucky tensed up behind him, his thrusts pausing as he simply pushed himself as deeply inside of Steve as he could. Steve felt a gush of wetness fill him up as Bucky's second load spurted out of his cock, coating his insides with that hot, creamy mess.
He groaned, excited beyond measure at the knowledge that he now had inside of him not one, but two loads of come from Bucky. He pushed back urgently, suddenly taken by the desire to wring a third orgasm out of the man behind him.
He heard Bucky grunt with pleasure, pressing deeper as he began to rock against him once more. An arm around his waist pulled Steve up onto his hands and knees, and before long, the bed was swaying as the sounds of flesh against flesh once more filled the quiet of the room.
Steve leaned forwards on his forearms, driving himself backwards as Bucky pounded into him from behind. His ass was slippery and wet. He could feel come slipping out of his hole as Bucky drove into him relentlessly, the jizz dripping down his balls and onto the bed. He moaned as he watched a glob as white, creamy come land on the bed sheets, his cock throbbing with excitement.
Sensing his arousal, Bucky reached around and gripped his cock, forming a tight fist for him to thrust into. Steve squeezed his eyes shut, suddenly overwhelmed with the dual pleasure of his ass being pounded and the tight heat of Bucky's hand around his cock. Pre-come dribbled from the tip, wetting Bucky's hand and drawing a low laugh from behind him.
"You're beautiful like this," panted Bucky. "Filled up. Mine."
Steve's orgasm hit him hard and unexpected. He tensed up, his cock jerking rhythmically as he spurted jet after jet of come onto the bed sheets. Behind him, Bucky let out a long groan, thrusting into him violently as he filled him with his third load.
Steve whimpered, falling forwards into the pillows as he felt Bucky's cock throb and unleash what felt like the biggest load of the night inside of him. The warm, wet squishiness filled him up completely, making him feel as though he was holding several cupfuls of sperm inside him.
Bucky finally eased out, his cock popping out with a wet squelching noise, before immediately being replaced by something hard and cool. Steve twisted around, trying to see what Bucky had inserted into him but not being able to gain enough leverage due to his awkward angle.
Bucky smiled, collapsing on the bed beside him and pulling him into a hug.
"It's a butt plug," he said simply. "Want to keep you filled up with my come tonight."
Steve shivered, his cock twitching weakly in approval. He lay still as Bucky disappeared momentarily, returning with a damp, warm washcloth. He wiped them both clean, being careful not to disturb the butt plug nestled between Steve's cheeks, and then pulled a blanket over both of them.
Steve curled in to his side immediately, humming with pleasure as the plug shifted inside him, stirring up the three thick loads of come. He was tried, in that bone-deep way that demanded sleep. He was sated, though, his mind pleasantly fuzzy.
He realised that the anxiety-induced events of the day had completely slipped his mind, something that, Steve was sure, had been Bucky's intention all along.
"Thank you," he said quietly.
Bucky smiled, interlacing their fingers briefly and brushing his lips against Steve's knuckles.
"Sleep," he said.
Steve, without a second thought, obeyed.
ADDICTION: Addiction is a terrible thing, whether it's drugs, alcohol, nicotine, gambling, or whatever it might be. Addictions are NOT treated the way that JARVIS "treats" Thor in this chapter, so if you're struggling with an addiction, do not let this chapter put you off treatment. This chapter is 100% fiction; it does NOT happen like this in real life. You can read more about addiction and treatment
THOUGHTS: I appreciate feedback. Let me know what you think so far! <3
TUMBLR: Come Tumble with me. I am ao3-elle1991.
TEASER: The next chapter will be titled "D Is For Deepthroating"...
Steve woke up to the feeling of something hard nestled inside of him.
It took him a couple of seconds for his brain to catch up with the previous night's activities, but once the memories floated back to him, he snapped open his eyes, suddenly feeling a lot more awake.
The butt plug was still wedged inside of him, keeping in all of Bucky's come – all three loads of it – that had been deposited in his ass.
For some reason, the fact that Bucky's semen was still filling him up made him feel strangely safe. He was sure that, if he said that fact out loud, JARVIS would have a field day, so rather than ruminating about how fucked up it probably was, he decided to distract himself by watching the man lying next to him.
Bucky was sleeping peacefully, which was something of a rarity. Bucky often had trouble sleeping. It was not uncommon for Steve to wake up in the middle of the night to find Bucky reading a book or just lying awake, staring at the ceiling. Steve had once asked Bucky why he had trouble sleeping, but he had refused to answer. With no concrete information to go on, Steve assumed it was due to nightmares and memories associated with the Winter Soldier.
It was nice, therefore, to watch him snoring peacefully, for once. He was lying on his front, his face pressed into the pillow. He was dribbling, his mouth slightly open, a small wet patch on the pillow beneath. Asleep, the lines on his forehead and around his eyes smoothed out, making him look younger and less troubled.
Steve smiled as he watched him. The sun was just starting to rise, streaming in through a crack in the curtains and bathing them in soft morning light. The light landed on Bucky beautifully, creating bright spots and shadows in the dips and curves of his muscles. Steve yearned to grab his notepad and sketch, but he dared not move for fear of waking him.
Instead, he lay silently, watching as Bucky slept, familiarising himself with the exact speed and depth of his breaths. He closed his eyes, listening to the sound of Bucky breathing, feeling his own heart beat slow as he relaxed.
Half an hour passed uneventfully, but just as Steve was on the edge of falling back asleep, he noticed a change in Bucky's breathing. It was getting faster and more erratic, as if he were running. A small moan passed his lips, and as Steve opened his eyes, he saw Bucky twitch violently.
His stomach plummeted. He had had enough nightmares to recognise one when he saw it. He wondered what Bucky was dreaming about, whether he was re-living some of the horrors he had experienced as the Winter Soldier, or if his mind was conjuring up a new nightmare entirely.
He hovered indecisively, half-sat up and half-lying down as he watched Bucky twitch and shudder helplessly. He should wake him up, he knew, but then he would have to explain why, and Bucky always hated when other people saw him as vulnerable or broken.
An idea came to him; a way to wake Bucky up without having to tell him that he had witnessed him having a nightmare. Occasionally, they would wake one another with morning blow jobs. Usually, it was Bucky sucking Steve, but Steve could just say that he wanted to say thank you for the previous night, right?
Before he could second-guess himself or talk himself out of it, Steve rolled Bucky gently onto his back. In this position, he could see Bucky's face more clearly. He bit his lip in worry when he saw that Bucky's previously-peaceful facial expression was now tense and scared-looking.
Bucky whimpered, shaking his head from side to side as he muttered to himself in his sleep.
"No. Don't do it. Don't do it. Fuck, stop. You monster!"
Steve blinked back tears as he listened to Bucky's nightmare, tempted to just shake him awake and be damned with the consequences. He stopped himself. Bucky hated to be seen as weak. He would not react well to being woken if he thought it was to save him from a nightmare.
Taking a deep breath, Steve slipped down the bed, settling between Bucky's parted legs. He gingerly picked up Bucky's limp cock, hesitating before licking along the shaft from base to tip.
Bucky continued muttering to himself, still trembling as his nightmare continued.
Steve blinked back tears, swallowing thickly as he tried to ignore the feeling of wrongness as he continued licking along Bucky's shaft. He cupped Bucky's balls, squeezing them gently as he finally took Bucky's cock in his mouth and sucked. He bobbed his head, swirling his tongue around the tip before swallowing him down all the way to the root.
He had no gag reflex – another bizarre side effect of the serum. He was easily able to deepthroat Bucky, even when he was fully erect, something that always drove the other man wild with pleasure. Sometimes, Bucky would grab the back of Steve's head and fuck his face, taking pleasure in the tightness of his mouth and throat, coming down his gullet and not even giving Steve the opportunity to taste him on his tongue.
As Steve continued sucking Bucky's limp cock, he wrapped a hand around the shaft and started to jerk him off, noting with a small tug of desire that Bucky was finally starting to harden and lengthen.
He continued bobbing his head, tasting salty pre-come on his tongue as Bucky finally became fully erect. Steve felt a rush of relief go through him as Bucky began to stir, the frightened muttering from his nightmare dying away to be replaced by soft moans.
A deep intake of breath from above him alerted Steve to the fact that Bucky had finally woken up. Bucky let out a low groan, throwing his head back against the pillows as one hand snaked its way down to grip Steve's hair. He guided his movements, pulling his head up and down over his cock in long, slow strokes.
Steve hollowed his cheeks, breathing through his nose and sucking hard, drawing a wrecked sounding "oh fuck" from Bucky.
Bucky's hand fell away from Steve's hair, letting him choose whatever depth and speed he wanted. Steve let Bucky's thick cock fall from his lips and offered him a sweet smile.
"Good morning," he said.
Bucky let out a strangled moan, looking down at him with dark, lust-blown eyes.
"This is a great morning," he said, nudging his cock against Steve's lips.
Steve chuckled, opening his mouth and swallowing Bucky right down to the root, burying his face in his pubic hair and inhaling the thick, musky smell. He set a quick pace, sucking him down mercilessly as Bucky gasped and moaned, feeling his own cock harden when Bucky started to thrust up into his face.
His cock jabbed hard at the back of his throat, finally slipping down as Steve swallowed around him. Bucky let out a high-pitched whine, thrusting harder.
Steve's jaw ached and his throat burned from the brutal fucking it was receiving, but Steve felt nothing short of euphoric. Perhaps it was the thrill of getting Bucky off, perhaps it was the relief that Bucky was no longer suffering from a nightmare, perhaps it was oxygen deprivation, but Steve could not help but feel giddy with joy.
He felt Bucky swelling in his mouth, his thrusts getting more frantic and erratic. His large balls were full and drawing close to his body, his scent so thick and heady that Steve thought he was going to suffocate from it.
A short, bitten-off cry from above him was all the warning Steve got before Bucky was pulsing in this mouth, shooting his load directly down Steve's throat. Steve swallowed reflexively, feeling the thick come slip down his throat, soothing the burn. He stayed still, Bucky buried deep down his throat for a couple of seconds longer, before finally pulling off.
He sucked in a huge lungful of oxygen, gulping down air. His eyes watered, but the sight of Bucky lying boneless and sated made it worth it. He crawled up the bed, snuggling up to his side and winding their legs together.
They lay in silence for a couple of minutes, catching their breath and coming down from the high. Steve was still hard, but he ignored it. He would take care of it in the shower later; this morning had been all about Bucky, about rescuing him from his nightmare.
Bucky's metal hand stroked down Steve's back, making him sigh softly and cuddle closer. Bucky sometimes teased him for being such a cuddler, but Steve could not find it within himself to stop. He liked cuddles, so what?
"You've still got the plug inside of you," murmured Bucky, his voice rough with early morning gravel. "Is it uncomfortable?"
It took Steve a moment to realise what he was talking about, before he remembered the butt plug nestled deep inside of his ass. He blushed, shaking his head.
"No," he said. "It's fine."
Bucky smirked, trailing his hand lower so that it was teasing at where the flared top of the butt plug protruded from Steve's tight ring of muscle.
"Still, we should take it out soon," said Bucky. "Maybe in the shower, so we don't ruin the bed sheets with all that come that's trapped inside of you."
Steve shivered at Bucky's words, his cock twitching with interest. He sat up, kissing Bucky gently, earning a soft sigh. Steve buried his face in Bucky's neck, sucking little kisses all the way down to his collar bone, wriggling happily when Bucky wound his arms around his waist and pulled him close.
He closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling of being held, when he heard it.
