When Tony regained consciousness, he could immediately tell that something was wrong. In addition to being unable to move his arms, his head hurt, his mouth was dry, and his entire body ached as though he’d been hit by a truck.
Wait. He cracked an eye open. He had been hit by a truck.
Slowly, the world came into focus. He was sitting in a chair in a damp, dim laboratory. He didn’t recognise where he was or remember how he’d gotten there. There had been a fight-- he had been pushed out into the road-- there had been a crack as a truck going full speed had slammed into him--
Tony grimaced as the memory of pain came flooding back to him.
Whoever had taken him had stripped him of his suit. When he flexed his arms, cold metal bit into him; there was another thick band across his chest, holding him upright.
Next to him, his arms and chest also fastened to his chair, was an unconscious Steve Rogers.
“Perfect,” sighed Tony.
As if on cue, Rogers coughed and groaned, coming to life. His eyes fluttered open. “W-where are we?”
“Hiya,” said Tony. “Looks like we’ve been captured. Secret bunker, weird alien portal thingy in the corner, the whole nine yards. How you doing? You okay? Now’s probably not the best time to mention that I really need to pee.”
Rogers looked at Tony for a long moment, and then his keen eyes swept around the room. “Is it just the two of us?”
His voice was filled with resignation. Tony knew how he felt. It wasn’t that he didn’t get Rogers, because he did, he really did. It was just that Rogers didn’t have a funny bone in his body. Everyone -- and by ‘everyone,’ Tony meant Romanoff -- claimed that Rogers had a great sense of humour, but Tony had never seen it. Even Rhodey could take a joke better than Rogers, and Rhodey, God love him, was a stick-in-the-mud.
Pepper liked Rogers, but Pepper liked everyone.
Still, they were kind of, sort of friends now, thanks to Loki. They weren’t having slumber parties or anything and Cap was probably the last person Tony would ever call in a personal crisis, but hey. He trusted Rogers to watch his ass. Figuratively speaking.
“Where are the others?” Rogers asked.
“Hopefully looking for us. No matter, we’ll be out of here in a jiffy. JARVIS?” Tony called. He twisted his upper body, but the straps didn’t budge. “JARVIS, buddy, you there?”
When his suit didn’t come bursting through the wall like the Kool-aid Man, he guessed that they were either underground or in some kind of metal bunker -- something that even the radio transmitters in his chips couldn’t penetrate. Or, worse, his suit had been destroyed when he had been hit. His stomach twisted with nerves, but he fought them down. He looked around the room for something to distract himself with, and his eyes landed on Rogers, hunkering down nearby and looking kind of pale. He had said that he was okay, hadn’t he? No, he hadn’t; Tony hadn’t really given him much time to respond. Good job, Stark.
“I never got an answer-- how you doing?” he asked.
Rogers made a constipated face as he struggled against the bonds. “Pretty stuck.”
The door to the laboratory swept open with a hiss, and in walked a man. It was the same man -- alien, godlike being, whatever -- who had attacked them in central Manhattan. He had spiked silver hair and blood red eyes; his white lips were curved into a sinister smile. His long, red cape hung over his shoulders and pooled onto the floor.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Tony muttered when he saw that in one hand, the alien held a tall staff with a crystal ball on the end; his other arm was tucked behind his back.
“So you’re the Bond villain who’s captured us, right?” Tony asked, resisting the urge to roll his eyes -- well, he might have rolled them a little.
“Yes,” the man said, staring down at them with his creepy eyes.
“What do you want?” Rogers growled.
“I am...” He paused for dramatic effect. “Tepid the Magnificent.”
Tony’s eyebrows shot up. “Pardon?”
“I’m Tepid the Magnificent.” The man extended a hand around the lab. “You’re my prisoners.”
Even Rogers winced. “Tepid the Magnificent,” Tony repeated flatly.
Tepid faltered, clearly put off by Tony’s tone. “My minions helped to bring you to my secure lair.”
He gestured to the far corner of the lab. Two people in white hazmat suits waved at them. Somehow, Tony had completely missed them.
Tony let out a laugh. Rogers sent him a stony look.
“What?” Tony asked.
“It’s probably not a good idea to antagonise the guy pointing an alien staff in your face,” Rogers said.