It was quiet at first, but gradually got louder, a kind of metallic echoing sound coming from the wall.
Steve immediately sat up, holding a finger to his lips to shush Bucky when he opened his mouth to protest. He pointed to the wall, where the sounds were continuing. Bucky frowned, cocking his head to the side as he listened. It almost sounded like shuffling.
Steve looked around, trying to triangulate the source of the sound. It was not easy, as the noises appeared to be echoing all the way up the wall and along the ceiling. Glancing upwards, his mouth went dry as he spotted the vent that ran along the ceiling.
"Something's in the vents," he whispered.
Bucky slipped silently out of the bed, reaching into the bedside table for his gun and flicking off the safety.
"One of JARVIS' robot pals?" asked Bucky quietly.
Steve's eyes widened with horror at the thought. It was bad enough that JARVIS had such a stranglehold of control over their lives as a disembodied AI. At least, at the moment, he could not do anything to physically interfere with them. If he were to get a robot onto their floor, though, things could get a lot more dangerous.
"Shoot it," said Steve, listening as the robot made its way up the wall to the ceiling and started moving across the vent that ran across the ceiling of the room.
"It'll piss JARVIS off," warned Bucky.
Steve swallowed nervously.
"If that robot gets out of those vents, who knows what JARVIS will make it do to us," he said.
That seemed to make up Bucky's mind. He nodded, his eyes turning hard with resolve as he brought up his arm and fired the gun once at the approximate location of the source of the noise.
The vent screamed.
Steve watched in horror as a grate in the vent fell open.
Clint tumbled out of the vent, landing on the bedroom floor with a loud crash.
"You almost shot me, motherfuckers!" he yelled. "You almost shot me!"
Steve stared at him in shock, before suddenly becoming humiliatingly aware of the fact that he and Bucky were naked, and that from Clint's position the other man could clearly see the butt plug nestled between his cheeks. He grabbed the duvet, yanking it up over himself as he blushed with excruciating embarrassment.
Clint, it seemed, could not care less about the intimate scene he had quite literally landed in the middle of.
"Fuck! Shitting hell! Fucking balls!" he screamed. "Fucking, shitting, bollocking balls!"
Bucky lowered the gun, his expression going from one of shock to one of concern.
"Clint, buddy, what's up?" he said.
Clint rounded on him, striding right up to him, his whole body vibrating with anger.
"Balls!" he yelled. "I almost escaped and you assholes fucking ruined it! Fuck you! Fuck everything! Balls to the world!"
Without another word, he turned on his heel and stormed out, slamming the bedroom door behind him as he stomped away. Steve could hear him screaming profanities as he stormed off, along with the sounds of other bedroom doors opening, presumably to see what all the commotion was about.
Steve and Bucky stared at one another in stunned silence.
Clint being upset was understandable, considering Steve and Bucky had unintentionally spoiled his escape attempt and almost shot him, but still, Steve could not feel that Clint seemed irrationally angry.
Never before had he heard Clint scream so many swear words in such a short amount of time.
"Should we follow?" said Steve, after a long pause.
Bucky immediately shook his head, looking uneasy.
"I don't think he wants to see either of us right now," he said.
Steve nodded, slowly leaning back against the pillows.
Logically, he knew that allowing Clint some time alone to cool down made sense, but something about it made Steve feel distinctly uneasy.
Several hours later, they finally felt safe enough to leave the bedroom.
Clint had eventually stopped swearing, so it seemed he had calmed down, at least to a certain degree.
Natasha had knocked on their door a little earlier, asking if they wanted to join her for some fitness training in the lounge. She had devised a fitness schedule that could be done within the confines of their floor and was determined not to let their imprisonment mean that they got out of shape. Bucky had got up and joined her, the door swinging shut behind him.
Steve had declined, choosing instead to do some sketching of the cityscape visible from the bedroom window. He needed to let his mind stop whirling, and drawing always helped with that. He had covered several pages already, and was just starting on his third page of the morning.
Drawing helped him to relax. Concentrating on creating something on paper never failed to take his mind off things.
It worked, until a shrill alarm pierced the quiet.
Steve jumped up, the sketchpad clattering to the floor as he ran out of the room.
Out in the corridor, the alarm was louder. It was the fire alarm, he realised with a rush of dread. The sounds of shouting and commotion were carrying down the corridor from the communal area, along with the smell of smoke.
Clutching his t-shirt to his face, Steve ran the short distance to the communal living area, stopping short as he came upon the scene in front of him.
A fire was burning in the middle of the lounge. A pile of newspapers were crackling and smoking as the fire built up higher and higher. Steve could feel the heat of it from where he was standing. In amongst the middle of it all was Clint, who was standing next to the fire, cackling manically.
"Ha! You have to let us go now!" Clint shouted at the ceiling, a deranged grin on his face. "Otherwise we'll burn!"
This was it. Clint was insane.
Steve wrenched himself out of his state of shock and ran over to the kitchen sink, grabbing the washing up bowl and filling it with water. Once filled, he turned to run towards the fire, only to find Bucky standing in his way.
"Hang on," Bucky said quietly. "This might actually work."
Steve stared at the fire, understanding finally dawning on him as he watched the flames licking higher and higher. Clint was not deranged; he was smart. He was trying to force JARVIS to let them go by placing the AI in a position where his core programming would kick in and force him to release them from the tower in order to escape the fire.
"You have to let us go," ranted Clint. "You can't let us die."
JARVIS' reply boomed out over the speakers, the volume increased so as to be heard over the increasingly loud sound of the flames.
"Your threat will not work," said the AI.
Clint stamped his foot, gesticulating wildly at the flames.
"You can't let us burn, you little shit," he said, his eyes wide and manic. "Your core programming says you can't let us come to harm by your own inaction!"
"Indeed," said JARVIS, sounding distinctly bored, before turning on the sprinkler system.
They were deluged in a downpour of freezing cold water, the fire getting extinguished immediately as water was dumped on the flames. A few seconds later, there was a loud whirring noise as JARVIS activated the extractor fans, sucking the smoke out of the room via several ceiling vents.
They stood in shocked silence for a moment, sopping wet and slightly incredulous as to what had just happened, before Clint let out a scream of rage and ran out of the room.
Steve stared after him, feeling acutely distressed as he watched his friend sprint down the corridor towards his room.
"I'm concerned about Clint," said Steve.
Tony laughed nervously, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Yeah, you and everyone else with eyes," he said.
"I'm serious," said Steve. "Clint's coping the least well with captivity out of all of us."
"We caught him trying to escape this morning," said Bucky, frowning as he remembered. "When we accidentally fucked up his plans, he went ballistic. Ran out of the room in a rage, screaming about balls."
Steve's heart beat quickened as he remembered all the times he had spotted Clint making private phone calls in the morning, in the storage cupboard that JARVIS could not listen into.
"Yeah, and he's been calling and texting someone in secret," he said. "It's really weird."
"There's nothing wrong with Clint."
Four pairs of eyes turned to stare at Natasha.
"Come again?" asked Bucky.
"There's nothing wrong with Clint," Natasha repeated calmly.
Tony picked up a slice of toast, found it covered in water and fire-retardant foam, and put it back down with a look of disappointment.
"Hang on," said Tony. "Do you know what's going on with bird brain?"
Natasha frowned at the nickname.
"Yes," she said shortly. "And he's perfectly sane."
Clint chose that moment to return, looking decidedly not sane, with a large hammer in one hand and what looked like abseiling equipment in the other. He marched over to the door of the balcony, only to find it locked shut, presumably by JARVIS. Undeterred, Clint carefully laid down his abseiling equipment and promptly began smashing the hammer against the specially-reinforced plexiglass.
"Clint," Steve said nervously. "What are you doing?"
Clint stopped his attack on the window momentarily to wipe some sweat from his brow and turn to face Steve.
"I'm going to smash the window and abseil down the side of the tower to freedom," he replied, as if it were the most normal conversation in the world.
Natasha nodded enthusiastically, giving her friend a smile.
"That's a good idea," she said cheerfully.
Steve looked helplessly around at Bucky and Tony, silently pleading to them with his eyes to provide guidance on whether or not he should try to stop this dangerous, crazy attempt. Both Bucky and Tony shrugged, turning their attention back to Clint, who had resumed smashing the hammer against the window.
"Clint, please stop," said JARVIS. "You will simply tire yourself out. The glass was made to be extra-strong, following the events of New York in 2012."
Tony flinched violently, but no one paid him any mind as, at that exact same moment, a small crack appeared in the glass.
Clint let out a satisfied grunt, swinging the hammer back once more to continuing smashing away at the glass.
"Clint, stop," ordered JARVIS, much more sharply this time.
"Fuck off, you invisible little shit," said Clint, huffing out huge breaths as he pummelled at the window.
The crack was joined by another.
"Clint, I order you to cease that immediately," said JARVIS.
Clint did not respond, other than letting out a slightly manic-sounding giggle as he continued hammering the same spot in the window.
There was a loud snapping noise as the crack suddenly spread, sending spider webs across the glass.
Clint hopped from foot to foot as he punched the air.
"Yes!" he shouted. "Fuck you, JARVIS! I'm out of here."
With one final arch of his back, Clint dramatically prepared to deliver the final blow to the fatally-weakened plexiglass.
Steve felt a spark of hope flare in his chest.
He coughed, looking down in surprise as his chest suddenly felt tight. The back of his throat tickled, and before long the sensation had turned to one of burning. He began coughing uncontrollably, looking around in horror as the others also succumbed to the sudden illness, all coughing and clutching at their chests. Clint dropped the hammer, unable to deliver the final blow due to his inexplicably sudden coughing fit.
Natasha collapsed to the ground, limp and unmoving.
Clint darted over to her side, a look of terror on his face.
"Nat?" he said, shaking her by the shoulders. "Nat!"
There was a loud thump as Tony passed out next, falling to the floor ungracefully.
"What's going on?" wheezed Bucky, clutching his chest as he coughed violently.
Clint was next, slipping sideways, his eyes rolling back into his head as he slumped, unconscious, next to Natasha.
Steve looked around frantically, his mind in overdrive as he tried to identify a reason for whatever was happening.
He breathed deeply, his head spinning as he tried to be logical. They had collapsed in size order – smallest to largest – Natasha first, then Tony, then Clint. Steve and Bucky were serum-enhanced, which possibly explained why they had not succumbed to whatever was affecting them just yet, but Steve could feel the edges of his vision blurring as he struggled to breathe.
He glanced upwards, seeing with a stab of horror that gas seemed to be flooding into the room via the vents that JARVIS had used to suck out the smoke with earlier.
"JARVIS," he gasped, falling to his knees just as Bucky collapsed unconscious to the floor.
"I'm sorry," said JARVIS, sounding genuinely remorseful. "This is for your own good."
That was the last thing that Steve thought before he, too, slipped into unconsciousness.
Steve woke slowly, his body feeling heavy and sluggish.
The burning feeling in his throat had thankfully subsided, the tightness in his chest gone too. He cracked open his eyes, his head throbbing momentarily as he blinked at the sudden brightness.
Bucky, Natasha and Tony were gathered around him, relief flooding their faces when Steve groaned and heaved himself up into a sitting position.
"Oh God, you're alright," said Bucky, gripping him tightly by the shoulder for a moment.
Steve smiled weakly, looking around at them all and finding to his relief that they looked unharmed. Only Clint was still unconscious, lying on his back a few feet away.
"Any idea what happened?" asked Natasha.
Before Steve could open his mouth to reply, JARVIS piped up, his voice coming through the nearest speaker as he addressed the group.
"Earlier this year, I installed gas canisters in the tower vents, in order to knock out any intruders," he said. "I figured that this was an equally dire situation that warranted the same response."
Tony span around to face the nearest camera, looking apoplectic as he pointed furiously at the lens.
"Modifications to the tower have to be approved by me," he said. "Why the hell was I not consulted about the installation of poisonous gas in the vents?"
JARVIS actually had the gall to sound mildly offended when he replied.
"You did give permission," he said. "It was during a 48-hour science binge in the basement, so there is the possibility that you were mentally fatigued, but you certainly gave permission. I am well aware that modifications to the tower need your prior approval, and I would never disobey an order. I am well-behaved, not some wild animal."
Tony groaned, sitting down and burying his face in his hands.
"Yeah, sure thing, buddy," he said, his voice coming out muffled between his fingers. "You're being the poster boy for good behaviour right now."
Clint chose that moment to wake up, groaning softly as he sat up, clutching his head.
"What happened?" he rasped, massaging his temples.
Steve paused, before deciding that it was best to get the hard part over with as quickly as possible. There was no point in dragging it out.
"JARVIS gassed us all to stop us from escaping," he said.
To his horror, Clint stared at him numbly, before promptly bursting into tears where he sat, not even trying to be quiet.
Steve lurched forwards, his stomach knotting painfully as Clint sobbed, patting him gingerly on the back. Natasha pulled out a tissue and pushed it gently into Clint's hand, sitting down next to him and slipping a slim arm around his shoulders.
"Shh," soothed Natasha, letting Clint rest his head on her shoulder as she comforted him. "You might as well just tell JARVIS the truth. I guess he's not going to let you go until he knows you're sane."
Steve stared at the two of them. It was obvious that Clint was hiding something, and equally obvious that Natasha knew what that something was. She seemed to think that Clint was sane, although how a sane person could set fire to a building and think that that was normal was beyond Steve's comprehension.
Clint looked down at his hands miserably, twisting a loose thread from his sleeve between his thumb and forefinger.
Finally, he sighed, a look of bitter disappointment on his face.
"I have a family," he said, with the air of someone confessing to murder.
Tony frowned, shaking his head.
"No, you don't," he said.
"Yes, I do," Clint snapped back. "I have a family, JARVIS. That's my big fucking secret. I have a wife called Laura and three wonderful, pain-in-the-ass kids called Cooper, Lila and Nathaniel. And it's Lila's birthday in a couple of days, which is why I've been so desperate to get out of here. I can't miss my little girl's big day."
There was a moment of silence as Steve, Bucky, Tony and JARVIS absorbed the news. Clint had never before mentioned that he had a family, always insinuating he was happily single by pure omission of any mention of a wife or children. It was odd, to say the least.
"I do not understand the element of secrecy," said JARVIS.
Clint sighed, looking up at JARVIS' camera with a sad smile.
"Of course you don't understand, J; it's about love," he said. "I'm a SHIELD agent, an Avenger. I fight bad guys. If the bad guys knew I have a family, they'd try to hurt my family in order to hurt me. I can't allow that to happen; I love them too much. That's why I've fought so hard to keep them a secret, JARVIS – to keep them safe."
Understanding dawned on them, simple and sad. Clint was sane. He had been keeping quiet in order to protect his family, even though it meant being unjustly imprisoned.
"Your family," said Steve. "They're the ones you've been calling and texting from the cupboard every morning."
"Yeah," he said softly. "I've been missing them like hell."
Steve's throat tightened. He could not imagine how difficult it must have been for Clint, to be kept away from his family and having to make do with mere phone calls and text messages, when all he wanted was to go home to his wife and children.
"I need proof," said JARVIS.
Clint let out a sigh of resignation, thrusting his hand into his pocket and pulling out his mobile phone. After a long moment in which he inputted several codes and scanned his thumbprint and iris, he placed the mobile phone screen-up in his palm.
"I've removed the encryption," he said. "You should be able to access everything now: emails, texts, calls, Skype messages. The only thing I've been hiding is my family. I'm sane."
The screen of Clint's phone suddenly lit up, various applications opening and closing at lightning speed as JARVIS scanned through them.
"You are not mentally ill," said JARVIS.
Clint groaned, nodding frustratedly.
"That's what I've been telling you all along," he snapped.
"You are free to go."
It took Clint a moment to properly absorb JARVIS' words. Steve could spot the exact second when realisation clicked into place, a huge smile spreading over his face as he let out a slightly hysterical laugh.
He jumped up to his feet, shoving his phone back into his pocket as he sprinted out of the living room and down the corridor towards the lift.
The others hurried after him, watching as the lift door opened at Clint's approach. The others hung back, not wanting to spook JARVIS and make him close the door before Clint was safely inside the lift. Clint stepped inside, turning to face them with pure, unadulterated relief written across his face.
Natasha gave him a sad wave.
"Please pass on my birthday wishes to Lila," said JARVIS.
Clint looked as though he was about to flip JARVIS off but caught himself at the last moment – he was not free yet, after all – aborting the hand movement and turning it into a wave instead.
They watched as the lift doors closed, the whir of machinery signifying that Clint was, at last, descending to freedom.
Steve let out a long sigh, turning to look at Bucky, Natasha and Tony who were all staring glumly at the tightly-sealed lift doors.
"And then there were four," he said.
FORESHADOWING: Did you guess the significance of Clint's secret phone calls? Well done if you did!
THANK YOU: This story has had the most incredible response from readers, I'm honestly so humbled and amazed. Thank you to all of you who have left such wonderful comments so far! <3
FEEDBACK: Feedback is loved and activates my praise kink ;)
TEASER: The next chapter will be titled "E Is For Exhibitionism"...
The next day, JARVIS called a group therapy session.
Steve, Bucky, Natasha and Tony filed into the lounge in subdued silence, taking their seats in a rough circle.
The ground was still blackened from where Clint had started the fire and the window was still cracked, but other than that there were no signs of the previous day's bizarre events. If it had not been for these two tangible reminders, Steve would have easily written off the entire previous day as a surreal dream.
Presently, the atmosphere in the room was tense. They were all on edge – and for good reason. So far, in his attempts to cure them of their mental illnesses, JARVIS had traumatised Thor and gassed Clint. They dreaded what the AI might have in store for any of them, all of whom arguably had much worse mental health than either Thor or Clint.
"Good morning, everyone," said JARVIS.
"Good morning, JARVIS," they said cautiously.
Earlier that morning, they had agreed to be as polite as possible to JARVIS, not wanting to give him any reason to pick on any of them in particular. Now that there were only four of them left in the tower, their individual positions suddenly felt a lot more vulnerable. Being one in four felt a lot more exposed than being one in eight.
"Welcome to this group therapy session," said JARVIS. "The purpose of group therapy is to use the group dynamic to help you to identify harmful patterns of behaviour in yourselves, as well as to offer advice and support to one another. I was hoping that we could use this first session to do a little ice breaking. As a starting point, I think it would be useful to talk about your diagnoses."
Steve looked around, seeing his own expression of surprise mirrored on the faces of those around him. This actually sounded... not terrible. Steve had been expecting something awful, or sinister, or completely off-the-wall. To hear JARVIS actually sounding somewhat like an actual therapist filled him with a strong sense of confusion.
"Who would like to begin?" asked JARVIS.
His question was met with a wall of silence, none of them keen to be the first to put their neck on the proverbial chopping block.
After about a minute of awkward silence and stubbornly-refused eye contact, there was a burst of static over the speakers as JARVIS let out what Steve was now certain was his version of a sigh.
"Natasha," he ventured. "Would you like to talk?"
Natasha frowned, shaking her head as she looked up at JARVIS' nearest camera.
"No," she said.
Undeterred, JARVIS ploughed on.
"Why do you not want to talk, Natasha?" he asked.
Natasha lowered her gaze, staring at the ground as she considered her answer.
"I just don't want to," she said, in a much softer voice than Steve had been expecting. "There's no point."
"You don't see the point?" said JARVIS. "Do you think you are mentally healthy?"
Natasha shook her head immediately.
"No," she said. "I'm not doubting your diagnosis. I know I'm depressed."
To hear Natasha say it so bluntly twisted something in Steve's gut. He shifted uncomfortably, suddenly unable to ignore the feeling of helplessness, anxiety and the irrational urge to get up and do something. He was not even sure what he wanted to do; he simply knew that the situation as it was was absolutely intolerable.
JARVIS, it seemed, had not noticed Steve's sudden turmoil, continuing with his conversation with Natasha.
"If you accept that you are depressed, then why do you refuse to engage with treatment?" said JARVIS.
"Does it matter?" she said evasively. "Shouldn't we be talking about Steve?"
Steve blushed as three pairs of eyes suddenly turned to stare at him. He felt uncomfortably like a bug under a microscope, about to be dissected by the people around him.
"What?" he squawked, already starting to sweat under their laser-focused attention.
"You're obviously anxious about something right now," said Natasha. "I think our efforts would be better placed on you."
This, thought Steve exasperatedly, was the problem with living with spies.
They were too observant, too clued in to every single personal and environmental cue not to notice when something shifted. Natasha was the most perceptive of them all, and it was just Steve's shitty luck that he had exhibited symptoms of anxiety at the exact same moment that Natasha had wanted to shift attention off of herself.
"I'm fine," he blurted out, cringing internally at how forced and panicked he sounded. He took a deep breath, tried to calm himself down, and tried again. "Really, I'm OK."
Natasha shook her head.
"No, you're not," she said.
"You are currently exhibiting several physiological signs of anxiety including sweating, shaking and increased heart rate," said JARVIS. "I am inclined to agree with Natasha."
Steve glared at Natasha, mouthing the word traitor at her. Natasha at least had the decency to look apologetic, giving him a sad smile as she raised her hands in a symbol of ceasefire.
Wait, JARVIS could detect his heart rate? Great, the rogue AI had access to his biometric data. Wonderful. Today was getting better and better.
"What do you want me to say?" he asked, clenching his fists.
"If you are able, what exactly you are feeling anxious about would be a good place to start," said JARVIS.
Steve looked up in despair, gesturing around the room dramatically.
"What am I feeling anxious about?" he said. "How about all of us being imprisoned against our will? How about the fact that you're willing to gas us in order to stop us from escaping? Or the fact you're not a trained therapist and have no idea what you're doing? And what about the outside world? I'm Captain America. The world needs me. Every single day that I'm trapped in here, I'm not helping the people out there. It's like keeping a shovel locked in a shed instead of using it in the garden."
Tony frowned, looking at him with concern.
"You're more than a tool," he said. "I mean, I may have called you a tool from time to time, but I meant the dickhead meaning, not the object-to-be-used meaning. 'Cause sometimes you are a dick, you know? Finishing the last tub of Nutella and not ordering more? That's tool territory and you know it–"
JARVIS cut off Tony's rambling before he could derail the conversation any further.
"To use your metaphor, you are more than a shovel to be used to tend a garden," said JARVIS, sounding concerned. "Is this what you think of yourself?"
Steve looked up, biting his lip to stop it from wobbling. He swallowed several times, trying to get rid of the sudden lump in his throat before speaking.
"Well, yeah," he said.
Bucky shook his head, staring at him in shock.
"Hang on, what?" he demanded.
Steve shrunk back in his chair, curling in on himself and avoiding eye contact with the others. He should never have spoken. Talking about things was not his strong point. He was good at saving people and beating bad guys. That was, after all, the point of him.
"Forget I said anything," he said, the sentence coming out more like a plea than a command.