“And,” Tepid added with a flourish, “the guy with your phone with your Stark Industries encryption software.”
He pulled his arm from behind his back. In his hand, he was holding Rogers’ phone. Tony knew it was Rogers’ because his own was much cooler.
Tony felt a little flutter of worry at the sight of it; he reminded himself that the second the incorrect password was entered, the phone would destroy itself and any data on it. And there was no way someone named Tepid the Magnificent would guess--
“I’m in,” said Tepid. “Soon I’ll know all of the Avengers’ secrets.”
Tony briefly closed his eyes. “Steve. What was your password?”
“It’s ‘password,’” Tepid replied.
“Fury told me to choose something I’d remember,” Rogers muttered.
“You’re supposed to use a random string of numbers and letters,” Tony bit out.
Steve looked mullish. “How am I supposed to remember that?”
“The same way everyone else in the world does!”
“Mine’s an acronym,” Tepid suggested helpfully. Suddenly, his smile slid off his face. “Isn’t this--”
There was a long pause.
“Captain, why is your wallpaper a handsome man holding a Captain America bear?”
Tepid’s arm moved.
“No,” Rogers said desperately, “don’t show it to--”
“Well,” Tony interrupted as the screen came into view. He craned his neck. “Does the formerly-evil -- oh, who are we kidding, still kinda-evil -- Winter Soldier know you’re using his picture as your wallpaper?”
Rogers mumbled something under his breath.
“What was that?” Tony asked smugly, tilting his head. “I couldn’t hear you.”
“I said, yeah, he knows.”
“He looks so... normal,” Tony said, squinting at the image.
Tony wished he was surprised by this new, salacious information, but. Well. It made a lot of sense, he thought, gazing at the picture of the smiling Bucky Barnes, holding one of those ridiculous Captain America bears -- probably more sense than him and Pepper, because everyone knew that even though Tony was a devilishly handsome genius she could do better.
Barnes looked different from the last time Tony had seen him: his hair was cut short and he was clean-shaven; there was even some life to that blank, empty stare, the one that had matched Rogers’s during the weeks of Barnes’ recovery. To be fair, Tony hadn’t seen Barnes in months. He could still remember the last time, mostly because he had almost flown into a building when he had noticed Barnes perched on a rooftop nearly half a mile from where the Avengers were fighting the baddie du jour, shooting down Rogers’s attackers one by one (with, no doubt, a rifle he had stolen from Stark Tower). It was funny, given that Barnes had been pretty adamant about not joining their team, even after he had recovered his memories.
That must’ve counted as a romantic gesture in Rogers’s book. Rogers was so weird. What did they give each other for Valentine’s Day, the still-beating hearts of HYDRA operatives?
“It almost makes you forget that the Russians turned him into an evil killing machine.” Tony looked at Tepid “You’d at least think Captain Stars and Stripes here would be dating an American super soldier. The Cold War, Rogers, every hear of it? No, of course not, what am I saying.”
Tepid looked at Rogers. “Yeah, hey.”
“He’s better now,” Rogers snapped at Tepid. “They brainwashed him, but he’s-- wait, why am I telling you this?”
Tony raised his eyebrows. “By ‘better,’ you mean...?”
Rogers glowered. “He’s in therapy,” he said, not looking at Tony. “They have him doing a lot of arts and crafts. He made me a quilt last month.”
“Did he use it to smother someone?” Tony asked. “Or, hey, did you?”
“Is there any actual information on this?” Tepid asked, his thumb moving across the screen of the phone as he swiped through files. “What did we even capture you for? Because all I’m seeing are pictures of your--” He jerked the screen away, grimacing; his lips pulled back over fangs. “Oh, okay, there’s a nude one.”
“Captain,” Tony admonished, grinning. “Hey, Tepid, do me a favour? You have my email address, right? Forward that to me.”
“If you have any mercy,” Rogers said to Tepid grimly, “you’ll shoot me in the head.”
“Oh, come on,” said Tony.
Tepid rocked back on his heels. He glanced nervously between the two of them. “Um.”
“Don’t mind him,” Tony said. “He embarrasses easily. It’s actually my favourite thing about him.”
“I’m going to consult with my minions,” Tepid said, jerking his thumb at the other side of the room. He scuttled away.