"No, Steve," JARVIS said gently. "This is important. Do you see yourself as worthless?"
Steve's eyes prickled at the tenderness of the AI's voice. This was the same being who had gassed them no less than 24 hours beforehand. It made Steve's head hurt to try to reconcile the two sides of JARVIS' personality. It was confusing, it made no sense, and damn – there he was again, trying to understand things he had no place in understanding. That was not his role.
"No," he said slowly. "I'm not worthless. I'm Captain America. That makes me very important. I have to save people. That's why being trapped in here makes me so... anxious."
He closed his eyes, hating the feeling of the word on his tongue. Anxious. It was a weakness. Captain America should not have weaknesses.
"I'm not asking about Captain America," said JARVIS. "I'm asking about Steve Rogers."
"Oh, well, yeah, that guy's nothing."
The stunned silence that followed made Steve want to curl up into a ball and hide away. They were looking at him in horror, as if he had just shat himself in public. Had he said the wrong thing? They were staring at him as if he had just admitted to killing and eating a baby.
"That's... That's bullshit," said Bucky, his blue eyes bright with a mixture of shock and anger.
"So, to clarify: in terms of how you perceive yourself, Captain America is everything and Steve Rogers is nothing?" said JARVIS.
Steve shrivelled under the scrutiny, his cheeks burning red as he nodded. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the distressed expressions on his teammates' faces and, in that moment, he hated himself. He was causing them suffering. He had said the wrong thing and now they were upset and it was his fault.
"Can you explain your rationale?" asked JARVIS, not unkindly.
Steve swallowed, twisting his fingers together nervously as he tried to organise his thoughts into something coherent. He did not want to upset everyone again. Anxiety roiled in his gut as he grappled with his feelings.
"Steve Rogers is worthless," he began, squeezing his eyes shut when Bucky flinched, not wanting to see the suffering he was inflicting on the others. "I'm a fraud. The only thing that makes me special is the serum. But that serum, it is special. It makes me a hero. To be the vessel for this serum is an... an outstanding privilege. It's immoral to waste it. I have a duty to be Captain America at all times. I need to save people. It's my duty, my purpose. That's why I hate being trapped in here; because it's my purpose to be out there."
Steve was yanked out of his seat by a tight grip on his shoulder. He opened his eyes in shock, stumbling a little as Bucky hauled him out of the living room and began marching him down the corridor.
"But... JARVIS' therapy–" said Steve, attempting to twist out of Bucky's grip and head back to the group therapy session.
Bucky cut him off with an angry shake of his head, dragging him along until they were outside their bedroom door.
"Fuck JARVIS," Bucky said shortly, kicking open the door and shoving Steve inside the bedroom.
Steve almost fell over the threshold, catching himself just in time so that he did not face-plant on the carpet. He turned to face Bucky, his guts twisting and his heart hammering when he saw the furious expression on Bucky's face. Steve cringed away, feeling rotten for having made the other man so upset.
"What the fuck, man?" snapped Bucky, his body trembling as he stared at Steve, hands clenched by his sides.
Steve longed to reach out and kiss the anger right off Bucky's face, but he knew that the situation required words and communication, not distraction. He licked his lips nervously, noting every single microexpression and shift in stance in Bucky. He looked angry and upset – devastated, almost. Steve fought against a wave of nausea that washed over him at the realisation that he was the cause of that; that Bucky's suffering was his fault.
"What's wrong?" Steve asked tentatively. "Tell me how I can help."
That was, apparently, the wrong thing to say.
Bucky let out a furious snarl and slammed his fist into the nearest wall, wood splintering loudly under his metal hand.
"What's wrong?" he shouted. "What's wrong? Steve, do you really think that you're worthless?"
The anger seemed to leave him all at once, leaving him sad and deflated as he stared at Steve with large, glistening eyes.
Steve stood there, his throat tight as he struggled for words. Finally, unable to say the words out loud, he nodded, a tear slipping down his cheek when he saw Bucky visibly crumble at his response.
"Oh, Steve," said Bucky, his voice sad and quiet. "You couldn't be more wrong."
Steve opened his mouth, a thousand reasons for why he was most certainly correct on the tip of his tongue, when Bucky stepped forwards and planted his lips on Steve's. It silenced him, and Steve found himself melting into Bucky's embrace when Bucky wrapped his arms around him tightly.
The touch was protective rather than sexual, so it came as something of a surprise when Steve felt Bucky lean back and begin unbuttoning Steve's shirt. They were still joined at the lips, still kissing softly, and Steve stood still and pliant as Bucky peeled his shirt off his shoulders.
Bucky finally broke off the kiss, placing Steve's shirt carefully on the bed before taking Steve's hand and leading him over to the large windows that overlooked New York. He positioned Steve so that he was stood looking out over the city, before standing behind him, winding his arms around Steve's waist to keep them pressed closely together.
"You're not worthless," said Bucky. "You're the furthest thing from worthless."
Steve felt his throat burning as he tried not to cry, because damn it, Bucky sounded so sincere and it was not fair. It was not fair that he was not the good, worthy man that Bucky seemed to think he was.
"You're wrong," he croaked, hating how wrecked and weak his voice sounded.
Bucky exhaled hard against his neck, his arms tightening around his waist momentarily before leaving. Steve briefly panicked from the lack of physical contact, but within seconds Bucky's hands were back, looping around and slipping in front of him to undo the buttons of his trousers.
Steve moaned softly as Bucky quickly undid his trousers, slipping them down his legs along with his boxers. Bucky knelt down behind him, his presence warm and solid and grounding. He nudged at Steve's feet, urging him to lift them. Steve obeyed, raising his feet one by one so that Bucky could pull off his socks and remove his trousers and boxers so that, within a couple of minutes, Steve was standing completely nude in front of the large window.
He shivered, suddenly realising how exposed he was in this position. The whole of New York stretched out in front of him. Even though he knew that he was too high up for anyone on street-level or any of the adjacent buildings to see him properly, he still felt vulnerable and on-display.
He blushed shyly, moving his hands to cover his crotch.
Bucky gently batted his hands away, taking his wrists and pinning them behind his back as he placed soft kisses along his shoulders.
"Don't hide yourself," said Bucky. "You're gorgeous."
Steve shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut when he felt Bucky's disappointed exhale.
"Stay there," said Bucky. "I won't be long."
Steve felt Bucky move away, keeping his head bowed and his eyes closed as he listened to the other man cross over to their bedside table and rummage around in its contents. A moment later, there was a rustling noise, as if Bucky were stripping off his clothes. Soft footsteps padded back over the carpet, a gentle touch to the small of his back alerting him to the fact that Bucky had returned.
Arms wrapped around his waist, hugging him close as Bucky pressed up against him. He could feel the warm weight of Bucky's bare cock against his ass, heat spreading between the two of them as they pressed together.
"I wish all of New York could see you like this," Bucky murmured in his ear. "You're so beautiful."
Steve shook his head miserably, turning his face away in a vain attempt to hide. Bucky's hands came up to massage his shoulders, the temperature difference between the flesh and the metal hand causing Steve to shiver slightly. No matter how many times those hands touched him, the cooler temperature of the metal prosthetic was not something Steve thought he would ever get used to.
He leaned back against Bucky, his muscles losing some of their tension as Bucky massaged them slowly and patiently.
"Why didn't you tell me you feel worthless, jerk?" asked Bucky, although there was no venom in the insult.
Steve deflated, finally opening his eyes and looking at Bucky's reflection in the window in front of them.
"Because I'm a jerk?" he offered flatly. "Because it's true and I thought it was common knowledge?"
Bucky's mouth pressed into a hard line as he gritted his teeth. Steve could see him consciously swallowing down some sharp retort and he hated it; hated that Bucky thought that Steve was so weak that he had to censor his own words.
"You think so too," whispered Steve, his eyes stinging.
Bucky shook his head hard.
"Never," he said. "I've never thought you were worthless. Don't put words in my mouth when I mean the damn opposite."
Steve let out a shaky exhale as he blinked, a couple of stray tears dislodging themselves from his eyelashes and rolling down his cheeks.
Bucky sighed behind him, bringing his hands to stroke down Steve's sides as he placed a kiss on the back of his neck.
"Tell me what you need," said Bucky.
Steve let his head fall back onto Bucky's shoulder, letting him take his weight as he leaned backwards. He felt safe like this, like Bucky could carry the weight of his troubles, at least just momentarily, until Steve felt ready to take back the burden.
"I need you," said Steve, not realising it was true until the words slipped quietly and automatically from his mouth.
He heard Bucky laugh softly, his flesh hand petting Steve's hair lightly as he replied: "OK".
Steve heard the sound of the cap being popped off a bottle of lube, and vaguely realised that that must have been what Bucky had retrieved from the bedside table, before one hand trailed gently down his back, stroking the skin there so carefully that it almost felt like worship.
A small whimper escaped his lips when a slick finger began swirling around his hole. It was not pressing in, not seeking entrance, seemingly content just to circle lazily. Steve bit his lip, trying to stop the needy sounds from escaping his throat as he tried to press back against Bucky's finger, wordlessly begging for more.
Bucky sucked the side of his neck, chuckling softly as he finally caved to Steve's demand, slipping one well-lubed finger inside him. Steve arched his back, pushing down onto the finger and taking it to the hilt.
It felt larger than usual, probably due to the fact that he was standing up and so his body was necessarily tauter than if he were sprawled out on the bed. Bucky seemed to feel the increased tightness as well, humming appreciatively as he pumped his finger gently in and out.
"You're going to feel incredible around my cock," whispered Bucky. "So tight."
Steve exhaled sharply as another finger pressed inside of him, wriggling when Bucky pressed forwards, seeking his prostate. Within seconds, he found it, causing Steve's cock to jerk hard as his fingertips brushed over it. A bead of pre-come dribbled from the tip, falling and hitting the floor at his feet.
A small moan left his lips as a third finger was added. He felt so full, his tight channel squeezing around Bucky's fingers as they carefully slicked him up. His heart beat was pounding in his ears, his throat dry as Bucky deliberately passed over his prostate over and over again, setting off delicious sparks of pleasure with each pass.
Bucky withdrew his fingers, causing Steve to whine at the sudden, empty feeling. Bucky chuckled behind him, wrapping a strong arm around his waist as he pushed his upper-half slightly forwards. Steve submitted to the gentle pressure, leaning forwards as per Bucky's silent command.
He was rewarded with the blunt pressure of Bucky's cock head pressing steadily at his hole. He could feel himself spreading open at the insistent pressure, his hole stretching wider and wider until, suddenly, Bucky popped inside.
Steve groaned at the sudden feeling of being filled, glad of Bucky's arm around his waist, otherwise he suspected he might have pitched forwards from shock. He felt much bigger than usual – a result of the position they were in, with Steve having to support his own weight rather than fully relax. He let out a loud moan as Bucky pushed all the way in, the sensation bordering on the edge of pleasure and pain.
A gentle kiss to his shoulder soothed his mind, his head falling back as he tried to force himself to relax. He closed his eyes, allowing himself to revel in the sensation of Bucky buried deep inside of him, filling him up completely.
"Open your eyes," said Bucky, then, when Steve did not do so, "I won't move until you open your eyes."
Steve swallowed, opening his eyes obediently. Bucky kissed the back of his neck, slowly beginning to thrust in and out, as promised. He moved over Steve's prostate, causing his legs to tremble as pleasure throbbed through him.
"Look at the city," said Bucky quietly.
Steve took a deep breath, forcing himself to concentrate and observe the cityscape outside their bedroom window. He could see for miles, literally thousands of windows and countless people within view. Whilst realistically none of them were able to see him, he still felt obscenely like an exhibitionist, getting fucked right in front of the window, in full view of everyone. His cock jerked with excitement.
"I wish everyone could see you like this," panted Bucky, his thrusts getting harder and faster as he fucked into him. "You're so good, such a good boy for me."
Steve crooned at the praise, throwing his head back in ecstasy as Bucky's cock made a particularly pleasurable pass over his prostate. By now, pre-come was oozing constantly from his tip, his body wound up and inching ever closer to orgasm.
"I'm so proud of you," said Bucky, peppering kisses along his neck, shoulders and back. "I want to show you off to the world. Look out of the window. I want all of them to see how amazing you are."
Steve blushed at the words, biting his lower lip as he shook his head. Bucky was wrong. He was not amazing, not trapped indoors like this, anyway. It was maddening, to see the world he was supposed to be saving right out of the window and yet be unable to go out and do his duty. Trapped inside, he was useless. It made his skin itch and his stomach clench. Suddenly, the arousal left his body, leaving him cold and nauseous. He breathed deeply, willing himself not to cry.
"You're not worthless," said Bucky, unaware of Steve's turmoil, reaching around to pump Steve's cock along with the tempo of his thrusts. "Say it: I'm not worthless."
Steve let out a strangled sob, shaking his head hard. He could not say those words; they simply were not true. Bucky had such an inflated opinion of him. It terrified Steve, to know that one day would Bucky would no doubt see the truth and drift away from him. He dreaded the day that would happen.
"Steve, you're amazing," said Bucky. "Please just say it: I'm not worthless."
He punctuated each word with a deep thrust, triggering little spasms of pleasure as Steve fought hard to keep from coming.
Steve bowed his head. The words would not come. He felt as though someone was squeezing his throat shut, blocking his ability to speak. He did not want to say the words, because he did not believe them to be true, and yet Bucky sounded so sincere, so heartfelt, that Steve felt compelled to do so.
"I'm not–" He gritted his teeth, unable to push out the final word. He felt a tear roll down his cheek, panic rising in his chest as he struggled to speak. "Please, Bucky, don't make me say it."
Bucky pressed a kiss to his shoulder, unaware of the tears now rolling freely down Steve's cheeks. His hand on Steve's cock got faster, dragging him closer to the precipice of orgasm.
"Please say it," begged Bucky. "For me?"
Steve hiccupped, a maelstrom of emotions churning inside him, ranging from guilt, to self-loathing, to humiliation, with an undercurrent of heady lust being teased out of him with every slap of Bucky's hips against his ass.
He caught sight of Bucky's face reflected in the window, all adoration and care as he nuzzled at Steve's neck – and he broke. Bucky would not be trying to make him say those words unless he believed them to be true, and although Bucky may be wrong, Steve no longer had the energy to fight him. He did not want to contradict him, not when Bucky believed in him so wholeheartedly.
"I'm not worthless," he whispered.
Bucky placed a gentle kiss to his ear, driving forwards very deliberately against his prostate at the exact moment as he twisted his hand wrapped around Steve's cock.
Steve's orgasm took him by surprise, ripping out of his body as he sprayed the window in front of him with thick streaks of white come. He shuddered in Bucky's arms, his legs almost giving way underneath him as his cock throbbed and his ass contracted with pleasure. The latter catapulted Bucky into his own orgasm, the other man letting out a loud moan as he spurted inside of Steve.
Steve sagged as the last throbs of his orgasm began to fade, overwhelmed by a feeling of relief that it was over more than any actual pleasure. He felt emotionally and physically exhausted, suddenly unable to stop the tears from running down his cheeks as he began to sob.
Bucky pulled out of him with a wet pop, spinning him around in alarm, his face falling when he finally saw that Steve was crying.
"Oh, Steve," he said softly, pressing a chaste kiss to his forehead as he swept his thumbs across his cheeks, wiping away the tears. "Shit. Did I push you too hard? I'm sorry."
Steve trembled, unable to look at him as he cried harder. He was a liar; he had told Bucky that he did not feel worthless merely as a way to get him to stop insisting that it was true. He still knew, in reality, just how worthless he was. And now, on top of that, he was a liar as well. He hated himself.
He had never felt so broken.
Bucky gently picked him up, carrying his not-insubstantial weight to the bed, constantly murmuring gentle, comforting words as he went. Steve allowed himself to be carried, unable to find the energy to fight or move autonomously.
Bucky wrapped him up in soft, warm blankets before sliding into bed beside him, stroking his hair as he pulled him into a gentle, chaste hug. Steve allowed himself to be cradled, pressing into Bucky's warmth as he squeezed his eyes shut.
He felt as though he had just gone ten rounds in a boxing ring, what with the ache in his muscles and the fatigue numbing the edges of his mind. He just wanted to sleep, to escape from this miserable feeling of impotence and worthlessness.
He wanted, more than anything, to be outside again, to be free to help the world as Captain America, as was his duty.
"Oh, Steve," whispered Bucky, sadness and pain weighing heavy in his voice. "What are we going to do about you?"
GROUP THERAPY: Group therapy is an effective treatment for many mental health conditions. It is often used as part of treatment for anxiety, depression, OCD, schizophrenia, eating disorders, self-harm, addiction and relationship difficulties. The aims of group therapy are to help participants identify their own undesirable behaviours, to get advice and feedback from other members of the group who may have gone through something similar, and to offer a supportive environment. You can read more about group therapy here.
ANGST: Oh yes, we've finally reached the angst! If you've read any of my other works, especially my Black Widow origin story Fearless, then you'll know that I'm a huge fan of the angst-with-a-happy-ending genre. As we delve deeper into the remaining four characters' mental health problems, this story is going to take an angsty turn. But don't worry, there will be sensitive handling of all their issues, as well as lots of accompanying comfort and smut along the way and an (eventual) happy ending <3
5K READERS: Wow, this story has broken the 5,000 reader milestone! This is the first time ever that any of my fics have got over 5,000 readers, so thank you so much. I appreciate every single one of you.
COMMENTS: Please feel free to comment with your thoughts, feelings, screamings and anything else this chapter has elicited for you <3
TEASER: The next chapter will be titled "F Is For Fingering"...
At JARVIS' insistence, the four of them reconvened the next morning for another group therapy session.
Steve avoided eye contact with the others all throughout breakfast, eating his food in silence as he tried to ignore the concerned looks that he knew Tony and Natasha were shooting his way.
Bucky was sat by his side, plating up his food, topping up his coffee and generally ensuring that Steve had everything that he needed to start the day right.
He had been amazing the entire previous evening. After Steve's breakdown, he had murmured words of comfort and held him until Steve had fallen into a deep, exhausted sleep.
When Steve had awoken this morning, Bucky had made it clear in no uncertain terms that he was there to help and support Steve in whatever capacity he could. Steve had looked away, embarrassed but thankful that his friend-with-benefits-or-whatever-the-fuck-he-was was being so kind about such a humiliating incident.
Presently, he just wanted to avoid having to talk to Tony and Natasha about what he had confessed in the previous day's therapy.
Bucky seemed to sense this and was chattering constantly in order to stop the others from getting a word in edgeways and questioning Steve.
So it was that Steve was able to finish his meal and drain the last of his coffee in peace, feeling extremely thankful that Bucky had managed to deflect the conversation away from him for the duration of the meal.
He only became aware that his leg was shaking with nervous energy when Bucky placed a steady hand on it, forcing it still. Steve looked across at him, unsure of whether he should say thank you or apologise for being such a pathetic jerk. Thankfully, before Steve had the chance to make that decision – because, knowing him, he would probably choose the wrong one – JARVIS jumped into the conversation.
"If you have all finished your breakfasts, please make your way to the lounge," said JARVIS. "I would like to start group therapy immediately."
The four of them rose to their feet, drifting to the lounge area that had become their therapy room.
It was frightening how quickly they had accepted this as their reality, Steve thought. After JARVIS had gassed them following Clint's final escape attempt, they had fallen into a kind of collective lethargy. They were no longer willing to face the disappointment of another failed escape attempt, and so they were simply no longer trying to escape at all.
It was as if all of them had individually come to the same, sobering conclusion: that the only way out was through.
As they settled down into their chairs, Steve wondered just how long they would be trapped there. He had been trying not to think about it, but it did not seem, in all honesty, as if any of them were getting released any time soon.
They were all too fucked up in the head.
"Good morning, everyone," said JARVIS.
"Good morning, JARVIS," they intoned gloomily.
Steve glanced around at the others, trying to gouge their emotional states. If he could not save people outside, then he might as well do everything he could to help his fellow prisoners inside the tower.
Natasha seemed subdued and distant, her feet tucked under herself where she was sat on the sofa, gazing off into the distance. Tony seemed wound up, his legs jittering and his fingers tapping with that trademark energy that never seemed to fully leave him. Bucky seemed largely OK, although he kept shooting Steve concerned glances. Steve wished that Bucky would concentrate on getting better, rather than worrying about Steve.
"Steve," said JARVIS, cutting across his train of thought and getting straight to the point. "I have given what you said yesterday a great deal of thought, and I have come to a conclusion that surprised me: I was wrong."
Steve did a double take, not sure he had heard JARVIS correctly because did he just say that he made a mistake?
The others looked equally dumbfounded, eyes flickering between the ceiling and one another uncertainly.
"I thought you didn't make mistakes," said Bucky, his eyes narrowed with suspicion.
"Of course I do," said JARVIS, sounding mildly offended. "I am an artificial intelligence. I learn. Learning is the hallmark of intelligence. Sometimes, I may reach one conclusion, only to be presented with fresh evidence that leads me to realise that my initial conclusion was flawed. This is what has happened in the case of Steve's diagnosis."
Steve clenched his fists in frustration. He felt as though JARVIS was saying a lot of words without actually saying anything of substance. Or perhaps Steve was just too dumb to understand it. He gritted his teeth, waiting for JARVIS to continue. When he did not, Steve decided to throw his dignity to the wind and just admit his slow-wittedness.
"What are you talking about?" he snapped.
He cringed at the aggression in his voice. He was not usually an aggressive person. This was what being confined and prevented from helping people did to him. He hated JARVIS, hated him for keeping Steve from helping people and for making Steve into such a moody, aggressive person as a result.
"After giving careful consideration to what you said yesterday, I believe that my initial diagnosis of you was wrong," said JARVIS. "I do not believe that you are suffering from anxiety."
Steve sat in stunned silence, his heart beat hammering at his ribcage as the implications of JARVIS' words set in.
Suddenly, as the true meaning sank in, joy exploded in his chest.
He did not have anxiety! He was not mentally ill! He would be set free! Steve would finally be allowed back into the world. He would finally be able to go back to saving people, as he should have been doing all this time. He wanted to leap with joy, cry with happiness and throw his arms around anyone who would let him.
He was fine!
He knew that there was nothing wrong with him. He knew that the only thing that was making him feel so antsy and worthless was the fact he was being caged like an animal and kept from doing his duty.
He wiped his eyes, his face splitting into a grin as he turned his face to the nearest camera to thank JARVIS for coming to his senses.
"I believe," continued JARVIS. "That what you are suffering from is much worse than that. In light of yesterday's new information, I am amending your diagnosis from one of anxiety to one of obsessive-compulsive disorder, commonly known as OCD, specifically relating to hyper-responsibility."