“So Cap has a boyfriend,” Tony mused. If his hands hadn’t been strapped down, he would’ve rubbed his chin.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but please stop talking,” said Rogers.
“See, it’s not the boyfriend part that surprises me,” said Tony. “This is the twenty-first century, no one cares who you sleep with anymore.”
Rogers gave him a sideways look. “Yeah?”
“No, what I’m finding hard to wrap around my head around is the fact that you’re getting laid.”
This time, Rogers’s head snapped up. “What does that mean?”
“Barton and I have a bet going.”
“You talk about my sex life?” Rogers asked incredulously. “You talk about my sex life with Barton?”
“He thinks that the whole virgin thing is just an act, but I always thought that you were as pure as the driven snow. If the driven snow was an uptight nonagenarian with bad hair.”
“I’m not a virgin,” Rogers said loudly. Across the room, the bad guys glanced over in their direction. There was a pink tinge to Rogers’s ears. “We have sex. Lots of it. We do all the sex things.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” said Tony, “I can tell you’re an expert.”
“And I don’t have bad hair,” Rogers said, glaring at him.
“No, no, of course not,” Tony replied.
“Stop humouring me,” Rogers said sharply.
“I wasn’t saying anything,” Tony said. “Look, I’ll leave you alone.”
He smiled at Rogers winningly. A suspicious look crossed Rogers’ face.
Tony counted to ten, then took a deep breath. "Have you ever eaten at Mama Leone's? Great Italian place, but they have this manicotti that's totally off-the-wall expensive, makes you feel like you're eating an entire third-world country. I'm supposed to take Pepper there tonight. Do you know what they do to people who don't cancel their reservations at a place like that?"
“For the love of Pete!” Steve exploded. He glared at Tony, then at the bonds around his wrists, and started pulling on them. “This is ridiculous. You’re the worst.”
Tony sat back. Well, if Cap was going to get them out, they'd be out of there in five. “But you’re going to free me so I don’t have to cancel, right?” he asked. He watched as a cuff snapped loose. “Right?”
Three unconscious bad guys later, the door suddenly crashed in. A familiar husky voice called: “Hey, boys, I heard you needed our--” Romanoff took one look at Rogers and said, “Oh.”
Wilson appeared in the doorway behind her, wearing his Falcon suit.
“Are you...” Wilson frowned at Rogers and pulled his goggles up over his forehead. “Are you leaving Iron Man behind and saving yourself?”
“No,” Rogers said, one leg out the window.
“Yes,” Tony yelled.
“I was going to come back with reinforcements,” Rogers said.
Romanoff pointedly took a long look at the unconscious bad guys on the floor. “I can tell. It’s a real mad house in here.”
Slowly, Rogers pulled his leg back inside the room. He smiled sheepishly at Romanoff.
“Jesus,” Tony groaned, “you make one crack about his virginity...”
“I told you, I’m not a virgin,” Rogers snapped.
Romanoff arched an eyebrow but didn’t pause in soldering off the bands locking Tony to the chair or whatever she was doing. He didn’t think it was a good idea to tell her that at this angle he could see right up her nose.
Instead, he asked, “Did you know Captain Upstanding Citizen is sleeping with Barnes?”
She looked at him like he was an idiot. Normally, he liked that look on her -- when it was aimed at other people. “Doesn’t everyone know that?” she asked, one corner of her lips quirking.
“What, no,” said Wilson. “What.”
“It was more than one joke,” Rogers pointed out. “Also, you’re a dick.”
Tony rubbed his wrists, trying to get the feeling back in his hands. “That’s a dirty word for someone who just told me that he did ‘all the sex things.’”
“You’re with Bucky?” Wilson asked Rogers. He blinked owlishly. “Bucky ‘Once Killed a Man with a Shoe and a Rubber Band to Get Away From Us’ Barnes?”
“Careful, I think he’s getting turned on,” said Tony.
Rogers looked up at the ceiling and sighed.
“This does explain all the hand-holding,” Wilson said, looking thoughtful.
“And the crying,” said Romanoff.
“Bucky has a lot of feelings,” Rogers said.
“And selfies,” Tony added. “Guys, we have to find that phone.”