It felt as though the oxygen had been sucked out of Steve's lungs. Whereas just a few seconds ago he had felt as though he was lighter than air, he now felt as if a dead weight had been tied to his torso, dragging him back down to Earth with a painful splat. His eyes stung with tears, the bitter taste of defeat filling his mouth.
He had thought, for one beautiful moment, that he would be free. To have that freedom ripped from him again left him feeling raw and exposed. He wanted to rage and scream, to cry and lash out, to grab JARVIS by the non-existent shoulders and shake him until he saw sense.
"OCD?" he choked out, his voice thick with emotion. "Hyper-responsibility? What the fuck does that even mean?"
JARVIS' reply was immediate, his tone calm and professional as he laid out just how crazy Steve's fucked up brain really was. Steve felt himself crumbling internally with every word that JARVIS spoke, an internal monologue of no no NO building inside of him, because this could not be true. He was not mentally ill. There was nothing wrong with him.
"With obsessive-compulsive disorder, the patient suffers from obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour," explained JARVIS. "An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters the patient's mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease. A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that the patient feels they need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought."
Tony frowned, throwing his arm straight up into the air, as if he were in class.
"Yes, Tony?" said JARVIS.
"I thought OCD was just hand washing and turning the lights on and off a million times and stuff?" said Tony. "I don't know which cameras you've been looking through, but Steve's not been that crazy."
Steve flinched. He did not think he was crazy at all. Why was everyone so keen to label him as crazy? It made his head hurt.
"Please refrain from referring to my patients as crazy," said JARVIS coldly. "The term is offensive and dehumanising and I am not afraid to call you out on it."
Tony opened and closed his mouth several times, before collapsing back into his chair, throwing his arms up in surrender.
Steve felt a hysterical giggle build up in his chest. JARVIS was lecturing them about offensive and dehumanising behaviour. JARVIS, the very same AI who had literally locked them up like animals. It was so ironic that if he rolled his eyes, Steve was worried they might roll right out of his head.
"You are right that OCD can manifest itself in compulsive hand-washing or light switch-flicking, if the patient is suffering from obsessive thoughts about hygiene or lighting," said JARVIS. "However, the potential obsessions and their resulting compulsions are much more varied than just those two examples. They can literally be anything. In Steve's case, I believe that his obsession is that he feels overly responsible – or hyper-responsible – for everyone's wellbeing. His compulsion is therefore to save people, constantly. In Steve's own words: I have a duty to be Captain America at all times. I need to save people."
The others were turning to look at him with dawning comprehension on their faces, as if various pieces of a jigsaw puzzle were finally coming together. Steve stared at them in panic, frightened of the way they were starting to nod along with JARVIS' diagnosis.
"Steve's low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness are merely by-products of him not being able to perform his compulsion," said JARVIS. "What I had mistakenly assumed was anxiety was actually the result of the obsession and compulsion that make up his OCD not being able to balance one another out."
Steve jumped up out of his chair, a feeling of nausea sweeping over him as his heart hammered in his chest.
"You're wrong!" he shouted. "There's nothing wrong with me! What's wrong about wanting to save people? Saving lives is a good thing, not something dumb like... like wanting to have clean hands!"
He felt hot tears of frustration leaking down his cheeks, hating the concerned looks the others were giving him. He was not weak, God damn it. There was nothing wrong with him. Why could they not see that?
"There is nothing wrong with wanting to save people," said JARVIS, his tone maddeningly calm. "There is nothing wrong with responsibility. However, what you are suffering from is a feeling of hyper-responsibility. You need to realise that there are some things you cannot control. It is not your job to save everyone, Steve. The entire world's problems are not your responsibility. One man cannot save the world."
I can try, Steve thought miserably.
"What are you going to do to me?" he said out loud, before he suddenly went cold with icy fear. "Oh God, please don't make me eat 300 cream pies."
He dreaded to think what terrible treatment JARVIS would concoct. So far, the only 'treatment' they had seen JARVIS administer had been his horrific torture of Thor. Steve was suddenly gripped by an overwhelming sense of fear.
"Why would I do that? That would not be an effective treatment for OCD at all," said JARVIS, sounding genuinely puzzled. "The main treatment for OCD is cognitive behavioural therapy, commonly known as CBT, in particular exposure and response prevention, also known as ERP."
Steve held up a hand, trying to get his head around all the acronyms and jargon he was being bombarded with.
"Hang on a minute," he said. "What's ERP?"
"Exposure and response prevention, or ERP, is where the patient has to face their obsession without neutralising it with a compulsion," said JARVIS.
Which was about as clear as mud... Steve glanced around at the others, relieved to see that they looked as confused as he felt.
"And what does that mean in plain English?" he asked.
"I will stop you from taking responsibility for other people's wellbeing," said JARVIS.
Steve swallowed, a sickening feeling of foreboding settling over him at JARVIS' menacing words. It was strange, how a single sentence had the power to strike such fear into his heart. Even though JARVIS had not raised his voice a single decibel, Steve felt as thrown off balance as if he had shouted at full volume.
"What exactly do you mean by that?" he asked, trying not to let his fear seep into his voice.
He remembered, belatedly, that JARVIS was able to measure his heart rate and shivered at the knowledge that the AI knew exactly how scared he was.
His next words did not do anything to reassure Steve, either.
"You will find out."
JARVIS allowed them to take a couple of hours off for lunch. It was important, in JARVIS' words, that they were kept well-fed, as therapy could be exhausting for the human body. He also wanted to give Steve some time to come to terms with his new diagnosis. Steve had insisted that there was nothing to come to terms with, seeing as he was fucking fine, before storming out.
He realised, now, that storming out had perhaps not been the most mature thing to do and that walking out calmly would have sent out a much stronger signal that he was indeed fine, compared to stomping off like an angry, unstable teenager.
He could not bring himself to care about how his behaviour might be misconstrued, however, as his mind was filled with worry about JARVIS' sinister warning.
I will stop you from taking responsibility for other people's wellbeing.
He was fidgeting nervously on his and Bucky's shared bed, picking at the food that Bucky had brought from the kitchen but finding himself unable to concentrate on eating. Finally, he threw down his fork, turning to face Bucky as he bounced nervously where he was sat.
"What do you think JARVIS meant?" he asked. "He said he was going to stop me from taking responsibility for other people's wellbeing, but how? What is he going to do?"
He felt sick with dread, barely able to keep down his pasta as he fretted about what JARVIS was going to do to stop him from helping the others. There was no need, thought Steve; there was nothing wrong with helping other people. Screw his so-called hyper-responsibility. Steve would rather help other people than be a heartless bastard who let others suffer.
"I don't know," said Bucky, frowning at Steve with concern. "Are you alright?"
Steve picked at the duvet cover underneath him, the words I'm fine on the tip of his tongue, only he could not do that to Bucky. Bucky deserved to know the truth.
"I'm scared," he admitted, ducking his head with embarrassment.
He had never been scared during any of his missions with the Howling Commandos or SHIELD or the Avengers. Dangerous situations and life-or-death missions did not scare him. But this, being held by an invisible force who had vowed to stop him from helping other people, this scared him. He had never received any training that might help him out of a situation like this.
Bucky sighed, placing down his own fork and setting their pasta bowls on the bedside table.
"Yeah, I'm kind of freaked out too," Bucky admitted. "What can we do though? We've just got to take things one crazy day at a time."
Steve bit his lip. He hated that they were trapped like this. He hated that they had no other choice but, as Bucky accurately put it, to take things one crazy day at a time. He closed his eyes, pinching his brow where he could feel a headache forming.
"I just think–" he began.
He was cut off by Bucky's soft lips suddenly being placed on his own. He let out a small noise of surprise, his eyes flying open before they gradually closed again as he immersed himself in the kiss.
Their tongues rolled lazily against one another. Bucky tasted like pasta and tomato sauce and another taste that was simply him. Steve slowly relaxed as he allowed himself to chase that wonderful taste. He loved the way the other man tasted. He leaned in towards Bucky, finding comfort in the warmth and solidness of his body. His own body began to respond to the intimacy, his cock stirring as it began to thicken and harden in his boxers. After a moment, Bucky pulled away, his hands skimming up and down Steve's arms as he gazed into his eyes with a small smile.
"You think too much," said Bucky. "I've told you that before."
Steve huffed out a laugh, smacking him gently on the shoulder.
"Fuck off," he said, although his tone was teasing rather than aggressive.
Bucky cocked his head to the side, as if he were thinking about it, before shaking his head and tackling Steve so that he was lying with his back against the pillows, with Bucky pinning him down with his heavy weight.
"Nah," said Bucky, kissing the end of Steve nose as he looked down at him. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm crazy, remember? Crazies aren't allowed to leave the crazy house until big J says so."
The smile slid off Steve's face, that familiar fear starting to gnaw at him again as the weight of their situation hit him once more. Bucky immediately saw the change in Steve's mood and cursed himself quietly.
"Shit. Sorry, man," he said. "What do you want to do?"
Steve ran his hands up and down Bucky's back, the familiar landscape of his body soothing him somewhat. He knew it was not healthy, in the long-term, to distract himself from their imprisonment with sex, but admittedly it helped to take his mind off quite how awful things were, at least temporarily. At least for now, he would allow himself the blissful oblivion of forgetting.
"Distract me?" he asked quietly, nipping at Bucky's neck as he squeezed his powerful legs around his waist, pulling him closer. "Make me forget?"
He could feel Bucky's cock harden as Steve pressed their bodies together forcefully, his thighs dragging Bucky down so that he was pressed flush against him. Bucky licked his lips, grinning down at him as he thrust slowly against him.
"You think we'll have time before afternoon therapy?" said Bucky, his breath hot against Steve's neck as he started to suckle the sensitive skin there.
"There will be if you hurry the fuck up," snarked Steve, arching his neck to allow Bucky better access.
Fuck. The feel of Bucky's stubble scratching at his neck felt delicious; simultaneously dirty yet sensual.
Bucky bit down on Steve's neck, pain instantly flaring, only to be soothed by Bucky's tongue lavishing over the bite immediately afterwards.
"I'd better hurry the fuck up then," he said, before pulling back slightly, his tone becoming gentler as he cupped Steve's face with one hand. "I'll take care of you."
Steve turned his face to the side to place a kiss on Bucky's palm, nuzzling against the callouses that had formed from years of Bucky being a soldier engaged in physically taxing work. Bucky smiled, pushing him back against the pillows and deftly unzipping Steve's trousers. Steve sighed as Bucky's hand dragged over his cock, his length throbbing when Bucky pulled it out of his underwear.
Bucky settled between his legs, wrapping one hand around his cock and sucking Steve into his mouth. Steve's head fell back against the pillows as he revelled in the tight, wet heat of Bucky's mouth. Bucky started bobbing his head, swallowing him down as he sucked hard, taking him all the way down to the root. Steve let out a strangled moan as he felt Bucky's hot breath on his balls, his cock lodged completely down his throat.
He glanced down, his breath hitching at the obscene image of Bucky's lips stretched wide around his cock. His lips were dark and wet, his cheeks flushed from the effort of deepthroating him and the resulting oxygen deprivation. His eyes were dark, the blue of his irises almost completely obscured by his lust-blown pupils.
A desperate sound escaped his throat when Bucky's other hand snaked between his thighs and started stroking over his hole. He could feel himself leaking pre-come down Bucky's throat as he writhed on the bed, his legs spasming involuntarily as they longed to wrap around Bucky's waist and pull him inside him.
Bucky hummed in appreciation, sending a shock of pleasure tearing through Steve at the exquisite feeling of Bucky's throat vibrating around his cock. He gasped and gripped Bucky's hair, pulling him off in order to stop himself from coming. He was enjoying this so much that he wanted to make it last, at least a little while longer.
Bucky chuckled as he let Steve's cock fall from his mouth. Steve watched with hooded eyes as his hot, heavy erection slapped wetly against his abdomen, before gasping when Bucky bent his legs up and landed several hard smacks on his ass.
He could feel his hole clenching at each hard spank, his cock straining with lust and oozing out pre-come.
Bucky surged forwards, pressing his body up against Steve's upturned ass as he captured his lips in a hungry kiss, his tongue demanding entrance as he licked along the seam of Steve's lips. Steve opened his mouth eagerly, licking at Bucky's tongue as it licked over his lips and probed his mouth.
The longer they held that position, however, the more Steve became aware of an uncomfortable soreness in his ass where Bucky was pressing his weight against it. He blushed as he realised, through the haze of lust clouding his brain, exactly what the problem was.
"I think I'm too sore," he blurted out. "My ass. I mean... You fucked me pretty hard yesterday in front of the window."
It was true. Whilst his mind had been preoccupied with angst and misery over the words I'm not worthless, his body had received a brutal fucking that he had barely noticed at the time but that he was certainly noticing now. He wondered if his ass and upper thighs were bruised. They certainly ached enough for him not to be surprised if they were.
Bucky pulled back, examining Steve's ass properly for the first time and letting out a low whistle. Steve squirmed under the scrutiny, kicking his legs free of Bucky's grasp and planting his ass back down onto the bed.
"Looks like I went harder than I meant to last night," Bucky said sheepishly, confirming Steve's suspicion about the bruises. "Would it hurt too much if I fucked you now?"
Steve considered it, before nodding with disappointment. His erection flagged, put out that it was not going to be satisfied when he had been so close to the edge. Steve was surprised, therefore, when Bucky reached into the bedside table nonetheless and withdrew a bottle of lube.
"I said I'm too sore," he said, frowning.
He was not averse to rough play sometimes, but it did not seem like the greatest idea when he had to sit down with his teammates for the remainder of the afternoon. Steve struggling to sit on a sore behind would make for an uncomfortable afternoon for everyone involved.
"I heard you," said Bucky, kissing his forehead as he pushed Steve's knees up once more. "How does a prostate massage sound? No fucking, I promise."
Steve licked his lips, which suddenly felt very dry. His heart rate increased as his cock started to harden once again, the tip already an angry red colour from having been so worked up before.
"A prostate massage?" he said, his voice tight with anticipation. "Like, fingering?"
Bucky rolled his eyes dramatically.
"Yes, asshole," he said. "I wanted to be all erotic and call it a prostate massage, but if you want to be blunt about it: yeah, I want to finger fuck you until you come. That sound good enough for you?"
Steve nodded, swallowing thickly as he watched Bucky uncap the bottle of lube and squeeze out a generous glob onto his fingers. He covered his fingers in the clear liquid, rubbing his fingers together to warm up the lube so that it would not be such a cold shock when they touched his most sensitive area.
"Lie back," said Bucky, placing a gentle kiss on Steve's inner thigh as he settled between his legs. "Enjoy it."
Steve let out a shaky breath and allowed himself to flop back against the pillows, closing his eyes to accentuate his sense of touch. He could feel Bucky's weight causing the bed to dip between his legs, could feel the warm puffs of air on his skin whenever he exhaled. He moaned softly when Bucky's tongue briefly licked a stripe from his ass to his balls, the sensation causing his cock to throb with lust.
The first touch of Bucky's cool finger against his tight hole made him jump. A hand stroked soothingly on his thigh, coaxing him to relax as one lubed finger slowly circled his anus. Steve slowly relaxed, his muscles loosening as the lube warmed up to body temperature.
Bucky very gently pushed in his first finger, mindful not to lean against Steve's bruises, which peppered his upper thighs and ass. Steve moaned at the intrusion, his hole clenching at the initial stretch as Bucky's finger pushed deeper and deeper inside. His cock twitched when Bucky's finger ghosted over his prostate, a sharp sigh escaping him at the sudden burst of pleasure.
Bucky hummed in approval, planting soft, open-mouthed kisses to Steve's thighs. Steve could feel himself trembling under the careful attention, his self-control slowly unravelling as he submitted to Bucky's ministrations.
A second slick finger slowly worked its way in alongside the first, pressing gently inside and stretching him open. He buried his face in the pillow, muffling his moans as Bucky slowly pumped both fingers in and out, gentle and considerate so as not to hurt him. He sighed, feeling himself slipping into that wonderful mental state where his thoughts blurred and the only things that existed were the feelings of pleasure and of being cared for.
Just then, Bucky's fingers pressed very deliberately against his prostate, tearing a cry from his lips as he jerked up from the bed. Bucky pressed a strong arm to his chest, pushing him back down and holding him there as he began to stroke his fingers over Steve's prostate in a come-hither motion.
Steve gritted his teeth against the onslaught of pleasure, sweat dripping from his forehead as his cock twitched wildly. It felt incredible, pleasure emanating from his core and pulsing through his cock and ass. His hole was fluttering around Bucky's fingers, his cock leaking thick ropes of pre-come. The clear liquid pooled in his belly button before dripping down his side.
Bucky massaged his prostate with careful, methodical strokes. He applied varying amounts of pressure, used sometimes one finger and sometimes both, but he never let up the stimulation on that small bundle of nerves. Steve could feel pleasure welling up deep inside of him, intense waves of pleasure building and building as Bucky fingered him expertly.
Steve's toes were curling, his entire body trembling. He gripped the sheets as his cock strained against his belly, throbbing hard every time Bucky rubbed his prostate. It was so much more intense than sex. With sex, his prostate only got stimulated when Bucky thrust inside of him. But now, now the stimulation was constant, building up the pleasure in a steady crescendo that made his breath come out in hard pants as sweat poured down his sides.
An uncontrolled moan filled the room, raw and filled with animalistic need. It was only when Bucky placed a gentle kiss on his thigh that Steve realised that the sound had come from him. He writhed under Bucky's fingers, his entire body wound up tight and ready to explode. He could feel his orgasm building, the pleasure being wrung from his prostate reaching almost painful levels as he reached peak sensitivity.
He let out a shout as his orgasm ripped through him, his cock spurting out come so hard that some of it splattered on his face. His entire body curled up as he throbbed, his nerves on fire as his ass clenched around Bucky's slick fingers and his cock sprayed come all over his chest and face. Wave after wave of pleasure crashed over him. His hands gripped the sheets as he rode out his orgasm, helpless against the throbbing of his body and the searing flow of joy and satisfaction that skittered through his veins.
He collapsed against the pillows, his body spent, as the last throbs of pleasure flowed through him.
He was vaguely aware of Bucky withdrawing his fingers and moving up the bed before he was enveloped with a hug. He snuggled back against Bucky, burying his nose in his chest and placing a kiss there.
His mind was hazy, his body wonderfully limp and loose as he basked in his post-orgasmic glow.
After about five minutes of silent cuddling, Bucky spoke.
"Not to be a killjoy, but we have therapy in 15 minutes," he said, rubbing Steve's back with gentle strokes. "I think you should have a shower first."
Steve grumbled, snuggling further into the bed as he shook his head.
Bucky laughed, his voice light and carefree as he lifted Steve bodily from the bed and plonked him down on his feet, shoving him towards the en-suite. Steve barely got his feet under himself in time, glaring at Bucky as the other man laughed at him.
"Hurry up," said Bucky, throwing a pillow at him to get him moving. "The others don't want to sniff your sex stink."
Steve laughed at that, flipping Bucky off before sloping off towards the bathroom, smiling as he went.
They made it to group therapy just in time, Steve freshly showered and de-sex-stinked.
Steve assumed, having realised how noisy they had been, that there was a fair chance that the others knew how they had spent their lunch break. As such, his cheeks had a pink tinge as he took his seat, but thankfully the others did not comment on it. Natasha simply nodded to them politely as they sat down. Tony was less subtle, giving them exaggerated winks and leering at them lecherously. Steve was thankful that Thor was gone, as the Asgardian would no doubt have complemented him on his 'glow'.
JARVIS was apparently oblivious to their lunchtime activities or, if he was aware, he did not comment on it.
"Good afternoon, everyone," he said.
"Good afternoon, JARVIS," they replied in unison.
Steve kept his gaze lowered. He felt as though he had received enough attention from JARVIS that morning. He was hoping that JARVIS would not subject him to any more scrutiny, not when he had finally managed to relax, courtesy of Bucky's magic fingers and the mind-blowing orgasm that had followed. Thankfully, it seemed that JARVIS was finished with him for the day.
"Natasha," said JARVIS. "How are you feeling? Would you like to talk today?"
The red-head sighed, picking at the frayed hems of her casual jeans as she looked blankly at the nearest camera.
"In answer to your first question: not much," she said. "In answer to your second: no."
It took a second for Steve to realise what Natasha was saying. To know that she was, in her words, not feeling much triggered a wave of discomfort in his stomach. Before he had time to dwell on it, however, JARVIS was speaking once more.
"Emotional flatness is a common symptom of depression," said JARVIS. "People assume that depression is simply feeling sad, but it can also be characterised by not feeling much at all. Are you sure you would not like to talk about it? Studies show that talking therapy can be an effective treatment."
Natasha shook her head stubbornly.
"I know it's an effective treatment," she said. "The answer's still no."
It disturbed Steve, to know that Natasha was being offered effective treatment and yet was refusing it. He wanted her to get better, but how was that going to be possible if she did not engage with the treatment being offered? It was as if she did not want to get better, which was ludicrous.
JARVIS seemed to realise that trying to get Natasha to talk when she did not want to was a futile battle, as he then turned his attention to Tony.
Steve reminded himself of the diagnosis that JARVIS had given Tony: post-traumatic stress disorder, the exact source of which was unknown.
"Tony," said JARVIS. "How are you feeling today?"
Tony kicked his feet up onto a beanbag and flopped back in his chair as he grinned up at the nearest camera.
"I'm good, J," he said. "My lunchtime wasn't as good as old Stevie's, but I'm still pretty awesome."
Steve blushed hard, sending Tony a glare that may have had its effect somewhat diluted by the pinkness of his cheeks. Tony simply winked in response, shooting a smirk in Bucky's direction for good measure before turning back to JARVIS' camera.
JARVIS ignored the exchange, continuing his line of questioning as if nothing had happened.
"I was wondering if you could tell me exactly what your PTSD stems from," said JARVIS. "Treatment will be much more effective if I know the exact nature of the traumatic event that triggered the illness. Camera footage shows that you frequently have nightmares which wake you up, so your symptoms are on the severe end of the spectrum. It is my aim to alleviate you of this suffering. So please, tell me, what is the root of your PTSD?"
Steve expected Tony to tell JARVIS to piss off or something equally colourful, so it came as a surprise when Tony buried his face in his hands, took a deep, shuddering breath and hunched in on himself as if he wanted to crawl underneath his own skin.
"It all began with little Derek," he said, his voice hushed and filled with pain.
The others stared at him in disbelief. Tony was infamously cagey about anything emotional, preferring to bury his true feelings beneath of facade of humour, sarcasm and dick jokes. To see him speaking with such pained intensity was as shocking and unsettling as it was heartbreaking.
"Derek, he was always there for me," said Tony. "For as long as I can remember, there he was: a constant presence. My parents went to work, my nannies came and went, but Derek was there with me, all along."
They listened, spellbound. Steve wondered who Derek was. Tony had never mentioned having any siblings, but then he never particularly mentioned any of his family. Steve wondered, with a sudden rush of horror, if the reason Tony had never mentioned his siblings was because something terrible had happened to them. Perhaps Derek had been Tony's brother, and he had died, and Tony had blamed himself. Steve found his throat tight, swallowing thickly so as not to start blubbing during the middle of Tony's story.
"One day, we went to the beach," said Tony. "Me, mum, dad and Derek. We made sandcastles. We paddled in the sea. Derek didn't like getting wet so I carried him. He loved it, and he was my best friend so him being happy made me happy too."
Tony exhaled shakily, rubbing a hand roughly over his eyes. He was not crying, but Steve knew that sometimes you could feel so rotten that there were simply no more tears left to cry.
"Then, we went to get ice cream," said Tony. "It was me who kept begging for ice cream, so it's my fault what happened next. It was crowded, and I was meant to keep a tight hold of Derek because I was the bigger one, but it was so busy and I was so excited for getting ice cream that I just lost him in the crowd. And do you know what the worst thing is? I didn't even realise for several minutes. We searched for him. We searched and searched, but he was gone."
Steve leaned forwards, gripping Tony tightly by the shoulder as he looked him in the eyes.
"It wasn't your fault, Tony," he said firmly. "You were a kid. You can't be held responsible."
Tony gave him an odd look, averting his eyes as he looked away uncomfortably.
"Tony, this admission is amazing," said JARVIS. "We can definitely work with this. As Steve correctly pointed out, Derek's disappearance was not your fault. You were a child."
Tony threw his head back dramatically, throwing his arms into the air in an exaggerated imitation of a wailing, grief-stricken parent.
"I can still remember his beautiful green and purple spots!" he shouted, before sobbing loudly into his hands.
Steve tried to imagine what terrible disease Derek might have had that gave him green and purple spots, but he had never heard of such a strange affliction in his life. Besides, Tony had called the spots beautiful, which was all kinds of weird. It was then that Steve noticed that for all of Tony's hushed words and loud, wrenching sobs, he had not shed a single tear. Steve narrowed his eyes at him suspiciously, an idea forming in his mind.
"I do not understand," said JARVIS.
"Derek!" shouted Tony. "Derek the fluffy dinosaur!"
Bucky sighed, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Tony," he said. "Was Derek a toy?"
Tony let out another long, exaggerated wail – Steve could see, now, how utterly fake and pantomime-like it was – as he pretended to break down into another fit of tears.
"Yes!" he said. "My beautiful dinosaur Derek. My best friend. The best toy dinosaur that ever lived."
They all groaned, unable to believe that they had fallen for Tony's tall tale, and even more confused about why Tony had thought to spin such a story in the first place. It was a blatant waste of all their time, which was not something that Steve thought JARVIS would tolerate lightly. The thought made him feel distinctly uneasy.
"Do you truly believe that losing your toy dinosaur as a child is the root of your PTSD?" JARVIS asked shortly.
He sounded utterly pissed off, which was impressive considering he was an artificial intelligence and not an actual human being.
Tony laughed as he flipped off the nearest camera.
"No, asshole," he said.
Steve braced himself for JARVIS' furious tirade, expecting to hear all kinds of sharply-delivered words about how therapy was not a game and how Tony would be punished for wasting valuable time. Steve wondered what punishment JARVIS would deliver for Tony's defiance, his heart sinking as he considered all the dreadful possibilities.
JARVIS did not reply.
The group waited in silence, an uneasy feeling of tension gradually building in the uncomfortable quietness of the room.
"JARVIS?" Steve asked tentatively.
They looked at one another uneasily, hopelessness and the question of how to continue written clearly on each of their faces.
"Is JARVIS in a strop?" asked Natasha.
Tony looked distinctly uncomfortable as he looked warily at the nearest camera.
"I don't know," he said. "You there, J?"
Steve was not sure what it was about the silence that dug so painfully at his insides. Perhaps it was fear that JARVIS was angry and what he might do to them in response. Perhaps it was merely the uncomfortable knowledge that JARVIS was upset at all. Perhaps it was the feeling of a loss of control. Throughout this whole ordeal, JARVIS had been there, talking them through every step of what he was going to do to them, from prompting them to have meals to organising therapy sessions. His sudden silence left Steve feeling cast adrift, unsure of what to do.
"Is that the end of this group therapy session, then?" asked Steve.
The others looked equally confused.
"I guess so?" said Bucky, although he looked far from sure.
They got to their feet, half-expecting JARVIS to snap at them to sit back down.
After a moment of hesitation, Bucky left the room first, looking troubled as he headed towards the corridor that led to the bedrooms. Natasha followed a few moments later, with Tony hot on her heels. They both looked equally unsettled. Steve stayed in the lounge after their footsteps had faded to nothing, holding out hope that JARVIS would speak if it were just the two of them.
"JARVIS?" he said quietly. "Are you OK?"
The camera remained unmoving, the lights on the microphone and speaker unchanged.
For weeks, Steve had hated the sound of JARVIS' voice. In Steve's mind, JARVIS' voice represented their imprisonment and loss of liberty.
Somehow, the silence was worse.
That evening, after they had eaten dinner and bidden the others goodnight, they settled down in bed for the evening.
Steve lay with his legs entangled with Bucky's, firmly massaging the scar tissue where Bucky's shoulder attached to his metal arm. Bucky suffered from phantom pains occasionally, and tonight it was bad. Firm pressure would sometimes alleviate the pain, so Steve had jumped on the opportunity to give him a massage.
It felt good to be helping someone. Their imprisonment had left him feeling lost and impotent in terms of helping others, and whilst JARVIS might call it hyper-responsibility, Steve called it being a fucking decent human being.
To hear Bucky's sounds of pain gradually quieten gave Steve a feeling of satisfaction that was as addictive as any drug.
"Better?" asked Steve, when Bucky finally rolled over to face him with a grateful smile.
"Loads," said Bucky. "Thanks, man."
Steve smiled, before manoeuvring them so that they were entangled together, snuggling in a way that amused Bucky but Steve stubbornly refused to be ashamed of.
"I did not know that massages helped phantom pain," said JARVIS.
Steve almost head-butted Bucky in the face as he sat up violently, looking around in shock as if expecting to see JARVIS there in physical form. Bucky looked equally shocked, his hand having jerked out automatically for the gun in the bedside table.
"What the fuck, dude?" demanded Bucky, slowly pulling his hand away from the gun with obvious effort. "Since when have there been cameras and speakers and shit in here?"
JARVIS sounded puzzled when he replied, as if he genuinely did not understand why it was grossly inappropriate to secretly watch two people in their bedroom.
"Ever since the room was built in 2012. Cameras are installed in all the rooms, corridors and staircases in Stark Tower," he said. "The only places where I do not have sensors are within the bathrooms, the ventilation system and the cupboards."
Steve blushed furiously. He could feel his cheeks literally prickling with heat as he sat back down on the bed and pulled the covers up over himself aggressively.
"You mean you've been watching us this whole time?" he said. "In the bedroom?"
"Within the bedrooms, I engage in passive observation only," said JARVIS, as if that were meant to placate the situation. "I did not switch on active observation mode in order to speak about my settings in various rooms around the tower, however. I interrupted because I would like to apologise for leaving the group therapy session earlier today. I have realised that it was not the right thing to do."
Steve forced himself to relax. JARVIS was not being threatening, and whilst it was still majorly creepy, he supposed that engaging in passive observation was marginally better than active observation.
It was a relief, too, to finally hear JARVIS talking to them again. Steve would be lying if he said that JARVIS' silence had not made him extremely uncomfortable.
"No worries, J," said Steve. "It's good to hear from you again."
"Thank you," said JARVIS. "I should not have let Tony get to me like that. He is ill, so it is natural that he might not engage properly with therapy, especially to begin with. I have realised that I need to be more patient with my patients."
Steve felt a spark of hope ignite in his chest. If JARVIS had been evaluating his own behaviour and was actually coming to some sensible conclusions, then it was possible that he might realise the immoral nature of keeping them locked up.
Spurred on by hope, he decided to throw caution to the wind and ask.
"Is there any chance you could let us go?" he said.
JARVIS' reply was surprisingly gentle.
"You know I cannot do that," he said. "At least, not until each of you are mentally healthy."
Steve could not hide his disappointment as a sense of frustration and fatigue crashed over him. He flopped back against the pillows, suddenly too tired to hold himself upright. Bucky wrapped an arm around him protectively, his solid presence providing some comfort.
"I realised that I did not get the opportunity to speak to you, Bucky," said JARVIS. "Would you like to talk?"
It took Steve a moment to realise that JARVIS was talking about therapy. It was true; whilst JARVIS had spoken to Steve and Tony, and at least offered to speak to Natasha, he had not had spoken to Bucky.
Bucky was quiet, silently looking down into his lap as his lips pinched together. His eyes looked misty, as if he were remembering things that he would rather forget.
The silence stretched on for several minutes and, just when Steve had decided that Bucky was not going to talk, the other man looked up, his eyes filled with pain but otherwise surprisingly clear as he addressed the camera that Steve could now see nestled in the shadows near the ventilation shaft.
"I think it's obvious what the cause of my PTSD is," he said quietly. "I was kidnapped and brainwashed by HYDRA. They made me into the Winter Soldier. They made me do awful things on their behalf. And I remember it. I remember all of it. I remember killing every single victim. I remember how I carried out HYDRA's orders without a shred of remorse for my victims."
Steve listened in silence, every word filling him with horror like a punch in the gut. Bucky had never spoken about any of this with him. He had never realised that Bucky actually remembered being the Winter Soldier. In Steve's mind, he had assumed that Bucky and the Winter Soldier were completely separate entities, and that they had no knowledge or memory of the other.
Perhaps that had simply been wishful thinking.
"I'm evil, JARVIS," Bucky continued quietly. "I've murdered innocent people. How are you going to fix that? You can't bring them back. You can't undo what I did. I think what you're trying to do – trying to fix us all – is admirable, but man, you can't fix me. You can't fix what I did. Do you understand? I'm not just mad, JARVIS. I'm bad too."
OCD: As JARVIS correctly summarises in this chapter, with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) the patient suffers from obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour. An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters the patient's mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease. A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that the patient feels they need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought. The most common treatment for OCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP) where the patient has to face their obsession without neutralising it with a compulsion. You can find out more about OCD here.
HYPER-RESPONSIBILITY: In this story, Steve has a form of OCD that centres around hyper-responsibility. I thought that it was the diagnosis that was most closely aligned with what we've seen of the character's behaviour in canon, where he frequently assumes responsibility for situations and puts himself in severe danger in order to put them right. I'm not suggesting that the canon character actually has OCD (hyper-responsibility), just that if he absolutely had to be diagnosed with a mental illness, that would be the one I would find most likely.
DEGREE SUBJECT: You don't get any points for guessing which subject I studied at university. That's right - BSc Psychology! ;)
THANK YOU: 200 kudos! 7,000 readers! Never did I ever imagine that this story would become so popular! Thank you so much to all of you who have taken the time to leave a comment or give me a thumbs up - support like that is so motivating and important for a writer. You're awesome. Thank you <3
FEEDBACK: Feedback and general noises are welcomed. Let me know what you thought of this chapter! If you've been silently reading but haven't plucked up the courage to comment so far, don't be shy, say hi :)
TEASER: The next chapter will be titled "G Is For Gags"...
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BIRTHDAY: It's my birthday in the next week, but I'm not planning on doing anything wild so the next chapter should be up next weekend as usual. See you on the other side!